Category Archives: Transition

You can’t say that!

"So the real trade-off, the real choice we face, is not between climate protection on one hand and economic growth on the other. It’s between planned economic contraction (with government managing the post-carbon transition through infrastructure investment and useful make-work programs) as a possible but unlikely strategy, and unplanned, unmanaged economic and environmental collapse as our default scenario." (Source: Energy Bulletin)

Richard Heinberg on why neither President Obama nor influential NGOs to tell citizens the inconvenient truth. Without that courage, the transition will be chaotic and will cost the world.

The great transformation: decarbonising Europe’s energy and transport systems

"Economic growth in Europe will be affected by the costs of this transition from the current energy and transport system. A smooth transition towards a low-carbon energy and transport system could come at comparatively modest cost. Furthermore, identifying the most economically beneficial solutions early on and becoming a global technology leader and standard setter offers vast opportunities for exports and economic growth. Hence, our decarbonisation strategy may eventually have a greater impact on long-term European growth than the current economic crisis." 

 New report from the Brussels-based economic think tank Bruegel.

Global rebellion: The coming chaos?

Global elites are confused, reactive, and sinking into a quagmire of their own making”, says Californian Sociology and Global Studies Professor William I. Robinson in this absolutely brillant, must-read, analysis of the current crisis of capitalism.

Here are a few extracts but please read full article:

Global elites had hoped and expected that the "Great Depression" that began with the mortgage crisis and the collapse of the global financial system in 2008 would be a cyclical downturn that could be resolved through state-sponsored bailouts and stimulus packages. But it has become clear that this is a structural crisis.”

“Global elites cannot manage the explosive contradictions. Is the neo-liberal model of capitalism entering a terminal stage? It is crucial to understand that neo-liberalism is but one model of global capitalism; to say that neo-liberalism may be in terminal crisis is not to say that global capitalism is in terminal crisis. Is it possible that the system will respond to crisis and mass rebellion through a new restructuring that leads to some different model of world capitalism – perhaps a global Keynesianism involving transnational redistribution and transnational regulation of finance capital? Will rebellious forces from below be co-opted into some new reformed capitalist order?

Or are we headed towards a systemic crisis? A systemic crisis is one in which the solution involves the end of the system itself, either through its supersession and the creation of an entirely new system, or more ominously the collapse of the system.”

On why this is a systemic crisis:

The system is fast reaching the ecological limits of its reproduction. We face the real spectre of resource depletion and environmental catastrophes that threaten a system collapse.

– The magnitude of the means of violence and social control is unprecedented. Computerised wars, drones, bunker-buster bombs, star wars, and so forth, have changed the face of warfare. Warfare has become normalised and sanitised for those not directly at the receiving end of armed aggression. Also unprecedented is the concentration of control over the mass media, the production of symbols, images and messages in the hands of transnational capital. We have arrived at the society of panoptical surveillance and Orwellian thought control.

– We are reaching the limits to the extensive expansion of capitalism, in the sense that there are no longer any new territories of significance that can be integrated into world capitalism. De-ruralisation is now well-advanced, and the commodification of the countryside and of pre- and non-capitalist spaces has intensified, that is, converted in hot-house fashion into spaces of capital, so that intensive expansion is reaching depths never before seen. Like riding a bicycle, the capitalist system needs to continuously expand or else it collapses. Where can the system now expand?

– There is the rise of a vast surplus population inhabiting a planet of slums, alienated from the productive economy, thrown into the margins, and subject to sophisticated systems of social control and to crises of survival – to a mortal cycle of dispossession-exploitation-exclusion. This raises in new ways the dangers of a 21st-century fascism and new episodes of genocide to contain the mass of surplus humanity and their real or potential rebellion.

– There is a disjuncture between a globalising economy and a nation-state based system of political authority. Transnational state apparatuses are incipient and have not been able to play the role of what social scientists refer to as a "hegemon", or a leading nation-state that has enough power and authority to organise and stabilise the system. Nation-states cannot control the howling gales of a runaway global economy; states face expanding crises of political legitimacy.”

