Bleak Prospects for Democracy
In a few days the U.S. has mid-term elections. The prospects are rather disappointing. It seems to me that we could save on the order of $4 billion if the corporations just picked who they want to represent them rather than going through the shams of elections by the people.
Very few of the population will actually vote and those that do will vote based on the propaganda they received that was funded by the corporations who support who they think will support their interests rather than the interests of the country. In effect, the corporations buy the votes of the Congress. Corporations are only interested in their financial bottom-line in the coming few years. They have little to no interest in the long-term sustainable future of the U.S. Their only concern for the people is that they buy their products.
The side effect of corporations buying the votes of Congressmen is that most of the good, knowledgeable citizens do not want to run for office so we get the less knowledgeable and greediest to run. This creates a downward spiral in the ability of Congress to conduct the necessary business for the long-term success of the country as more and more of these types of individuals are elected. In effect we have built a house of cards which will someday collapse.
There is another more subtle way that they control the results of the elections. While the parties send propaganda to the people in their party, nothing is sent to the independents. I think we have an election on 4 Nov. but few around where I live could prove it. No information reminding people of this fact has been sent out so far (2 Nov.). No information informing the people of the election sites or hours has been sent out. No information of what/who is on the ballot has been sent out. I was hoping that the local Sunday paper would have this information, but it has nothing. This is all probably part of the strategy to keep the independents from voting.
Big Changes Coming
While I am always looking for different subjects to photograph, I still keep my eyes looking upward whenever a storm is approaching. I find that the rolling, boiling clouds have a lot of embedded “character” and that they remind me to worry about the future. And I’m not thinking about climate change, at least not solely. I am worrying about how society will adjust to future changes. In the past we have adapted to change, but will we be able to adapt to a series of major shocks to our economy if they occur more rapidly and at the same time?
I am thinking about the rate of change, the future, and how we will adjust. Just like storm clouds, other things can happen quickly. We have “sort-of” gotten use to technology changing. It took years to adjust to changes in transportation technology as we went from the horse and buggy days, to canals, to railroads, to automobiles & trucks, and to airplanes. Each time the technology advanced it caused many people to lose their livelihoods. As long as it was slow enough and society had time to adjust, the fact that many people lost their jobs was acceptable to society at large. One of the major reasons for this was that the Government picked up the slack with social security and medical care for the older ones and with job training, public education, etc. for the younger ones. As long as real growth was occurring in the economy we could afford taxes for providing aid to help bridge across the impacts of technological changes upon the generations as we adapted. But I doubt that to be true in the future.
One problem is that the global economies have expanded through the creation of debt … not through substantial growth. One of these days the people around the globe will “wake-up” and realize that we can’t afford to support both people and debt repayments at the same time. The Japanese have chosen to attempt to slowly make the adjustment by devaluing the yen. That may be a slow enough process to allow for the people to adjust, but maybe not. I expect that other countries, and probably also Japan, will default on their debts. This will shock the economies on a global basis.
One associated problem is that governments and people in general, plan based on future rates of change being similar to past and/or being linear. That enables them to believe that they can handle the changes. What if that isn’t true? First off, technology does not tend to change linearly. It changes exponentially. This decreases the time that businesses survive and continue; thus people have to continuously look for new jobs and re-educate themselves, and that is a growing cost. It also requires a lot of capital to build new manufacturing facilities, etc. Where is the capital going to come from? What are we going to do with all the past manufacturing centers like Detroit and others? Continuing to abandon the old and build new cannot continue indefinitely.
Another problem is the continuing cost to find and extract natural resources since we have already “picked the low hanging fruit.” Utility and natural resource costs will be climbing. And don’t forget that the costs for food, education, and other factors are also increasing. The costs of many food products have climbed faster than incomes in the U.S. and in other countries around the globe; and we haven’t gotten to the ultimate costs associated with drought in California which did produce half of the U.S.’s production of vegetables, fruit, and nuts.
While all the above are happening, the climate is changing. It will be costly to adapt to the changes and it will be costly to rebuild every time a major storm damages our infrastructure. We still haven’t paid for, and recovered from the damage of Sandy. My worry is that the next major climate event may be the trigger to cause people to realize that there is no way that the future will look like the past. There will be no way for us to afford all of our needs and desires. What will we give up? Think about how it could impact you, not whether it will, because change will happen. Some will adapt, but not all.
