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Time, elites, and a future to be written.

I want to contextualise this paper from the removed perspective of outer space, that of an observer detached from the gravitational bounds of our planet who can see this blue and green spheroid object whole and complete. I want to give this observer the ability to know all, past, present, and future circumstances of this planet, in which life, as if by chance, miraculously manifested itself. This observer is omnipresent and has notions of all and any possible event that has, is, and will take place on the face of the earth. This observer is not bound by scales of time. Via this all aware observer we can, much like computer models but with infinitely more freedom, plot scenarios of the world into future times, not stopping short at that of our great-grandchildren, but rather view and assimilate to scales that are in the order of geological time, a scale that goes beyond what humans innately psychologically contextualize. We live by a measure of time that is perceived by the length of our lives (Bergson, 1910), which if given thought, is an insignificantly faint flash. It is naive to think that it is reasonable to understand and justify our activities and their consequences into a future we innately do not comprehend. We are not invested in a long term scenario beyond our own life, perhaps because there is nothing really in it for us to lose or to gain.  Nevertheless, the future is increasingly being influenced by our actions.

Concerned with the political, economical and environmental direction that was evolving, in 1972 the publication of a book titled “The Limits Of Growth”, authored and based on system dynamics computer modeling done by MIT scholars and commissioned by The Club of Rome, a think tank formed by fractions of elite organizations such as the Committee of 300, the Bilderberg Group, and the European Coal and Steel community (ECSC), made predictions that the world at some point in the future would “overshoot”. This is the concept that one of the interconnected global systems: food, population, industry, non- renewable resources and pollution, would so far surpass the carrying capacity of the planet due to sustained growth, that it would eventually set off a global downturn that would collapse the regular functioning of the other systems, creating unprecedented frictions in political, economic, social and environmental terms. The analysis of these models provides great insight on how to avoid such dire outcomes, but the players behind them and their secret agendas must be studied closely because some are suspiciously related, directly or by proxy, to organizations not only influential to the causes for overshooting in the “business as usual” models, but also connected to elitist circles arguably interested in influencing the world order. The predictions based on these models are powerful in their ability to communicate and describe potentially negative futures, which in turn can be used to frighten people into taking action.  Lewis Strauss famous quote “energy too cheap to meter”, was a reassuring prospect of nuclear energy being the solution to the constraints of non renewable energy and its necessity to maintain quality of life beyond peak oil, and this, in turn, influenced and marketed the commercialization of nuclear power plants (Strauss, 1954).

  Models which predict the future, tend to encourage that action be taken. The question then is where will this action lead and how does it compare to the agendas of those who finance, commision and publish these reports? Using the freedoms of our observer we are able to have insight into alternative futures. One being the optimistic outcome that the world will rearrange itself because of a rational understanding of the consequences of business-as-usual, and action via social adaptation and technology makes the global mean reach stability, equality and modest prosperity. Alternatively, by consequence of no global action in addressing the pressing global issues, the elite take on an even stronger role obliterating national sovereignties mainly by means of treaties and policy, designed as commonly done behind closed doors, as the global system enters a spiraling freefall, bounding “nations” to even more aggressive arrangements than those of NAFTA and that of the TPP leading to formations of comparatively greater scale than the ECSC, the post WWII organization which was the instigating entity that began the slow creation of the European Union. It is possible to draw a parallel between post WWII Europe and a post “limits to growth” globe as being fertile precursing conditions for the creation and agreement of treaties meant to consolidate power.

To be fair it seems sufficiently reasonable to consider these elites as genuinely concerned about the long term wellbeing of the systems on which their great wagers depend. That said, it is not possible that they are all Machiavellians solely interested in short term personal gains.  There have to be some altruists who are truly interested in the long term global well being of the biosphere and concerned about the planet that they will endow to others, such as Amory Lovins. Nethertheless, it is important to acknowledge that those who hold power have the ability to influence legislative and policy measures, effectively limiting their exposure and responsibility. Examples of such dynamics are readily described in “Cult Of the Atom”. One case in particular describes the lobbyist representation of utilities and equipment companies pressing Congress to pass legislation that would protect them in the case of an “extraordinary nuclear occurrence” which according to the WASH-740 publication could lead to excessive damage claims. “…the Price-Anderson Act of 1957, whose complex provisions made legal history; they effectively repealed every citizen’s common-law right to sue for damages caused by someones else’s negligence” (Ford, p45). In a similar fashion negligence of how and who is to be held responsible for the global physical damages due to climate change violates these same rights. Much like the invisibility of radionuclides being causal to biological damage, the emitters of greenhouse gases cannot be pinpointed and held responsible. This is the global geography of unaccountable externalities.

