We've Lost All Sense of the Common Good
It's true in the UK too.
We have completely lost any sense of a Common Good. All we have now is a cut-throat competition between entrenched special interests for a fatter slice of the pie while the bottom 95% have essentially no political voice and a rapidly diminishing say in the economy.
Environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken has edited a book called Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming which lists “the 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world”.
What is worrying about the entire top-of-the-line survivalist phenomenon (apart from its general weirdness) is that, as the wealthy create their own luxury escape hatches, there is diminishing incentive to maintain any kind of disaster response infrastructure that exists to help everyone, regardless of income
Michael Thompson explaining how to address climate complex problems by giving access to different kinds of voices and requiring them to be responsive to one another.
A comprehensive overview of our situation, as seen by The Automatic Earth
Hyper-consumerism is the dominant matriarch of this destructive herd and the dysfunctional economic model that supports it, generating waste and ecological damage on a massive scale.
This is Britain in 2017. A Britain that increasingly looks like a “managed” democracy. Paid for a US billionaire. Using military-style technology. Delivered by Facebook. And enabled by us.
Arrow made his absurd assumptions in his model not because they reflected reality, or proved reliable in prediction, but to make the “system of equations mathematically cohere.” When the math fails to explain reality and predict events it is a grave error (rather than a cause for celebration) when economists assume out of existence reality and torture the model until the math “coheres.”
“Things are not what they were.” Complexity “theory” tells us that trying to repeat what worked earlier – in very different conditions – will likely not work if repeated later. In the Clinton era, for example, 85 percent of the U.S. population growth derived from the working-age population. The headwind that Trump will face is that, over the next eight years, 80 percent of the population growth will comprise 65+ year olds. And 65+ year olds are not a good engine of economic growth. This is not an uniquely American problem; it is a global trend too.
I think two main projects emerge: One is to expose the often unexpressed physical violence that underpins modern capitalism. The other is to organize in such a way as to create spheres of human relations that are not marked by lines of authority, and to carry out experiments in living and relating to one another that will fuel the imagination and begin to make the contours of post-capitalist life clearer.
Live by the banks, die by the banks? I’m reminded of the monkey with his hand stuck in a cookie jar – all he has to do to escape is let go of the cookie.
There’s no need at all that depository institutions (aka “banks”) hold the economy hostage since monetarily sovereign governments (or the ECB in the case of the Eurozone) can provide inherently risk-free accounts and transaction services in fiat to all citizens that completely bypass the banks.
But then how could the poor be forced to lend to banks to lower the borrowing costs of the rich? A long standing though odious tradition?
Rasmus cites nine fundamental economic trends that underlie what he considers caused this growing fragility. Basically, they consist of a massive injection of liquidity (money and debt) starting with central banks worldwide and spreading as debt through the financial system, households and government. “In short, key variables of liquidity injection, debt, a shift to financial asset investing, a slowdown in real asset investment, disinflation and deflation in goods and services trends, financial system restructuring, labour market restructuring, and declining effectiveness of central bank monetary policy and government fiscal policies on historical multipliers and interest rate elasticities all together constitute the major trends underlying the long run deepening of fragility within the system”
A detailed and fair analysis of the information to date, along with some useful, varied comments (and much noise).
Good article, but can we please stop saying that these hackers — whomever they are — were ‘meddling in the election’ or that ‘the election was hacked’ or that ‘our democracy is threatened’, because literally none of that is true either.
The DNC and John Podesta are not ‘the election’ nor are they organs of the government. They are private political actors and nothing more. Is it concerning that they were hacked? Sure, in the same way it’s concerning when any high-profile system is hacked. Is our democracy at risk? Absolutely not.
It is very much worth repeating that this wasn’t some disinformation campaign, or a nefarious scheme to plant fake evidence on DNC computer systems. This was a leak of information — TRUE information — and by definition the release of truthful information can only be helpful to the democratic process, regardless of where it comes from. Was there deep concern about the illegal release of Trump’s old tax returns to the NY Times? of course not. Nor should their be; that information was legitimate and in the public interest. As are the DNC and Podesta emails.
