Eco Mag No 1 | Future Scenarios


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Three bodies of work show various futures as predicted through three different lenses: science, permaculture and economics. Six Degrees illustrates Mark Lynas’ book of the same title based on evidence compiled from hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers on projected changes with each degree of climate warming. abcd Scenarios describes four potential future scenarios based on permaculture founder David Holmgren’s work on the impact of energy transitions and multiple converging crises. Steady State is a graphic representation of eco-economist Herman Daly’s work on a sustainable economic system.

Of course the real future will not be neatly defined by any one of these future scenarios, but will be a complex mixture of many driving forces. What all scenarios demonstrate is that humanity is now at a critical junction. The planet is experiencing a climate crisis. The generations of people alive now will either commit the most colossal moral failure in history, or will start a massive enterprise in transition. The gravity, scope, and depth of the problem demand the greatest collective effort and cooperation. None of us can succeed in addressing the root causes of the problem alone; but collectively, we have a window of an opportunity to act. *

EcoMag is a magazine about art, design & sustainability. Each issue will focus on a theme while investigating issues lying at the root of the ecological crisis. The theme of the first issue is ‘Future Scenarios’. All the ideas presented in this magazine can be explored further in the original writings of the authors which in all causes is prolific. References and bibliographies are posted on the EcoLabs website ( We are indebted to the authors: Mark Lynas, David Holmgren and Herman Daly and grateful for having been granted permission to borrow freely and/or republish work.

Editor & art director
Jody Boehnert

Graphic designers
Jody Boehnert
Angela Morelli

Artists / designers
six degrees:
Jody Barton
Rod Hunt
Leona Clark
Kate Evans
Jamie Slimmon
Si Yeun Kim

steady state:
Angela Morelli

abcd scenarios:
Andrew Merritt

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Eco Mag No 1 | Future Scenarios

  1. 1. r Steady State economy we have two guiding principl ou es In . We dont dep han they can be replenished. rt t use natural resources aste f Resource Use Rate: Waste Depo CONSUMPTION EMISSIONS 0 CpH 0 EpH CpH EpH n We do Ecology EconomyEcoMag ble. Thro na tai gh u mption and emission are sus studying econo su n of nature we work out what levels of coEcoLabs No.1 - Summer 2009 C EFuture Scenarios Sustainabilty Range Sustainabilty Range dy tu s Through We u set wo main mechanisms to achieve this. Mechanism 1: We cap resources. Mechanism 2: We tax resou We cap fossil fuels at the source (coal, oil, natural gas). We TAX resources at the point they a T T T T T T T T
  2. 2. EcoLabs EcoLabs is a network of designers and visual artists addressing systemicEcoMags N°.1 environmental and social problems. We aim to nurture whole systems thinkingJune 2009 and help create an alternative cultural vision that will drive transformational changeLondon, UK to meet the goals of a fully sustainable society. We create material, projects and programmes that work to integrate design and art with science, education and other disciplines.Editor & art director Our social, economic and ecological systems will become increasingly stressedJody Boehnert until we develop a deeper more integrated understanding of the fundamental importance of ecological systems. Ecological literacy implies a change in perspec-Graphic designers tive from a world which is perceived as a machine - to a world which is seen asJody Boehnert composed of complex systems. An ecologically informed paradigm will involveAngela Morelli deep perceptual shifts towards a more complex, moral, integrated and global perspective. EcoLabs works to address the cause of the environmental crisis,Artists / designers which we see as a lack of ecological understanding.six degrees:Airside EcoMag is a magazine about art, design & sustainability. Each issue willJody Barton focus on a theme while investigating issues lying at the root of the ecological crisis.Rod Hunt The theme of the first issue is ‘Future Scenarios’. All the ideas presented in thisLeona Clark magazine can be explored further in the original writings of the authors which inKate Evans all causes is prolific. References and bibliographies are posted on the EcoLabsJamie Slimmon website ( We are indebted to the authors: Mark Lynas, DavidSi Yeun Kim Holmgren and Herman Daly and grateful for having been granted permission to borrow freely and/or republish work. The only change to the original work is insteady state: Herman Daly’s ‘cap and trade’ mechanism, which we do not recommend due toAngela Morelli inherent problems with trading systems as a means of protecting ecosystems and preserving resources. There is insufficient room in this issue to explore thisabcd scenarios: important issue in depth but there are links to related articles expanding on thisAndrew Merritt topic on the website and we promise to follow it up in EcoMag No.2 - which will focus on ‘Economics’.Text - with thanks to:Mark LynasDavid HolmgrenHerman DalyEcoMag ©EcoLabs 2009Artwork in this book was madefor the Climate Roadshow andfunded by Awards for All and EcoLabs aims to make artwork available for free to grassroots environmental groups.Artist’s Project Earth. Some of the work in this book is licenced according to the EcoLabs system: Constituted not for profit groups with a turn over under £50k may use our work for free. NGOs, charities, schools and agencies with a turn over £50k must pay a modest fee. All commercial use of our images (larger than a 2 by 3 inches) must pay a In all cases please send a request for images to:
  3. 3. Future ScenariosSection 1 Six DegreesSection 2 ABCD ScenariosSection 3 Steady State Three bodies of work show various futures as predicted through three different lenses: science, permaculture and economics. Six Degrees illustrates Mark Lynas’ book of the same title based on evidence compiled from hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers on projected changes with each degree of climate warming. ABCD Scenarios describes four potential future scenarios based on permaculture founder David Holmgren’s work on the impact of energy transitions and multiple converging crises. Steady State is a graphic representation of eco-economist Herman Daly’s work on a sustainable economic system. Of course the real future will not be neatly defined by any one of these future scenarios, but will be a complex mixture of many driving forces. What all scenarios demonstrate is that humanity is now at a critical junction. The planet is experiencing a climate crisis. The generations of people alive now will either commit the most colossal moral failure in history, or will start a massive enterprise in transition. The gravity, scope, and depth of the problem demand the greatest collective effort and cooperation. None of us can succeed in addressing the root causes of the problem alone; but collectively, we have a window of an opportunity to act. * *Tipping points in the climate system mean that if we continue to increase carbon in the atmosphere we will move beyond points where the climate will be able to maintain stability or recover.
