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We're at the end of growth.  Growth of the economy, of consumption, of wealth.  Below I'll describe in brief why this is the case and the beginnings of what we might do about it.

Last week I mentioned that the predicaments we face with energy and the environment, especially as they impact the economy, are often viewed from a optimistic or a pessimistic angle.

Optimists proclaim: someone will figure out a solution, technology is advancing so fast that it will solve everything, the problems aren't as bad as people think, there is a great plan and once we convince everyone to implement it we're set, etc.  Pessimists counter: civilization is inherently irredeemable, everything we do hurts the environment, we deserve a comeuppance for how badly we've trashed the planet, etc.

As the data comes in, the optimistic view isn't supported by the facts, but the pessimistic view makes things worse than they need to be.  Maybe we need something new.  Let's call it optimistic pessimism.

By optimistic pessimism I mean that there is cause for pessimism, but instead of viewing that pessimism as inherent and letting it run its course, we need to take an optimistic view regardless.

There are cold hard truths we first need to grapple with: we have passed or are near many of the peaks in natural resources, both by drawing down non-renewable resources and by hyperexploiting renewable ones.

For example, here are some points we've passed and haven't looked back (approximate dates):

  • 1979: Peak per-capita gross energy production
  • 1986: Peak grain per capita
  • 1989-1995: Peak wild fish catch
  • 1990: Peak net energy production
  • 2000: Peak fresh water availability
  • 2005: Peak conventional oil production
  • 2011-14: Peak all-liquids (conventional+unconventional oil) production

It's possible to overshoot a resource base - civilizations have done it time and again - but only temporarily.

The list above is a small subset of what we've depleted or are depleting, and many of the critical ones - oil, for instance - have no real substitutes.  As I mentioned last week, even if there were substitutes, we would have to have started a crash program 20 years ago to transition without economic impacts.  But it's too late for that.


So what might happen?  Let's focus on oil for now.  By all indications we are currently in the period of peak liquid fuel production, and the prices we're seeing reflect that.  Most recessions in the past few decades have coincided with an oil price spike.

However, since oil production was increasing steadily until the mid 2000s, the economy had head room to grow.  That is, after each recession, it took a while for prices to rise because despite increasing demand, production was going up too.  Now production is flat and soon to be headed down, so even a partial recovery like the one we're experiencing now is sufficient to cause a price spike, and drive a new recession; I expect we'll see another recession or slowdown within the next 12 months.  That means that our recoveries never get us out of the hole we were in from the previous recession before the next recession digs us down even deeper.

As Richard Heinberg describes it:

"Energy scarcity will cause a recession of a new kind - one from which anything other than a temporary, partial recovery will be impossible. We humans may, if we are intelligent and deliberate, create a different kind of economy in the future, building steady-state, low-energy, sustainable societies...But the industrial-growth global economy that we are familiar with will be gone forever. The timing of this event will depend upon that of the global petroleum production peak."

In other words, we're at the Limits to Growth that seemed so far off when they were first predicted (here is their business-as-usual scenario from their 2004 update):


That doesn't mean the industrial economy will disappear overnight, but it does mean that we should expect a cycle of recessions followed by brief (~3-5 year) partial recoveries, continuing for the next couple of decades.  Consider what your life might be like after 3 or 4 cycles of recessions with no meaningful recovery, what the economy might be like, what your community might be like.

What it does mean is that we're at the End of Growth as we know it.  That's a major turning point, as our entire economy depends upon growth to continue functioning.  What will happen when growth no longer occurs due to fundamental resource constraints?


Now for the optimism.  Not the kind that usually goes with these sorts of posts: I'm not going to suggest a rescue remedy that will solve the problems above, because there isn't one.

Rather, I'm going to suggest that this isn't the end of the world and individual action is worth undertaking.

Alternative energy won't resolve the matter, as I discussed last week, because there isn't enough time for a transition.  Conservation may be the only option we have, but most wouldn't consider that a "solution" because it requires us to fundamentally change how we live.  We're at a point where large scale collective (governmental) action is unlikely.  However, individual action is still available to us, and can make a difference in our own lives and those around us.  The key is to avoid falling into the trap of false solutions.

Here are some things (far from comprehensive), from easiest to hardest, that each of us can do to prepare for this new, hard time.  None of these are new ideas:

It is difficult to do them all at once, and few have done them all yet.  I certainly haven't, but I'm making progress on each.  In time, we will all be forced to do all of them - it's just a matter of whether we're forced into it or proactively adjust to new circumstances.

I'll write more about false solutions next time.


Update: Here are a number of great books to check out on these topics.  I've tried to roughly organize them.

Highly Recommended:
Eaarth, Bill McKibben
The Long Descent, John Michael Greer
The Party's Over, Richard Heinberg

On energy:
The Hirsch Report, Robert Hirsch et al.
Sustainable Energy without the hot air, David MacKay

On climate:
Climate Change 2007, IPCC
Six Degrees, Mark Lynas

Related:
The Ecotechnic Future, John Michael Greer
The Post-Carbon Reader, Richard Heinberg et al.
What We Leave Behind, Derrick Jensen
Deep Economy, Bill McKibben
The Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan

Classics:
Overshoot, William Catton
The Limits to Growth, Donella Meadows et al.
The Myth of the Machine and Technics and Civilization, Lewis Mumford
The Collapse of Complex Societies, Joseph Tainter

Originally posted to barath on Sun May 01, 2011 at 10:03 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  great diary (5+ / 0-)

      I kept considering posting a diary on peak oil and the end of growth here, but never followed through. You've done a great job of it. I wrote my college thesis four years ago on peak oil. I agree- somewhat. First, I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as "several recessions followed by 3-5 years of partial recovery." I'm not sure how many recessions the global economy can handle, but I'm even less sure how many recessions the US credit can take. I can't help but think that things will reach a tipping point and begin to slide downhill very quickly at some point in the next decade or two. Second, I'll add a book to your recommendations: The Long Emergency by James Howard Kunstler.

      In the end, though, I have a different sort of optimism than you do. Fundamentally, I don't think our society is going to voluntarily give up a model of economics predicated on growth. So the only real long-term hope for our survival on a livable planet is the collapse. of the civilization that is destroying the long-term carrying capacity of the planet for human life. I hope for a collapse- hopefully an orderly one where starvation, disease, and war isn't too rampant- because I don't believe in techno-optimism. I want a planet we can live on. In the words of Ed Abbey, "In the long run, I'm an optimist. I really do believe that our techno-industrial civilization will soon collapse." To me, that seems like the only realistic route to sustainability these days. While I'd love to believe we're going to figure it out and change voluntarily or that the downslope of those curves on those graphs up there will be peaceful and pleasant, I don't think it will be so.