Once upon a time, investigative journalists used to make it their mission to dig up exactly this kind of information and publish it in major news outlets. The only shame in this entire event is that we’re now depending on shady hackers to do the job that our journalists used to do.
I asked Jeffrey Carr what he would consider undeniable evidence of Russian governmental involvement: “Captured communications between a Russian government employee and the hackers,” adding that attribution “should solely be handled by government agencies because they have the legal authorization to do what it takes to get hard evidence.”
War, war and more war. This is the Pentagon’s vision of the future. Unlike Russia or China which have a plan for an integrated EU-Asia free trade zone (Silk Road) that will increase employment, improve vital infrastructure, and raise living standards, the US sees only death and destruction ahead. Washington has no strategy for the future, no vision of a better world. There is only war; asymmetrical war, technological war, preemptive war. The entire political class and their elite paymasters unanimously support global rule through force of arms. That is the unavoidable meaning of this document. The United States intends to maintain its tenuous grip on global power by maximizing the use of its greatest asset; its military.
One of the basic goals of effective foreign policy is to divide your potential enemies against each other, so that they’re so busy worrying about one another that they don’t have the time or resources to bother you. It’s one thing, though, to violate that rule when the enemies you’re driving together lack the power to threaten your interests, and quite another when the resource base, population, and industrial capacity of the nations you’re driving together exceeds your own. The US government’s harebrained pursuit of neoconservative policies has succeeded, against the odds, in creating a sprawling Eurasian alliance with an economic and military potential significantly greater than that of the US. There have probably been worse foreign policy blunders in the history of the world, but I can’t think of one off hand.
One prominent British Ukraine scholar poses what he calls a “fateful geographical paradox”: that NATO “exists to manage the risks created by its existence.”
In the thick of life today, intense and complex as it is, a person practically forgets that he, and all of mankind, from which he is inseparable, are inseparably connected with the biosphere—with that specific part of the planet, where they live. It is customary to talk about man as an individual who moves freely about our planet, and freely constructs his own history. Hitherto neither historians, scientists in the humanities, nor, to a certain extent, even biologists have consciously taken into account the laws of the nature of the biosphere—the envelope of Earth, which is the only place where life can exist. Man is elementally indivisible from the biosphere. And this inseparability is only now beginning to become precisely clear to us. In reality, no living organism exists in a free state on Earth. All of these organisms are inseparably and continuously connected—first and foremost by feeding and breathing—with their material-energetic environment.
The low cost of gleaning derived from several factors, one was that it wasn't associated with the costs of private property; intended as claiming it, fencing it, defending it, and more. Indeed, gleaning can only function if the resource being gleaned is managed as a "commons;" that is, free for everyone to collect. Traditionally, it meant that private land ceased to be such for the period of gleaning (as in the case of grain fields). Other kinds of resources shared this characteristics, being so low yield that they can be gathered only informally and in a situation of commons; e.g. mushrooms, wood, grass, and others. That's true also for hunting as it was practiced in very ancient times. Overall, we can see gleaning as a "hunting and gathering plug-in" applied to the agricultural society.
Once we strip this conflict of its humanitarian patina and recognize the Syrian conflict as an oil war, our foreign policy strategy becomes clear. Instead, our first priority should be the one no one ever mentions—we need to kick our Mid-East oil jones, an increasingly feasible objective, as the U.S. becomes more energy independent. Next, we need to dramatically reduce our military profile in the Middle East and let the Arabs run Arabia. Other than humanitarian assistance and guaranteeing the security of Israel's borders, the U.S. has no legitimate role in this conflict.