  4. 4. Six DegreesSix artists respond to Mark Lynas’ Six Degrees, the book compiledfrom hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers describing theprojected changes with each degree of climate warming.text by: Mark Lynasartwork by: Kate Evans1º ...Whilst I and many people feel that natural life and biodiversity have an instrinsic value, seperate from their use to humans, all human sociey is at root dependent on natural ecosystems. This might come as news to the adverage city dweller tucking into a ready meal infront of ITV, but it does not make it less true. From fish to fuel wood, nature’s bounty feeds us, houses us, warms us and clothes us. Soils wouldn’t support agriculture were it not for the organic matter broken down by bacteria. Crops would not set seed unless polinated by bees. The air would not be breathable were it not for photo- synthesis by trees and plankton. Water would not be drinkable were it not for the cleasing action of forests and wetlands...6˚C5˚C4˚C3˚C2˚C1˚C| 4 | ecomag
  5. 5. Consider the thought that living species, which haveevolved on this planet over millions of years, couldbe destroyed for ever in the space of one humangeneration. eco mag | 5 |
  6. 6. 2 ºartwork by: AirsideThermal expansion of oceans and melting ice willlead to a subtantial rise in sea level, forcing evacuationof homes in coastal communities.A three-degree rise in global temperature - something that couldhappen as early as 2050 - effectively reverses the carbon cycle.Instead of absorbing CO2 vegetation and soil starts releasing itin massive quantities, as soil bacteria work faster to break downorganic matter in a hotter environment, and plant growth goes intoreverse. ... in other words the Hadley Centre’s team had discoveredthat carbon cycle possible feedbacks could tip the planet into arunaway global warming spiral by the middle of this century...6˚C5˚C4˚C3˚C2˚C1˚C| 6 | ecomag
  7. 7. 3 ºartwork by: Rod HuntFor an analogue for the three degree world, we have to go back...before the Earth entered its regular cycle of ice ages and interglacial.We have to go back a full 3 million years, to a period of time calledthe Pliocene. Continentals glaciers were almost entirely absent -contributing to a sea level 25 metres higher than today’s....if emissions go on rising as they currently are, global tempera-tures could shoot past three degrees as early as 2050.6˚C5˚C4˚C3˚C2˚C1˚C| 8 | ecomag
  8. 8. Climate models indicate an increase in the frequencyand duration of extreme events. Extreme weatherevents will cause heavy loss of life and extensivedamage. eco mag | 9 |
  9. 9. 4 ºartwork by: Jamie SlimmonPopulation will be flocking north, to overcrowdedrefuges in the Baltic, Scandinavia and the BritishIsles... but with habitable areas becoming moreand more crowded, conflict may come sooner ratherthan later even in temperate, civilised Europe.6˚C5˚C4˚C3˚C2˚C1˚C| 10 | ecomag
  10. 10. 5 ºartwork by: Jody BartonWith five degrees of globalwarming, an entirely new planetis coming into being - one largelyunrecognisable from the Earth weknow today...Humans are herdedinto shrinking zones of habitabilityby the twin crises of drought andflood.6˚C5˚C4˚C3˚C2˚C1˚C| 12 | ecomag
  11. 11. eco mag | 13 |
  12. 12. 6 ºartwork by: Leona ClarkeHotter oceans bring hurricanes,far outdoing anything we seetoday. These superhurricanes(hypercanes) will have enoughenergy to carry them to theNorth Pole and back, perhapseven allowing them to repeatedlycircumnavigate the globe.| 14 | ecomag
  13. 13. So far as we yet know, this is the only planet in the entire universewhich has summoned forth life in all its brilliance and variety. Toknowingly cut this flowering short is undoubtedly a crime, one moreunspeakable even than the cruellest genocide or the most destructivewar. If each person is uniquely valuable, each species is surely moreso. I can see no excuses for collaborating in such a crime. As thepost-war Nuremberg trials established, ignorance is no defence;nor is merely following orders. To me the moral path lies not inpassively accepting our destructive role, but in actively resistingsuch a horrendous fate...Nothing in the future is set in stone; westill have the power - though it diminishes every day - to alter theending of this terrible drama. It need not yet end in tragedy. eco mag | 15 |
  14. 14. ABCD ScenariosABCD Scenarios describes potential future scenarios based on permaculture founderDavid Holmgren’s work on the impact of energy transitions and converging crises.Introduction by EcoLabsArticle text by David Holmgrenwww.futurescenarios.orgartwork by: Andrew Merritt We are facing a convergence of crises: social, economic and Security (ITPOES) which released a report calling on the UKecological - they are all related and need to be considered in government to plan for peak oil. Overstressed governmentstandem. Pioneering thinkers realized the systemic nature of our have been slow to acknowledge the problem, and plans to dealproblems back in the 1970s and permaculture was created with climate change have ignored the threat of peak a design system for sustainable land use and living. Both permaculture and the transition movement claim thatPermaculture is now the theoretical basis of the transition there is no alternative energy source that can provide energymovement - a fast growing network of communities working as cheaply and in such abundance as fossil fuels have in thetowards mobilizing to address climate change and peak oil past. Even controversial technologies such as nuclear powersimultaneously. will not provide enough energy to maintain current growing Peak oil refers to the time when we hit a peak in global fuel demand. ‘Net energy’ refers to amount of energy obtained inreserves. It is important because we are completely dependent comparison to the energy required to get it. Fossil fuels are veryon fossil fuels and once the peak happens fossil fuels will energy dense - while all other energy sources are significantlybecome increasingly more expensive. If we do not anticipate less energy rich, and so as supplies diminish net energy isthis problem, energy shocks will result as supplies will no reduced. A growing number of researchers supports the per-longer be able to cope with demand. Obviously, the economic maculture position: energy descent is an inevitable result of theimpact could be severe, and potentially disastrous if we fail to end of the fossil fuel era because