Tag-Archive for ◊ infinite growth ◊

• Saturday, January 12th, 2013

Crisis is the only antidoteIn an interview, Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the Limits to Growth, said:

We are going to evolve through crisis, not through proactive change.

Most of the angst we folks who are paying attention feel regarding the future comes from not understanding this critical point.

We feel despair and disappointment when there is a difference between our expectation of the future and what we think is the likely future. I would go further and say that we have a certain future: economic contraction, starvation, regional wars over resources, etc. These are all the consequences of being several billion people into overshoot and dealing with declining oil production and climate change. Nature, via the immutable laws of physics, will eventually rebalance things.

The machine will not stop or even slow down willingly because the individuals and institutions that comprise it have strong interests in keeping it running. We would have had to teach enough people in time that infinite growth was a disaster, and we didn’t do that. As a species, we blew it.

Getting that all we can do now is take care of our little corner of the machine is when I finally experienced peace.

Give yourself the same gift and accept that we will not, as a whole, proactively address our converging crises. We will learn only as events unfold. Once you accept this, you too will feel much more free to live your life.

Source: The Automatic Earth

We are incapable of solving our home made problems and crises for a whole series of reasons. We’re not just bad at it, we can’t do it at all. We’re incapable of solving the big problems, the global ones.

We evolve the way Stephen Jay Gould described evolution: through punctuated equilibrium. That is, we pass through bottlenecks, forced upon us by the circumstances of nature, only in the case of the present global issues we are nature itself. And there’s nothing we can do about it. If we don’t manage to understand this dynamic, and very soon, those bottlenecks will become awfully narrow passages, with room for ever fewer of us to pass through.

As individuals we need to drastically reduce our dependence on the runaway big systems, banking, the grid, transport etc., that we ourselves built like so many sorcerers apprentices, because as societies we can’t fix the runaway problems with those systems, and they are certain to drag us down with them if we let them.

• Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

A 12 year-old girl understands Canada’s debt problems and high tax rates better than 99% of reporters and political “experts”. And she actually has the cahones to point out the truth: that the banks and government are colluding to “rob” and “enslave” the Canadian people.

Publicly owned banks make it obvious that we don’t need private banks to issue our currency, finance public projects or underwrite private debt. I wonder how Bank of Montreal shareholders would feel about this idea <<chuckle>>.

This girl is so cute that it is hard to hear her revolutionary message…

Source: Common Dreams

The direct solution to the economic crisis, urged by veteran money reformer Bill Still, would be for the federal government to simply create the money it needs, as the American colonists did by printing paper scrip and Abraham Lincoln did by printing greenbacks.

But cities and states don’t need to wait for a deadlocked federal Congress to act. As Wong-Tam has proposed for Toronto, they can divest their public revenues from the too-big-to-fail banks and put them in their own publicly-owned banks. These banks could then do what all banks do: leverage capital, backed by deposits, into money in the form of bank credit.

This newly-created bank money would then be available for the use of the local government interest-free (since the government would own the bank and would get the interest back as dividends). Among other possibilities, the money could be used to restore the schools. This would not be an expenditure but an investment, as illustrated by the G.I. Bill, which provided education and low-interest loans for returning servicemen after World War II. Economists have determined that for every 1944 dollar invested in the G.I. Bill, the country received approximately $7 in return, through increased economic productivity, consumer spending, and tax revenues.

• Sunday, May 13th, 2012

Source: ChrisMartenson.com

It was perhaps surprising, but also encouraging, that the January 2012 TED conference finally addressed the subject of collapse, by inviting Paul Gilding to give his talk The Earth is Full. I’d actually seen a version of Gilding’s talk at the Ilhahee Lecture Series here in Portland last fall.

Gilding’s view is that we’ve reached a relationship between global population and available natural resources that makes it inevitable that the economy — a converter of natural resources into goods — will sharply slow down, if it has not started to slow down already. Gilding can be thought of not as a neo-Malthusian, or a doomer, but rather as an ecological economist. (As most readers know, I share this same view.)

