The Most Revolutionary Act

Diverse Ramblings of an American Refugee

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall

Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall
Location
New Plymouth, New Zealand
Birthday
December 02
Bio
Retired psychiatrist, activist and author of 2 young adult novels - Battle for Tomorrow and A Rebel Comes of Age - and a free ebook 21st Century Revolution. My 2010 memoir The Most Revolutionary Act: Memoir of an American Refugee describes the circumstances that led me to leave the US in 2002. More information about my books (and me) at www.stuartjeannebramhall.com

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NOVEMBER 9, 2012 1:57PM

Richard Heinberg on the End of Growth

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If video won’t play go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amRrz2jog_U

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute visited New Zealand, where he has a large following, at the beginning of October. Two hundred fifty people attended his presentation at the Tauranga (pop 121,500) Environment Centre on October 1st.

The main focus of Heinberg’s talk was his recent book, The End of Growth. In it he challenges the mythology surrounding economic growth – specifically assertions that growth is a longstanding and essential cornerstone of human economic activity that needs to continue indefinitely into the future.

His talk starts with some really interesting graphs revealing that global GDP (gross domestic output) was virtually static prior to 1871, when the harnessing of fossil fuels made the industrial revolution possible. Even then, global GDP increased at a minuscule pace until 1980, when it suddenly rocketed upward. Heinberg shows other graphs linking this sudden uptick with a spike in both world population and energy consumption.

He goes on to praise the Club of Rome’s controversial 1972 Limits to Growth, which he describes as the best selling environmental book of all times. The book makes predictions, confirmed by more recent studies, that world industrial and economic output will begin to decline during the first half of the 21st century. Heinberg himself sees major economic disruption occurring before the end of the decade for three main reasons: energy scarcity, debt and an epidemic of extreme weather events (like the Midwest drought and now Hurricane Sandy).

He follows a lucid and compelling explanation of why high oil prices always suppress economic activity with data linking the high price per barrel with stagnant production (since 2005) in the face of increasing global demand.

However his discussion of the origins of the debt crisis, which he separates into household and government debt, is the most interesting part of the talk. It’s Heinberg’s belief that consumer credit was almost as important as cheap fossil fuels in enabling the 20th century economic boom.

I highly recommend that people watch the entire video. Heinberg has a gift for presenting complex technical concepts in ordinary language, and has some excellent suggestions for how communities can prepare for the bumpy economic road ahead. Be sure to watch the question period, where he describes humankind’s 24 civilizations. All but the current one have collapsed, owing to depletion of water and topsoil. He stresses that the current rapid depletion of these resources is far more ominous than fossil fuel depletion.

If you go to the Tauranga Environment Centre page, there’s a PDF of the slides he presented.

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Edward Abbey, author of The Monkey Wrench Gang which inspired the founding of Earth First, once commented that "Unlimited growth is the philosophy ofa cancer cell." R&R ;-)
after the oil wars, come 'the water wars.' capitalism doesn't work without growth, politicians can not lead, and humans are just too dim to survive.

get yer garden growing, behind a high wall.
The nature of organic life is to provide as wide a spectrum as possible so that when disaster strikes (and it inevitably does, in one form or another) there remains a small sector of survivals to provide the seed for regrowth of the population. It looks like that situation is arising rather quickly and the horror of undergoing it will be world wide. What is basically lacking in humanity seems, not to be a lack of intellect but the underlying lack of people to join in a common cause and cooperate to minimize tragedy. Each country, religion, ethnic culture will compete and struggle to survive over any other. That's evolution, and its extremely cruel.
You wanna stop growth? Eliminate the single biggest factor in the growth of the Human Population - antibiotics.

Get rid of those and you will see a static growth rate just as you desire,

The bulk of growth in history has happened in Asia and Africa, anyway - both still primarily agricultural economies (though obviously, Asia is moving to an industrial economy while the West is struggling in their move to the post-industrial economy).

You know the economic stage where people tend to have the most children? It's the agricultural one (the one I feel you want to revert to...do that and don't kill the medical advances we've made and things will EXPLODE).

The other way to control growth is to control women, a thing I would think would be opposed to.

The lack of growth throughout human history was largely due to illness, suffering and oppression. You wanna bring all that back (because growth is human population growth, and as much of an explosion at the industrial revolution caused, it was nothing compared to the medical revolution that followed it).
There is an extremely bitter but very astute analysis of how Obama and his 1% backers totally scammed suckers like Frank Apisa, Mr. Wolfman and Koshersalaami and the millions of others into panicking to vote for him in this recent total fraud masquerading as an election. It can be found at http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/11/09/by-their-fruits-ye-shall-know-them/ and it clearly pinpoints how the financial puppet masters of the nation and a good deal of the rest of the world are radically screwing the world's population and will continue to do so unless the vicious effects begin to stir up whatever the hell intellect remains in humanity starts to comprehend how they are being royally raped and to react with sufficient counterforce to stop these monstrous idiots from destroying the planet and most living things on it. There is very little if any time left and I cannot see anything sufficiently dynamic and effective to stop this race to human suicide but perhaps there is still a very small chance. I hope so, but it probably will be violent and I do not relish that either.
Jan,

We are a type .75 society on the Kardashev scale. It is predicted that if a society is going to destroy itself, it will be when they reach the .90 mark on that scale.

For those lucky enough to move past the .90 mark and into the Type I society range, it is not difficult to reach the Type II mark and beyond. But, we are at a very tenuous point.

