Skip to main content

This morning, I started my day with a coffee cup and DailyKos, intrigued by the internicene conflict between the estimable bonddad (who has informed me countless times), and bobswern (who has also informed me countless times), each of whom posted diaries disagreeing with each other (Bonddad, bobswern) about whether we are seeing "the bottom" of the recession, and whether a gloomy or merely less-gloomy future awaits us).

Their analysis was fascinating; less fascinating was the implicit and explicit sniping between adherents (and authors) to the different philosophies and assumptions of the others.

But in both analyses, there was something seriously lacking.

Both presume that "the economy" is something human-created, and independent of world-scale limits. Both presume that the realities of the current mess (and implicitly, the likelihoods of the next five years) have a relationship to the past's realities, either by their use of graphs, or their use of employment rates.

What I've been learning over the last couple of years, as one of the two ApocaDocs gathering and bequipping stories about five likely collapse scenarios (climate chaos, species collapse, biology breach, infectious disease, peak resources -- oh, and recovery too) is that nothing is happening as expected.

Scientists and specialists within all these topical arenas are saying "more than we thought," "faster than expected," "alarming," "unanticipated," "recently realized," "worse than we thought."

The great migrations themselves are becoming extinct, from salmon to elk to butterflies to tuna. Bats in the Northeast are suffering catastrophically from white-nose syndrome, at die-off rates of 90%. Pollinators are suffering dramatically. Top-of-the-food-chain predators everywhere are collapsing. All marine mammals have high levels of PCBs, and flame retardants, and a broad array of other human-made toxins coursing through their bodies.

The waste-processed effluent from our cities contains the prozac and viagra and hormone replacement runoff, that we flush down the toilet, which makes fish hermaphroditic. That water mixes with the pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer runoff from our factory farms --  creating a dead zone the size of New Jersey at the base of the Mississippi, joining other dead zones around the world.

In between California and Hawaii there is a gumbo of plastic gyring in the Pacific that's at least the size of Texas. Plastic does not biodegrade, but breaks down into particles that fish consume.

And most estimates indicate we have already overfished between 85 and 90% of the raw biomass out of the ocean in the last century, and every day, we continue to hoover up four times more ocean biomass than is reborn. "Peak ocean" happened a long time ago, but our ever-more-efficient factory fishing has let us ignore it for a time.

Coal power belches heavy metals and incredibly massive amounts of extra carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Global warming is not a theory, it is a given.

CO2 does something much worse. While we bicker with global-warming deniers, the ocean is getting more acidic. Excess CO2 plus ocean produces carbonic acid. Ocean acidification is a clear and present danger. A slight rise in acidity dramatically affects calcium-carbonate-based lifeforms, like most plankton, shellfish, and coral, the cornerstones of the ocean biosphere. They are unable to form calcium carbonate shells, exoskeletons, or other structures.

We're also reaching, in the very near-term, limits on oil, fresh water (as reported magnificently yesterday in the diary "Water Bankruptcy"), topsoil, lithium, phosphorus, and plenty more.

Worst of all, nearly everything (and more) on the above list is happening "faster than expected."

Now: almost any of the above could radically disrupt the economy (and should). Sometime soon, fish prices will skyrocket as overfishing's legacy creates radical scarcity. Sometime soon, the impact and risk of ocean acidification will be recognized by society, and radical steps will need to be taken to prevent our rich, biodiverse ocean from becoming an acidic, jellyfish- and algae-filled cesspool, in our lifetimes. Sometime soon (and the next five years are likely to be exceedingly warm) we will see a serious drought in a major food-producing belt. Sometime soon we will see explosions of unintended consequences: unexpected blooms of dead zones, collapses of shellfish and coral, and the complex ecosystems they support.

Each of these would have dramatic economic consequences. If even 1/4 of what I describe above is the emergency I think it is, then there's what might be called "a disruptive economic force."

The present is not what the past was; the near future is by no means what the recent present was. We have reached a tremendously complex, tremendously traumatic point in human history.

