The crisis of teaching forward and the need for academic activism
The crisis of teaching forward and the
need for academic activism
Professor Richard Hall
Higher Education Academy,
Social Sciences conference, 21 May 2014
What is the role of higher
education, in a world that faces
significant disruption from liquid
fuel availability, climate change,
and debt/the politics of austerity?
UUK Strategic Plan (2013).
USA Energy Information Administration, International Energy
Outlook 2013. http://1.usa.gov/1i7iyWn
USA Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy
Outlook 2009. http://bit.ly/1hSKa01
A severe energy crunch is inevitable without a
massive expansion of production and refining
capacity. While it is difficult to predict precisely
what economic, political, and strategic effects
such a shortfall might produce, it surely would
reduce the prospects for growth in both the
developing and developed worlds. Such an
economic slowdown would exacerbate other
US Joint Forces Command. 2010. Joint Operating Environment.
“I look at shale as more of a retirement party than a revolution” says
[petroleum geologist] Art Berman... “It’s the last gasp.”
Global Sustainability’s [David] Hughes estimates the U.S. needs to drill 6,000
new wells per year at a cost of $35 billion to maintain current production.
His research also shows that the newest wells aren’t as productive as those
drilled in the first years of the boom, a sign that oil companies have already
tapped the best spots, making it that much harder to keep breaking records.
Hughes has predicted that production will peak in 2017 and fall to 2012
levels within two years.
“The hype about U.S. energy independence and ‘Saudi America’ is deafening
if you look at the mainstream media,” Hughes says. “We need to have a
much more in-depth and intelligent discussion about this.”
Loder, A. 2013. U.S. Shale-Oil Boom May Not Last as Fracking Wells Lack Staying
Power. Bloomberg Business Week. http://buswk.co/QxGGdm
USA Energy Information Administration, What Drives Crude
Oil Prices. http://1.usa.gov/1lxBgvC
our prediction of small further increases in world oil production
comes at the expense of a near doubling, permanently, of real oil
prices over the coming decade. This is uncharted territory for the
world economy, which has never experienced such prices for more
than a few months…
we suspect that there must be a pain barrier, a level of oil prices
above which the effects on GDP becomes nonlinear, convex. We also
suspect that the assumption that technology is independent of the
availability of fossil fuels may be inappropriate, so that a lack of
availability of oil may have aspects of a negative technology shock.
In that case the macroeconomic effects of binding resource
constraints could be much larger, more persistent, and they would
extend well beyond the oil sector.
IMF Working Paper WP/12/109. 2012. The Future of Oil: Geology versus Technology.
James Hansen et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 011006 doi:10.1088/1748-
Education markets are one facet of the neoliberal strategy to
manage the structural crisis of capitalism by opening the public
sector to capital accumulation. The roughly $2.5 trillion global
market in education is a rich new arena for capital investment.
(Lipman, P. 2009: http://bit.ly/qDl6sV)
$4.4tn, 2012 Global Education Expenditure ($91bn in e-
learning is the fastest growing).
(IBIS Capital. 2013: http://bit.ly/16aJi1Q)
If we presume that a connection exists between the increase
in debt on one side and the increase in “asset value” on the
other, then I would say chances are we’re looking at both a
gigantic wealth transfer from the poor towards the rich and a
huge bubble that allows that to happen, and that will make
the poor even poorer when it bursts. Which seems inevitable,
because debt by itself cannot create value.
And if I’m right, what we’re seeing is not the incredible
resiliency of the markets, and no real increase in asset value,
but an increase in the threat to the social cohesion of our
communities, cities and nations.
Ilargi. 2013. How do we define value? The Automatic Earth. http://bit.ly/1pyfUgN
There is a strong correlation between energy use and GDP.
Global energy demand is on the rise yet oil supply is forecast to decline in the
next few years.
There is no precedent for oil discoveries to make up for the shortfall, nor is
there a precedent for efficiencies to relieve demand on this scale.
Public sector debt is a burden that ultimately requires economic growth to pay
it off. Energy supply looks likely to constrain growth.
Global emissions currently exceed the IPCC 'marker' scenario range.
The Climate Change Act 2008 has made the -80%/2050 target law, yet this
requires a national mobilisation akin to war-time.
Probably impossible but could radically change the direction of HE in terms of
skills required and spending available.
Collective work is one of the cements of autonomy, whose
fruits usually spill into hospitals, clinics, primary and
secondary education, in strengthening the municipalities and
the good government juntas. Not much that has been
constructed would be possible without the collective work, of
men, women, boys, girls and the elderly.
Zibechi, R. 2013. Autonomous Zapatista Education: The Little Schools of Below.
The five revolutions: democratic; ethical; economic; social;
Latin American dignity
To build a fraternal and co-operative coexistence.
The transformation of higher education and the transfer of
knowledge in science, technology and innovation.
The Republic of Ecuador. National Development Plan: National Plan for Good
Living 2009-2013: Building a Plurinational and Intercultural State.
Education is crucial to reinforce and diversify individual and social capabilities
and potentialities, and to foster participative and critical citizens.
Education remains one of the best ways of consolidating a democratic society
that contributes to the eradication of economic, political, social and cultural
From a strategic perspective, it is essential to develop various forms of
knowledge with high added value, as well as technical and technological
research and innovation.
The combination of ancestral forms of knowledge with state-of-the-art technology
can reverse the current development model and contribute to the transition
towards a model of accumulation based on bio-knowledge.
The Republic of Ecuador. National Development Plan: National Plan for Good Living 2009-
2013: Building a Plurinational and Intercultural State. http://bit.ly/GQJi0M
We need a new global alliance between the
new “open” movements, the ecological
movements, and the traditional social justice
and emancipatory movements, in order to
create “a grand alliance of the commons.”
Bauwens, M., and Iacomella, F. 2013. Peer-to-Peer Economy and New
Civilization Centred Around the Sustenance of the Commons.
IPCC. 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and
• place and context specific
• complementary actions across levels, from individuals to governments
reducing vulnerability and exposure to present climate variability
• contingent on societal values, objectives, and risk perceptions. Recognition of
diverse interests, circumstances, social-cultural contexts, and expectations
• sensitive to context and the diversity of decision types, decision processes,
• economic instruments can foster adaptation by providing incentives
• constraints can interact to impede adaptation
• short-termism or failing to anticipate consequences can result in
• limited evidence indicates a gap between global adaptation needs and funds
• co-benefits, synergies, and tradeoffs exist between mitigation and adaptation
In the face of the triple crunch, of the volatility imposed by
the interrelationships between peak oil, our climate realities,
and economic futures, is business as usual really possible for
those who labour and study in higher education?
What kinds of conversations are we having with society about
our need for “more sophisticated financial engineering” to
underpin increasing student debt?
What kinds of conversations should we be having with young
people and their parents about the volatile relationships
between debt, real wages, unemployment and precarity, in
the face of the added volatility of access to the resources that
keep the economy growing?