Category Archives: Features

Walking to the Steady State

So far, The Inkling has concluded that a steady state economy is necessary for sustainability. That’s because a steady state economy is a sustainable size and does not require growth for stability – instead it has a constant physical size and that size is sustainable because it is within the capacity of our ecosystems to provide resources (running a steady state economy does not require the degradation of ecosystems).

The use of non-renewable resources would have to be phased out in the transition to the steady state economy. Incorporating the circular economy would help with this (by designing–out waste and using only renewable energy).

Instead of aiming for GDP growth, in a steady state economy the aim would be to maximise wellbeing and a key part of this is to reduce inequality. You should read ‘Addicted to Growth?’ or Demystifying Sustainability if you want to know more.

How we get to the steady state economy is something less well-defined. And one of The Inkling’s original questions was: What sort of political system would be compatible with a steady state economy? But there is no point asking that question without also asking ‘How would we get that political system?’.

When I was an undergraduate, a classmate told me that she considered the book Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to be a manual for living. Not understanding, I borrowed the book from the library and read it. Afterwards I still didn’t understand. Then recently a steady stater said something to me about how relevant Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was, so I read it again. I think I finally understand. In particular I like this part from page 382:

Phaedrus remembered a line from Thoreau:

‘You never gain something but that you lose something’. And now he began to see for the first time the unbelievable magnitude of what man, when he gained power to understand and rule the world in terms of dialectic truths, had lost. He had built empires of scientific capability to manipulate the phenomena of nature into enormous manifestations of his own dreams of power and wealth – but for this he had exchanged an empire of understanding of what it is to be a part of the world, and not an enemy of it.

If would be hard for a story about people travelling by motorbike and camping in various harsh climates to not show what it is like to be a part of this world. This is true of my favourite mode of transport too: walking.

I expect that if a car driver sees me walking in rain, the cold or the heat they might feel sorry for me or wonder if I’m mad. But overall I am happy to get rained on and blown around by the wind. I want to feel the sun and be able to notice how sometimes it feels like it is burning holes in my skin while other times it gently warms me. I want to be refreshed and frustrated by the wind. I want to be able to notice the drop in temperature when I pass under a shady tree on a hot day and to feel the warmth that radiates off western-facing walls even after the sun has set. The comfort of a dry home is much more noticeable when you have been soaked by a storm, frozen by the wind or melted by the sun. I don’t want to miss out on the smells in the air, like when you get a whiff of rain just before it starts landing on your head; when my nose tells me that the monster I hear around the corner is a rubbish truck; when I notice my mood brightening as I smell a lemon scented gum, jasmine or gardenias; or when, walking home on a cold, dark evening I am able to sniff clues of what other people are having for dinner.

When walking, your mind is freer to think, there’s more time to look at the things you pass and you can say ‘hello’ to people. Yes, I haven’t forgotten that walking pace is slower than driving pace or that your body uses more energy to do it, but look at the other side of that – having to drive would suggest that you don’t have time or an able body.

When I am out walking, I often have to remind myself that cars are just machines driven by everyday people, not just because drivers occasionally behave like territorial lizards with a one tonne weapon, but because, in comparison to the hardness and vigour of cars, drivers and passengers tend to look like soft-bodied organisms. I am worried because the most common expression I see on the faces of people driving is ‘hurriedness’. I imagine thoughts of “Let’s get this trip over with”, “I can’t wait until this week is over”, “It will be good when I’ve paid my house off or when the kids have grown up and I don’t have to drive them everywhere”. Add a bit of mischief and these thoughts can be extrapolated to “Let’s get life over with as soon as possible so I can lie down and die”.

So maybe drivers just have too much to do, or feel they have to do too much, but what I most suspect of people who drive cars when they could walk is fear. It was only when I thought about the people who do walk that I began to suspect this. I don’t just see lithe grannies and doting mothers walking children to school, or patient retirees taking their backpack or shopping trolley to the shops. I also see misfits – people rejected for being physically or mentally different – people who cannot assume that when they make eye contact with someone they will see acceptance in the other person’s eyes. But they still venture out into the world, on foot and unprotected or veiled by a car. And they still make eye contact. If you have to be brave just to exist then there’s no being scared of going for a walk.

Do drivers fear the people who walk? Do they fear physical discomfort?

