Human society seems unable to move away from the exponential economic growth that is the underlying cause of the unfolding crises of climate change, ecological destruction and resource depletion. Instead, it works to adapt itself to the early manifestations of those crises while ignoring the fundamental changes that are required for long-term viability. Changes that will be wrenching, and extremely threatening to those that hold the most power, wealth and privilege. Continued economic growth helps ameliorate the problems created by extreme social and economic inequalities within, and between, countries. It also helps fund future promises of pensions and other incomes without excessive claims on current incomes. The recent responses to droughts, which may be a harbinger of much worse to come, tend to show the inability or reluctance of society’s to address the underlying issues rather than just the symptoms of those issues. Continue reading
The creation of what we now call capitalism, with its deification of private property and free (if “free” simply means free of democratic oversight) markets, has been a conscious project spanning a number of centuries. Central to that project has been the eradication, and marginalization, of competing ownership and business models. Continue reading
The dictionary defines the word “undulating” as having a wave-like appearance. In nature, nothing ever moves in a straight line. There may be a general trend, but things will undulate around that trend. Sometimes above the trend, sometimes below the trend. Human beings are not good at keeping track of the trend as the environment around them undulates around it. The immediate visceral reality can overwhelm any understanding of the trend. Continue reading
In the past year I have been stumbling through life, making both wonderful choices and awful mistakes, accompanied by a dark friend that sometimes recedes and sometimes bursts wholesale into my consciousness. Grief for a world that currently exists, but is being slowly destroyed as I look on, and will not be there for younger generations. Being surrounded by much younger souls, in the college where I am studying, only intensifies the experience of this dark friend. In many cases, they will never experience the richness and sheer comfort of the world which I have already experienced. The images of my nephews, in their twenties, pass through my mind. I sit here in an English pub, watching the cars go by and the customers arriving for their Saturday afternoon drinks and food. Life goes on with little, or no, thought to resource depletion, ecological limits and financial precipices. There is also no thought to the extinction of countless species, and the destruction of the living earth of which we are but a part. Continue reading
Panarchy is a model that seeks to explain the evolution of complex systems, developed firstly by Buzz Holling through his observation of the adaptive cycle of forests. The forest cycle follows a process of growth/exploitation, conservation, release and reorganization/renewal. At first, there is rapid growth as new species establish themselves in a recently disturbed environment. As the vegetation becomes denser, and the linkages within the system proliferate, the forest moves into a slower-growing state of conservation. It becomes increasingly stable within, and highly adapted to, a limited number of conditions. Efficiency, through the reuse of existing structures and increased connectivity, is traded for lower resilience. A disturbance that exceeds the reduced bounds of resilience then causes the forest to “crash” to a simpler state that releases the material and energy accumulated in the earlier adaptive phases. A highly uncertain phase of renewal can then start, during which novel combinations of species may establish themselves. These can then rapidly develop during a new growth phase. This adaptive cycle has been found to operate across many different natural systems. Continue reading
During the peak of the financial crisis during 2008 and 2009, there was a window of opportunity for a fundamental remaking and realignment of the massively over-sized and dysfunctional global financial system. Perhaps, also a questioning of the consensus that supports general deregulation and globalization. This opportunity was not taken, and instead the status quo was supported. Now, five years later, the insanity continues. Just a few stories from a single issue of the Financial Times (October 28th, 2014) pay testament to this ….
Unlike the rest of the content on this site, this is copyrighted work which cannot be reproduced without the prior and explicit permission of the publisher, Springer.
This is the fifth chapter to my book on Energy & The Financial System, which can be purchased from Amazon.
Most of what we know as wealth is a claim upon future economic growth, growth that has to date been made possible by huge supplies of cheap energy. Now, with increasing constraints on cheap energy, the vast majority of that wealth will be shown to be a mirage. The ‘financialization’ of the advanced industrial economies in the past few decades has exacerbated this problem by greatly increasing such ‘wealth’ in the form of debt and equity holdings. In addition, globalization has reduced the resilience of the economy through placing efficiency well above diversity and resilience. Thus, the impending impact of cheap energy constraints may cause a cascade of problems facilitated by the complex webs of global supply chains and financial linkages. The crisis of 2007-2009 is only the latest example of how a crisis in one financial area can be rapidly transformed into a global crisis and near collapse. We may not be able to predict when the next crisis will hit, but we can predict that it may spread extremely rapidly. Trying to take defensive actions once the crisis has started may turn out to be a relatively futile gesture. Instead, such actions need to be made beforehand. These actions would have to take into account the exposure of a person’s job to the financial system as well as the exposure of their investments within that same system. Continue reading
With the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, the United States (U.S.) entered a period during which it was the sole global superpower. The Eastern European countries that were previously within the soviet sphere were integrated into the European Union and/or North Atlantic Trade Organization (breaking many public and private assurances given to Russia by the West). Western leaders, and institutions, also aided in the destruction of soviet industrial capacity through, “shock therapy”, and outright looting   . Russia would be returned to its pre-revolutionary role as a resource colony for the west, and China still possessed only a relatively small, developing, economy. Continue reading
When I first started this blog, just under a year ago, my aim was to try to help as many people as possible understand the issues that face humanity. As time passes, with still no meaningful changes to push human civilization onto a sustainable path, the objective of the blog becomes more and more urgent. It makes me very happy that it has now reached 100,000 page views in a single month (with over 10,000 unique visitors and 25,000 visits in that month). Thankyou for taking the time to read my work, and making it all worthwhile.