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What If Preventing Collapse Isn’t Profitable?

What If Preventing Collapse Isn’t Profitable?

The real downside of the green-profit narrative has been that it created the assumption in many people’s minds that the solution to climate change and other environmental dilemmas is technical, and that policy makers and industrialists will implement it for us, so that the way we live doesn’t need to change in any fundamental way. That’s never been true.

Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

Smoky skies from the northern California wildfires casts a reddish color in San Francisco, Calif., on Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2020. (Photo: Ray Chavez/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Images)

The notion that modern industrial civilization is fundamentally unsustainable and is therefore likely to collapse at some point is not a new one. Even before the Limits to Growth report of 1972, many ecologists were concerned that our continual expansion of population and consumption, based on the ever-increasing rate at which we burn finite supplies of fossil fuels, would eventually lead to crises of resource depletion and pollution (including climate change) as well as catastrophic loss of wild nature. Dystopian outcomes would inevitably follow.

This apprehension led environmentalists to strategize ways to avert collapse. The obvious solution was, in large measure, to persuade policy makers to curtail growth in population and consumption, while mandating a phase-out of fossil fuels. But convincing political and business leaders to do these things proved difficult-to-impossible.

It’s time to ask: is there something fundamentally wrong with the eco-opportunity message?”

The folks in charge used the following arguments to justify their refusal to act.

Population Growth: The choice of whether or not to reproduce is a basic human right, said the authorities. Seeking to interfere with that right also violates religious freedoms. Besides, population growth helps economic growth (see “Economic Growth,” below).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Collapse Is A Process, Not An Event

Look, I’m a systems guy.  I think in systems terms.  You should as well.

Why?

Because we’re entering a period of time when the major systems that have supported humanity are going to fail.

Or, put more accurately: they are already failing.

As just one example, our monetary system delivers outsized gains to the already stupendously-wealthy while piling up massive debts on the backs of we citizens, both born and yet-to-be-born.  The US Federal Reserve is the unelected and unaccountable body that is most responsible for have made America’s billionaires nearly $1 trillion ‘richer’ since the pandemic hit.

These next three Fed-related data points are, in a word, obscene.

The first shows that the US Federal Reserve now “owns” more US federal debt than all foreign central banks. The second shows how billionaires are getting grotesquely wealthier from the Fed’s “rescue’” efforts. And the last shows how the Fed’s record-low interest policy has resulted in an explosion in federal debt:

(Source)

(Source)

This is obscene (and infuriating!) to anyone who cares about the future.  Leaving aside the morality issues for a moment, we can at least conclude that the behaviors and values on display are thoroughly unsustainable.

Eventually spending more money than you have ends in ruin.

Speaking of spending what you don’t have, a similar story can be told about ecological overshoot and humanity’s extractive practices —  it’s akin to spending both the entirety of the interest income as well as some principal each year from our environmental trust fund.

There aren’t many resources that one can point to which aren’t in some serious form of either concerning decline or depletion, or both.  Already thousands, if not millions, of people in the American West are considering relocating because of the ever-present danger of disruptive if not life-threatening fires:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

“The Focus is ‘Enough’ Rather Than ‘More’”

“The Focus is ‘Enough’ Rather Than ‘More’”

The mainstream economics notion that unfettered growth accompanied by greater consumption and productivity benefits society is false, argues Rob Dietz, Program Director at the Post Carbon Institute. In an interview with getAbstract, he shares his vision of a new economic way forward.

“The Focus is ‘Enough’ Rather Than ‘More’”

getAbstract: In a nutshell, could you give us a short definition of “steady-state economics”?

Rob Dietz: You can think of steady-state economics as a sustainable alternative to mainstream or neoclassical economics, which assumes perpetual growth of production and consumption. So steady-state economics is the study and practice of how to maintain an economy with a stable level of resource consumption and a stable population. Such an economy keeps material and energy use within ecological limits, and the unsustainable (and unrealistic) goal of continuously increasing income and consumption is replaced by the goal of improving quality of life for all. In short, the focus is enough rather than more.

Why do you think adopting a steady-state economic model is the only way to promote widespread prosperity and resource sustainability for future generations? 

I’m not sure it’s the “only” way, but it’s our best bet at this pivotal point in history. Let’s start by establishing working definitions of the terms “widespread prosperity” and “resource sustainability.” Widespread prosperity means that everyone is able to meet his or her basic needs for physical health and sustenance, plus some standard of comfort. No one lives in poverty, and daily life offers opportunities for fulfillment and enjoyment beyond toil just to stay alive.