Economists try to predict the future. Few economists have grappled with the limits we are confronting.

What bonddad and bobswarn both did is useful, in that they are mirroring the mindset of many traders, analysts, pundits, and economists.

I think there's plenty of evidence that that entire community is based on a failed model: a failed economic model, a failed environmental model, a failed energy model, a failed sustainable-lifestyle model.

It seems to me we are likely to be entering the era of "converging emergencies."

It's the problem of, say, the 90% deathrate in bats in the Northeast, causing a rise in crop pests, causing a drastic rise in pesticide use, causing a general decline in pollinators and other beneficial species, while also causing reproductive problems in freshwater fish downstream.

It's the problem of, say, topsoil depletion and aquifer pollution in the Midwest, compounded by climate-chaos drought and a monoculture of soy and corn, causing increasing use of fertilizer, causing the depletion and rapid rise in prices of phosphorus, while also causing the farm runoff to create algal blooms in rivers and lakes and outlets.

It's the problem of, say, rising oceans drastically devaluing private and commercial property that is 20 feet "above (the former) sea level," including city infrastucture, homes, and businesses, while the costs of energy are rising, ports are having to reconfigure, and shipping costs treble, as we confront the costs of CO2 realistically.

I could go on. Converging emergencies will be the realities of the next three to ten years, and oddly, most economists, traders, policy-makers, and the rest, have only the haziest of notions that things might be "off."

"Gloomy" or "Not-so-gloomy" seems to me rather silly.

A radical economic and societal restructuring will happen in the next five to ten years. I have no idea how it will affect our 401ks, or our TIAA-CREFs, or our cost-to-goods ratio. The selling price of houses may depend on their south-facing land, and proximity to small farms. The valuation of a stock may depend on its relationship to emergency response. The employment numbers may depend on what FEMA requires. The next three to ten years (presuming that it becomes ever more clear to the financial markets just how bad things are) will be wacky, and not at all like the previous three to ten years.

In the end, my fascination with the bonddad/bobswern discussion is similar to that of my fascination with, say, photovoltaic cell technology development. It may make a difference to me, personally, and for an industry, and might impact the converging emergencies.... but until it becomes a key part of society's proactive response to the converging emergencies, then it's just an interesting datapoint to my personal investment strategy.

"The Economy" is, as we are seeing, far more like an ecosystem than like a predictable, plottable system. The "financial system" is based on a prediction of a stable future -- and I'm pretty sure that stability is not in our future.

So what happens to the financial system when the past is utterly no predictor of future performance, and all bets are off?

Update: first Rec list. Glad it was one I was proud of.

