Jeremy Grantham: ‘Welcome to Dystopia’: We Are ‘Entering A Long-Term And Politically Dangerous Food Crisis’
"We are five years into a severe global food crisis that is very unlikely to go away. It will threaten poor countries with increased malnutrition and starvation and even collapse. Resource squabbles and waves of food-induced migration will threaten global stability and global growth. This threat is badly underestimated by almost everybody and all institutions with the possible exception of some military establishments." (Source: ThinkProgress.org)
Joe Romm summarises the latest article by guru investor Jeremy Grantham in his Quarterly Newsletter.
"The global economy is a Ponzi scheme".
“… the people who will have the most to offer their communities, their societies, and the biosphere that supports all our lives will be those who have the courage, now, to walk away from the consumer economy and its smorgasbord of dubious pleasures, and learn, now, how to get by with less, use their own capacities of body and mind, and work with the patterns and processes of nature. For the time being … protest can still accomplish goals worth pursuing, especially if activists wake up once again to the power of personal example; over the longer run, though, it’s the change on the individual, family, and community level that so many of today’s activists reject as pointless that have the most to offer the world.”
Inconvenient musings by John Michael Greer on the demise of organised protest, the need for individual behavioural change, bobos and how the Republicans are preparing the revival of Marxism in the US.
A few remarkable extracts of this absolute must-read article:
“When you hear activists loudly insisting that it’s possible to save the world without being an ascetic … you’re hearing the echoes of bobo influence, in the form of the popular but profoundly wrong notion that it must somehow be possible to maintain today’s unsustainable lifestyles on a sustainable basis. That’s not going to happen, for reasons that reach right down into the laws of thermodynamics; no amount of handwaving is going to make it happen; and the sooner we get used to living with a lot less, the less damage we will do to ourselves, each other, and the Earth as the industrial economy sputters to a halt.”
“… it’s probably safe to assume that there will be no effective opposition to the status quo in this country until some movement arises that in practice—not just in theory—embraces an essentially ascetic approach. My guess, for what it’s worth, is that the first movement to do so will be a revived Marxism. I’m no fan of Karl Marx, and even less a fan of the various ideologues who filled out the framework of his system, but Marxism has features that will give it powerful appeal in the decades ahead. It gives the poor someone to blame for their misfortunes, and does so in a far more detailed manner than (say) the vague rhetoric of the Occupy movement; it is among the few ideologies that manage to fuse a rigorous intellectual tradition with a utopian future vision of religious intensity; and it has a strong ascetic element—the figure of the Marxist revolutionary, lean, passionate, doctrinaire, and contemptuous of material goods except insofar as they might help further the cause, was a common social type in Europe for close to a century.”
“When the crisis is over, whatever form it takes, the United States—or whatever assortment of successor nations end up dividing its territory between them—will be a shattered, bankrupt, resource-poor Third World failed state (or collection of failed states) that will likely have to struggle hard even to regain basic levels of political and economic stability. That struggle will be pursued in a world in which energy and other resources are getting scarcer each year, energy- and resource-intensive technologies are being abandoned by all but a very few rich and powerful nations, and unpredictable swings in temperature, rainfall, and other climatic and ecological factors make life a good deal more difficult for everyone. In that not-so-far-future America, the comforts and conveniences most of us now take for granted will be available only to the rich and powerful, if they can be had by anyone at all.”
Three top financial news sites this week report on the reality of peak oil: The Economist, the Financial Times and French Le Figaro.
At Economonitor, Edward Harrison compares the three articles and explains the difference between hard peak and soft peak and the upcoming "chaotic energy transition".
Read the referenced articles also:
- The Economist: Feeling peaky.The economic impact of high oil prices
- Financial Times: Peak oil goes mainstream (again)
- Le Figaro: Controverse sur les estimations des réserves pétrolières
“A new company backed by two Google billionaires Larry Page and Eric Schmidt, film director James Cameron and other space exploration proponents is aiming high in the hunt for natural resources—with mining asteroids the possible target.” (Source: Wall Street Journal)
Running out of resources on Planet Earth? Let’s get them from space. Apparently James Cameron has never seen his own movie Avatar
“As the world economy crashes against debt and resource limits, more and more countries are responding by attempting to salvage what are actually their most expendable features—corrupt, insolvent banks and bloated militaries—while leaving the majority of their people to languish in “austerity.” The result, predictably, is a global uprising. This current set of conditions and responses will lead, sooner or later, to social as well as economic upheaval—and a collapse of the support infrastructure on which billions depend for their very survival.”
Nothing less than brilliant longer essay by Richard Heinberg of how the world is heading for class war revolution with political and economic elites trying to shield their constituencies from the coming collapse and the need for resistance and decentralisation.