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell" --Ed Abbey

      by progreen on Sun May 01, 2011 at 06:47:41 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I go back and forth (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fritzi56, congenitalefty, neroden

        Agreed - The Long Emergency is a great book.  I left it out partly because Kunstler has a tendency to be a bit glib in his explanations, and while that makes for entertaining reading, it sometimes raises questions about the validity of his arguments.  Heinberg, Greer, and McKibben cover the same material and in a more systematic and well-supported way.

        As for whether the economy can handle multiple recessions with only short recoveries, I think it can for the most part, but the financial system probably can't.  That means one of these recessions will result in the final implosion of the derivatives pyramid - basically whatever would have happened in 2008 if there wasn't a bailout.  That recession will likely be devastating economically.  But other than one more mega recession, I think we're just going to see something like: 2011-2012, recession; 2012-2015, partial recovery; 2015-16, recession; 2016-2020, partial recovery; 2020-2022, recession; 2022-2027, partial recovery; etc.

    •  This is why when the downward revision of GDP... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      congenitalefty, neroden

      ... happened the other day, I just went "meh". Because we need to think of our economy in terms of a LOT more than just GDP. As in jobs, quality of jobs, and effect on the environment. Even Sarkozy knows that... and I remember how worried so many lefties were after his election!

      Real Democrats don't abandon the middle class. --John Kerry

      by Lucy Montrose on Sun May 01, 2011 at 10:03:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Economic "growth" SHOULD mean tech improvement (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Jasmine Van Pelt

        We need to stabilize (and actually, reduce) population; we need to reduce resource extraction; we need to reduce everything dependent on either of those two.

        But we should be able to have continual growth in quality of life, by having a sustainable economy with a stable population which recycles all resources, and then adding cycles of technological improvement based on improved knowledge (and with the transitions powered by renewable energy from the sun).  Then this could keep going until the sun burns out.

        This fits the definition of economic growth.  However, the "economic growth" fanatics seem to not pay attention to this.  In fact, this is the only way to have sustainable economic growth.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:00:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Yes YesYes. We are truly facing some readjustments (6+ / 0-)

    not only in how we live our lives but in actual population levels for many reasons. We can either let events overtake us or do our damn best to preserve what is good about our world and life styles and give up the frivolous and wasteful. Accept that we cannot have it all without consequences. Live simpler and less wasteful lives. Embrace the idea that this is all lifes home not just ours...that all resources are all of ours not just those who are most aggressive and grasping enough to take more then they need at the rest of earths lifes expense. That all life may have its term of existence but that we have no right to end it prematurely in the face of our abominable ignorance and delusions.

    So much to fix and so much opposition from those who are now hugging the poisonous lifestyles we currently lead. Change does not originate from outside of our private lives but  begins there.

    Fear is the Mind Killer

    by boophus on Sun May 01, 2011 at 10:34:32 AM PDT

  •  I agree (5+ / 0-)

    we're in for a whole lot of changes. Many of us are walking off a cliff by ignoring the coming shortages of (especially) oil.

    Certainly, our political structure won't be able to help much. oh well.

  •  great diary; (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, shaggies2009, cotterperson, Matt Z

    great suggestions.  Bill McKibben's Deep Economy delves deeply into the points you have raised.  I highly recommend it.

    There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.

    by puzzled on Sun May 01, 2011 at 11:12:46 AM PDT

  •  Just the food situation deserves its own diary (12+ / 0-)

    Remember the food riots of 2008 around the world as a result of the spike in grain prices?  Have you noticed the rapidly rising food prices here in just the past 5 or 6 months?  They both have a common denominator:  The rising demand for imported food in China.

    China used to have a government policy of being self sufficient in food.  They have quietly abandoned that goal.  In 1996 their importation of soybeans amounted to just 2% of global production.  Today they consume close to 60% of global soybean production; much of it going to feed their growing hog and poultry industries as they eat more meat.

    Argentina has converted so much acreage to soybeans to feed the Chinese demand that their agriculture is becoming almost a monoculture, to the exclusion of crops that are consumed domestically.  As our dollar decreases in value, more of our agricultural product is sold overseas at a discount, pinching supplies here.  Hence food inflation.

    China and India are now purchasing or leasing enormous tracts of arable land in Africa and South America in order to produce crops there solely intended for their own domestic consumption.  This, too, has caused civil unrest as local farmers are displaced and food shortages occur.

    I fear Americans are staring much higher food prices in the face, and quite soon, as our government has no policy regarding food as a national security resource.  As productive as we are at farming, between Chinese demand (and their population may double in 30 years), the weak US dollar trending lower for a decade now, and our capitalist system that will divert every last grain of corn, wheat or rice to the highest bidder...food inflation is here to stay, and may just be only starting to take off.

    "That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love" Emily Dickenson

    by Keith930 on Sun May 01, 2011 at 11:33:16 AM PDT

    •  Food is definitely critical (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Leftcandid, neroden

      And while I'm no expert, I hope to write more about it in the future.

      You're right - we should expect to see generally increasing food prices, not only because increased demand from China due to growth, but due to climate change decreasing yield, due to the cost of oil and natural gas as inputs to agriculture, etc.  Each getting personally food self-sufficient is very important.

      A small quibble - it is likely that we'll experience deflation in each recession / downturn that we experience, during which time the dollar will become more valuable rather than less valuable, so at least in the short term commodities including food and gas will become nominally cheaper.  (That may be no consolation, because also during deflation wages are depressed so people have less money to buy nominally cheaper goods.)

      •  not so sure (4+ / 0-)

        Our economy isn't nearly as insular as it was 20 years ago.  As long as countries like China and India can grow as they have and increase their consumption, large corporations replace lower demand during recessions here by consumers who are tightening their belts with sales of goods/services overseas.  

        To the extent they can make their profits overseas, cash strapped consumers here in the US don't create as much pressure to lower prices.  We are seeing that right now.

        "That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love" Emily Dickenson

        by Keith930 on Sun May 01, 2011 at 11:51:00 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Hmm... (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          cotterperson, Sparhawk, neroden

          I guess I agree in the long run prices will be going up in real terms - in terms of purchasing power.  It's just that temporarily during recessions, like in late 2008 and early 2009, prices in nominal terms come down as demand sags and deflation proceeds.  It turns around quickly, though and prices resuming rising as you've said.

  •  getting Democrats elected vs. being realistic (9+ / 0-)

    This is where I sometimes despair. The American population is for the most part totally unprepared and unwilling to listen to this kind of message. You cannot get Democrats elected on a platform of gloom and doom about our economy. People want to hear solutions that will put the economy right back on the infinite growth path it was supposed to be on before this recession. They don't even seem to 'get' the recession as any kind of rebuke to or disproof of this notion of infinite growth.

    I think we who see things otherwise have to divorce our convictions on this issue from our political involvement. Making changes in our own habits of consumption, supporting different models of production as individual consumers or by starting consumer cooperatives, and setting an example for our neighbors, discussing our beliefs with our neighbors...

