I am proud to welcome today my friend from outer space, Tsish the extraterestrial, as a guest blogger. Here is what he wants to tell us today (note that Tsish is using a translator that sometimes produces sub-optimal results):
Thank you, Nannus, for the opportunity. I am just returning from a trip to another planet (let’s call it the M-Planet since the real name is not pronounceable for you people) that I also have to observe. What they are doing there is really interesting and I suppose it is relevant for you to learn about it.
As you might know, I am an interstellar observer and it is my duty to observe several planets with younger civilizations, including your own. On the M-Planet, they used to have problems very similar to yours here on the T-Planet (Earth. Ed.). However, they came up with an interesting solution: they built a time machine.
You will immediately ask two questions: how does this work and how does this help? Well, I don’t have the permission to tell you any details about their technology (that would be a forbidden intervention) but I am allowed to tell you what effects this had on their society and economy. In essence, they started using the time machine to do some trade with the people in their future.
This had a number of interesting effects:
- First of all, the future people bought every bit of fossil fuels (including mining rights and emission rights). They did this not in order to burn them but to prevent them from ever being burnt. Since they came from several generations, the total amount of money they where able to rise and to send was enough to buy nearly every single bit of fossil fuels. As a result, the price for it became so high that there where no applications of fossil fuels left that were economical. People just stopped burning the stuff. Greenhouse gas emissions dropped to very low values.
- As a result, the only energy options that remained available where renewable energy and nuclear energy. However, the future people did not want nuclear radioactive waste, so they bought the mining rights for all the nuclear fuel and then stopped mining it. For the nuclear waste that had already been produced, they sent money to store it very securely (sending it to another time was illegal, so they had to do it that way). So the only option that was left to produce energy was renewable energy. In a short time, these where expanded very much. This change was financed by credits given by future banks.
- Before they built the time machine, several raw materials where being used in an unsustainable way (that means: wasted, causing pollution at the same time). Since the future people also wanted some of the stuff, they bought part of it. For example, they bought a large part of the M-planet’s helium reserves. The result was that the price for these raw materials started rising until complete recycling of them became economical. Around that point, prices stabilized. Mining for these materials almost finished because the recycling now practiced reduced the demand for new stuff to a level where most mining operations became uneconomical.
- The future people also bought all of the remaining ecosystems that had not been destroyed yet and hired ranger troops (and scientists) to protect them. Operations like unsustainable logging and over”fishing” (they don’t have fish there but something analogous, so let’s call it fishing) came to an end.
- Of course, all of this money pouring in from the future caused the prices of many things to go up, so the result was a strong inflation. However, sustainable parts of the economy, based on renewable energy and recycled materials, thrived. Unsustainable parts of the economy, however, went out of business. In fact, the time machine had the effect that everything that was not sustainable became uneconomical (this turned out to be a basic law int the new economical theory describing an economy with time machines). To come back to the helium example, party balloons filled with the stuff where no longer economical and disappeared from the market (indeed, on every planet going through that stage you are in now, people all over the galaxy have party balloons They seem to be an invariant of cultural development, but I cannot go into the details of this interesting cultural phenomenon more deeply today).
- The future people bought a lot of agricultural land and made sure that sustainable methods where used exclusively.
- All in all, the economy of the M-planet stopped growing and is now more or less sustainable and hovering around a some more or less constant level.
Of course, initially this caused some massive social turmoils. A lot of people lost their jobs initially and the society had to be reorganized in many respects. However, they knew the alternative would have been to use the resources up completely and face an environmental disaster Eventually, their civilization would have collapsed and they would have ended up with a desert. Billions of people would have died.
Discussing this with my Terranian friend Nannus (who owns this blog and allowed my to blog here and share this information with you), we found out something astonishing and unexpected: believe it or not, you people actually have all the technologies necessary to build such a time machine! At the moment, this is at the thought experiment stage but it is possible to be implemented.
