Saturday, October 8, 2016

Impossible to Inevitable

Such are the times we live in! Tighten your seat belts. We're in for a rough ride, my friends!

The following events are all well within the realm of possibility in the near future -

A massive economic collapse
Extreme weather events (already happening, more to come)
World war 3 (already underway by some measures)

How did we get here? What about progress? Isn't that what they told us in school? Progress... every generation leads a better life with a higher standard of living than the previous one, every generation knows more about the world we live in than the previous one, every generation is more aware, evolved, and spiritually advanced than the previous one... what happened to that story? Was it ever true? Was it true for a while before it got hijacked? Or was it a lie from the get go?

Monday, September 12, 2016

Money, Technology, Population and Civilization

Following my response mentioned in the last blog post, my friend wrote back:

I find myself asking, a la: "Is money evil, or the obsession with it?" Or, "Is technology evil, or the obsession with it?" Or, "Is civilization evil, or the hubris of it?", or, "Is population evil, or the drive to over-populate?"

And, "Could it be a little of both or all and more, that we need to re-examine ethically, ecologically and intensely?"

My response back, edited for clarity:

Thank you for participating in my intellectual work connecting the dots. I'm only reporting to you what I have been reading but after examining the interrelationships among all the resources I have come across. Modernity puts a lot of value in specialization. The one who knows a lot about a narrow subject is deemed an expert and granted a doctorate. Generalists are under-rated but it is imperative that we take all those seemingly unrelated fields (that we have created by chopping things up) and stitch them back up into a coherent whole. Then we see this tapestry emerge. In the tapestry lie all the fields - history, prehistory, sociology, culture, economics, technology, science, religion, theology, spirituality, nature, psychology, philosophy, language and linguistics and many other areas - but now sewn up together and we find out just how exactly we got to where we are. In fact, this chopping up of the study of life into all these areas is itself a prime example of the problem of reductionism that has plagued the modern worldview. It's time to see all the interconnections holistically. Yeah, that often overused word there!

The history of money is fascinating. We have come a long way from barter to digital currencies and now, bitcoin! Somewhere along the way, we lifted the ban on usury and all hell broke loose. It's one thing to have a money system that's backed by a scarce resource but a whole another thing to have usury - the charging of interest. Christianity had long considered usury a sin but over time, due to pressure from the financiers and money changers, it became standard operating procedure. The book "Medici Money" is an interesting read in this regard. So is Debt: The First 5000 Years. When we understand that all that money does is represent access to Earth's resources, it becomes easy to understand the devastating role usury has played in the destruction of the planet. If I loan you $100 and ask you to return $110 at the end of the month, where would you find the additional $10? You're forced to extract something from the Earth, or cut a tree for lumber, or work for someone else who does something similar. Ultimately, that extra $10 has to come from the Earth. What we now have with usury is constant and rapid extraction of Earth's resources, constant population growth to support interest-based debt (a pyramid scheme) and a constant need for more efficient ways of servicing the debt (which requires extraction of resources), and hence technology.

This isn't to downplay the role of the money system in itself... we lived lives of abundance without the need for money for a really long time. The advent of money was an indication of centralization and came well into the journey of civilization. If money marked the separation from land and the beginning of villages and city-states and rulers, usury turbo-charged the deleterious impacts of the money system.

Some would argue that money comes from innovation and human ingenuity. They point to the dot-com billionaire who invented a clever way to connect people or to create music. When we realize that all money-making activity is simply tapping into the giant chipper that constantly turns natural resources into money, as illustrated below by the social critic, Steve Cutts, we'd see human ingenuity and inventiveness as little more than merely a quest for more efficient ways to speed up the process of transformation of natural resources into money. Let's take the example of Google. One of the largest companies in the world by market capitalization, Google makes most of its money through advertising. Advertisers are in turn companies that make money by selling goods and services and hence directly involved in the conversion of natural resources into money. They are willing to give away a part of the money they make to Google in return for help with pushing their product to its users. That's all Google does, in the final analysis. All those PhDs with highly rated skills in Computer Science, Artificial Intelligence, etc. are merely coming up with slightly better ways to push products and services than the ones we already have.