A few remarkable quotes from this hard-hitting analysis:
“The decentralized provision of basic necessities is not likely to flow from a utopian vision of a perfect or even improved society (as have some social movements of the past). It will emerge instead from iterative human responses to a daunting and worsening set of environmental and economic problems, and it will in many instances be impeded and opposed by politicians, bankers, and industrialists. It is this contest between traditional power elites on one hand, and growing masses of disenfranchised poor and formerly middle-class people attempting to provide the necessities of life for themselves in the context of a shrinking economy, that is shaping up to be the fight of the century.”
“General economic contraction has arguably already begun in Europe and the US. The signs are everywhere. High unemployment levels, declining energy consumption, and jittery markets herald what some bearish financial analysts describe as a “greater depression” perhaps lasting until mid-century (see, for example, George Soros’s comments in a recent Newsweek interview). But even that stark assessment misses the true dimensions of the crisis because it focuses only on its financial and social manifestations while ignoring its energy and ecological basis.”
“movements to support localization—however benign their motives—may be perceived as a threat by national authorities. This is all the more likely as the Occupy movement organizes popular resistance to traditional power elites.
Where national governments see local citizens’ demands for greater autonomy as menacing, the response could include surveillance, denial of public assembly, infiltration of protest organizations, militarization of the police, the development of an increasing array of non-lethal weapons for use against protesters, the adoption of laws that abrogate the rights to trial and evidentiary hearings, torture, and the deployment of death squads.”
"When the new Italian Prime Minister, Mr. Mario Monti, gave his acceptance speech to the Italian Senate before Christmas, he used the word "growth" 28 times and the word "energy" – well, zero times. Why would this supposed technocrat neglect even to mention the biophysical basis of the world’s economy? Energy, after all, is at the heart of industrial growth society: industrial production, our cities, our transport systems, our buildings and infrastructure, food and water flows, the internet – they all critically depend on oil and gas." (Source: Energy Bulletin)
Brilliant analysis of the energy myopia of our growth theocrats and the implications of energy scarcity on the future of cities. Also includes some serious inconvenient challenges for the theocrats of renewable energy.
A few more interesting quotes from this must-read article:
“Mr Monti and Mr Obama are better described as theocrats, than technocrats. Their principal job is to keep us in thrall to a myth: an economy that expands to infinity in a finite world.”
“Mainstream renewable energy strategies suffer from an existential flaw. They take rising global energy ‘needs’ as a given; calculate the quantity of renewable energy sources needed to meet them; and then hand the job of implementation over to governments and the market.”
“Expensive and heavy energy arrays are to be dumped into wilderness areas – such as arid lands in Spain and France, or the deserts of North Africa – on the false assumption that these lands are ‘empty’ or ‘useless’”
“Resource efficiency is not a lifestyle choice. We’ve splurged on energy for 200 years because we could. The growth-at-all-costs economy grew because it could. We drove two ton trucks to collect a pizza because we could.”
“Rather than dream of a global switch to renewables that cannot and will not happen, the wiser course is to focus our creative efforts on low-energy replacements for today’s gas-guzzling support systems. Our focus should be services and infrastructures that require five per cent of the energy throughputs that we are accustomed to now. That’s the energy regime we’re likely to end up with, so why not work on that basis from now on?”
A new report by the World Economic Forum makes the case for an emergency transformation to sustainable consumption in a resource-constrained world.
The report "More with less: scaling sustainable consumption and resource efficiency" is an absolute must-read.
More about this report on this blog from tomorrow. Read already Simon Zadek’s evaluation: “Sustainability’s Cinderella – Us!”.
“From competition among hunter-gatherers for wild game to imperialist wars over precious minerals, resource wars have been fought throughout history; today, however, the competition appears set to enter a new—and perhaps unprecedented—phase.”
The Post-Carbon Institute publishes another brilliant analysis by Richard Heinberg on the geo-political implications of the world’s resource descent.
“Nations need increasing amounts of energy and raw materials to produce economic growth, but the costs of supplying new increments of energy and materials are burgeoning. In many cases, lower-quality resources with high extraction costs are all that remain. Securing access to these resources often requires military expenditures as well. Meanwhile the struggle for the control of resources is re-aligning political power balances throughout the world.
This game of resource “musical chairs” could well bring about conflict and privation on a scale never seen before in world history. Only a decisive policy shift toward resource conservation, climate change mitigation, and economic cooperation seems likely to produce a different outcome.”
The Energy Bulletin has an excellent analysis by energy consultant Craig Severance of the Energy Economy Online blog explaining why we have entered the post-growth era in Western economies.
Increasing debts, resource limits, the decay of infrastructure and human greed are the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse.
"Morgan Stanley’s Global Investment Committee recently released a report in which it argues that the “perfect storm” of declining water supply and and rising demand are likely to make water the critical limiting resource of our time. The report, entitled “Peak Water: The Preeminent 21st Century Commodity Story,” paints a convincing picture of a world that is on the brink of a severe water crisis." (Source: TriplePundit)
Read the full Morgan Stanley report.