Humane Recycling

We love recycling. We promote every transition of the prevalent system of exploitation and resource depletion to something more in harmony with the planet and her fragile cycles. Recycling is a new way of being, and well understood it is a truly sustainable way of living together with the landbase and ecosystems that support us. Understanding re-cycling well means to differ it from mere down-cycling or converting stuff into less valuable stuff somewhere down the energy chain.
It entails up-cycling and re-introducing old materials into the cycle. You’ve probably heard of the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by American architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart. The book came out a few years ago and much has changed since then. Recycling is more popular now than ever.

From a theoretical point of view, all materials are by definition recycled. It might take hundreds of millions of years, like in the case of the organic material buried in the ground eons ago and that we are more than half way sucking out of it as oil, the black gold that, as the deliberately obfuscating and intimidating slogan states “drives our economy”. Other material, like freshwater, has shorter cycles, but sadly still not short enough for humankind that is so dramatically running out of water right now as a result of global warming and over pumping. Materials like bottles, napkins, plastic bags, batteries or tin cans are returned to nature and will decompose and re-enter her system over periods ranging from a few months for the napkins to a few thousand years for the batteries and bottles. Everything is by definition recycled (yes, there’s an insight of Palinesque grandeur!) If only we wait long enough, we will get back all (petro-)organic materials we put in.

But we need our materials readily available now. I refuse to wait a few million years for my petrol to form, I want to pump baby, pump…

The paradox of running an economy of infinite growth on a finite planet have been spelled out enough to be absolutely sure that whoever refuses to understand it does so out of evil intend or sheer brainlessness. Or, perhaps, because they find something heart-warmingly consoling in the tags on Chinese baby toys reading “ALL NEW MATERIAL”, something that makes them feel like they can escape the cycle and aspire to immortality. These poor individuals need to embrace recycling because everything is recycled – including themselves.

Humans are recycled as fertile soil in a graveyard or turned into ashes that serve a more symbolical than fertilizing purpose. Basically what happens six feet under in a graveyard is the same as what happens in landfills, however much we feel the need to deny it. If we would embrace recycling to an extent that is already happening in garbage recycling, and treat the deceased with the same loving respect as we treat tin cans, bottles, wood chips, corrugated cardboard, and polyester fiber, that would spark a little revolution.

Currently we limit the recycling of humans to hair (made into wigs), organs such as livers, kidneys, and hearts for transplant, and some scientifically interesting parts plastinated and downcycled for demonstration purposes. But we could use so much more. Skin could be tanned and made into very special purses. Bones would make good musical instruments, with intestines as perfect strings. And one day technology will have advanced so far that they can reassemble a human being from the parts. Yes, technology will have advanced so far that humans finally recognize our role in the cycles that constitute nature.

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Humane Recycling

We love recycling. We promote every transition of the prevalent system of exploitation and resource depletion to something more in harmony with the planet and her fragile cycles. Recycling is a new way of being, and well understood it is a truly sustainable way of living together with the landbase and ecosystems that support us. Understanding re-cycling well means to differ it from mere down-cycling or converting stuff into less valuable stuff somewhere down the energy chain.
It entails up-cycling and re-introducing old materials into the cycle. You’ve probably heard of the book Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things, by American architect William McDonough and German chemist Michael Braungart. The book came out a few years ago and much has changed since then. Recycling is more popular now than ever.

From a theoretical point of view, all materials are by definition recycled. It might take hundreds of millions of years, like in the case of the organic material buried in the ground eons ago and that we are more than half way sucking out of it as oil, the black gold that, as the deliberately obfuscating and intimidating slogan states “drives our economy”. Other material, like freshwater, has shorter cycles, but sadly still not short enough for humankind that is so dramatically running out of water right now as a result of global warming and over pumping. Materials like bottles, napkins, plastic bags, batteries or tin cans are returned to nature and will decompose and re-enter her system over periods ranging from a few months for the napkins to a few thousand years for the batteries and bottles. Everything is by definition recycled (yes, there’s an insight of Palinesque grandeur!) If only we wait long enough, we will get back all (petro-)organic materials we put in.