So we have a culture which we call "civilization" whose main activity is the conversion of natural resources into money with the help of technology. It's easy to see how a better bulldozer helps clear a forest faster but a little harder to see how Facebook or Google or Instagram are all nevertheless playing the role of pimps pushing products directly or indirectly - albeit using sophisticated computer magic to speed up the global extraction-manufacture-marketing-sales-consumption cycle. All technology companies have to figure out where and how they are going to tap into this cycle. Those that eventually do are the ones we end up calling "profitable" and "successful".

Where does population come into this picture? Civilization and its economic systems are pyramid schemes. They need more and more people constantly to simply survive. It's either growth or death. There's no such thing as sustainability even as we throw around that word liberally. Newer generations find themselves under increasing pressure to come up with more and more innovative ways to keep the system going, blissfully unaware that it's been a pyramid scheme all along. They don't necessarily see themselves as contributing to the system but simply by making a living, they are unwittingly contributing to the system. In doing so, they leave a much less desirable planet for their offspring than the one they inherited from their own parents. There's a reason why governments all across the world subsidize families and children, even large families. It would seem counter-intuitive that they do this in a world with increasingly scarce resources. But they must do this or face collapse. Hence we see some European countries facing a population peak providing incentives to encourage their citizens to have more children. The State (government) needs to keep the tax dollars flowing. Governments that do regulate population growth risk the prospect of an aging population that needs to be supported by a diminishing tax base, as we now see in the case of China.

Money, technology, civilization, population... they are all interrelated. We have a system that encourages rapid population growth, rapid technological advances and rapid extraction of natural resources (oil, coal, metals, trees, sand, water, etc.) It's the story that this is how it ought to be that's the problem. People today are more or less the same as people 100,000 years when we consider biology. But people today are vastly different from our ancestors when we consider culture, or the stories that we tell ourselves and our children. There's nothing inherently evil or base about our species. Human beings are not flawed. But we are susceptible to propaganda, manipulation and influence and the ruling classes throughout history have taken advantage of their excellent knowledge  of human psychology to design and build ever more sophisticated social systems that work for them at the expense of all else.

We are way overpopulated at our current level of 7.4 Billion humans. People who lose connection to their land and indigenous culture rapidly grow out of proportion and explode in numbers given the resources to do so. This story has repeated all over the planet especially in the last 200 years as more and more tribes and villages began to be dislocated and integrated into mainstream civilization. Once they are cut off from their land and stories that have sustained them for thousands of years and kept them in balance with their local habitat, they are subject to no natural limitations in the artificial confines of towns and cities and they began to increase in numbers. All they need is access to bread in the grocery store and there's been plenty of it available (although not to everyone) to increase the population to current unsustainable levels. It's like a bacterial culture that's taken from its natural habitat where the bacteria lives in balance with other organisms and hence keeps its numbers within limits and suddenly placed in a petri dish full of sugar syrup... free from the interconnections and constraints of its natural habitat, the bacterial colony soon grows until the sugar syrup runs out. That's where we are today in terms of civilization and the resources it needs to survive. We're running out of easily accessible resources. The sugar syrup is almost over. No wonder we see billions of dollars being spent on research aimed at commercializing the extraction of resources from asteroids and other heavenly bodies! Our separation from land and migration to towns and cities is analogous to taking a bacterial culture from its natural setting and dropping it into a petri dish.

If we look at the last 100 years, we'd realize that our sugar syrup has been petroleum. We have been extracting oil from the ground and the deep oceans and converting it into food (through fertilizers, pesticides, farm machinery that runs on gas, and a global food supply chain that uses oil) and converting the food into human biomass. Well, we actually convert a lot of the oil into animal biomass first (factory farmed meat) before turning it into human biomass, but the input remains petroleum and the output the human biomass! Of course, the output also includes much trash, pollution and emissions. But as far as the population explosion of the 20th century is concerned, it would not have been possible without our sugar syrup, petroleum.