Brock Bastian writes about how we need pain (and when he talks about pain he means things like holding your hand in icy water, eating chillies, doing squats or going for a run – things I’d call discomfort rather than pain) to provide a contrast for pleasure, and that pain promotes pleasure, keeps us connected to the world around us, reduces feelings of sadness, makes tastes more intense, bonds you with others and increases cooperation. That’s a lot to miss out on because you are worried that you might get a stitch when you walk up the hill on the way home.

Driving instead of walking because you fear missing out on something else means you miss out on the best conversation time (try walking with your family or a friend and see), time to pick dandelions, pat cats, pick up litter or do that ‘exercise’ we all need to do to make up for all our labour saving devices.

And I can’t help noting when I see labour saving devices are used in other over-the-top ways: using a ride-on mower for a patch of grass that isn’t as wide as the mower; or a ditch-digging machine operating for three days to dig about 20 metres of trench while 11 people with seven vehicles hung around watching; or the painfully slow process of four people supervising a crane as it collects about half a cubic metre of cement at a time from a cement mixer-truck and carries it gingerly over to the middle of a building site.

Sure, driving rather than walking might mean you have more leisure time (or maybe just more time to earn money), but when the exercise that was once integrated into life has become something that we bolt on (probably in a gym) at the end of a mentally exhausting day, and when we know that some discomfort actually makes us happier, does it show that it is really humility that we are avoiding? Other labour intensive activities like growing and preparing your own food or making things by hand get their own TV shows and have become hobbies openly enjoyed by people who are well off enough to have leisure time. So rather than walking being a hardship, I suspect walking is still just too humble – as if it would only be ok to walk if you could make it clear to anyone who saw you that you had a helicopter at home (or at least, you must wear expensive exercise clothes while walking, to prove that you are out to burn energy, not trying to get somewhere).

Walking is multitasking that works – you can get somewhere, do exercise and think at the same time. But it isn’t anything new. It doesn’t involve new technology. Why would you do something as simple as walk when you can spend money buying something fancy that promises the same benefits? When I see how easy it is to ignore the things that are already here or that we already know and instead look for something shiny and new to buy, build or design, I wonder whether, instead of being fixated on trying to find the ‘best’ political system to go with the steady state economy, we should just try to start using the political system we already have. If you did manage to design the perfect system you’d still need to get support for it, from leaders and voters, before anything changed.

If you want to change the goal of a system you need to change the paradigm. Paradigms are things that people assume to be true and so changing the paradigm involves changing their view of reality. Naturally, this requires repeated encounters with evidence, and denial is a common reaction because it can be terrifying to accept what it would mean if the evidence were true. It is also natural to try to find ways of fitting the new evidence to the existing paradigm (like “Let’s have ‘green growth’”). Getting a person to change their paradigm is a bit like erasing all their previous imagined futures. It is not compelling to step forward into a future that is completely blank and so if you really want to make it easy for people to take that step, you need to help them draw in new versions of the future.

We don’t really have to start with a blank page. Just like the footpath exists parallel to the road, there are aspects of the steady state economy that already exist in parallel to the growth economy and we should be identifying these as well as identifying the things that are incompatible with the steady state economy.

There could be more than one version of the steady state economy, and the version we get would depend on things like how long we take to act, and how well different options are promoted. By accepting limits we may find that necessity really is the mother of invention and come up with things that can’t yet be imagined. Nevertheless, I’ll try to do a quick sketch of how I picture our journey to the steady state.

What would we erase? Let’s start with fossil fuels. What do we draw in their place? Renewables, obviously. If you want to talk about how that won’t work when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, go and tell it to people who have lived off the grid for 20+ years, or to the people (http://bze.org.au/about, http://www.ceem.unsw.edu.au/staff/mark-diesendorf) who have been busy showing that we can power the whole grid using renewables. What would be a better thing to ask is how we would be able to maintain and manufacture a supply of the equipment necessary to generate energy renewably when the equipment currently uses non-renewable materials. That’s something that would need working out even if it were possible to burn all the fossil fuels first.

With delight, we could erase all the dotted lines that signify planned new motorways and airports, at least until we’d worked out how to power planes, trucks and cars with 100% renewable resources (and without liquidating anymore ecosystems or clearing any more land to create the energy source). We wouldn’t have to erase the infrastructure we have already built though. It would still be here in the steady state economy, if its use was worth the maintenance.

‘Disposable’ products would need a rethink. If they were necessary then they’d have to really be disposable. Rather than sulking that we couldn’t have all the stuff we’d anticipated having, it would be wiser to prioritize – which resource intensive products or services are really the most valuable to us? How could we produce those things sustainably?

