Hasta la victoria siempre

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Grija pentru mediul inconjurator ne face mai fericiti



Intr-o societate obsedata de imbogatire si care vede consumul ridicat ca o reteta a fericirii, grija fata de mediul inconjurator nu poate fi decat o piedica suparatoare in calea bunastarii si satisfactiei. Iata insa ca aceasta este o prejudecata eronata: aplecarea spre ecologie sporeste, in sine, fericirea personala. Aceasta este concluzia unui studiu intitulat „Are Psychological and Ecological Well-Being Compatible? The Role of Values, Mindfulness and Lifestyle”, realizat de cercetatorii Kirk Warren Brown si Tim Kasser, publicat in Social Indicators Research (2005) 74: 349–368.

Prezentarea generala a studiului:

„Happiness and ecological well-being are often portrayed as conflictual pursuits, but they may actually be complementary. In samples of adolescents (Study 1) and adults (Study 2), we tested this proposition and examined the role of three factors in promoting both subjective well-being (SWB) and ecologically responsible behavior (ERB). In both studies, individuals higher in
SWB reported more ERB. An intrinsic value orientation (Studies 1 and 2) and dispositional mindfulness (Study 2) related to higher SWB and ERB, while a lifestyle of voluntary simplicity (Study 2) related to higher ERB. Further analyses showed that the compatibility of SWB and ERB was explained by intrinsic values and mindfulness. These findings offer clues to a sustainable way of life that enhances both personal and collective well-being.”

Prejudecatile anti-(non-)ecologice, incurajate de consumerism

„Political discourse on the subject of ecological sustainability often suggests a conflict between human well-being and ecological welfare. For example, prior to the 1992 United Nations Rio Earth Summit, then-president George H. W. Bush stated that, ‘‘the American way of life is not up for negotiation’’ (McKibben, 2002).
Such discourse suggests that to keep from destroying the environment people must practice restraint, which may mean acting contrary to personal desires, needs, and ultimately, happiness. As long as environmentally responsible behavior is framed in selfsacrificial terms, individuals will be faced with tough choices about how to act, because while the majority of the general public wants a safe and healthy environment (Gallup and Newport, 1990; Merck Family Fund, 1995), they also want happy lives. This apparent trade-off may make people less likely to behave in ways that promote ecological well-being. Given widespread indications that the health of the environment is in serious danger (Abramovitz, 2003), in large part due to human consumption activity designed, ostensibly, to bolster personal well-being (United Nations Environment Programme, 2002), it is imperative to examine the veracity of the supposed trade-off between personal happiness and behavior that supports a healthy ecology.”

Treptat, prejudecata a fost demonstrata ca fiind falsa

„The purported conflict between human happiness and planetary welfare is countered by a small body of research findings suggesting that subjective well-being (SWB) and ecologically responsible behavior (ERB) may be compatible pursuits. For example, DeYoung (1996, 2000) found that environmental and prosocial behaviors (including frugality and community participation) provide intrinsic satisfactions that bolster personal well-being. Individuals have also reported more happiness at Christmas when they engaged in environmentally friendly holiday behaviors (Kasser and Sheldon, 2002), although they also reported somewhat lower
happiness when they limited their spending. Qualitative research by Eigner (2001) and Sohr (2001) suggested that personal well-being can be enhanced by involvement in environmental activism. These ideas are well-summarized by Myers and Diener (1995), whose review of happiness research concluded that the most important sources of life satisfaction are nonmaterial in nature. Thus, the pursuit of happiness does not appear to require consumptionbased, environmentally damaging activity.”

Rezultatele studiului de fata

„In a sample of adolescents and again in matched, demographically diverse national samples of adults differing in lifestyle, the present studies found that personal well-being and ecologically responsible behavior were complementary. That is, happier people were living in more ecologically sustainable ways. Further, we identified two factors – intrinsic value orientation (Studies 1 and 2) and mindfulness (Study 2) – that promoted both happiness and ecologically responsible behavior, and that helped to explain the positive association between Subjective Well-Being (SWB) and Ecological Responsible Behaviour (ERB) . These results weigh against the oft-stated belief that personal well-being and ecologically supportive behavior are necessarily in conflict, and instead suggest that a trade-off between the two is not a fait accompli. Instead, a mindful consideration of one’s inner states and behavior along with a set of values oriented more towards intrinsic than extrinsic aims appear to imultaneously benefit both individual and ecological well-being.”

Detasarea de „valorile” externe, materialiste, benefica pentru individ si mediu
„Past research has found both mindfulness (e.g., Brown and Ryan, 2003) and intrinsic values (e.g., Kasser and Ryan, 1996) to be associated with SWB. Why were these person-level variables also related to ERB? Intrinsic values are, by their very nature, not dependent on material goods for their fulfillment; thus, energy invested in intrinsic pursuits may mean less energy devoted to some of the consumptionbased activities reflected in the ecological footprint analysis and
certain of the environmentally friendly behaviors assessed here. For example, people holding more intrinsic values are unlikely to be very interested in large ‘‘trophy’’ homes or gas-guzzling vehicles that often reflect ostentatious displays of wealth or image enhancement. Further,
the focus on community that is a component of an intrinsic value orientation (Kasser and Ryan, 1996) might lead individuals try to decrease the ecological impacts of their behavior so as to benefit future human generations as well as other species.
Regarding mindfulness, this quality of consciousness may promote reflection on one’s consumption activity and greater choicefulness in the marketplace (e.g., Rosenberg, 2004), as already noted.”

Concluzia studiului

„With material consumption levels on the rise worldwide, human quality of life may be at risk (Abramovitz, 2003). A scholarly and popular consensus is emerging that achieving sustainable societies will mean scaling back on our material lives (Winter, 1996; Brower and Leon, 1999). Yet convincing people to live in more ecologically sustainable ways will be challenging if people believe that their personal happiness will consequently suffer. The present findings are hopeful in pointing to a mutually beneficial relation between personal and planetary well-being, especially given that such supportive factors as mindfulness and intrinsic values can be cultivated (Grube et al., 1994; Baer, 2003).”