The role of yet another institution on population growth - organized religion - cannot be underestimated. For thousands of years, followers of Hinduism have regarded children as gifts from God and even avatars of God. Children are often given names of Gods and Goddesses. Although Hinduism doesn't explicitly say, "go forth and multiply", it's implicit in the culture and the stories that Hindus believe. India is the second most populous country and is soon set to overtake China and there doesn't seem to be a break in the growth curve.

I hope I was able to connect a few more dots with all of that! As bleak as it sounds, it's important to understand where we are and how we got here. Otherwise, we risk working hard on issues that lead us nowhere ultimately. Many an idealistic person has been led astray by incomplete problem definitions by so-called philanthropies and non-profits that are part of the non-profit-industrial complex.

An excellent critical perspective on the major institutions of civilization come from an indigenous Papua New Guinean man who had spent time in the UK and who, in a letter to his tribesmen back home, explains it all from his unique vantage point... "Just Leave Us Alone" In order to get a better understanding of our current situation, it helps to listen to what an outsider has to say. This letter is just one of the many resources indigenous peoples all over the world have given us over the centuries, and which we have conveniently ignored, that point to the unsustainable nature of our civilization, money system, population and the technocracy that powers it all.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Is Technology Always Bad?

I've recently been sharing a presentation with friends and one of the slides in it is this -

What I say in this slide should come as no surprise for long-time readers of this blog. I have argued for a number of years that technology is not what it appears to be on the surface, that it is always open to question and always anti-nature. One of my earliest blog posts exhorts the reader to question technology.

Following the presentation, a friend of mine asked me a question by email:

"Now you've got me thinking if I can make some exceptions to the premise that all technology is anti-nature and therefore bad. I am skeptical of the words always and never. How abut a flashlight that I pump up with my hand or a bicycle powered by my legs. Do you consider those technologies as bad inventions?"

Here is my response to her:

It depends on the perspective we take. From the perspective of modern humans, both the flashlight and bicycle are benign inventions that help us in very practical terms. It is hard to imagine life without them. But from Mother Earth's perspective, from nature's perspective, they are both products of a long journey of separation from nature. By the time we invented the light bulb, the industrial revolution was well underway. The mass produced light bulb wouldn't have been possible without massive centralization of power and resources, mass schooling and all the other trends that have beset civilization, which we now know have been indicators of separation from nature. A modern flashlight requires plastic which is derived from petroleum, so we're really talking about an entire infrastructure that needed to be there to give us the flashlight. We don't get this fuller picture if we look at the flashlight in isolation.

Now, I am not at all arguing that we give up our flashlights and bicycles. My work is not about changing people's behavior but to only examine the current situation and find out how we got here. To the extent that I would like to see people change their behavior, it is only to see them prepare for the coming times. And in this process, I find that all our modern conveniences, even the smallest ones like plumbing and flush toilets, are, in the final analysis, anti-nature because of what it takes to make those at a mass scale. I might sound like a hypocrite when I use the Internet and deride technology at the same time. But that's a logical fallacy called Tu Quoque :) It's like preventing a literature major from criticizing the English language because they are using the very English language to do so.

I realize this argument is a bit philosophical at this point. For me to say a flashlight is anti-nature and that there are no exceptions to "technology is always bad" requires me to define what exactly technology means. Does making fire count as technology? Does using a tool to crack open a nut count as technology? Does language count as technology? My basic understanding of what technology is this - anything that we use to overcome our natural limitations. And it's a gray area even then. If we use a sharp stone to crack open a nut, it could be argued that it's technology because we can't otherwise do it with our nature-given hands. But seeing in the dark is a high degree removed from using a stone to crack a nut, or learning how to speak sentences. And it makes sense that the flashlight, or the light bulb emerged at the tail end of our civilization, a mere 150-200 years ago, Isn't that what a flashlight gives us? An ability to see in the dark? I'm a night owl and I should know :)

