History is heading in new directions, Bill McKibben suggests, from too big to
fail to small, local, diverse and resilient.
McKibben is an environmentalist, educator and author who
warned about global warming 20 years ago, and who now urges creation of new
communities that will help us weather unprecedented trouble many scientists
expect climate change to bring. His
Magazine describes some encouraging social trends.
For the first time in 150 years, he writes, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture reports that the number of farms in the United States
has actually increased. The trend that took us from a nation of 50 percent
farmers to less than one percent is slowly reversing, and the rise is mostly in
small farms. A story
by Max Ajl in Inside Climate News reports that the most recent count on
farms, 2,204,792, represents a four percent increased from 2002, and the biggest
rise was in micro-farms with sales of less than $1,000. Those are no threat to factory farming
giants, but several university studies find small farms actually improve the environment.
University study shows food in the U.S. travels an average of 1,500 miles
before it is eaten. That means a head
of Iceberg Lettuce, which provides 110 calories, requires 4,000 calories worth
of energy per head in fuel if it’s shipped from California to New York. The
study found food consumed where it’s grown saves vast amounts of energy. Further,
small farms keep more carbon in the soil and reduce atmospheric carbon, whereas
industrial farms increase it. And
you’d probably rather not even consider the methane
from the livestock waste lagoons on factory farms.
McKibben lauds the logic of sun and wind producing energy on
millions of roof tops and ridges, and potential changes in health care that
will make more primary and preventive care available from local practitioners
rather than high-tech institutions.
He says we also need banking closer to home, where loan officers have a
better sense of risk and need, rather than huge banking institutions that
devote themselves to "baroque financial instruments.” That development may be further off. Financial
writer John Mason reports the number of existing banks in the U.S. is
declining. A Knowledge@Wharton
article reports the country has only half as many commercial banks as it had 20
years ago, and small community banks are the most vulnerable to consolidation
McKibben observes that powerful industrial giants in
banking, energy, agriculture and health care will fight change and probably
delay it. "But all the money in the world can’t, in the end, hold back
history,” he writes. "It’s heading
toward something new and different and interesting. Or many, many somethings,
each of them small and beautiful.”
In response to the November 17 Complexity Post "Ecology of Cancer"
Tumor-host dynamics under radiotherapy (pdf), by Rolando Placeres Jimenez, and Eloy Ortiz Hernandez from Chaos, Solitons & Fractals, 44 (2011) 685-692.
interaction of host cells and malignant tumor cells must be considered a
dynamic process. Many complex interactions appear between these
populations, which fight one another for space and resources. Scientists
are able to model the behavior of health cells, the tumor cells, and
the evolution of cells under treatment.
thanks to Alicia Juarrero, PhD, professor of philosophy at Prince
George's Community College, Largo, Maryland, for sharing this
complexity-informed article on the tumor as a strange attractor.