How does information transform in terms of hierarchy, and what is the role of education in the transformation process? What is the role of education and universities in descent, and how will they need to adapt to the change in culture as energetic patterns shift?
On Top (Gary Snyder, Axe Handles, 1983, p. 11)
All this new stuff goes on top
turn it over turn it over
wait and water down
From the dark bottom
turn it inside out
let it spread through, sift down,
Watch it sprout.
A mind like compost.
“Starting as babies, people develop larger and larger scales of operation, territory, and transformity. Their transformities (Emergy/Energy) increase. The useful work that they do is higher transformity than their inputs. They link with larger and larger environmental scale as they mature” (from Odum, 1996, or 1999 below).
What does the rise in bureaucracy and complexity mean for a highly specialized educational system? “Education is the process of maintaining the information of society. Duplicating the information and establishing it in each rising generation of people is the main business of education. Education is necessary to keep information operating. A competitive information economy requires a high level of education” (Odum, 1987, p. 53).
What do runaway costs mean for an imbalanced, rapidly growing educational system mean if the main economy is in long-term contraction? “Resources used per unit information increase markedly when information is increased. Because of the increased complexity, the costs and resources to operate and use information go up very fast when more information is added to a system. For example, the costs of cataloging and retrieving information in a library go up faster than the number of books added” (Odum, 1987, p. 53).
Who’s driving this bus? How does bureaucracy expand and take hold? What are the feedback loops, and how are they impacting the direction of academia?
How does funding impact values, goals, and direction of research? How are policy agendas for science funding established over time, and how does development of bureaucracy impact those agendas? What feedback loops are impacting academia and the development, processing, and retention of knowledge? Is this another example of the maximum power principle? Is Education caught in the same autocatalytic flywheel process as the rest of the economy, or is it leading the expansion bubble due to the debt-based funding of student loans? Which bubble is most extreme–academia, healthcare, or government? And when will these bubbles pop? Are we ready for that?
Does our system of doctoral education create a mandate to focus on ever narrower science within specialties?
The Illustrated Guide to a PhD
How much farther can we push the boundaries of bureaucracy, complexity, and reductionism in Education? What futures are we preparing our students for? Is the cost of the complexity of academia justified? How do we restore functions of information processing and long-term storage in academia? How do we relocalize academic control? How do we meet changing local vocational needs?
“Conservation of information, both genetic and learned, through teaching and archiving, is the first mission of universities. Included are the biodiversity of nature and the long range memory of society, which is the library. Scarce library money should not be diverted to short range needs. The internet appears to be the short range memory of society. As in the analogous processes of the human brain, short range information has to be sifted and selected for preservation, a university function. Planning for descent should take priority in universities, not only for itself, but for its role as the long range information storehouse for society. . . Not all the great quantity of information in our current climax pulse can be sustained in the down cycle. How do we organize and save what is most important? Perhaps this is a priority for long range greening committees (Odum, 1999, p. 14, below). . . Emphasis and promotion should be for:
- Long term concepts and ideas (not short term projects to get money)
- Global sharing of information and ethics (not patents, copyrights and profits)
- Giving long term security to knowledge emphasizing principles
- Plan present initiatives consistent with downsizing ahead
- Accelerate the mission to consolidate knowledge–the long term memory of civilization
- Restore pre-1950 educational efficiency patterns such as Saturday classes and high school graduation after 11 grades
- Projects are needed on international organization for fostering peace through shared respect of differences, and arranging equitable exchange treaties using emergy evaluation
- Show how to limit the global climate impact from the excess CO2 of civilization without violating the maximum empower principle (developed countries can limit private auto horsepower, while poor countries can reforest their lands)
- Universities can develop and justify concepts and policies for environmental management [within their states]
- Universities can maximize the economy within its local region by greening with systems concepts, helping the information of the University foster the center of the local economy
- Integrate county, city, and university as one system, plan according to natural hierarchy, and develop policy for environmental biodiversity
- Possible initiatives include environmental departments and centers, innovating environmental art and environmental ethics, and establishing degrees in Ecological Engineering
- Establish an introductory environment course required of all students with some common core content (defined by committee), but adapted by and for teaching in each college with relevant examples (Odum, 1997, pp. 23-24)
For the Children (Gary Snyder, Turtle Island, 1969, p. 86)
The rising hills, the slopes,
lie before us.
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
In the next century
or the one beyond that,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.
To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:
learn the flowers