there is no technology primedplan ahead. to fill the energy gap as cheaply and efficiently as fossil fuels. Both permaculture and the transition movements are based The ABCD Scenarios project examines possible futures whichon around the key concept of ‘energy descent’. Energy descent result from varying societal responses to the current situationrefers to a post-peak oil phase, when humankind goes from the as well as various rates of energy descent (steep or gradual).ascending use of energy that has occurred since the industrial The following four scenarios are republished with kind permis-revolution to a descending use of energy. A transition town/city sion from David Holmgren’s website: a space engaged in the collaborative design of a local ‘Energy The scenarios sketch four futures:Descent Action Plan’ (EDAP). An EDAP is a plan for wean- A: Business as usual,ing a community off fossil fuels, building alternatives infra- B: Green technological revolution,structure and resilience into a regional space. While climate C: Bottom up rebuild,change means we should lower our use of fossil fuels, peak oil D: Economic, social and ecological collapse.means we will have to do so. Peak oil is a major challenge that Examining possible futures is considered to be a good waywill make dealing with climate change especially complex. of informing decision making. Solutions to systemic Peak oil is increasingly recognized by independent research- problems are largely cultural and ethical - requiring shifts iners and also widely acknowledged within the energy industry. behaviour rather than just new technology. Whether we allowThe International Energy Agency (IEA) recently dramatically our industrial systems to cross invisible limits, disablingchanged its position in regards to peak oil. In its 2008 World the capacity of ecological systems to maintain stability - isEnergy Outlook report the IEA’s own figures for projected rate a decision we are in the process of making. As long as ourof decline in world energy supply almost doubled from the cultural and political institutions are unwilling to addressprevious year - from 3.7% a year (2007) to a 6.7% a year (2008). problems systemically, all crises will continue to multiply. WeIn 2008 several major companies including Arup, Yahoo and create our future today, and if we don’t change direction - weVirgin created the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy are likely to end up where we are headed.David Holmgren founded the permaculture concept in the 1970s with Bill Mollison. Permaculture creates is a design philosophy for human settle-ments and productive ecosystems that work with nature, with the aim of reducing society’s reliance on industrial systems. Holmgren is the author ofmany books including Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) and most recently Future Scenarios (2009).| 16 | ecomag
  15. 15. eco mag | 17 |
  16. 16. A.Brown Tech: Top Down ConstrictionSlow energy decline rates, severe climate change symptoms The Brown Tech world is one in which relations. The profits from both non- internment camps either for migrantsthe production of oil declines after a renewable resources and large scale or homeless people. Strong approachespeak 2005-2010 at about 2% per annum industrial agriculture rise on the back of to population control, even forcedand the subsequent peak and decline of high commodity prices, reversing many sterilization are introduced in somenatural gas is also relatively gentle, but of the economic patterns and trends of countries.the severity of global warming symp- recent decades. The wealth of farmers A series of short but intense inter-toms is at the extreme end of current and miners as well as corporations and national conflicts confirm major shiftsmainstream scientific predictions. In nations in control of these resources in global power balances while accel-this scenario strong, even aggressive, increases even as depletion reduces the erating resource depletion. Control ofnational policies and actions prevail flows of resources and climate change non-renewable fossil fuel and mineralto address both the threats and the causes chaos in farming and land resources remains critical, while theopportunities from energy peak and management. (relative) importance of distributedclimatic change. The political system The demand for biofuels in affluent renewable wealth from agriculture andcould be described as Corporatist or countries reduces world food stocks forestry continues to decline as theFascist (which Mussolini described as a and raises prices to levels that result climate deteriorates. With food supplymerger of state and corporate power). in famine and chaos in many poor under threat, fossil fuels and other The tendency in existing systems countries unable to sustain subsidies resources are redirected from personalfor massive centralised investment by for staple food. In other countries, food mobility and consumption to intensivecorporations and governments, gives riots by the poor force government to factory farming in greenhouses andpriority to getting more energy out of pay for escalating subsidies. The wealth other controlled environments, mostlylower grade non-renewable resources left over for education, health etc. clustered around urban centres and(eg. tar sands, coal and uranium) and collapses. Wars to secure fuel and food managed by agribusiness corporations.biofuels from industrial agriculture and increase and refocus public attention Desalination and other high energyforestry. “Breakthrough” technologies on external threats. In richer countries, ways to maintain water supply systemsprovide the constant promise of a bet- consumer led economic growth falters are built at huge cost and furtherter future but much of the investment or is actively shut down by government increase demand for energy. The threatin energy harvesting accelerates global policies to focus limited resources on of sea level rises leads to large scalewarming, at least in the short term. food, fuel and climate security. Some urban redevelopment driven by strong At the same time the cost of defend- type of global economic depression government policies. Some very bolding or replacing urban infrastructure unfolds from the combined effects of initiatives for energy efficient mediumthreatened by storms and future sea high energy and food prices, super- density urban development and publiclevel