Common Good Dialogue -Alan Page's Blog

A Thought Experiment for Foresters

        A guide for conversation with everyone

The Common Good comprises all things that make life on “eaarth” possible.  Yet success is often attained by actions that damage the life support systems we all depend upon for survival.  Those who are the most “successful” have engaged in and continue to promote actions that include rampant fraud and financial and technical misinformation.  It is essential that the reasons for change of the current financial system be discussed patiently and calmly, and that appropriate alternatives be developed.  Foresters have special insight into how all natural communities grow, mature, and allow life to be maintained.  The following thought experiment is offered as a base for this urgent discussion.

There have been a number of astounding disclosures over the past decade (a trend that escalated over the past few months) that have revealed a hither to unbelievable level of greed and incompetence by people who were hired to handle assets for clients for a fee, and media using corrupt practices to enhance corporate dominance in international markets.

Even mentioning appropriate practice for a region in the face of allegations of such gravity is an exercise in frustration. Most of humanity has been effectively brain washed to understand the following concepts:

1) that food can be more effectively bought than worked for (grown locally for family and community in the face of economic obstacles),

2) that while biodiversity may be important the price of needed physical goods that one must have now is of paramount concern, and

3) that powerful people can make good decisions for people they represent.

The common good is nowhere to be found in these common every day situations, since personal convenience and status have been elevated to become the basis for immediate decisions.

If there is a chance that there are tipping points in the climate maintenance system that might cause a runaway condition, a formula that is used to form investment decisions that is fraudulent, or an information source that is based on lies, one would assume that it would be possible to have an intelligent discussion about such threatening possibilities. That is not the case because we have lost the capacity to think beyond the next trip to the store. 

Some suggestions for home work:

Work through the effects of exponential growth several different ways.

1.  The Doubling Experiment: You will need a checker board, twenty plastic bags, a note pad and pencil, and a quart bottle of rice. The experiment involves doubling the number of rice grains on each succeeding square of the checker board. Make a guess about how many squares you will get to before you run out of rice. Use a checker board as a guide for how many doublings you are able to advance through with the grains of rice in the quart bottle. The object is to see how far you actually get when doubling the amount of rice on each successive square. The note pad is there for record keeping and calculating each successive doubling and the bags are to hold the relevant amounts of rice where the square is too small to hold the rice allocated to that square.

2. The Graphing Experiment: The common investment return formula is: FV= PV x (1+i)n, where “FV” is future value, “PV” is present value, “i” is any interest rate expressed as decimal number, and “n” is the number of years.

Using a piece of graph paper draw a vertical line near the left side of the paper and label it FV, draw a horizontal line at the bottom of the vertical line over to the right side of the paper and label it time (n). The calculate ten different values of FV changing only the value of n, and place a dot on the paper where the horizontal projection of FV intersects the vertical projection of “n” for each calculation.  If your interest is piqued do this for different values of "i". Make sure that you use large enough values of "n" to cause "FV" greatly exceed "PV".

The question one must wrestle with is “where does normal growth stop and mining and greed take over the process of resource allocation?”  This is what all national economies are wrestling with when they borrow money from entities that are outside their population and are out of reach for recovery of excess funds through taxation. There are many functions in forests that provide examples of sustainable growth that could be emulated in the human economy.

Consider:  What happens to a local economy when an entity can accumulate funds beyond an amount that is appropriate for a normal person to acquire consistently over time?  What factors in forests regulate growth and export of resources? How can these controls be discussed with others?

The files below continue this discussion.

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Alan Page,
Dec 23, 2012, 9:52 AM
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Alan Page,
Dec 23, 2012, 9:51 AM
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