Asadar, odata ce oamenii se vor debarasa de preconceptia conform careia fericirea consta in consumul ridicat si ecologismul, limitand consumul, dauneaza fericirii, nu doar ca vom trai intr-un mediu mai sanatos, dar vom fi cel putin la fel de fericiti.

Capitalismul, inamicul mediului inconjurator

Trebuie subliniat in acest punct ca o astfel de schimbare de mentalitate este ingrunata considerabil in prezent de existenta capitalismului, care, in goana dupa profit, calca in picioare sanatatea si integritatea mediului. Intr-adevar, profesorul de sociologie de la Universitatea din Wisconsin, Erik Olin Wright, subliniaza bine in manuscrisul cartii sale „Envisioning Real Utopias” conflictul care exista intre capitalism si ecologie. In Capitolul 3 intitulat „What's so bad about capitalism”, Wright noteaza:

Capitalism significantly contributes to environmental problems
First, the systematic pressure on profit-maximizing firms to generate negative externalities means that in the absence of some strong countervailing pressure, capitalist firms will ignore environmental costs. This is a stronger claim than a simple argument about rational action of individuals with selfish motives. Individuals may litter the environment by throwing a can out of a car window because this is a low-cost way of disposing a can and they are indifferent to its negative impact on others, but it is not the case that there are strong pressures on individuals to act this way. Capitalist firms face competitive pressures to reduce costs, and externalizing those costs on the environment is a good strategy of doing this. This pressure cannot be countered by the market itself; it requires some form of non-capitalist intervention either by the state or by organized social forces.
Second, nonrenewable natural resources are systematically under-priced in the market since their value to people in the future is not registered in the dynamics of supply and demand in the present. The result is that actors in capitalist markets over-consume these resources. Capitalist markets are inherently organized around relatively short time horizons, and thus the only way that the value to future generations of these resources can be taken into account in decisions about present uses is through the imposition of constraints on capitalism, again, by the state or by organized social forces.
Finally, the strong bias towards consumerism in the dynamics of capitalist markets has dire ecological consequences. In principle productivity growth could be quite beneficial for the environment, since this means that fewer inputs are needed to produce a given output. However, the bias generated by capitalist competition towards the expansion of markets and the consumption of ever-greater quantities of things means that productivity growth is, in general, translated into more production and higher consumption standards within capitalism. Particularly if we look at this issue in global terms in which economic growth in parts of the developing world fuels consumerism as a world-wide phenomenon, it is hard to imagine how this could be ecologically sustainable. This does not mean that consumption standards in poor countries shouldn’t rise. By any standard of social justice, this is desirable. But it does imply that an economic system that fosters escalating consumerism in already rich countries and blocks any long-term plan to constrain consumption growth is environmentally destructive.”

Asadar, natura sistemului capitalist incurajeaza goana dupa profitul imediat si consumerismul, ambele indiferente si chiar ostile fata intentiile ecologiste. Renuntarea la capitalism, impreuna cu adoptarea unei ideologii precum cea a downshifting-ului, axata pe valorile intrinseci, consum si industrie drastic limitate, un impact minimal asupra mediului inconjurator, este o astfel de solutie.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pentru limitarea drastica a folosirii combustibililor


William Rees preda la Universitatea din British Columbia si este fost director al School of Community and Regional Planning. Rees este specializat in politici publice si in alternative economice si de consum ecologice.
Intr-un articol intitulat „In Praise Of Higher Fuel Prices”, publicat la 24 mai 2004, Rees pledeaza pentru scumpirea substantiala a carburantilor, astfel incat acestia sa devina din ce in ce mai putin accesibili populatiei, consumul sa fie redus cat mai mult, astfel incat o probabila criza legata de saracirea resurselor sa fie evitata.

Resurse limitate, cerere practic infinita
„American consumers enjoy the most underpriced fuel available in any major industrialized country, with Canadians not far behind. And as every economist knows, the consequence of underpricing is overuse. Wealthy and middle-class North Americans live in ever-larger energy-inefficient houses and vehicles, and so are squandering in a few decades a nonrenewable resource that took tens of millions of years to accumulate.
On top of this, the world is running out of cheap oil. Recent price hikes may be mere tremors heralding the shock to come.
Oil “production” -- really extraction -- peaked in the United States about 1970 and in North America as a whole in 1984. Several recent studies project global oil output to peak as early as 2010. The conservative International Energy Agency predicts that supply will fall short of demand by nearly 20 percent by 2020. Others show that by 2040, total oil and natural gas output may fall to 60 percent of today’s supply.
Keep in mind that oil is also the raw material for thousands of products besides fuel, including medicines, paints, plastics, fertilizers and pesticides.”

Asadar, preturile scazute ii determina pe cetatenii statelor bogate, in special SUA si Canada sa abuzeze de aceasta resursa. Situatie periculoasa in conditiile in care extractia de petrol din SUA e in scadere din 1984, extractia mondiala va atinge un maxim in 2010 iar in 2020 rezervele de petrol vor fi cu 20% sub cerere.

Masuri pentru limitarea accesului la combustibili
„Meanwhile, citizens should urge governments to get real about energy pricing. All direct and indirect subsidies to oil and gas producers must end to induce conservation of remaining reserves, to encourage efficient technology, and to make inherently more expensive but necessary alternatives more competitive. This would help render the entire economy more efficient as the energy market tightens.
An unfair burden on low-income families must be avoided, but without abandoning the overall objective. Failure to act now may bring even greater inequity. (...)

Governments have known about the coming scarcity of fossil fuels for years, yet they have sacrificed the public interest to benefit the energy and automotive industries. We must begin hiking energy prices now to signal the real scarcity to come.
Without higher fuel prices, we will not invest in the technology needed for a smooth transition to the post-petroleum age. If we don't act soon, the remaining life expectancy of industrial society, as energy analyst Richard Duncan has argued, may be less than 40 years.”

Prin limitarea accesului la combustibili prin marirea corespunzatoare a preturilor, fiind totodata atenti sa nu daunam celor cu putine venituri, care oricum nu sunt principalii consumatori de petriol, evitam si alte neajunsuri precum deteriorarea soselelor cauzata de traficul intens, poluarea astfel cauzata si ambuteiajele.

