J.Z. Colby's Blog: NEBADOR News and Youth Futures - Posts Tagged "youth-futures"

Several things got me thinking about Shame this week (a question on the Ask Kibi page, and an article by John Michael Greer, author of "The Long Descent"). For the individual, Shame is very powerful. It is a deep fear of rejection by other people, based on our long experience, going back to caveman days, that we have little chance of surviving alone.

But what happens if everyone in a large group of people experiences Shame all at the same time, or perhaps the whole world feels it all at once?

We may be at a moment like that for the human race.

Many philosophers today are looking at events in the world, and realizing that we had plenty of warnings, about 40 years ago, and we didn't listen to them them.

Our first "oil crisis" warned us that we couldn't guzzle gasoline/petrol, diesel, and jet/kerosene forever. We brushed the warning aside and started importing oil. Today, the whole world is running short, and there's nowhere else to import from.

At about the same time, we quit backing our money with gold, and the rollar-coaster ride of inflation began. Again, we ignored the warnings. There was money to be made in the new situation, after all, by people who knew how, and our leaders knew how. Today, the rollar-coaster hill is getting very steep, and we don't know if there are tracks on the other side.

Also at that time, we were warned that there were "Limits to Growth." We didn't want to hear that. We wanted to grow forever. The growth stopped in 2008, and today we can't figure out how to get it going again.

Finally, the 1970s gave us countless warnings about the environment and the climate. We didn't listen. We wanted jobs, not flowers. Today we are getting monster storms everywhere, Russia and Texas are burning, and our glaciers and icecaps are melting away.

I would like to suggest that it is not shameful to make mistakes. Children make lots of them while growing up. What is deeply shameful is KNOWING a course of action will harm our planet, our one and only home, and doing it anyway.

We were warned. Soon it may be time to experience Shame like the world has never seen before.

But here's the good part: young adults today were NOT the decision-makers of the 20th century. The Shame is not yours. YOU can make the 21st century as different from the 20th century as you want it to be.
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Published on May 07, 2011 19:15 • 99 views • Tags: collective-shame, future, shame, youth, youth-futures
Remember what "efficiency" is? Doing the same work, or making the same product, with less materials, energy, or labor. Or using the same amount of stuff to do/make more.

As we've talked about before, people have a natural tendency to look for efficiency in everything we do. If we're trying to make money, greater efficiency means we make more money. If we're trying to solve a problem, greater efficiency often means that (at least it appears) we found a solution.

An example: if we are using more electricity than we can generate, if everyone switches to fluorescent light bulbs, which use much less, then the problem will be solved!

Unfortunately, it isn't that easy.

First of all, solutions involving efficiency are often just "social" solutions. They are designed to make people feel good, and cause them to vote for the leaders (who came up with the idea) in the next election.

It so happens that most of our electricity does not go to lighting, but to heating and other uses that do not have any easy efficiency improvements. Electric heat, for example, is already 100% efficient at the point of use.

Also, Jevons Paradox, which we've talked about before, kicks in. People put in fluorescent lights, see their electric bills go down a little, and think, "Great! Now I can turn up the heat!"

Another huge problem with efficiency gains is that they usually work against "resilience." Resilience is the ability of any system to take shocks without breaking down. Those fluorescent lights are more expensive, are much more complicated to make, won't work with dimmers, create audible and radio noise, and give many people headaches. They make a lighting system much less "human," and much less resilient.

We've talked about all that before. Now we need to look at a much more dangerous effect of too much efficiency.

Every time we use an efficiency gain to solve a problem (or more often, just to appear to solve it), we move ourselves closer to the point where no more efficiency gains are possible. We "paint ourselves into a corner." Efficiency can only approach 100%, never quite get there, and NEVER go beyond. In real-world systems, 80% or 90% is usually the limit. There are always losses any time we change one material into another, or one kind of energy into another.