    But as far as pushing these issues in electoral campaigns, right now it amounts to handing victory to the Republicans. And the defensive campaign of simply keeping the government out of the Republicans' hands is so vital. They do so much harm in office. We really have to just grit our teeth and campaign for Democratic platforms that are oblivious to the truth about the future of the American economy, merely because that Democratic platform is still much less harmful than the Republican one.

    •  Agreed - we're in a tough situation politically (8+ / 0-)

      The last Democrat to forcefully discuss this was Carter.  While I don't think he lost because of that message (I think it mostly had to do with the hostage crisis), we have perhaps incorrectly learned that the message of conservation and the limits to growth is one that cannot be delivered.

      My guess is that we have to just let national Dems push the usual message, though we need to make sure that they truly understand this message (even if they don't talk about it in public) because it will inform their policy choices.

      I'm hoping that we can organize around these issues at the local and state level, since many of the changes we need are local ones rather than national ones.

    •  Maybe what we really need ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      GayHillbilly, melo

      is eight more years of Republican rule. The bipartisan corporatist Democrats have done very little to help.

      Were are still in Iraq and Afghanistan, plus we have a new war starting-up in Libya. ObamaCare which is more about helping Insurance companies than helping American citizens. Tax breaks for the Rich extended. Caring more about Wall St than helping to get America back to work. Etc, etc.

      Nothing is forever, just ask the Whigs. Eight more years of Republican rule may finally change the political landscape. In 2020 the Greens could be the party of the Left and the Democrats the party of the Right.

    •  Puritans rarely have long term success (0+ / 0-)

      If you want to sell this to other people, something has to strike a chord of hope and joy.  Unfortunately it smacks of dun brown samenes. It also sounds like a romantic longing to go back to the land.  Rural lives have never been good for women so you're going to have to make this sound awfully good or women are NOT going to buy it.  Going back to the bad old days or the 21st century version of the bad old days is going to be a very very hard sell for women who  have already taken a look at the lives of their country cousins and dug pumps in permanently.

      Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

      by tikkun on Sun May 01, 2011 at 05:42:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Lol (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        congenitalefty, neroden

        No sales necessary. They won't have a choice eventually. People can start to downscale now or die of starvation later (maybe both).

        Reality doesnt give a shit.

        (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
        Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

        by Sparhawk on Sun May 01, 2011 at 06:14:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  sales indeed neccessary (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          neroden

          It's perfectly true that the end of the infinite growth economy will come whether we sell the American public on the idea or not. The problem is, we will have a truly horrible transition if we continue to deny reality until it bites us in the ass. We need to sell people on the idea that change is inevitable in order to start getting ready to cope with the change. And yes, the idea that material affluence will not infinitely expand in the future the way all the ads and all the billionaires and all the Republicans promise us does smack of dun brown sameness. I believe that there is a 'human nature', that it's a product of evolution, and that 'I want more' is its motto. It's not EEEEEVIL that has brought us to this pass, it's our own human nature. We are genetically programmed to maximize reproduction and control over material resources, not to satisfy some reasonable minimum. It will require a miracle of rational self-reflection and deliberate, well-thought-out action to change course now. The 'natural' way of dealing with this kind of situation is, of course, a population crash. Sigh......

          •  Maximizing reproduction (0+ / 0-)

            has several meanings.  One is maximizing the survival of one's species, and those of us with that attitude need to beat those who are maximizing their individual position within the species at the expense of the entire species.  If we all get wiped out, their genes get wiped out too.

            Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

            by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:06:27 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Sadly.... (0+ / 0-)

              we won't get wiped out as a species, most likely. Sure there will be a huge population crash if we don't get our act together, but if one in a thousand survive, we'll still have six or seven million humans to carry on the species. Maximizing reproduction as an evolutionary 'goal' is, sadly, all about maximizing individual (actually, + kin) reproduction, possibly (but it's still quite a controversial theory amongst biologists) about maximizing the reproduction of small groups or populations, and not at all about maximizing the reproduction of species. So the selfish survivalist millionaires are probably onto a good thing, as animals with no goals beyond what evolution programmed them with, that is.

              Think about this: the end state of a successful effort to maximize the reproduction of the human species is a planet covered in a layer of human beings cannibalizing each other, and their shit.

              Under the sway of evolution, there is no 'way' to persist. Individuals and species persist throught the dumb luck of randomly happening to be suited to the new and ever-changing conditions under which they happen to be living.

              Although a rational agent might come up with a rational and effective plan to persist, it would require freeing oneself first from blind submission to evolutionarily predetermined goals and desires. Drab dun asceticism, anyone?

    •  That's why we're doomed (5+ / 0-)

      Neither party is in any way capable of handling the challenges presented by oil depletion. Like Obama, Bush, Clinton, et al they WILL continue with status quo until it becomes physically impossible to do so, at which point who the hell knows what happens.

      When I think about the realities of oil depletion, I despair at how silly the budget/austerity/stimulus arguments are, and other equally stupid discourse. We're entering a period of time where we may not even have an economy anymore. Politicians should be answering questions like "how are we going to keep the power on?" and "can we maintain some semblance of medical care in the future?" and "can industrial civilization survive in some form without fossil fuels?"

      That's what intelligent people will be wondering.

      (-5.50,-6.67): Left Libertarian
      Leadership doesn't mean taking a straw poll and then just throwing up your hands. -Jyrinx

      by Sparhawk on Sun May 01, 2011 at 06:12:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, this is why I'm working on tech. (0+ / 0-)

        Since politics has failed to address energy-related problems within the US, I think the only solution to that one is developing solar panels which are actually cheaper than coal.

        At least we have figured out how to deal with the population bomb politcially: educate women, give women equal rights, and provide sex education and ready access to birth control.  Now we just have to crush the religious would-be theocrats who are fighting against all of that -- I'm not entirely sure how.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:03:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's Stuff Like This - (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    scott5js, Eugene Fitzherbert, LHB

    That really nails Democrats to the wall in places like Michigan and Ohio.  Same goes for Labour in Yorkshire and the Parti Socialist in Lille.  And then we wonder why the working poor turn to right-wing groups like the Tea Party, the BNP, and the National Front.

    People who get dissed for driving 50 miles to work - so they can have ANY job - even though it pays half what the old one did and has no benefits - don't tend to respond too positively to such arguments.  And no.  They don't drive a Prius.  They drive a 1996 Ford Taurus that hasn't been tuned up in 4 years.

    Eat organic?  There are a lot of people who are lucky to be able to afford to eat Wal-Mart store brands.  And weatherizing an apartment hardly makes sense - other than putting in a roll of weather stripping - unless you own the place or see a return.  Few landlords are willing to offer significant rent reductions and fewer weatherizing programs address renters.

    <<<>>>

    Don't you remember Jimmy Carter?  And his "We gotta freeze in the dark" speech??  Do you remember where it got him politically?  Was Carter right for the most part?  Yes - - but it got him all the way back to Plains, Georgia.