Gilding looks at trailing historical growth rates — again, the rate at which natural resources are converted to industrial and population growth — and concludes that the future size of the economy at these growth rates would create a machine that the earth simply cannot sustain…

The second crucial problem is a failure to consider the limit outlined by Paul Gilding, which is that present growth rates of energy consumption, for example, imply an economy that just about everyone can agree is simply too large for the planet to handle.

You simply cannot keep growing the size of the human-created heat engine up to the level of a star. This was articulated beautifully by physicist Tom Murphy in his recent and very widely read post, Exponential Economist Meets Finite Physicist. When problem solvers entirely avoid the subject of limits, it is both appealing and exciting, but eventually it becomes vaguely pathological.

• Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

Source: Yes Magazine

Imagine you open the paper tomorrow, and the headlines are not about the “sluggish economy,” but our nation’s quality of life. You turn to the business section, and find not just information about a certain company’s profitability, but also about its impact on community health and employee well-being.

Imagine, in short, a world where the metric that guides our decisions is not money, but happiness.

That is the future that 650 political, academic, and civic leaders from around the world came together to promote on April 2, 2012. Encouraged by the government of Bhutan, the United Nations held a High Level Meeting for Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm. The meeting marks the launch of a global movement to shift our focus away from measuring and promoting economic growth as a goal in its own right, and toward the goal of measuring—and increasing—human happiness and quality of life.

Not just for dreamers

Some may say these 650 world leaders are dreamers, but they are the sort that can make dreams come true. The meeting began with an address by Prime Minister Jigmi Thinley of Bhutan, where the government tracks the nation’s “Gross National Happiness”:

The time has come for global action to build a new world economic system that is no longer based on the illusion that limitless growth is possible on our precious and finite planet or that endless material gain promotes well-being. Instead, it will be a system that promotes harmony and respect for nature and for each other; that respects our ancient wisdom traditions and protects our most vulnerable people as our own family, and that gives us time to live and enjoy our lives and to appreciate rather than destroy our world. It will be an economic system, in short, that is fully sustainable and that is rooted in true, abiding well-being and happiness.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cited Aristotle and Buddha in calling for the replacement of our current economic system with one based on happiness, well-being, and compassion. “Social, economic, and environmental well-being are indivisible” he said.

angel painting by Angelo Bronzino

 President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica followed with a keynote speech that provided an explanation of why her country is one of the worlds most eco-friendly and happy nations, despite its relative poverty. Decades ago, Costa Rica eliminated its army, prioritizing spending on a strong education program, support for social security, and the protection of national parks that spur tourism.

From Finland to France, Israel to India, speakers of parliament, ministers of the environment, and other high-level officials followed with brief speeches about the need for a new economic paradigm to replace the current economy. The afternoon featured Vandana Shiva, Martin Seligman, John Helliwell, Lord Richard Layard, Jeffrey Sachs and other luminaries.

Helliwell, Layard and Sachs introduced the World Happiness Report, a study they prepared for the conference. The report found that money and economic growth have a relatively weak correlation to happiness; happiness is much more strongly associated with things like community engagement, having lots of friends, doing work you love, and feeling a sense of trust in others. Altruism, too, is essential; a world that makes equity, care, and compassion more possible will be a happier world.

• Saturday, April 07th, 2012

These are fascinating ideas that have a chance to work if we can step out of daily reality and look objectively at what our current monetary system is doing to our planet, and ourselves.

We must never forget that money is only a tool – it is neither evil nor good. It is what we choose to do with it.

I propose we start to consider new ways to use money so that it benefits all people (not just a few bankers and their friends who control money creation), and acts to protect what is sacred in our lives – people, clean air, clean water and nutritious food.

Source: Pittsburgh City Paper

Money, or at least the desire for it, is at the root of our biggest problems, from injustice and economic inequality to environmental destruction. The need for money always seems to make us do the wrong thing: Hoard wealth, strip the land.

But it needn’t be so. In his 2011 book Sacred Economics author and speaker Charles Eisenstein proposes fresh, even radical ways to think about how money is created, and even what it’s for.

