Tag Archives: Growth

What stock investors can learn from ecologists

The recent volatility on the global stock markets is leaving many experts puzzled. While there are surely many factors that influence the worth of stocks, I’d like to propose that the ecological perspective should take a more prominent place in economics in the coming decades, given the predicted increasing scarcity of resources.

Before we start, here’s a quick distinction between stock investors and stock speculators. Investors are the type that buy a share of a company and hold it for a while, which supports a cause they expect to grow. Their goal is to earn money by investing in profitable businesses. They navigate and serve the system that way, though they can also damage it if they have too much power. Speculators, on the other hand, are people who buy and sell in very short time spans, anticipating market dynamics. They amplify the movements for their own gain, and by that put others in poverty. They are the kind that should kill themselves in whichever way they consider most appropriate. Investors are those who’ll need the ecological insights.

While we arrive at the limits of the global capacity to sustain our demands, we can expect increasing scarcity of water, food, climatically stable zones and raw materials. A recent example of how this impacts markets is the El Niño effect on the global prices of numerous food products. Understanding ecological processes helps assess the economic value of scarity driven market systems, because ecosystems deal with scarcities on a day to day basis.

Just like ecosystems, economical markets encompass a number of layers of production and consumption. At the base of a vast economic pyramid are the producers of raw materials. Their produce gets bought and converted into something more valuable. That step is then repeated until the product is sold to the final consumer. Trees, for example, get converted into timber, which then gets converted into furniture and then sold to us.

Similarly, plants of an ecosystem get eaten by caterpillars, who then get eaten by birds. More plants means more bugs, means more birds. And since it takes time for each to grow, there is a delay in the growth for the next trophic layer. So: if there are many plants today, then there will be many caterpillars in eight weeks, and many birds in a few months. But since caterpillars eat plants, their food stock will decrease when their population grows, and some will starve. Having a far longer lifespan, birds will keep capturing caterpillars which then may quite suddenly go extinct, because their population no longer grows. This can cause the bird population to collapse a while afterwards.

Market mechanisms work in the same way. When raw materials such as trees are cheap, the makers of timber can earn money by buying cheap wood and selling it easily. It means that there is space to grow on the wood market, and this space will be filled by organizations who expand. That means that demand will grow, causing the price to go up. Now, since the tree processing organizations have grown, they need more resources to sustain themselves, meaning they have to work harder to attain a similar standard. They will therefore have to buy and sell more wood than before to survive, or increase their price which would cause problems for the furniture company. Thus, high availability of trees leads to high availability of timber, leads to high availability of furniture, leads to reduced prices, leads to increased demand. Like in scarcity driven ecosystems, this can ultimately backfire on the system, causing bankrupcy of one or several of the businesses in the chain. This effect becomes more pronounced if the availability of raw materials is fickle.

Recently, the availability of raw materials such as crude oil has grown enormously, which will result in cheaper production of basically everything we can buy. The fact that this effect is so strong and sudden will induce a shock through the market chain. As markets start competing for the opportunities, the availability of the materials will decrease, and the new demand it spawned will devour the market again. Thus, to stick with the tree-timbre-furniture example, investing in closets may be tempting now, but may not be a wise long-term move, if you don’t look at other factors as well.

Now, the beauty of resilient ecosystems is that they do not rely on sudden pulses of resource input, but instead constantly reuse and recycle the present nutrient stock in highly intricate ways. As such, they have stabilized their internal nutrient and water availability, meaning all consumers and producers in the system know exactly what they can expect. By working as much as possible with closed loops, ecosystems protect themselves against sudden periods of drought or decreased nutrient availability in the soil. Indeed, ecosystems prevent such deficiencies in a region. Markets can do the same thing.

To analyse the chance of stable development of chains in an increasingly volatile market, it would be recommendable to pose a range of ecologically inspired questions. How embedded are the systems in their surroundings? How do they treat their waste? How dependent are they on a single resource, or a single type of buyer? Do they moderate their growth so as not to undermine the succes of potential future partners? Do they maintain their independence from the potentially devastating global stockmarket fluctuations? How much do they look like a real, resilient ecosystem?

Depending on how formalized the process of circular economy and collaboration with regional partners will become, it may become harder to fathom the value of certain companies or regions by their numbers alone. It will require more grounded perceptions of value with a more complete, ecosystem-like outlook on organizations and their market, political, cultural and ecological contexts. An interesing development, I think, which deserves further exploration.