rise consumes more resources, power contest, resource nationalism transport infrastructure are funded. Awhile droughts and chaotic seasonal and the fragility of the financial system. key characteristic of this scenario is thechanges reduce food production from Rapid onset of climate change also sense of divide between the reducingbroadacre and small scale agriculture. tends to support centralised nationalist numbers of “haves” dependent on a Flows of energy from more expensive systems for several reasons. First the job in the “system” and the relativelysources such as tar sands, deep ocean consequences of chaotic weather, food lawless, loose but perhaps communitar-oil, gas to liquids and coal to liquids supply problems, radical land use ian “have nots” with their highly flexibleslow the decline in fuels from crude change and abandonment of marginal and nomadic subcultures living fromoil. This transition requires a huge land, leads to demands for strong the wastes of the “system” and themobilisation of the technical and government action to protect people wilds of nature. Security of the “haves”managerial capacity held mostly by from high food and fuel costs, natural is a constant issue with gated com-global corporations, along with the disasters, the consequences of strong munities, and apartheid style townshipsfinancial, legal and military security action by other nations, and mass and barrios for the “have nots”. Whilethat only sovereign governments can migration by displaced people. Rates of economic depression and reductionprovide. This resource nationalism by urbanisation increase as climate change in consumption slow greenhouse gasgovernment breaks down free trade impacts and withdrawal of government emissions, the rapid expansion ofand the faith in international markets supported services in more remote strategic investment by government inthat underpins the global economy. rural regions accelerates. new energy and urban infrastructure By 2007, we had already seen the shift A decline of the middle class (already more than replaces the reduced privatefrom a buyers to a sellers market for evident in many western countries) consumption, leading to a positiveenergy cascading through all commodi- accelerates leading to discontent and feedback loop that accelerates globalties markets and reshaping geopolitical suppression by government including warming.| 18 | ecomag
  17. 17. While the elites continue to be driven and even more or less socially stable forby a commitment to super rationalist many decades until ongoing climaticbeliefs, a sense of hollowness and lack breakdown and reduced net energyof purpose characterises the shrinking return drive a shift to the Lifeboatsmiddle class, while fundamentalist scenario.religions and cults play a stronger role in “Top down constriction” summarisesthe lives of the working and unemployed the essence of this scenario in thatclasses partly through genuine reactions national power constricts consumptionto the failures of modern humanism and focuses resources to maintain theand partly manipulated by the elites to nation state, in the face of deterioratingdeflect anger and disenchantment. The climate and reduced energy and foodBrown Tech scenario could be dominant supply. | 19 | eco mag
  18. 18. B.Green Tech: Distributed Powerdown Slow energy decline rates, mild climate change symptoms The Green Tech scenario is the most agribusiness corporations are the main descent may seem artificial, but therebenign, in that adverse climate changes beneficiaries employing both high are reasons to believe that the Greenare at the low end of projections. Oil technology and cheap labour from Tech scenario will tend towards a moreand gas production declines slowly as migrant workers. In some regions, egalitarian structure with the relativein the Brown Tech future, so the sense of with poorer and steeper land and more shift of power from control of oil wellschaos and crisis is more muted without diversified land ownership, smaller scale and mines to control of the productivitymajor economic collapse or conflict. polyculture systems designed using of nature via traditional land uses suchThis allows resources to flow to a greater permaculture principles spread wealth as agriculture and forestry and morediversity of responses at the global, more evenly through local communities. novel renewable technologies.national, city, community and personal Continuous contraction affects large The inherently distributed naturelevel. In some already densely populated sections of the economy but the energy, of these resources will lead to morepoor countries, conditions worsen. resource and agriculture sectors along distributed economic and political However, higher commodity with recycling and retrofit industries power at the level of cities, their hin-prices allows some poorer producer experience rapid growth based on high terlands and organisations focused ateconomies to escape their debt cycle commodity prices that are sustained this scale. For example, successful largewhile programs to empower women despite economic recession in the main scale farmers who have reduced theirresult in rapid reduction in the birth consuming economies. In some affluent dependence of energy intensive inputsrate. The gradual reduction in capacity countries, reform of monetary systems through permaculture strategies andof countries to impose power globally lowers the scale of financial collapses organic methods may find new profits(due to rising energy costs) increases and refocuses capital on productive and in more localized markets with pricesnational security. There is a redirection socially useful innovation and investment. sustained by policies that encourageof resources away from defense and Information technology continues regional self reliance. Any profits beyondresource capture to resource conserva- to yield gains in energy and resource farming are likely to be invested intotion and innovation. The consolidation management; from real time pricing local energy systems that generateof the global communication systems and self-healing electrical grids, to more employment and further reducemaintains global outlooks and under- internet based ride sharing systems and economic dependence on centralstandings if not global economics. telecommuting. Conservation yields the governments and large corporations. It As in the Brown Tech scenario, greatest gains with major