Robert W. "Doc" Hall

Author Archives

  • Real Change is Local

    Although the climate change march in New York City failed to top the news, it was much bigger than organizers’ ambitions for the march three months earlier. The next day saw a follow up demonstration called Flood Wall Street. With the fossil fuel industry as its main target, activism is warming up. Another spark was […]

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  • Externalized Costs and Social Capital

    In theory we think it fair to justify all processes on the basis of the total process, not just part of it, financially or otherwise. An external cost is one that somebody else pays, so it may be considered a subsidy. An example is a picnic in a park. If picnickers leave messes for the […]

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  • Why Live Better; Using Less?

    Global consumption of fossil energy and raw materials continues to rise. Doubling consumption (and extraction) every decade, or even every 50 years, has to stop sometime. Were there no concerns like putting more greenhouse gases in the air, this system is running down. It will not run out, as if drawing water from a fixed, […]

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  • Vision and Reality

    Robert Owens’ Vision of Utopia — New Harmony                                                                                  How it Actually Turned Out Robert Owens’ […]

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  • Vigorous Learning Using Compression Thinking

    Migration toward vigorous learning seems easiest to see from a company view, one that most of us are used to: 1. Eliminate operational waste of no benefit to customers or any other stakeholder – the prime objective of lean thinking. 2. Then minimize environmental waste in your own operations – green the lean, so to […]

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  • Doublethink Traps

    Learning to do better while using much less will involve endless messy issues, from large scale to small. Understanding threats like endocrine disruptors depends on technology known to few. In addition, issues are loaded with values clashes, conflicting interests, and misinformation – “wicked problems.” Regulation and politics-as-usual often bog down in game playing and doubletalk. […]

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  • Why Local Issue Learning Groups

    We really do have to cut back our overall use of resources – transform from resource intensive “cowboy” economics into an economy of wiser competence. From what we have seen, that is unlikely through government policy or by entrepreneurs inventing independent partial solutions, although those can contribute greatly to improving systems vital to our well […]

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  • Why We Must Address Compression Issues

    Compression refers to humanity being squeezed tighter and tighter on a finite planet having limited resources. It also refers to the learning processes by which we must address tangled complex issues in a practical way, engaging in much more effective interaction using the limited time that we have. The reasons for this are overwhelming. Humanity […]

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  • Minding the Gap

    “Mind the gap” is a robo message on British trains cautioning departing passengers to beware of the gap between train and platform. This catchy phrase is being applied to many gaps, like the income difference between the 99% and the 1%. The Compression Institute and like-minded movements have in mind a different gap, the one […]

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  • Quality Over Quantity

    Food and agriculture illustrate clashes between “learning organizations,” especially local ones, and industrial economies of scale to supply consumer societies. In industrial economies few people now grow what they eat or prepare meals from scratch. Instead they buy processed ingredients and plate-ready restaurant food. Research suggests that people who don’t cook know less about food […]

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  • Telling New Stories

    Nearly all the stories we tell ourselves ignore the obvious, that ultimately we cannot consume more than nature can provide. Perhaps we keep telling them because a realistic story seems to be such a downer. On a macro scale, our economic theories (stories) presume that jobs and return on investment depend on voracious consumption. As […]

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  • Doing Better; Using Less

    This issue begins a series intended to picture a world that is improving quality of life while consuming far fewer natural resources. Can you help us visualize this very different future? Doing better while using less – much, much less – is simple to understand, but it bucks existing systems of thought in business and […]

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  • Global Squeeze Plays

    Sadly, the graphs below have a similar pattern. In each case, the lines closing together coincide with increasing political unrest. There’s much more to the story from the resource shortage angle, but standard journalism is not designed to probe that deeply very often. Graphs are from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. However, Gail Tverberg spotted […]

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  • The Compression Issue

    Economic growth depends on expanding use of physical resources, but it has been the easiest and fastest road to improved quality of life – or to a high life that we think is quality at the time. We became really good at it. The Chinese miracle converted resources to economic development and their tidal wave […]

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  • Action Time

    After long delay, The Compression Institute recently received 501c3 status from the American IRS. Our web page will soon explain how you too can make a tax-exempt contribution. We’re not greedy, but contributions will be welcome. So what might you contribute? Time and energy, of course. But also money so that others can contribute time […]

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  • Blinded by Light

    Artificial lighting illustrates another principle of Compression Thinking, quality over quantity, always. Several other principles align with quality over quantity, including trying to avoid being blindsided by unintended consequences. This is the second in a series on Compression Thinking Principles. For most of us excess lighting does not pop to mind as being a waste, […]

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  • Redefining Development

    This post is the first of a series on “principles” of Compression Thinking, which is so different that it can redefine what is meant by economic development. Let’s begin with a key principle, global return on energy (EROI) decreasing for many, many reasons. Less discussed, but related is that obtaining large quantities of common raw […]

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  • Out of Our Own Complexity

    Complexity is automatically difficult to discuss because something truly complex is murkily understood, therefore impossible to precisely define. Yogi Berra nailed complexity: “If I understand it, it’s simple; if I don’t, it’s complicated.” Something intricate, like a fancy mechanical watch, may not be very complex. If we apply our minds to the mechanism for a […]

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  • Bubbles of Trust

    Executives loved Francis Fukuyama’s 1995 book, Trust. It posited that broad social trust is necessary to form big corporations, complex economic systems, and innovative start-ups. People must quickly learn to trust strangers. However, that trust is thin. It’s over-lawyered with contracts and typified by the phrase “trust but verify.” A modern financial bubble is also […]

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  • Battling the Blob

    Discussion of issues on a global scale usually mires in philosophical wishing with few feasible ideas for concrete action. That also happens with systems that are much smaller, but still too big for anyone to grasp how they work in detail, so they take on “a life of their own.” If you have worked for […]

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  • Food Security

    Although obscure to most of us, the phrase “food security” is significant to those serious about global food. To them, food security denotes food adequate in quality as well as in quantity, or non-interrupted sources of nutrition on which humans can thrive, not just stay alive. Very few people today feed themselves entirely with food […]

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  • Evaporate Our Problems

    Lean practitioners are familiar with the wonders of system simplification. Simplify a work process and the baggage needed to manage a complicated mess evaporates with it. For example, eliminate the reasons for using a warehouse, and poof; the inventory control systems for the warehouse also disappear. Why do we complicate simple processes? One reason is […]

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  • Soil Biodiversity and Glyphosate

    Of all the Jeremiads that environmentalists invoke, declining biodiversity is probably the easiest to see, because it is all around us, but hardest to fully comprehend. The notion that biodiversity is essential to ecosystem survival is hard to technically grasp, so environmental arguments too often degenerate into campaigns to save a cute critter threatened with […]

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