Surviving Progress (2011) Movie Script

Surviving progress.
In defining progress,
I think it is very important
to make a distinction
between good progress and bad progress.
I mean, things progress in
a sense that they change.
Both in nature and in human society there appears
to be a clear trend towards increasing complexity.
As change proceeds, we tend to delude ourselves
that these changes always result in improvements.
....from the human point of view.
We are now reaching a point in which technological
progress and the increase in our economies and our numbers
threaten the very existence of humanity.
What is progress.....
I think..... mhm. That's
too hard question....
When I think of the word 'progress'...
Progress will not come easy, it won't come quick,
but today we have an opportunity to move forward.
It seems we are stuck in this trap for the last
200 years, since the industrial revolution
where we think progress is
more of the same, like:
We should make our machines
better and get more machines
but we've been doing it for 200 years,
so doing more of that is not progress.
We're like stuck in this
like a record......
Things are start out to seem
like improvement or progress.
These things our seductive, there seems
like there is no downside to these
but when they reach a certain scale they
turn out to be dead ends, more traps.
I came up with a term 'progress trap'
to define human behaviors that
sort of seem to be good things, seem
to provide benefits in a short term
but which ultimately lead to disaster,
because they are unsustainable.
One example would be going right
back to the old stone age
the time of when our ancestors
were hunting mammoths.
They reached a point, where their weaponry
and hunting techniques got so good
that they destroyed hunting as a way
of life through the most of the world.
The people who discovered how to
kill two mammoths instead of one
had made real progress, but the
people who discovered that they can
eat very well by driving a whole herd
over a cliff and kill 200 at once
had fallen into a progress trap
they'd made too much progress.
Our physical bodies and physical
brains as far as we can tell
have changed very little
in past 50 000 years.
We've only been living in
civilization for the last 5000 years the most which is less then
0.2% of our evolutionary history.
So the other 99.8 we were
hunters and gatherers
and that is the kind of
way of life that made us.
We are essentially the same people
as those stone age hunters.
What makes our way of life different from theirs
is that culture has taken off at exponential rate
and has really become detached
from pace of natural evolution.
So we are running 21st century
software, our knowledge,
on hardware that hasn't been
upgraded for 50 000 years
and this lies at the core
of many of our problems.
All of this is because our human nature is back
in hunting-gathering era of the old stone age
whereas our knowledge and technology, in other words, our ability
to do both good and harm to ourselves and to the world in general
has grown out of whole proportion.
One thing to remember, of course,
about human mind is that it's not
that fundamentally different from,
say, a brain of a chimpanzee.
Most of the human brain, the
basic structure of the brain
is much older than human species
some of it goes back to bacteria
some of it goes back to worm, some
of it originated in first mammals
some of it within the first primates,
some of it in first human beings.
Very little however changed
in the last 50 000 years.
And so most of what we do, we
do with hardware components
that are much older than any
of the problems that we face.
When I first began to study chimps
I thought that the task was to just
map out more and more similarities
to find the areas of cognition
that hadn't been studied yet
and simply show that
chimps were just like us.
You can imagine teaching a small
child to stand up a block up right
and you can teach a chimp
to do the same thing
'oh I set up a block here, set up a block here,
I can see everything, its very, very clear'
'and I get a piece of fruit for doing it'
But what happens when you introduce a
small subtlety into the situation
when you trick them and make the block off
center just that the block keeps falling over.
Well, the chimp will come
in, set up the good block
set up the block that
we've tricked them with
but then it falls over.
Well the chimp can see that it's
not the way it's supposed to be
so they try again, and they try again
and they move it to one place, and
they move it to another place
and they keep trying to get it to stand up
because they know what
is supposed to happen.
But they have no understanding
or no inclination to ask why.
What unobservable part of the situation is
causing that block to keep falling over.
The young child will enter
set up the good block
try to set up the block that
we've tricked them with
but when it falls over, well
first they'll try again
then maybe try again, but very quickly they'll
turn it over, feel the bottom of it, shake it,
try to concern what unobservable property
of that block is causing it to fall over.
That's the fundamental, core difference,
I believe, between humans and chimps
that humans ask why, we're constantly probing for
unobservable phenomenon to explain the observable.