What comes next:

We are in for a period of major conflicts and great upheavals. As I mentioned above, one danger is a neo-fascist response to contain the crisis. We are facing a war of capital against all. Three sectors of transnational capital in particular stand out as the most aggressive and prone to seek neo-fascist political arrangements to force forward accumulation as this crisis continues: speculative financial capital, the military-industrial-security complex, and the extractive and energy sector.”

What should happen?:

“As global elites regroup and assess the new conjuncture and the threat of mass global revolution, they will – and have already begun to – organise coordinated mass repression, new wars and interventions, and mechanisms and projects of co-optation in their efforts to restore hegemony.

In my view, the only viable solution to the crisis of global capitalism is a massive redistribution of wealth and power downward towards the poor majority of humanity along the lines of a 21st-century democratic socialism in which humanity is no longer at war with itself and with nature.”

Can Europe pull back from the brink?

The Guardian has this insightful exchange of ideas between two UK top journalists (Paul Mason and Gillian Tett) on the eurocrisis. What both recognise is that this crisis is only the tip of the iceberg of a more fundamental crisis of our political institutions and leadership.

Here are some of the most inspiring extracts:

On the new “post-democratic” replacement of political leaders by technocrats in Greece and Italy:

  • Tett: “The problem is you neither have anybody who has the authority to force a solution, nor do you have sufficiently free markets and genuine democracy to get a bottom-up solution. So you’re caught in this limbo-land where you stagger from one mini-crisis to another.”
  • Tett: “Just as the past four years have raised questions about the way modern finance works, they are raising profound questions about our systems of government: we have no institutions to plan for the future, nor institutions that can quickly respond to a crisis. This is one of the reasons faith in so many public institutions is collapsing, alongside faith in the bankers. It’s why you’ve got this Occupy Wall Street protest.”

On the current recipes for economic reforms:

  • Tett: “It’s still about trying to buy time. People thought, if they bought time, two things would happen: first, Europe would start growing again and make the debt problem less bad. And second, some political consensus would emerge. But the more time that passes, not only is growth faltering and making the debt worse, but consensus is not emerging and arguments are developing instead.
  • Mason:  “What is likely in the next few months is the emergence of mainstream politicians saying this far and no further, protectionism, roll back the free market, and it could come quite quickly.”
  • Mason: “Never in any of the policy actions do you see the seeds of the new, the basis for a new version of capitalism".”

On solutions:

  • Tett: “Anyone interested should read two key sources – one is a piece by Carmen Reinhart about financial repression, that argues the way the west cut its debts after 1945 was by forcing the pools of capital in the economy – the savers, the pension funds – to buy government bonds at rates slightly below the rate of inflation. If you can maintain that for 10-20 years, due to the magic of compounding, you actually help pay down debts. The other amazing book is Debt: The First 5,000 Years by David Graeber. He argues that whenever you have periods of crazy expansion of virtual credit, like today, you either have to have a safety valve of forgiveness, like in Mesopotamia where you wiped the tablets clean every seven years, or you have an outbreak of social violence so intense you rip society apart. Either you have inflation, or default, or forgiveness.”


  • Tett: “The global economy right now is like a geological region where you’ve had the tectonic plates shifting slowly, largely unseen, and then you suddenly have a clash, and you get new mountain ranges thrown up. The scale of potential change if this turns into full-blown crisis could be significant and it could happen much faster than people think.”

Finally two people who make a lot of sense on this eurocrisis even though they still lack the insight into the link with the other fundamental crisis of resource scarcity and energy descent.


Report: World in Transition – A Social Contract for Sustainability

Via Scoop.itThe Great Transition

This contribution to the Rio+20 conference 2012 was written by the German Advisory Council on Global Change. It is one of the best documents on the urgent need for a global post-fossil fuel economy

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