The Time is Coming
The time is coming when we will have to live within our means. In addition, our means will be shrinking. I am using the pronoun “we” to mean all of us, especially in the U.S., including our government and corporations.
Our problem is a case of interacting, compounding concerns. Our debts have increased while productivity has slowed down. We have increased our debts and expectations based on assumptions that growth will continue and that we will be able to pay off the debts in the future. Unfortunately, growth cannot continue indefinitely within a closed system. We are approaching the limits in affordable natural resources such as oil and many mineral resources. We are reaching the limits in finding/exploiting resources around the globe. The best approach for the future is reuse of materials, increased conservation, greater efficiency, and sustainable living.
At the same time that we are reaching limits, we are facing increased demands and costs. For example … the wild fires out west. Fighting them is expensive and we are facing limits on our ability to fight them. At the same time we might be faced with increased costs of an unnecessary war in the mid-east. And don’t forget that we haven’t recovered from the financial devastation caused by Sandy in the north-east. What if we now have another major storm hit the country? What about the other costs coming caused by global climate change? Where will we find the funds and other resources to restore the areas destroyed? Going into greater debt based on future growth is unrealistic.
Our financial system is another factor. It is only as strong as we are confident, confident in our ability to pay off our debts through future growth. When that confidence erodes, interest rates will rise on borrowed funds and we won’t be able to afford to borrow. We might not even be able to pay-off past debts.
There have always been those who have preached on the corners that the world is coming to an end. Rightfully so, we didn’t pay them much attention; but I’m now thinking that the future definitely isn’t going to be like the past. I see no way that recent standards of living can be maintained, at least those dependent upon commercially acquired material goods.
The time is coming, has arrived, for major changes. I am sorry if you don’t see it, don’t understand it, or don’t believe it; but, I am not a street corner prophet. I try not to be an alarmist. I am confident that when we take all the factors into consideration that my beliefs are rational and warranted. It is time to change our perspective about the future and make changes.
Something to Contemplate
Contemplating the future is sort of like wondering what is happening across the ocean or over the horizon, but we have information and history that we can use to develop reasonable expectations.
Take a look at the following chart of the DOW averages plotted on a linear axis.
The blue columns are the monthly average values for the Dow Jones Industrial Average (y axis) plotted from 1990 until August of this year (x axis). The upper and lower red lines represent the extremes of the most recent major fluctuations. Have you considered that our financial system might be a dynamic unstable system and that if it follows recent history that we might be looking at a 50% drop in the value of the Dow in the not too distant future as indicated by the wide blue line?
Also note that the axis starts at zero and that the current values since the late 1990s are not in line with expectations based on the older, previous history which was relatively flat. Most sellers of stock like to show you a plot with an exponential axis since that makes you think that things are better than they really are and it tends to smooth out the recent fluctuations. Plotting it on a linear axis also shows you how vulnerable you are to totally losing all your investments within a 10 year period … depending upon when you buy and need to sell.
Are you prepared for it? You should be. I was reading a report from a market analyst the other day and he came to the same conclusion based on underlying fundamentals of today’s market. He predicted a 50% drop coming.
I could also come to a similar possibility based on different nonfinancial factors like climate change, global social unrest, depletion of resources, global population growth, cost of energy, etc. The only thing nobody can predict is when. It could be this year or many years away yet; but the longer the time until it happens will only increase the magnitude of the impact … something to contemplate.
The Past Distracts Us
This is an old farm-house along Grandview Road. I have meant to stop and take some pictures for a while now so I stopped the other day. The house sits back from the road a ways so I got out of my car and was going to see if I could walk closer, but when I got about 20 feet from my car it started to rain so I quickly took this single picture at a 230mm focal length before returning to my car. I’ll probably go back another time and get some more pictures, but maybe not.
I enjoy taking and viewing pictures of remnants of the past. When I first came to Hanover, PA I was enthralled with the opportunities to make pictures in the older parts of the town. I just loved the old architecture, etc.; but lately not as much. I believe that spending time making and viewing such pictures is just a distraction. It’s just something we do to avoid thinking about the future. When we view pictures like the above we have a tendency to romanticize the past rather than to learn from it and then apply what we learned to creating the future.
I would rather use my photography to help understand the future. I would rather make pictures which help us think about and create a future that is better than the past, but I haven’t figured out how to do that. It’s not yet possible to photograph what will be, so for the time being I’ll remain a frustrated photographer and occasionally use pictures of the past to engage your attention while I nudge you to think about the future.
