Monthly Archives: October 2015

Sans car

Last week, in a scene that reminded me a bit of Han Solo’s running commentary, “It’s not my fault!”, my car unexpectedly went from moving a brisk clip to zero on a well traveled bit of road in the Northeast.  Nothing dangerous; just expensive (most likely a blown head gasket).   A quick call with a cell phone, and AAA was there, and in less than two hours, I was at my mechanic’s garage.

This incident brought up a few elements that have been discussed here and elsewhere; the complexity of modern systems, and especially how if they don’t work, things can go south really quickly.  In this case, fortune smiled upon me, for the weather was pleasant, my cell phone was working, and no major events tied up the flatbed truck that arrived on the scene incredibly quickly.   Due to the magic of the Internet, my mechanic has a few leads on used engines, and the car might be operational in a little as a few weeks.    Rental cars are easy to get as well, but I took it upon myself to not get one for a few days, since nothing was pressing outside of my local area for the weekend.   One wonders if this had happened in the dead of winter at night, or if I was enroute to something important (the airport, an emergency room visit).   Luckily, I have access to one of these in my trunk…folder…so at least some disasters can be handled without too much trouble.  A folding bike can be useful when you run around in a place where parking is at a premium; in some ways it’s like having a little shuttlecraft (or lifeboat, as the case may be).

A few months ago, I brought up the fact that making changes to your life could be sometimes difficult.  This morning, my travel options became limited to bus or bicycle, and even though I managed to get a ride with a friend this morning, the return trip home via bus brought the fragility of how certain living arrangements could become.  Now, instead of opting to ride my bicycle or take the bus, I had no other choice.

Of course, this is an incredibly minor difficulty, and if I wasn’t so cheap so forward thinking, I could have easily gotten a rental, and driven around town.  But this opportunity to be without very easy access to an automobile is a wonderful little test of what happens when some of your conveniences go away.  Now, I do have to get someplace not in public transport range in a few days, so I will have to rent a car.  But my mindset around it has changed; I will definitely try and make the most efficient use of it.  Rather than get the car for a few days, and access it in a lasses-faire manner that I did when my own car was at my beck and call, I’ll try and plan a heck of a lot more, and use it efficiently – a reverse Jevon’s Paradox, if you will.

There’s the oft heard phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”   Here, given a few weeks of lemons, we’ll see how well we can live with drinking lemonade on regular basis.

Questions-

  • Have you ever voluntarily given up having a car?
  • What “setbacks” in your personal world have forced you to be more efficient or change your ways?
  • Do you have your own “shuttlecraft” or “lifeboat” (of any sort) to get you out of difficult situations?  How much do you rely on technology?  Do you have old maps in your car, a blanket, and a flashlight, for example?
  • Do you own a bicycle and ride it regularly?
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Outside the Doomosphere

After accidentally walking into a semi-official pub debate on the merits of Bernie vs Hillary, it was apparent to me that for those of us who see the world through the lens of reduced expectations due to climate, the realities of the the exponential function, resource depletion and the diminishing returns of complex systems, there are people who truly, without any hint of irony, live in different worlds.

We (referring to those who write and read the stuff from the blogroll on the right) may have differing points of view with regard to timelines and such, but at least we see the oncoming cliff.  There are people who think all is still OK, and we just need a bit of tweaking (in the form of a New and Improved President) to set things right.

Another bit of shock came when talking with someone who said that they were looking at firms looking for more oil to find (or find it faster).   When I mentioned that we are going to probably have to keep a lot of those already found hydrocarbons in the ground to prevent a serious greenhouse effect, they ignored my question, as if it had not been asked.

Le sigh.

  • How do you deal with such people?
  • What happens when you bring up such facts, and they are completely ignored?

A new Magna Carta for a Post-Peak Age

Given the recent musings here at Peakfuture on what the future map of the North American continent might look like, and even what flags might appear on the flagpoles of those new nations, it might be important to start asking what a new framework for living might look like – what a new Constitution (or Magna Carta) might look like down the road.

We most likely won’t be re-writing any new constitution from scratch; people who write such documents are usually students of history, know mistakes were made in the past, and know what good ideas have been put in place.   The US Constitution has its roots in the Magna Carta, the Mayflower Compact, the Federalist papers, and the Articles of Confederation, as well as host of other writings and ideas.  Because it was well thought out by the Founders, it had the neat trick of being amended, so that as society changed, the government could adapt to these changes.  As a result, it has been with us for over a few hundred years, and has evolved (albiet not perfectly) to handle new conditions.