But we need our materials readily available now. I refuse to wait a few million years for my petrol to form, I want to pump baby, pump…

The paradox of running an economy of infinite growth on a finite planet have been spelled out enough to be absolutely sure that whoever refuses to understand it does so out of evil intend or sheer brainlessness. Or, perhaps, because they find something heart-warmingly consoling in the tags on Chinese baby toys reading “ALL NEW MATERIAL”, something that makes them feel like they can escape the cycle and aspire to immortality. These poor individuals need to embrace recycling because everything is recycled – including themselves.

Humans are recycled as fertile soil in a graveyard or turned into ashes that serve a more symbolical than fertilizing purpose. Basically what happens six feet under in a graveyard is the same as what happens in landfills, however much we feel the need to deny it. If we would embrace recycling to an extent that is already happening in garbage recycling, and treat the deceased with the same loving respect as we treat tin cans, bottles, wood chips, corrugated cardboard, and polyester fiber, that would spark a little revolution.

Currently we limit the recycling of humans to hair (made into wigs), organs such as livers, kidneys, and hearts for transplant, and some scientifically interesting parts plastinated and downcycled for demonstration purposes. But we could use so much more. Skin could be tanned and made into very special purses. Bones would make good musical instruments, with intestines as perfect strings. And one day technology will have advanced so far that they can reassemble a human being from the parts. Yes, technology will have advanced so far that humans finally recognize our role in the cycles that constitute nature.

Animals.

If there is any justice beyond human justice, the human race should be eliminated yesterday.

Picture of a symbolically tortured animal (homo sapiens “sapiens”)

Animal welfare activists don’t shy away from coining their message in radical slogans. We all know horror stories of illegal PETA activists setting fire to legitimate pork factories or chicken breeding facilities, and we shiver at the idea that such terrorists are allowed to publish their campaigns in our magazines. What are they fighting for, anyway? There is nothing remotely comparable to human desolation and misery hiding under a pig’s hide, is there?
Compassion with animals is as ludicrous as compassion with a person on a photo, or a character in a fictitious movie. The screams of these beasts are mere mechanical noises like the cracking of a rock or the roar of a river; their gaze is but a numb reflection of the outer world; their heartbeat – meaningless pounding, functional only to the production of meat, leather and other “consumer goods”.

Is that it? Is that an adequate statement of our relationship to animals, at least the ones we don’t choose to be our mates and pets? It is clearly the implicit view of the vast majority of human societies that have existed on this planet. Sacredness of animals, as some religions have it, is either an application of the abstract principle of the sanctity of all life, or a corollary of a religious association with a deity.

Recently I read Jonathan Safran Foer’s excellent 2009 book “Eating Animals”. Based on three years of research, the famed New York writer blends the stories of slaughterhouse murder witnesses, PETA activists and small alternative family farmers with philosophical anthropological observations about how we remember and the role food (and hence, meat) plays in this. The pivotal question of his book, he says, is “Should we or should we not eat turkey at Thanksgiving?”

I am not going through the arguments pro and contra in this article. Everybody has to sort that out for themselves. You will have to go through unpleasant questions of what it means to be human, about the essence of suffering and pain, stewardship and responsibility.  Read, watch, observe as many videos of factory farming (readily available on youtube) as you can digest and decide if you will digest the meat of these corporations. To give you a hint, look for “Smithfield”, the #1 producer of pork in the US, chicken giant “Tyson foods” (a major supplier of KFC),  Temple Grandin (non humans torturing and killing facilities corporation), or Gail Eisnitz’s book “Slaughterhouse”.

Safran Foer compares a complete vegan lifestyle with the idea of being a selective omnivore, because he used to be one of the latter. Of course, it is good to decide consistently not to eat any factory farmed meat while eating “responsible” meat, but is it a commendable attitude in the long run? I find this a difficult question, a strong test for philosophical pragmatism. Foer mentions a vegan who is building more humane slaughterhouses (that are inflicting less pain). If we offer a sustainable alternative to factory farming that doesn’t torture, vivisect, force feed, brand, genetically manipulate into cripples, and deny basic “species-specific” needs to animals that surely is a good thing and helps consumers make the transition to eating better.

