A World Based on Abundance

What it Looks Like; What it Does Not Look Like

By Wade Frazier

Revised July 2014

 

Introduction

Economics and Energy

Exuberance Is Not Abundance

“Sustainable” Does Not Mean Abundant

What Does Abundance Look Like?

Footnotes

 

Introduction

My journey in the free energy and other milieus might be called, “the pursuit of abundance.”  While some popular concepts allude to an abundance paradigm, such as “win-win,” the scarcity principle is so deeply ingrained in humanity that even imagining abundance can seem impossible.  For instance, an impressive scholar such as Richard Heinberg cannot seem to conceive of abundance, but frames the global situation in an “endless growth/overshoot-and-collapse” dichotomy.  R. Buckminster Fuller believed that humanity’s seemingly intractable resistance to the idea of abundance is because scarcity has been the human reality for so long that the zero-sum-game is virtually cemented into human consciousness.  The fact that scarcity is currently being artificially forced onto humanity for reasons of earthly power makes the pursuit of abundance even more difficult.  Even those who truly try to comprehend abundance have a difficult task, and this essay is intended to make the abundance principle clearer. 

 

Economics and Energy

Life on Earth has always been powered by sunlight; the energy captured via photosynthesis has been the basis for virtually all ecosystems.  Without energy, there is no life.  Scientists think that trees are largely adaptations by plants to get their leaves closer to the light, so they can absorb more than the shorter plants that stand in their shadows, and also a way for non-flowering trees to spread their seeds.  Flowering plants produce fruit to attract animals, which spread the seeds while eating the fruit.  A class of mammal evolved opposable thumbs and toes to better navigate tree limbs while seeking fruit and other tree-borne foods.  Eventually some primates left the trees, most likely for food-related reasons.  Some of those primates learned to walk erect and lost their opposable toes, which freed their hands for other uses.  Those primates developed larger brains, and after millions of years of adaptation to changed environments and circumstances, anatomically modern humans appeared about 200,000 years ago.  Humanity’s early migrations, adaptations and tool making were always primarily concerned with acquiring, preserving, and consuming energy

About 60,000 years ago, humans improved their hunting technology and tactics to the point where they became super-predators, left Africa, and thereby conquered most land-based ecosystems and eventually inhabited all continents except Antarctica.  They also contributed to the extinction of nearly all the planet’s large, easily killed animals, and particularly large mammals.  When the easy meat was gone the Domestication Revolution occurred, apparently independently, in Mesoamerica (today’s Mexico), the Andes, China, and the Fertile Crescent (Iraq and vicinity).  Domesticating plants and animals allowed humans to become sedentary, because more energy per acre was extractable.  Populations thereby became denser, and civilization developed.  Economics is the study of humanity’s material wellbeing, and the bedrock economic reality has always been the human stomach.  From the beginnings of the Domestication Revolution, about 11,000 years ago, to the Industrial Revolution, about 300 years ago, the primary preoccupation of most humans was obtaining enough food to eat.

The Industrial Revolution was dependent on harnessing amounts of energy not previously exploitable, and today’s Americans consume about 80 times the energy provided by their diets.  Americans are also history’s fattest and most sedentary humans, with most of the industrialized world not far behind.  Energy consumption is by far the most important measure of a society’s economic production and a society's energy surplus is the best standard of living measure.  The United Kingdom has one of Earth’s most educated and affluent societies, while Ethiopia has one of Earth’s least educated and poorest societies, but their economic production divided by their energy consumption is almost exactly the same ratio.  The same is true for all the world’s societies, from the richest to poorest.  Modern economic theory, however, has largely obscured that relationship, and I think that the main reasons follow.

When humans became sedentary and civilizations appeared, human health declined.  Early agriculture did not produce healthy diets, particularly the dead food between harvest seasons, and early civilizations were not clean.  There also was not enough to go around, so the beginning of civilization has been called the transition “from egalitarianism to kleptocracy.”  Economic, political, and social stratification accompanied civilization’s development.  All political systems for all time have been primarily concerned with who received the benefit of the scarce and energy-dependent economic production and, as Fuller stated, all political actors are “stooges” of the economic interestsProfessions appeared and “elites” ascended the hierarchies.  Economic elitism has always been the hallmark of all elites, with the elites of all civilizations engaging in conspicuous economic consumption as a mark of their status.  Those at the hierarchical bottoms, such as slaves, barely eked out existences while elites lived in opulence.  That situation was due to economic scarcity. 

