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 ….
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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.
The average person in the United States has a nagging feeling that they have been getting poorer, relative to their parents at the same stage of life. This period of falling behind has been going on for decades, not just since the “Great Recession” that followed the financial crash. What they don’t know is that their government has been actively falsifying the inflation (CPI: Consumer Price Index) and growth (GDP: Growth Domestic Product) statistics to hide that reality. Things have been so bad since the Great Recession that not even that manipulation has been able to fully hide the reality of falling average incomes. This manipulation of economic statistics started as a device to cheat pensioners, and other recipients of government-provided incomes, by reducing the yearly “cost of living” increases below the actual rate of inflation. Continue reading
When I used to think of Iceland, thoughts of a plucky nation that fought off the curse of the bankers, and runs everything on renewable energy, would come to the fore. As usual, the reality is somewhat more mixed than the superficial appearance. The country has recovered better than many others from the 2008 financial collapse, but is still heavily indebted and requires capital controls to stop “trapped” investors from pulling their money out of the country. In addition, much of its recovery has been based on rapidly expanding a tourist industry heavily dependent upon cheap oil and the successful functioning of the global economy. Another major area of economic activity, aluminum smelting using Iceland’s cheap energy, is also tightly integrated with the global economy. It is also heavily dependent upon the Icelandic government socializing much of the exchange rate and aluminum price risks. Continue reading
Twenty five kilometres south west of Hamilton, Ontario, is the Six Nations (Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Tuscarora) of the Grand River. It has over 25,000 band members, the largest First Nations population in Canada. There are also other Mohawk and Oneida settlements in Ontario, together with a Mohawk settlement in Quebec (site of the Oka confrontation between Mohawk and Canadian authorities). Continue reading