Also, pushing efficiency up and up requires greater and greater expense and complexity. If fluorescent light aren't efficient enough for us, we can use LEDs (light-emitting diodes). They require a billion-dollar high-tech factory (only a few in the world, mostly in Asia), and use expensive "rare-earth" metals.

The drive to solve our problems with efficiency gains (which is in high-gear right now because we are experiencing so many problems) leads to the edge of a cliff. When we have pushed all our systems to a high level of efficiency, no more gains are possible (at least that we can afford), and all those systems are brittle and inflexible, what do we do then the next problem comes along?'

As young adults, if you keep your eyes open, you will see some very interesting things going on in the world during the next few years as adults try to solve our problems. If you watch closely, you will learn more about how the universe works than your parents ever knew.
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Published on May 14, 2011 14:13 • 108 views • Tags: efficiency, future, resilience, youth, youth-futures
Let's imagine for a moment that the universe is run by some form of intelligence. Most people think so, and call that intelligence "god."

Let's further imagine that "god" has to, at some point, test his "children" (us) to see if they should go to "college," just get a simple "job," or perhaps are "disabled" and will need on-going supervision long after other "children" have left "home."

What might "god" do to test his "children"?

I am talking about a test that would apply to an entire "people" (species, race, nation, whatever), and not to individuals. We know very well that within a species or race, individuals grow up at different rates, and achieve different levels of maturity.

It would, ideally, be a test that that would tempt us with something like candy, something that immature children cannot resist, but mature young adults and adults can.

There would be only a small amount of this "candy," for "god" does not want us to have it forever, because it's not good for us. It's just there for the purpose of the test. We'll have "good food" after the test, but most of the "candy" will be gone. There might be a little left for special occasions, but not enough to gorge ourselves on.

To make the test more challenging, "god" has hidden some of the "candy" in places that are very hard to get to. It won't just run out, it'll become more and more expensive to find. We'll have to dig up our "gardens" to find some of it. We might even have to tear down our "houses" to get to the last little bit.

Does anyone have any doubt what this "candy" might be?

Just as there is for individuals, there might be a different future in store for the "children" of "god" who can out-grow their craving for "candy" at the end of childhood, compared to those who wait until much later in life, if ever.

Young adults today can take responsibility for themselves by out-growing their craving for various kinds of "candy," but they cannot take responsibility for their entire nation, race, or species. It may be that some individuals pass the test, but we, as a whole people, do not. In that case, young adults can learn by watching, and look for opportunities to prosper IN SPITE OF the choices that are made by their nations, races, and species.
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Published on May 23, 2011 10:41 • 96 views • Tags: future, supreme-test, youth, youth-futures
I've received several questions about it recently, so let's get serious about exactly what it is. Like many magic words, it's hard to say. But if understood correctly, like a magic word should, it has great power.

Energy Returned On Energy Invested.

Coal doesn't sit on top of the ground waiting for our shovel. Gasoline/petrol doesn't grow on trees. Kerosene/jet doesn't flow down hillsides in streams. Propane/methane ("natural gas") doesn't pop out of the ground and jump into tanks. Electricity only occurs naturally as static in dry weather, and lightning, the first too small to use, the second too large.

No matter what kind of energy we use, it takes lots of work to collect it, get it into the right size and shape, move it to the place we want to use it, store it until we want it, and finally turn it into something useful (heat, motion, etc.)

Back in the 19th century, when the first oil wells were drilled in Pennsylvania and Texas, oil gushed out of the ground all by itself. EROEI was about 100:1. Today, in Saudi Arabia, about 30:1. In the USA where all the oil fields are past their prime, about 20:1. In very old oil fields where we're trying to get the dregs, 10:1.

But those numbers only count the energy used directly to pump the oil. They don't take into account all the energy used to make all the tools and materials, and support all the people, that it takes to make an oil field work. They don't include the costs of transporting and refining the oil. Even once it's in our cars and trucks, some of the gasoline/petrol/diesel is used to carry the weight of it in the fuel tanks.