Economics is generally separated into three parts in modern study:

 

  1. The production of wealth;

  2. The distribution (or exchange) of wealth;

  3. The consumption of wealth.

 

As noted above, economic production is almost entirely dependent on energy usage.  Consumption is the use of that economic production.  The distribution/exchange aspect of economics is about who gets to consume the production.  Money, banking, accountants, laws – in short, what passes for economics today – are primarily concerned with the exchange aspect of economics.  In a world of scarcity, who owns what becomes the overriding concern, which is why economics is so focused on the exchange aspect, particularly in daily life.  In ancient civilizations, slaves gathered/produced the wealth while the elites consumed their disproportionate share.  The exchange aspect was largely concerned with separating the slaves from the fruit of their labor, for elite benefit.  That basic dynamic has been repeated in all civilizations to the present day.  Socialism and communism have been conscious attempts to ameliorate that dynamic, but are still rooted in the assumption of economic scarcity.  The main difference between capitalist and communist theory was who should receive the benefit of the scarce resources.  Capitalism averred that the capitalists, who cleverly organized the system for their benefit, should get the lion’s share of economic production.  Communism stated that those doing the hard work should receive a fair share of their production.  In the industrialized world, machines perform all the truly heavy lifting.  While capitalism has been reliant on violence and coercive exploitation, communism was forced egalitarianism.  In practice, both systems violated people’s free will. 

It is no coincidence that slavery first appeared in early civilization and disappeared in early industrialization.  Energy was the reason.  That American consumption of 80 times their dietary calories has been called the equivalent of having 80 slaves, but it is more like several hundred.  That is the Industrial Revolution’s central dynamic.  With energy slaves performing work, human slaves became impractical, although economic exploitation for elite benefit is still a primary aspect of how economic systems function.  Economic, political, and social systems are still steeply hierarchical, with America’s richest individual (Bill Gates) possessing as much wealth as about half of America’s poorest citizens combined, for a wealth ratio of around one-hundred-million-to-one, which is a disparity greater than any in history.  In order to accept or defend such an obviously unfair situation, people have had to cultivate many egocentric delusions that are based on the scarcity principle.  The human ego is our collective Achilles’ heel.

Every civilization has ridden atop its energy consumption, which is a fact that most of civilization’s inhabitants never learn, conveniently forget, or minimize.  All collapsed civilizations disappeared largely due to depleting their energy sources, and knowledgeable observers of today’s world realize that industrialized civilization will collapse unless non-fossil-fuel energy sources are discovered and used.  The motivations behind all wars for all time have been primarily economic, although the elites have always conjured and sold the masses superficially noble motivations (self-defense, religion, nationalism, humanitarianism, spreading freedom and democracy), as naked self-interest rarely sells well.  Regarding the economic motivation behind wars, no recent example could be more obvious than America’s invasion of the Middle East (and its saber rattling with Iran and Venezuela in the early 21st century), as the USA seizes control over the world’s fossil fuel deposits, which power the world economy.  Predictably, the American media dutifully parroted the Bush administration propaganda nearly verbatim, and virtually never even mentioned the motivation that is obvious to everybody on earth, except brainwashed Americans.  The sitting president, vice president and secretary of state during Iraq's invasion were all former oil industry executives

Today’s Westerners would benefit from thinking about how energy consumption makes their modern lives possible.  Everything material in our lives, be it wood, food, water, metals, glass, plastics and so on, has been made available by harnessing energy.  All of our transportation, electronic communication, human-friendly environments, appliances and other modern amenities rely on energy for their existence and performance.  Without energy, it all comes to a sudden halt

 

Exuberance Is Not Abundance

Many years ago, Carl Sauer, one of the greatest academics that America has yet produced, stated that modern ideology extolled ever-increasing economic production and a fresh planet begging to be filled with people, but that such ideology ignored the fact that the West’s “progress” came at the cost of the “permanent impoverishment of the world.”  Sauer stated that such recklessly optimistic ideas were the result of an attitude born from Europe’s conquest of the worldJulian Simon was a modern apostle of that attitude.  I call it “rape-and-plunder economics (AKA Vulture Capitalism).”  Europe’s global conquest was an economic undertaking before all else.  Everywhere that Europeans appeared, the native peoples were devastated because Europeans put the natives under the yoke (Spain in the New World, Britain in India, several imperial players in Africa), exterminated them in order to seize their land (England/Britain and America in the New World, Britain in Tasmania/Australia), or destroyed the native environments via economic exploitation (America and Spain in the New World).