It's what's driven us to discover gravity,
it's what's driven us to probe
into the mysteries of quasars,
and it's the same thing that drives us
to probe into mysteries of each other
in our every day lifes.
'Why does she keep doing that?'
'Why does he keep behaving like that, he must think
this, he believe this, I don't understand...'
'Why, why, why, why...'
So the upside of the human
capacity that asks why,
to continuously probe behind appearances
and to try to find out how
the world really works
is we develop fabulous new medicines, fabulous new
therapeutic techniques to take care of people,
we invent the whole cascade
of modern technology.
But the downside is that
we invent the whole cascade
of modern technology.
Arguably we are the most intellectual
creature that ever walked on planet earth.
So how come then that so intellectual being
is destroying its only home,
because we only have the one home.
Maybe one day people will be on Mars, but
at the moment we've got planet earth.
We are destroying, we are polluting, we are
damaging the future of our own species
which is very counterproductive
from the evolutionary perspective.
This capacity that seems
so wonderful to us,
ability to ask 'why'
the very ability that
defines modern science
as a double-edge sword.
If humans go extinct on this planet
I think what's gonna be our
epitaph on our gravestone is:
We have the ability to
think into the future
but most of our mechanisms,
most of our brain mechanisms
evolved before we had any ability
to think forward to the future
and when it made some sense for
decisions to be short-term.
A lot of our brain mechanisms, what I call
ancestral mechanisms or reflexive mechanisms
are tuned to making snap decisions,
right away, like fight or flight
you see a lion, either you're
gonna fight or you gonna run
no time to think about
long-term consequences
and that's good when we're stressed about something
immediate that we can deal with, for example
but those very systems that work by reflex
are not so good at cooperating with these
more modern systems, deliberative systems
that allow us to make
long-term decisions, and say
is this good for me, is it good
for my society, for my planet.
Between the fall of the Roman empire
and Columbus sailing it took 13 centuries
to add 200 million people
to the worlds population
now it takes only 3 years.
A simple thing like pasteurization, the warming
of milk so that the bacteria are killed
and the control of smallpox.
Things like that have led to a
great boom in human numbers.
Overpopulation, which no one
really wants talk about
because it cuts that things like religious believes and the
freedom of individual and autonomy of family and so on
is something that we
will have to deal with.
We probably have to work towards a much smaller
worldwide population then 6 or 7 billion.
We probably need to go down to a half
of that or possibly even third of that
if everybody is going to live
comfortably and decently.
The other side of this problem
and perhaps the more dangerous side is
the footprint of the individuals
at the top of the social pyramids
who are consuming the most.
Somebody in the U.S. or Europe is
consuming about 50 times more resources
then a person in a place like Bangladesh.
If China is going to reach
the level of consumption
of the U.S. or Europe it's very unlikely that the world could
support the addition of billion consumers at that level
I'd say in China, maybe 200, 300
million people are affluent
they could afford a lot, all
that we can in the west
in India ca. 200 million, so you add up
this affluent segments of population
in these developing countries
but still what you come up with is no more
then one and half, maybe two billion people.
So there is still five billion people
waiting to tap into these bonanzas
of plentiful food, cars, decent housing,
right education for their children.
So the potential demand
for resources is immense.
For thousands of years, you know,
China has the longest continuous
civilization in the world.
And it is only in the recent period of time
when the European countries
started to industrialize
that China started to lag
behind and therefore, you know,
between the First Opium War in
around 1840 all the way to 1978
China went through a roller coaster of great
humiliation, wars, aggression of foreign nations
Japanese aggression against China, Civil War, collapse of
Qing Dynasty, great cultural revolution, chaos in China
that's when Deng Xiaoping reemerged in 1978
he basically pointed out
the only correct path.
We need to go out to the path of growth
and China needs to
modernize and insutrialize.
Some people have written about, ehm,
natural capital, the capital
that nature provides
which is the clean air and clean water
the uncut forest, the rich farmland and
the minerals, the oil, the metals,
all these things are the capital
the nature has provided
and until about 1980 human
civilization was able to live on
what we might term interest of that capital
or surplus that nature was able to produce
the fruit that farmland can grow without
actually degrading the farmland
or the number of fish you can put out of sea
without causing the fish stocks to crash
but since 1980 we've been
using more than the interest
so we are in effect somebody who thinks he's rich cause he
is spending the money that has been left in his inheritance
not spending the interest
but eating into the capital.
