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June30th2010

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  • This slide will be on display as people arrive. Note on colours: Red highlights the exponential function, blue highlights production limits, green highlights resources listed at the end.
  • Slide 1. Mention that it will get depressing in part 3 and I’m not even going to talk about Global Warming but if you really want to know the worst of it watch “wake up, freak out” in resource list.
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  • Transcript

    • 1. A Tale of Two Curves Helping to break the Conspiracy of Silence about Natural Limits and Economic Growth. A personal view by Nick Watts
    • 2. Outline 1. Introduction to myself & the curves. 2. How did we get here? A whistlestop tour of economic history. 3. Where are we now? The (de)pressing reality. 4. What can be done about it? (there is little hope of systemic change.) 5. Conclusion followed by discussion.
    • 3. 1. Introducing the Curves • Preamble. Welcome, introduce myself, I want to give this talk to explain stuff I’ve learned in last 20 months, the media refuses to discuss these issues (I’ve sent countless emails to the BBC which fall on deaf ears.) Walk through the outline. • Exponential function: Chessboard, flipchart with compound interest with graphs on flipchart, introduce Charlotte + tube & whistle. Mention Albert Bartlett’s Youtube video. • Logistic distribution: Heights of the audience (normal distribution approximately the same), flipchart with Hubbert’s bell curve & US oil peak, introduce Mark + bell. • Explain the significance of Peak Oil. This is the contradiction about which there is such resounding silence: How to achieve economic growth when energy resources are at or near peak production?
    • 4. 2. How did we get here? • Hunter-gatherers. Egalitarian & free! • Agriculture & settlements. Social hierarchy starts to take shape. • Early civilisations. Power elites established. • The feudal system • Colonialism (Globalisation part 1) • The industrial revolution • Globalisation part 2 (neo-Colonialism) • The changing nature of money • The power of consumer culture • The mainstream media is central to the conspiracy
    • 5. Early Economic Systems • Hunter-gatherers. Small, nomadic tribes, low population density, resource rich • Agriculture & settlements. Surplus food, wheat is a storable food, population growth, Social hierarchy starts to take shape. • Early civilisations. Food producers protected by a Power elite of Kingship and priesthood, centralised power in city-states, agricultural surpluses provides for artisans, hence trade in goods & services but also a social hierarchy from which a leisure class is born – art, science, philosophy, politics. Examples scattered in space & time. • The feudal system. Nobility, landlords & peasants in fairly harmonious equilibrium.
    • 6. Recent Economic Systems • Colonialism (Globalisation part 1) Mining growth (explain the term). Global trade in raw materials. • The industrial revolution. Manufacturing growth: Factories, urbanisation, displacement of peasants via enclosure acts & corn laws. “The enclosure movement transferred common lands into private holdings; the market was allowed to determine prices and wages…and in 1870 the Corn Laws were repealed in England and cheap American grains flooded in and ruined small farmers and landed aristocrats alike. Power shifted irrevocably to the commercial classes. The choices for people in villages were reduced to being landless agricultural labourers at less than subsistence wages, or going to work for 12-14 hours a day in the factories of the industrial towns and cities.” (Warren Johnson) • Globalisation part 2 (neo-Colonialism). “We must find new lands from which we can easily obtain raw materials and at the same time exploit the cheap slave labour that is available from the natives of the colonies.” (Cecil Rhodes c1890.) Bretton Woods institutions, trans-national corporations, the free movement of capital, The race to the bottom
    • 7. The changing nature of money • Money growth: Banks (moneylenders) and usury. • The Gold or (Sterling) Silver standard. “As paper money became more common and acceptable, and the need for exchange media began to exceed the amount of precious metal available, the temptation grew stronger to issue more paper than there was metal to redeem it. This gave rise to what is known as Fractional Reserve Banking whereby notes can be issued in multiples of the hard assets that had previously supported the currency.” All that supports currency now is trust and faith. Even if we were allowed to, there would be nothing tangible to redeem our currency for! (what does it say on the note?) • Fractional reserve banking and the encouragement of personal debt in order to fuel the economy creates a credit expansion: ”Credit expansions create outward appearances of great real wealth. They do this by creating multiple and mutually exclusive claims to the same pieces of underlying real wealth pie. Many people feel wealthy, but that is perception, not reality. The wealth is virtual” (Nicole Foss)
    • 8. The power of consumer culture • 1920-2010: Unique period in man’s history with an apparently limitless supply of cheap energy (point to oil blip on timeline) enabling expansion of production, transportation and technology. The marketing and advertising industries are born and the media become complicit in the feeding frenzy. Large corporations come to the fore and a process of cultural brainwashing in the creation of artificial needs. Citizens are turned into consumers. Unreal world like “The Truman Show”? • Resource use, obsolescence (toasters & kettles) & the throw-away society, waste = pollution, the story of “stuff” • Willing victims because human nature predisposes us to acquiring status, comfort and security. But has this turned us into gluttons? Are we happy as a result of our material wealth? • “American teenagers are typically exposed to 360,000 adverts by the time they graduate from high school, which seems to have the desired effect: X% of American teenage girls say that their favourite hobby is shopping.” (RK). What do you think is the figure quoted? Talk to your neighbour & I’ll take a quick break… a commercial break? (lol)
    • 9. The mainstream media is central to the conspiracy • Mainstream media is owned by corporations or controlled by governments. Corporations must make profits - “We have no obligation to make history, we have no obligation to make art, we have no obligation to make a statement. To make money is our only objective” (Disney’s chief executive Michael Eisner). Governments insist on perpetuating the myth of economic growth because to do otherwise would imply systemic collapse, aka political suicide. • The cultural story of the importance of money, consumerism & growth is reinforced every time we switch on the TV, listen to the radio, or read a newspaper.