Monday, October 20, 2008

O privire sceptica asupra "progresului"

Adeptii muncii pe branci, ai cresterii economice si ai imbogatirii, adica cei care se opun ideilor promovate de miscarea downshifting, se folosesc de termenul "progres" pentru a-si impune opinia. Progresul ar fi o valoare in sine, care ar fi ajutat enorm specia umana, iar downshiftingul ar impiedica un asemenea avans prin etica sa relaxata, combaterea muncii in exces si a imbogatirii. Cat de valabil este acest concept al progresului? Se poate spune ca ceea ce s-a intamplat fie si numai in istoria recenta este cu adevarat un progres?
Desi nu se pot nega anumite avantaje aduse de evolutia economico-tehnologica, o privire sceptica in acest domeniu se impune. Vom vedea imediat de ce prin scrierile lui Jared Diamond si Kirkpatrick Sale. Primul este un expert american in evolutionism, fiziolog si biogeograf recunoscut, castigator al Premiului Pulitzer si laureat al medaliai Nationale pentru Stiinta.
Iata ce scrie el in "The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race":

"While the case for the progressivist view seems overwhelming, it’s hard to prove. How do you show that the lives of people 10,000 years ago got better when they abandoned hunting and gathering for farming? Until recently, archaeologists had to resort to indirect tests, whose results (surprisingly) failed to support the progressivist view. Here’s one example of an indirect test: Are twentieth century hunter-gatherers really worse off than farmers?
Scattered throughout the world, several dozen groups of so-called primitive people, like the Kalahari bushmen, continue to support themselves that way. It turns out that these people have plenty of leisure time, sleep a good deal, and work less hard than their farming neighbors. For instance, the average time devoted each week to obtaining food is only 12 to 19 hours for one group of Bushmen, 14 hours or less for the Hadza nomads of Tanzania. One Bushman, when asked why he hadn’t emulated neighboring tribes by adopting agriculture, replied, "Why should we, when there are so many mongongo nuts in the world?"
(...)
While farmers concentrate on high-carbohydrate crops like rice and potatoes, the mix of wild plants and animals in the diets of surviving hunter-gatherers provides more protein and a bettter balance of other nutrients. In one study, the Bushmen’s average daily food intake (during a month when food was plentiful) was 2,140 calories and 93 grams of protein, considerably greater than the recommended daily allowance for people of their size. It’s almost inconceivable that Bushmen, who eat 75 or so wild plants, could die of starvation the way hundreds of thousands of Irish farmers and their families did during the potato famine of the 1840s. (...)
Similar contrasts in nutrition and health persist on a global scale today. To people in rich countries like the U. S., it sounds ridiculous to extol the virtues of hunting and gathering. But Americans are an élite, dependent on oil and minerals that must often be iimproted from countries with poorer health and nutrition. If one could choose between being a peasant farmer in Ethiopia or a bushman gatherer in the Kalahari, which do you think would be the better choice? [... ]

Studies by George Armelagos and his colleagues then at the University of Massachusetts show these early farmers paid a price for their new-found livelihood. Compared to the hunter-gatherers who preceded them, the farmers had a nearly 50 percent increase in [tooth] enamel defects indicative of malnutrition, a fourfold increase in iron-deficiency anemia (evidenced by a bone condition called porotic hyperostosis), a threefold rise in bone lesions reflecting infectious disease in general, and an increase in degenerative conditions of the spine, probably reflecting a lot of hard physical labor. “Life expectancy at birth in the pre-agricultural community was about twenty-six years,” says Armelagos, “but in the post-agricultural community it was nineteen years. So these episodes of nutritional stress and infectious disease were seriously affecting their ability to survive.”

Iata asadar ca vietile asa-zisilor "salbatici" erau si, acolo unde e cazul, sunt mai relaxate si mai sanatoase decat cele ale celor care i-au urmat. Fermierii, considerati pe o treapta superioara a evolutiei fata de vanatori-culegatori se pare ca au avut parte de o existenta mult mai scurta si chinuita decat predecesorii lor.

Odata cu aparitia agriculturii, conform lui Diamond, „besides malnutrition, starvation, and epidemic diseases, farming helped bring another curse upon humanity: deep class divisions.” Pe scurt, ceea ce s-a considerat a fi un pas inainte a insemnat pentru populatie, din multe puncte de vedere, un adevarat dezastru.
Ca sa revenim la timpuri mai recente, este oare actuala oranduire planetara, dominata de capitalism, cu adevarat un semn de dezvoltare si progres? Kirkpatrick Sale, cercetator independent, ne ajuta sa gasim raspunsul. Nu, actuala stare de lucruri nu face decat sa ne indreptateasca sa credem ca progresul e doar un mit.

"E.E. Cummings once called progress a "comfortable disease" of modern "manunkind," and so it has been for some. But at any time since the triumph of capitalism only a minority of the world's population could be said to be really living in comfort, and that comfort, continuously threatened, is achieved at considerable expense.

Today of the approximately 6 billion people in the world, it is estimated that at least a billion live in abject poverty, lives cruel, empty, and mercifully short. Another 2 billion eke out life on a bare subsistence level, usually sustained only by one or another starch, the majority without potable drinking water or sanitary toilets. More than 2 million more live at the bottom edges of the money economy but with incomes less than $5,000 a year and no property or savings, no net worth to pass on to their children. That leaves less than a billion people who even come close to struggling for lives of comfort, with jobs and salaries of some regularity, and a quite small minority at the top of that scale who could really be said to have achieved comfortable lives; in the world, some 350 people can be considered (U.S. dollar) billionaires (with slightly more than 3 million millionaires), and their total net worth is estimated to exceed that of 45 per cent of the world's population.

This is progress? A disease such a small number can catch? And with such inequity, such imbalance?

In the U.S., the most materially advanced nation in the world and long the most ardent champion of the notion of progress, some 40 million people live below the official poverty line and another 20 million or so below the line adjusted for real costs; 6 million or so are unemployed, more than 30 million said to be too discouraged to look for work, and 45 million are in "disposable" jobs, temporary and part-time, without benefits or security. the top 5 percent of the population owns about two-thirds of the total wealth; 60 percent own no tangible assets or are in debt; in terms of income, the top 20 percent earn half the total income, the bottom 20 percent less than 4 percent of it.
All this hardly suggests the sort of material comfort progress is assumed to have provided."