Several motives seem to be behind this bipartisan American campaign against the President-elect, who is being equated with Russian misdeeds. One is to reverse the Electoral College vote. Another is to exonerate the Clinton campaign from its electoral defeat by blaming that instead on Putin and thereby maintaining the Clinton wing’s grip on the Democratic Party. Yet another is to delegitimate Trump even before he is inaugurated. And certainly no less important, to prevent the détente with Russia that Trump seems to seek. How, it will be asked, can the White House cooperate with Putin, who aborted our electoral process and who—as is also being loudly alleged—is committing “war crimes” in Syria?
In 1971 a geologist called Earl Cook evaluated the amount of energy ‘captured from the environment’ in different economic systems. Cook discovered then that a modern city dweller needed about 230,000 kilocalories per day to keep body and soul together. This compared starkly to a hunter-gatherer, 10,000 years earlier, who needed about 5,000 kcal per day to get by.
That gap, between simple and complex lives, has widened at an accelerating rate since Cook’s pioneering work. Once all the systems, networks and equipment of modern life are factored in – the cars, planes, factories, buildings, infrastructure, heating, cooling, lighting, food, water, hospitals, the internet of things, cloud computing – well, a New Yorker or Londoner today ‘needs’ about sixty times more energy and resources per person than a hunter-gatherer – and her appetite is growing by the day.
To put it another way: modern citizens today use more energy and physical resources in a month than our great-grandparents used during their whole lifetime.
It might still be possible to avoid the worst of it, if enough people who are concerned about climate change stop pretending that their own lifestyles aren’t part of the problem, stop saying “personal change isn’t enough” and pretending that this means personal change isn’t necessary, stop trying to push all the costs of change onto people who’ve taken it in the teeth for decades already, and show the only kind of leadership that actually counts—yes, that’s leadership by example. It would probably help, too, if they stopped leaning so hard on the broken prestige of science, found a positive vision of the future to talk about now and then, backed away from trying to rewrite the recent past, and dropped the habit of demonizing honest disagreement. Still, to my mind, the crucial thing is that the affluent liberals who dominate the climate change movement are going to have to demonstrate that they’re willing to take one for the team.
Will they? I’d love to be proved wrong, but I doubt it—and in that case we’re in for a very rough road in the centuries ahead.
The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart. What do we know about life? In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, life creates the conditions that are conducive to life. I can think of no better motto for a future economy. We have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant. We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet. At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product.
“You look out here,” He gestures out of the windows of the National Gallery, at the domes and columns of Trafalgar Square, “And it’s a second Rome. You walk through the streets at night and you say, ‘My God, yes: this is what an empire looks like’.” This is the land of what Streeck calls the Marktsvolk – literally, the people of the market, the club-class financiers and executives, the asset-owning winners of globalisation.
Most people do not know the names of either the men or their invention. But we should thank them every time we take a bite of food. Their work lives today in the form of giant factories, usually located in remote areas, that drink rivers of water, inhale oceans of air, and burn about 2 percent of all the earth’s energy. If all the machines these men invented were shut down today, more than two billion people would starve to death.
“These results shed light on the likely outcome of the current biodiversity crisis caused by human activity. It appears a human-driven sixth mass extinction will affect all organisms, not just currently endangered and geographically restricted species.”
The report found that when you took the externalized costs into effect, essentially NONE of the industries was actually making a profit. The huge profit margins being made by the world’s most profitable industries (oil, meat, tobacco, mining, electronics) is being paid for against the future: we are trading long term sustainability for the benefit of shareholders
Push a lever and the opposite happens. The reality of complex systems.
While the government has been working to close loopholes -- which Prime Minister Narendra Modi decried as people’s "illegal means to save their ill-gotten wealth" in a radio address last week -- new ones are opening even faster. So far, the policy aimed at reducing the scale of the black economy and bringing more people into the tax net is, in the short term, leading to just the reverse: money-laundering, tax-avoidance, and new opportunities for existing organized crime, the evolution of the long-standing hawala money-transfer system, and the start of new illicit networks.
Their big idea was to allow the citizens rather than the politicians to allocate a significant proportion of the city's budget. In other words, they made Porto Alegre into a much bigger version of an Occupy camp.
