Nafeez Ahmed cites a NASA study connecting wealth inequality and resource depletion as drivers of past civilization collapses. Global elites now hold both reins, and the collapse in coming decades won't just be regional.
Natural and social scientists develop new model of how 'perfect storm' of crises could unravel global system
A new study sponsored by Nasa's Goddard Space Flight Center has highlighted the prospect that global industrial civilisation could collapse in coming decades due to unsustainable resource exploitation and increasingly unequal wealth distribution.
... the study attempts to make sense of compelling historical data showing that "the process of rise-and-collapse is actually a recurrent cycle found throughout history." Cases of severe civilisational disruption due to "precipitous collapse - often lasting centuries - have been quite common."
The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary 'Human And Nature DYnamical' (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: "the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity"; and "the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or "Commoners") [poor]" These social phenomena have played "a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse," in all such cases over "the last five thousand years."
Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with "Elites" based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both...
Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions "closely reflecting the reality of the world today... we find that collapse is difficult to avoid."
In the first of these scenarios ... "collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature."
Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that "with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites."
In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most "detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners", allowing them to "continue 'business as usual' despite the impending catastrophe." The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how "historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases)."
Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:
"While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory 'so far' in support of doing nothing."
However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth: ... [emphasis mine]
Rebecca Solnit makes the point that
... people in power and bureaucrats seem exceptionally obtuse when it comes to recognizing that the world has changed and the old rules no longer apply.
Today, given a choice between the bottom line and risk to civilization worldwide, corporations controlled by economic elites choose their bottom line.
Nafeez Ahmed hones in on the most promising way out for us, based on history. Replacing the fossil fuel economy with green energy won't be enough. We'll have to reduce global inequality and population growth as well to achieve a global civilization not reeling toward immanent collapse.
I don't think we can blame the one percent for our impending doom and the other ninety nine percent are equally to blame.
According to James Lovelock and others spiralling population growth and climate change will cause a catastrophe from 2035 onwards and there is not much we can do about it.
Instead of blaming the one percent why not blame it all on the peasant women of the third world who breed throughout their reproductive lives without a thought for the continuing comfort and security of the western world.
Fortunately, it's not my problem because I am unlikely to be alive in 2035.
Instead of using the language of blame, Napoleon, let's talk in terms of responsibility. Specifically, who has responsibility to change their behavior and how can we restructure society to encourage sustainable behavior.
Had I the power, I'd coerce everyone with a net worth of over a half million dollars to invest everything above that in efforts to reorganize for a just global green economy. Their tax sheltered capital would be "taxed" to fund solar panels, relocation from flood hazard zones, desalinization plants etc. Third world peasant women would probably jump at a chance for a modest retirement stipend in old age in exchange for delaying their first child and having no more, had they the opportunity. What are your proposed solutions?
Your discussion title introduces the language of blame. I merely address it.
The point is you don't have the power. You can't coerce everyone with a net worth of over a half million dollars to invest everything above that in efforts to reorganize for a just global green economy. You are talking up a fantasy.
James Lovelock is right and there is nothing we can do about the fact that overpopulation and the finite nature of resources will cause imminent doom.
I did have a solution which was the culling of 4 billion homosapiens forthwith but I now realise that is impossible and advocating such course of action would be talking up a fantasy, as well.
Therefore I have taken James Lovelock's advice and will merely enjoy life while I am able to do so.
True, that's a fantasy. Introducing the idea was my point. A faint hope to be sure, but these actions might be embraced as a way forward when things are so bad that embracing doom, as Lovelock does, is the only alternative. During the Chinese revolution, the wealthy were exterminated. An aroused 99% could contemplate a similar course, which might finally push the elite to surrender their grossly outsized wealth in an organized last ditch effort to save civilization and their own necks.
Of course it'll probably be too late by then, given the lag.
Wage workers, men and women, and small businesses, worked very hard after the Great Depression and WW II to put in place safeguards to prevent vulnerability and forestal money taking over politics. Restrictions put on banking and financial institutions separated the farm and home loan type banks from casino banking, Social Security protected workers from poverty in old age, child labor laws, the 40 hour work week, and countless other protections came into being because they worked hard to create them.