We’d erase sacking people because of productivity gains or downturns and instead reduce working hours – sharing jobs instead of depriving people of paid work. We’d erase ridiculously high incomes – a maximum income limit could be set (at a certain multiple of the minimum wage) and we’d erase regressive taxes.

We’d erase policies that encourage having lots of children and we’d stop using GDP as a measure of our progress.

What things would we leave? The things that build our mental and physical strength, build community, and include all people in society. We’d need to strengthen the things that reduce the gap between rich and poor, like free education, health services (including family planning) and legal advice. We’d need the services that try to prevent corruption and other abuses of the poor by the rich. We’d need the institutions that protect and study our ecosystems and keep track of our natural resources. We’d leave the services that resolve conflicts and teach us how to communicate more effectively. We’d leave progressive taxes.

What new things would we draw in? We’d introduce limits on the use of renewable natural resources and monitoring of those resources so our use didn’t exceed what was truly sustainable. For non-renewable resources, we’d have to steadily reduce extraction, eventually stopping completely. In the meantime, as well as recycling and reusing these materials, we’d have to find renewable alternatives for the things we didn’t want to do without.

We’d draw in the equation births + immigrants = deaths + emigrants so that immigration levels could be adjusted in order to stabilize population.

We’d draw in activities that build soil and biodiversity so we could farm sustainably, because sustainable farming would mean no non-renewable inputs and no net land degradation – so we’d have to make the land we already use as productive as possible. We’d draw in lots of people remediating damaged ecosystems (investing in our natural capital) and they would be smiling because at last their job had been given the priority it deserved.

We’d erase research that aims to make it possible to exploit our natural resources faster or more cheaply and draw in more research aimed at answering the important questions of the steady state economy, such as finding renewable alternatives for non-renewable resources, the best ways to improve ecosystem health, how to get the most out of limited resources, and how to stabilize an economy that isn’t growing.

We’d erase the aim of economic growth from the economics, banking and finance professions, and, with a freshly sharpened pencil we’d replace it with sustainability and equity. Then these experts could direct their knowledge onto managing the transition to the steady state economy. People who have borrowed or invested in a growth economy will be vulnerable and so we could draw in things like the creation of debt-free money and/or reduction of debt via a partial amnesty – to be used when income is reduced relative to debt, to prevent personal, as well as economic, collapse.

We’d draw in a new set of indicators that span the economy, environment and society so that we could track our progress towards the goal of maximising well-being.

We’ll slot-in environmental and social aims above the aim of profit for businesses so that making money becomes a means to an end, not an end in itself.

We’d draw in people being more physically active – to reduce the demand for energy and because exercise and even some manual work is good for us, because we’d have more time to do it and because it makes people happy. Less able bodied people would have their labour saving devices, but we’d have removed barriers to walking and cycling and we’d focus on keeping our bodies in good working order.

To signify our internal change, we’d cross out the label on people that says ‘consumers’ and replace it with ‘citizens’ and we’d see them acting accordingly – living their lives as if they were more worried about their eulogy than their resume.

Last but not least, we’d draw in all the detail of the natural world, in colour, and then step back to admire our beautiful planet and be happy to be a small part of it.

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Not alone

By The Inkling

Dear readers,

You may have been disappointed recently by the long time between posts on this blog and I am sorry for that. There has been so much on my plate and on my mind that I have been overwhelmed, but now I am going to try to delight you with a post that covers everything!

There has been lots of bleak news lately and I have found myself sitting at home, despairing and getting angry with all the stupid people out there who aren’t doing anything to save the world. This made me feel very lonely, until I started thinking things through calmly.

When I was a child I remember that I counted a couple of trees near the house as friends. They were Cypress Pines and were easy to climb, but I usually just sat on one of the lower branches. I felt, or just imagined, that I was communicating with the tree as I sat there. I visualized or sensed the life in the tree. Perhaps I was just imagining the sap flowing below the bark, but this calmed me and I felt like we understood each other. By the time I was a teenager both of these trees had been chopped down because it was a bushfire hazard to have such flammable trees so close to the house (so even people who truly love the bush cannot live in it without the bush being worse off), but I still remember the comforting feeling of having something in common with a tree. I could be alone in the bush and never feel lonely.