But just like an old house that keeps getting remodeled, or a car that has so many miles on it that it becomes an antique (and difficult to find parts for), at some point, people tend to “throw in the towel” and say “we need to start over.”    It may be that as valuable as the Magna Carta and US Constitution are, their bases, and the outlook on those who wrote them was limited, in that (ironically, speaking of limited knowledge!), they didn’t internalize the fact that we live on a limited, finite planet.  But what would ‘starting over’ look like?

Now, for some, this new Magna Carta has already appeared, in the Georgia Guidestones.   Built by some mysterious folks in the 1970s, the Georgia Guidestones have this written on them:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

All well and good.  According to the Wiki article, some folks have had some nasty things to say about them (tools of Satan, the usual), but these are important things to ruminate on.

Some of the ideas seem like pretty good ones, but more along the lines of spiritual guidance, rather than things you could codify in a constitution.  The Georgia Guidestones don’t say anything specifically about trial by jury, the right to self defense, or free speech.    Some of the ideas appear to be retreads of ideas that have been tried in the past.   For example, “unite humanity with a living new language,” has been tried with Esperanto, and perhaps it might one day get some traction (as it did in the science fiction Riverworld series), but to impose it in a new constitution could be problematic.

There is one particular element of these warm and fuzzy ideas that might be the basis of a new Balanced Constitution – that of Entry 8: “Balance personal rights with social duties.”  A friend once said, “The Founding Fathers were great, but along with the Bill of Rights, they needed to create a Bill of Responsibilities.”

Likewise, the Preamble of this new Balanced Constitution (along the lines of “We the People”, or along the lines of the more radical Declaration of Independence, which has “When in the course of human events…”) would have to spell out some of the great truths we have learned over the years, so that the origin of those rights and responsibilities is crystal clear.  With some ideas from Michael Ruppert’s musings in “Collapse”, a preamble might be something like this:

With access to finite resources and with infinite wants, We The People realize that our nation and its laws must reflect these basic and fundamental realities.   To ignore basic scientific and mathematical principles is to doom us to lives of poverty, in both mind and body.   The nations of the past were built by pioneers who explored new territories; our new nation must explore new frontiers of the mind, and new ways of living.   We borrowed from the old laws and customs which have served us well, and added that which will keep these customs in check.

My legal training is scant, so I’m going to rely on those who read this to come up with the legalese to make this coherent.   What would a new constitution look like, with rights and responsibilities spelled out in more detail?

Going through the list of our current Amendments, we might wind up with our original amendments as enshrined in the Balanced Constitution from Day One as ‘Enumerated Rights’ and correspondingly ‘Enumerated Responsibilities’.  Here is the right to free speech:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

So, what do we do with the responsibility of free speech?

The freedom to speak and publish is inviolate, but those who use these freedoms for slander and libel against others and the realities of Nature are being irresponsible.  It is the responsibility of citizens to speak the truth, as they see it.

How about the right of self defense?

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

With the Second Amendment, perhaps a simple responsibility clause would be promulgated:

The right to individually and collectively defend ones person and property is inviolate, but those who use Arms outside of these purposes weaken the nation.   It is the responsibility of citizens to use Arms in a responsible manner.

Now, these are all pencil sketches of what might have to be added to a Balanced Constitution; some other amendments might be added, that meld rights and responsibilities in one shot.  Some folks have called for the elimination of the corporations as natural persons , but perhaps a compromise might be reached, so that if they do exist, there is a well defined and direct responsibility of those who are in charge of such entities:

Corporations are allowed to exist, but normally do not have the rights associated with natural persons.    If a corporation wishes to have the rights associated with natural persons, a living, natural person who is in control of the corporation must bear its punishments.

One can play the “Let’s write rewrite the constitution” game all day of course, and of course, in the immortal words of the Beatles (from Revolution), let’s not forget this important caveat:

You say you’ll change the constitution
Well, you know
We all want to change your head

It’s a tricky business, writing a new one.   We may never get a chance to do so, but thinking about it might allow us to make small changes to our current one, without the messy revolution that sometimes accompanies a major rewrite.