The last time I visited the
New York Stock Exchange
was in 1980 and the mood
sure was different than.
Government with its high taxes,
excessive spending and over regulation
had thrown a wrench in the
works of our free markets.
With tax reform and budget control our economy
will be free to expand to its full potential
driving the bears back
into permanent hibernation.
That's our economic programme for next four
years, we're going to turn the ball loose.
The world is this big.
It's not this big and it can't be this big.
It's just this big, it's a finite sub.
Instead of thinking that nature is
this huge bank that we can just....
this endless credit card that
we can just keep drawing on.
We have to think about the
finite nature of the planet
and how you keep it alive, so
that we too may remain alive.
And less we conserve the planet there
isn't going to be any "the economy".
The ice-age-hunter is still us, it's in us.
Those ancient hunters who thought
that there would always be
another herd of mammoth other the next hill
shared the optimism of a stock trader, that there's
always gonna be another big killing on the stock market
in a next week or two.
If you are watching the earth over
the last 5 or 6 thousands of years
and you're speeding up your film
what you see is civilization
breaking out like forest fires
in one pristine environment after another
and after a civilization has arisen as it
burnt out natural resources in that area
than it dies down and another
fire breaks out somewhere else.
And now of course we have one huge
civilization around the world
which we have to confront the possibility
that the entire experiment of civilization
is in itself a progress trap.
"When will the economy
turn around?" "yeah."
"I'm not an economist, but I do believe we are
growing and I can remember this press conference"
"saying about recession as
if you were economists."
"I'm an optimist, I believe there is a
lot of positive things for the economy."
Faith in progress has become
a kind of religious faith
a sort of fundamentalism rather,
like market fundamentalism
that have just recently crashed and burned.
The idea that you can let market leap
is a delusion just like
the idea that you could
let technology leap and it will solve
the problems created by itself
in a slightly earlier phase.
That has become a belief very
similar to religious delusions
that caused some societies to
crash and burn in the past.
A SHORT HISTORY OF DEB Written records go back
about four thousand years
and from 2000 BC to the time of Jesus it was
normal for all of the countries in the world
to periodically cancel the debts
when they became too large to pay
so you have Sumer, Babylonian,
Egypt, other regions
all proclaiming these debt cancellation and
the effect was to make a clean slate so
that society would begin all over again.
This was easy to do in a society when
most debts were owed to the state
it became much harder to do when enterprise
and credit pasted out of the hand of state
into the private hands, into
the hand of an oligarchy
and the last thing that they
wanted was to have a king
that would actually cancel the
debts and restore equality
Rome was the first country of the
world not to cancel the debts.
It went to war in Sparta, in Greece to
overthrow the governments and kings
that wanted to cancel the debts.
The wars of the first century BC ended up
stripping these countries of everything they had.
it's stripped the public buildings,
it's stripped the economies off
their reproductive capacity
it's stripped them of their works
it made a desert out of the land
and it said: "a debt is a debt".
The collapse seems to
have been closely linked
to ecological devastation which led to also
social and economic and military problems.
In the early stages of the
Roman Republic you had
a fairly egalitarian land owning system
the peasants had access to public land
but as the Roman state became more
powerful and the lords the generals
began to appropriate public land
for their own private states
more and more peasants became landless
at the same time corrosion was
serious problem, so bad that
some of the Roman ports stilled up with top soil that
have been washed down from fields into the river.
Archeologists have been able to establish how badly
degraded much of Italy was by the fall of Roman empire
and how it took a thousand years
of much reduced population
during the middle ages for
fertility in Italy to rebuild.
What was absolutely new in a Roman Empire was irreversible
concentration of wealth at the top of economic pyramid
and that what's progress
has met ever since.
Progress has ment: "you will never
get back what we take from you".
That's what brought on the dark age and
that's what threatens to bring dark age again
if society doesn't realise that if it lets the
wealth to concentrate in the hands of financial class
this class is not going to be any
more intelligent in long term
in disposing of the wealth then predecessors
were in Rome, and other countries.
Well, the term oligarchy,
sounds a little esoteric
it just means a small groups of people
that got a lot of political power
based on their economic power.