Originally posted to mwmwm on Mon Jul 27, 2009 at 03:37 PM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Meteor Blades, Deep Dark, Bob Johnson, Loudocracy, The Cunctator, Jett, wegerje, Ed in Montana, Olds88, zzyzx, wclathe, buffalo soldier, chrississippi, tmo, Marek, tgs1952, Katydid, raboof, Aeolus, ssmt, Cowalker, radish, Odysseus, eugene, GernBlanzten, ferg, trifly, Kelk, RW, SarahLee, Sparhawk, Timaeus, roonie, apsmith, Trendar, gogol, Thom K in LA, Geenius at Wrok, pletzs, maynard, mimi, BigOkie, mattman, janinsanfran, PeterHug, Jake Nelson, RunawayRose, wytcld, Bob Love, yogipohaku, dengre, krwada, alicia, Shockwave, Bill Melater, wu ming, egoldstein, Pescadero Bill, donna in evanston, Wintermute, billlaurelMD, liz, shycat, ericy, LEP, Troutfishing, eeff, dkistner, polecat, route66, elial, frisco, dash888, ZAPatty, Matilda, object16, bumblebums, mataliandy, expatjourno, Creosote, silence, mrfleas, chipoliwog, JohnDrake, opinionated, fabacube, Hose B, JSCram3254, TravnTexas, conchita, Athenian, understandinglife, paziz, Agathena, grassroot, RabidNation, bluesteel, MillieNeon, CalNM, Bensdad, cosmic debris, mkfarkus, buckhorn okie, moiv, farmerhunt, taonow, JuliaAnn, Ignacio Magaloni, LondonYank, luku, Torta, exconservative, BruinKid, maven98, mrclean, wonmug, ctsteve, rioduran, hypertexas, enough already, dedes, arreay, wader, Ludi, dangoch, Matthew Detroit, scorpiorising, Eric Blair, Doolittle, oldjohnbrown, weary hobo, MadLibrarian, clroy, gmb, jsquared, Zem, Kidspeak, laughingriver, Dale Read, NYFM, ohiolibrarian, betson08, snakelass, Neighbor2, hazzcon, LynxSL, lcrp, madrone, Pohjola, Democratic Hawk, Dave925, bcashncali, glattonfolly, side pocket, overturned turtle, MrFrost, CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream, Wife of Bath, jcrit, ANKOSS, bablhous, wezelboy, ganymeade, xxdr zombiexx, donailin, greeseyparrot, Illissius, Gowrie Gal, Jersey Joe, dvx, Sajun777, rapala, nailbender, John3, frostyinPA, G2geek, tovan, maybeeso in michigan, bloomer 101, Bluesee, Simian, saodl, radarlady, 3goldens, Jim Hill, j sundman, NoMoreLies, UncleCharlie, qofdisks, yuriwho, 7rob7, socks, PBen, PsychoSavannah, panicbean, frandor55, Simplify, truong son traveler, ajsuited, eightlivesleft, beans, basquebob, tomfool, juliesie, stagemom, YucatanMan, tsmonk, trinityfly, Laurence Lewis, Simpletonian, vigi, reflectionsv37, FutureNow, ratzo, Mz Kleen, howardfromUSA, owlbear1, Sun Tzu, nailmaker, EdlinUser, jimreyn, where4art, lotlizard, wgard, Sandino, kaliope, RickE, exmearden, techno, dspivak, mikolo, noemie maxwell, Ginny in CO, FightTheFuture, neroden, alisonc, EeDan, sodalis, the AntiRove, deepsouthdoug, Pluto, USexpat Ukraine, hairylarry, DaveVH, JanL, Ekaterin, Indiana Bob, tigerdog, kkjohnson, Alan Arizona, troutwaxer, Snud, Land of Enchantment, RainyDay, Asinus Asinum Fricat, bently, xaxnar, Jim P, Wayneman, SoulCatcher, Born in NOLA, kovie, redcedar, buddabelly, MissInformation, Shep014, Do Tell, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, Clytemnestra, BlueInARedState, CDNNTX, cazimi, ActivistGuy, borkitekt, Audri, buhdydharma, UntimelyRippd, ccmask, The Wizard, cleverblogname, Magnifico, a gnostic, kto9, EthrDemon, kck, yojimbo, greenearth, Lefty Coaster, goodasgold, NBBooks, DarkestHour, oldmanriver, TalkieToaster, birdbrain64, global citizen, erratic, A Siegel, Ashaman, arbiter, SadieSue, DJShay, FireCrow, PapaChach, NearlyNormal, Preston S, Potus2020, sceptical observer, Unitary