Related Summary in getAbstract’s Library

Image of: Enough Is Enough

Enough Is Enough

This provocative book challenges many beliefs about the value of unfettered economic growth.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

You don’t have to live like this—review of Kate Soper’s Post-Growth Living

You don’t have to live like this—review of Kate Soper’s Post-Growth Living

In her new book, Post-Growth Living: For an Alternative Hedonism, Kate Soper calls for a vision of the good life not reliant on endless economic growth and points us to the ways in which our current patterns of living are not only environmentally harmful, but also make us miserable. A provocative and necessary book, Nick Taylor writes, that provides us with the means to rethink consumption, work and sustainable prosperity without losing sight of what makes us feel good. (This blog also appeared on the PERC website.)

CC-BY-NC 2.0 :: Pete/Flickr

What kind of changes will the Covid-19 pandemic bring about over the long-term? While this question is on the minds of many, for those who study and work towards making our societies and economies more sustainable it brings particular concerns. Global emissions have seen a record-breaking drop during the pandemic, but not enough to slow the overall trend in atmospheric CO2 concentration, which reached its highest ever level in May, and not even enough to bring us close to meeting the 1.5C global warming target. How we respond to and attempt to recover from the deepest recession on record in a way that is not simply about restoring GDP growth is a question that should involve us all.

For critics, the pandemic has made an easy but misleading target of the post-growth or degrowth movement. They falsely equate the social and economic devastation wrought by coronavirus with the planned, long-term downscaling of society’s throughput (the materials and energy a society metabolises) that degrowth advocates argue for. Sceptics of ‘growth as prosperity’ do not want a recession, or, as is looking increasingly likely, a depression. Indeed at their most compelling, arguments for moving beyond growth as an overarching economic, social and political goal draw on the promise that a sustainable society can and should be a better, more equal and more prosperous society.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Preparing for the end of the world as we know it

Preparing for the end of the world as we know it

For many Indigenous people, the collapse of our current system is not necessarily bad news.

Image: Vanessa de Oliveira Andreotti, all rights reserved

Gesturing Towards Decolonial Futures (GTDF) is a collective of researchers, artists, educators, activists and Indigenous knowledge keepers from the Global North and South. Our collective focuses on how artistic and educational practices can gesture towards the possibility of decolonial futures. We work at the interface of questions related to historical, systemic and on-going violence and questions related to the unsustainability of “modernity-coloniality”. We use the term modernity-coloniality to mark the fact that modernity cannot exist without expropriation, extraction, exploitation, dispossession, destitution, genocides and ecocides.

Drawing on Indigenous critiques and practices from the communities we collaborate with in Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Canada, we propose that a decolonial future requires a different mode of (co-) existence that will only be made possible with and through the end of the world as we know it, which is a world that has been built and is maintained by different forms of violence and unsustainability.

There is a popular saying in Brazil that illustrates this insight. It states that, in a flood situation, it is only when the water reaches people’s hips that it becomes possible for them to swim. Before that, with the water at our ankles or knees, it is only possible to walk, or to wade. In other words, we might only be able to learn to swim – that is, to exist differently – once we have no other choice. But in the meantime, we can prepare by learning to open ourselves up to the teachings of the water, as well as the teachings of those who have been swimming for their lives against multiple currents of colonial violence.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Values and goals: Can we intervene to reduce materialism?

Values and goals: Can we intervene to reduce materialism?

In order to live well within the earth’s limits we need to prioritise ways of living that enable us to have more fun with less stuff. This will inevitably require an end to the pursuit of ever more material possessions as a means of acquiring ‘the good life’. Given the fact that people who prioritise materialistic pursuits are consistently found to have lower wellbeing and higher ecological footprints, our research asked whether it is possible to intervene to reduce materialism?