    The Democrats got slammed in the Midwest in 2010.  And Obama is likely to lose the 2012 election unless he carries every Midwest state he won with the exception of Indiana.  Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio had massive Republican backlashes.  Pennsylvania, too.  Iowa and Minnesota, too.  Although Dayton won the governorship by a hair, the Dems lost the legislature by losing 16 senate seats and 25 house seats.  In Minne-friggin-sota.

    So even if you are right - and I do not necessarily agree that you are - you will be blogging to 1.6% of the electorate from the political wilderness.

    Do Americans consume more energy per capita than any other nation?  Yes, almost - there's always Canada.

    Do American homes, SUVs, RVs expand with every generation?  Yup, they sure do.

    And are American waistlines expanding, as well?  I'll let you know when I see around the person in front of me.

    But I can assure you that your prognostications are a formula for political suicide.  And it you think the Titanic really is going down and that there aren't enough lifeboats - then that is your prerogative.

    There have been others before you.
    Malthus was wrong in 1798.
    Ehrlich was wrong in 1968.

    •  LOL! (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      congenitalefty

      So your prognostications based on the past are more certain than the diarists' based on history? Nah. Change is the only constant. Ours is to direct it however we can.

      •  That last sentence is the loser line (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson

        Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

        by tikkun on Sun May 01, 2011 at 05:45:22 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Thanks for telling me. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          barath, congenitalefty, neroden

          I'm missing something, obviously, and I don't know what it is. (I feel like Mr. Jones in Bob Dylan's song ;) Is it because "direct" is too strong a word, and "participate in" would be more apt? Is it too optimistic or not cynical enough?

          The only way I can participate right now is by changing my own impact on the planet, so I was focused on the last part of the diary (before the book list) about what I could do. Otherwise, the only contribution I can make is taking care of my 92 y/o mom, which also benefits me in several ways. Maybe I am too self-centered or just plain wrong. (It wouldn't be the first time!)

          It isn't in me to give up, even in the face of The Powers That Be. I can't do the same kind of activism I did in the '60s. Nationwide we did end a war and further civil rights, however bad things are now. Just last week or so, I saw a black president walk into a room of young people who were predominantly female, and they were talking about energy and the environment. To these old eyes, that was a joy.

          Ironically, in studying communication I learned that the meaning of what one writes is created in the mind of the reader. Sorry to go on so long, but I'd really like to know what I communicated in that last sentence if you have time.

          •  It came across as though (0+ / 0-)

            you were supporting manipulating or forcing others, neither of which is acceptable. It was probably a matter of my not understanding your point.

            Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

            by tikkun on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:07:50 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Ehrlich wasn't wrong; only his timescale was off. (6+ / 0-)

      His fundamental point—that overpopulation and humanity's heavy resource 'footprint' are together  leading to ecological collapse—is absolutely correct.

      Technological tweaks like the completely unsustainable intensive use of petroleum-based fertilizer bought us a few more decades beyond Ehrlich's guestimate; but the final outcome is really not in doubt.

      •  Oh No, Monsieur - (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        neroden

        Ehrlich WAS wrong.

        Because the larger part of "Population Bomb" was policy directives based upon near-term collapse.  He actually did a huge disservice to population issues by making such ludicrous and drastic predictions.

        I believe that continued population expansion is the most serious threat to the planet - precisely because the billion residents of India and of China WILL want to increase their consumption levels to those of Europe - if not the U.S.

        PS - Your final sentence simply confirms why the Dems are losing the Midwest.

        •  You're making a political argument (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Sparhawk, congenitalefty, neroden

          And while you're right that it's hard to sell the ideas I describe here, that doesn't make them untrue.

          That's the challenge for us, and like I wrote in another comment upthread, it may be the case that we need to inform national Dems of these issues so they can keep them in mind for policy matters but find creative ways of campaigning so that we don't have to put these issues front and center.

          Like imagine making a campaign for national high-speed rail as a national security argument.  That's a large part of the argument that was made for the interstate highway system.  It'd mean jobs in every state, and it'd have something that would be harder to rally against.  No, it wouldn't be easy, but I'm sure some clever marketers could figure out how to sell it.

          •  I Agree - (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            neroden

            High speed rail should be sold as a national system with an emphasis on national security.  Not as "create jobs" but "Made in the U.S. of A."

            But to present ideas in such draconian fashion is to invite electoral defeat.

            What's more - by emphasizing a commitment to working people, we insure that the transition is equitable.  Given the past 40 years of wealth redistribution - we have to do it that way or it will never happen.

      •  Phosphate fertilizers (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath

        The raw material, phosphorous, is indeed finite.  The fertilizer industry predicts there is enough P left for perhaps 100 more years, maybe less.

        "That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love" Emily Dickenson

        by Keith930 on Sun May 01, 2011 at 04:36:15 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  no... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barath, cumberland sibyl

      Those who deny ecological realities are in the same league as the climate change deniers, in my book. How is the human species not subject to the same ecological realities as any other species? I know we've developed some very clever ways of using fossil fuels to temporarily boost carrying capacity, but those are running out and I don't see a real alternative lying around that can continue to fuel our green revolution and the global transportation network that allows our civilization to sputter along.

      There have been others before me.
      At the end of the Mayan civilization.
      At the end of the Roman civilization.
      At the end of the Mesopotamian civilization.
      At the end of civilization on Easter Island.
      At the end of the first agricultural settlement in the Levant.

      Civilizations collapse if they are not sustainable. We are not sustainable. Simply because we've been able to string ourselves along on stored solar energy doesn't mean we haven't always been dependent on the sun for our energy, just like nearly every other organism on this planet.

      "Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell" --Ed Abbey

      by progreen on Sun May 01, 2011 at 06:58:08 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  If Pissing in the Wind (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Eugene Fitzherbert

        Is your preferred approach, then by all means - go ahead.

        But if you actually want to address the issues, a nuanced approach is necessary.  Very few people are going to respond in the manner in which you wish if you call them fat slobs.  Or deniers.  Or whatever.

        It's not the analysis that is lacking - it's the application.
        Unless, of course, you just want to see everything go to hell in a handbasket.  In which case, I suggest you sell you computer on e-bay and buy sackcloth.

    •  Malthus was right in 1798. (0+ / 0-)

      He was just off by a few years.

      Personally, I expect the (very likely) human extinction to come after I die of natural causes, and I don't have kids.  People who care about their kids, however, should worry.

      I do care about my species, so I would like us to make sure there ARE lifeboats.  Global warming can, if accelerated badly enough, kill off humanity entirely, and that is best avoided.  And still pretty straightforward to avoid, if people who are fucking idiots can be gotten out of the halls of power.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:26:04 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I'd like to hear more about (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cotterperson, barath, neroden

    what you mean by "Withdraw from the money economy" - I'm assuming you mean work locally with friends and/or businesses to barter for goods and services?  Is this correct?

    For me, the biggest hurdle is changing my mode of transportation.  As in, how do I get my child to/from school, and myself to/from work, without use of my personal vehicle?  

