Paul Andersen: Fair game |

Paul Andersen: Fair game

Paul Andersen
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, Colorado

Albert Einstein said: “You can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” So, why not heed his advice and think outside the box?

Instead of throwing more debt onto the fires of insolvency, we need to rethink the entire economic system. Instead of chasing the chimera of infinite growth, we need to explore a sustainable, steady-state economy. Instead of blindly embracing competition, we need to foster cooperation and partnership. Instead of making health care unaffordable, we need to advance the fundamentals of healthy living.

Locally, we have to shift our thinking away from urban levels of development and instead scale growth to protect the rural values that give us peace and security. We cannot go on accommodating an economy based on energy-gulping second homes and material excess at the price of road rage, congestion, noise, pollution, climate change and crime.

Change is challenging, so we surrender to outmoded thinking. How many of us in our personal lives continually fall back on failed behavior because we lack the imagination to move beyond it? There is comfort in habitual behavior. It’s called a rut, and it conditions us to repeat the same mistakes over and over again, mistakes we can no longer afford to make on the scale we’re making them.

American automobile manufacturers are a stand-out. For decades they have known that oil is a diminishing resource, yet they went on making gas-guzzlers. Now the Big Three want government bailouts to reward their tunnel vision.

The war industry is another habitual failure. Knowing full well the cost in blood and treasure, our leaders launch wars, often without first exhausting diplomacy. Lives are shattered, the world is torn apart, and soldier/victims are called heroes.

The status quo exerts pressures for conformity because change, which is what Einstein promoted, is destabilizing. Even when repeated failures drive home the harsh truths, we run like cattle in a stampede.

Speaking of cattle, the American food industry is another example of habitual mistakes. How many obese, unhealthy citizens do we propagate before recognizing that the corporate food industry and the fast-food nation are sabotaging health and environment?

Einstein’s approach is not rocket science, but it makes rocket science possible. It urges innovation by seeking new ideas to old problems. The chief obstacle lies in the inertia of past paradigms, to which we cling for security like Linus clutching his blanket.

Last week, Premier Wen of China exhorted wealthy nations to cut carbon emissions.

“Developed countries should shoulder the duty and responsibility to tackle climate change and should alter their unsustainable lifestyle.” He’s right, but do we have the courage, resolve or creativity to alter our lifestyle rut? Can we redesign our prosperity?

Breaking the taboo of ingrained social habit requires that we question every institutional construct that defines us. Individually, it means taking a close, honest look at ourselves the way Thoreau did at Walden Pond. It’s time to live deliberately, not by accident.

After the election, Al Gore put out a novel approach to energy: “We have an historic opportunity to boost our economy and repower America with 100 percent clean electricity within 10 years. It will create new American jobs, end our addiction to dirty coal and foreign oil, and solve the climate crisis.”

Can America retool its energy grid and methods of energy production to meet this challenge, or are we too rigid, complacent and myopic to look at a new energy future? Our failure to act will mean ongoing slavery to fossil fuels and foreign powers.

We have new leadership. A new dawn is coming. It’s time to break out of the box ” our collective past ” and revitalize ourselves with the stimulation of new ideas and new approaches. We’ve got to get Einsteinian, and now!

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