For almost 200,000 years, our ancestors lived just as happily, if not more so, without needing to see in the dark, without flashlights. And without bicycles. To me, it's as simple as this - we can have our modern conveniences but we will then have to face extinction sooner or later. It's mathematically and physically impossible to have the former without the latter. It's simply a question of time. Extinction is inevitable when we continue the journey of separation from nature. The system, the societal organization, the political economy and the culture that gives rise to the flashlight also gives rise to the nuclear bomb. It's not possible to have one without the other because underneath both of them is the basic reality of deviant behavior, a lack of respect for nature and other earthlings and a culture that looks down upon tradition and age-old wisdom. This journey of separation has been some 10,000 years in the making, if not longer, and we're in the last phase, it seems. A phase where we are given the means and the resources (thanks to the Internet, libraries, etc.) to take a real long and deep look at just how we got ourselves into such dire existential crises as climate change and nuclear war. When we take this opportunity to empathize with the primordial humans that walked on the Earth long long ago, we'd see that we live in a time warp, an era of make-believe. What an era! And a rather short one at that.

I enjoy spirited debates like this one. Hope you don't take anything here personally. I like making my point passionately :) Thank you for the question and for giving me this chance to elucidate!

There's been plenty of work done by critics of Technology such as Jacques Ellul, Ivan Illich, Lewis Mumford and John Zerzan. These are just a handful of people who have seen Technology in the larger context of how it impacts society and culture as well as where it leads us and the planet ultimately.

More here at the Wikipedia page "Critique of technology".

We are all familiar with Technology's "end points". These are the means by which we interact with the technological infrastructure we have today. The smart phone, for example, is one such end point. A smart phone is a fine example of our modern technological prowess but it hardly causes us to think of the cell phone tower it is communicating with, the vast network of antennas and towers all over the world, and the satellites in orbit and the under-sea fiber optic cables that connect them all up. And all that is only part of the infrastructure that's needed to enable a single voice call. There are many more components (computers, switches, etc.) not to mention the vast and complex electric grid that powers it all. Picking up a smart phone and making a call hardly invokes this set up in our mind. So the smart phone ends up being just one way of interacting with a highly complex global technological infrastructure. The convenience of using a smart phone masks the true impact of such monstrosity of an infrastructure on the sustainability and even viability of life on the planet as we know it.

This is how we go about connecting the dots. Or not!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

An Update on Climate Change

This article from Forbes is a bit alarming!

The long-time champion of Capitalism that it is, Forbes, like any publication, has a duty to inform its readership of what's taking place in the world they live in, a readership that might otherwise rely on so-called human ingenuity and market solutions to solve problems. There are plenty of proposals in the pipeline that aim to mitigate the effects of climate change and manage the current rapidly escalating situation. Some of these techno-fixes are already being deployed. But the rapidity with which the situation is unfolding should be quite interesting to us all, whether we are capitalistic entrepreneurs dreaming up geo-engineering tricks or not.

Let's take a look at two particularly interesting charts.

The first shows global temperature changes since 1850 by year and month.

2016 so far is such an outlier.

Consider the following inferences that can be made by looking at the chart above -
  1. From 1850 to about 1900, temperatures were actually cooler than pre-industrial civilization times, even though, officially, we were well into the era of industrial civilization. Notice the (barely visible) thin horizontal white line at the 0 degree mark on the vertical scale. That line represents what is generally called the baseline. Lines below that represent temperatures below the "average for pre-industrial times". Lines above that represent temperatures above the "average for pre-industrial times". It's normal to expect some lines to fall below and some to fall above the average.
  2. Until about 1930, the lines are much more crowded when compared to after 1930.
  3. The lines become increasingly sparse as we go up in the chart. That means temperatures are increasing at a higher and higher rate, which is the mark of an exponential function.
  4. We can make out which line represents 2015 (it ends at the same temp differential where 2016 begins) and likewise, we can see where 2014 ends (although it's hard to trace most of it in the spaghetti mix) because that's where 2015 begins. What these last three years of data say is quite fascinating - temperature increases are speeding up. Not only are temperatures increasing, but the rate at which they are increasing is in itself growing.
Now, there's the factor of 2016 being an El Nino year and the sudden rapid increase may be attributable to that. The trend we see so far may not continue into the future so we will just have to wait and see. But it's also likely that El Nino simply serves to set off a growth trend that's been in the making for a long time.

