Will a failure in hub interdependencies lead to economic and social disintegration? The connection between the energy and finance institutions, as well as the state of public health are explored to examine whether there might be a “cross contagion” of cascading collapse between some combination of a public health crisis, difficulties in the financial economy, the energy sector and supply networks which run into and reinforce each other.
A repeated theme of this book has been that, in concentrating on the improvement of production (i.e. the increase of production), economics has systematically neglected issues of safety, vulnerability and resilience. We saw in an earlier chapter that the research of Kahneman and Tversky suggests that people are risk averse. However, economic decision-making is driven by powerful companies and governments who are frequently able to impose risks and costs on others while taking gains for themselves. There are however other risks which occur, not at local or company level, but in the system as a whole. There is a need to explore what might happen after the limits to economic growth are reached, and whether humanity will face a manageable contraction or a variety of catastrophic collapses. In this chapter, I want to look at some of the conceptual thinking about these issues as they relate to the beginning of the 21st century.
The decline in resilience
As explained by the late David Fleming:
The resilience of a system is its ability to survive without loss of diversity and complexity despite shocks. The diversity and complexity are essential: resilience is an empty concept except when they are implicit in it. The surface of Mars, or a dead coral reef, are resilient in a trivial sense – resilient, since they do not change under assault.
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