public policies is possible that these same processeselectrification is a key element in the to change personal and organisational could lead to highly inequitable, evenenergy transition but the renewable behaviour. In other countries, especially feudal systems. However the universalenergy sources of wind, biomass, solar, the USA, the apparent opportunities for focus on more sustainable productionhydro, tidal, wave etc. grow rapidly continued economic growth, combine and reduced consumption that is notdeveloping a more diverse and distrib- with political policies to support a low forced by remote and arbitrary centraluted mix. The relatively benign climate carbon economy, leading to a renewable power, has the tendency to foster moreallows a resurgence of rural and regional energy investment bubble followed by a egalitarian responses than in the Browneconomies on the back of sustained and severe recession. Tech scenario.growing prices for all natural commodi- State and city governments respon- The substantial reductions inties including feedstocks for biofuels. sible for providing services are able to greenhouse gas emissions that result The principles behind organic lead much of the restructuring to more from this scenario keep climate changeagriculture and ecological management compact cities and towns with increas- impacts to a minimum, thus stabilisingand resource allocation become the ing public transport infrastructure. and reinforcing the scenario’s basic char-norm in many farming systems, helping Growth in large cities (especially in acteristics for at least several stabilise agriculture challenged by coastal lowlands) is reversed by public The success in radically reducing con-increasing cost of energy inputs and policies ahead of the worst effects of sumption of resources while sustaining(albeit mild) climate change. energy cost and global warming, while modest growth in some local economies The accelerating conflict between regional cities, towns and villages see combined with stabilization of the climate,biofuels and food is stabilised if not modest growth on a compact urban encourages a new “sustainability” elite toresolved by government subsidies to model that preserves prime agricultural consider further changes to consolidatesupport food supply from agriculture, land and develops mixed use neigh- these achievements in the face of ongoingwith biofuels coming mainly from bourhoods with more local work and net energy decline. The worse excessesforestry wastes. In many regions with radically less commuting. of consumer capitalism are controlled byprime agricultural land and small The placing together of many of the restriction and reforms of advertising andpopulations, wealthy farmers and more optimistic aspects of energy other dysfunctional forces.| 20 | ecomag
  19. 19. Civic culture strengthens where expected in a ‘Techno Stability Longfurther transition towards a non-materi- Term’ scenario where new energyalistic society combines with the matura- sources manage to replace fossil fuels The fishing industry damagestion of feminism and environmentalism, without the stresses that lead to system o cean ecosystems.and a resurgence in indigenous and wide contraction. The current levels oftraditional cultural values. These trends ecological, economic and socio-politicalstabilise the accelerating loss of faith in stress are the indirect indicators thatsecular humanism allowing the evolu- we are entering the energy descent This damage is hidden undertion of more spiritual “cultures of place”. scenarios rather than simply a transition t he sea away from people.Over time an evolution toward the Earth from energetic growth to stability. Rela-Steward scenario seems an obvious tive insulation from those stresses andand natural response to the inexorable the persistence of faith in the monetarydecline of non-renewable resources. accounting “house of cards” by the up- The government, elected by“Distributed Powerdown” summarises per middle class (if not the global elites) p eople, set rules for industry.this scenario by emphasising both the continues the confusion. The lack ofdistributed nature of resources and understanding of net energy accountingpower, and the planned contraction and disagreement amongst the expertsinvolved. on appropriate methods, combined with But these rules allow the At their extremes the Green Tech and political pressures from the unfolding damage to our sea to go on.Brown Tech scenarios also describe crisis lead to energetic descent beingmany of the elements that could be mistaken for “business as usual”. | 21 | eco mag
  20. 20. C.Earth Steward: Bottom Up RebuildRapid energy decline rates, mild climate change symptoms In this scenario the decline in oil capacity. The collapse in the tax base institute land reform and debt cancel-production after a peak in total liquids available to national and state govern- lation following collapse of financialproduction before 2010 is at the ex- ments reduces their power and even institutions and central banks, allowingtreme end of authoritative predictions city level restructuring of infrastructure people to stay on their properties.(about 10%) and is followed by an even is difficult, but local government retains Suburban landscapes around smallerfaster decline in gas production plus a some degree of effective services, deci- cities and regional towns with greatersimultaneous peak in coal production. sion making and possibly democracy. social capital are transformed withThe shock to the world’s fragile finan- Collapse of larger businesses and a booming and relatively egalitariancial systems is overwhelming, resulting the difficulties in maintaining urban society sustained by bio-intensive/in severe economic depression and infrastructure leads to a hollowing out permaculture farming and retrofittingperhaps some further short, sharp of the cities. Loss of jobs and houses and reuse supported by resources fromresource wars. leads to migration of people out of cit- both the immediate rural hinterland This economic collapse and these ies to smaller towns, villages and farms and inner urban salvage.political stresses, more than the actual with more robust local economies able This ruralisation of suburbanshortage of resources, prevents the to take advantage of the influx of labour. landscape to produce food on alldevelopment of more expensive and Impacts and demands on local soil, available open