The other chart is really just another representation of this same data. It's an animation that shows how temperatures are spiraling out toward the often-stated hypothetical, political target of containing temperature increase to 2 degrees Celcius above baseline.

As before, we can see the increasing rate at which the spiral progresses outward as the years go by. 

Whether we take the abrupt jump of temperatures in 2016 as a sign of the beginning of Abrupt Climate Change is to a certain extent, a matter of opinion. But that's the data we have. Whether we're at the start of a new phase in climate change or not, high temperatures as those we have been seeing this year so far have the potential to set off processes that bring further higher temperatures.

We live in interesting times, to say the least. Let's not make the mistake of assuming that climate change is just an anomaly, a thorn on the otherwise rosy path of progress that civilization has afforded humanity over the last few hundred years. The dawn of industrial civilization, in hindsight, is instead yet another milestone on the long path of separation from nature that humanity has embarked on many thousands of years ago. Some say it began with agriculture, some say it began with the use of tools, or with the invention of language. The longer we go back, the more dramatic our present time would appear. But even if we consider the last 200 years, the changes we're seeing around us are truly monumental. Ocean acidification, Arctic and Antarctic sea ice loss, mass species collapse on land and in the oceans, wildfires that burn hotter and bigger, extreme weather events such as droughts and floods and the slowing of the jet stream are just some of the manifestations of a rapidly changing planet.

If this isn't a cause for concern in itself, what is? Perhaps the near-absence of a discussion of current events in the public discourse?

The Raw Deal

Over the months and years, I have been asked by a few readers to stay on the more positive side as I write new posts on this blog. I pondered this over and have come to a conclusion. What I write about and how I present it will not be influenced by how it lands for my readers. I appreciate the time you take to read and reflect on my writing. If what I write turns you off, please feel free to walk away. We all need to do what keeps us healthy and we all need to stop doing what takes us down.

From my end, I will strive to give you the raw deal, even if I think it will make you uncomfortable. The time to be politically correct is long gone now, if there was ever a good reason for it to begin with. I will not hesitate to tell you what I see is happening in the world around us and give you my observations and interpretations without sugar-coating them.

My next post will be an update on climate change. Abrupt Climate Change is here, it seems.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Conveniently Nature-Free

This newsletter from Vimeo, a popular Internet video site, landed in my inbox the other day...

It looks like the modern nerd/geek kids are joining the macho/jock men in proclaiming their independence from whatever it is they think "nature" is.

This worldview that we are just about done being at the mercy of nature and her capricious behavior is not that uncommon anymore. A few years ago, on an internal mailing list at Google, an employee asked why there's no policy of exterminating snakes that sometimes wander on to the campus. His argument was that humans don't need snakes anymore. He did get a flurry of responses taking him to task for his outrageous view, but truth be told, his worldview is not an exception among young city-dwellers. There is that discussion I overheard in a cafeteria, also at Google, where a couple of employees were wondering why anyone would need to step out of their climate-controlled environs in the near future.

The age of the "shut-ins" is here - - the people who take pride in never having to leave home. What do these people who stay home do all day? It turns out that many of them build smartphone apps that let people order all manner of delivery services so they can... stay home! DoorDash, one of those apps that lets one have food delivered to the doorstep advertises itself with “NEVER LEAVE HOME AGAIN.”!

For a long time, the Japanese have been so beset with a rising trend of young men isolating themselves in their rooms that the phenomenon has a name with its own Wikipedia entry - Hikikomori. "According to government figures released in 2010, there are 700,000 individuals living as hikikomori with an average age of 31. Additionally, the government estimates that 1.55 million people are on the verge of becoming hikikomori. While hikikomori is mostly a Japanese phenomenon, cases have been found in the United States, Morocco,OmanSpainItalySouth Korea and France. Recent research using the same standardized definition of hikikomori has found evidence of it existing in other countries as wide-ranging as the United States and India. However, considering that hikikomori adolescents are hidden away and their parents are often reluctant to talk about the problem, it is extremely difficult to gauge the number accurately." Well, yes, it's indeed hard to estimate their numbers because the're understandably loathe to answering the door when the census lady drops by!