CC.0 :: NeONBRAND Digital Marketing / Unsplash

Materialism can be conceived of as a value-orientation and a goal-orientation. Our values are our beliefs about what is important and what makes a good life. They act as guiding principles that influence our choices in all aspects of our lives. Someone with materialistic values might believe that the possessions they own are an important symbol of success and that life is better the more you can afford to buy. Materialism can also be conceived of as a goal-orientation. Whereas values can be relatively unconscious beliefs that guide our choices and behaviours, goals are more intentional. Goals involve setting a chosen direction for specific aspects of our lives and practical plans to achieve them. Having goals to strive for and making progress towards them is very important for our sense of wellbeing. They give us a sense of purpose and a reason for being, adding structure and meaning to our daily lives. But not all goals lead to better wellbeing. The achievement of materialistic goals tends to lead to a temporary, short lived boost in happiness that offers no real nourishment to long term wellbeing. Individuals who consistently prioritise materialistic goals are therefore more likely to display indicators of psychological ill-being such as loneliness, eating disorders, depression and anxiety.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Towards a great forest transition – part 2

Towards a great forest transition – part 2

P & G Palm Oil Supplier in Kalimantan
Greenpeace© Ulet Ifansasti

A fundamental sea-change is required in the global approach to tackling deforestation, and it requires a new focus on engendering institutions of cooperation rather than competition.

The ‘boycott palm oil’ approach has become a staple strategy in parts of the global environment movement, especially in the West. The idea is that by ceasing consumption of palm oil, Western consumers can directly contribute to reducing deforestation by alleviating the demand that is driving the expansion of palm oil plantations.

The problem is that several studies in recent years have shown that this strategy is not only unlikely to work, it is instead likely to have devastating environmental consequences.

Read: Towards a great forest transition – part 1

University of Bath scientists recently showed in Nature Sustainability that banning palm oil could drive greater rates of deforestation, by switching demand to less efficient edible oils like sunflower or rapeseed which use more land, water and fertiliser, and have lower productivity and shorter lifespans. These other oil crops also store less CO2, and require up to nine times as much land to produce than palm oil.

Production

In the near to mid-term, the scientists found, policy should be directed at ensuring the sustainability of production because import restrictions would be ineffective in stopping deforestation or protecting the environment

The study confirmed years of previous research from scientists at the University of Oxford and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature

A major study in Annual Review of Resource Economics published this year has provided further corroboration for these findings. The Annual Reviews study led by German scientists is worth noting as it is one of the most authoritative analyses of the best scientific literature to date.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Pandemic Priorities: supporting alternatives now is promoting a sustainable economy

Pandemic Priorities: supporting alternatives now is promoting a sustainable economy

Especially in these times, honoring our ancestors is investing in and trusting alternatives that are based in dignity, health and livelihoods for all of us. 

In the early 1960s, my grandma was a secretary at the Caymanas Sugar Estate in Portmore, Jamaica. She helped the cane cutters who worked on the estate’s land create a credit union. At that time, workers were acknowledging the problematics of who owned the capital and resources on their island. In 1962, Jamaica gained independence from the British, with the hopes of more national equity and securing workers rights. My grandmother understood that helping the cane cutters pool their money to create a credit union was one step closer to liberation from the confines of colonialism and capitalism. At the time she thought of it as a necessity—as the right thing to do—rather than an alternative economy.

Tej and grandma
Tej and grandma

Throughout the Caribbean and Africa, the sharing of resources and money is not new. Sou sous and other types of community banking are age-old practices. These traditions even emigrated overseas to places like the U.K. and Canada along with Jamaicans who realized they would not receive the queen’s royalties they learned of during their schooling.

Like Jamaican cane cutters and emigrants realizing they lacked access to the things they needed, we also now find ourselves similarly situated in the current pandemic. As we recognize that people need immediate access to resources, we are realizing that the most effective tools are local economies, regional manufacturing systems, and community banking. 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Can the World Get Along Without Natural Resources?

Can the World Get Along Without Natural Resources?

If it is very easy to substitute other factors for natural resources, then there is in principle no “problem”. The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources.– Robert Solow, 1974

In the distant future, aliens come to Earth. They find a planet devoid of life. Looking closer, the aliens see that life on Earth was once abundant, but was wiped out by a mass extinction. Curiously, this event was driven not by geological disaster, but by one of the extinct species itself. In an orgy of consumption, an odd little animal put the planet under enough stress to drive itself —and the rest life — extinct.

Then comes a startling discovering. Preserved in the sediment lies a document written by a member of the doomed species. What secrets does it contain? The aliens work for years to translate it, hoping that it offers a clue about what drove the species to overconsume. And indeed it does. The document heralds a remarkable delusion: “The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources.