Good Luck in the New Year
Someone once told me that if I didn’t have something good to say that I shouldn’t say anything; so, for now, I’m not going to tell you what I think about the state of the economy, the effectiveness of our politicians, the changing climate, the non-sustainable use of our resources, greed, lack of concern for future generations, etc. I’ll just say good luck and plan for changes … it’s not too late to adapt.
Future of (My) Cameras
I wish the above was an all-seeing eye that could look into the future, but it’s only a small shell we found in Ireland. For looking into the future I can only look at current trends in conjunction with the changes in the environment, and I include all aspects under the environmental umbrella. Those aspects include everything from political, to natural resources, to fiscal, to climate, etc. … including declining physical abilities as we age.
For cameras in general, I expect that we will see the size of sensors grow with the demise of very small sensors in P&S cameras. The cell phones will use the smallest sensors and replace most of the small P&S cameras. I expect to see larger sensors placed into smaller cameras, but I don’t see the size of cameras dropping much, if any more, due to ergonomics. The 1 inch to micro 4/3 sensors will be the new smallest size sensors in cameras with the APS size sensors taking over in the small to medium size cameras and eventually the so-called full frame sensors growing in number in the better equipped cameras. I also think that the low-priced entry-level DSLR cameras like the Nikon D3200 and the Canon Rebels will be displaced with smaller mirror-less cameras as prices of mirror-less cameras drop with volume sales.
The biggest change that I think we will be seeing will be the continuing computerization of cameras. They will become (now are) small computers with no moving mechanical parts other than lens components. The shutters, focus, and zoom mechanisms will be all-electric. The biggest change will be in the on-board processors. They will become more like general purpose computers in the sense that we will be choosing functions by acquiring software and loading it on our cameras. As the cameras have fewer mechanical parts we will update our cameras by updating the software in them. This could enable us to keep our cameras longer with less need to replace the camera, but we will have to wait and see how the manufacturers react to this possibility.
Another change that has been evolving is the shrinking of lenses. I originally switched from an APS DSLR to micro 4/3 cameras since in addition to the cameras being smaller and lighter, the lenses were a lot smaller and this resulted in smaller, lighter systems to carry around. Now the APS size sensor cameras are also getting slightly smaller and lighter lenses since the cameras are mirror-less and are using electric motors to control focusing and zooming and not the older mechanical systems.
My decision is to decide how, and when, I will react to the above. I have no doubts that my Pentax K-5 DSLR and its’ lens system is going to become the dinosaur of cameras. It will grow heavier, relatively speaking, as I get older and it is probably the last of the old style mechanical cameras that I will purchase; but, for now it does a good job. If you have read my blog for any time, you also know that I have had a desire to reduce the number of my cameras to one so that I can better learn and use it without having to remember and think about the differences in controls and settings, etc. At one time I thought that micro 4/3 cameras were the solution for me … until I had problems with the size, control layouts, etc. and I started to have doubts about the sensor size relative to future capabilities. All of this leads me to thinking about another solution … another camera.
I’m thinking about switching to Sony cameras. Given my beliefs about the computerization of the camera, I’m thinking that going with Sony might be the best technical and most economical direction. Besides, almost all the camera manufacturers are now using Sony sensors … from Olympus to Nikon to Leica. The Sony NEX-6 has an APS size sensor packaged in a camera about the same size as my previous micro 4/3 cameras and the ergonomics with the hand grip and controls looks like it might fit my needs better. Up to now Sony’s downfall with their cameras has been the size, quality, and quantity of available lenses. Recently they have rectified this problem and other third parties have started producing lenses in their E-mount, so I don’t think this will be a problem going forward.
My big problem is that no one near where I live carries the camera so I have to order one to see how it works in my hands. I will also have to wait until I see some reviews of the camera after it starts shipping, which probably won’t be until Nov. before I make up my mind. Hopefully I’ll have an answer by late Nov. since I have my order in for the Sony NEX-6 camera so I can try it.
My previous article described some of the changes I plan to make in the coming year relative to photography and my blog. This article describes some of the changes I see happening in a more general sense.
I still like to keep an eye on the future and think about how I see it evolving. I guess it is a carry-over from my pre-retirement days when I did it for a living. The hardest thing to do relative to future change isn’t to see it but to be able to forecast when it will happen, so I’m going to describe what I see happening sometime in the near future, or next five years.