We like to think that the U.S. is much more democratic,
much more spread out, in terms of who has the power
and oligarchy is something usually
associated with relatively poor countries
but that view has to be updated, because
we've got an essential part of that problem
of that structure in the
United States today.
People who have all this economical power
were in financial sector, it was Wall Street.
Wall Street became really powerful, they use
that power to buy influence in Washington
get more deregulation, so to get more of
the play field shaped in a way they wanted
which is no government intervention,
no restrictions on what they wanna do.
That'd enable them to make a lot more money
which bought them more political power and
this went on for considerable period of time
until of course there
was an enormous crash.
But basically you come to us today on your bicycles after
buying girl-scout cookies and helping out Mother Teresa
telling us: "we are sorry", "we didn't mean
it", "we won't do it again", "trust us".
Well, I have some people at my constituancy
that actually robbed some of your banks
and they say the same thing! They're sorry, they didn't
mean it, they won't do it again, just let'em out.
Do you understand that this is a little difficult for most
of my constituants to take that you learned your lesson.
The bankers can't stop themselves.
It's in their DNA, in DNA of their organizations to take
massive risks, to pay themselves ridiculous salaries
and to collapse. And the more that reasonable, responsible
people at the center and the left and the right
see this, the closer we'll get to constrain the
power of these, out of control, factual oligarchs.
It's not a mystery, it's not a surprise, we
know we have crisis every 5 or 10 years.
My daughter called me from
school one day and said:
"Dad what's a finansial crisis",
I tried to be funny, I said:
"It's something that happens every
5 or 7 years", than she said:
"Why everybody is so suprised?", so
we aren't, we shouldn't be suprised
I read scroll on the wall somewhere, that
everytime history repeats
itself the price goes up.
If you look at the increasing
complexity of civilization
what you can see is that towards
the end of classic Maya period
it is the enormous amount of effort
put to build palaces and temples
that were controlled entirely by nobility and from
which, what I imagine, the peasantry was excluded
just as ordinary folks are excluded from
gated communities in many countries today
and one imagines also that
therefor the people at the bottom
were becoming more and more
disenchanted with the rulers
as they felt that the social
contract, that had once existed,
that the rulers were the mediators
between the gods and themselves
and would help them get good
weather, good crops and all that
as they saw that begining to break down
and their rulers in effect loosing touch
with the people who they claim to represent
it's the pattern I think we can
see a lot in the modern world now.
Every society in history for
the last 4 thousand years
has found that debts grow more
rapidly that people can pay
the problem is a small oligarchy of
10% of the population on the top
to whom all of these debts are owed to.
You want to annule the debts to the top
10%, thats what they're not going to do.
The oligarchy is running things.
They would rather annule the bottom 90% right to
live then to annule the money thats due to them
they would rather strip the planet and
shrink the population and be paid
rather then give up their claims.
That's the political
fight of the XXI century.
Our job on Wall St. was to balance the payments of
economies for Chase Manhattan Bank in the 1960's.
My first job there was to calculate how
much debt could third world countries pay
and the answer was, well,
how much do they earn,
and whatever they earn, that's what
they could afford to pay in interest
our objective was to take the entire
earnings of a third world country
and say, ideally, that would
be all paid as interest to us.
Look, don't give me a hard look
story, I hear them every day
and quite frankly they bore me.
The facts are simple: n 1973 this bank gave
you a loan and you still haven't paid it back.
Admittedly you paid back the
inital sum, but not the interest
which to date amounts to nine times
the amount origianaly borrowed.
Nine times
so you better get your act
together, times are tough,
and we all having to clamp down
and don't look at me like that,
this is a bank, not a charity.
The number 1 costs for foreign lending through
some of the multilateral associations.
IMF or World Bank is the
death tomb on the continent.
We can look at the support of the dictators
that took place thirty years ago
from 1960 till 1997, of a brutal dictator.
He was given humengous loans.
Everyone knew he wasn't using
that for the population
he was propped up as one of the biggest
leader in the whole african continent.
While your country is
young, only 10 years of age
that it is had a period of
progress in that period,
which has been an example for
nations throughout the world.
You have moved forward economicaly, you
have estabilished unity in your country
and you have a vitality, which impresses
every visitor when he comes to Congo.
What is interesitng is all the money
and plunder from all iternational debt
is found in western banks, so
as he was removed from power
the money never returned to the Congies.