What a naive animal, the aliens conclude. While sucking the planet dry, the animal proclaimed its independence from natural resources. No wonder it went extinct.✹ ✹ ✹

Let’s hope this future is apocryphal. If, in the distant future, aliens do visit the Earth, I hope they find a planet teeming with life. Maybe they’ll even find an industrious, upright-walking animal that has learned to live sustainably.

If this bright future does come to pass, it will be because we’ve manage to shed our delusions. Contrary to the proclamations of neoclassical economists (like Robert Solow), the world cannot get along without natural resources. That this fact needs stating is a testament to the shallowness of economic theory.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Altruist Within: In pursuit of sustainability and justice in a broken financial system

The Altruist Within: In pursuit of sustainability and justice in a broken financial system

This blog is an edited version of a keynote CUSP director Tim Jackson gave at the 2013 Sea of Faith Annual Conference in Leicester. In outlining the philosophical foundation of a different approach to economics, this essay speaks as much to the financial crisis from 2008, as it does to the current health and economic predicament from COVID-19: “Out of crisis emerges this one completely rational insight, from a human perspective, that shows us that we are not the people the economic system says. When we begin to explore the idea that we’re not mindless, hedonistic, novelty-seeking, selfish consumers, then we can begin to unpack the interesting stuff. This is when we begin to see how altruism actually might have a role to play”.

The Good Samaritan, by Vincent Van Gogh

I’m not going to give you a standard Prosperity without Growth talk. You can do that much more easily and much more fluently just by looking on the internet—there are hundreds of them out there somewhere on the internet. What I wanted to do here today was to talk about what I think is the philosophical foundation of a different approach to economics. I’ll talk a little bit about how economies are supposed to work, about why the model is wrong, and then I’ll try to build a different model, based on this very simple idea that locked within us is some kind of altruist, some kind of other-regarding behaviour.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Sustainable Living: How To Take Control of Your Food Supply

Sustainable Living: How To Take Control of Your Food Supply

Food freedom is all about getting creative and using what you have. With a little resourcefulness, you could literally create a backyard microcosm and take control of your very own, homegrown food supply.

Sustainable Living: How To Take Control of Your Food Supply

With a worldwide health crisis circulating the globe, it’s important to remember and put thought into what today is. Today is the day we focus on better ways to take care of Earth. Because let’s be honest, we haven’t done enough to care for this precious planet we call home. The way we live directly impacts our environment and, let’s be honest, humans are very wasteful in regards to using up precious resources.

The health crisis, which quickly became an economic crisis, and will soon morph into a food crisis shouldn’t stop us from doing the right thing by our bodies and the Earth. In fact, these crises should highlight how much more important it is to be self-sustainable by providing your own food and caring for the planet. We should all desire to take control of our food supply for the betterment of ourselves and the environment this Earth Day!

American decline is playing out in the news on a daily basis. Food banks are overwhelmed by those people who are unable buy groceries for their families. Mass unemployment and threats of looming economic recessions are forcing families to find more sustainable ways of making what they have work. As a result, rampant consumerism which is the backbone of the economy in America is doing an about-face.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Permaculture as Philosophy

Permaculture as Philosophy

It’s almost spring – all right, it’s the middle of winter – and I’m reading about gardening. It’s my yearly ritual to keep hope alive in the dark months. I sort my seeds, draw up garden plans while standing by the snow-covered garden beds, and flip through the glossy garden porn that the seed companies mail me every January.

Some winters I’ve delved into more serious study. Recently I spent months reading about permaculture and talking with practitioners. I like their underlying concept of growing things in a sustainable and sane way, although I don’t see it as the only solution to our environmental and food production challenges. But, to quote Leslie Nielsen, that’s not important right now; reading about permaculture also led me to three related thoughts.

Permaculture, I’ve learned, is not only a method but a philosophy, one that emphasizes the relationships among all the elements of the environment rather than its individual parts in isolation. The opposite is big-farm monoculture. In monoculture, corn or soybeans are removed finally and completely from the environment where they were raised, leaving behind a barren field. In order to grow the corn or soybeans next year, external inputs of seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, irrigation, and petroleum-powered machines are necessary.