While the world economy is poised for major changes as it tries to recover from a growth scenario based upon debt, I think that we will continue to kick the can down the road and stumble on with something close to a no-growth economy, really a low growth scenario, for a short while. But, it is highly unlikely that we will recover to a situation anywhere near like the past since the world, in general, is over extended and is relying upon a continuation of being able to exploit the earth’s resources in a non-sustainable way, and we are the worst of the lot. We will need to change our economic systems and way of life to function on a sustainable basis, and the longer we resist doing this the greater the change will be when it happens.
The earth is slowly warming up and this is affecting the climate. In general the biggest effect that we will experience in the near term is an increase in extreme events as the earth’s wind patterns, etc. react to this warm-up. We probably won’t recognize the temperature changes except in the record number of maximum highs, and lows to a lesser extent, depending on where you live. We will also experience a record number of unusual storms and unusually heavy rain falls and droughts. These changes will cause drastic local impacts on food production around the globe which will generate increases in the price of food on a global basis. We can also expect the recovery costs from major storm damages to increase which will be reflected in greater pressure on taxes, etc. to cover major humanitarian costs.
Natural Resources and Energy
This is the easiest area to foresee major changes. Ever since the industrial revolution we have used up the easiest accessible natural resources including major ones like water and oil, natural gas, etc. As we have to go deeper to extract water, oil, etc. it becomes more costly to extract them. In the case of water, it requires more energy to pump it from greater depths and this increases the cost of food and other products which require copious quantities of water. In the case of oil it is harder to extract from deeper depths, which are generally offshore, and this reduces the net amount of energy recovered. The same situation exists with natural gas. While there may be plenty available in shale, etc. it is much harder to extract which translates into a higher cost to extract and a net reduction in the level of net energy recovered per unit of energy used to extract it. In both cases, if any problems develop, which they do because of the enormous difficulties in extracting them, the environmental impacts and costs also become higher and higher.
I’m only going to mention this since it seems to be the major topic with the press now-a-days. It makes no difference which Republican candidate wins the primary nor makes any difference whether a Republican wins the next Presidential election. The reason for this is that the Congress will continue to vote to maximize the short-term profits of industry and that is not in the best interest of the future of the United States with the coming changes noted above. The reasons that they do this are based on near-term greed … for their own income, for the near-term profits to the corporation stakeholders, and for the perceived benefits by the voters who are as greedy as the rest. People only want change when it affects others and not them. They only think about the near term and don’t worry, or seemingly care, what happens to others.
We will stumble on and not think about the long-term impact on our families and country … until it impacts our personal, and the majority of other people’s, situation in a big way. It will probably take a major impact like extremely high costs for food and energy or major recovery costs from some major storm, or storms, that impact the Government’s ability to pay the cost, and thus their taxes, before they demand that major changes be made that are designed to correct the true situation of living beyond our means in a global sense. To put it in other terms, we will be like the frog in the pot of water that is getting hotter and hotter until it is too late. We will not jump out of the pot of water as it warms, and it will be too late for many when it starts to boil.
Dreaming About 2012
Early morning moon on 17 Dec, 2011
I don’t usually set myself goals for the coming year, but I do like to lay out the general direction that I hope to pursue in the year, so in this article, I thought I would write about some of my current thoughts relative to this blog.
Since photography is just a hobby with me, I don’t need to achieve anything in particular, but I would like to spend more time learning to achieve better results while having fun. In accordance with that desire, I hope to spend less time lusting after new cameras and lenses. This will free up some of the time that I have spent cruising the web and reading all the reviews on the newest and greatest; but, I have to admit that it will not be easy since I tend to be a “gear addict”, especially in the months when the weather is dark, dreary, and cold.
If I spend less time reading on the web, I need to come up with other, more creative ways to fill that time. I started spending a lot of time reading on the computer these past two years when I had trouble walking and was recovering from several surgeries. I just couldn’t get out and about as much as I desired. This year I’m hoping to get out and about more to take pictures. This may be my biggest challenge but yet it is the thing I most want to do.
One thing that I finally grasped this past year (it took the metaphoric two-by-four to the side of the head to make me finally understand it … thank you Charlie) is that my current cameras are far more capable than I, and I need to spend more time on developing my skills in using them. The only reason for me to replace what I have at this point might be to trade in my two cameras to achieve a single light & small, but good system that is easy to carry. In my case, the greatest gains in picture quality should occur with practice and improved skills and this would be easier with one system to master.