I have never been someone who was flowing down the mainstream, but I cannot believe that I am so unique that nobody else out there is being scared almost to death by the recent reports on how climate change is already getting out of hand or that nobody else frantically reads through articles, books and blogs looking for answers or stays awake at night trying to find a solution. Even if I were conceited enough to believe that only one in a million people cares as much as I do then, in the seven billion people out there, there must be at least another 7000 who care as much as me. I am not alone, and nor can I be all that rare.

What if some of those people out there who I have been getting angry with for letting the planet be destroyed are also sitting at home despairing and including me in their “stupid people” and wondering why I am not out there saving the planet?

Yes! It is not just me who talks about how ridiculous it is that we are cutting down nature reserves and dredging the Great Barrier Reef so we can export even more coal when coal is already doing a good job of killing the planet. It is not just me who cheers when GDP is down because we know that when the economy is growing our environmental impacts are too. It is not just me who would prefer it if our city/town/country didn’t become busier.

And yet the focus is still on keeping the economy growing, more mines are being approved, governments have no plans for sustainability and nobody in power is racing to stop climate change. People who do care about the future are being kept busy putting out spot fires – saving one piece of forest or coast or farm takes a lot of work and there will always be pressure on these areas if the economy must keep growing. Even creating a new reserve or national park does not mean we have more natural landscape than before, it just means that one piece of what we already had is less accessible to people looking for profits.

I may not be alone, but is it possible that in the midst of all this craziness that the majority of people would prefer the planet not be destroyed? What if it is just that our democracy is not working? In a true democracy how could 1% (or 0.1%) be doing what they like at the expense of everyone else?

And now we see that climate change means that our alternatives are no future or, despite our best possible efforts, a planet that is much less habitable than we were expecting, but I’m trying to get over being scared. Life is relentless. There will always be problems and, to some degree, people are good at adapting. It is scary to think of the radical change necessary to have even just a chance of a livable planet, but imagine how delicious it would be to be one of the people who was putting the brakes on and stopping us from crashing into the wall and compare that to how shocking it would be to be a passenger if we don’t stop in time.

In the end it doesn’t really matter what the problem is, it matters that people who want the problem solved are not being effective enough to solve it.

Have you had your ideas dismissed or ignored by someone who you thought believed in the same things?  Or have you ever found yourself dismissing another person or their ideas because they aren’t exactly aligned with yours? There is something seductive about being able to find THE solution to all our problems (imagine being the hero who saves the world!) but what if there isn’t one solution? And I don’t think there is. How could there be one simple solution to saving this complex world? The solution must be made up of lots of people all doing their own part. It helps me to think of us all being a small part of the same thing. If there is a meaning to life I think it is to keep life going, and at the moment we aren’t doing a very good job of that. I am going to keep going though, and I am sure I will not be alone.


Inklings of how to save the world

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

Rotating Democracy (sort of like Sortition)

By The Inkling

When looking at how to move towards a sustainable world, one thing keeps coming up – our democracy isn’t working as well as it should.

Even if we elect good people, being in a position of power changes their brains (reducing empathy), plus, of course, baddies tend to gravitate towards positions of power.

We see that vested interests keep getting their way and “the people” aren’t doing anything about it. Then most of us sit back and rely on politicians to fix things, and don’t even bother engaging with politics or the issues well enough to keep the politicians in line.

I keep hearing how the only way to solve our environmental and social problems is to get people to participate in their communities and politics, but how? And even if we managed to convince people to participate more now, how would we stop things from degenerating back to the way they are now at some time in the future (when community enthusiasm lapses)?

How many people love their politicians these days? Who would feel sad if they suddenly lost their jobs? What about political parties and powerbrokers? Who would feel much sympathy for them?

What if instead of electing politicians we took turns? Imagine if politics was like Jury Duty and it was likely that at some time during your life you’d be randomly selected to serve a Parliamentary term (or Council term)?

And what if instead of dissolving the whole Parliament at once, each person’s term expired at a different time, so that Parliament changed the representatives that made it up gradually like an animal replaces cells?

Of course there are lots of details that would have to be sorted out, like rules for how representatives could behave (they’d have to be kicked out if they broke the rules and replaced by the next random person) and the conditions under which a person could “get out of” their turn, but basically the idea would be that “the people” were responsible for governing the place. No more complaining about how crap all the politicians or parties are. And what better way to get people to be interested than to make it likely that they will have to be the one doing the job at some point!

What do you reckon? Would our politicians vote for it?