What we are witnessing is a growing trend of humanity's separation from nature sometimes manifesting as a psychological condition. This trend has unmistakably been in place for at least the last 10,000 to 12,000 years. Key milestones along this path include the invention of agriculture, migration to villages, towns and then cities, the introduction of usury (interest-based money), the advent of the machine, the spread of Scientism, and now, the obsession with life extension technologies and colonization of Mars! Despite what modern culture would have one believe, all these developments and trends are antithetical to nature, and ultimately, as we are discovering, a sign of deep cultural rot.

How fashionable it has become to indulge in "conveniently nature-free activities"! As if there is such a thing to begin with! And will 4K Ultra HD will ever be a substitute for the real thing?

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What's become of Berkeley?

"Berit Ashla has been offered and accepted a position with Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors to serve as Vice President for Advisory Services in its San Francisco office. She will be stepping out of her role as Executive Director of the David Brower Center at the end of August. "

Those statements above come from an email I received from the President of the Board of Directors of the David Brower Center in Berkeley, CA.

The statements are remarkable because they are a good example of how Berkeley has become the epicenter of the non-profit industrial complex. The fact that the executive director of an environmental and civic oriented non-profit center and incubator so seamlessly moves through the revolving door to a corporate-funded so-called philanthropic foundation indicates the nexus of capitalist forces at work. Corporate philanthropies such as the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors seek to co-opt and turn to their own benefit, any forces that seek to go counter to capitalistic interests. This includes the environmental movement that David Brower helped grow.

Home to such non-profits as "Center for EcoLiteracy", "Friends of the Earth", "Bay Area Open Space Council", "Earth Island Institute", "International Marine Mammal Project", "Women's Earth Alliance" and "Green Schools Initiative", the Brower Center bills itself as a "civic institution working at the intersection of art, environment and social justice".

Berkeley is home to any number of such non-profit organizations and attracts an idealistic young population with its unique culture and a perceived radical atmosphere. However, the radicalism is carefully orchestrated by the many non-profits that derive their funding from corporate philanthropic foundations.

The offices that the non-profits operate from are not unlike the plush, colorful, bright, ergonomically designed work-spaces that one would find in any corporate campus across the bay in Silicon Valley. These are not the spaces from which revolutions are launched. These are not the spaces in which community develops.

The non-profit industrial complex is vast, beyond the imagination of most of us. Consider, the environmental non-profit that aims to restrict CO2 concentrations to below 350 ppm. We're already seeing upwards of 400 ppm with no signs of slowing down. And there's a reason for that. Cory Morningstar has done extensive research on's co-founder, Bill McKibben’s links to big everything –

I used to wonder how we humans have managed to destroy the planet the most in the most recent 50-100 years when most of the large conservation organizations were around – Sierra Club (founded 1892), The Nature Conservancy (founded 1951), WWF (founded 1961), Greenpeace (founded 1969). etc.

One way to look at it is – “the damage would have been worse had these organizations not existed, and that they tried their best”. That would give them the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps that’s a partially valid position to take on one or two of the organizations or even all of them for the first so many years after founding. And I wanted to believe that. But the more accurate interpretation is, at least a few of them helped the process of environmental devastation and in fact, at least a few of them were created by the powers that be to specifically channel their opposition’s energies into well-defined pathways that such NGOs offer. Rulers have long ago figured out that they need to be in control of dissident voices and energies. And the best way to be in control of them is to create them, or co-opt them and finance them. Let’s just say this is probably something a sociopath elite-in-the-making grasps fairly quickly and early. As far as I remember, they didn’t offer Statecraft 101 in college. So we refer to sources such as where a number of investigative reports have been published.