The population didn't have
access to medical services
didn't have access to adequate
education, living wage and
calculating up to date, now
Congo has 14 bln dollar debt
structure and the weight where the people
do not benefit and human cost is so high.
In Congo we have 6 million
deaths since 1996.
Rich countries lend, so called, "developping
countries" a big wack of "money".
Debt is incurred on behalf of people who have nothing
to do with it and don't know anything about it.
Then they are expected to pay the price by scraping
off their livelihood turning it into money.
Giving it to somebody else...
Howcome the money given to
common benefit of the people
use some of the funds to make sure that there
are strongest against secesion in the country
protecting against human rights violation,
so many other issues that we face
but these funds are not used for
that because whatever is given
they tell you specifically what
project you have to use it for
and mainly is usually mining
projects to get access to resources.
You can relate to the destruction of the rainforest in
the story begins in 1982 whe countries
couldn't pay their debts any more
and the result is that Latin American coutries
generally stopped paying because they said
we're already paying all of the balance
of payments surplus we have to the banks
we don't have any money to import,
to sustain living standards
we don't have money to import, to
build new factories to pay the debt
so the IMF at that point said:
Don't go bankrupt! You have an option, you
can begin to sell off the public domain
you have plenty of assets to sell to pay us
you can sell off your water rights, your forests, your
subsoil mineral resources, you can sell us your oil rights
and so Brazil, Argentina and other countries began
to sell off their resources to private investors
and private investors bought
these resources on credit.
They're cutting down the rainforest,
they're emptying out the economy
they're turning it to a hole in the ground to repay
the bankers, that's the financial buisness plan
that's how it ends up because the
bankers goal is take their money
and begin digging holes in another
country and empyting out that country
that's the global financial system.
The economists say: f you clearcut the forest,
take the money, and put it in the bank
you can make 6 or 7%.
If you clearcut the forest, put it into
Malysia or smth you can make 30 or 40%.
So who cares whever you keep the forest,
cut it down, put the money somewhere else
when those forests are gone, put it in fish,
the fish are gone, put it in computers.
Money doesn't stand for anything and money
now grows faster then the real world.
Conventional economics is
a form of brain damage.
DAVID SUZUKI - GENETICIST/ACTIVIS Economics is so fundamentally
disconnected from the real world
it is destructive.
If you take an introductory
course in economics
the professor in the first lecture
will show a slide of the economy
and it looks very impressive, you know, raw material,
extraction processes, manufacture, wholesale, retails,
with arrows going back and forward
and they try to impress you because
they think that they know damn well.
Economics is not a science but they're trying to fool
us into thinking that it is a real science. It's not.
Economics is a set of values that they then try
to use mathematical equations and all that stuff
and pretend that it's a science.
But if you ask the economist in that
equation where do you put the ozone layer
where do you put the deep underground
aquafiers of fossil water
where do you put topsoil or
biodiversity, their answer is:
Oh, those are externalities.
Well, then you might as well be on Mars.
That economy is not based in
anything like a real world.
It's life that filters
water in hydrologic cycle
it's microrganisms in the soil that create
the soil that we can grow our food in
nature performs all kinds of services
insects fertilize all
of the flowering plants
these services are vital to
the health of the planet
economist call these externalities.
That's nuts!
Unlimited ecoomic progress in the world of
finite natural resources doesn't make sense.
It's a pattern that is bound to colapse
and we keep seeing it collapsing
but then build it up because there
are these strong vested interests
we must have buisness as usual
and you know, you got, the arms manufacturers,
the petroleum industry, pharmaceutical industry
and all of this feeding into helping
to create corrupt governemnents
who are putting the future
of their own people at risk.
You can imagine lilies growing in a pond.
Lilies grow very rapidly,
they double every day
they're going to cover the whole surface and there
won't be any way for the fish getting oxygen
and all the life is going
to die in the pond
that's how rapidly things can grow.
One day you are half full of lilies
and the next day you're dead.
You could say that today we're at the
point in which the lily pond is half full
the life is being snuffed out of national
economies and the debt goes on doubling
how long can it do it.
It has one day to go.
All the civilizations of the past and, I
think our own, only seem to be doing well
when they're expaning, when the population is
growing, when the industrial output is growing
and when the cities are spreading out.
Eventualy you reach the point at which
the population has overrun everything.