    The short answer is that it will take some serious re-adjusting on both our parts -- as in additional time for figuring out a bus route for each of us, being willing to get up earlier and get home later, and not having the ability to run errands during my lunch hour because my office is in a business park away from the downtown area and from my local grocery store.

    I'm making progress toward buying more and more items that are produced locally and that are organic.  Fortunately, we have many local producers (dairy, beef, poultry, and of course, farmers market).  My next step is weaning my son and I off things like chips, crackers and store bought cookies and candy.  That one's definitely not easy.

    •  also (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden

      I'd love for someone to explain how to get around property taxes.

      •  This is a complex issue (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        neroden

        For a long time to come, I'm guessing there will be no way to get around them.  Maybe eventually small towns will allow payment in goods or services rather than money.

        •  Barter leads to money (0+ / 0-)

          because it's more efficient to just print up paper and say "this is three chickens or two sacks of flour or...".  Any barter economy will eventually produce currency, and currency leads to investment, capitalism, growth with the logic of cancer, and collapse.  In the short-term, barter might work; but in the long run, we need to discard the idea of quid-pro-quo exchange as the fundamental form of economic relation.  That's why I'm a Syndicalist rather than a Capitalist.

          •  Not entirelt true (0+ / 0-)

            Capitalism is the expectation that owning something should allow you to profit without labor.  You can have money without creating capitalism, but you can't collect interest on it.

            Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

            by EthrDemon on Thu May 05, 2011 at 03:21:32 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  I guess I mean barter and self-sufficiency (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      neroden, melo, RanDomino

      In the long run local currencies will probably need to play a more major role, but I guess I take Orlov's comment to heart: that if you're going to fall out of a window, you might as well make sure you're on the ground floor when you do.  The less dependence on the money economy, the less personal impact when the money economy sputters.

  •  Tip, rec, not because I completely agree, but (8+ / 0-)

    because this kind of thinking--long term, big picture thinking that asks us to fundamentally reconsider some of our most cherished ideas about how the economy is and should be--is desperately needed in America today.  When everything is a 24-hour news cycle, how will this look in tomorrow's polls mentality, we just dig ourselves into deeper and deeper holes.

    By the way, I don't know that I disagree with your conclusions, by saying I don't completely agree, I'm just acknowledging that I'd probably have to read a few of the books on that list, among others, before I knew enough about these specific issues to agree or disagree with anything more than an educated guess.

    I think another big picture idea that we need to address is how we conceive of jobs/work/production.  Take any industry of the industrial revolution type, and even assume continued growth and no out-sourcing.  The fact of the matter is, that with the increase of technology, there are fewer "jobs" and "person-hours" needed.  We need fewer people working fewer hours to produce what we need, and even to produce what we want.  Yet, we seem to demand that everyone go out there doing something for forty hours a week, even if it's actually digging us deeper into some of these environmental and resource holes.

    Someday, we'll have to be okay with people working 30-hour weeks and being less "productive" in a material sense if we're going to 1) address the issues you bring up here and 2) make sure there is enough meaningful work for everyone, rather than having one class of people who are getting by and an increasingly larger class of people that have almost nothing.

    "What is essential is invisible to the eye." www.thefoxfoot.com

    by greywolfe359 on Sun May 01, 2011 at 02:34:29 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for the thoughtful, interesting diary. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z, barath, neroden, melo

    As a retiree, I have my life savings in some bonds that are rapidly being called because the interest rates have fallen. I'd planned to use the interest from them to supplement my Social Security. I never thought I'd be able to say this, but I have no debt. I've weatherized, reduced spending on disposables, and reduced my use of plastic. I'm where I want to be, so I use less than one tank of gas a month.

    As far as I know, I can't invest the money from the bonds in something that is relatively safe that pays appreciable interest. OTOH, if I used the money that's not paying interest, why not install some kind of renewable energy (maybe geothermal and solar)? That way I'd be drastically lowering my utilities, which vary by season but amount to about $200-300/month. My house is too large, but it's set up pretty well for aging in place, and has a view that I'd never, ever be able to afford again.

    Since I have no trusted financial adviser, I'd welcome the ideas of any Kossacks who have time to share them. There are plenty of others my age here, so maybe it would help them as well. It would certainly be better for the planet ;)

    •  We're pretty well where you are, cotterperson, (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      barath, cotterperson, congenitalefty, melo

      Social security and a few investments, hoping to live off interest.  Ages 64 & 72.

      We built an energy efficient house 29 years ago, passive solar, to which we added pv panels a few years ago.  It was one of the best things we've ever done.

      Granted, TVA has a very generous incentive program, which pays us 12 cents more per kwh than whatever their current charge is.

      We haven't had to pay an electric bill for over a year and I don't think we will ever again - or at least for the next 9 years of our Generation Partners contract.  And a couple months ago they sent us a check for $550 for electricity we had generated and sold back to them.

      With the miserable interest rates & low return on investment, I think major solar investment makes a lot of financial - and environmental and social - sense.

      Buy a Boat. Save the Seed.

      by cumberland sibyl on Sun May 01, 2011 at 07:20:59 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Thanks for telling me that. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        barath, melo, cumberland sibyl

        Your first-hand experience means a lot to me in terms of being reality-based financially. Having seen my first off-the-grid solar house in the Ozarks 40 years ago -- and the suppression of the technology since then -- I think it would give me some deep and abiding satisfaction as well.

        It's a good time, imho, when an investment makes financial, environmental, and social sense. Never thought I'd live to see the day, but it would please me no end to be a tiny part of that. I only wish the young people who are struggling so hard could reap some of the benefits. If we can lower the up-front cost by standardization and mass-production, we can do help with that. Better yet, we can make a contribution to the future on our way out ;)

        Again, thanks.

        •  Pretty tough... (0+ / 0-)
          It's a good time, imho, when an investment makes financial, environmental, and social sense.

          Given that investment is just an attempt to profit from growth, and growth is almost universally bad for the environment, getting those to line up sounds difficult.

          Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

          by EthrDemon on Thu May 05, 2011 at 03:24:20 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Absolutely, make your house sufficient. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson

      Weatherization is only part of making a house very highly insulated; if you can actually super-insulate, do it (check out the "Super Insulated House Book", IIRC), otherwise get it as well insulated as possible.

      After that (huge savings) spending the money on renewable energy gives you a great payback.  The expensive and finicky part is mostly the installation.  What is most suitable depends very VERY much on exactly where you are located.

      In the coming time, you may end up renting out space in your house, particularly if you end up with a very low cost structure and a lot of space.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:10:43 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  All systems are finite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z, G2geek

    Doesn't matter if it's a blade of grass, a human being, an economy, or the planet earth.

    It's also why Stephen Hawking correctly pointed out our ability to live in space will be critical as time marches on. (Although his reasons are many).