I bet we could safely cut all those EROEI numbers in half if we want the TRUE energy cost of getting our energy.

Now comes the interesting part. Fact is, we picked the "low-hanging fruit" first, the easy-to-get oil on land and in shallow seas. As we go into deeper and deeper water, and into countries where people are killing each other all the time, the costs go up. Now we are even thinking of drilling in the arctic.

As EROEI moves down, costs go up. We'll never "run out," we'll just be unable to pay for it (except for a few very rich people).

Guess what happens when EROEI drops to 1:1 or less? You guessed it. Everyone goes home. It's better to keep the energy we started with.

Sometimes we pretend to "make" energy at an EROEI of 1:1 for a little while because our governments pays the extra costs. That's the situation with the ethanol we are making from corn right now. However, the government is running out of money, and the price of corn is going up because of this. It will probably end soon.

The EROEI of alternative energy sources like wind and solar (photovoltaic) are low, in the range of 10:1 down to 2:1. I'm sure they will form part of our energy collecting systems in the future, but they will probably never give us "cheap energy."

Can our world run without "cheap energy"? Not the world we have right now. Young adults will have the task of designing a new world that will run on what's left of our coal and oil, and what we can get from sources that will last, like wind and solar.
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Published on May 28, 2011 08:13 • 83 views • Tags: eroei, future, youth, youth-futures
If this sounds suspiciously like a Biblical question, I suppose it is, but we're not talking about it just because it's in the Bible. It's important enough to be a huge concern for us now, just as it was 2000-3000 years ago.

It's a question about human nature, about the connections in our brains, about the gene sequences in our DNA. It's very hard for us to look at, for two reasons.

First, it's all in code. When we open a human brain, even under a microscope, we can see the connections, but we don't know what they mean. When we look at the genes in our DNA, we can write them down, but again we don't know what they mean. We're just beginning to notice that certain gene sequences come with certain traits or diseases.

Second, when we DO learn something about ourselves, layers and layers of defenses kick in. Since we're looking at ourselves, we see what we want to see, our bruised egos exaggerate good things, reject unpleasant things, and our social groups (from a lab team to national government) tell us what is okay to find, and what is not.

So, given all the difficulty in looking at our human nature, we'll keep this simple.

Most of the time, we float along through our daily routines being "civilized people." We say "please" and "thank you," we pay for what we take, stop at red lights, etc. That civilized behavior is possible because we're well-fed, we have a home, someone loves us, and the police take care of the bad guys.

Take away one or more of those "nice" things, and something strange happens.

Inside each of us is a "reptile," a simple creature who is concerned only with safety, food, and sex. When some important aspect of civilization goes away, our "reptile" usually comes out, and is not afraid to run away, or fight to the death, to get its basic needs met.

Inside each of us is also an "angel," a being who wants to help others and cooperate with everyone, even in the middle of danger, hunger, and loneliness. The "angel" is even willing to risk death to save others.

Which are we? We can go either way, and sometimes swing back and forth. We have the choice, although it may not feel like a conscious choice.

The "reptile" isn't perfectly adapted to life because we can't think very far ahead when consumed by fear, anger, and other strong emotions. We elect leaders like Adolf Hitler, we fear anyone who is different in any way, and we see everything as "us or them" battles.

The "angel" isn't perfect either, perhaps letting a friend die instead of finding the courage to kill the bad guy.

Young people can get to know both their "reptile" and their "angel" by experiencing things that are "outside their comfort zones." Sports, camping, hiking in the rain, going a day without food ... the list is different for each person. By getting to know your reactions to "uncivilized" situations, you will have more choice and more personal power when a REAL uncivilized situation comes along.
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Published on June 03, 2011 21:52 • 56 views • Tags: angels, future, human-nature, nebador, reptiles, youth, youth-futures
After writing about many different topics in this blog over the last three-quarters of a year, all of which are or can easily become threats to young adults, I've received a couple of requests for a recap (short for recapitulation.) Since I don't have any topic begging to be explored this week, it seems like a good idea.