The cities have expanded over the farmland
the people at the bottom begin to starve and
the people at the top loose their legitimacy
and so you get hunger, you get revolution.
Now, one scary thing about
the moment we're in is that
for the first time there
is kind of only one system
so if the whole thing goes down, you won't have
what you've had in previous eras of epic collapse
which is that even if one civilization goes
down and it may take a while to recover
there are other robust civilizations
that can be guardians of progress.
In that sense some of the things that
have been reassuring in the past
about progress don't necesserily
apply to the current situation
'cause once you get to the global level
you've only got one experiment working.
That's just the inevitable combination
of its growth ever since the stone age
and there were waystations
like the Roman empire
and now here we are and more and
more people, we're in the same boat
and they face problems and either they will
solve them together or suffer together
possibly on a catastrophic scale.
We are entering an increasingly
dangerous period of our history
our genetic code still caries the selfish and agressive
intincts that were survival advantage in the past
but I'm an optimist.
STEPHEN HAWKING - THEORETICAL PHYSICIS If we are the only inteligent beings in the galaxy
we should make sure we survive and continue.
If we can avoid diseaster for the next
two centuries our species should be safe.
We have made remarkable progress
in the last hundred years.
Our only chance of going through survival
is not to remain on planet earth
but to spread out into space
I was at the conference a few
years back with George Lukas
and he came up and said
there is only two hopes for humanity.
Either we find another planet to
colonize after we've destroyed this one
or perhaps your technology, meaning what we are doing
with genetic code, might allow us to transform ourselves
or other aspects of the planet
where we can continue to live here.
We're here to celebrate the complition of
the first survey of the entire human genome
without a doubt this is the most important,
most wondrous map ever produced by human kind.
We are announcing today that the first time our species
can read the chemical letters of its genetic code.
For the last several years my team
has been sailing around the world
looking for all the species in the
ocean, the microspecies, on filters
and we isolate all the DNA,
all at once from all of them
I have a novel way of
looking at these genes
I've use them as the design
components of the future.
It's mind-bugging concept, even
though we're doing it everyday,
that we can simply start with four bottles
of chemicals, write the genetic code
and change the genetic code of species,
basically developing new species
and we can try and find ways to make fuels
that other people haven't even imagined
we can do this with novel source of food
we're limited only by our imagination
and whatever biological reality is
when we consider trying to replace oil,
we use bilions of gallons of oil a year
it's a, I can't even, i think I have pretty good
imagination, envision what a billion gallons of oil is
making a billion gallons of oil from invisible
microbs is a certain leap of faith
in fact that's how we proceed in science.
Instead of writing software for computers,
we can now write software for life.
By changing and taking over evolution,
changing the timecourse of evolution
and going into deliberate design
of species for our own survival
at least gives us some points of optimism
that we have a chance to control our destiny.
We're here today to announce
the first synthetic cell.
This is the first self-replicating species that
we've had on the planet whose parent is a computer.
One of the challanges that
faces the human species is
we're more and more in a
position of acting like gods
it has been true for a while because we have
the ability to change the climate for example
this is gonna be even more
true with genetic technologies
we're gonna be able to manipulate
other species ad eventualy ourselves.
We're gonna be in a position of
controling our own faith in a way that
no creature has ever, you know, in billion
years on the planet had an opportunity to do.
I once wrote a poem in
which a mad bishop said
"a man became god, became greater
than god, and the godhood of man"
I do not see anyone living in this materialistic
society as being anything like god
I don't know what god is,
but in my wildest dreams I would never
conceive of god or a god as being like
a modern human being in
a materialistic society.
We're anything but godlike, I think
the challenges are so
overwhelming to all of us
that we're all trying to use whatever new
tools we can to try and change the future.
Synthetic biology is a
progress trap par exellence.
Biologist have pointed out that whese
engineering aproach is all very well
and that engineers can try to treat life as it
was some kind of computer engineering substrate
but ultimately the microbes are
gonna end up loughing at them
the life doesn't work like that.
I think the problems that we're seeing
now whever we are talking about hunger,
massive inequity, when we're talking about
climate change or the loss of biodiversity
have been driven over the last 200 years
by a system of overproduction of stuff
and overconsuption of stuff
and that's being inflated and inflated and inflated to a
point where there really is not in any way reasonable
the companies and those of the
governements who supported that approach
are now saying that they will provide new
technologies to continue that consumption of stuff
that level of production.
