The entwined risks of Climate Destabilization and the Threat to Civilization From Inequality  are described by a study by Safa Motesharrei, Eugenia Kalnay, and Jorge Rivas, and an AAAS paper, summarized here.

Most people haven't yet grasped the extent to which both risks are part of a larger system. It's no accident that unconventional fossil fuels are being pushed by wealthy and powerful people, who expect continuing enormous profits from their exploitation. Elites who assume that their position will protect them from ecological and social consequences of over-exploitation of natural resources have historically destroyed regional civilizations. Just this time it'll be the whole ball of wax going up in flames.

This is the kind of complex system in which individual parts are hard to control in isolation. Profs. Justin and Derek Ruths, from Singapore University of Technology and Design and McGill University respectively, described this type of system in an article published in Science. It's the first type described below.


One grouping, for example, put organizational hierarchies, gene regulation, and human purchasing behaviour together, in part because in each, it is hard to control individual parts of the system in isolation. Another grouping includes social networks such as groups of friends (whether virtual or real), and neural networks (in the brain), where the systems allow for relatively independent behaviour. The final group includes things like food systems, electrical circuits and the internet, all of which function basically as closed systems where resources circulate internally.

Referring to these groupings, Derek Ruths commented, "While our framework does provide insights into the nature of control in these systems, we're also intrigued by what these groupings tell us about how very different parts of the world share deep and fundamental attributes in common -- which may help unify our understanding of complexity and of control."

"What we really want people to take away from the research at this point is that we can control these complex and important systems in the same way that we can control a car," says Justin Ruths. "And that our work is giving us insight into which parts of the system we need to control and why. [emphasis mine]

Important and complex systems, from the global financial market to ...

Until activists for global justice, sustainability, population control, political reform, corporate reform, and finance reform grasp the larger system parameters, and create a unified perspective, we have no hope of controlling this Global-system-of-death.

image source (slightly modified)

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Replies to This Discussion

Ruth, I Twitter the source information. I want to attribute it to you but haven't heard back what your preferences are. 

Alnoor Ladha and Martin Kirk present a similar case, without using the concept of complex systems.

What's Really Driving Inequality?

Taken altogether, the global economy is essentially now a wealth extraction system; ruthlessly efficient at drawing financial and resource wealth away from the majority of people and piling it up in the Cayman bank accounts of the 1%. 

The reasons for all this are, of course, many and complex. But stand far enough back, and it's also quite simple. Essentially it boils down to the fact that the corporate capitalist system is governed by incentives and rewards that are unable to directly register anything but economic value. The system is deaf, dumb and blind to climate destruction and mass human suffering. It would be like asking a human being to hear dog whistles. In other words, by just doing what it does, left to obey its own logic, the economic system will grow until it destroys itself - and Mother Earth in the process. It will consume resources until there is nothing left. It will grind over humanity, causing and excusing human rights abuses on whatever scale is necessary for it to keep growing, even until all the energy of humanity is exhausted and the system collapses. It is, at this stage, far bigger than any government or corporation. It is, to all intents and purposes, a living force. It's not alive in any traditional sense, of course, but it is undoubtedly possessed of an energy beyond our control. Unless the logic driving it is changed, we are hurtling toward a planetary emergency, as Truthout's Dahr Jamail has so vividly described. [emphasis mine]



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