Citat luat din articolul "Five Facets of a Myth".

Totusi, nu se poate spune ca civilizatia a dus la sporirea duratei de viata? Nu este aceasta o dovada ca progresul aduce castiguri concrete si importante? Primul raspuns poate fi ca nu este clar cat de mult va dura aceasta longevitate, date fiind reducerea drastica si constanta a resurselor naturale si scaderea calitatii mediului inconjurator. Mai departe insa, jurnalistul Richard Heinberg scrie in "The Primitivist Critique of Civilization":

"In terms of health and quality of life, civilization has been a mitigated disaster. S. Boyd Eaton, M.D., et al., argued in The Paleolithic Prescription (1988) that pre agricultural peoples enjoyed a generally healthy way of life, and that cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, emphysema, hypertension, and cirrhosis--which together lead to 75 percent of all mortality in industrialized nations--are caused by our civilized lifestyles. In terms of diet and exercise, preagricultural lifestyles showed a clear superiority to those of agricultural and civilized peoples.
Much-vaunted increases in longevity in civilized populations have resulted not so much from wonder drugs, as merely from better sanitation--a corrective for conditions created by the overcrowding of cities; and from reductions in infant mortality. It is true that many lives have been spared by modern antibiotics. Yet antibiotics also appear responsible for the evolution of resistant strains of microbes, which health officials now fear could produce unprecedented epidemics in the next century."

Civilizatia si progresul au vindecat anumite boli, dar au si creat multe altele, iar progresul in durata de viata se pare ca se datoreaza unor factori mai putin spectaculosi si care nu necesita un grad de civilizatie iesit din coimun, care ar putea fi mentinute chiar si daca am renunta la multe din aspctele vietii moderne. De altfel avem in prezent exemple de populatii primitive ce bat recorduri de longevitate, precum cei din insulele japoneze Okinawa.

Ce concluzie tragem din aceasta expunere? Dupa ce am aflat ca primii umanoizi au avut parte de un trai mai relaxat si in privinte esentiale (miscare fizica si dieta) mai sanatos decat cei de azi; ca oranduirea sociala dominanta de azi a produs dezechilibre si inegalitati monstruoase, dublate de conditii de viata precare pentru un numar enorm de oameni; si ca unul dintre cele mai importante castiguri aduse de "progres" poate fi mentinut fara eforturi extraordinare, o privire sceptica asupra notiunii de "progres" se impune. Evident, nu trebuie sa renuntam la avantajele aduse de civilizatie, insa acestea se dovedesc considerabil mai putine decat la o prima vedere. Asadar, inainte de a ne irosi eforturile pe viitor manati de filosofia hei-rupista a muncii asidue si progresului, e cazul sa ne gandim de doua ori cu privire la utilitatea per-total a actiunilor noastre.
Redistributia veniturilor, reducerea inegalitatilor socio-economice si diminuarea drastica a cantitatii de munca trebuie sa devina la randul lor idealuri, intentia de a "progresa" devenind doar una dintre multele alte interese ale speciei umane.

Capitalismul-aliatul libertatii si democratiei?

De multe ori auzim opinii conform carora capitalismul este garantul libertatii si al democratiei. In 1995, doi jurnalisti de investigatii, Dennis Bernstein si Laura Sydell, au publicat la Eclipse Enterprises o carte intitulata "Friendly Dictators: Trading Cards". In lucrare sunt prezentati peste 35 de dictatori sangerosi si lipsiti de scrupule care au fost ajutati sa obtina/pastreze puterea de SUA, o reprezentata emblematica a capitalismului mondial. Daca cei doi autori au dreptate, fie si numai pe jumatate din cazuri prezentate, rezulta ca echivalarea capitalismului mondial cu pacea, prosperitatea si mai ales libertatea individuala si drepturile omului trebuie pusa serios sub semnul intrebarii.
Care sunt, asadar, acei dictatori aliati ai SUA? Conform Bernstein si Sydell, lista ii cuprinde pe:Abacha, General Sani (Nigeria), Amin, Idi (Uganda), Banzer, Colonel Hugo (Bolivia), Batista, Fulgencio (Cuba), Bolkiah, Sir Hassanal (Brunei), Botha, P.W. (Africa de Sud), Branco, General Humberto (Brazilia), Cedras, Raoul (Haiti), Cerezo, Vinicio (Guatemala), Chiang Kai-Shek (Taivan), Cordova, Roberto Suazo (Honduras), Christiani, Alfredo (El Salvador), Diem, Ngo Dihn (Vietnam), Doe, General Samuel (Liberia), Duvalier, Francois (Haiti), Duvalier, Jean Claude (Haiti), Fahd bin'Abdul-'Aziz, rege(Arabia Saudita), Franco, General Francisco (Spania), Hitler, Adolf (Germania), Hassan II (Maroc), Marcos, Ferdinand (Filipine), Martinez, General Maximiliano Hernandez (El Salvador), Mobutu Sese Seko (Zair), Noriega, General Manuel (Panama), Ozal, Turgut (Turcia), Pahlevi, Shah Mohammed Reza (Iran), Papadopoulos, George (Grecia), Park Chung Hee (Coreea de Sud), Pinochet, General Augusto (Cile), Pol Pot (Cambogia), Rabuka, General Sitiveni (Fiji), Montt, General Efrain Rios (Guatemala), Salassie, Halie (Etiopia), Salazar, Antonio de Oliveira (Portugalia), Somoza, Anastasio Jr. (Nicaragua), Somoza, Anastasio, Sr. (Nicaragua), Smith, Ian (Rodesia), Stroessner, Alfredo (Paraguai), Suharto, General (Indonezia), Trujillo, Rafael Leonidas (Republica Dominicana), Videla, General Jorge Rafael (Argentina), Zia Ul-Haq, Mohammed (Pakistan).