It's just not realistic.
ExxonMobil and Synthetic Genomics
have built a new facility
to identify the most
productive species of algea.
How'd you imaigne amazing little criters make
crit oil which we could turn into biofuels.
They also absorb CO2. We are hoping to
suplemet fuels that we use in our vehicles
to some day help meet the
words energy demands.
What is harder mapping the entire
genome set that makes up a human being
or making algea produce energy?
Making algea produce energy is not hard but doing
it on a scale required to have a major economic
and environmental impact is
going to be a huge challenge
but have got partner in ExxonMobil to try
and get it to a scale that it needs to be
of billions gallons a year.
A lot of engineering is reqired for
facilities the size of San Francisco
I think that they are
serious and we're serious.
What we're seeing alongside the development of synthetic
biology is a massive corporate grab on plant life.
Literaly speaking that means a grab
on land and a grab on seas as well.
Where people have been moved out of land
to make way for the growing of plant life
that can be transformed into plastics,
chemicals, fuels and so forth
and what drives synthetic biology is not an
attempt to save the planet or help humanity
but an attempt to increase the bottom
line for certain very large corporations.
If we're gonna feed the
upcoming nine billion people
we can't afford to use our prime crop land for trying
to produce billions of gallons of fuel that we use.
What we're doing is writing the
genetic code, changing this species
allows us to use desert land mhm..
we just need sunlight and CO2
for using this new
engineered algea for example.
Synthetic biology in a way, you know, it's frightening
but I'm very sympathetic to this on many ways
that it will be nice to get a
more water efficient plants
but still it would still need water
Greg Venter cannot create a plant
which needs no water and no nitrogen
or it totaly fixes on nitrogen
by sucking it from the air
which is....., it cannot go that far.
This does not fundamentally
change the game.
What fundamentally changes the game
and what people don't want to hear
and I'm telling this all the time and people say: "don't
talk to us like that because it's just a no-starter"
but for me this is the only
starter: We have to use less.
The poor people need more. There is no
noubt, there is no discussion there.
If you are average villiger somewhere in Rajastan
or Panjab or Nigeria u need more. Period.
There's a basic human decency that commends
you to say: These people need more
more clean water, more basic food,
more education for their children
the discussion goes like before it begins
but as far as us is concerned we certainly
could and should use much, much, much less.
People have been conditioned that
things have to always go better
and immediately if you say: "limit something",
people think this is not getting better
but it would be.
It is even a no-starter when you say: You should
eat less, you should eat less meat, right?
Even that is a no-starter. You
should use less electricity, right?
You should build smaller cars. I saw the
vice-president of GM talking about new GM
and one of the journalists asks him: "but your cars are
still so heavy", and he says: "yes, we are working on it"
what is there to work on it?!? There
are so many things that we could do.
Not to surrender our stand of living,
not to live in gutter, right?
But we don't need one-and-a-half ton
car to go from red light to red light.
People are not willing to go back on these things.
Most of them simply aren't
because they've totally hijacked
by this material culture.
Let's not underestimate the persuasion,
the power of this material culture.
It's immense, it's just immense.
When I've seen so many people
being genuinly unhappy
that they cannot afford a 50 000 sq foot,
sorry, 50 000 dollar bathroom remodelling
I mean, there is something wrong
with that values set, right?
'Cause bathroom is a place where you just spend,
like, 10 minutes to take shower, brush your teeth
so it doesn't have to be very... but, you know, how
much money people are.... because I can't... yhm...
because we are thinking about redoing our bathroom, right, so..
in my mind... it's very interesting
for me it's a char because it has to be done, but for
many people it's a life-affirming thing, you know.
People are renting storage spaces, right?
that they will never access, right?
to store the junk which they cannot
store in their 5000 sq. foot homes
so do we need that? It's amazing!
eh.... it's, it's, it's.....
This is very difficult to put the geany in the bottle,
so everything is defined in this material thinking
I could make a lot more coherent but it's difficult because
if you make it more coherent you make it prescriptive
and prescriptions never work, really.
