Finding and implementing "course-changing-behavior."

Every week someone presents a new piece of data from their area of expertise which demonstrates that, "If humankind continues on the current path, something is going to break and lot of people will be injured."

For example, this Jan 08 peak oil summary reaffirms that oil production is, or soon will be, in decline. This document, by itself, should tell us that fuel prices will increase.

Increasing demand also increases price. China and India's growing middle classes, driving cars, heating their homes, and buying strawberries in winter, will increase our energy costs.

Insulating our homes, driving more fuel efficient cars and recycling lowers our needs for fuel, but it has not stopped our energy bills from rising.

Our cost of energy will also be increased as we move to more expensive energy sources to limit CO2 emissions and slow climate change.

When energy prices rise faster than incomes, people become less competitive in the energy market and lose part of their attained wellbeing.

For the billion people at or near starvation in the third world this loss will be deadly.

Possibly more tragic (dead men don't create violence that crushes civilizations) are people in the first world who will find themselves less able to house, cloth or educate their kids. When this happened in Germany in 1933, this group of "wellbeing-losers" changed their government from civilized to tyrannical. Germany (and Japan) attacked their neighbors or resource holders to restore their constituency's wellbeing.

Are we looking forward to a repeat of this history? As energy costs rise faster than income many nations simultaneously could develop a huge class of individuals with diminished wellbeing. As they change their institutions to meet their needs they could produce civilization destroying social conflict.

Surprisingly, this looming tragedy remains an abstraction too weak to implement much change in behavior. The global community, in all its various incantations, does not appreciate these bad futures and is not looking for either, behaviors that change course, or the means to implement them.

It is time for scientists to apply their specialized knowledge of this apocalypse, to developing "course-changing-behavior."

Changing conditions that "have-not-yet-happened" is a tougher task than anything we have ever attempted. Institutions are uniquely designed to address only present problems and can not lead this change.

The change in behavior that changes conditions that "have-not-yet-happened" is that of 6 billion individuals. Our task is understand how what we know might change an individual's behavior.

The person, whose behavior we want to change, normally chooses behavior based on his or her experience. When that person has no experience (our case) he or she chooses behavior based on cultural bias. However, culture is also based on past experience and has no view of the non-experienced projected abstractions we propose. Thus existing culture has and will continue, unintentionally, to promote behaviors which drives their communities to the future nobody wants.

Thus the concerned scientist's task is to create a new culture. We have to create, with our knowledge, a dominant constituency that so fears the abstract future conditions our work illuminates, they will create rules of behavior (for themselves and subsequently for the minority portion of the group who disagree with them) that lead to an alternative.

Our task is to package our view of reality in such away it appears better to the listener than the one to which he or she has been clinging. Part of our task is to show, to the listener's satisfaction, where the current community is going.

It will have to be more convincing and produce more response then that given to the climate change presenters. The view we present must be more personal. For example we must hammer home that YOUR child will have less wellbeing than you and your grandchildren still less. This is something many already feel is true, but find difficult to appreciate because it remains behind a veil of cultural momentum.

So we need some close to home examples. Like my dad paid my college tuition with 1.5 % of his salary and I will pay my son's tuition with 30% of mine.

Actually the cost of education divided by income -- or percent of income forms a "V" shaped graph when plotted over time. This percentage dropped slowly between 1940 and 1980 and then increased sharply since then. This TREND will make paying for a college education out of reach of the most dedicated parent.

The "V" graphs take on more importance when the adult listener realizes that transportation, water, food, waste management and infrastructure have been on the flat or downward sloping part of a "V" graph much of their lives and we are experiencing (or are about to experience) the rapidly rising leg.

This inflection is more significant today than it has been in the past because the previous "V" transitions were distributed temporally throughout history and spatially around the globe. Previous human communities never consolidated in one civilization. When one crashed in one place another sprung up to take its place. Today is different. The whole globe, influenced by a common market, e.g. energy, will suffer the results following an inflection.

We have to show that after an inflection the loss of wellbeing will precipitate frustrated individuals and each will contribute to social conflict. For example, we must show that as top levels of education become unreachable, as conditions worsen, their children will become first disadvantaged and then impoverished. We must show that conflict will increase and that, "being blown up in their home town mall," will become as common as it is today in Baghdad.

Our task is to show how procreative behavior even as low as two kids per family leads to this ever deteriorating future.

Our task is to show that "ever increasing quality of life" is dependent on rapidly decreasing population (RPD.) We must show that the uncomfortable economic and social aspects of rapidly declining population,(e.g. aging population, smaller families and slowed economic growth) are easier to solve than experiencing the collapse of civilization.

Finally, we have to help them believe that the rate of RPD required to get this good future, means enforcing with carrots and sticks a law that limits families to one child per family (OCPF.)

After you or I learn to use what we know to convince one person, our next task is to harness that person's belief that OCPF is the proper way forward, and get them to find ways to recruit another person. Our goal is to build a constituency in every corner of the world that sweeps local institutions into creating OCPF laws.

The plan I suggest recruits a constituency from the bottom up. One on one with the ideas and arguments that are formed first by a technical group that sees an inconsistency in today's path forward and then presents that future in a personal way to that individual.

We don;t have to wait for our worst "V" predictions to play out. Some clearly have already occurred. While our incomes have risen 5% a year, grain has doubled in cost the last 18 months, Energy has tripled in the last three years. And US top soil has diminished by 1/3 in the last 40 years. These trends can not continue. We have to convert their meaning into a global constituency that will implement the OCPF behaviors that can alter humankind's course.


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to:      Other position papers

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