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Some letters of a self confessed Luddite

Extract from Usenet group
Titled 'Earth as a buffet table'

This was originally send to techspirit.
I am sending this to wholesys as well.

At 09:28 AM 2/5/96 -0500, you wrote:

>On Mon, 5 Feb 1996,Idiotic Taoist wrote:

>> >From David Watkins

>> At 11:10 AM 2/4/96 -0500, Idiotic Taoist wrote:

>> (snip)

>> >I'm a big fan of the late Buckminster Fuller and a proponent of his
>> >philosophy that 'there is enough for everybody' and that a design
>> >can bring prosperity to all of the worlds population.  Working toward
>> >this goal I see as spiritual work and work that is focussed on the
>> >leading edge of technology.
>> (snip again)


>> I have no quarrels at all with what Mr Watkins have written about his work
>> (most commendable) and his thoughts for this list.

>> I used to share much of his views but of late, I do have a disquiet over
>> whether 'there is enough for everybody'.

>> On the surface, prosperity to all of the worlds population is laudable.  It
>> seems that everyone gains. Unfortunately, it appears that our Planet Earth
>> seems to be the one who has to pay the price for the 'prosperity'.

>I understand your reservations.  By prosperity I don't envision everybody
>with their own private jet, eating caviar and drinking champagne.  I mean
>food, shelter, health care, education and more, but based on the ability
>of the earth's capacity to provide.

>Bucminster Fuller was very specific in addressing the environmental
>impact of technology.  He was an early advocate of solar energy,
>developed prototypes for harnassing the tides for energy, and was a
>pioneer in recycling concepts.  Bucky regarded smokestack emissions as
>not only pollution, but as the loss of valuable resources.  The geodesic
>dome that he invented maximizes the volume enclosed to the amount of
>material required for construction.  The ratio of the surface area of a
>dome to the volume is minimized which maximizes the efficiency of the
>dome to maintain the desired interior temperature.

>In fact I suspect that writing off part of the worlds population would
>have a more devastating impact on the environment than to try to
>incorporate them into the highest levels of technological efficiency.  
>Over population is one of the major impacts on the environment.  
>But, historically when socities reach a certain level of technological
>advancement, their birth rates decline significantly.

>If we could free up the vast resources currently invested in armaments,
>these resources would go a long way to making prosperity for all a reality.

>I could go on, but this makes my point.

>Dave Watkins

I fully agree with you that Buckminister is an exceptional Man.  I
admire him too.

I am just afraid of mankind depending on technology without the deep
wisdom to go along with that.  I am happy with the life and living
standard (which exclude the drinking of champagne, eating of  caviar
and private jets, I do not even own a car now) that I do have now
undoubtedly a consequence of the technology inherent in our live

This is the same standard that others in the third world do want and
aspire to and appears on the verge of achieving.  

I agree that they have to be counted in.  It is an adomination to me
to say, or to allow others to say that 'we' are the privileged ones
and the 'others' must live in the context of what they used to have
(hmmm... maybe a bit more).

If they are counted out, and assuming we have the 'moral courage' to
totally disregard them, they will vote with their axes and chainsaws
to cut down the forest or whatever is left of them to plant more food
and cash crops, shoot the remaining tigers and rhinos which is not so
good to us either.

In the desire to bring 'prosperity to all' relying on technological
skills alone may not be the answer.  If we consider the track record
of technology, that  seems to be a double edge sword, seemingly to
consist of quick fixes with an myopic view of their impact.  

Not too long ago, I recalled the wonders of DTT being extolled on us
and the new life and prosperity and health it would bring on us.  CFCs
was supposed to be very inert and harmless. Nuclear power will bring
us electricty so cheaply they cannot be monitored. The only problem
with oil is that there is not enough of it and found in the wrong
places. I and anyone else can go on and add to this list.

We now can mouth that environmental impacts are considered.
Unfortunately, that have been said more often and I cannot consider
that to be reliable as only now, we are ONLY BEGINNING to start to
comprehend the massive and delicate interactions of systems and
subsystems making up the life we are in.  Even then, when it really
matters and we do know, the environmental studies are ignored and
rationalised away for political expediency and/or financial

Technology has never served us directly, and it seems that the bulk of
us only benefit 'accidentally'.  