Countless people predicted that as the old guard died off, the new generation would not prevent the collapse of the safety nets so ardently achieved. One law and regulation after another fell to the moneyed interests. No one was able to prevent the collapses. A few voices cried in the wilderness, but their sounds became dimmer and dimmer as younger, ambitious, people took the helm.
Ideas such as Ayn Rand"s philosophy circulated among those eager, privileged few. They stood before our legislative bodies with hands raised to be sworn to truth telling, and they defended their right to dominate, exploit and manipulate workers, markets, money and power. Jamie Dimon said, "I put millions out of work" and he got a huge raise, as if he were doing things for which he could be proud. Goldman Sachs' Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein said he is, "“doing God’s work”.
Pick up any financial magazine or journal, and the talk is all of making profits; not a word about building a company of workers who make living wages, have health care and retirement plans, and are able to send their kids to college. The bottom line is to cut wages by creating part-time work without the safety nets so badly needed.
Not only are the working men and women and the small businesses carrying the bulk of the financial load for maintaining the infrastructure of our country, they become more vulnerable to financial cycles. As they become exposed, there are fewer discretionary dollars of the huge mass of middle class people. Many fall below the poverty line and real suffering occurs. Without customers, businesses close and banks stop lending even as they lose on bankruptcy's and a perfect storm comes along. The whole system fails.
The remedy is not that complicated. People in power, who hold vast money wealth, the bureaucrats, the politicians, all seem deluded about what is actually happening. They hang on to their beliefs and take actions that make matters worse. "The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth: ... [emphasis Ruth Anthony-Gardner]
While I'm no expert at this business, there are two words which I think at least relate to this matter which need to be inserted and considered:
"Dinlersoz and Greenwood's elegant idea relies on the assumption that unskilled labor is easier to unionize. It doesn't do much to explain why that would necessarily be the case. Maybe unskilled labor is homogenous and easily organized in an assembly line scenario because they're all doing such similar jobs. Maybe skilled workers don't want to pool their lot. Maybe manufacturing is uniquely receptive to unions, so that the 100-year rise and fall of manufacturing was inevitably going to coincide with the 100-year rise and fall of unions. But the conclusion is the same: Despite the political and cultural barriers to unions today, the tumult of technological change might be having the greatest effect on diminished organized labor."
~ Derek Thompson, senior editor at The Atlantic
Decades ago while studying the Middle Ages, I read of a sign at a toll booth on the heavily trafficked Rhine River.
"It is necessary to trade. It is not necessary to live."
I was really offended by it. In time I saw its truth.
It sounds like something a one-percenter would say.
Someone could tell the schmuck who wrote that sign that if he wants to trade, he'd better be alive to execute those trades.
Once again, I can't help but notice a skewed sense of prioritization.
It certainly does, Tom.
Tom, It is what one-percenters say and believe and justify and rationalize.
I remember as a kid learning about all the technology that was going to take all the drudgery out of work. I wondered how people could earn a living if machines took the place of human minds and hands? Well, now I know, they can't earn a living.
So, the remedy?
Time for a Guaranteed Income? The pros and cons of a welfare idea championed by liberals and libertarians alike
"Switzerland will soon hold a nationwide referendum on granting a guaranteed and unconditional minimum monthly income of $2,800 for each Swiss adult. In America, where Lyndon Johnson's War on Poverty just celebrated its 50th anniversary of failing to achieve victory, liberals jumped on the Swiss news to reconsider the un-American-sounding idea of a universal basic income.
"Surprisingly to some, they were joined by many libertarians. The list of intellectuals who have made cases for a guaranteed minimum income over the years includes suchlaissez-faire luminaries as Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Charles Murray.
~ Veronique de Rugy from the March 2014 issue, reason.com
I'm moving to Switzerland if it passes. That's my monthly net after earning three grad degrees and teaching college lit for 25 years. The difference is that my income is not guaranteed and it sure as hell isn't conditional.
Overpopulation will kill most people in a few more decades. Salmon Rushdie said the other night that in Iran, men and women can get sterilized for free and that birth control is free to everyone. Women there now have access to greater education. Educated women and free birth control combine to decrease population growth.