    They used to tell me I was building a dream, with peace and glory ahead, Why should I be standing in line, just waiting for bread? Yip Harburg

    by Captain Janeway on Sun May 01, 2011 at 03:45:33 PM PDT

  •  Ghandi had it right all along. (6+ / 0-)

    Ghandi remains a widely misunderstood figure. Like Martin Luther King, Jr., he was increasingly marginalized in his own homeland at the time of his assassination. As is discussed here in this week's New Yorker, Ghandi held a remarkably deep and prescient contempt for capitalism. His refusal to embrace Indian industrialization (and its adoption of a Western-style nation state identity) made him an outcast in Indian politics, and led directly to his assassination by a Hindu nationalist.

    But Ghandi was far ahead of his time. He understood—in the 1930s!—that sustainability and a small environmental footprint were the key to human dignity and survival in the future. That was Ghandi's radical epiphany: that capitalism was a brutal, violent system antithetical to true human values.

    Just like Dr. King's attempt to address economic justice marginalized him in the U.S. among whites who previously supported him on civil rights, Ghandi's acerbic and uncompromising critique of capitalism and the modern industrial state left him ostracized in India.

    The world may yet find itself embracing Ghandi's vision of human dignity in the form of a low-impact, sustainable, human-scale economic order. If we survive the coming crash first.

    •  qwerty (0+ / 0-)

      Gandhi didn't invent "low-impact, sustainable, human-scale economic order." He was living and promoting what the Hindu civilization of India evolved and thrived under for thousands of years: a rural/village culture that was nature and environment friendly.

      "made him an outcast in Indian politics, and led directly to his assassination by a Hindu nationalist."

      Incorrect connection. Gandhi's assassin Godse didn't kill him for upholding and living a virtuous "Hindu lifestyle." He did so because he came to the conclusion that Gandhi's appeasement to the brutally murderous Muslim League (the separatist group which Jinnah headed, and which which led the incredibly violent movement to partition India and carried out mass killings of hundreds of thousands Hindus and Sikhs before, during and after the partition) was compromising India's security, future and even existence. In my view, Godse should have forced Gandhi into a national debate instead of taking his life, but his grievances were not unreal. Please see my detailed comment with quotes here on this.

      "That was Ghandi's radical epiphany: that capitalism was a brutal, violent system antithetical to true human values."

      I am not sure that Gandhi was anti-capitalism as you phrase here. Interestingly, he hails from a trader community of Gujarat, and so trading was in his genes, so to speak. What he was apparently not for was mindless industrialization for the sake of industrializing. However, unless one truly transported back to ancient India of 1500 to 2500 years ago (with mud buildings, thatched roofs, wax candle lighting, etc, the whole nine yards), even basic development in today's world requires some industrialization.

      For example, if you want to educate the kids in a poor and underdeveloped village, you would need cement and other building supplies to erect the school, you would need electricity, water, food etc transported to maintain that school, not to mention the economic needs of the teachers and the support staff, and all of those have some non-zero environmental footprint. Furthermore, a modern classroom that'd prepare the kids for today's global economy would need modern things like computers etc (which I doubt you'd want to deny your kids or grand kids. Right?) So, there is a balance to be struck between the needs arising from present day economic/developmental necessities and environmental considerations.

      Gandhi was wise in many respects. The take away quote from that wisdom of his, to me, is the following:

      “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”

      -- Mahatma Gandhi


      However, he also had his own severe shortcomings (see what Godse's grievances I have linked above, eg) in several respects. I think we should treat him not as a saint of some kind, but instead as a human being who had done and said many interesting things. Can we start by spelling his name (Ghandhi)  correctly? :)

      Pankaj Mishra's writings have a strong and persistent anti-Hindu bias. He appears to have been groomed under the Marxist/anti-Hindu academic "historian" establishment of India. I would not recommend him as an objective source on anything Hindu.

      Dirt poor people anywhere on the planet should not have to remain dirt poor forever.

      by iceweasel on Mon May 02, 2011 at 02:54:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Currently, I am pessimistic (0+ / 0-)

    on growth of the economy.  Cheap energy has sustained the economy and high oil prices will drive the world economy into a worldwide depression....And this has nothing to do with supply and demand and it is all from speculators who should be stopped.

    •  Huh? (0+ / 0-)

      Speculation is just buying a resource because you think the market has reached a price point lower than what fundamental supply and demand would indicate.  Because if the demand for said resource at a higher price point doesn't exist, the speculator loses money.

      Now, it is possible for that demand to be created by yet more speculators, which creates a bubble (The "bigger idiot" concept.) But eventually you get someone left holding onto a resource now universally understood to be overvalued (e.g. what happened to housing prices in 2006-present.)

      The problem with energy is that demand is nearly inelastic.  You can keep bidding up the price of oil because people are going to buy it anyway.

      Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

      by EthrDemon on Thu May 05, 2011 at 03:32:21 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Doesn't this depend on what your definition of (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    TexasTom, cotterperson, neroden

    growth is?

    I want to focus the question on America, since surely, worldwide--where billions live--the need for food and resources is going to become a major problem.

    If we define growth, however, as improved efficiencies in living, I don't see why we have to be pessimistic. The main question for me is not growth but wealth and money. Wealth being quality of life, and money being a distribution system for wealth.

    I see this mainly as a political question. With the proper politics, we can develop a proper relationship between wealth and its distribution. It's only hard for Americans to understand because we consume so much of the world's resources. So many in the first world are getting by by consuming less.

    I still believe we can have growth, huge new efficiencies in living through the development of new technology, new cultural exchanges, new infrastructure (energy grids, wind farms, etc.). Yes, conservation is key, but I think you're selling human knowledge short.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Sun May 01, 2011 at 04:14:08 PM PDT

    •  the competition for resources will be hot (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cotterperson

      I understand that millions of people the world over consume much less than we, but the battle cry over resources down the road between developed and developing economies will not be "Liberty, Equality and Fraternity."

      It will be keep your hands off of mine and find your own.  I don't relish downsizing our lifestyle to a level where parity exists the world over.  Our wages have already been downsized, while the cost of living remains the same or higher.

      Perhaps if rents/housing in 50 years follow the same downward trajectory as our economic fortunes, we can have that discussion.

      "That Love is all there is, is all we know of Love" Emily Dickenson

      by Keith930 on Sun May 01, 2011 at 04:47:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Again, I think you are limiting the potential for (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cotterperson, neroden, melo

        growth. Growth can happen with elimination of waste. There is so much waste here. I've seen projections where current clean energy technology can account for 20% of our needs. A new electric grid itself could save 50% of electricity. Mass transport, city life, unplugging, etc. We can live well on it, but beyond that, we can continue to develop greater efficiencies. We're not out of ideas.

        There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

        by upstate NY on Sun May 01, 2011 at 06:37:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The difficulty is we're out of time (4+ / 0-)

          Not completely, but for us to have the money to pour into massive efforts like remaking our electric grid or moving even 20% of our energy production to alternatives, we need a normally-growing economy with low energy prices.