Sa urmarim in cateva din cazuri care sunt legaturile dintre SUA si personajele amintite.

Fulgencio Batista:
"Cuban Army Sergeant Fulgencio Batista first seized power in a 1932 coup. He was President Roosevelt's handpicked dictator to counteract leftists who had overthrown strongman Cerardo Machado. Batista ruled or several years, then left for Miami, returning in 1952 just in time for another coup, against elected president Carlos Prio Socorras. His new regime was quickly recognized by President Eisenhower. Under Batista, U.S. interests flourished and little was said about democracy. With the loyal support of Batista, Mafioso boss Meyer Lansky developed Havana into an international drug port. Cabinet offices were bought and sold and military officials made huge sums on smuggling and vice rackets. Havana became a fashionable hot spot where America's rich and famous drank and gambled with mobsters. As the gap between the rich and poor grew wider, the poor grew impatient. In 1953, Fidel Castro led an armed group of rebels in a failed uprising on the Moncada army barracks. Castro temporarily fled the country and Batista struck back with a vengeance. Freedom of speech was curtailed and subversive teachers, lawyers and public officials were fired from their jobs. Death squads tortured and killed thousands of "communists". Batista was assisted in his crackdown by Lansky and other members of organized crime who believed Castro would jeopardize their gambling and drug trade. Despite this, Batista remained a friend to Eisenhower and the US until he was finally overthrown by Castro in 1959."

Mobutu Sese Seko
"When Zaire's first elected President, Patrice Lumumba, appeared to be getting too close to socialism, US companies feared they might lose control of Zaire's precious cobalt, copper, and diamonds. So the CIA stepped in, assassinated Lumumba, and replaced him with Mobutu Sese Seko. Since 1965, Mobutu has been the US's main man in Central Africa. Mobutu has amassed an estimated $5 billion personal fortune at his nation's expense. He is perhaps the only world leader who could pay his national debt from his own bank account. In fact, there seems to be no division between his pocket and the national treasury. In 1974, when the US sent $1.4 million to assist troops fighting a civil war, Mobutu pocketed the entire sum. And no foreign company sets itself up in Zaire without a tribute to Mobutu. Although Zaire has more resources than most other countries in the region, it is the fifth poorest."

Augusto Pinochet
"Augusto Pinochet deposed democratically elected President Salvador Allende in 1973, and buried Chile's 150 year old democracy. "Democracy is the breeding ground of communism", says Pinochet. The bloody coup, in which Allende was assassinated, was carefully managed by the CIA and ITT. Tens of thousands of Chileans have been tortured, killed, and exiled since then, according to Amnesty International. A U.S. congressional delegation was told by inmates at San Miguel Prison that they had been tortured by "the application of electric shock, simultaneous blows to the ears, cigarette burns, and simulated executions by firing squads." Despite Chile's bad human rights record, the U.S. government continued to support Pinochet with international loans. Even the state-sponsored car-bomb assassination of Chile's former Ambassador to the U.S., Orlando Letelier, did not convince the U.S. to break with Pinochet."

Pol Pot:
"The bombing of Cambodia by the US from 1969 to 1972, left 600,000 civilians dead, millions of refugees, tens-of-thousands dying from disease and starvation, and the Cambodian economy and culture in ruins. Cambodians blamed the US and the puppet regime of Lon Nol for the country's destruction, and gradually sided with the guerrilla army of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot, which finally defeated Lon Nol, and took power in April, 1975. Once in power, Pol Pot emptied the cities, forcing the people into the countryside. Virtually all educated people were killed and more than 1.5 million people perished in this "holocaust". Only when the Khmer Rouge was ousted by Vietnam in 1979, did the terror stop. Washington took steps to preserve the Khmer Rouge as a counter force to the Vietnamese."

Suharto
"Indonesia is a totalitarian state and its uncontested ruler for over 20 years, General Suharto, is one of the most brutal dictators in history. After a CIA organized coup brought him to power in 1965, Suharto, decided to purge every communist subversive from Indonesian soil. General Nasution, a close associate of Suharto, called for the extermination of three million Indonesian communist party members, and with the CIA supervised the murderous purge. Paratroopers would arrive in a region with a list of "subversives" and provide it to local vigilante groups. Using machetes and other crude weapons, the vigilantes would hack the alleged subversives to death. Entire populations of towns and villages were herded to central locations and massacred."

Informatii luate de aici. Cei doi autori au si blog pe aceeasi tema, cu aceasta adresa.

Cresterea economica, o pista gresita

De asociatia britanica New Economics Foundation (NEF) am mai scris in postarea "Progresul economic, aproape inutil pentru fericirea unei tari. Cine doreste sa afle amanunte despre componenta si scopul asociatiei, sa intre pe saitul oficial, http://www.neweconomics.org/gen/.

Aici voi prezenta rezultatele si concluziile unui studiu efectuat de NEF, publicat in 2006 si intitulat "Growth isn’t working: the uneven distribution of benefits and costs from economic growth". Autorii argumenteaza ca idealul cresterii economice este in cel mai bun caz neinspirat , in cel mai rau o reteta sigura a dezastrului. Tarile bogate nu mai au nevoie de cresterea bogatiei, in schimb cele sarace de abia daca au beneficiat de cresterea economiilor dezvoltate, chiar si cand aceasta a fost consistenta. Nu numai ca urmarind dezvoltarea continua a economiei nu reuseste sa scoata milioane de oameni din saracie lucie, nefacand decat sa sporeasca averile celor deja ultra-bogati, dar mai are si costuri ecologice enorme ce, dat fiind ritmul de crestere din trecutul recent, nu pot fi acoperite.

Saracia persista, in ciuda cresterii economice:
"The two greatest challenges facing the global economy are eradicating poverty and achieving environmental sustainability. Dealing with poverty is a moral imperative. Two definitions of poverty are generally used, generally referred to as ‘$1-a-day’ and ‘$2-a-day’ – although both poverty lines are in reality even lower than they at first sound. Even on the basis of the World Bank’s data, 45 per cent of the world’s population – some 2.8 billion people – live below the ‘$2-a-day’ poverty line; and more than 1.1 billion – more than the total population of the developed world – below half of this income level.
That nearly half of the world’s population should live in the 21st century in such poverty that up to one-third of their children die before they reach the age of five, at a time of unprecedented wealth among the world’s rich, can only be described as a moral outrage."