Original accumulation as a means of privatizing the mode of production was a stratifying force of capitalism, it created a group of elites and a proletariat. The capitalist mode of production dependant on a perpetual reinvestment of profits, does not thrive without growth. This in combination with the neoliberal operation of industry of being allowed to self regulate, has complicated the willingness to change at all levels for being viewed as detrimental to growth. More so, when presented with opportunities for profit, the opportunity is rationally taken because of the facilitation by the machinery of the existing political economy.  But the externalities are not factored into this rationale because deregulation has allowed them to be disregarded and make them independent of profit.

I want to stress how the notion of time plays an important role in the circuits of rational decision making.  The great scientists of the 20th century, brilliant as they were, stepped onto the world stage with great promises of technological capability that would grant incredible gains realizable in their lifetimes, but bluntly ignored the residual effects that go well beyond the terms of one single life, creating a situation that left later generations with a revolving tab of unpaid bills for gains reaped in a time before their own. This can be exemplified today with the exorbital recurring expenses of cleaning superfund sites such as the Hanford complex in Washington state. Thanks to the observer we know that the future will bring increasingly more of these expenses as a consequence of legacy technology that carries its negative externalities into the future. Fracking, GMOs, and other technologies propelled by the private sector with promises of solving global problems have to be considered not only by their short term potential but also by their long term consequences. The future of living organisms, as we are told by the observer, has the potential to be solely owned by corporations, who for a fee, will create new synthetic organisms required to subsist in this future planet of hazards shaped by lack of accountability, foresight and harmonious cooperation with nature. Is it too far from reality to think that corporations are invested in creating situations in which they hold a monopoly on the solutions? Bechtel has the revolving, never ending, bid-free contract for mitigating the nuclear cleanup at the Hanford site and this same company has also been for the past 50 years one of the largest nuclear developers. Is seems overly convenient that they have developed a closed loop system of revenue, which leaches off taxpayer (the proletariat) money.

Allowed by the observer, zooming out to a view of Earth from outer space, a planet so conveniently fortunate of being able to sustain life, is seen as threatened by its social construction of nature. One in which a notion of “other” is given to all mechanisms alien to the human race. Using Doris Lessing’s science fiction novel, Shikasta: Re, Colonised Planet 5, as an allegory of Earth one can see the contrast of how the “other” is integrated in the social construction. Rohanda, the name of the allegorical planet before it becomes unaligned and loses its “Lock” with its benevolent coloniser Canopus, was the promising planet in which communal goals of advancing evolution was what kept its harmony. This can be interpreted as no alienation of the “other”. As a consequence to its misalignment to the cosmos, it eventually became “poor Shikasta” because this occurrence created a lack of the received “substance-of-we-feeling”, the substance “which kept everyone safe and healthy and above all, made them love each other”, this lead to the “Degenerative Disease” which in essence is to identify with ourselves as individuals and not to the extent of “the phases of our evolution”. Much like the current social construction of nature on our Planet Earth we identify ourselves as individuals, disconnected from the goals of advancing harmoniously with the evolution of this planet.

I want to conclude by considering the current global struggle, a struggle that consists of many fronts. There is an incredible income inequality,“unalienable Rights” are constantly being challenged, the will of the people is being undermined by corporate interests and high level elites and it is becoming increasingly clear that our relationship with nature is incredibly fragile; people are genuinely disenfranchised and there is a will to take action. Grassroots organisations are creating a bottom up movement and people are mobilizing because of a growing misrepresentation of the proletariat (or as its called in contemporary terms the 99%) by the elite which is reaching unbearable terms. This is happening as powerful nations are losing hold of hegemony over other nations as the process of globalization has in many ways created a new deterrent and hegemony has transformed to be cultural, one in which domination is not by a nation but by a class over another.