          We don't have that any more, and are unlikely to have that going forward.  Had we started the transition even 10 years ago we'd be doing okay, and had we started when Carter told us we needed to, we'd actually have mitigated the problem entirely.

          •  Think about mobilizations when we had no money (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            neroden

            during the depression. When it comes to essential operations, it'll be like TVA.

            There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

            by upstate NY on Sun May 01, 2011 at 08:28:03 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Maybe, but we had little debt and lots of energy (0+ / 0-)

              Now we have lots of debt and much less energy, and a weak manufacturing sector.  It'll take significant time just to get that expertise back...

              •  Our installed manufacturing base is still huge, (0+ / 0-)

                especially compared to what it used to be. We've lost a lot but we still have a lot of manufacturing. Hell, Germany came back from WW2!

                There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

                by upstate NY on Sun May 01, 2011 at 09:11:48 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  One more thing, Check our debt back then (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                neroden

                We had so much more debt than we do now.

                In fact, our debt to GDP was enormous. Our tax revenues to GDP was at 55%. It's below 30% now.

                There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

                by upstate NY on Sun May 01, 2011 at 09:13:14 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

      •  Kleptocracy is a serious problem (0+ / 0-)

        And it's stifling our ability to talk about how we can all be relatively wealthy.  When a few people hog ALL the efficiency gains and ALL the added resource extraction and then start squeezing wealth out of the 99%... well, it makes it very hard to create a sustainable economy, among other disastrous problems!

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:30:21 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  May I suggest one more classic - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, cotterperson

    The Growth Illu$ion: How Economic Growth Has Enriched the Few, Impoverished the Many and Endangered the Planet by Richard Douthwaite.

  •  great diary (4+ / 0-)

    thanks for stating facts so bluntly.  It is a message way too bitter to be political medicine, as commenters above have pointed out.   As the response so far to Peak Oil has shown,  it is more in our cultural DNA to dance until the music actually stops.  

    So the pessimism inherent in any Doomer message is imcompatible with our political traditions of telling the electorate what they want to hear, especially when it comes to the part about getting out of our cars and riding a bus.   Any talk of forsaking Wal Mart, eating organic, etc., smacks of the elitism of those who would proclaim  'let them shop at Whole Foods'.

    So given how well the electorate will respond to those notions, perhaps the real optimism lies in hoping that 'the angels of our better nature' will allow us as a people to move into a contracting world without atrocity and chaos.  Suddenly watching reality teevee shows with a bag of cheetos seems like a rational, even intellectual, decision.

    James Howard Kunstler, who wrote the "Long Emergency" (a good addition to your reading list), notes that we might look toward Japan for some sign of how modern society adapts to a world of dwindling resources.  Given their recent experience with the serious drawbacks of energy dependence and a reliance on technology as the solution, he wonders if they will turn away from their "industrial meth trip" and revert toward a more simplified and traditional way of life.

    "Welcome to Costco, I love you" -- Greetings from "Idiocracy"

    by martinjedlicka on Sun May 01, 2011 at 04:37:22 PM PDT

  •  Primitive Accumulation of Capital (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, ActivistGuy, neroden, melo

    Wealth has to come from somewhere.  When the mines run dry, when the trees are cut down, or when the oil runs out, a civilization has to either do some serious soul-searching, or die.  

    A capitalist economy is in the worst possible situation, because the owners have every possible incentive to exploit for short-term profit rather than build a sustainable economy.  Also, a capitalist economy is oriented around financial investment; this leads to investment bubbles.

    Bubbles are highly-studied, but they make a hell of a lot more sense when you consider a Primitive Accumulation analysis in regards to investment.  Capitalism means financial investment.  Investors are looking for one thing: A return.  If they put in X, they want to see more than X back.  So what is investment?  It means a business is opening a new factory, opening a new mine, building a new oil well, creating a new useful technology, etc... In other words, Primitive Accumulations.

    So what happens when all the new sources of wealth are used up?  By all indications, that's where we are.

    Investors have to invest in SOMETHING.  That's how they make money.  So, you get "financialization" and bubbles.  Financialization is investment in investment itself.  The greatest economic mover in the last ~15 years, hands down (even before 2008), was the financial "industry".  That bubble burst in September, 2008, and got a new influx of wealth from the government (whose bubble, S&P thinks, is also getting shaky).

    There is another source of money: You.  That's basically the idea behind Austerity.  Rather than making the rich pay (which would kill the whole point of capitalism!), unemployment is getting jacked up and public services are being attacked.  The goal is, unsurprisingly, to take every nice thing we have.  Same as always.

    •  Tech is the only sustainable source of new wealth (0+ / 0-)

      Since we are nowhere near the limits on new knowledge or diffusion thereof.  However, tech is unpredictable, and requires actual brains.  Resource extraction is therefore more popular among those rich people who desire to become richer without actual brains (to be exaggeratedly rude about it) and stealing is even more popular.  Sigh.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:32:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tech can only improve efficiency (0+ / 0-)

        such as communication and record-keeping, and help with research (but, research what?).  Production can be made more efficient; but what's being produced?

        Growth has become self-justifying.  We are going to have to admit that this is a post-scarcity society and stop focusing on investment.  We won, and now it's time to stop.

    •  Awesome decription (0+ / 0-)

      Too late to recommend, so this will have to do.

      Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

      by EthrDemon on Thu May 05, 2011 at 03:35:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It harldy has to be doom and gloom, it could be (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    melo

    a boon.  Heck, most of america has been treading water for the last 20 years, it is only the have-it-all-but-still-want-more segment that will "suffer".  We've been passing off inflation and population growth as economic growth.  Pop that illusion, end that race to nowhere, and you open eyes up to new options.

  •  Growth has not ended. It is no longer happening (0+ / 0-)

    in the U.S. but is certainly happening in other countries, namely Brazil, China and India.  China is opening a new coal-fired power plant every two weeks.  They have a lot of coal available.  It looks like consumerism is going to go places we've only had nightmares about.

    To your list of things to do:

    Get everybody in the world on board with these ideas.

    I'd like to be optimistic but it looks like future generations are royally screwed.

    •  They'll hit a wall too (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sweeper

      Their economies are less oil dependent so it'll manifest itself differently, but they've degraded their natural environment to such an extent in China with their relentless push to industrialize that the environmental impacts alone are going to hit them hard.  Coal will allow them to get by to a certain extent, but there's evidence that we'll hit peak cheap coal in the 2020s.

      I'm better before that point we'll see their current real estate bubble pop.

      I'm not really sure how India and Brazil will fare - maybe okay if they give up a push to industrialize.

      •  You know those SOB bankers will push (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        neroden

        and drive every bit of growth that they can.

        Do they not realize that monster tornados can kill rich people?

      •  China stopped opening new coal mines (0+ / 0-)

        I think it was two years back?