My interests in photography arose from the desire to record my travels. Since I was usually traveling with a small group, I had to work on getting adequate pictures under the constraints of traveling with a group. Since I have no plans for similar travel this year, at least not yet, I will have more time to hone other skills and experiment. To that end, I plan to be far more deliberate about the pictures that I take. While traveling I often took a picture thinking that I would really look at the scene later on my computer. I now hope to slow down and spend more time improving my vision as well as making the picture. I also hope to try different types and styles of pictures and work on developing them.
One thing that I would like to explore is simplifying my photography, including the images that I make. I have tended to primarily take landscape pictures, and while that might not change, I would like to try reducing the scope of the images down to simple things. While I won’t go so far as to focus on what other’s call “Art Photography”, I might try to find a compromise and record images that are all around us but in a way that others haven’t viewed them. If I am successful, this style might open up opportunities for me while I’m doing less traveling.
Another thing that I would like to do is find other local photography hobbyists in this area so that I can discuss photography, share ideas and knowledge, ask questions, and go on photo walks with a few of them around this area.
Along with the above changes, if all goes as I hope, you will also see different types of articles in this blog. While you will see less on foreign travel, gear, etc., you should see more about the local area around Hanover, PA, and more about my challenges as I try different things. This may mean fewer photography articles, at least at first during this winter, so I might also go back to my original plans for this blog and write some more about other changes as I see them.
Unknown at this point is whether this is only a vision, whim, or fantasy … or is achievable.
Changes to Survive the Future
Need to replace these gas guzzlers with people walking: Annapolis, MD
I believe that our global economic problems are the result of over consumption, over exploitation of natural resources, and over population which have led, or are leading to, food & water shortages, increased extremes in wild and destructive weather, and our inability to economically react to the consequences due to rising costs and debts. You can read some of my previous thoughts about the basic problem here.
I don’t think that the current administration, nor any of the positions put forth by the Republicans, will solve our current and growing economic ills resulting from the above. I don’t expect to see any recognition of our basic problems, let alone any solutions, coming forth from a U. S. political system that is primarily financed by corporations who are driven only by greed and short term profits. Our economic system will not survive unless it recognizes that fundamental changes need to be made based on global sustainability.
Based on my belief that the Government isn’t going to change the system any time soon, I think that we as individuals need to start looking for ways to survive within an ever eroding system. Rising costs are unavoidable … until they don’t when the system collapses. Basically we need to consume and pollute less and move towards sustainable systems including our energy and transportation systems. We need to go back to living and working in local smaller towns with public transportation and shortened supply lines. We need to get back to relying upon our neighbors and our community for sharing and supporting each other. We need to drive less in more efficient automobiles. And we need to move towards a sustainable agricultural system and buy our food locally.
I don’t know what you are going to do, but I can tell you what I have done and am doing. One of the first things I did was sell my 4WD SUV and my 4WD pickup. I replaced them with two small efficient cars. That cut my gasoline costs in half. I then changed my habits and have been driving a lot less. My next step, vehicle wise, will be to sell one of them and make do with one vehicle, which won’t be hard based on where we are moving.
Another phase in my changes for surviving the coming rise in costs involves my pending move. I am moving to a small town in PA close to good agricultural land where lots of good food is grown locally by the Amish. I’m moving into a community which has common landscape and facility maintenance services, walking paths, swimming pool, exercise facilities, library, pharmacy, bank, restaurant, a wood working shop, personal care and nursing facilities, and transportation services to stores, doctors, etc. A place where I can walk to, or ride the van to, everything I need, a place with caring neighbors, and a place where at the push of a button a nurse will come immediately at any hour or day of the week … a place where I have peace-of-mind.
While getting ready for the move we have been going through everything we own and giving away what we won’t need in the future. We have reduced the number of possessions considerably, and don’t intend to ever replace them again. From now on we have to have a plan for what we are replacing and a disposal plan for everything we get. We are plum tuckered out with cleaning out, trying to find new owners, and hauling the remainder away.
For those who follow my blog because of the photography and travel pictures, please note that both will also be changing. Instead of traveling internationally this year we are going to Hawaii, and then planning most of our future travels within the U.S. closer to home. I plan to eventually reduce my four cameras down to two … and maybe just one. I will have more to say about my photography changes by next spring.