To this day, each neighbourhood gets together every week to analyse the previous year's budget, and discuss what they want to build in to the next. Anyone can speak, and together they elect representatives who – with delegates from other areas – put their proposals to a citywide assembly, which makes a final decision on what gets funded.
It is cost-effective to postpone global climate action. It is profitable to let the world go to hell.
I believe that the tyranny of the short term will prevail over the decades to come. As a result, a number of long-term problems will not be solved, even if they could have been, and even as they cause gradually increasing difficulties for all voters.
Gapminder is celebrating world teacher’s day! UNESCO data shows that more boys and girls are completing primary and secondary school around the world than ever before. Teachers are doing a great job! But not all kids are making it into the classroom, 9% of primary school age children to be exact. Out of this group, about half (52%) are girls. The percentage of girls in the classroom has increased by 5% across low & middle income countries in last 10 years. The number has stayed more or less the same for boys. There are still some pockets of huge gender inequality, but in the world as a whole, boys and girls are going to school in roughly the same numbers
Scientists are interested in sea ice as a marker—and amplifier—of climate change. Its bright surface reflects 80% of the sunlight that hits it back into space. When it melts, the uncovered dark ocean surface absorbs 90% of the sunlight, which heats it up, causing more ice to melt. In recent years, the melting season in the Arctic has been ending later in the year, leading to less time for new ice to form.
Internet pioneer Bruce Schneier issued a dire proclamation in front of the House of Representatives’ Energy & Commerce Committee Wednesday: “It might be that the internet era of fun and games is over, because the internet is now dangerous.”
In 2008, Queen Elizabeth II went to the London School of Economics to open a new academic building. The British Monarch has made it a life’s work to avoid saying anything contentious in public, but this time she had a question for the economists: Why had they not seen the financial crash coming?
Her question went to the heart of two huge failures of modern economics: the near collapse of some of the world’s major economies; and the faith in an orthodox economic framework that offered no explanation for what was happening.
I do feel that there is something faintly patronising about the idea that we need to ‘create community’. It is like a couple who move into a rural village and wonder why “nothing is happening here” and then alienate themselves by trying to start lots of things without just immersing themselves first and discovering what is already happening there. Community is already there in most cases. It is not the consensual, huggy, ‘let’s have a shared dinner’ kind of community that Findhorn specialises in. It is a more chaotic, far more diverse, stubborn and atomised kind of community. But it does exist. It is neither better, nor worse, just different.
As a nation of consumers, people in the US have no choice but to be consumers. The ones that don't have the money still get to consume things like orange jumpsuits and prison food. Foreign non-consumers also get to consume — things like depleted uranium and white phosphorus ordinance.
Guidelines for Orderly Descent (Odum & Odum, 2001, p. 207)
Make beneficial descent the collective purpose for this century
Dedicated television drama, literature, and art to adventures about descent
Accept a small annual decline in empower use
Maintain a stable energy use per person by reducing populations in a humanitarian way
Remove all incentives, dogma, and approval for excess reproduction
Reduce salaries and wages as necessary to maintain full employment
Keep the emergy-money ratio stable by adjusting the money in circulation
Borrow less and reduce expectations of profit from stock markets
Develop economic incentives for reducing consumption
Develop public opinion, laws, and taxes to discourage unproductive resource use
Sustain the production of the environment
Consolidate knowledge for long-term preservation
Prioritize the communication of concepts of international respect and cooperation for global sharing
But few designers have yet ventured beyond the metaphors and mechanics supplied by these ecological models to design effectively for adaptation to change, or to incorporate learned feedback into the designs, or to work in transdisciplinary modes of practice that open new apertures for the exploration of new systems, synergies and wholly collaborative work. This is the project ahead: leading the sciences, humanities, and design culture toward a more rigorous, robust and relevant engagement across the domains of ecology and design.