Pretul cresterii economice:
"According to the most recent assessment of humanity’s ecological footprint, in 2002, human demands on the planet, transmitted through our growth-based economies, exceeded the biosphere’s regenerative capacity by more than 20 per cent.
Nature can tolerate certain degrees of over-exploitation, but persistent over-burdening leads to the collapse of ecosystems and natural resource availability. In his book Collapse, Jared Diamond attributes repeated historical collapses of civilisations to human inability to identify the point at which societies pass the point of ecological no-return.
Also, our environmental demands are very unevenly distributed. Europe’s levels of consumption amount to more than double its own domestic biocapacity, meaning that European lifestyles can only be sustained by depending on the natural resources and environmental services of other nations. The world’s total available biocapacity is a single planet consisting of 11.5 billion hectares of biologically productive space – areas of grassland, cropland, forests, fisheries, and wetlands. There are approximately 6.4 billion people on the planet.
So, on average, there are 1.8 hectares of ‘environmental space’ per person. In Europe, on average, we require 4.7 global hectares to produce the resources we consume and absorb the wastes we generate. Overall the figure has nearly doubled since 1961.
Given that the EU only has 2.3 global hectares available per
person, the rest of its footprint falls with a thud outside Europe’s borders. The figure is even higher in the UK (at 5.4 global hectares per person), only slightly lower in Japan, and twice as much in the USA."

Cresterea economica a Occidentului, suportata de saracii lumii:
"Globally, natural disasters, most of which are related to the earth’s hydrological cycle and are therefore directly affected by climate change, devastate the lives of the poorest people most, according to the World Bank’s Hazard Management Unit.
The poor are more likely to occupy dangerous and vulnerable sites, such as flood plains, river banks, steep slopes and reclaimed land. According to the Red Cross’s World Disasters Report, the frequency and cost of natural disasters will increase due to a combination of environmental degradation, climate change, urban population growth and economic globalisation.
Of all deaths from natural disasters, 96 per cent occur in developing countries.
Rising vehicle traffic is another typical feature of conventional economic growth. Deaths, injuries, and ill health due to vehicle accidents and related pollution are classic external costs of growth. According to research from the World Bank and World Health Organisation, an estimated 1.2 million fatalities and up to 50 million injuries each year are attributable to traffic accidents. Again, poorer countries are disproportionately affected: 85 per cent of all traffic-related deaths, 96 per cent of child deaths and 90 per cent of lost ‘disability-adjusted life years’ (DALYs, a standard WHO measures to compare disease burdens) are in low- and middle-income countries. Fatalities in these countries are set to rise 80 per cent by 2020."

Tehnologia, o falsa scapare:
"Efficiency has increased substantially over the course of the last century, driven by technological development. But there are physical limits to efficiency gains, and questions about how much further they can go. Even in the most optimistic scenario, in which a global political consensus on action held sway, and the most efficient technologies available were immediately and comprehensively applied, coupled with a massive shift towards the least polluting fossil fuel (natural gas), the result would be a fairly meagre delay of 24 years in reaching a given higher concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. In a more probable and recognisable political future, with continued economic growth, fuel efficiency measures could deliver only negligible delays in higher concentrations.
Finally, and importantly, none of the standard International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) scenarios for the emissions arising from global economic activity show their concentrations being restrained to anything like the degree sufficient to prevent dangerous human interference in the climate system."

Cresterea PIB-ului, praf in ochi:
Chiar si in tarile in care s-a inregistrat o crestere semnificativa in ultimele decenii a PIB, fericirea nu a sporit, cateva dintre motivele oferite in acest sent de NEF fiind expuse mai jos:

"1. National income accounting, on which growth calculations are based, does not take any account of non-financial aspects of well-being, such as working time. For example, if production were increased by 10 per cent as a result of everyone working 10 per cent longer, people would not be 10 per cent better off, because of the extra time they were working. [...]
2. National accounts also include defensive consumption, without taking account of the social problems which give rise to it. Thus the additional spending required to clean up pollution, to maintain security in the face of increasing crime or social unrest, or for national defence in response to increasing international tensions all add to national income and growth.
3. Most importantly in the present context, growth calculations take no account of the distribution of income. National accounts treat $1 of income identically, whoever receives it. This is clearly unrealistic and counter-intuitive: the effect of an additional $100 on the well-being of a household with an income of $100 is clearly far greater than for a household with an income of $1 million. As a result, the effect of a given change in aggregate income on well-being is critically dependent on whose income is increased. This means that from a well-being perspective, the incomes of the rich are systematically over-valued at the expense of the incomes of the poor. If we set economic growth as our policy objective rather than well-being, it institutionalises this serious distortion, so that policies will inevitably result in a lower level of well-being than could otherwise be reached by biasing policies
towards the worse-off."

Progresul economic ii favorizeaza pe cei deja bogati:
"In 1993, according to the same study ( World Bank’s World
Development Indicators), the poorest 10 per cent of the world’s population accounted for just 0.8 per cent of world income, compared with 50.8 per cent for the richest 10 per cent. The richest 1 per cent alone accounted for 9.5 per cent, implying an average income for this group some 120 times the average for the poorest 10 per cent.
This means that the average benefit of global growth to someone in the richest 1 per cent of the population could be 120 times more than that of someone in the poorest 10 per cent, and yet it would
still be considered ‘pro-poor’ even by the more progressive of the two
definitions. This is, to say the least, counter-intuitive."

Sporirea substantiala a averii mondiale, beneficiu neglijabil pentru cei saraci:
"Between 1981 and 2001, world GDP (measured at PPP, at 1993 prices) increased by $18,691billion. Of this, only $786 billion, or 4.2 per cent, went to poverty reduction as defined by the $2-a-day poverty line – slightly less than the share of the poor in GDP at the beginning of the period (4.35 per cent) – even though the poor represented the majority of the world population.
These figures are potentially misleading, however, as a substantial part of both the change in GDP and the change in the total income of the poor reflects the increase in the world population rather than increased output and income per person. Adjusting for this reduces the proportion of GDP contributing to poverty reduction slightly further to 4.1 per cent. [...] To put this another way, of every $100 of growth in income per person in the world as a whole between 1981 and 2001, just $1.30 contributed to reducing poverty as measured by the $1-a-day line, and a further $2.80 to reducing poverty between $1-a-day and $2-a-day lines. The remaining $95.90 went to the rest of the world population above the $2-a-day line."

