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A Bridgewalk to the Future

Aesop Institute founder thinks we need a Brooklyn Project, not a Manhattan one to solve what ails the planet.

By Mark Goldes

Inspired by the extraordinary film, Mindwalk, Bridgewalk is intended to provide constructive alternatives that offer hope of preventing the, thus far, little-publicized looming Global Warming apocalypse.

The Manhattan Project was the incubator for nuclear weapons – Bridgewalk is a path to what might be called The Brooklyn Project, the other side of the bridge. It is intended to open and accelerate new paths, as well as provide new perspectives, toward averting catastrophe and creating a more peaceful and prosperous planet.

The Manhattan Project was secret, centralized in a few locations, and run by the government. The Brooklyn Project is open, decentralized, world-wide, and encourages the support of private, innovative, entrepreneurial development.

Life on earth is threatened with extinction by a little known lurking disaster – the release of huge quantities of methane trapped in the Arctic tundra.

Twice before, 55 million and 251 million years ago, naturally occurring methane "burps" almost wiped out life on earth. Now, if humanity continues to emit carbon as a result of the burning of fossil fuels, we are in serious danger of triggering this irreversible event by the middle of the current century.

As John Atcheson has pointed out, a temperature rise of 11 degrees Fahrenheit, substantially less than the upper figure predicted by computer models from the burning of fossil fuels by 2100, could launch this runaway effect. The most recent information, from the widespread study coordinated by scientists at Oxford University, suggests this could occur by 2050. However, the reality is likely even worse, as the arctic regions are showing the greatest temperature increases from greenhouse gas emissions. Burning fossil fuels each year spews into the atmosphere the equivalent of almost 17,000 volcanoes the size of the presently active one in Hawaii. This time bomb becomes more likely to explode with every passing year.

It is far more of a problem than melting arctic ice, the predicted flooding of major cities such as New York, London, Tokyo, Miami, and Singapore, and the increase in destructive hurricanes.

The urgent need is a rapid changeover to widespread use of new sources of energy that eliminate the need for fossil (or uranium) fuels. That goal is now in sight. Several firms, including our own, Magnetic Power Inc., are pioneering new science that promises to yield cost-effective, mass-produced, alternatives in the immediate future.

Aikido is about leverage. Aikido is the most subtle of the martial arts. It turns the energy of an opponent in such a way that small efforts encourage enormous effects. When the Greek mathematician Archimedes first defined the principle of leverage 23 centuries ago, he said, "Give me a place to stand, and I will move the Earth." Aikido is an attitude that can leverage social, economic and political movement. The Brooklyn Project will enlist concerned allies and apply the principle of Aikido to catalyze the urgently needed changes.

Ironically, this new threat may serve to gradually cause terrorism to subside. It is a classic axiom of political science that a people will unite against an external enemy. Since everyone on earth is threatened by continuing to burn fossil fuels, it is conceivable that the people of this shrinking planet will begin to find common ground in a manner previously thought to be unimaginable.

If we define toil as work not freely chosen, no matter how seemingly simple, all work we choose, no matter how difficult, falls under the psychological category of play. Another goal of Bridgewalk is to encourage efforts to reduce the time people spend -- at work they have not chosen -- to twenty hours each week. The money earned during the remaining half of the nominal forty hour week will need to be replaced with diversified investment income, ideally derived from firms that hold to a high ethical standard.

We can think of a twenty hour week as five four hour days. Alternatively, as a thought experiment, examine the possibility of two ten hour days – with five days each week to employ and enjoy as we wish. Some of the positive implications are obvious. One small example would be a dramatic reduction in commute traffic.

Many, if not most, people are trapped by mortgage payments, car payments, etc., etc., in jobs they do not love. There is a simple test: Would they continue to do the same work without pay?

Only a few fortunate individuals have the freedom to learn who they are, and more important, who they might become, given the time for both spiritual reflection and inner growth, as well as genuine opportunities to prosper and contribute to the greater material good of mankind; not just in a narrow financial sense. Such truly free citizens would also help to insure an ongoing, enlightened, political discourse, not easily manipulated.

Robert Edmonds, the late economist, argued that excess wealth concentration is the root cause of inflation and recession, thus broadening the ownership of wealth may not simply be an ethical concern, but an economic necessity. He designed incentives that could create what he termed "overfull" employment, without inflation, accompanied by expanded ownership opportunities and substantial second incomes. As a consequence the toil component of the work week would gradually diminish.

This American-led accelerated evolution would initiate the most genuinely free society in human history.

A dashboard style scorecard might be developed to provide a daily, widely diffused, set of indicators to monitor worldwide progress toward Project goals, such as the daily progress toward reduction in the use of fossil fuels. The intention is to make this scorecard as commonplace as the reporting of stock exchange averages.

Following a film or television or internet video introduction, four quarterly annual celebrations, at the solstices and equinoxes, could be encouraged on television and the internet. Each of these quarterly events will have maximum impact if it launches a television/internet series. These are intended to publicize the work, with a very personal, emotional, touch, well laced with humor. For example, one series might be called: Improbable Innovations Incorporated. It would chronicle the human stories of those, such as Nikola Tesla, whose work produces profound, constructive, change.

The combination, of celebrations and follow-on programs, constitutes an informal curriculum - in the free university that the planet has become. The objective is widespread understanding of the process of learning how to learn, and the distinction between wisdom and mere knowledge. In this way it should prove possible to accelerate the changeover to non-fossil fuels, encourage charity and justice, and help to heal the many wounds that threaten the world. The discussion of these possibilities by a handful of individuals, during their bridge walk from Manhattan to Brooklyn, can constitute the heart of a film, or series of television or internet videos.

Mark Goldes is Chairman & CEO of Magnetic Power Inc. and its subsidiary, Room Temperature Superconductors Inc., in Sebastopol, California. Earlier, he founded SunWind Ltd., a renewable energy firm, and began the non-profit Aesop Institute. He previously was CEO of an economic consulting firm. Once a student of Electrical Engineering, he earned BA and MA degrees at San Francisco State University, and then served two years on active duty with the USAF, culminating as a Senior Director of the Berlin Corridor control radar in Germany. Afterwards, from 1956 thru 1958, he was a Fellow in the Graduate Program in the History of Ideas, at Brandeis University. In 1960, he founded Emerson College of the Monterey Peninsula, and later initiated the free university movement, which spread to 600 locations worldwide.

Times Article Viewed: 6071
Published: 23-May-2006


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