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

The Political Compass

By The Inkling

Political views get lots of funny labels. You can be left-wing, right-wing, liberal, conservative, neo-liberal, a fascist, a communist or an anarchist. I wasn’t about to be tricked into thinking that the Liberal party is necessarily for liberals but I wasn’t exactly sure what all these labels meant. While I was looking for answers I found a very useful site called Political Compass that has a clever way of classifying your political position. Rather than using a linear right-left scale it plots political views in two dimensions: economic and social.

The x-axis is the economic dimension, ranging from Communism on the left (an entirely state-planned economy) to Neo-liberalism on the right (a completely deregulated economy).

The y-axis is the social dimension, with Authoritarian (Fascism) at the top and Libertarian (Anarchism) at the bottom.

There is a test you can take, which plots your political position on the compass.

The site also includes analysis of political parties and leaders so you can see how your views compare with theirs. I’ve combined the positions of some political leaders given in two separate charts on the analysis page of the Political Compass site into Figure 1. I’m happy to report that my dot on the compass was closer to that of Gandhi than Hitler or Stalin or Thatcher.

Figure 1. Leaders on the political compass (based on http://www.politicalcompass.org/analysis2)

The Australian federal parties at each of the two last elections (2007 and 2010) have also been plotted on the Political Compass site. Only the four major parties (Labor, Liberal, National and Green) were shown for 2010. The chart for 2007 includes Family First, Democrats and One Nation too. In Figure 2 I have combined the charts for 2007 and 2010.

From Figure 2 it can be seen that most of the parties are located in the right-wing authoritarian (top right-hand) quadrant. These parties accounted for 84% of the vote at the 2010 Federal election. There is only one party in each of left and right-wing libertarian quadrants and there are no parties in the left-wing authoritarian (top left-hand) quadrant. I suppose this should reflect the Australian population but I wonder if it does- if the political positions of all Australians were plotted on the compass would they fall most densely where the parties that received the most votes are plotted?

The other thing I noticed was that between 2007 and 2010 the Labor, Liberal and National parties became more right-wing and authoritarian (they moved closer to the top right hand corner). The Greens were plotted in the same position in both years.

Figure 2. Australian Political Parties in 2007 and 2010 (based on http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2007 and http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2010)

It is interesting to think about how the movement of the Labor and Coalition parties further towards right-wing authoritarian affected their votes. In 2007 Labor won the election easily but in 2010 it only managed to form a minority government. The Liberal-National coalition vote increased but not as much as the Green vote.

You may be wondering where the Communists would be plotted. I was left wondering that too. Perhaps if they received more votes (The Communist Alliance party received 0.01% of primary votes in the House of Representatives in 2010) they’d get their point plotted too.


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

Communist Party Headquarters

By The Inkling

While trying to work how we can achieve happiness and sustainability I’ve sought interviews with people from different Australian political parties, but the most surprising so far has been my visit to the Communist Party headquarters in Sydney.

The Communist Party of Australia’s website directed me to Denis Doherty as National Organiser for the CPA. The website also had an abundance of reading material, including a communist perspective of local political activity in Australia. I wondered whether that venomous man at the polling booth had read all this material.

Denis promptly replied to my email and gave me his mobile phone number so we could arrange an interview.  He was kind and friendly to me on the phone, and gave the impression of being happy to meet with me. He was flexible with his time and gave me plenty of helpful directions to make sure I had no problem finding their address.

The office was nestled amongst terrace houses, warehouses and show rooms in a respectably quiet, leafy inner-city street.  As I pressed the buzzer, I imagined being led down a creaky staircase into some dark, underground bunker, where I would be hand cuffed and interrogated by bearded, manic-eyed men in berets, smoking cigars. I was brought back to reality by Denis’ familiar, friendly voice on the intercom, telling me he would be right down to meet me.  Soon after, I was surprised, once again, when a cheerful, white bearded man met me at the front door and welcomed me inside.

I was struck by all the typical communist paraphernalia displayed around the reception area; lots of crescents and stars and a portrait of Lenin overseeing operations. It was like peering through a window into another time, and yet there were also posters and headlines crying out references to current worldwide political issues.  I was led through a maze of small offices and cubicles where editorial staff were busy at work producing the CPA’s publication The Guardian.  I was presented to some wholesome looking people in woolen jumpers who smiled brief, absent minded greetings as we dodged boxes of books and pamphlets.

I was amused to see a modestly-sized Buddhist shrine with a water feature occupying a large corner of the 2nd storey landing.  Denis told me it had been left there by the previous tenants, and no one had had the heart to remove it.

