Hard and Soft Constraints: Why Malthus is usually wrong but sometimes right

A free market economic system is efficient at meeting human desires with limited resources; although the equity or justice of the situation will depend on government policy, such the tax system. Limited resources are a 'hard' constraint – we can't use what doesn't exist. For environmental problems, however, the problems are much more severe, because nature cannot enforce the limitations that may be necessary. The constraints are 'soft' – we can violate them, but at high future cost. Nature can in a sense 'punish' the future inhabitants of the globe, but those who are punished are not necessarily the same as those that have made the violations. Humanity must therefore impose restrictions on its own behaviour, including legal or financial incentives such as taxes or caps, or face severe damage to nature.

Full article here: [lf6e24]

Ends and Motivation

I've been thinking about various bits of folk wisdom about how to motivate other people to understand and act regarding climate change.

One such piece of wisdom is the following [Antoine de Saint-Exupery, 'The Wisdom of the Sands", University of Chicago Press, June 1984]
"If you want to build a ship, don't drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead teach them to yearn for the vast and open sea."
So, desire must come first in these things, it seems.

After desire, we then see things in terms of Goals and Objectives. I found the following information useful [ny95bl]
  • A goal is a broad statement of what the program hopes to accomplish. (e.g. "To motivate food stamp participants to eat foods that are consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Food Guide Pyramid".)
  • An objective is a specific, measurable condition that must be attained in order to accomplish a particular program goal. There are many different ways to specify objectives; the program and evaluator should choose the method that works best for each situation. (e.g. "50% of learners will be able to report making knowledgeable decisions about food purchases after completion of the eight week course.")
Another interesting quote is the following:
"Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime".

(According to Wikiquote [awcblc] this has origin unknown.)

* * *

When discussing motivations it's good to note that some or all of our motivations seem to have some relation to our biological functions and/or goals.

Aristotle's ethical thought [2gyf85] attempts to find the good to which activities aim:
Every art and every inquiry, and similarly every action and pursuit, is thought to aim at some good; and for this reason the good has rightly been declared to be that at which all things aim. But a certain difference is found among ends; some are activities, others are products apart from the activities that produce them. Where there are ends apart from the actions, it is the nature of the products to be better than the activities. Now, as there are many actions, arts, and sciences, their ends also are many; the end of the medical art is health, that of shipbuilding a vessel, that of strategy victory, that of economics wealth. But where such arts fall under a single capacity- as bridle-making and the other arts concerned with the equipment of horses fall under the art of riding, and this and every military action under strategy, in the same way other arts fall under yet others- in all of these the ends of the master arts are to be preferred to all the subordinate ends; for it is for the sake of the former that the latter are pursued. It makes no difference whether the activities themselves are the ends of the actions, or something else apart from the activities, as in the case of the sciences just mentioned.

He does so "by ascertaining the specific function of man" [nobpxj], and in particular that which makes us specifically human, the rational part.

Certainly we can ascertain a lot by assessing function and biological function; but that is the end to man qua piece of life, rather than the end to man qua man. It seems that the end to man qua man is subordinated in evolution and in the sense of Aristotle to the end of man qua lifeform and the end of man qua life form to the ends of our genes. However, for Aristotle it is not our overall ends that matter, but rather the ends of the specific features that make us human.

Aristotle argues that all reality can be classified metaphysically, with distinctions being made when there are differences. So if we can define man, this way; by his distinctions from other animals then we can deduce certain things from this definition. If 'man' can be defined like 'can opener' there's a chance that just like a can opener has a good function, so can man. I'm not necessarily asserting this mode of argument, merely exploring it.

Deciding Upon Change

I've just come across the Beckhard-Harris change model
For change of an organization to take place, the following must be true:

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance to Change

It strikes me that this may be relevant to climate change. Resistance to change in the may be high (depending on the steps and vision proposed); furthermore, dissatisfaction, vision and first steps may be lacking.

In the case of climate change, a further aspect is possibly lacking. In organization theory, the existence of an organization capable of choosing is usually not in doubt. In the case of climate change, on the other hand, it is not clear that we have the global organization to tackle this problem. So I propose the following adjustment to the model for cases where the existence and/or functioning (which may amount to the same thing) of an organization is in doubt:

'Agency' x Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance to Change

'Agency' here is an a quantifying noun, meant in the philosophical sense as the 'capacity to make choices'.

Communicating Effectively

I'm always searching for ways to communicate more effectively, especially in the written form, so I asked 4CMR's communications officer. Here are her five tips:
  • Each sentence should have less than fifteen words!
  • Each paragraph should have only one idea - smaller is better!
  • Use the Active not the Passive!
  • Who? why? what? when? & how?
  • Cut out any word that is not necessary!