Reality Blind - Vol. 1

humans burn: GWB – Gross World Burning.

TaaL: That is one giant smokin’ metabolic amoeba you’ve got there. My entire species only uses a few percent of that amount, even including star travel. Seeing a fire-using species at its all-time peak energy use, burning through a hundred million years of stored fuel in a couple centuries, is a special event in the cosmos, like the merger of supermassive black holes or a triple supernova, very rare and quite something to see. You don’t think I’d have traveled all this way to watch algae, do you? There is a range of outcomes possible, and it should be quite a show whichever way it goes, whether appalling or inspiring. As for GDP, given that humans use energy for every single good and service that is included in your cultural progress scorecard, you should label it for what it is: GDB ( Gross Domestic Burning) or more aptly GWB ( Gross World Burning ) as your enterprise is global. Look around you: nearly every possession you own, appliance you use, food and beverages you consume, the walls and foundation of your home, the roads and utilities which support it, the power, entertainment, and communications infrastructure, are ALL manifestations of a fire somewhere now or in the recent past. Even your water has a lot of embodied fire! Money isn’t a “real thing”; it’s a convenient shared abstraction, a social convention. While fire is as real as you. (Indeed, what is any autotrophic organism but a slow-burning fire which pursues fuel and self-replication?) In humans, “euphemism” is a workable strategy to avoid cognitive dissonance. Some words “feel better” and “feel less threatening” to you. So , for instance, instead of the more correct “planetary heating” you tend to say “global warming.” Instead of the more correct “fish populations” your fishermen say “fish stocks”. Instead of the more correct “fossil carbon compounds” you say “fossil fuels”, etc. In other words (see what I did there?), a species which “thinks in words” will always find words to use which make the status quo seem not only acceptable but inevitable. In the case of “GDP”, you focus on the toys but ignore the fires which created them, even though the stimulation from the toys is transitory, while the consequences of the fires are not. (But you got the “gross” part right).

The Bottom Line: Our most central national statistic, GDP, might be more accurately labeled GDB – where the B stands for burning .


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