Questions for the audience:

  • What would you want to put into a new Magna Carta or Constitution?
  • What would your Preamble look like?  This is the part that sums up your new nation in a nutshell!
  • Technologies will change (for a while, we may have more ‘advanced’ tech, and then, less advanced technologies).   How will a new constitution reflect this?
  • The US Constitution is difficult to change, and according to the Supreme Court, states don’t have the right to secede either.   Would you modify a constitution so this capability exists?  How would you write this in?  It sounds almost like having a pre-nup before getting married!

Flags of Future America

After the neat mappings of various imagined futures, it came to mind that the new regions of fractured America are going to want to unite themselves under various banners.   What we wind up with will tell us a lot about how these future countries will relate to each other, and how they show themselves to the world.

Now, this may seem a bit silly.   What is a flag, but just a bunch of multicolored cloth flown in the wind?  Yes, that may be the case, but when a symbol, such as a flag is used so often by a country or a group of people, it can become a distilled down version of what that group represents, its very essence.  This is why companies spend so much on corporate logos, and “branding” of their advertisement universes.

Let’s look at this potent national and advertising symbol:

800px-Flag_of_the_United_States.svgThe flag of the United States of America; flown everywhere, and meaning (advertising) “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.”   A few copies of it are on the Moon, telling everyone for all time, “Americans did this; Americans were the ones who put their collective effort into going to a place nobody could even dream of going!”  Gives most of us a good feeling, right?

Now, this one:

Confederate_Navy_Jack_(light_blue).svgFor some, it is no big deal.   For others, it means oppression, slavery, and a whole host of other bits that people will scream about for hours.  The recent controversy is fuel for political cartoonists, of course. To add fuel to the fire, we could show this flag, but there’s no sense in beating a dead horse.   Flags are important, and convey a great deal of meaning.

So, what will our future republics use as flags, to rally their populations, and to ‘unite them under one banner’?

With regard to the Confederate Battle Flag (the Confederate Naval Jack, actually), some folks took it upon themselves to design a new symbol for the South:

rebranding-the-southThis symbol, seems, well, OK, if you are designing a new corporate logo.   As a flag, it sort of passes what I call, “the five year old crayon” test, but it seems to fail the “sewing test.”   The “five year old crayon” test is just that – can a five year old kid draw the nation’s flag in crayon reasonably well?   The more important one is the “sewing test” – can you easily sew the flag?  The fading stripes seem kind of difficult to produce in a flag, and frankly, it seems a bit contrived.  It’s not a bad start, but again, the stripes make it seem too corporate to be a nation’s flag, or a flag of anything other than a banal multinational entity.   One good thing this flag has going for it is a lack of words – languages can change and morph over time, and a flag should have a timeless quality that transcends things like typography and language of the moment.   The following flags (of Denmark, The Netherlands, the UK) are centuries old – simple, to the point, and something that yes, even a five year old could crayon:

Flag_of_Denmark.svg    225px-Flag_of_the_Netherlands.svg     1200px-Flag_of_the_United_Kingdom.svg

Another element of the flag that seems a bit off is the color; light blue is usually associated with the United Nations, and the red doesn’t jibe with the red of the American or Confederate flags.    Perhaps something a bit stronger would seem more fitting:

rebranding-the-south_modifiedStill have to figure out how to to handle those intermixing blue and reds though.

One of the best modern flags that came about, to mix the old and new, was that of South Africa:

Flag_of_South_Africa.svgThis flag sums up what South Africa is; a combination of pre- and post-apartheid worlds, joining together, using the colors of the ANC, Transvaal, Dutch and Union Jack flags.

One political cartoonist, when weighing in on this very topic, had two characters in his cartoon discussing this issue as well.  How do you represent the good parts of Southern culture, but realizing new traditions have come up?  He suggested we use this as the new flag for the South (that of the NASCAR checkered flag):Auto_Racing_Chequered3All kidding aside, the kind of flag that a nation uses can tell a lot about a country.  JHK’s flag for the Foxfire Republic gives you an instant glimpse of that country’s founding ideology and worldview:

foxfire_republicIn JHK’s play “Big Slide”, the folks that take over the camp use a “red flag, with a white circle, and a blue stylized eagle”:

big_slide_rebelsThis might be the flag of a bunch of local rebels, but it might not wash, from the point of view of a flag that a new nation could rally around; it has no history.   One forward thinking individual, Albert Ebinger, came up with the following (note it is under copyright, used here under the Fair Use doctrine) flag for New England:

720px-New_England_flag_1988.svgWhat is good about this flag is that it takes a bit from the existing US flag, and a bit from an old New England flag, and makes something that would help ease the transition for the citizens of the New England Confederacy.   Without the stars, it is the traditional Bunker Hill Flag.