Because I don't have the solution
I can't say "we should follow this and then it
will click and we will live happily everafter"
so I'm making it deliberatly uncoherent. I could
be very doctrinate, I could be, but you see,
I lived for 26 years in communist society I'm
inoculated against any doctriner grand solution,
you know, "this is the path, this is the must,
this is the paradigm which we have to follow"
I'm just totally set agains it, so I'm
making deliberatly, kind of, you know,
messy, uncoordinated, because that's how life is.
We don't know what path will emerge.
As long as we are living on this sea of
afluents and opportunities and material riches.
It's just very difficult to make this individual,
voluntary resolutes that are saying "enough", "back"
I was walking around pointing my
finger at everybody, you know,
you people, you know, blaming
the culture for its consumption
finaly one day I came home and air-conditioners
were on even though there was no one at home
and I was like: Wait, I've been going around blaming
everybody else but the fact of the matter is
that my lifestyle requires a huge amount of
resources too, so how can I blame other people
and I realized that before I go around and try to change
other people maybe I should look at myself and change myself
keep my side of the street clean.
So I came up with this idea that I would live as environmentaly
as possible for a year and see how that affected us.
experiment, we did it.
We live in New York, in the
middle of the New York City
which made it unussual because most people can think of
environmental living as some kind of back to tha land thing
but of course, back to the land, is not the
right idea when it comes to saving our habitat
if all of us in New York were to go back to
the land we would very much destroy the land.
We're not biologicaly consumptive this
is not got to do with human nature.
Human nature is to do what everybody
else does, that's human nature
that we want... and it's wonderful, it's like: I
want to be with you, I want to be the same as you,
I want to love you and I want
you to love me, thats not bad.
So that's... that's also part of the problem.
I want to be the same as you and you consume
so I'm not going to be
the first not to consume.
But it also tells us that if we can move
from non-consumption to consumption,
we can also go from consumtion
back to non-consumption.
We need to begin by saying: We're
at the end of the failed experiment
and it is time to say good bye to it.
An economic experiment, it's a technological experiment
that's been going on for couple of hundred years
and it's not worked, it's brought
us to this point of crisis.
Then we can start sainly and inteligently say how can
we live within the real limits that our planet gives us
and create a safe operating
space for humanity.
Admitedly we've used are brains in ways that are
detrimental to the environment and the society
but brains are begining to get together
around the planet to find solutions to some
of the harm that we've inflicted.
You know, we humans are a problem solving species. We
always do pretty well with our back's to the wall.
It's easy now to see kind of a giant
social brain or planetary brain
'cause it's in a physical form of the internet, it looks so
much like a nervous system, you almost can't miss the analogy.
You might say that there always have been a lot of little social brains around the
planet getting bigger, starting to form little interconnections among themselves.
Now more than ever you could tell
that there is a unified social brain.
Even if the overall arc of history is toward an expended moral
horizon, more and more people acknowledging the humanity
more and more different kinds of people, there is always
the risk of backsliding and it can be catastrophic.
From a point of view of strict self-interest it
is imperative that we make further moral progress
that we get more and more people to
acknowledge the humanity of one another
or it will be bad for
pretty much all of them.
If we don't develop which you might
call a moral perspective of god
than we'll screw up the engineering part of playing god
because the actual engineering solutions depend on
seeing things from the point of view of other
people, insuring that their lives don't get too bad
because if they do it
will come back to harm us
so, you know, half of being god is just
have been handed to us and the question is
whether we'll master the other
half of being god, the moral half.
The bad news is the enlightment
is sometimes hard to come by
because of human nature in
some cases, because you know,
we've got these kinds of animal minds,
desgined for very different environment
facing novel problems, so enlightment part is going
to require some real education and reflection
and self-discipline and
may not come natural
I think what were up against
here is human nature,
we have to reform ourselves, remake ourselves in a way that
cuts against the grain of our, our inner animal nature,
and transcend that Ice Age hunter, that all of us are,
if you, if you strip off the thin layer of civilization.
We always have been the initiators of this experiment,
weve unleashed it but weve never really controlled it.
But now its more likely that were going to
come to grief because of environmental problems.
If we do, then that is really nature saying the experiment
of civilization is a failed evolutionary experiment,
that making apes smarter is a, is a dead end. So,
its up to us to prove nature wrong, in a sense,
to show that we can take control of our own destinies and behave in a wise
way that will ensure the continuation of the experiment of civilization