    • 10. 3. Where are we now? • Population growth. See timeline • Ecological crisis. Biodiversity loss, pollution, deforestation • Agricultural crisis. Soil, fossil fuels, water, poisons & pollinators. • Climate crisis. Large civilisations depend on stable climate. • Our civilisation is not immune from collapse • Energy predicament → Economic crisis ← Peak debt • Economic growth is neither desirable nor achievable
    • 11. Our civilisation is not immune from collapse • The lessons of history. Civilisations like the ones mentioned in part 2 all collapsed for reasons largely to do with natural limits and environmental degradation, borrowing from the future to pay for the present, compounded by entrenched authorities who could not see the error of their ways. Sound familiar?
    • 12. Energy Predicament • I think of a predicament as a problem without a solution. Understand that energy underpins the industrial economy. • Coal: The 19th Century [flipchart] • Oil: The 20th Century [flipchart] Energy slaves - “I really don't think that people understand the magnitude of the energy lottery that we won 150 years ago or so. One barrel of oil has the amount of joules, or energy, of up to 25,000 hours of human labor. And at 40 hours a week, that's 12.5 years of labor for one barrel of oil. And the average American uses 25 barrels. That's 300 years of labor from an energy slave, just from the oil.” (Nate Hagens) (US consumption .0671 barrels per day = 1700 manhours = 70 full-time man days) Chris Martenson’s Crash Course • Peaking resources, the effect of net energy [flipchart with adjusted downslope], all the low-hanging fruit has gone, Deepwater Horizon as an example of resorting to hard-to-find resources and complexity.
    • 13. Peak Debt • The 1930s depression was brought about by a debt bubble inflated by a wave of stock market euphoria. When the bubble burst, economies became crippled despite the abundance of resources. • The deregulation of financial markets in the 1980s and 1990s (instigated without learning the lessons of the past) created a new and much more immense debt bubble of which the 2008 crunch was the first stage of it’s collapse. • This time we do not even have the luxury of abundant resources and the population consuming those resources is much higher.
    • 14. Economic growth is neither desirable nor achievable • Decoupling is often used in the context of economic production and environmental quality. In this context, it refers to the ability of an economy to grow without corresponding increases in environmental pressure. In many economies increasing production (GDP) would involve increased pressure on the environment. An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth, without also experiencing a worsening of environmental conditions, is said to be decoupled. • Historically it has been attempted ineffectively or not at all. Without it, economic growth leads to an escalation in climate/environmental and ecological crises and potentially ever more rapid depletion of natural resources. So it is not desirable. • Energy and resource limits mean that continuous economic growth is not achievable. Peak Debt + $147 oil led to the contraction of Autumn 2008 (refer to slide) Recovery = more demand = more debt + renewed price spikes = crash revisited. There is no escape. • Corporate lobbyists, the financial sector, media and politicians – a conspiracy of the elite in favour of business-as-usual. Our new government still endorses growth (David Cameron in parliament) because the current financial structures cannot function without it. Capitalism feeds on debt. The glib aspiration to economic growth is accepted by the electorate because the cultural story is so firmly entrenched and the facts that necessitate change are covered-up.