Moonbat, Dinclusin, Pilgrim X, Cato come back, CA Nana, profh, Persiflage, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, Cassiodorus, kurt, ohiojack, lynneinfla, wiscow, kurious, Blicero, Temmoku, ms badger, andrewj54, Nulwee, OHdog, Aaa T Tudeattack, NonnyO, elblot, DBunn, ghorton, ammasdarling, One Pissed Off Liberal, Sapere aude, Noor B, dotdot, out of left field, lightfoot, Steven wonders, terafnord, pfiore8, asilomar, Ken in MN, dotsright, Cronesense, jessical, C Barr, wa ma, camlbacker, desertguy, Cottagerose, FWIW, ColoTim, Margfh, protothad, The Reverend and Doctor Omed, yoduuuh do or do not, Flywheel, Busted Flat in Baton Rouge, some other george, HeartlandLiberal, Ticonderoga, operculum, Jimdotz, terabytes, ezdidit, BehereBenow, DWG, sfbob, Unbozo, RKOines, Strabo, bnasley, gatorbot, RosyFinch, malharden, artisan, I am Me, Giodude, eashep, stratocasterman, akdude6016, albaum, tcdup, spiraltn, mudslide, SeaTurtle, bobswern, Moderation, carpunder, Rumarhazzit, JML9999, Desa, konscious, Ralphdog, Terra Mystica, TomP, rmonroe, BustaVessel, jgilhousen, JDWolverton, MKinTN, eparrot, Michael91, Visceral, Eireknight, chapter1, revm3up, VelvetElvis, glaser, ChocolateChris, gendjinn, Captain C, Organic Mechanic, Phil N DeBlanc, procrastinator john, Seattle Mark, Art Tric, Involuntary Exile, Wes Opinion, slapper95, lineatus, wvablue, beltane, Lujane, pademocrat, pickandshovel, Populista, rubine, Tam in CA, mofembot, Seamus D, temptxan, change the Be, pragprogress, kyril, SyntaxFeline, paul spencer, lurxst, Hawkjt, Abe Frohman, BYw, AlBob, Athenocles, blueinsight, Ellinorianne, cactusflinthead, watercarrier4diogenes, davidveale, forgore, SciMathGuy, Louisiana 1976, Bule Betawi, nippersdad, soarbird, Sparks23, Neon Vincent, Texanomaly, rbutters, The Dead Man, radmul, BoiseBlue, imisa, timethief, TheOtherJimM, senex, eltee, CanyonWren, Stranded Wind, Rabbithead, dark daze, Eirene, Partisan Progressive, nwgates, mogmaar, wethepeople, ziggy vee, ProgressiveTokyo, dRefractor, TheOpinionGuy, asym, ZilV, popebelligy, Lopez99, Stoneleigh, allep10, kevinpdx, silentbobus, deutschluz, IreGyre, realwischeese, PhotogHog, audiored, A Voice, ohmyheck, etara, Tommymac, citisven, NuttyProf, bohemian darling, BigVegan, appletree, dalys, swaminathan, OrangeMike, grassrootsnm, rb137, notcaesar, budr, GreenDog, roadbear, bruddaone, Areopagitica, LaughingPlanet, 1000 Points of Fright, The Free Agent, Green Bean, marsanges, UTvoter, green minute, on board 47, Obamacrat, wvmom, FrankCornish, lostmypassword, ATFILLINOIS, polar bear, snaglepuss, Herse182, bkhand, Jimmm, beverlywoods, Kristina40, DrFitz, Surly Cracker, Earth Ling, albrt, JRandomPoster, sluggahjells, itswhatson, Weaselina, MsGrin, The Automatic Earth, Floande, USHomeopath, Loose Fur, soaglow, alliebear, ssldenver, mechboots, Pakalolo, Onomastic, yellow dog in NJ, BrowniesAreGood, mieprowan, Bruce Nilles, bluebuckaroo, kirbybruno, Cintimcmomma, the national gadfly, thinkmoss, yakimagrama, inexplore, takatobimasu, gongee, Icarus Diving, dghosty, incognita, PrescottPatriot, debaseTheBase, bamabikeguy, green plum, fabina12, lizard people, jgnyc, Vtdblue, Tyto Alba, myrmecia gulosa, Conure, MinistryOfTruth, disconnect the dots, curtisgrahamduff, Book of Hearts, blackjackal, Logical Fallacy Contraption, Sunspots, too many people, Chodrak, RLMiller, lol chikinburd, caryltoo, jaebone, Georgianna Darcy, PrometheusUnbound

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site