To close I want to quote a fragment of the speech at the Nobel Prize Ceremony by latest Berkeley faculty to receive this highest recognition, Randy W. Schekman, as it expresses yet another struggle. “…I which particularly to acknowledge the Nobel foundation for its recognition of basic science. This years laureates in the natural sciences reflect the value of curiosity driven enquiry unfettered by top down management of goals and methods. …and yet we find a growing tendency for government to want manage the discovery with expansive so called strategic science initiatives at the expense of the individual creative exercise we celebrate today” (Schekman 2013).


Bergson, Henri, and Frank Lubecki Pogson. Time and Free Will: An Essay on the Immediate Data of Consciousness. Swan, Sonnenschein, 1910.

Lessing, Doris May. “Shikasta: Re, colonised planet 5: personal, psychological, historical documents relating to visit by Johor (George Sherban) emissary (grade 9) 87th of the period of the last days.” (1979).

Ford, Daniel F. The cult of the atom: The secret papers of the Atomic Energy Commission. Ford (Daniel), Cambridge, MA (USA), 1982.

Strauss, L. 1954 Speech to the National Association of Science Writers, New York City, 16 September, 1954, reported in New York Times, 17 September, 1954. 

Schekman, Randy W. Speech at the Nobel Banquet in the Stockholm City Hall, 10 December 2013.

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Cargo Bikes are the solution.

Park It, Trucks: Here Come New York’s Cargo Bikes

New York will allow Amazon, DHL and UPS to park cargo bikes in commercial loading zones as a way to get some trucks off the city’s gridlocked streets.

Amazon, DHL and UPS cargo bikes during a news conference on Wednesday.
Amazon, DHL and UPS cargo bikes during a news conference on Wednesday.Credit…Gabby Jones for The New York Times
Winnie Hu
Matthew Haag

By Winnie Hu and Matthew Haag

  • Dec. 4, 2019

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Delivery trucks and vans laden with online packages are putting a stranglehold on New York City streets and filling its air with pollutants.

Now a new city program aims to replace some of these delivery vehicles with a transportation mode that is more environmentally friendly and does not commandeer street space: electric cargo bikes.

It will be the first time the city, long home to bike messengers, has specifically promoted cargo bikes as an alternative to delivery trucks.

As many as 100 pedal-assisted cargo bikes operated by Amazon, UPS and DHL will be allowed to park in hundreds of existing commercial loading areas that are typically reserved for trucks and vans. Unlike those vehicles, the bikes will not have to pay meters.

Smaller cargo bikes will also be allowed to park on wider sidewalks, and all the bikes can travel along the city’s growing network of more than 1,400 miles of bike lanes. The bikes will be concentrated in the most congested parts of Manhattan, from 60th Street south to the Battery.

Cargo bikes have been rolled out in a growing number of cities, including Paris, London and Dublin, as online shopping has soared and led to concerns over congestion and climate change. UPS operates dozens of cargo bikes in more than 30 cities after introducing them in Hamburg, Germany, in 2012.

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“Around the world, we have seen how freight companies use cargo bikes to move goods around dense urban neighborhoods more efficiently,” said Polly Trottenberg, New York’s transportation commissioner.

A cargo bike in Washington Square Park in Manhattan. City officials are seeking ways to address the proliferation of delivery vehicles.
A cargo bike in Washington Square Park in Manhattan. City officials are seeking ways to address the proliferation of delivery vehicles.Credit…Amazon, via New York City Department of Transportation

Replacing trucks with cargo bikes, she said, would also help make roads safer. Trucks have been involved in 13 of the 27 crashes that have killed cyclists this year, according to city data.

Of the 100 bikes that are part of the program, 90 operated by Amazon are already on the streets. Officials said the number of bikes could increase if the program proves successful.

Rebecca Gansert, Amazon’s vice president for specialty fulfillment, said the company’s cargo bikes in New York City were part of an effort to reduce its carbon emissions to zero by 2040.

“We’re starting with 90 bikes and plan to significantly grow that number in the coming months,” Ms. Gansert said. “We appreciate the City of New York and its support of innovative programs to bring more sustainable delivery options to the city.”

But the city’s efforts to promote cargo bikes drew criticism from some truck drivers and business owners who said the cargo bikes would take up already scarce street space and make their work harder.

“It’s a problem,” said Steve Margarella, the owner of a road construction company based on Staten Island with a fleet of eight trucks. “Everything is being put on our backs. You’re further limiting our ability to provide services.”