Texas, Alaska, Hawaii, and California all have their own state flags; luckily, all of them are relatively good, from a design standpoint, and have enough history in them to indicate their own territories and cultures without too much explanation.

Map_of_the_United_States_with_flags.svg

Most US state flags are pretty boring, however, and about thirty of them don’t have much besides the state seal on a dark background.   It is difficult to identify them when they are completely unfurled, much less when they are not flying in a breeze.  Try identifying the flags of Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Maine, or Kansas – it’s tough to do!

So, of the various republics that will form in the wake of a breakup of the US, what will we get?

If one country takes the mantle of the United States of America, as in JMG’s Twilight’s Last Gleaming, some of us will be lucky and haul out the old Betsy Ross flag (or a variant) depending on how many states join this new America:

US_flag_13_stars_–_Betsy_Ross.svgThere are plenty of variants, but the important thing is that this flag will bring people together, and may make themselves think (as was alluded to in the story), “America is returning to its roots – a simple country, with clear ideals.”

In the television series ‘Jericho’, the Allied States of America used a variant of the US flag to show that it still (ostensibly) maintained a connection to the old United States:

Allied_States_of_America_flag_(Jericho).svgThe orientation of the stripes was changed deliberately; in that alternate universe it was said, “President Tomarchio stated the change in orientation of the stripes could be taken to represent “a new direction” for Americans.”  

Perhaps what may happen is (with the exception of places like Texas), the new countries of the US will retain parts of the American flag, just as the offshoots of Great Britain maintained a Union Jack.  The New England flag above does that nicely; perhaps white stars on a blue field will be the common theme of these new republics.

Some of the best thoughts on these topics have been thought out quite extensively, especially with respect to the varying number of states in the US.    Other regions of the country have been thought about as well; for example, if an Appalachian Republic was to form, this flag by Rick Wyatt might do the trick:

us-appaSimple, easy to make, and easy enough for a five year old to remember how to make it, and it includes the a design element (the star) that links it to the old United States.  I’m not too sure about having brown in a flag; strong colors (black, white, red, blue, green) are the colors that seem to be in most flags.  My take would be then along these lines:

us-appa - v2Cascadia has a flag as well, but it uses stripes to link itself to the US flag.

us_cas6A bit of searching for other regional flags turns up some garish ones, but the idea does have merit.   Of course, there is a reddit post on this very topic.   Interestingly enough, a flag for a nation surrounding the Great Lakes (JMG’s Lakeland Republic!) was suggested; even the stars (with seven points) might reflect that seven states formed the basis of the new republic.

flag_of_the_great_lakes_by_niknaks93-d63znp4But, given the criteria above, perhaps this flag below might work, although some critics may say that it looks too much like the EU flag.  It also (I just found out), is the naval jack of the old Confederate Navy, so it might not fly (quite literally).

lakeland_republic_7_statesAnother option might be to incorporate some color from the old US flag; perhaps the red border refers to the long embargo that the Lakeland Republic has had to endure and helped define it over the years.

lakeland_republic_7_states_opt2     lakeland_republic_7_states_opt3

For the flag of an independent Florida (which exists in another of JMG’s universes – Twilight’s Last Gleaming/”How It Could Happen”), this seems appropriate (from the old West Florida Republic):1020px-Bonnieblue.svgNice, simple, and again, noting that it was from the old United States of America, but not of it.

If the folks in Oklahoma and New Mexico are clamoring for more attention, they might petition so the flag for Texas includes them:

Flag_of_Texas_NewThe Rocky Mountain Republic might wind up with:

Flag_of_Rocky_Mountain_Republic_02The Atlantic Republic might go all out digital, or get something more simple and corporate:

Atlantic_RepublicThe Republic of Deseret might use some old flags, such as the Kimball/Maguire Flag of 1877, depicted here.   I haven’t thought what the Missouri Republic might do; there were seven states in the Missouri Republic, and Missouri had a chunk taken out of it; would that be reflected in the flag?

Questions for this week:

  • What might flags of the future American republics look like?
  • What design elements (stars, stripes, colors) will be in all of the flags?
  • Will any wildly colorful flags (i.e. rainbow colored) appear as national flags?
  • Any other ideas for the flag of the Lakeland Republic (or any of the other republics), in JMG’s latest online story of Retrotopia?