After more than two decades of growth and success, Fort Collins based New Belgium Brewing became 100% employee owned three years ago, with the employee stock ownership plan buying out the 59% of the company previously held by its founders. Today it sounds like they might be putting themselves on the auction block. With around 500 employees, and a potential valuation of a billion dollars, it’s not too hard to understand the temptation. That’s $2 million worth of company value per employee.
ZunguZungu’s account of the Occupy Oakland Port Action. I really wonder how far this all will go. It’s amazing how the informational connections we’ve created in the world are playing out. How quickly things echo and get re-interpreted by new minds. The derivative is still positive, so far as I can tell.
A team at the Swiss equivalent of MIT has revealed a dense knot of power and ownership interconnections within a particular subset of the world’s transnational corporations. It will come as no surprise that these companies are overwhelming financial firms… but this is the first time that anyone has really been able to lay out the structure of this network of power that runs the world in detail, accounting for all of the subsidiary ownerships and mutual shareholding. Tyler Durden would be inspired. The research paper will be published in PLoS One here Real Soon Now.
All indications are that our grandkids won’t be big fans of sashimi, as it will either be too expensive for them, or virtually non-existent, because we have driven the large fish species to (or near) extinction. We’ve been making fish smaller, and less plentiful for millennia. This is no huge surprise. We ate all the tasty North American megafauna when we got here too. We were hungry, and we didn’t know any better. The world and its resources seemed vast beyond our comprehension.
The situation today is tragic partly because we know exactly what we’re doing, and partly because we could be sustainably harvesting vastly more fish today than we are currently mining at an unsustainable rate, if only we could somehow contrive to let fish stocks rebound to their Pleistocene levels. At those very high (pre-human) stocking rates, the sustainable take would be enormous, but we would have to manage the harvest carefully with quotas (which we didn’t do the first time around, and which we are much better equipped to do now). Such quotas are sometimes discussed as if they were purely economic or political quantities, but in some important ways they are neither.
Why are labels so attractive? One word shortcuts for frugal thinkers. Am I a freegan? What would that mean exactly? Who curates the definitions of our cultural -isms?
Reading through the Wikipedia article on Freeganism (which is as close to a cultural consensus on anything as I think we get these days), it seems like I’m close. Except that I’m not fundamentally opposed to eating meat (it’s the environmental degradation, antibiotics resistance, health detriments, and massive resource consumption involved in meat production that get to me… but a little free meat from the dumpster? Tasty!). I also have a soft spot for shiny new laptops and other information technologies, and I believe in the greed based toolkit of money, markets, and open competition as a way to foster innovation. But I also love composting, and creative re-use, and free non-materialist forms of entertainment and recreation like reading, and writing, and cooking from scratch, and I believe that unmitigated greed, and thus so-called laissez-faire (or perhaps in many cases more accurately crony) capitalism, left unchecked, are in the end destructive forces. Greed and self-interest are kind of like dynamite: the right amount in the right place is a wonderful tool. Too much, or even small amounts in bad places, and you’ve got a mess. So how do I respond to an e-mail like this:
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Wal-Mart To Become Green Umpire – Wal-Mart arguably has more control over and insight into its supply chain than any other company on earth. The information they need in order to be able to force their suppliers to produce the goods as cheaply as humanly possible overlaps substantially with the information required to provide transparent information about the environmental impacts of those same products. Wal-Mart says they want to use this power for good… for telling, in condensed form, the sustainability back-story for their products. But will they tell the truth? Will it be transparent? Will it be verifiable? And even if it is… will their customers care? Might it change their customer base?
Howtoons – A series of comics which both tell stories, and inspire kids to build their own toys and tools. Wonderful hacker propaganda.
Where's the Real Bottleneck in Scientific Computing? – A story about a computer scientist talking to physicists who have hundreds of thousands of lines of code, and don't know what version control or unit testing is. Hmm. I guess I don't really know what unit testing is either.
Software Carpentry – A Python based tutorial for scientists and engineers who need to learn how to (actually) program. How could it have taken this long to appear?
Climate Wars – A Canadian radio show exploring some of the climate change scenarios which have been studied by the US Dept. of Defense in a personal, "War of the Worlds" kind of way. Be forewarned, this is apocalypse porn, and probably not productive unless you need to get yourself riled up. (tagged: politicsclimatesustainabilityfuturewar )
The Choice of Cities – I'm not convinced we really know why the humans are coming to the cities. Whether it's a pull, or a push. How the migrants feel about their lot. Is it, globally, the same as the push we had in this country a hundred years ago? Or was it a pull? What happened when the frontier closed, when all the land was spoken for, and the factories and mines and mills were opened for business.