William Catton echoed Sauer’s theme in his Overshoot.  Catton’s work has been called neo-Malthusian, as it repeated the “dismal science” observation of Thomas Malthus, which essentially states that people will always outstrip their energy supply.  In Malthus’s pre-industrial world, the energy came largely in the form of food.  There is little intrinsic difference between a calorie of food delivered to the human stomach and a calorie of gasoline delivered to an automobile’s fuel tank.  Both Sun-based energy sources are used to power human activities; gasoline calories are simply substituted for food calories in moving people across our planet. 

Catton called that reckless optimism “emotional exuberance,” and defined it as an “almost euphoric mood” that, in the context of his work, meant the emotional high that comes from burning through one’s resources before they are all used up (“environmental exuberance”) and the inevitable collapse ensues.[1]  That exuberance was due to people’s being unable or unwilling to see that using something up far faster than it could be replenished would end in a grim “morning after,” when the resources were depleted.  That “exuberance” is another variation of the zero-sum-game, and the losers in the exuberant pillage of resources (mainly energy, but also people) are simply ignored. 

Catton’s concept of “exuberance” is virtually unassailable, and aptly describes the European/settler-state mentality for the past several centuries.  However, such egocentric exuberance has nothing to do with an abundance mentality.  The exuberant mentality states that “there is always more where that came from,” even if there was not (also called the “cornucopian” paradigm). 

 

“Sustainable” Does Not Mean Abundant

With the understandable horror that accompanies comprehension of the West’s amazingly shortsighted and rapacious economic systems, the concept of “sustainability” is being promoted in many places.  No industrialized society has come close to being sustainable, not when its primary resource is being used up about a million times faster than it was created.  Environmentalists have adopted the “let’s ride bikes” philosophy, and are ideologically opposed to the idea of abundance, preferring austerity (the opposite of abundance) solutions, which are approaches that Fuller said were doomed.[2]  Also, many Westerners have looked to the pre-industrialized world for examples of “sustainable” societies.  The concept of sustainability being promoted is this: humans can “sustainably” harvest ecosystems.  In pre-industrial cultures this has often been the case, such as the Pacific Northwest culture, the Great Plains culture, the Eastern Woodlands culture, the New Guinea Highlands culture, perhaps the Amazon culture and some others.  Those cultures did not engage in deforestation and plow agriculture, which eventually turns fertile land into desert, as it has in the Fertile Crescent and elsewhere.  However, those kinds of sustainable solutions are not based on the abundance principle either.  It is still a zero-sum-game, and in those instances our fellow creatures paid the price.  Humans caused the displacement/extinction of the native flora and fauna wherever they arrived over the past 50,000 years or so.  In addition, most if not all pre-industrial sedentary cultures had some form of forced servitude.  There may be no “golden age” of the human past, and definitely not an abundance-based one.[3]  When Europeans conquered the world all those years ago, they unleashed another wave of displacements/extinctions, but that time the pre-industrialized peoples largely went extinct.  Today’s popular concept of “sustainable” is still scarcity-based. 

 

What Does Abundance Look Like?

As stated earlier, a “win-win” concept is based on abundance and might be what everybody would prefer, although some may rather play the “I win, you lose” game.  What is true abundance, and what does it look like?  Many people have attempted to envision an abundance-based world, but very few have addressed economic abundance and how it would be almost entirely dependent on energy abundance.  Unless there is economic abundance, the rest of the abundance ideas cannot happen

Free energy is the key to making an abundance-based world feasible.  People living in abundance not only would never engage in warfare, they would harm no living thing, or as close to that ideal as is possible.  In an abundance-based world:

 

  • Our energy-production methods would not be destructive to humans or the planet;

  • Our water needs would be met with zero environmental impact;

  • There would be no exploitation of forests, either to use the forest products or raze the forests to make farmland