Technology is the tool of political masters and financial 'gurus' and
industrialists.  And if I am asked to trust them, I might as well be
asked to believe in Santa Claus.  They reached where they are not so
much just for their intellegience, they reached their position by the
'predator' drives inherent in them.  That same instincts having
brought them to where they are will be coupled with 'higher
technology' to an end I do not hope to dream about.

We have no role model on how to act as a responsible society.  The
earlier industrial age and the economic/military powers it gave to the
West have steamrolled and bludgeoned so many viable and intelligent
societies that we could have learned somthing from. The social
diversity that could have help to show the way is all but gone.

The remaining societies still somewhat intact from that encounter have
become so enamoured of the Western 'progress' that almost all hopped
on that bandwagon(China/Singapore/India/Indonesia/Malaysia/etc) that
they are now more Western than the West(and apparently more successful
too) in their eagerness to climb to the top of the 'prosperity' heap.
It is as if the 'prosperity' is never ending.

Using analogy, we are like guests at a buffet dinner.  All the food
you can eat for the $$ that you pay.  Except we not only eat, we take
away from that table and put the food into our
pockets/suitcase/backpacks as well and pet
ourselves on the back for such wonderful cleve ness.  We then go back
again the next day and day after day doing the same thing.

In addition, we have companies and corporations as entities also
feeding off the same table.  If the resources/food uneaten just
spoiled it will be less of a problem.  What we have instead is that
value inherent and taken away is transformed into bigger backpacks to
hold even more goodies, and allow even bigger backpacks...

In that note, I am NOT unhappy that part of the economic production
have been locked up in armaments.  PROVIDED that they are not used,
they do not play any further active part in the 'economic growth' or
further exploitation of Earth and its 'resources'.

We do understand that no hotels/restaurants can keep up with that
indefinately.  Yet we expect Earth to keep on producing... I
understand that there is no more cod in the Grand Banks now, and
European seas are all fished out.  

Trawlers are going to other virgin seas with their radar fish finders
and high tech gears to let them perform as efficiently as they have
done in the Grand Banks I presume.

The wonderful winters and rains in America and Europe the last few
years (and this winter) and lack of rain in other areas must have been
anomalies and nothing to be worried about.  

To me , they have been the 'by products' of the earlier 'inefficient'
technology that have given us our present live style.  

What 'by products' will we get from a more efficient and powerful
technology I wonder.

Even the 'Net' which as at now seemingly a tool for us is an accident.
It was started under DARPA as a contigency to keep communications
intact after a nuclear war.  The universities joined in and now come

Even so, the Net seems to be about to be taken away by legislations in
Germany, USA and a host of other major countries as well.  

I fervently hoped it will not be so, as it is only with the 'Net' that
we all can reach out to one another and hopefully asked the questions
DEMANDING the answers and  bring along the required balances

I only hope there is still time to do so

Warmest regards

The Idiotic Taoist



Titled 'Spaceship Earth'

At 10:42 AM 8/1/96 CST, GREENL wrote:




Thank you.

I spoke the unspoken thoughts that was gelling in my head as I walked
through life seeing and feeling the changes going on around us.

I hoped however, to do more than just talk.

When I got to Hongkong and where the Net is available, that was when I
really started to logon and got to various lists where I hoped
solutions are brewing even if they have not come to light yet.

I went on to discover the alt.@@@@@@ where I lurk around and still
does but did not feel that it is that useful to join in with them.

Then I got on to Techspirit and Wholesys hoping to find in the
discussions there some answers to the environmental disasters looming
ahead of us.  Those letters were cross-posted to Tao-List as well, I
do like to think myself as a Taoist and that Tao-list is a place I
found enjoyable.

Instead, I find to a large extent unfounded optimism in Techspirit and
Wholesys (no fault of their owners) in how to increase prosperity of
everyone on earth quoting Buckminster Fuller words ' there is plenty
for everyone' with much of the conversations on how to live a 'better'
and materialistically more abundant life.   I have read Bucky's books
and he is a very great man to me.  However, it is not his fault that
he did not or could not have seen the extant our predatory instincts
have inflicted on the Mother Earth and the life support systems
keeping all of us alive.  Still, his words live on in the minds of all
who needed justifications for their own desires against the very
visible impact of our past lifestyles.