The goal in permaculture, however, is to have an almost perfectly closed system that reaches a natural maturity and sustains itself there with minimal human help. Once properly established, an ideal permaculture system fertilizes its own soil through a mix of deep-rooted plants that bring up nutrients and aerate the soil, nitrogen-fixing plants, plants that drop leaves as mulch, and animals that plow, fertilize, and control the plant and insect populations. This system stores water in its soil and loses very little to run-off. Because more of the plants are perennial, as opposed to monoculture’s annuals, plant populations remain in place and in balance – an ever-shifting balance, but a sustainable one – for decades.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

Burning Trees For Heating Won’t Help With Climate Change: UK Think Tank

coal

A suggestion by the UK Committee on Climate Change to burn more wood and plant replacement trees as a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels has drawn criticism from think tank Chatham House, which says this is hardly the best approach to reducing emissions.

“Expanding forest cover is undoubtedly a good thing, if you’re leaving them standing,” energy expert Duncan Brack told the Daily Telegraph. However, Brack, who served as special adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, suggested that burning wood for heating was not the most sustainable way forward. Calling wood burning a carbon neutral process is “highly dubious,” Brack added.

These claims, according to the Telegraph’s environment editor, Emma Gatten, rest on the assumption that the carbon footprint of chopping down trees and burning them is offset by planting new trees to replace them. This assumption excludes the fact that older trees absorb more carbon and that it takes time to replace a forest.

“You can leave trees standing and they will continue to absorb carbon for decades,” Brack says. “But the biomass industry implicitly assumes that forests at some point stop reach a saturation point for carbon intake and can be harvested and simply replaced.” 

The benefit of planting trees to mitigate the effects of climate change has been put to the test on a wider scale as well. A study released last year found that reforestation could work, but it had to be done at a massive scale.

We need to plant 25 percent more trees than there are on Earth right now, or more than half a trillion in total, the study found. This would reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere by a quarter, erasing 20 years of emissions. Yet it would not solve the climate problem on its own, without a sustained effort to cut emissions, commentators on the study said.

Science professor calls for fewer humans to ‘strengthen human rights’

Science professor calls for fewer humans to ‘strengthen human rights’

Humanity must ‘act to sustain life’ by reducing fertility (voluntarily)

Will there be “untold human suffering” if humans do not stop having children in order to avoid a “climate emergency?” More than 11,000 scientists signed a paper authored by an ecology professor at Oregon State University making that case.

OSU’s William Ripple and Christopher Wolf, a postdoctoral research associate at OSU (left and right, below), were the lead authors of the paper “World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” published in the journal BioScience.

Their call to “reduce the world population” is among six solutions. “We need to reduce fertility rates through voluntary family planning,” Ripple told The College Fix in an email.

The paper cites “proven and effective policies” that can help reduce the population in order to “strengthen human rights.”

They include access to family planning services for everyone, “full gender equity” and giving everyone “primary and secondary education,” especially women.

“We believe that prospects will be greatest if decision makers and all of humanity promptly respond to this warning and declaration of a climate emergency, and act to sustain life on planet Earth, our only home,” the paper states.

Ripple maintains a website called “Alliance of World Scientists,” where he encourages scientists to read his paper and sign his petition to show “that you generally agree with our article.”

The alliance has 15,000 members from 175 different countries, according to the website. While it claims to vet those who seek membership, the alliance specifically seeks “scientists from any scientific discipline, including graduate students in the sciences.” It makes no mention of requiring an institutional affiliation.

Ripple’s attempt to persuade leaders to implement his agenda stands in contrast to the approach recently favored by Ivy League students. They made themselves a nuisance at the Harvard-Yale football game, delaying it for an hour, in order to protest climate change.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Scientists on where to be in the 21st century based on sustainability

Scientists on where to be in the 21st century based on sustainability

Preface. The article below is based on Hall & Day’s book “America’s Most Sustainable Cities and Regions: Surviving the 21st Century Megatrends”. Related articles:

Day, J. W., et al. Oct 2013. Sustainability and place: How emerging mega-trends of the 21st century will affect humans and nature at the landscape level.  Ecological Engineering.

Five scientists have written a peer-reviewed article about where the best and worst places will be in the future in America based on how sustainable a region is when you take into account climate change, energy reserves, population, sea-level rise, increasingly strong hurricanes, and other factors.  Three of the scientists, John W. Day, David Pimentel, and Charles Hall, are “rock stars” in  ecology. Below are some excerpts from this 16 page paper that I found of interest (select the title above to see the full original paper).

Best places to be

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Olduvai IV: Courage
In progress...

Olduvai II: Exodus
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