space, private and publiclarge scale non-renewable resources water and forest resources increases, to provides most of the fresh fruit andthat characterise the Brown Tech severe levels in many poor countries as vegetables, dairy and small livestockscenario or the renewable resources people move out of the cities to harvest products. Local currencies, food, carand infrastructure of the Green Tech. fuel, wildlife and restart food produc- and fuel co-ops, community supportedInternational and national communica- tion. In long affluent countries, the agriculture all grow rapidly. Informaltions networks break down. underuse of local biological resources and household economies provide an Electricity grids become non-func- in the late 20th century provides some increasing proportion of basic needs astional as cost and availability of fuels buffer against these impacts. corporate and government systems failand spare parts reduce production and Large numbers of homeless ex-urban- to deliver.lack of paying businesses and customers ites form a new underclass lacking even Around the larger cities especiallyreduces revenues. International tensions the skills of poverty. They provide basic in countries where social capital andremain but capacity of stronger coun- labour in exchange for food and accom- community capacity is severely eroded,tries to use military force is constrained modation on farms needing the labour. most of these new developments are inby unreliable energy and parts supplies Surviving structures of power may gated communities providing the basicand the strong evidence that war uses adapt to impose a more feudal struc- needs and security of their residentsmore resources than it captures. Global ture based on concentrated control of with trade outside the community beingwarming is slowed dramatically and productive farms and forests and built more difficult or dangerous. Outsidereversed by the collapse of the global assets in large farming estates. the gated communities salvage, fuelconsumer economy and absence of Organic and small farmers, close to harvesting and animal husbandry arelarge scale investment in new energy markets and able to make use of labour the main economic activities with tradeinfrastructure. and animal power, thrive (to the extent controlled by gangs and local warlords. There is a radical reduction in mass security allows) in a context of relatively While the impacts on people andmobility of both people and goods. benign and slow climate change. An local environments of this scenario areThe food supply chain is severely explosion of home businesses based severe, in previously affluent countriesaffected both on farms and through the on building and equipment retrofit, at least, there is also a cultural anddistribution system. Energy intensive maintenance and salvage starts to build spiritual revolution as people arelarge scale farming supplying central a diversified economy. Further afield released from the rat race of addictivemarketing chains is the worst affected biofuels from crop waste allow farmers behaviours and begin to experience theleading to abandonment of even highly to continue to use machinery while gift of resurgent community and theproductive land. Shortages lead to wood and charcoal gasification based simple abundance of nature to providerationing, black markets, and riots for on regrowth forest resources near for basic and energy. settlements and towns provide an in- The biggest difference from the Green Increases in crime, malnutrition creasing proportion of limited transport Tech and Brown Tech scenarios is thatand disease lead to a rising death fuel. This small business growth in turn the rebuilding and stabilisation is norate accelerated in some countries by provides a new tax base for some form longer based on dreams of sustainabilityepidemics and pandemics that have a of effective local government. In some or restoring the old system. Insteadmajor impact on social and economic places new bioregional governments people accept that each generation will| 22 | eco mag
  21. 21. have to face the challenges of furtherongoing simplification and localisationof society as the fossil resource basecontinues to decline. This simplificationin the material domain is seen as theopportunity for growth in the spiritualdomain. There is a resurgence in leader-ship by women and a celebration of thefeminine in nature and people. “BottomUp Rebuild” summarises this scenarioby emphasising the new growth frombiological and community foundations.In some ways this scenario might beconsidered as the archetypal one ofthe Energy Descent future and the onein which permaculture principles andstrategies are most powerfully applied. | 23 | eco mag
  22. 22. D.Lifeboats: Civilization TriageRapid energy decline rates, severe climate change symptoms In this scenario, supplies of high ongoing availability of high quality metals In the Long Term Collapse scenario, anyquality fossil fuels decline rapidly, the and other materials make a critical tech- future civilisation that could emergeeconomy fails, and human contributions nological distinction from that of ancient only learns from the lessons of ours viato global warming collapse but lag traditional hunter gatherer cultures. archeology and perhaps long attenuatedeffects and positive feedbacks in the Mountain regions, especially with mythic stories. In the Lifeboat scenarioclimate system continue to drive an surviving glacier fed rivers allow hydro- the retention of cultural knowledgeacceleration of global warming. As of electric systems to be maintained and of the past combined with a moder-2007, an increasing number of scientists rebuilt on a smaller scale. Nutrient rich ately habitable environment allow newbelieve it may already be too late to glacier fed rivers also sustain intensive civilisations to emerge that build onavoid catastrophic climate change. irrigated agriculture. In some localities, at least some of the knowledge andIn the Lifeboat scenario the adverse especially in favourable regions with lessons from ours.symptoms of the Brown Tech and Earth accessible energy and agricultural Three factors may prevent the continu-Steward scenarios combine to force a resources, communities analogous to ous free fall to a very low global popula-progressive collapse in most forms of the monasteries of the early medieval tion of hunter gatherers surviving on theeconomic and social organisation. Local