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Thesis Spiritual Experiences in Nature

For those who are interested, I wrote a thesis in 2011 on spiritual experiences in natural areas in the Netherlands. I got an 8,5 for it. I have have written an abbreviated version for publication, but it was rejected for one or two good reasons and a whole list of quite silly ones. My intention remains to publish it when I have more time. Whenever that may be.

Here it is:

Havik2011ThesisSpiritNature

A Chakra perspective on Evolution

I wrote this text originally for the Ajna forum on January 5th 2010. I have adjusted it a little.

The beginning? There never was. A misconception of the human intellect. Since she is our home, since she gives us ground to live, let’s start with earth’s awakening.

Rocks, fire, water and air; she brought their spirits into one. Little ones started spiralling, exchanging and flowing along. In the water first, but they quickly reached dry ground.

Plants, rooted in their standing place, breathing light and air, eating rocks and drinking water, developed the spirit of the ground. They vaporize earth mass. By growing and dancing in the wind, they have become our base. Their roots to earth are ours. They are our OM, our chakra of the ground.

Walking out of the waters came a new kind of being. Nerved. Choose well or die, that was its quest. Select by moving around. But use the earth, eat the plants, be attached to her. And reproduce: enjoy! Senses arose to help this choice. So developed the sacral chakra.

When ground was filled, a limit reached, a limit to the growth. The ego had to come in play, the will to overcome. Trees fought for light, beasts for terrain. Among, between, there was war to teach us where to stop. Struggling for survival, power raised, the Plexus Solaris got its form.

Among wars and fights, Gaias bigger ones found the power of communal love. In groups, we could reach greater heights. The work was in the heart. The knowledge of all cells: “Together we are one” now grew among the bigger ones. Cultures formed, dividing what to eat. Groups that loved, avoiding fall-apart. Herds arose, bees unite and lions lied in prides.

Now that battle was not the only option anymore, and animals and trees stayed close, new ways had to be found. A realm of signals was discovered in our throats. Noises, charged with meaning travelled up and down the lands. Civilizations attained new levels, by telling and by listening. Behold the birds, the apes and ants. We slowly formed new minds. And then came the morale.

Humans rose, with in their heads: mind´s eye. They killed, destroyed, controlled it all except them very selves. With time they learned about the fish and trees. They learned about the heart and soul, they did it for us all. They saw the past, and that which is to come. They saw it two, they saw it one, they saw that all at once.

And now, when new ones are conceived, they have to live it all again. From little fused cell they grow to creature with a brain. They leave the womb into the void and start: motionless base. They eat, they sense, deny and love, learn speech and thought: get lost.

When one learns, all learn, even if so slow. Together with the cats and birds, together with the plants. Together with the rocks and flames, with water and the air. Together we are Gaia’s growth. And then, maybe one day a creature comes that grows a crown, and opens heavens’ earth new ground.

Pirates in Wonderland

“I can tell you in advance that you will not enjoy this meeting.” The words of the local mayor surprise me for not more than a second. Sooner or later, this had to come. “We have decided that we will not give you the permit for your yearly festival.” After this meeting, Salome the chairlady, Jan Jaap and I will each have a seven euro beer. It’s only when they present the bill that I will let my anger out. Such things ought to be dosed.

“When they ask you for your name, don’t give it to them. They will hold you responsible for everything that happens.” Colan has entered the Coffee Barack -my old house- and it seems to me as if he tries to move us to a mental war against the state. In the past week, we have done all in our capacity to cut back the growing feeling that the absent permit is just another expression of the increasing party repression by governments all over Europe. I think this case is different: we have an open communication channel with the municipality, and we’d like to keep it that way.

There is another tendency: in the past decade, the droef festival has grown enormously. Outsiders have lobbied in Droevendaal, persuading inhabitants to allow a party in their house. Some of these parties had darkened the atmosphere at some specific spots. Last year this seems to have withheld the police to enter our terrain because the were afraid. The Droevendalers, of course, have always prevented trouble. This place is their home.

We have moved the earth and the skies to scale Droeffest 2012 down. Steered two hundred inhabitants into a new direction. The police seemed to threaten us this morning, sending a constant stream of police cars over our terrain, visible and undercover, fining those who’d parked their cars in front of their own house. We have greeted them friendly, tolerated their threats and shown them there is more to life than rules and control. The party is great as always. Smaller, decentralised, but the atmosphere is as it sould be: relaxed and connected. Bands play in gardens, DJs bring about a silly mess and beer and rum – though hidden – are as available as ever. The theme: Pirates in Wonderland.

