Solutions Anyone?

I just sent this to On Line Opinion.  It may take a week for it to be posted, if they like it.

Are On Line Opinion readers interested in innovative solutions to major problems?  Or do they (you) just want to defend old positions, or have an argument?  Or what?

I ask these questions because there have been several pieces recently that present quite innovative ideas or perspectives on solving the economic crisis and/or global warming.  Yet four such articles attracted a total of 15 comments.  (They are Remaking the economy, 4 comments; Energy Rewards to stimulate the economy, 2; The need for indirect action on climate change, 3; Sustainability will not be sidelined, 6)


On the other hand I wrote a piece (Neoliberal pseudo-science) that directly challenged recent received economic wisdom, and it got 65 comments.  My piece also offered novel ideas, and those drew a few comments, but the bulk of the discussion was in response to my challenge (or to the reader’s perception of my challenge).

There is a larger context here.  For some years I and a few others have argued that we can save money as we save greenhouse gas emissions, and save them quickly, by using smarter designs.  I quote well-researched sources based on existing examples.  I thought the news would be hailed as a welcome relief from gloom and doom and a way out of our dire situation.  Yet this message has been very slow to gain traction.  By now, energy efficiency gets mentioned some of the time along with renewable energy, but its potential is still almost absent from the mainstream political discussion.

Does everyone imagine we can solve the global financial/economic collapse or global warming by relying on the people who were in charge as the problems developed?  If not, does that imply we have to be willing to listen to new voices, outsiders with different perspectives, and to ideas that may at first be puzzling or contrary to the way we’re used to thinking?

I wonder if there are deeper reasons why serious prospective solutions to major problems just seem not to compute.  It’s not that they get attacked, or derisively dismissed, they’re just passed over and lie neglected.  Yet the news is full of dire developments and predictions.  I’d like to know what’s going on here.

Here are some of my theories.  I’d like to hear yours.

·    I totally agree.  It’s so obvious I don’t have to comment.

·    We can’t expect anything more than incremental improvement.  Anyone claiming more must be simplistic.

·    The world is full of experts on these topics.  Who is this idiot who thinks he knows better?

·    I’m not really interested in this topic (even though I just put ten acrimonious comments on another, more conventional post on the same topic).

·    Stabilising the financial markets would mean going back to village economies.  Fixing global warming would mean horse-and-buggy or cave-man life styles.

·    That’s not how I’ve always thought about it, so it must be wrong.

·    If I admit this makes sense, then I have to admit the world is run by idiots and crooks and I can’t face that.

·    If I take the trouble to read these pieces then I might realise how serious the threats are and I don’t want to think about that.

·    If we meddle with the system it will crash.  No, really, I mean worse than what’s happening.

·    I like it here in my silk-lined coffin.  It’s familiar, and it’s not really very uncomfortable.  Why should I move?  There’s a big scary world out there.

·    I want to tiptoe through life, even if it’s only to arrive safely at my grave.


OK, over to you.  The question is not whether you agree with the proposals in the articles I’ve mentioned.  The question is why didn’t you have enough interest even to debate or comment on them?  Those willing to pause and feel a little deeper than their knee-jerk reaction will get a smiley face.

3 thoughts on “Solutions Anyone?

  1. Kevin Cox

    I am sitting here trying to respond to your challenge and it is difficult. While agreeing with your general proposition I am not sure it is a bad thing. As creatures of habit we survive by continuing to do the things that got us through yesterday.

    We certainly do not want radical change and anything that threatens our immediate well being will be opposed. Probably for good short term evolutionary reasons.

    We tend to form immediate judgements and those judgements take a lot of shifting.

    We also are herd animals and we follow trends and we want to fit in with our group.

    The good news is that if you can get a good idea implemented so that it is a habit and when people first see it they form an instant judgment that is sensible then the idea has a good chance of getting accepted and becoming part of the herd behaviour.

    Perhaps few comments on an article could be a good sign? Perhaps it shows that the idea is well accepted. I think that is the case with Energy Savings. What people are looking for are easy ways for them and all their neighbours to do it.


  2. Verdurous


    You’ve uncovered many of the reasons people may not comment in these forums. I believe the strongest of these is the fact that there are small nuggets of information that are completely at odds with the world view that one might call “the steady march of progress through consumptive growth and fancy technology”.

    One must either accept these kernels of truth and overturn one’s world view or else repel, deny, hide, ignore, destroy and question the validity of these truths.


  3. Verdurous

    I find it somewhat strange that our economic system is so dependednt on the “c” word – confidence.

    I guess this relates to the fact that money is really a type of promise, so trust is involved. But it goes deeper than that.

    It seems bizarre that we would design a system that requires us all to be absurdly optimistic. We have an economic system akin to Santa Claus. i.e. if you believe in it, then it is real, but don’t question it, or the whole game is up. This is a good thing for childhood Christmases, but a terrible system on which to base economic activity. It seems so unstable and vulnerable. There’s no resiliance built in.

    Geoff has discussed the raging positive feedbacks in our financial system that are partly to blame for this situation.

    What has really changed from 18 months ago? Skills, capital, resources – no. Lack of faith mainly. And it has brought us once again to “poverty amongst plenty”.



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