        Yes, their relentless push to industrialize has been problematic, but they've been able to make the course correction that the US hasn't.  They are pouring money into non-fossil-fuel-dependent industrialization.

        Their real estate bubble will certainly pop, but that's another matter.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:13:33 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  "Growth Isn't Possible" (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, neroden

    muddy water can best be cleared by leaving it alone

    by veritas curat on Sun May 01, 2011 at 07:23:07 PM PDT

    •  Only thing which can grow for many millenia... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      veritas curat

      is intelligence and understanding.  That's only limited by our primary energy source, the sun, and the inevitable end of the sun, and that's a very long way off.  (With enough intelligence we might even move on to another sun and be limited only by the heat-death of the universe.)

      Everything else, however, is limited much much sooner.  If we want our society to improve, we must limit growth to growth in intelligence (and therefore technology), not in resource use, not in population -- both must shrink.

      Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

      by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:23:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very good diary. I pretty much agree with (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, neroden

    you about growth - and am so pessimistic I hesitate to comment about it anymore.

    I am really afraid we've hit a climate change extreme weather tipping point.  And don't know how, world-wide, governments are going to be able - not just financially - to clean up and get folks and societies back to functioning.

    There is just so much destruction and so many people and so many more extreme weather events in the future.

    And Republicans here - and maybe other conservative governments - seem hell bent on destroying government.

    Much less the problems of peak oil - which actually may help, in terms of slowing us down.

    Buy a Boat. Save the Seed.

    by cumberland sibyl on Sun May 01, 2011 at 07:38:08 PM PDT

    •  I do wonder where we are re: climate (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cumberland sibyl, neroden

      Hansen said about 5-6 years ago that we had 10 years to start reducing emissions before we hit the point of no return.  We're only about 4 years away from that point, and there's no sign we're turning back.  I do agree peak oil may oddly help us there, as long as we don't go the crazy route of moving to coal as an alternative.

      •  Oh, we've passed tipping point #1. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        cumberland sibyl

        The one which causes massive destabilization, including mass starvation and the need to relocate cities inland.  And I'm not sure how many more tipping points we've passed.

        It looks like we may still avoid the final tipping point, the one which kills all of humanity, if we move sufficiently aggressively to eliminate all fossil fuel burning and use renewable energy to suck carbon out of the air.  Which is still possible.

        See, even if we've passed the point where we're on a positive-feedback-loop to Hothouse World, it matters how FAST it happens.  If we counteract global warming sharply now, it may well happen slow enough to adapt to.  If we continue to accelerate global warming, we could overshoot Hothouse World and reproduce the Great Dying, with the extinction of humanity almost certain.

        Read pp. 1-7 of Krugman's _The Great Unraveling_ (available from Google Books). NOW.

        by neroden on Mon May 02, 2011 at 12:17:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Here's how to sell it, maybe: (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, melo

    From British writer George Monbiot's piece "Bring on the Recession", on his own Web site:

    http://www.monbiot.com/...

    The following, toward the end, is also quoted in his Wikipedia entry:  "Is it not time to recognise that we have reached the promised land, and should seek to stay there? Why would we want to leave this place in order to explore the blackened wastes of consumer frenzy followed by ecological collapse?"

    The '60s were simply an attempt to get the 21st Century started early....Well, what are we waiting for? There's no deadline on a dream!

    by Panurge on Sun May 01, 2011 at 08:29:24 PM PDT

  •  Every recession in this country (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, neroden, johnnygunn

    in recent years has been preceded by a spike in oil prices, and the Great Recession was triggered by a huge spike followed by the foreclosure crisis, which I believe was tipped into motion by the commuting costs of all the far outlying suburban developments.  

    But the most striking thing to me about this recession is that it scarcely affected Germany and Sweden at all, in fact I recall reading that Sweden's economy grew by 8% last year.  Not coincidentally these are two countries with a major commitment to non-fossil-fuel energy, where people use cars a lot but mostly to drive short distances and where there is a big commitment to public transit.

    High energy prices will affect the US more than any other nation because most of us can't get to work or the store without spending money on gas.  So this increases our relative decline.

    People need to move closer together, build rail and transit, and practice intensive agriculture in and near cities.  

    The last thing we need is some kind of hippy-dippy back-to-the-land movement.  Everybody I've ever met who was into that shit turned out to be an anti-social control freak.

    We're not going to solve the energy problem by moving farther apart; that's largely what caused it.

    •  hippy-dippy back to the land movement? (0+ / 0-)

      I'm confused about where that came from. Certainly not from the original post. You're right; living in dense urban environments like Manhattan save a huge amount of energy compared to living in a suburb.

      Here's a wierd thing: every billionaire I ever met was an anti-social control freak, in fact some of them were downright sociapathic!

      This element of your comment is an example of how negatively most Americans react to the message of the original post, on a very gut level. It makes it hard to see how this message can possibly be integrated into a winning Democratic campaign.

      But that shit is truth :(  All the denial in the world won't change that.

      I think the only way we can successfully communicate about it is face-to-face, peer-to-peer, within our own communities, to at least cut down some on the automatic mistrust and rejection.

      Meanwhile it's important to keep the Republican party from controlling our government, even if the Democrats we can actually elect aren't so great themselves.

  •  Try to get electected on a no-growth platform (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barath, leema

    We are clearly in an age where Happyspeak is the only thing that can survive on a long-term basis. The litany of real woes is just fodder for comedians - in this regard I'm not at all sure that Jon Stewart and the Leno/Letterman kind of commentary is doing anything but trivializing problems. Because of NIMBY there have been no major power plants built in the Northeast for 35 years, we are one failure away from a power outage that will terrify us.... NYC without electricity for a month? Jesus.

    The two biggest growth areas in America for three decades, the greater Phoenix and Las Vegas regions, are just slowly coming to the realization that they are 400 miles from any food or water; the ranchers and western farmers watching their livlihood die due to 13 years of a "seasonal" drought are slowly, surely realizing that millionaires are playing GOLF IN THE DESERT OASES of... Las Vegas and Phoenix? Say, where'd that water come from? Dark days ahead, kids - my prediciton for groth careers? Large animal husbandry, and converting failed suburbs into small communal farms. Mercenary soldiers may do very, very well, too.

  •  Fossil fuels don't grow...they get used up (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden

    and that has been our energy source for sooooo  long and is nearing its end.  

     Those who profit from fossil fuels are keeping us from developing alternatives in a timely manner.....

    Of course we can't sustain growth economies or growth of population without end.        The  current seller consumer thing  is totally bizaare ..where citizens/human beings have now become "consumers".  

    If humans don't start on developing sustainable  economies rather than growth economies we are probably doomed as a species.  

     I recall reading Margaret Atwood's book Oryx and Crake....suggest it as speculation about how the human species does itself in.

    "I think it is much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong." Richard Feynman

    by leema on Sun May 01, 2011 at 11:35:43 PM PDT

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