I’ve been out of work for a little more than 2 weeks now.  The first week was fun, now I’m starting to get restless, bored.  Too afraid to go out and spend money without an income.  It’s a tough thing to balance.  Sustainability is important thing to me and right now I’m living an unsustainable lifestyle.

I think we as a species live in an unsustainable way on this planet as well.  We take more than we need from the Earth because it can make us rich, but once it is all gone then what?  Do we have a plan for after that?  In Oklahoma they have continued a process called fracking.  The process is so amazing that the state has doubled it’s oil production in only 4 years.  But not many people are looking at the consequences.  This huge increase in oil production is achieved by taking untreated waste water, full of some pretty awful chemicals, and injecting it deep into the ground at a high pressure.  It’s cheaper than treating the water, and it can get you a lot of oil.  I’m ignorant on the science behind it and will admit I don’t understand where that untreated water goes once it is there.  And since I am (and likely you are not) an expert we have to leave our trust in the hands of an incompetent government, and lazy regulators to protect us.  Fracking also has the side effect of earthquakes.  A 5.6 one was linked to fracking in Oklahoma in the past.  Below is an earthquake map of the US.  California sits on a fault line, Oklahoma does not.  California has building codes that prevent Earthquake damage, Oklahoma does not.

earthquakes

The result is we are now the #1 producer of crude oil in the world, which is a good thing…I guess.  But what is our next plan.  This isn’t sustainable.  There is a finite amount of oil.  And unlike trees which we can replant, we can’t grow oil.  Though science is trying.  I’m not sure why because we have a long list of negative side effects from drilling for oil, to transporting it, to burning it, and using it.

I’m going to sound like a hippie, maybe I am, but the profit motive is the biggest anchor hampering our progress in the world.  Discussing a new possible diabetes treatment with a friend and I came across the realization that we haven’t accurately cured any disease in the past 40-50 years.  We wiped out mumps, measles, small pox, polio all sorts of terrible shit we figured out how beat it in the past.  But somehow medical research has come to a standstill on “cures”.  It’s more profitable to sell “treatments” than “cures”.  Treatments let them charge you every month instead of a one time fee to get better.  Will we ever “cure” diabetes?  I doubt it, it is the perfect disease.  It’s life long, attacks lower income and minority at a disproportionate rate, and can be fatal if untreated.  Now they can sell you insulin and needles all day long, and you have to buy it, you don’t get a choice.  AIDS is another one, life long, fatal if untreated.  Buy these pills or you will die.  That’s not a solution, and that is not sustainable.  I refuse to believe that that is the best we can do.

Another unsustainable thing is our population.  I didn’t get a good feel for exactly how bad off we were in this regard because I’m from the US.  Arguable the most prosperous nation in the world where even our poorest have so much.  In Korea the country is so small, there isn’t much area for people to live in.  Space gets expensive and everyone lives in apartments, if you want an apartment that is big enough for a family it’s gonna cost you.  Cars are expensive, gas prices are double or triple.  A lot of things have to get imported into the country in terms of food because they can’t produce enough to feed themselves.  I see it on fruits, vegetables, a lot of imported meat here.  Grazing land is really sparse in this mountainous country.  Arguably the most important thing for a family is good education for their kids.  All these private academies are not cheap and Korea spends an insane amount of money on private education for their kids.  So in general the cost to start and maintain a family is really high here.  Historically most house holds were single income but now it’s changing.  However, male pay still dwarfs female pay, as much as 50% in some cases.

It causes a situation where women wanting to start a family (lets say late 20’s) need to meet a suitable husband.  This means the first questions on her first day will be #1 what is your job(maybe how much do you make), #2 what is your fathers jobs, #3/4 have a car/house?  This is normal.  I think it is sick, but it is normal.  When you look at the rationale behind it it makes sense.  She plans to live a life with her husband who is the primary income earner and they need to have enough money to raise a family, buy a house and educate their children.  This link covers a lot of other issues that contribute to SK’s low fertility rate.  A fertility rate which stands at the lowest among developing countries and 4th lowest in the world.  The only countries lower than SK are all island nations that, surprise, don’t have enough space/resources to raise a family.  South Korea should be considered an island nation itself because nothing crosses their northern border, so all access is made using ships.

fetilitySo you get this huge decrease in birthrates and a cascade of social problems that come not long after, and then even worse things down the road.  For example, the US social security system is built upon the idea that we will keep having more and more kids forever with more and more people paying into the social safety net and fewer drawing from it.  Not sustainable, because we live on a finite sized world with finite resources.  Back home in the States we don’t see the immediate social problems that pop up because we have an abundance of resources.  The dating situation in Korea is just one example.  It has become so competitive that parents will buy their children houses in hopes they can find a partner.  Or give them massive allowances so they can spend money and appear richer than they are.  I’ve got one Korean friend whose sister just gives him money and he’s been unemployed for 2 years living in his own place, going out to eat, buying new clothes.  He’s 34…I have another pal in a similar situation but his parents send the money.  The family unit is really strong here in Korea which I usually view as a good thing, but it stifles children’s independence and then you get your Mom, who works part time herself, making you breakfast and driving your 32 year old ass to work.

Like I said dating is competitive and a lot of people can’t find a match.  They have popular shows on TV where they just show a wealthy couples everyday life.  Much of the show focuses on their kids and the cute things they do.  When people want kids and can’t have them, TV can be a substitute.  Reality TV is global; but still everytime Hyeon Mi channels surfs and lands on that I’m like, “I can’t watch this” It’s fucking creepy watching some 3 yr old boy and 4 yr old girl I don’t know on TV in their everyday life and I’m supposed to be like, “awwww adorable.”

It probably sounds like I’m full of double speak.  Saying the population is too big, but that low fertility rates cause social problems.  I guess the solution is just carry onward with the low fertility rates(because we need lower populations), and discuss the social problems they create because they must be dealt with eventually.  A forever increasing population is not sustainable.

Stumbled across this article while writing.  The author talks about unlimited growth in the markets and population growth.  They go a little heavy on the climate stuff, but that is certainly an issue.  The author there proposes attacking the 40 hour work week and I agree that it is probably a good start.  But a shift in the way we think about our lives will be a more permanent solution.

The message is simple: earn more, collect belongings, and don’t stop until you retire/die. Unless you meet this expectation, be prepared to be called lazy and unproductive — stuck in the unfortunate world of lower and middle incomes. And if you’re not doing something that makes more money than your neighbor, you ought to think about changing careers.

My dentist friend that lives in the most expensive apartment in Busan was mentioning to me about how his plastic surgeon golf buddy makes so much more money than he does.  After telling me he spent $5000 on new golf clubs so he could learn to golf.  So now he wants to make even more money and get more patients.  I understand the motivation to make a lot of money, and that has gotten him very far and very successful in life.  But at what point do you say, “Hey, I’m good, I have enough.”?

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Last topic is the stock market.  I’m really skeptical having my money in there right now.  Things sort of resemble the roaring 20’s.  Massive income disparity.  Monopolies everywhere.  Record profits for companies.  It can’t go on forever.  And if the 30’s taught us anything, we would know better.  Laws born out of that era in an attempt to prevent another disaster have gone ignored, unenforced, and over written (see Sherman Antitrust Act).  Unlimited growth doesn’t seem possible.  I think it is exactly a case of something that is too good to be true.  We are automating more and more jobs everyday and it will create some new problems for us to solve.  Sure you employ 2 new robotic engineers but you lay off 10 skilled welders.  I don’t know what the result will be, but I just feel uneasy about the direction we are going as a nation and as a species.

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