Solutia eradicarii saraciei si evitarii catastrofei ecologice: redistribuirea averilor:
"In the majority of developing countries – including almost all of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa – it would require a per capita growth rate between 8 per cent and 25 per cent to provide as much benefit to the poorest 20 per cent as the redistribution of 1 per cent of the income of the richest 20 per cent, even if there were no increase in inequality. For around one in seven countries, the growth rate required is 20 per cent or more. At the other end of the scale, the growth rate required is less than 5 per cent in only one-fifth of countries, three-quarters of which are in Eastern Europe or the former Soviet Union.
This compares with an average per capita growth rate in developing countries, in PPP terms, of just 2.5 per cent pa since 1981. If allowance were made for increasing inequality across most of the developing world since 1980, the equivalent growth rate would be increased substantially further.
Once again, this argument applies even more strongly for the world economy as a whole. Redistributing just 1 per cent of the income of the richest 20 per cent of the world’s population to the poorest 20 per cent would benefit the latter as much as distributionally equal growth of around 20 per cent. Even expanding the target group to the poorest 50 per cent of the world’s population – equivalent to a poverty line of around $2.50 per day at 1993 prices – and the source group to 25 per cent (roughly the level at which the well-being literature indicates that further increases in income cease to raise well-being) – a 1 per cent redistribution is equivalent to economic growth of 7.4 per cent. This is more than four times the average per
capita growth rate of global GDP (in PPP terms) since 1981 (1.7 per cent)."

Este redistribuirea o practica de viitor?
"The argument that poverty should or could be tackled through redistribution rather than growth tends to be dismissed by orthodox economists on the grounds that redistribution is unsustainable.
While redistribution from the rich to the poor can initially reduce poverty, they argue, this can only continue for a limited period, as eventually incomes will be equalised, so that there is no further scope for redistribution. By contrast, they contend, growth can continue indefinitely.

Response:
Apart from the fallacy that growth can be sustained indefinitely, this argument is highly variable in its validity. In most of Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, at least, there is considerable scope for poverty reduction through redistribution. [...]
Two features stand out. First, a substantial proportion of countries experienced negative per capita growth rates on average through this period (1980-2005), so that, without redistribution, poverty would have increased.
Second, for most other countries in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa the redistribution option could be sustained for at least 50 years, and in many cases for centuries, before the average Western European level of inequality was reached. Elsewhere, relatively low inequality and/or rapid growth mean the period is much shorter, or in some cases negative (reflecting levels of inequality which are already lower than the EU average).
However, if the validity of the argument that redistribution cannot be sustained at the country level is variable, at the global level it is unambiguously invalid. The total amount going to poverty reduction below the $2-a-day line between 1981 and 2001 (population-adjusted) came to $335 billion in real PPP terms. Based on the estimated global distribution of income in 1993, the income of the richest 10 per
cent of the world’s population was $14,543 billion.
This means that the rate of poverty reduction achieved between 1981 and 2001 could have been achieved through the redistribution annually of just 0.12 per cent of the income of the richest 10 per cent of the world’s population. This rate of transfer could be sustained for 300 years before the world as a whole reached the average level of inequality in EU countries."

In concluzie, se poate afirma ca nu de continuarea cresterii economice avem nevoie, de care oricum beneficiaza cei deja avuti, pentru care un plus de avere nu contribuie la sporirea fericirii si care oricum presupune costuri enorme legate de mediu si saracirea celor deja saraci, ci de redistribuiri si franarea obsesiei imbogatirii. Pe scurt, redistribuiri si downshifting!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sfaturi utile marca James Montier

James Montier este expert in investitii, lucrand, printre altii, cu firma Dresdner Kleinwort. Din motive evidente, nu ne va interesa aici ce are el de spus cu privire la investitii, afaceri si tranzactii bancare, ci cu privire la fericire. este relevant ca un expert in astfel de chestiuni financiare considera ca banii aduc un plus nesemnificativ pemtru fericirea personala, aceasta venind din cu totul alte activitati.
Ma voi baza aici pe ce are Montier der spus in "The psychology of happiness", publicat pe saitul Dresdner Kleiwort.
Autorul incepe prin a raspunde unei intrebari ce la prima vedere pare absurda: de ce sa fim fericiti?

Avantajele fericirii:
"i) Social rewards
a. Higher odds of marriage
b. Lower odds on divorce
c. More friends
d. Stronger social support
e. Richer social interactions

ii) Superior work outcomes
a. Greater creativity
b. Increased productivity
c. Higher quality of work
d. Higher income
e. More activity, more energy

iii) Personal benefits
a. Bolstered immune system
b. Greater longevity
c. Greater self control and coping abilities"

Asadar, un nivel cresut de fericire duce la randul sau la imbunatatirea relatiilor sociale, a calitatii muncii si sanatatii personale. care sunt insa componentele fericirii? Montier le imparte in trei categorii: genetice, circumstantiale si intentionale.

Factori genetici:
"The largest contributor to happiness is the genetically determined set point (or more accurately set range). That is to say, people are pre-disposed to a certain level of happiness, which is determined by characteristics inherited from their parents! As Sheldon et al note “The set point likely reflects immutable interpersonal, temperamental and affective personality traits, such as extraversion, arousability and
negative affectivity, that are rooted in neurobiology, ...are highly heritable... and change little over the lifespan.” [...]
Current estimates suggest that this genetically determined set range accounts for around 50% of an individual’s happiness. However, the set point is only the base line or default level of happiness that an individual enjoys. It is the level of happiness that an individual would have in the absence of other factors. Because the set point is generally fixed, it is not something we can alter in order to improve our happiness lot.
This, of course, means that in order to increase our happiness we need to look elsewhere."