I have taken life corals from the sea to let them rot and bleach so
they can adorn my living room in the past.  I have used slingshots
with remarkable accuracy on songbirds, drongos and geckos with deadly
effects when I was young.  Sat on the backs of nesting leatherback
turtles (there were hundreds of them coming up from the beach on the
night I was there about 25 years ago- I am about 45 years old now).
The used engine oil was poured down the drains by me to flow on to the
sea as was done by everyone else then.

Those thoughtless deeds and more were done quite readily in those days
and I do not asked to be excused as they are inexcusable and I hope in
time I can forget what I have done.

Even thoughtful deeds can harm our very fabric of life because we did
not spend enough thoughts on them.  

I do not buy ivory as I thought that will help to save the elephants,
but I never realised until later that the coffee I am drinking will
kill them even more surer than if I do buy the ivory in that they cut
down the forest to grow the coffee trees.  And in another twist of
life, it seems that a total ban on ivory can kill elephants as well,
at least in South Africa and other areas where elephants are culled
and the ivory sold can bring in money will help to maintain those
areas as reserves.

So if Bucky is still alive, he may well go on to revise some of his
earlier thoughts in the light of further understanding that he is
unable to do now and so used by others to haunt his memory.

My letters were worded in the past against some of those letters in
attempts to try to balance the picture.  There have been thoughtful
people there as well too but our letters have been drowned out in the
chorus of how to use technology and understanding of whole-systems to
have a more 'profitable' lifestyles and how to help ourselves more
from the 'buffet table' provided by Mother Earth.  

That may be caused by their perception that they think is right in
that 'there are pluueentiii more out thar..and the last one to get
them in is a sucker' and my perceptions that I hope I am wrong is that
we are now   breeding and going for stronger hardier canaries to
replace those that died.

I rather not have written what I have written if the time can be spend
on more gainful progress.

I have given up the fight in those places for the time being as I find
it depressing and arguing with others are not productive.  If we have
plenty of time left, that can be stimulating and a good diversion for

But I feel that whatever time we do have is 'borrowed' at best and
whatever we do may be too late at worse.  

However, I still remain the optimist but I/we cannot sit back anymore
letting others like WWF, Jersy Wildlife Trust(both I supported in
the past and will still do so) and Greenpeace.  They are doing their
best and bought us some time.  That the battles they fought are so
hard and difficult (and losing) made me felt that they are using
chewing gum, sealing wax and sticky tape(please, no fault of them) as
they are treating the symptoms.  The problems facing us are much
deeper and if they are not faced and resolved, all the time those
organisations have got us will be wasted.  

Just what is it in our socio-economic lifestyles and our drives that
have led us to this present moment.  I have stated in my earlier
letter about what I thought were instrumental, money (regardless of
US$, Dmark, Yen, RMB , cowry shells or beads) to focus and concentrate
resources and the organisations to make use of the money.

But to me, that is only the mechanism, what is important will be the
root causes.

I was hoping that in places like that I can find others who can sit
and discuss the issues facing us, try to understand the root causes,
go on and organise to bring about the changes required.  

I could not find it there, but I hope I can find it here.

To try to summarise, we can have this thought-experiment.

Mankind is going to the stars with a slower-than-light space ship.  

That journey will take 1,000 years and only the descendants of the
original travellers can step out at the end.  Hibernation is also
found not to be a viable option.

This spaceship have a viable self-regenerating biosphere (with a 200%
more in reserve) for the original 10,000 mixed travellers.  The viable
biosphere is complex and managable within rules and limitations of
chaos and thus not explicitly determinable.

What is the kind of philosophy, society, that will be used as the
foundation to guide the life and aspirations of the travellers in
their long trip and which is also meaningful for the different
aspirations of those people as well.

Will it be viable to let them be under the rules that we have now?
From each their best and to each their worth?  Corporations be started
by the capable that the unexplioted parts of the biosphere be
'profitably utilised'?

Force cannot be an option as well as the truly disgrunted have the
power to destroy the life-support system (they can chop down the trees
in that biosphere too).

If we increase that by a few magnitudes, we have spaceship Earth
spinning around the Sun on a voyage to the future where our
descendants may one day truly walk under different stars if we do not
let this cradle be destroyed in the first place.

If we can start to try to find an answer, we can look to our childrens
eyes as equals instead of not having them or having to cringe away
from them in the future.

The Idiotic Taoist