And what will cities look like once everyone has arrived? If we actually reach that day, when the countryside is emptied, and the flow staunched, then how will cities develop going forward? What will their margins look like? Will the slums filled with newcomers vanish? What will they be replaced with? (tagged: technologieurbandesigneconomicshistorytechnologypoverty )
Bike Among the Ruins – Detroit is half abandoned. The houses are almost free. The streets are empty and the people are poor. It's also flat. Could a cyclone of bicycles wipe clean the slate, even within the sight of our beloved, bankrupted, and now employee owned husk of an industrial titan… GM? (tagged: bicycletransportationurbandesigneconomy )
The Revolution Will Not Be Digitized – Iran is one of the first places we get to see old school blood in the streets mixed with the new age of instantaneous, ubiquitous communication. We've tended to focus on the positive aspects, while briefly forgetting the potential powers of an electronic police state, which is to some degree what Iran has built. No massive army of eavesdroppers and informants is needed in such a regime. A few deep packet inspection boxes from Siemens sitting on the fiber backbone, and a few on the microwave towers from Nokia. Technology is largely neutral. (tagged: technologypoliticsinternetprivacygovernmenttwitterweb2.0iran )
How To Destroy Half the Planet for the Low, Low Price of 5% of Global GDP – Never mind the possibility of unforseen climatic consequences. Even if the pessimistic IPCC scenarios are right, and even if they "only" reduce global GDP by 5% over the next 100 years, that purely economic metric is not sufficient, because it turns out you can wipe 2.5 billion people and their nations off the face of the Earth, mainly in the tropics, and only reduce global GDP by 5%. Cold comfort, that. (tagged: climateeconomicsgdp )
Property Assessed Clean Energy Bonds – PACE bonds are a way of overcoming the capital intensivity of many energy efficiency retrofits which make sense in the mid to long-term, but not on the typical short term investors time horizon. They also allow homeowners who may move before their investment in efficiency has paid for itself to pass on the obligation to future owners, instead of losing the investment. They also shift the costs of doing energy efficiency from capital expenses to debt servicing, which is advantageous in many jurisdictions for tax purposes. Berkeley, CA and Boulder, CO pioneered them for municipalities, but they can also work in a commercial context. (tagged: energyefficiencysustainabilityfinancegreendebtinvestingbonds )
Power Struggle – A commentary on Steven Chu's position that we need major basic scientific and technological breakthroughs to successfully tackle our energy problems in the context of global warming. The hope is that in the short term, the vast array of incremental changes we have available is enough to get us started, and that by mid-century, the major breakthroughs will have been forthcoming. Ah, non-linear dynamics. (tagged: technologyscienceenergyclimatenon-linearsustainabilitypolicy )
The Great American Bubble Machine – An article from Rolling Stone, by Matt Taibbi, on the endless bubble building shenanigans that Goldman Sachs has engaged in over the years, and their supposed current machinations to engineer a bubble in the as-of-yet uncreated market for greenhouse gas emissions. Markets, I like. Markets run by some Great American Gangster Kingpin, not so much. Especially not this particular market. Remember: Nature doesn't do bailouts. (tagged: economicsfinancegoldmansachscapitalismclimatebailout )
Paul Romer: A Theory of History, with an Application – Paul Romer talks about two different kinds of informational goods: "technology" and "rules". The former being knowledge about how to re-arrange the material world to increase its value to humans, and the latter being constraints on the ways we interact with each other. His "new/endogenous growth" theory suggests that overwhelmingly, wealth creation throughout history has been due to these two kinds of goods, and that they are virtually infinite resources. What he does not explicitly admit in the talk though, is that much of our increased apparent wealth has come at the cost of virtual liquidation of material resources. Truly sustainable growth absolutely must close the materials loop somehow. Better sooner than later. The rest of his idea is wonderful: we need a system which enables rule set entrepreneurs, or we aren't going to get sufficient innovation in the field. He suggests myriad autonomous city states, and I agree emphatically. (tagged: economicsurbansocietynon-linearpoliticslongnow )
The Swimming Cities of Serenissima – Improvised and chaotic houseboats built from found bits, floating down the Mississippi (2006-2007), or the Hudson (2008), or sailing the Adriatic from Slovenia to Venice (2009). Like a tiny maritime Burning Man. Only a couple of boats today… What if it were an armada? (tagged: artboatperformancesailing )