Money as we know it is created through interest-bearing debt. It’s born when a central bank, like the Federal Reserve, purchases securities, or when your neighborhood bank makes a loan. The issuers of money demand to be paid back, with interest…

…By contrast, Eisenstein argues, the proper purpose of money is simply to connect people who need something with people who have something to give — “to facilitate the flow of gifts.” 

But how? Eisenstein argues for creating money differently. 

Rather than fabricating it from interest, or basing it arbitrarily on, say, piles of gold, “My idea is that we create money out of what’s becoming sacred to humanity today,” he says in a phone interview. “Intact ecosytems, rainforests, the beauty of the planet. The integrity of indigenous cultures. The health of the watershed. The sustainability of the aquifers, and the well-being of all human beings on earth.”

Eisenstein proposes setting up bioregional governments that would issue money based on things like the ability of the atmosphere to absorb air pollution, or the amount of water that can be sustainably drawn from a region’s aquifer.

“Today, there’s really not much of an incentive to conserve water,” he says. “But if aquifer depletion became very expensive, then conservation would have a financial incentive, and you’d be aligning money with what is sacred.”

Eisenstein also proposes that we reform the money system by making interest rates negative. In other words, the longer you held money, the less it would be worth: It would “decay.” And an interest rate of, say, negative-3 percent would encourage people to spend money and to loan it out (even at a low, or a 0 percent, return). That would spur economic activity. And it would help redefine wealth as a flow of resources, rather than an accumulation. (Negative interest differs from inflation, he says, largely because it would affect everyone equally — unlike inflation, which tends to raise prices and wages at different rates.)

• Friday, March 02nd, 2012

This animated film is extremely well done and entertaining. If you have any friends who don’t understand the dangers posed by Peak oil or the paradigm of infinite growth, this film will do the trick.

If you want to help translate the film, please join the Universal Subtitles group. Or go to the Hubbert’s Arms Forum, where you can collaborate with others.

• Wednesday, February 01st, 2012

The end of growth is why we need to re-invent our banking and monetary systems. Both have collapsed and won’t survive. Each have been founded on a single untruth: infinite growth. The bank bailouts and money printing are simply delaying what everyone knows: our old systems are bankrupt.

But the Earth isn’t bankrupt and will continue to provide for us in a reasonable manner. We just need to create the new banking and monetary systems that reflect this reasonable, sustainable way of nature.

Heinberg’s first book on Peak oil, “The Party’s Over” written in 2005 was fantastic and “The End of Growth” looks like it could couple the Peak movement with the Occupy movement.

Source: Post Carbon Institute

Heinberg’s overarching message is that the current economic downturn is not temporary and that, because we have now reached fundamental, unalterable ecological limits, economic growth is gone for good…our entire economy is now fundamentally addicted to debt and to continued, indefinite growth. Oops.

Heinberg goes on to explain that because we’re reaching peak…well…peak everything, and because economic growth relies on natural resources and the Earth’s ability to process our wastes, this growth simply can’t continue. He says that our money has come to represent claims on goods and services that just don’t exist. Through debt and “fiat” currency, the amount of money in the world just gets bigger and bigger, while the Earth’s total stock of resources remains the same. Something has to give.

Unlike previous authors, going back to Thomas Malthus, then later Dennis and Donella Meadows, Herman Daly, and more recently, Tim Jackson and Gus Speth—to all of whom Heinberg gives their due—he’s not just saying that economic growth should stop or that it will stop. He’s saying that it in fact has stopped, whether we like it or not. Discussion in the popular media aside, this is not a choice. Physical laws dictate that all living things must stop growing at some point and, our adamant resistance notwithstanding, the human species has reached that point.

But haven’t we heard before how growth will stop because we’ve run out of resources? (Think The Population Bomb.) So far, it hasn’t happened. Innovation (say the business people), substitution (say the economists), and efficiency (say the scientists) have always allowed us to overcome any resource limitations and advance along the path of progress and growth—and they will continue to do so in the future. But Heinberg says, not this time. Today, innovation mostly just involves tweaking existing technologies. And some materials fundamental to economic growth—most notably fossil fuels—simply have no substitutes. And efficiency can be used to decouple energy use from economic growth only to a certain point.