I often see these very idealistic young men and women who do really care for nature and what’s happening to her ending up on street corners in ritzy downtowns across Silicon Valley selling memberships to Greenpeace! Idealism watered down, enthusiasm contained, energy absorbed, business as usual continues. I have often stopped to talk to them. They tell me what’s going on in the world. And I also try to tell them what’s going on in the world, and how they are being misled, at which point they say something about making their quotas and having work to do.

Let’s take a look at who’s heading The Nature Conservancy? “The Nature Conservancy is led by President and CEO Mark Tercek, a former managing director at Goldman Sachs, and an adjunct professor at the New York University Stern School of Business.” We have a bankster leading one of the largest, most well-funded environmental non-profit outfits in the world. Tercek came to the Google campus a couple of years back to promote his book “Nature’s Fortune”. In the Q&A period after the talk, I asked him a question which he deftly evaded.

The description of this book at starts off asking “What is nature worth?” and words of wisdom follow – “In Nature’s Fortune, Mark Tercek, CEO of The Nature Conservancy and former investment banker, and science writer Jonathan Adams argue that nature is not only the foundation of human well-being, but also the smartest commercial investment any business or government can make…. Who invests in nature, and why? What rates of return can it produce? When is protecting nature a good investment?”

Another excerpt from the above article

"Co-optation is not limited to buying the favors of politicians. The economic elites –which control major foundations– also oversee the funding of numerous NGOs and civil society organizations, which historically have been involved in the protest movement against the established economic and social order. The programs of many NGOs and people’s movements rely heavily on funding from both public as well as private foundations including the Ford, Rockefeller, McCarthy foundations, among others."

"With salaries and operating expenses depending on private foundations, it became an accepted routine: In a twisted logic, the battle against corporate capitalism was to be fought using the funds from the tax exempt foundations owned by corporate capitalism." The NGOs were caught in a straightjacket; their very existence depended on the foundations. Their activities were closely monitored.

The people’s movement has been hijacked. Selected intellectuals, trade union executives, and the leaders of civil society organizations (including Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace) are routinely invited to the Davos World Economic Forum, where they mingle with the World’s most powerful economic and political actors. This mingling of the World’s corporate elites with hand-picked “progressives” is part of the ritual underlying the process of “manufacturing dissent”.

Someone asked me recently what I thought of the climate conference in Paris. At a time when bankers are taking over conservation NGOs and promoting new ways of slicing and dicing the last remaining “assets” and putting them up for sale on the chopping block of the free market, futility, fraud and farce are appropriate descriptors of the Paris talks.

As for Berkeley, despite its image as the place where the Free Speech Movement was launched and its connections to the Civil Rights Movement, it's always been under the control of the elites. Gray Brechin investigates the history of the University of California and its connections with San Francisco's elite families such as the Bechtels in his book, "Imperial San Francisco". Today, extensive partnerships and collaboration between the University and industry, including Big Oil, continue -

Wikipedia calls Berkeley "one of the most politically liberal cities in the United States." It's easy to forget that the father of the atom bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, was a professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley and the wartime head of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

An excerpt from Brechin's 2006 introduction to his book:

Few also knew of the University of California’s long participation in that incestuous liaison. University scientists had, as I’d written, seen the Manhattan Project to fiery fruition, while its competing weapons campuses in California and New Mexico thereafter designed and promoted successive generations of doomsday machines requiring the most intimate triangulation with arms merchants and the funding government. When infrequently pressed, the University’s presidents and spokespersons insisted that the work was done in the public interest. Three days before Christmas of 2005, the Chronicle announced that the Department of Energy had renewed the University’s contract to jointly run with Bechtel Corporation the Los Alamos laboratories “more like a business whose product is nuclear weapons.”15 The following day, its lead editorial cheered for the home team: “The new seven-year contract is worth up to $512 million, but its greater importance to UC is the scientific prestige.”

And yet, Berkeley calls itself a nuclear free zone! How does that work? Well, it has to, for the sake of its image as a city at the forefront of societal transformation, its image as one of the most progressive and liberal cities in the country, and to maintain such perceptions among the idealistic and energetic young people who're drawn to work at its many nefarious non-profits.

More on Berkeley, California