There is growing awareness that economic growth, which stopped in 2008, won't get started again without cheap energy. In our world today, that mostly means cheap oil.

We now have several years of data about oil production since it stopped rising in 2005, even though demand and prices continued to rise. As oil fields all over the world are producing less and less, the problem is no longer demand, it geological limitations. Prices can fly to the moon (as they did in 2008 and are thinking of doing again), and there still won't be more oil. Unless there's more oil than we want, it will never again be cheap.

There are several possible substitutes for oil, but they all seem to have a huge problem, some more than one problem. Electricity, in general, is very hard to store, and never densely enough to use in aircraft. Solar and wind generation is difficult to scale up to the size we need. Nuclear is too dangerous. Tar sands and shale gas cause pollution we can't afford, and ethanol costs more than it's worth. Maybe one of today's young adults will discover our next good energy source, if there is one.

Our economic systems are designed to grow. If they can't grow, they start to fall apart. As everyone scrambles to cut losses and protect what they have, "non-essential" workers are the first to go. Young adults, with little experience and education, have a much higher unemployment rate (40-60%) than older adults (about 20% in the USA). Young adults may be forced to find new ways to make money, of just live without it.

To try to keep paying all the bills, our government creates more money (it's one of the few things it has the power to do). That causes prices to rise, especially energy and food. If the government doesn't stop creating money, we'll get hyperinflation, when you need a wheel barrow to carry your money instead of a wallet. That's just before money dies completely. That would be a dangerous time of confusion when the only way to "buy" something would be to trade for something else useful.

Climate change is showing itself more and more often all over the world. Weather is becoming more extreme, hot places getting hotter and drier, wet places wetter, and storms more violent. Often these changes hurt our food supplies, or bring new disease outbreaks. Our adult world leaders refuse to do anything about it. Young adults will inherit a planet that will probably be unable to support human life in many places it now does, especially when rising energy costs (for heating, cooling, pumping water) are considered.

Many of the services and protections young adults gained during the 20th century are going away. As the world gets poorer, schools will get their budgets cut, and libraries will close. Social safety nets will disappear, and labor laws will be ignored. Young adults will need to earn money, but there will be few jobs, and money will be worth less and less.

The mainstream adult world is still hoping that all the bad stuff going on in the world is just a "soft patch." I hope they are right, because I like movies, pizza, and Disneyland too. But those of us who pay attention to reality (geology, ecology, climate, and history) aren't holding our breath.

Young adults can prepare themselves for an uncertain 21st century by sharpening their wits and honing their skills before they are face to face with a dangerous situation. When a problem is in your face, it is often too late to prepare. Yes, some people will laugh at you for growing a garden or learning a martial art (for example) when everyone else is shopping and partying. That's one of those tough choices in life.
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Published on June 10, 2011 17:24 • 83 views • Tags: 21st-century, future, youth, youth-futures
Several young people have written with questions and gripes about last week's post, so here are some clarifications.

There has certainly been some "economic activity" in the last three years, but that's not the same as "economic growth." And even though our governments report some "growth," many economists have analyzed it, and realized that it can all be account for by "stimulus" programs, like "cash for clunkers" that paid people to buy new cars in 2009-2010. That's not real growth because it just adds to the national debt.

It's true that in the USA the government reports unemployment in the 9-10% range. That's "U3" unemployment, which doesn't count people employed part-time who want a real job, and people who have given up and are selling their family heirlooms on eBay. That more complete measure is called "U6" and is usually about twice "U3." Even "U6" misses some people.

Climate change can never be "proven." It's too complex. The countless interactions going on all over the planet between sunshine, clouds, air, water, earth, and ice are beyond any human mind (or computer) to fully understand. That, in my opinion, is not a good reason to pretend nothing is happening with our climate.