Deci aproximativ 50% din starea noastra de bine e mostenita pe cale genetica, insa acest procent ramane constant doar daca nu este modificat, alterat de alti factori. El reprezinta doar o predispozitie ce poate fi modificata de alti factori, din cele doua categorii ce urmeaza:

Factori circumstantiali si impactul scazut al banilor asupra fericirii
"The second component of happiness is circumstances. Life circumstances include demographic factors, age, gender, ethnicity and geographic factors. It also includes personal history and life status. Frequently people focus upon the last element of this feature.
Indeed, amongst the most commonly reported correlates of happiness are marital status, occupation, job security, income, health and religious affiliations. [...]
That said, a vast array of individuals seriously over-rate the importance of money in making themselves, and others, happy. Indeed, it seems to me that an awful lot of individuals within our industry tend to equate money with happiness.
However, study after study from psychology shows that money doesn’t equal happiness. For instance, Loewenstein (1996) asked visitors to Pittsburgh International Airport to rank from 1 (most important) to 5 (least important) a list of “things that might be important when it comes to making people happy”. They were then asked to assign percentages as to the importance of each factor in determining overall happiness. The table below shows the mean ranking and percentage weights that respondents assigned to each variable. High income received the lowest ranking and rating. A similar finding is contained by Diener and Oishi (2000)4 who surveyed some 7167 students across 41 countries. Those who valued love more than money reported far higher life satisfaction scores than those who seemed to be money focused.
However, for all the emphasis that gets put upon life circumstances as a generator of happiness, the correlations between such variables as money, job security, marriage etc and happiness are relatively small. In fact, Sheldon et al argue that in total all circumstances account for only around 10% of the variations in people’s happiness."

Circumstante si adaptare hedonica:
"There is an additional problem with changing life circumstances as a path to increasing happiness. It goes by the frightening name of hedonic adaptation. Simply put, hedonic adaptation means we are very good at quickly assimilating our current position, and then judging it as normal, hence only changes from our “normal” level get noticed.
Gains in happiness quickly become the norm. So changing life circumstances seems to lead to only temporary improvement in people’s happiness. This helps explain the chart on p3, which shows that since the 1950s people’s happiness levels have been remarkably constant, despite a massive growth in income per head over the same time horizon.
Schkade and Kahneman (1998) 6 show that whilst “living in California” was an appealing idea for many Americans, it didn’t actually boost long run happiness. That is to say, people living in California were about as happy as other Americans on average.
So whilst moving may provide a temporary increase in happiness, it is soon adapted into the perception of the “norm”.
Hence hedonic adaptation severely limits the ability of changing life circumstances to improve long run happiness. So neither life circumstances nor the set point seem to hold the key to creating sustainable increases in happiness."

Astfel, factorii circumstantiali precum varsta, sex, aparteneta etnica, statut si salariu nu doar ca au o importanta minora in ecuatia fericirii generale, in jur de 10%, dar in cadrul acestui procent mic statutul social si banii au o importanta si mai scazuta.

Factorii care ne pot spori fericirea cu adevarat: activitatea intentionala
"All of which means that any hope for increasing happiness on a long term basis must lie with the third and final component of happiness – intentional activity. Sheldon et al define intentional activity as “discrete actions or practices that people can choose to do”. By process of elimination, intentional activity must account for 40% of people’s happiness. Intentional activity can be (somewhat artificially) broken down into three areas: Behavioural activities – such as exercising regularly, having sex, being kind to others, and spending time socialising.
Cognitive activities – such as trying to see the best, pausing to count how lucky one actually is.
Volitional activities – striving for personal goals, devoting effort to meaningful causes. Unlike changing life circumstances, intentional activity is likely to be more resistant to hedonic adaptation. The very nature of activities means they are episodic, and henceare unlikely to become part of the “norm” in the way alterations to circumstances do.
Because activities are not permanent they can be varied which again helps prevent hedonic adaptation. For instance, in taking exercise the particular activity can easily be altered from cycling to swimming.
Cognitive activities such as pausing to think about the good things in one’s life can also help counteract the hedonic adaptation process directly. After all, counting one’s blessing helps to prevent them from becoming part of the “norm”. Of course, just like New Year’s resolutions, happiness increasing strategies are relatively easy to devise, but far harder to implement on a consistent basis. A
deliberate effort is required to pursue activities."

Lista fericirii:
Care sunt activitatile ce ne pot spori fericirea?
"The top ten list for improving happiness (in no particular order)
1) Don’t equate happiness with money. People adapt to income shifts
relatively quickly, the long lasting benefits are essentially zero.
2) Exercise regularly. Regular exercise is an effective cure for mild depression and anxiety. It also stimulates more energy, and is good for the mind and body.
3) Have sex (preferably with someone you love). Need I say more?
4) Devote time and effort to close relationships. Confiding and discussing problems and issues is good for happiness, so work on these relationships.
5) Pause for reflection, meditate on the good things in life. Focusing on the good aspects of life helps to prevent hedonic adaptation.
6) Seek work that engages your skills, look to enjoy your job. Doing well at work creates happiness, and the easiest way of doing well at work, is doing a job you enjoy.
7) Give your body the sleep it needs. Too many people have a sleep deficit, resulting in fatigue, gloomy moods and lack of concentration.
8) Don’t pursue happiness for its own sake, enjoy the moment. Because people don’t understand what makes them happy, pursuing happiness can be self-defeating. Additionally, if people start to aim for happiness they are doing activities for happiness’s sake rather than actually enjoying the activity itself.
9) Take control of your life, set yourself achievable goals. People are
happiest when they achieve their aims, so set yourself goals which stretch you, but are achievable.
10) Remember to follow rules 1-9. Following these guidelines sounds easy, but actually requires willpower and effort."

Asadar, renunta la iluzia echivalarii fericirii cu banii, fa sport, imbunatateste-ti activitatea sexuala combinata cu sentiment, socializeaza, odihneste-te suficient, alege-ti o slujba nu in functie de salariu, ci in functie de munca prestata, carpe diem. O reteta perfecta pentru downshifting.