Eventually, with 7 billion people on the planet and counting (and more and more of them counting on a meat diet), it will be impossible to feed everyone a meat-rich diet without rendering the planet ultimately inhabitable. Already, meat production is contributing 40% more to global warming than all transportation combined. Vast areas of farmland are needed to produce food for the animals, and with depleting freshwater resources this amounts to sheer madness. If we are to survive and live long and happy lives as we have gotten used to, we need as humanity to lower meat consumption dramatically.

I beg you pardon for this frag-men-ted account of the topic. What have I just written? It has something to do with global warming, oh yeah, and there was some argument with pain did I miss that? He mentioned the word “slaughterhouse”  somewhere, how unappetizing. What were the names of the culprit corporations again? And in the end it was all just philosophy, wasn’t it?

I would much rather hit a hairy gorilla fist hard on your table and decree “Enough you damned fools!”

If you haven’t seen the documentaries “We Feed the World”, “Supermarket Secrets”, or “Food, Inc.” yet, I can recommend you to watch it and would be glad if this small article was helpful.

Fast Forward

It’s not something to say aloud, but I sometimes have a hidden desire to fast-forward history. I read a lot of projections and predictions about the future, some cynical, some knowledgeable, most admitting that we simply cannot know what is coming.

Except these few certainties like climate change, global competition for food and energy resources, and major economic crises.

Do you sometimes fantisize caressing then gently pushing a fast-forward-button, like the ones found on tape recorders, but instead of rewinding a magnetic medium holding a virtuoso Liszt recording it would unwind the future of our species and planet. You would just sit there in awe as all these events our meek and squeamisch leaders spell with their eloquence, as all these long overdue events just take place right before your eyes.

The disappearing of the Greenland ice sheet and the melting of the Tibetan plateau, the flooding of coastal regions from Lagos to Bangladesh, to Viet Nam, the extinction of ocean life, the increase in human population to 10 billion, the unprecedented deaths caused by famine, plagues, and war, ever-growing bandwidth and paradoxically, exclusivity of communication, the phasing out of the oil economy and the many scandals in its wake, the fate of religion, the advent of nuclear fusion, global terrorism responding to bizarre unequalities our corrupt politicians will continue to defend with bullshit dressed in honey, increased suicide rates as some people start to realize the “infinite growth” scam is no way out of the human condition, dying out of entire cities due to lack of drinking water, a strong and capable resistance movement much like during the 2nd world war, the use of a rogue nuclear device and consecutive annihilation of a subcontinent, the coming and going of guru’s, prophets, and quacks, the re-invention of “work” and the return to a class or caste society.

You could see all this when you fast-forward to the end of the century, sitting behind your tape recorder letting your index finger play with the traces of dust on the <FF>-button while pushing it slowly. The number 2100 might be the end of your tape; it would stop with a characteristic jerk, so to speak…

We care to know – we care to know how it ended, and want to be around. Maybe that’s what drives change: fear that we won’t be around when the defining change will be made. I am tempted to end this piece with a moralistic remark or a quote of some admirable dead thinker. But we have enough of that already. I want to say that we don’t need to be in a hurry, that we may take our time, leave some pivotal events to our grandchildren, leave some of the planet unexploited even unexplored, sit back and relax. I want to say all that without being – moralistic.

Pay Me Because You Like Me (not vice versa!)


&amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://flattr.com/thing/419807/Pay-me-because-you-Like-me&#8221; target=”_blank”&amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://api.flattr.com/button/flattr-badge-large.png&#8221; alt=”Flattr this” title=”Flattr this” border=”0″ &amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;

I will put a little image right next to this line, on which you can click if you want to express your appreciation with real money. Directly, without having to stop reading, going to the bank, opening another website, writing a check, or sending the maid for some loose change to give to the poor writer who’s at your doorstep with his pamphlet. You can express your gratitude instantly.

At first sight the idea sounds charming to me, who not so secretly hopes to make a living from the fruits of his pen. But wait a minute. This transaction is a voluntary donation, you don’t buy my writings – you get nothing in return except perhaps for your own satisfaction resulting from having supported something vague enough to make you feel philosophical.

