Jonathan Brun

End of oil

The film Collapse outlines an inevitable doomsday scenario – no more oil. Oil is the cheapest source of energy we have ever known and when we run out, it will be very bad. While it does not sound great, the film makes no factual error and offers no meaningful solutions. Perhaps there are none: wind, ethanol, solar, biofuels – all too expensive, too small. We need very big solutions, very fast.

If you want more technical details, take a look at the book The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies, I warn you might lose some sleep. Of all the research out there, the only promising solution is new types of nuclear energy: Gen IV reactors and and notably Thorium reactors.

What the hell is a Thorium reactor you ask; the best way to read up on them is through this wired article, on this wikipedia thorium fuel cycle page and in this fast paced video below:

Another good resource: http://thoriumenergy.blogspot.com/

Published on April 27, 2010

Israeli occupation must end says Ehud Barak

Ehud Barak, Labour party defence minister, and former prime minister of Israel has publicly stated the occupation of Palestinian territories is not sustainable and must end. This adds to his previous claim that if Palestinians continue to be occupied without the right to vote, Israel will become an apartheid state, as Jimmy Carter clearly stated (and was crucified for in the US) (article).

Israel’s military occupation is dependant on US financial and military subsidies. Without US support, the system is not sustainable – let alone moral. Just as the US support of South African apartheid was the linchpin that eventually gave way, so too it will be with Israel. There is no question public opinion on Israel has moved dramatically in the last ten years.

Inside Israel, opinion has been polarized with more people at both extremes and more settlers than ever before and 10% of the population is part of the Hassidic Jewish community. It is hard to see how internal mouvements by Israelis will bring about change. Palestinian non-violence has the possibility to influence external influence which is likely to be the only thing that changes things.

Outside Israel, the major Jewish lobby, AIPAC, still claims to represent the jewish interest, but the reality is that university campuses are more and more agreed that the current situation of mass occupation is immoral and must stop. Before, you could not hold conferences on occupation and Palestinian oppression on campuses without inciting claims of antisemitism. Today, it is common practice for students to organize and demonstrate against the situation. The anti-apartheid week, started 6 years ago is growing steadily on university campuses around the world. Students don’t decide international politics, but once you lose the support of the young, it is only a matter of time before things change.

Published on April 20, 2010

Slacktivism and why I quit facebook

Two months ago I quit Facebook. Why? Primarily it took too much of my time and brought too little benefit. Whenever my mind wandered from the task at hand I would go to Facebook, peruse the news feed or look at some photos. Of course, a reasonable person would have been able to control himself, but I could not.

I considered quitting for some time, but had hesitated for fear of lost friends, missed business opportunities, and a reduced influence among my peers. The decision was tough, but I took the plunge. Two months out, I have little desire to go back. Since quitting, I now stay more in touch with people I care about. Personal emails, phone calls, postcards and visits have replaced photo albums, likes and comments. Am I in touch with less people? Yes. But the people I am in touch with I feel closer to. The problem with online communities is that you are online.

I still love the internet and everything it has to offer, but sites like Facebook and the online petition site Avaaz.org allow you to feel like you are doing something concrete, when all you are doing is posting comments and emails. This is the essence of slacktivism, the mix of slacking and activism – where you pose meaningless actions that take no sacrifice or effort, but feel good because you are supporting a worthy cause (i.e. cancer ristbands, save Darfur petitions, greenpeace blog post,…). As previously discussed, to revolt against something requires sacrifice, the less sacrifice, the less impact. Can emails and comments lead to something concrete, perhaps, but they are not very tangible to the people who need our help.

To make a difference, you need to see and talk to people in person, you need to mobilize and organize. Sitting in front of a computer, as I am doing now, accomplishes nothing but self aggrandisement. So, with this post, I commit myself to more citizen action and a greater contribution to the society around me – the offline one.

Now, my next online habit to kick is HackerNews, way too much time there as well.

P.S. Having hundreds of friends online does not mean anything, they are not really your friends and you cannot count on them in tough times, which is the definition of a friend if you ask me. This wired article describes how social networks break-down beyond a certain size. Studies demonstrate the human brain is limited to friendship with 150 people, beyond that we start to lose that sense of “connection” with the other person, in essence they are no long part of our community.

Published on April 16, 2010

<!–:en–>Comment se revolter avec Jacques-Alain Miller au Quai Branly<!–:–>

Last week, I went to a conference at the musée du Quai Branly featuring Jacques-Alain Miller on the theme “Comment se revolter?” (How to revolt?). His main thesis was that people revolt when their patience is pushed too far, when they have had enough. But beyond your patience, true revolt requires dedication of self against something exterior. Jacque-Alain goes on to claim that all revolts must start at the individual, not the group level. A conscious decision must be taken on the part of the self to change and sacrifice for a cause. Fundamentally, an agent of change must give something up to revolt and a true revolt requires you to be prepared for the ultimate sacrifice.

Of course you can revolt against an issue without living a completely ascetic life, but the question remains how much is enough? Many of my friends work for NGOs or other charitable organisations, but still live a very good life and consume many of the things that underly the very problem they are trying to combat. The stereotypical example is Al Gore’s energy bills and flights which completely contradict his message of sustainability.

My friends who complain that China is a polluter or that they abuse workers turn around and brag about their newly acquired 2 dollar t-shirt. Really? The problem is not so much the contradiction and confused message you send, it is that if you cannot even hold the line of your revolt, how can you incite others to follow? How pure can your fight be if you are contaminated with the very thing you wish to change.

If you want to truly revolt against an issue, the first thing you must do is become the change you want to see. Until then, your revolt is doomed to fail.

As the mahatma said, “We must become the change we want to see.” But before you change anything, you must change.

Published on April 12, 2010