Monday 26 November 2007

And now for the future

For Australians this week marks the beginning of changed times. A couple of days ago the Australian Labor Party with its leader Kevin Rudd was elected.
The label ‘historic’ has been used a lot during those hours. Over eleven years of conservative government unseated by a massive swing; only three hours after the polling booths closed in the east (although Queensland doesn’t have summer time) the outcome was already becoming clear. For the first time since 1908 a man from Queensland became prime minister. First time for a female deputy. First time federal and state governments being Labor. The second time a prime minister not only loosing his office but also his seat in parliament.
Quite a few commentators may say, “I told you so”; take that as you will. But certain signs were there - the reference to future themes by the winners, not really matched by the other side or not at all. A feeling the incumbents being out of touch, of not really understanding the concerns expressed by many.
So here we are, and the nation is ready.
As usual there are numerous local issues, but the big picture cannot be overlooked. Climate change, our Middle Eastern entanglement, peak oil - these are not just background scenery, they are very much in the foreground as they determine our own and everybody else’s life on this planet.
And this is where Otoom comes in. The model’s predictive power has been proven many times (just go through the Parallels pages) and right now Australian politics follows a typical branching pattern of complex systems, a bifurcation if you will.
When minds open to new perceptions, that in itself is a pattern which becomes a functional template for more. Times are changing, in the large and the small, and the clock is ticking for many.

Sunday 18 November 2007

Complexity: the Law vs Nature

During the past week two events took place, independent of each other yet connected in a more profound sense.

First came the release of a report by Dr Graeme Pearman and the Climate Adaptation Science and Policy Initiative at the University of Melbourne. Evidence of Accelerated Climate Change warns that the predictions made by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are too conservative. More comprehensive data from both polar regions show that an ice-free Arctic Ocean might not occur between 2050 to 2100 but much earlier. Rises in sea levels have also been underestimated.

On Friday Professor Justice Michael Kirby, one of Australia's seven High Court judges and a strong defender of human rights, gave a lecture, Fundamental Human Rights and Religious Apostasy. His main example was the case of a woman in Malaysia who wanted to leave her original religion Islam and now become registered as a Christian. Being a Muslim country eventually the High Court there decided against her, pointing out that although the constitution guarantees religious freedom, for an individual to choose leaving Islam was not permissible. Clearly, the notion of freedom of choice was not part of the wider interpretation when starting from the concept of religious freedom.

The evidence of climate change rides on an increasingly comprehensive picture emerging from the ongoing analysis of a multitude of data. The more information we have the more accurate our perception can be. Despite the opposition from so many quarters the urgency to act locally and globally becomes more and more pressing. The world of our grand children will be vastly different from what the human race has become used to, but at the very least the data necessary for a productive response are accessible.

Compare that to the situation in a religion-dominated society, where on one hand the few judicial parameters are visible but on the other do not encompass the far more complex mind set programmed by its belief system. For a Westerner the conclusion reached by the majority of the Malaysian High Court judges (two Muslims ruled against the appellant and one Christian decided in her favour) seems extraordinary, but such is the effect of a diffuse and pervasive mental landscape that almost anything is possible when an overriding compulsion demands it.

Much has been written and proclaimed in the context of human rights. Religious freedom is usually interpreted as the right to practise some belief, but rarely does that include the freedom from religion. A belief prospers when supported by an ideology, spiritual or secular, and no matter what its source has a profound effect on the cognitive processes under its guise.

Whether a challenge confronts an individual, a society, or an entire planet, productive solutions cannot be found if the steps taken have to rely on obscure and ill-defined notions.

There is a chance some societies will manage to live with the effects of climate change, possibly even ameliorate them, because their conceptualisations are mostly situated in the real. Yet there are also other demographics where ideas are far more convoluted.

A hint of what is to come can be seen in the tables shown on Demographic orientations. The figures for average life spans, infant mortality, and educational standards from around the world are relatable to the influence a belief system exerts upon the respective population. Right now there are hundreds of millions of people confined to their inner mental prisons where even under the current conditions they barely manage to survive, if at all. Now imagine what happens when rising sea levels, scarcity of water, and dislocation of food productions interfere with the already precarious existence of all those masses.

We will be able to watch the process over the coming years.