Some of the other "safety nets" that young adults might lose include: access to healthcare, protection from slavery and forced marriage, and not being held legally responsible for committing crimes.

"When a problem is in your face, it is often too late to prepare." Most kinds of preparation take time. Examples: If you hear that the grocery store is running out of food, remember that everyone else heard that too, and they are on their way, probably ahead of you. If you discover you need to fix your own car, you will need tools from one store, a repair manual from somewhere else, replacement parts from an auto parts store, and advice from someone with experience. If you're already late for work, then you had better start walking or riding your bicycle, at least for today.

Thank you, everyone, for the feedback, and I hope these comments help.
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Published on June 18, 2011 16:56 • 49 views • Tags: future, threats, youth, youth-futures
People can't live in a "vacuum." We are biological beings, animals, mammals, who must have connections to our world on many levels.

Our connections start with Planet Earth, Terra, Gaia, Earth Mother. Without air pressure close to one atmosphere, which is 20% oxygen or so, we will die in seconds or minutes. Temperatures outside of about 10-50 degrees C (50-120 F) will kill us in a few hours without protective clothing. Without a litre (quart) of water a day, we won't last a week. If we can't scrape up a thousand calories a day of food, we'll waste away in a month or less. Protein, vitamins, and minerals are also necessary, or diseases will get us.

Beyond the basics, we need safety from whatever dangers are lurking about, and shelter from sun, wind, rain, and snow.

If we have all that, we might be alive, but we won't be happy.

We are social creatures who need companionship and love. We are dependent on parents for five years in a simple society, and ten, fifteen, maybe even twenty years in a complex society. We need friends to share thoughts and experiences. Most of us need a lover, and someday a mate and children.

Some of us are happy with that much. Some of us aren't.

We need meaning and purpose. Skills and abilities, and a job or business in which to use them, brings that for many people. Some need an art medium with which to express their creativity. Some need sources of knowledge and learning. A few crave to exercise power.

What do you need?

Get blank paper, pencil, and eraser. Write "ME" in the middle, and close around that, put the things and people most essential to you. A little farther away, put the things and people who are important but not essential. Farther away still, those that are nice but not too important ... you get the idea.

Draw different kinds of lines from "ME" to each thing or person, perhaps a single line to friends, a double line to your girl/boyfriend, a dotted line to your boss at work, or whatever seems right to you. Some of the other people on your diagram have relationships between them, such as your parents, who were mates, or your friends, who might also be friends with each other.

Your personal web of life may need to be drawn several times to get it right. You might discover things/people who are missing that you want to add, others you want to get rid of. Put a date on it, and expect to redraw it once a year, maybe more often. It's a powerful tool to understanding your life and your sources of strength and happiness.
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Published on June 25, 2011 11:26 • 62 views • Tags: future, web-of-life, youth, youth-futures
One of the most powerful tools for dealing with a changing world is the ability to keep our heads (rational minds) in control, even when our hearts (emotions) would rather be. This is also called Emotional Intelligence, but there is an even older and simpler term: Maturity. If your emotions are always in control, you are a child, no matter how old you are.

This does not mean NOT feeling. Our emotions are very important when we need to sense things about our environment, make judgments about people and situations, and form bonds (or run from them).

What it does mean is FEELING the feelings, not ACTING on them. That's the key. If you feel something and act on it without thought, you are a slave to your emotions. Slaves are seldom treated well by other people or events.

But if you FEEL the feelings, then DECIDE what to do with a clear head, you have the best chance of staying alive, and maybe even being happy.

Yeah, I know. Easier said than done.

Have you taken a Myers-Briggs personality test? For NEBADOR readers, there's a simple one in Book One, chapter 15, and the Deep Learning Notes explains it. There are also tests all over the internet you can use. It's not a "right-wrong" kind of test, but instead it just figures out which of 16 personality types you are.