I think I think this might be the way forward for our economy, or to use a less confusing phrase, for our way to split the cake. Buying digital products isn’t going to last very long. Not only are they copied and distributed through clandestine networks faster than they can be protected, it also becomes less and less clear what the “object” is the buyer buys.

It’s about the right to access or the right to reproduce. But information will be freed: wikipedia (and hundreds of other wikis and pedantic pedia’s exist). Youtube shows how eager people are to share, and how the quality of what is shared surpasses everything you’d have to pay for (not to mention the xxx versions of youtube, responsible for a staggeringly high percentage of internet traffic showing the true exhibitionist nature of humankind).

People prefer sharing information. Messages appear on twitter, reliable and cheap, long before they hit major commercial news sites. With the internet culture, labor mechanization might have taken a decisive step towards reveiling its self-contradiction. Value (appreciation) won’t come from more labor input, but from – less labor input. For the work ethos, the last expression maybe of the Christian soul, there will be the scrapyard of history.

Imagine a village community with a culture of cheerful sharing. There would be no place for a commercial mind trying to make money by selling any kind of information. The very fact that it is “paid” means it is undesirable.
Now as the “global village” is in the making we might be headed towards this. It is a long transformation because our solid twentieth-century ideology: It’s no Good if it is for Free. Or: “Like Me Because You Pay Me”.

This is the most important change on the internet and hence in our society. It’s a slow progress and we won’t notice it until we look back over our shoulders in 2025 and are astonished by the strange ideas of the early years of our millennium, the early years when economies tried to optimize production-consumption rather than appreciation-happiness.

By the way, this kind of auto-reflectivity is ubiquitous on the net and I don’t like it all that much.

Hölderlin and Neil Young

Dreams and dreamers are of all ages. They are standing on the strong shoulders of their culture and bury their gaze in the stars. Let’s say that again because I like it. They are standing on the strong shoulders of their culture and bury their gaze in the stars.

Perhaps you decided to read this because the names in the title awaken mirthful associations. Well, I am not an expert on Hölderlin and Neil Young, but they have something in common. They wrote the most dreamy quotes I know.

“I am just a dreamer, and you are just a dream” sings Neil Young in Like a Hurricane 1977, to reverse this later on. Dreaming so strongly that we feel like we can live in our dreams. This is set  in a crowded hazy bar somewhere in Canada, and the author is about to be getting blown away.

About 180 years earlier, in 1795, 25-year old Friedrich Hölderlin wrote
“If only we where here to dream a little while /
and then become the dream of someone else”

(o wenn wir auch nur darum da wären, um eine Weile zu träumen
und dann zum Traum eines andern zu werden)

The high-pitched surviving rockstar and Hegel’s poetic classmate have something in common that I’d call high romanticism. They had very rich fantasies that accommodated for their dreams, that protected them.

We have a revolution going on, don’t we? Are we dreaming, or are we just dreaming away?

The Club of Fifty-Six

Some people die too young, they pass away much too early, before they have come to realize their full potential. For rock-stars, the viral age seems to be twenty-seven, age at which some of the most intensely expressive musicians died. We all remember Joplin, Cobain and Winehouse.

Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was a creative genius, and to his honor I decided to write this edition of my virtual musings, introducing the notion of the Club of Fifty-Six.
More than twice as much as 27, people who lived to age 56 might be expected to have made their marks. But they would have had a lot more to say. Listening to Steve’s beautiful 2005 commencement speech at Stanford, it was clear what a loss his death is for the world. Like no other, he could convey wisdom and be a business leader at the same time.

Steve was diagnosed with cancer in 2004, and fought a seven year long battle, to step down as apple chairman only in August this year. His last public appearance, with a mild and cheerful speech while his body was clearly at its end, is engraved in our minds. Carrying on until the very end, to leave an incredibly inspiring heritage is something he shared with Beethoven, who also died at age 56, and famously composed his last Ode to Joy while already deaf. Also in the Club of Fifty-Six is Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest US presidents, and Linda McCartney who also lost the battle against cancer.

Alongside this article is the beginning of Beethoven’s 5th, or the “Symphony of Destiny”.