One week later the story is not over: it’s merely a start. It’s an example of how a mass of people can be wiser than their anger. More caring than self destructive, even in the face of such childish governmental futilities. On October 10th, we will go back to the municipality, holding the facts. We will ask the fines back and show them diplomatically, how childishly they were playing this game. We will demonstrate the redundancy of some rules and negotiate a new course. I hope this will become an example of how non-commercial organizations, groups without money, can prevail with merely the powers of reciprocity and reason. Searching for a path where freedom is achieved not against, but together with the other.

Awards

It takes some guts for a birch to grow its first branch. So too for Benny. While our little seedling pulls all his courage from the ground, scents travel back and forth through the forest. Seraph the Oak, on the open space a bit ahead, has a message.

“Fellow trees from the forest, the tree awards are about the take place once again. It promises to become a match like no other: the winter was strong and spring has brought us a fair balance of rain and sun. The conditions were perfect for growth and development, so the quality of the top trees will be very high this year.”

Of course, the old oak himself did not benefit that much from the favourable weather. With his years, his growth is slow and constant. He does not compete in the tree awards: he won all awards there are to win hundreds of years ago. As the forests oldest, he now only prepares and presents the contest.

The trees of the forest are exited every year when Seraph spreads the competitor’s scent. Who will be chosen this year? Will the most beautiful tree be Margaret the Magnolia again? Some spread Wilbert the Willow stands a chance for his pose near the pond when sun sets. The most robust tree will go to one of the older oaks, but will it be William or Abraham?

Benny does not mind who wins what. He is growing his branch. Young though he is, he already found a spot on the south east where he receives a lot of sun. His parents are proud and constantly show off to the trees around. “When he’s older, he’ll win the prize of the most adapted tree” says his mom. “Yes, and that will help him grow better, and he will win the broadest tree prize”. Birches usually don’t go for the price for the most robust tree. They stand little chance against oaks and the exceptional baobab winner.

Slowly but steadily Benny pushes the top of his branch out of his trunk. At first, it hurts a little to his thin young bark but his inner urge persists and he keeps pushing. The branch wants to go down: it has no support. But Benny the Birch would like it to grow upwards. He turns it a little. And back. And up. It’s like a game with a pull to the ground. Not aware of the big events that are about to take place.

The Tree Awards have become the most important social event of the year. They take place from dawn till dusk when the day is longest in the open space in the middle of the forest. Trees can’t walk there of course, so they send chemical signs, which are received by Seraph the Oak, who then signals back the decision of the forest community. None of the trees in the forest know exactly how it works but it yields outcomes every year and trees don’t really care about objectivity.

Nor does Benny as he carefully gives his first branch shape. He has no concept of an eye catching branch, he does as he feels fit. Grow a little. A branch. Left and right and back again. Into the sky he reaches. Happily stretching out his cells. Yes. He likes it. It is fun to grow.

“It is important that we grow” echo the scents through the air. “We should all be as close to the sky as we can. This is why we originally sowed the Tree Awards.” Over time, of course, they added some categories so that more trees would feel they could be part of the game, but the greatest tree award is without a doubt the most prestigious award in the forest. Some say that without these awards, trees soon forget to grow. There needs to be stimulation, or the forest might get lazy, which cannot be the Intention. Tree Awards are the summit of forest society. Its ultimate expression. The pride of our age. And be honest: where would we be without it?

Benny is about to grow a leaf on his branch. Leafs are quite different and they take a different effort to grow. Benny knows how. He’s done it before. You start with a little packed ball. In it, you grow little nerves, connecting all the parts of the ball. Main nerves and side nerves. It’s important that you grow them such that they don’t stick together. Once you feel secure about the nerves, you connect them with green tissue. Then, all that’s left to do is that you push. You pump fluids into the nerves and they’ll unroll into a leaf and you enjoy the light. Keep pushing and it’ll grow bigger. Benny likes to grow leafs. They make him feel good. He grows a few more.

Leafs are important in the Tree Awards. They show the quality of the tree that holds them. It is common knowledge among trees that leafs are vital for growth. With dark green leafs, more sugars are made and more energy can flow. But dark leafs get hotter than light leafs and they burn more easily. So there’s a risk involved, which makes the whole story even more exciting, particularly for adolescent trees. It wouldn’t be the first time that an audacious young one takes that little step too far and ends up with fiery leafburns.

That’s not Benny’s concern. His tiny leafs are always lighter than those of his older brothers and sisters. His parents are proud of anything he grows. If a leaf would grow too dark, his parents quickly grow a branch above, just to make sure he is ok. Benny doesn’t realize that.