Those of you who have a "J" as the last letter in their type are in most danger of acting on feelings. "xxFJ" types do this routinely, but "xxTJ" types can also do it when things get stressful. That doesn't mean these types are bad, it just means they are better adapted to stable social situations. If you pay attention to the main characters in books and movies, they are almost always "xxFJ" types because we love their spontaneity and courage.

Back to Emotional Resilience. Once you clearly understand the idea of keeping your mind in control even when feeling, and you decide you want to do that, the next step is to practice. It's the kind of thing that you can't really practice at times and places you choose, but instead just have to wait for emotional situations to pop up in life, do your best, and look back to see how you did after it's over.

There are a few rules that can help.

Never do anything dangerous, if it can be avoided, when feeling deeply, even if you think your mind is in control. If nothing else, your reaction time will be slowed. Good pilots never fly aircraft when feeling emotional. Remember: driving is a kind of piloting.

Never make big, important decisions, if they can be avoided, when feeling deeply. Your rational mind, even if in control, is not operating on "all cylinders." Save decisions about education, employment, marriage, etc., for when you are clear-headed.

If everything is basically okay in your world (parent has a job, food in the kitchen, etc.) it may be hard to see how important this stuff is. But the world is changing rapidly, and many young adults may soon find themselves dealing with difficult, sometimes dangerous situations. You might have a parent, friend, or boy/girlfriend at your side to help, or you might be alone. Even if someone is beside you, you might discover that THEY are consumed with emotions, and YOU will have to think clearly, if anyone is going to.
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Published on July 03, 2011 21:32 • 49 views • Tags: emotional-intelligence, future, maturity, resilience, youth, youth-futures
Remember the "Home Alone" movies? Let's look at that idea a little more seriously. This post will just be an introduction, as it's a huge topic.

One of the strange things about young adulthood, roughly that second decade of life, is that you know stuff but you don't, you can do things but you can't ... so why is that? A hundred years ago, most people in the 10 - 20 age range knew most of what they needed to know about life, and could take care of themselves in all but the most challenging situations. Only a very, very few extremely rich kids were "led by the hand" through young adulthood.

Today, when you finish elementary school, you're told you're still a child and now you have to go to middle school, then high school. When, with great effort, you graduate high school, you're told you qualify to pump gas or baby-sit, and now you have to think about college. What's up with that?

Adults like to forget that learning to take on responsibilities requires PRACTICE. In my experience, those (few) kids whose parents make them practice responsibility from age 6 or 8, grow up with confidence that they can handle large and complicated projects. Those (many) kids whose parents would rather do things for them, grow up ... um ... as lazy and whiney marshmallows.

Fast forward.

Let's imagine, just for a moment, that the economy continues to crumble, safety nets like unemployment insurance keep tightening up or go away completely, the weather gets weirder and weirder as the climate warms, and the price of almost everything, especially food, keeps climbing.

Conditions like that will make it very hard for parents to fulfill part of the "American Dream," the part that says they should protect their kids from all dangers, troubles, and even inconveniences. It won't be because they don't want to, but just because those protections take money, a home, a car (or two or three), groceries, memberships, subscriptions, utilities, and lots of other things. Most parents, as they lose those things, will do everything possible to hide it from the kids, just as our governments are hiding poor people by giving them unemployment payments, social security benefits, food stamps, and all that.

For both the government and many parents, there may come a day when it can't be hidden anymore. This may or may not mean your parents are actually gone. They may still be there, just not able to give you anything. They may even be in physical or emotional distress and need help from someone, and the only someone around may be you.

Are you ready?
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Published on July 09, 2011 12:34 • 71 views • Tags: future, on-your-own, youth, youth-futures

NEBADOR News and Youth Futures

J.Z. Colby
NEBADOR News
Events in the writing, publishing, and dramatic audiobook production of the NEBADOR stories. Always available at: http://www.nebador.com/News.html

YOUTH FUTURES
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