More exactly, you have all technologies necessary to build soothing that behaves like such a time machine. You can simulate it. Here is how it would work:
- You form a new organization (let us call it here the Time Machine Foundation or TMF for sake of simplicity). This might be a big planet-wide organization, but you could also have several smaller local organizations of this kind.
- You give it a constitution that instructs it to do everything necessary to protect the interests of future people (while making sure that people of the present retain at least a minimum of resources to live, let us call it their “fare share”).
- You give the TMF the right to issue bonds and to levy taxes.
- You force your central banks (by law) to buy bonds of the TMF in unlimited amounts if they cannot be sold on the financial markets. In essence, this means that the TMF can produce every amount of money necessary for its operation.
- You also allow them to finance or run sustainable businesses and that way raise some money (e.g. to produce renewable energy).
- The debts of the TMF (which would of course become enormous are then payed back by revenues from those businesses and in the first place by taking taxes over a long time (centuries), so that future generations would take a share in the costs. As a result, money would effectively be drawn from (or “sent by”) the future. Since this money would be used to act in the interest of future people, this would not constitute exploitation.
- The TMF might have the right to tax special things (like pollution) that are against the interest of future people. It would define itself what to tax.
- To send raw materials into the future they must simply be put into storage or be left in the ground. To send ecosystems into the future, they must be protected (which might require a large and well-equipped force of rangers as well as measures of education and money for those who previously made their living by destroying those ecosystems).
- The problem would be that we cannot know with absolute certainty what would be best for future people. Therefore, the TMF would have to run a large research institute to use the best available science to identify the measures that must be taken in the interest of future people, taking the interest of present people into account. They would have to give a scientific justification for everything they do and publish every detail of the decision process. This information would than be open for public scientific criticism and they would have to revise their decisions on a regular basis. They must be completely independent in the hiring of staff and in the research they do, only limited by the TMFs constitution (in a similar way to the independence of central banks or courts). In any case, the TMF would have to be totally independent of current politicians and lobbyists.
The TMF would pile up very large debts (the amount of debts it has defines how much money is flowing from the future). However, you should note that this means that there are two different types of public debts, one that is exploitative (because future people pay the bill but get nothing in return), and one that is not exploitative because future people get something in return for the money. The exploitative debts must be paid back by your generation (e.g. by taxing rich people). The non-exploitative debt might be allowed to become very large.
On the M-planet, the time machine-project received some resistance because people found it undemocratic. People argued that it gave future people a lot of power but was not under democratic control. However, they eventually came to the conclusion that the purpose of their constitutions was to regulate power (that is the main reason you have elections, checks and balances etc.) and that there was an unbalanced relationship of power between present and future people. Before the time machine was switched on, people of the present could do things that harmed the interests of future people and the people of the future had no chance to do anything against it. The result was a destructive, unsustainable economy very much like your own. So the introduction of the time machine meant the introduction of a mechanism to balance that relationship of power, adding a missing element to the political system. Therefore, they made the time-machine-mechanism a part of their constitutions. Putting the time machine under “democratic control” m on the other hand, would have meant to allow people of the present to intervene and switch it off, returning the society to its previous, unsustainable condition.
After the TMF is set up, expect it to quickly buy every remaining ecosystem, to buy all the fossil and nuclear fuel, to invest heavily in renewable energies and recycling and to buy a lot of the world’s raw materials and agricultural land. I leave it to you to imagine yourself what else they would do and what would happen.
This will definitely cause a lot of trouble initially and meet resistance, but the alternative is the collapse of your civilization (you don’t want to hear what happened on the Z-Planet. Things became really nasty there, but that is another story…).
The main thing you would have to overcome is the theory of your economists and politicians that economic growth can go on indefinitely and is the solution of all your problems Instead, growth is not the solution but the real problem. Unlimited growth is impossible, due to the laws of physics (firs and second laws of thermodynamics). The idea that it can go on forever is a destructive illusion (a dangerous kind of “as-if-bubble” in my terminology, see my previous blog entries published here).
It is your choice (at least I hope you still have a choice to take such an option . I am telling you this as an outside observer. I am not allowed to intervene directly. It is your choice.