Winners of the concourse receive a fair amount of nutrients. Other trees will transport it in their direction through their roots or drop some leafs when the wind blows towards them. Being winners, it is trusted that they’ll use them wisely.

Benny takes his joy in growing another root. Roots are funny because the ground is full of bugs who tickle from below. To grow a root, Benny has to pierce the soil and dig between their homes. The bugs don’t seem to mind that much, they simply move aside. Benny is happy about that because he likes bugs. When he’s big, he’d like to house some ants.

Dawn arrives. “Fellow trees of the forest,” Seraph’s scents set off a chain reaction among every Birch and Beech around. The hedges listen silently. Their competition does not take place till fall. “The Tree Awards have started. Please prepare yourself for the first vote”. Except repetition and amplification of Seraph’s words, the forest remains silent as can be. These words are always deeply respected; no tree dares to bring in anything now. Except Benny. He just hurt himself on a thistle’s thorn and now he’s crying for his mom. Mom strokes Benny with her branch. But she is not as soft and caring as usual. Never mind. She pushed the thistle away and Benny is free to play again.

To interpret the voices of the forest is a skill that requires hundreds of years to master. There are very few who can. You can imagine the great awareness needed to listen to all the trees in the forest at once. Those who have that awareness have great responsibility. Seraph is one of them. He has developed a sensitivity few can imagine. It’s as if a part of him is present at all spots at once. All trees of the forest feel him. That is why he is assigned this important task. Of course, he is not alone. Seraph relies on a network of older trees present all through the forest. Together, they quickly digest the messages of their surroundings and pulse the results back into the air.

Even at his age, Benny adds to this networking cloud of consciousness. Few take note of his infantile, unstructured expressions. His parents and grandparents perhaps, but barely, during the year’s most important event. Benny does not mind, especially now that a butterfly landed on his new branch. Benny is not that fond of butterflies. Flappy creatures he finds them. He doesn’t know yet how destructive their larvae can be. For the moment, this butterfly has no interest in Benny. He just flaps around, leaving Benny dizzy at the spot.

“We will start today,” Seraphs clear and strong chemicals spread “with the golden bark award. Please place your vote about who you think deserves the award of creator of the most remarkable bark of the forest”. The award for the most respectable bark was introduced not so long ago by a community of cork trees, just down the hill. Cork trees adore the bark like no other and they would do anything to do part of it for the forest’s assembly of respected items. Soon after this introduction it turned out, unfortunately, that their view of the most respectable bark differed somewhat from the forest’s public opinion. No Cork tree ever won the award. “Trees and Treeesses, the vote was expressed”.  Even if this is not the most important award these words raise the tension enormously. The trees of the forest know that the awards have begun. “And this year’s winner of the golden bark is…” this is the most decisive moment of the awards for the Corks. “Quinten the Plane”.  A small cheer from a corner of the forest. “This years bark prize was based on Quintens exceptionally beautiful pattern”. Admitted, he’d been working hard to make his mosaic smooth as he could. Just down the hill, the cork community cries injustice. They voted for several trees in their community, none receives the prize. It’s not fair.

Till now, Benny the Birch had little a bark at all. Lately he had the idea of becoming a bit more woodier, so he did thicken somewhat around the edges. But his is far from the impressive white bark which his brother Jim the Birch brags about all the time. Jim secretly hoped for this prize. Benny had no clue, he enjoys growing one more leaf. That bark will come.

On the open spot, Seraph the Oak continues his careful process of interpreting. Wally the Walnut-tree goes nuts when he wins the golden nut. The golden flower goes to Maggie the Magnolia, with Edward the Elderblossom as a close second. Fanatic cheers and shouts alternate each other in a wavy sea of scents.

For the first time in his centuries old existence, Seraph grants the greatest tree award with a fundamental doubt. “Are these awards a good thing? Aren’t we needlessly benefitting the strong? Shouldn’t we be fertilizing the weak instead”. These thoughts usually occur to a queer tree in a dark corner of the forest. But Seraph has this thought and when a tree has a thought it cannot withhold it. So it is expressed.

The cheering ends abruptly, making space for a vast silence in the woods, interrupted only by some disrespectful birds. Noisy creatures they are.

This never happened before. Not from a tree of this status. Questioning our forests pride.

When he has to speech, Abraham Oak, winner of the golden tree, does not know what to say. Nor does any other tree of the forest. It remains silent.

Benny is about to grow his second branch. It will take guts.

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