My tour came to its conclusion when we reached the boardroom, which I could tell by Denis’s enthusiastic introduction, was his favorite part. He was particularly proud, when he turned on the lights, to reveal a large mural which filled an entire wall, running lengthways down the long, thin room. He explained to me that this was a reproduction of the Sydney Wharfies Mural, which had been painted on the walls of the Waterside Workers’ Federation Australia headquarters in Sussex Street, Sydney from 1953 – 1965. It must be a powerful backdrop to the meetings that take place in that boardroom.

What I quickly discovered from Denis was how patient and determined the CPA is in their approach to bringing about change.  There is none of the fiery rebellion or radical action that one might associate with far-left revolutionary parties. Denis was adamant about the CPA’s adherence to a slow and steady campaign, and to separate themselves from any kind of rash, high impact or attention-seeking behavior. He passionately opposes these “stunts”, and refers to the many cases where the tactless, obnoxious anger and aggression of other parties has been detrimental to the efforts made by the CPA through careful negotiation and gradual, but stable cooperation. He said that the party can always improve its performance, its rigour and its attention to detail in pursuing its objectives, sometimes however members can be like Brown’s Cows and be inattentive.  On the whole they are very committed and active.

Now more than ever I wondered why the word “communism” is such an unspeakable, touchy word that triggers distaste and rejection.  If the actions of the CPA were really as peaceful and non-threatening as they appeared to be, then is it what the CPA stands for that upsets people?

Denis puts the Communist agenda very simply. “We aim for, public ownership of housing, of medicine, education, etc, and we are competing against the neo-Liberal, or economic rationalists’ ideology.”

After more than two hours of discussion Denis ended on a positive note “There’s that continuous battle going on between capitalism and socialism, and even though capitalism thinks it’s won, it still brings up these old issues of Soviet agents, and it still goes on, and it’s still a battle of ideas. But we still think we can win.”


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime, The Inkling has decided to explain why these feature articles were chosen and to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

How it all started: Three big questions

By The Inkling

I’ve never been much of a fan of knowing things just for the sake of knowing them. I wanted my quest to result in something useful. I wanted my answers to all these little questions to add up to something – to some big answers to big questions. I wanted to assemble the information into some sort of guide, some sort of plan. A big picture. A vision.

I needed some structure to work within so I made a couple of assumptions and came up with three big questions.

My first big question was “What makes us happy?” – and my assumption was that people want to be happy. I don’t mean the silly-grin kind of happy. I mean a content kind of happy. Where people have what they need to lead full lives. The results of this investigation can be found in the post called “Happiness”.

My second big question was “How can we be sustainable”. This was personal, but I justified it with the assumption that people don’t really want to crash and burn – that we’d like to be able to carry on without disaster, that deep down in our hearts we’d prefer not to destroy the planet and each other. The results of this investigation can be found in the post called “Sustainability”.

Then the third question, the biggest one of all, was “How can we achieve happiness and sustainability?”. To answer this question I’m looking at many things, including political and economic systems, the policies of the political parties in this country and how economies and monetary systems “work” (or how people think and expect that they work, at least). I’m learning a lot (I have to) and it is taking a long time. So you don’t get too sick of waiting, I’ll be sharing little tidbits of information with you from time to time.


The next feature article

Some keen readers may have noticed that The Inkling has not published a feature article since November last year (when Sustainability was posted). There is another feature in the pipeline, but because it is bigger and better than the first two it is much harder and more time consuming to prepare. To keep you entertained in the meantime The Inkling has decided to explain why these feature articles were chosen and to give you some idea of what goes on when The Inkling writes these articles.

How it all started: Election Day 2011

By The Inkling

I was wearing a red hat and strayed too close to a polling booth when I was called a Communist. The man said it with venom, and a few bubbles of spit came out of his mouth. I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t really know what a Communist was. Then later it started to worry me.

I didn’t know what a Communist was! Did the man who called me a Communist know what a Communist was? Shouldn’t I know what a Communist was, especially if people seemed to think I was one? And if I wasn’t a Communist then what was I?

For days and months these sorts of questions kept popping into my head, but they became broader. What political and economic systems are there? Which one is the best? What is “best”? What should the system be achieving?

Then it became even more personal. What should I be trying to achieve? How can I achieve it?

Eventually I couldn’t bear my ignorance anymore and I decided I’d have to find answers for all these questions.


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