A new study by Ferroni and Hopkirk  estimates the ERoEI of temperate latitude solar photovoltaic (PV) systems to be 0.83. If correct, that means more energy is used to make the PV panels than will ever be recovered from them during their 25 year lifetime. A PV panel will produce more CO2 than if coal were simply used directly to make electricity. Worse than that, all the CO2 from PV production is in the atmosphere today, while burning coal to make electricity, the emissions would be spread over the 25 year period.
Noticing, valuing, observing and remarking. These would be the things that would support a culture of care within our services.
We are left with a world in a state of leaderless policy inertia, unable to escape slow suffocation. Trade is stagnant. Deflation is still knocking at the door a full seven-and-a-half years into the economic cycle, even with the monetary pedal pushed to the floor. The next downturn will test this regime to destruction.
The UN's diagnosis is that "shareholder primacy" and the entire edifice of liberal market finance are among the key culprits, all made worse by stringent fiscal austerity that has starved the global economy of sufficient demand.
Its prescription is radical. The world must jettison neo-liberal ideology, and launch a "global new deal" with a blitz of investment on strategic sectors. It wants a return of the "developmental state", commanding a potent industrial policy, and backed by severe controls on capital flows.
If the Ecological Footprint concept is correct, our population cannot continue to grow much more without resulting in significant global impoverishment, along with the social instability that implies.
This assessment says nothing about how we might get to a sustainable situation with a reasonable standard of living. Most people are not in favour of limits to either their child-bearing or their consumption, at least if the limits are imposed by policy and legislation. Given that, we are reduced to nibbling around the edges of the problem.
It seems to me as though this nibbling must consist of improving our food production practices, decarbonizing our economies, improving the energy intensity of our economies, promoting lower fertility rates whenever and however we can, but above all promoting drastically lower-consumption lifestyles in the rich nations.
The numbers are clear – the limits to growth in both consumption and population seem to be here.
The plain fact is that the planet does not need more "successful" people. But it does desperately need more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of every shape and form. It needs people who live well in their places. It needs people of moral courage willing to join the fight to make the world habitable and humane. And these needs have little to do with success as our culture has defined it.
While teaching his students meditation, he saw extraordinary changes in the classroom. Ironically, spending the first few moments of every class withdrawing into silence enabled students to be mutually supportive and more engaged. He saw students restricted by limiting ideas about their ability to do math burst through inner barriers and start believing in themselves.
Segal believed that a house should adapt to its occupants, not the other way round. The construction method means the walls can be moved and the homes extended more easily than in most houses. Dave Dayes explains: “Walter Segal said that the house should be able to adapt to your changing needs. It did for us, because when we first started building we had two children. Just after we finished, a third one arrived and we had a fourth six years later. So we have extended the house in stages.”
Being adaptable, the homes are also a great canvas for eco-innovation. The Dayes family has added solar panels, a ground source heat pump and clad the house in fast-growing, durable Accoya wood. Other neighbours have added insulation and triple-glazed windows.
The Segal scheme has now inspired a new generation to create well-designed eco-friendly community housing.
This article provides the first empirical analysis of how close modern-day economies are to the concept of a “steady-state economy”, and explores whether there is any relationship between a country's proximity to such an economy and its social performance. The analysis is carried out using the Degrowth Accounts, a set of 16 biophysical and social indicators that are derived from Herman Daly's definition of a steady-state economy and the social goals of the degrowth movement.
I’d like to talk more about three aspects of lean thinking, and specifically, I have three questions:
Can we prevent descent accelerating into collapse, and can we survive collapse?
Can the current power structure be overcome or sidestepped to allow a lean economy?
Was Fleming right that nuclear power can’t replace oil?
These are not rhetorical questions – I don’t have the answers. But here are some more thoughts about them.
Aboriginal people worked hard to make plants and animals abundant, convenient and predictable.
By distributing plants and associating them in mosaics, then using these to lure and locate animals, Aborigines made Australia as it was in 1788, when Europeans arrived.