    • 15. 4. What can be done about it? • Be aware of natural limits and understand what growth really means (hence the title of this talk). Think globally, act locally. • Powerdown – A global approach • Cultural change – A revolutionary approach • Safe and sound investment • The Cinderella economy • Transition – A local approach
    • 16. Powerdown • Tackling greenhouse gas emissions, depleting resources and a broken economic model in a new paradigm of sustainability. Climate & energy challenges indicate this way forward, but how can it be achieved? Peter Aldous speech “We need a new and radical energy policy. If we do not have it, the lights will go out” and “We owe it to future generations to take a major step towards a low-carbon economy.”, he’s talked the talk now he must walk the walk. Which transition group will he join? • Implementing decoupling. Restructuring the economy with a focus on sustainability. Market mechanisms e.g. TEQs, precycling insurance (James Greyson) leading to cradle-to- cradle product lifecycle where waste is a resource and not more pollution. Make products that last longer and can be repaired.
    • 17. Cultural Change • A cultural revolution? [Refer to an actual £20 note]Free market capitalism is based on the ‘rationality’ of Adam Smith’s every participant acting in self-interest. I think Bill Rees’ complimentary idea says a lot about the way to avoid collapse. “We should be designing a smaller, equitable steady-state economy, that maintains itself within the carrying capacity. This is not difficult. The concepts are easy. The getting there is the difficult part, because of the conflictual nature of the human animal. Today, we for the first time in the history of our species reached the point where my selfish interests are identical to our collective interests. I cannot be sustainable on my own. No country can be sustainable on it's own. If the rest of the world carries on down the current pathway, they will take us down with it. Instead of being able to act out my own personal selfish fantasy, I've got to begin to be able to identify my interests with your interests. Because together we can pull this off, if we can convince enough people that it is in their selfish interest to serve the collective interest. It's the only way that we're going to make any real difference on this planet.“ This is a slow process - is it realistic to hope for a rapid turnaround in the individualism which consumer culture has taken 100 years to create? Can we afford the time? (how many disasters must be endured before the elite is forced to admit their short-sightedness?) • In the absence of political leadership this revolution is already taking place at grassroots in thousands of small areas around the globe, i.e. community-led response.
    • 18. Local Approaches • Safe and Sound Investment. Given that economic growth within the current economic/financial system is neither desirable nor achievable, implosion is inevitable. The warning signs are already there in Greece etc. The entire global house of cards is shaking. Investing in local projects (e.g. via a Credit Union) would provide a viable, safer & sustainable alternative. • The Cinderella economy. Energy and raw materials will become more expensive and labour comparatively cheap. The industrialisation (mechanisation) process will gradually unwind under pressure of market forces. Some ideas for stimulating job creation and trade in the local economy… • Transition (Sustainable Bungay). There is positive action which can be taken to benefit everyone in the community.
    • 19. 5. Conclusion • Consumerism will lead to catastrophe • Media silence on limits and growth • The power elite will not be swayed • Grassroots action becomes the only option • A local economy working on sustainable principles
    • 20. Conclusion • Consumerism is a profit-making construct that over the last 60 years has created a culture of greed and envy, the products of which now threaten to push us into a “Greater Depression”. • Because the corporate-controlled (mainstream) media is gagged there is no broad awareness of how bad the situation has been allowed to become. Not even coverage of the recent general election contained any discussion of the global predicament which is upon us. • Economic fragility is exacerbated by crises in agriculture, natural systems, energy and population. There is certain to be huge instability in the global economy in the near future, yet the power-elite will continue to ignore the real issues for as long as they can. • With no political exposure available (although there is now 1 Green MP) a focus on grassroots action becomes the only option. • Remember from part 2 – the economic system has changed radically over time and includes long periods of stability without any financial wizardry. A real local economy working on sustainable principles could continue to operate while the global virtual economy crumbles. We are fortunate to have this chance in Bungay and the surrounding area.
    • 21. Further information • Web: ”The greatest shortcoming of the human race is an inability to understand the exponential function” Albert A. Bartlett (YouTube), The Story of Stuff by Annie Leonard, Wake Up Freak Out by Leo Murray, Crash Course by Chris Martenson, lecture by Dr. Bill Rees (audio) www.energybulletin.net/node/52961 (other relevant nodes include 52757, 52785, 52507), www.culturechange.org/cms/content/view/652/1/ • Books: Warren A. Johnson’s Muddling toward Frugality, Richard Heinberg (e.g. The Party’s Over, Powerdown, Peak Everything), Tim Jackson’s Prosperity without Growth, Thomas H. Greco’s Money, Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy, David Korten’s The Great Turning, John Michael Greer’s The Long Descent, E F Schumaker’s Small is Beautiful, Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies, Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive, Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Upside of Down. Rob Hopkins’ The Transition Handbook, Ronald Wright’s A Short History of Progress, Paul Kingsnorth’s One No Many Yeses, Naomi Klein (e.g. No Logo, The Shock Doctrine

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