period provide basic knowledge and fringes of the Arctic of a hotter planet:wars, including use of nuclear weapons skills to their surrounding communities 1) The first is the wild card created byaccelerate collapse in some areas but and are thus protected by the locals the mixing of the world’s biota, mostthe failure of national systems of power from the ravages of local warlords and notable the large numbers of tree andprevent global warfare. Successive waves pirates. These communities, mostly in other species that exhibit what forestersof famine and disease breakdown social rural and suburban areas, and based call “exotic vigour”. This allows newand economic capacity on a larger scale on pre-collapse efforts of intentional recombinant ecosystems to stabilizethan the Black Death in medieval Europe communities or rich benefactors, pursue many environments that climateleading to a halving of global population the task of saving and condensing scientists are now saying will becomein a few decades. knowledge and cultural values for the uninhabitable in extreme climate New forms of oasis agriculture that long dark ages ahead. change. The release of critical minerals,are low input versions of the Brown Tech “Civilisation triage” refers to the most notably phosphorus over the lastintensive systems evolve that stabilise processes by which remaining social 200 years into the biosphere may allowfood production as chaotic seasons capacity (beyond meeting immediate these new ecosystems to ultimatelymake traditional field agriculture and basic needs) are focused on conserving achieve biological productivity exceedinghorticulture almost impossible. Forest technology and culture that could be that possible from pre-existing systems.and rangeland hunting and harvesting useful to a future society, once energy 2) Secondly the flooding of largebecome the predominant use of descent is stabilised after a precipitous areas of coastal lowlands complete withresources over large regions supporting but limited collapse process. This is not complex reef structures from floodednomadic bands. Warrior and gang cults the dominant process of the scenario cities and infrastructure may also createprovide meaning in a world of grief and but the most significant in terms of the conditions for highly productiveviolence, leading to the development of future cultural capacity. The Christian shallow waters and estuaries. Thesenew religions and even languages that monasteries that saved many of the types of ecosystem are some of theattempt to make sense of people’s lives. elements of Greco-Roman culture and most biologically productive ecosystems Urban areas are largely abandoned later provided the foundations for the on the planet.and dangerous but remain valuable as Renaissance of Western civilisation is 3) Thirdly, the precipitous dropquarries for salvaging materials (espe- one historical example that could serve in human numbers and their initialcially metals). Suburban landscapes as a model for understanding how this tendency to remain relatively aggregatedbecome ruralised into defensive hamlets process might work. to make use of the huge resources frommaking use of salvaged materials, urban At its extreme, this scenario describes industrial salvage materials (and forstorm water and surplus building space many of the elements of a Long Term security) should see very large regionsfor mixed household economies. Collapse in which there is a complete able to recover without harvesting and The impacts are very patchy with breakdown in the lineage of indus- other impacts from people.worse effects in high density previously trial civilisation such that future simple If the knowledge of ecological process-affluent and urbanised countries. In societies retain nothing from what we es and their creative manipulation usingthe most remote regions, remnants created through industrial civilisation. minimal resources are retained andof hunter-gatherer and pioneer farmer Drawing a distinction between this developed in the Lifeboat communities,cultures are better able to weather the scenario and total collapse may seem then survival and resurgence of a morechanges. The relative abundance and pedantic but the reasons are important. than minimalist culture may allow global| 24 | eco mag
  23. 23. human population to be sustained atperhaps half, rather than one tenth, ofcurrent levels. More importantly it maybe possible to embed the wisdom of thelessons learnt so that unconstrainedhuman growth does not repeat such anintense cycle. Clearly these last thoughtsare highly speculative but build from thesame linage of permaculture thinkingdeveloped over the last thirty years thatinforms the rest of the scenarios. An alternative fishery, where ocean life can begin to replenish itself, is visualized at www.eyeoverf | 25 | eco mag
  24. 24. Steady StateSustaining society over the long term requires existing within the carrying capacity ofthe ecosystem. The Steady State Economy - A Totem of Real Happiness is a graphicrepresentation of eco-economist Herman Daly’s model of a sustainable economic system.artwork by: Angela Morelli Infinite economic growth cannot be sustained on a planet to be addressed to allow us to share the planet peacefully. Awith finite resources. Geophysical constraints limit economic Steady State world will set limits on income inequality. While itgrowth as it is currently conceived. Our economic model is is difficult to decide what the permitted range of incomes shouldunsustainable and being unsustainable means that it will be, Herman Daly describes the importance of developing aeventually collapse; and while financial collapse is painful, system ‘that rewards real difference and contributions rather thanecological collapse is terminal. just multiplying privilege’. Plato thought that a factor of 4 (4:1 The alternative to environmental devastation and economic ratio between highest and lowest incomes) was ideal for wealthcollapse is for humanity to learn to live within the ecological differential. Universities, the civil services and the military havelimits of biosphere. Under current conditions, this requirement always seemed to manage on a factor of 10 to 20. But the USis practically impossible. A more integrated economic model is corporate sector works on a factor of 500 or more. This vasturgently needed. Growth must be redefined from a quantitative disparity in wealth corrupts democratic