Higher Education and the Triple Crunch


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Presentation at the University of Plymouth Pedagogic Research Conference, 2 April 2014.

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  • The phrase, 'more efficiently unsustainable', is borrowed from Bill Rees:
  • Higher Education and the Triple Crunch

    1. 1. Higher Education and the Triple Crunch. Professor Richard Hall @hallymk1 rhall1@dmu.ac.uk richard-hall.org PedRIO Annual Conference, 2 April 2014
    2. 2. 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?
    3. 3. 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
    4. 4. 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 unresolved tensions. US Joint Forces Command. 2010. Joint Operating Environment. http://www.fas.org/man/eprint/joe2010.pdf
    5. 5. “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
    6. 6. USA Energy Information Administration, What Drives Crude Oil Prices. http://1.usa.gov/1lxBgvC
    7. 7. 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. http://bit.ly/Qy4EoO
    8. 8. James Hansen et al 2013 Environ. Res. Lett. 8 011006 doi:10.1088/1748- 9326/8/1/011006
    9. 9. IPCC. 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. http://1.usa.gov/1hR6qr1
    10. 10. Zerohedge. 2014. Student Loans Hit Record $1.08 Trillion. http://bit.ly/1i7Kklu
    11. 11. Zerohedge. 2014. Europe’s Peak Youth Unemployment. http://bit.ly/1hTwba3
    12. 12. 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)
    13. 13. 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
    14. 14. 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.
    15. 15. more efficiently unsustainable. 15
    16. 16. Volatility and precarity: what is to be done?
    17. 17. cybernetics is ‘not just a technological history but a history of the changing social networks that connected these technologies to the function of the state and its management’ (p. 17) '[technologies] helped solidify a particular articulation of the state that was supported by new claims to legitimate power' (p. 96) Miller Medina, J.E. (2005), The State Machine : politics, ideology, and computation in Chile, 1964-1973. MIT Ph.D. Thesis. http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/39176
    18. 18. Allende: We set out courageously to build our own [cybernetic] system in our own spirit. What you will hear about today is revolutionary - not simply because this is the first time it has been done anywhere in the world. It is revolutionary because we are making a deliberate effort to hand to the people the power that science commands, in a form in which the people can themselves use it. Miller Medina, J.E. (2005), The State Machine : politics, ideology, and computation in Chile, 1964-1973. MIT Ph.D. Thesis, p. 252. http://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/39176
    19. 19. 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. http://bit.ly/19XfrAF
    20. 20. Good Living 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. http://bit.ly/GQJi0M
    21. 21. 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 inequalities. 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
    22. 22. IPCC. 2014. Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability. http://1.usa.gov/1hR6qr1 Adaptation 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, and constituencies economic instruments can foster adaptation by providing incentives but constraints can interact to impede adaptation short-termism or failing to anticipate consequences can result in maladaptation limited evidence indicates a gap between global adaptation needs and funds co-benefits, synergies, and tradeoffs exist between mitigation and adaptation
    23. 23. 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?
    24. 24. Higher education for mass intellectuality
    25. 25. Licensing This presentation is licensed under a Creative Commons, Attribution-Non- Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales license See: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/