  • All of our food would be produced with nearly zero environmental impact; we would not dominate/exploit ecosystems to serve human needs;

  • People would almost exclusively be vegetarian (eating nothing with a brain); 

  • We would not need to ravage the earth to obtain metal, glass and other materials;

  • The exchange aspect of economics would either disappear or become of minimal importance, as nobody needed or wanted to keep score anymore; money, accountants, lawyers and other exchange-related professions would largely disappear; if there was still scorekeeping taking place, it would account for the well-being of every living being, not just human welfare;

  • Concepts of right and wrong would largely disappear, because the cost of being “wrong” would not threaten anybody’s survival;

  • Because our material needs could be met without exploiting other life forms (even plants), the “cornucopian” paradigm would become reality, because there would always be more where that came from, and nothing would be harmed to get it;

  • Because people would be eating their ideal diet of live food and living in a clean world, almost all of today’s diseases would disappear, and what disease might manifest would truly be cured, not subject to the greed-based medical “treatments” that exist today;

  • Very little human effort would be required to provide life’s necessities, and that effort would be freely given for the benefit of all.

 

With an abundance-based reality, human intelligence and manipulative ability could be directed toward making the world a better place and having fun instead of exploiting and violating each other.  There are other visions of an abundance-based world that might make the concept clearer, and some follow.

The television show Star Trek, especially The Next Generation series, depicted a world partly based on abundance.  Onboard the starships were replicators that provided any kind of food, clothing, or other material that people needed.  In that reality, money became an obsolete concept.  No Star Trek episode portrayed the situation, but imagine if a man from today’s world was planted in a room with a replicator and he spent a day replicating food, and piled it in a corner.  Then he replicated a huge wardrobe of clothing.  He then began replicating gold and diamonds, and piled it in another corner.  In a few days, he filled the entire room with replicated goods; both the necessities and what we today call “luxuries.”  He then went to the holodeck and created a virtual paradise, replete with a harem.  He would gorge himself and sleep on piles of gold with his virtual women, but he might eventually realize how silly his behavior was.  If he did not realize his folly in a reasonable length of time, Captain Picard or Counselor Troi would gently ask what he was doing.  He would eventually realize that in a world of abundance, his behavior was crazy.

Michael Roads recounted many incredible mystical experiences in his books, but the most amazing was his first, which propelled him into his journey.  In his Into a Timeless Realm, he described his visit to two future Earth civilizations, about 300 years into our future.  Those two civilizations explored the two “extremes” of the love principle: those who chose love and those who did not.  He first visited a hellish and steeply-hierarchical world that made Blade Runner’s Los Angeles appear paradisiacal by comparison.  In a world where all people were primarily serving themselves, everybody lost.  Then Roads visited the world where people chose love, and had a joyous experience almost beyond imagining.  As a species, we are today facing a divine paradox: only by caring for each other can we save ourselves.

Neale Donald Walsch’s “God” would call the loving world that Roads visited one populated with “highly evolved beings.”  In societies of highly evolved beings, the abundance principle reigns and the time spent at their “jobs” is called “joy time,” and such efforts are how they fulfill their souls.  Nobody performs a “job” that they hate in those societies.

Fuller said that when economic abundance came to pass (if we did not destroy ourselves first), humanity would still have plenty of issues to deal with, such as two men falling in love with the same woman, but humanity’s efforts would be directed more toward self-realization than survival. 

What if instead of 80 times the calories available from our diets, a level which only some industrialized peoples enjoy today, all humans had access to energy 1,000 times greater than our dietary calories?  If every human had 1,000 “energy slaves,” (or 100,000) and their use harmed nobody, would there ever be want again on this planet?  The technology exists today to make that a daily reality for all humans. 

Abundance can become humanity’s reality, but we first have to imagine what it would look like.  Do we want to pursue abundance?  The choice is ours. 

 

Footnotes

[1] See William Catton’s Overshoot, pp. 275-276. 

[2] My opinion that environmentalists are hooked on austerity and are ideologically opposed to an abundance concept was formed from many years of interacting with them and watching others attempt to interest environmentalists in free energy.  Richard Heinberg is merely one example of many.

[3] See, for instance, Jared Diamond’s The Third Chimpanzee, chapter 17, “The Golden Age That Never Was.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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