systems and destroysto a qualitative state. Herman Daly describes a model ‘STEADY the capacity of the system to function sustainably by creatingSTATE’ economy. Survival over the long term now depends on the conditions for abuse of power.our ability to quickly learn the basic ecological principles that 2) Eco-Effectivenesscharacterize a sustainable economic system. A Steady State system strives for eco-effectiveness rather than mere efficiency. Within this system the danger of being efficientTWO MAJOR GUIDING PRINCIPLES at doing the wrong things is recognized. Cradle to Cradle authorIn this economic model there are two major guiding principles: Michael Braungart explains: ‘an unefficient neo-Nazi is much I better than an efficient one’. In 2009 we are increasingly efficient We don’t use natural resources faster than they at destroying natural resources and our climate system. Efficiency can be replenished by the planet. without ecological competence is lethal. II 3) Lower Impact Lives: We don’t deposit wastes faster than they In a Steady State world, products will be designed and built can be absorbed. to last. Disposable goods will no longer be considered to beIn this society, people who study nature work out what levels of acceptable. Maintenance and repair will be important sources ofconsumption and emissions are sustainable – and then we work employment - as will be science, technology and design. The all-out how to make sure we do not breach these limits. important concept is the maintenance of the economic system Economic growth is presently entirely dependent on fossil within the ‘carrying capacity’ of the ecological system. Withoutfuels, and yet given current scientific consensus on the danger the imperative of economic growth, there will be simply lessof carbon emissions, we need to move to a situation where we work that needs to be done. People will work less and the wholecap extraction of gas, oil and tar. For other natural resources we pace of life will be more relaxed. Incomes will be lower, there willmust tax resources at point of extraction from the earth, i.e. fish be less ‘stuff’- but we will have more time. In addititon, we willas they are scooped from the sea, minerals as they are mined understand that no-one has the right to use more than their fairfrom the earth and trees as they are taken from the forest. This share of the earth’s resources.will raise the price of these resources and encourage people to 4) Re-Designed Financial Systemsuse them more sparingly. All that superfluous packaging will In a Steady State world, the financial system of late capitalism,disappear (with wide spread other changes). Better design will based entirely on speculative value, will be accepted as funda-be essential. mentally unstable and unsustainable. The enormous pyramid of debt that props up our economy in 2009 will make addressingFOUR MAIN SUB-MECHANISMS climate change and other environmental and social problems1) Fair Limits to Inequality virtually impossible until we address the more fundamentalWhile these measures will increase the price of commodities problems with the current unsustainable financial system. In ain such a fashion that will hit the poor hard, other strategies Steady State system we will have evolved a more comprehensivewill be created to alleviate inequity. The vast and increasing understanding of the relationship between economics and thedisparity between rich and poor that exists in 2009 will need environment.Herman Daly is an eco-economist who has been questioning the growth model of neo-classical economics for four decades. Daly’s position isrecognized by natural scientists as necessary to address global economy’s destructive impact on global environmental systems. The graphic isadapted from the article ‘Life in a Land without Growth’ in The New Scientist (15 October 2008), based on a conversation with Herman Daly.| 26 | eco mag
  25. 25. Backing Away From the Tipping Point Ten Crucial Steps to Attain an Ecologically Viable Economic Future 1. Cap limits to biophysical 6. Downgrade the IMF-WB-scale according to source or WTO to something like Keynes’sink constraint, whichever is plan for a multilateral paymentsmore stringent. Auction captures clearing union, charging penaltyscarcity rents for equitable rates on surplus as well asredistribution. deficit balances – seek balance 2. Ecological tax reform – on current account, avoid largeShift tax base from value added capital transfers and foreign(labor and capital) and on to debts.“that to which value is added,” 7. Move to 100 percentnamely the entropic throughput reserve requirements insteadof resources extracted from of fractional-reserve banking.nature (depletion), through the Put control of money supplyeconomy, and back to nature and seigniorage in hands of the(pollution). Internalizes external government rather than privatecosts as well as raises revenue banks.more equitably. Prices the scarce 8. Enclose the remainingbut previously unpriced contribu- commons of rival naturaltion of nature. capital in public trusts, and 3. Limit the range of inequality price it, while freeing fromin income distribution – A private enclosure and pricesminimum income and a the non-rival commonwealth ofmaximum income. Without knowledge and information. Stopaggregate growth, poverty treating the scarce as if it werereduction requires redistribu- non-scarce, and the non-scarcetion. Complete equality is unfair; as if it were scarce.unlimited inequality is unfair. 9. Stabilize population – WorkSeek fair limits to inequality. toward a balance in which births 4. Free up the length of the plus in-migrants equals deathsworking day, week and year – plus out-migrants.Allow greater option for leisure 10. Reform national accountsor personal work. Full-time – Separate GDP into a costexternal employment for all is account and a benefits account.hard to provide without growth. Compare them at the margin, 5. Re-regulate international stop growing when marginalcommerce – Move away from costs equal marginal trade, free capital mobility Never add the two accounts.and globalization; adopt This text is reprinted withcompensating tariffs to protect permission from a paper Hermanefficient national policies of cost Daly wrote for the UK Sustainableinternalization from standards- Development Commission in 2008.lowering competition from other The full text can be found atcountries. EcoMag EcoLabs | No.1 June 2009 w w