Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How Our Economy Doesn't Work and Some Alternatives

A great 12 minute video illistrating how our economy works (or actually how it is failing) along with some ideas close to our Transition group on human alternatives can be seen below.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Growing, Growing, Gone!

Growing, Growing, Gone:  Reaching the Limits.  Some interesting quotes from an interview of Dennis Meadows, one of the authors of the study of “The Limits Of Growth”.    

"Continual physical growth of population and economic activity eventually reaches the point where the globe simply cannot accommodate anymore. Biophysical systems press back, whether through disease, scarcity, climate, or other response mechanisms. These pressures are danger signals, indicating overshoot of some aspect of the planet’s physical limits."       

“The economics profession is based on the assumption that continual growth is possible and desirable. Likewise, most politicians have a predisposition for growth because it makes the problems they address—unemployment, poverty, diminished tax bases—more tractable. Instead of having to divide a fixed pie, which gets you in trouble with some constituents, you can grow the pie so that nobody has to make a sacrifice or compromise. So there was—and is—a set of vested interests in the notion of growth.“

“White water rafting provides a useful analogy here. When you are going down the river, most of the time it is placid, but every once in a while, you hit the rapids. When it is placid, you can sit back and think where you want to be, how you should time your journey, where you want to stop for lunch, etc. When you are in the rapids, you focus on the moment, desperately trying to keep your boat upright until you return to quiet waters. During the placid moments, it is very useful to have a discussion about where you want to be tomorrow or the day after. When you are in the rapids, you don’t have the luxury of that kind of discussion. You are trying to survive. Our society has moved into the rapids phase.”

“ Conventional oil production peaked around 2006. Unconventional oil production, e.g., fracking and tar sands, has continued some degree of growth, but it is a totally different matter. Conventional oil is inexpensive and yields a relatively high energy return on investment. Unconventionals don’t do that. They are expensive, and the net energy return on investment is quite low.”

“When you don’t have conventional energy sources like oil, you cannot sustain the kind of economic growth rates that we have seen in the past. As a practical matter, then, there is now very little real wealth generation. Most of the economic activity these days consists of those who have more power getting richer by taking away from those with less. This is why we see widening gaps between rich and poor.”

“Many of the futures, including some of Tellus’s, presume large-scale energy consumption of one kind or another. It is energy intensive to coordinate and motivate large assemblies of people and organizations. Absent abundant, cheap energy, this becomes more difficult. I expect that the trend towards global integration is going to stop and then start to recede.”

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Feeling Full?

Herman Daly, an ecological economist, provides a nice explanation for what is wrong with our current economic system in the essay “Economics for a full world”.   Daily’s essay explains how our current economic model was designed from the vantage point of the world being mostly empty (of humans and their impacts).  Economic growth has gotten us to a place of fullness, and it may be time to change our economic models to become more in line with the real world, while we still can. 

The introduction to the essay states:

Because of the exponential economic growth since World War II, we now live in a full world, but we still behave as if it were empty, with ample space and resources for the indefinite future. The founding assumptions of neoclassical economics, developed in the empty world, no longer hold, as the aggregate burden of the human species is reaching—or, in some cases, exceeding—the limits of nature at the local, regional, and planetary levels. The prevailing obsession with economic growth puts us on the path to ecological collapse, sacrificing the very sustenance of our well-being and survival. To reverse this ominous trajectory, we must transition toward a steady-state economy focused on qualitative development, as opposed to quantitative growth, and the interdependence of the human economy and global ecosphere. Developing policies and institutions for a steady-state economy will require us to revisit the question of the purpose and ends of the economy.

Read the entire essay at the following link for more insights on the inherent problems with the current economic model and some suggestions for a revised more realistic model.   http://www.greattransition.org/publication/economics-for-a-full-world

Wednesday, June 10, 2015


Thoughts for the week come from an article titled “What is needed to get us out of our comfort zone and fight for our children’s future?” by Christiane Kliemann available here:  http://www.resilience.org/stories/2015-06-10/are-we-prepared-to-change-to-prevent-climate-change .  Some highlights follow:

If it’s the way we live, consume and produce that causes climate change, why don’t we simply stop it and start doing things differently?

[…] despite the tremendous efforts that are being invested to convince us that energy efficiency, renewables and new technologies will do the trick, decoupling in absolute terms remains highly unlikely if not impossible in a growing economy.

[…] following the logic of homo economicus that individual profit and competition are the best means to achieve the higher common good. But what if this system logic itself was the root cause of our environmental and social crises—climate change above all—and needed to be replaced by something new to secure our survival on this planet? What if we have constructed a whole system of theories, models, technologies and defence mechanisms just to deny the simple truth?

[…]  despite the tremendous efforts that are being invested to convince us that energy efficiency, renewables and new technologies will do the trick, decoupling in absolute terms remains highly unlikely if not impossible in a growing economy.

Given the vast financial and political power of the global players in these and other sectors, it is no wonder that governments are usually putty in the hands of their interest groups. These play with our fears and assure us that their profitability is essential for keeping our jobs—knowing that politicians fear nothing more than rising unemployment rates.

And indeed, in the current system, this fear of losing one’s job often forces people to choose between a secure livelihood and ethical principles – and to continue to work in jobs that are obviously damaging for the environment.

Aren’t most of us quite happy in our comfort zones enjoying all the superficial pleasures the globalized consumer culture can provide?

We have to bring across that we are really serious about changing the economy and changing our lives, and that we won’t accept any excuse. Otherwise they can rely on us being too deeply attached to our cars, fancy holidays and long-haul flights, globalized supply chains and ever more electronic gadgets—even at the expense of the millions of deaths, increasing violence, wars on resources and ever stronger environmental disasters.

The widespread belief that the white male hypocrites from Silicon Valley and their likes will save us through technological innovations is yet another symptom of our collective denial. These will neither be ecologically sustainable, nor democratic; they will just tighten our dependence on increasingly complex technologies from large monopolist corporations.

Consume less, share more and stand up against fossil fuels, urban sprawl, destructive infrastructures and resource extractivism. And, above all, fight for an economy that can fulfil everyone’s basic needs within the natural boundaries of a healthy planet.