Mr. Margarella added that what he spends to operate each truck — more than $10,000 annually in registration and vehicle fees and insurance — should give his trucks priority in using the loading areas.

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Still, many city officials and transportation experts said that cargo bikes offered a clear advantage over delivery trucks and that room needed to be made for them on city streets, including providing access to bike lanes and sidewalks.

UPS uses cargo bikes in many cities, including Seattle.
UPS uses cargo bikes in many cities, including Seattle.Credit…UPS

Anne Goodchild, the director of the University of Washington’s Supply Chain Transportation and Logistics Center, pointed out that cargo bikes are smaller, nimbler and easier to maneuver than trucks and emit no greenhouse gases.

While a delivery truck may have to circle the block a few times before finding parking, a cargo bike can just park by the door of the building receiving the delivery, she said.

“That’s one of the underlying big questions for it to be an improvement over the van: Where are you allowed to operate it and where can you park it?” Professor Goodchild said. “If you can use a bike lane when there is congestion on the travel lane, you can continue moving while a box van wouldn’t.”

Alex Engel, a spokesman for the National Association of City Transportation Officials, said that as many cities face similar congestion and delivery challenges, New York’s program would be closely watched “to see how pedal power can unclog the movement of goods in our most congested urban areas.”

Cargo bikes have become especially popular in Europe. In Dublin, UPS uses cargo bikes to pick up packages for delivery from a container on the street that serves as an “urban eco package hub.”

Peter Harris, UPS’s international director of sustainability, said cargo bikes had worked best in densely packed city centers with lots of deliveries, when there is a well-developed bike network and a close partnership with city officials. “If you have all those things together, then there’s a very good chance a cycle operation will be successful,” he said.

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In recent years, UPS has also tested cargo bikes in a handful of American cities. In Seattle, where UPS started as a messenger and bike delivery service in 1907, the company has tried out cargo bike deliveries in the downtown area.

In one neighborhood, the city allowed UPS to take over, for a fee, several paid curbside parking spots on weekdays to set up a container for the cargo bike to load packages for delivery.

“Anything that helps us reduce greenhouse gas emissions, make deliveries more efficient and reduce congestion — we’re looking for ways to support that and we think bikes could be an opportunity to do just that,” said Sam Zimbabwe, Seattle’s transportation director.

Still, cargo bikes are only one small piece of the delivery puzzle as e-commerce continues to grow. As shipping evolves with new technologies and logistics strategies, future deliveries will most likely be made through a combination of transportation modes, including trucks, according to Professor Goodchild.

In New York, Amazon has deployed bikes with attached trailers for Whole Foods deliveries in Manhattan and parts of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. UPS and DHL will operate cargo bikes in the city for the first time.

Cargo bikes, like these in Berlin, are also more environmentally friendly than trucks that run on gasoline.
Cargo bikes, like these in Berlin, are also more environmentally friendly than trucks that run on gasoline.Credit…Annegret Hilse/Reuters

DHL, which has set internal goals to reduce emissions, had already switched in 2011 to using hybrid and electric vans in Manhattan and had been seeking approval to use cargo bikes in New York for more than a year, company officials said. DHL will start with three cargo bikes — with each bike effectively replacing one truck.

City officials said the new program was open to any freight company, and the number of cargo bikes could be increased. It has been initially approved for six months.

Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group, said he welcomed the cargo bikes as another way to take trucks off the road and free up more space on streets and sidewalks to improve the quality of life for New Yorkers.

“The concern in New York is that people — whether they walk or bike — have been given table scraps on our streets,” Mr. Harris said. “Sidewalks can be filled with garbage and scaffolding, and streets are filled with traffic, so we must reclaim more space for all New Yorkers.”

Shelly Mossey, 65, a former bike messenger who now runs a tour bike company, Rolling Orange Bikes, said cargo bikes could thrive in the city. More than a decade ago, he converted a pedicab and a trailer into a cargo bike and was soon hauling wine from a Battery Park liquor shop and paint from a TriBeCa hardware store.

But back then, not everyone was willing to take a chance on a cargo bike.

“I went to Whole Foods and they laughed at us,” he recalled. “It was difficult, but once someone saw how great it was, they swore by it.”

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