The Earth is probably about ruined for the human race (though, the wheel in the sky keeps on turnin'...), but we have a small chance of moving on as a society in a new rock from a new sun.

Or not...
Good point, jmac, and thanks, Al, my garden is doing great. It's amazing how much better stuff tastes when it's fresh picked - nothing like the stuff in the supermarket. At least I'm going to eat well while I wait for the world to collapse.

Great link, Jan. I agree. That's exactly what happened. It's hard not to get the feeling that somebody deliberately created the tea party to make Obama look good.

Just to clarify, Malcolm, the conventional wisdom is that both consumption and population growth contribute to economic growth. And population growth is clearly slowing but not fast enough. The fertility rate in most of the industrialized world is 1.1-1.4 (each couple having 1.1-1.4 children). The US in a glaring exception, with a fertility rate of 2.1. The fertility rate in the 3rd world has halved since the 1970s (going from 6 to 2.9). Studies show this is mainly due to urbanization and teaching women to read.
Yes, but the reason for the increased need for consumption (at least in the literal sense, as it applies to food) is the increase in world population.

And while, yes, the fertility rate in the 3rd world is slowing (a lot of which is due to the AIDS crisis in Africa, as well as Saharan expansion...basically, Africa is fucked, and no one seems to care), like I always like to tell people, if I had a billion dollars, I'd be plenty happy with a 1% APR on my money.

At a certain point, the rate of growth doesn't matter as much as how close we are getting to the maximum number of people that the world can sustain. If we were down to .2% growth, but eclipsed that number, the growth rate would be too high.

The US fertility rate is half of what it was only 50 years ago, and the latest number is actually 1.7, not 2.1.

We got a lot of Catholics, Mormons, and poor black folk in this country (poor people, especially in rich countries, have a lot of babies - free labor and increased chance of food and shelter in old age if you have more options)...we're steadily dropping and the trend is continuing downward.

And, really, while we do fuck up a lot of shit, population growth in the US ain't the problem.

Regardless, this isn't a chicken/egg thing - less people = less consumption, though obviously, most people could consume less, and stop and smell the roses every once in a while, and the world would be better off, but that's really all part of the yin/yang/balance thing I keep trying to impart upon you.

Capitalism ain't bad. Capitalism unchecked is bad.
Malcolm, the kind of consumption Heinberg and other sustainability advocates are talking about is the blind consumption driven by sophisticated advertising pressuring people to buy ever more consumer goods that they don't really need - ever bigger homes, ever more sophisticated appliances, ever more advanced wrinkle removers and cosmetic surgery, and the latest ipad, ipod, tablet, Smartphone or other technological device. It's this blind consumption that causes Americans, who comprise 5% of the world population, to consume 20% of its resources. In addition to addressing the population issue, we also need to address this problem.

I checked and you are correct that the recession has caused the US fertility rate to drop since 2010 (I was using World Bank figures, which are now 2 years old). However the Economist, citing the US National Center for Statistics, gives the US fertility rate as 1.9: http://www.economist.com/node/21560266.

I think we may have already exceeded the maximum number of people the earth can maintain, given that 500,000 - 1,000,000 people die every years from malnutrition and malnutrition related illness. Some people claim these deaths are just due to inefficient resource allocation (i.e. not getting food to the really poor people who need it). With the recent drought-related grain crop failures in the US, Russia and Australia, I'm not so sure any more. I think we have made a big mistake paving over so much prime agricultural land.
Sorry, Sky and others I put a period after the link in my comment above. Really bad habit. To point to the site you have to delete the period after you paste the link in your browser.
I watched the video in its entirety. I must say his prophesies - if one may call them that - despite being backed by facts, that have been chosen by him, are not guaranteed. They may even be worse?

Aside from that I got a lot out of the video. My make-up is one of a sceptic, why, I do not know. I tend to view things with a syllogistic eye on the premise.

Be sure to watch the question period, where he describes humankind’s 24 civilisations. All but the current one have collapsed, owing to depletion of water and topsoil. He stresses that the current rapid depletion of these resources is far more ominous than fossil fuel depletion.

This statement is fraught with problems for me – an uneducated “Pom” in the land of OZ.

Another “Pom” Arnold J Toynbee ( A Pom by the way, for northern hemisphere peoples is an English migrant to Australia) also did a fair bit of research in the 60's and concluded differently. The differences are very significant to any conclusion(s) – I contend.

In my fantasies I dream of a world without money. Whilst he offered nothing new it is refreshing that he was able to quantify it better, than many people I have watched/read.

Thank you for the link and the lively discussion

Warm Regards
I watched the video in its entirety. I must say his prophesies - if one may call them that - despite being backed by facts, that have been chosen by him, are not guaranteed. They may even be worse?

Aside from that I got a lot out of the video. My make-up is one of a sceptic, why, I do not know. I tend to view things with a syllogistic eye on the premise.

Be sure to watch the question period, where he describes humankind’s 24 civilisations. All but the current one have collapsed, owing to depletion of water and topsoil. He stresses that the current rapid depletion of these resources is far more ominous than fossil fuel depletion.

This statement is fraught with problems for me – an uneducated “Pom” in the land of OZ.

Another “Pom” Arnold J Toynbee ( A Pom by the way, for northern hemisphere peoples is an English migrant to Australia) also did a fair bit of research in the 60's and concluded differently. The differences are very significant to any conclusion(s) – I contend.

In my fantasies I dream of a world without money. Whilst he offered nothing new it is refreshing that he was able to quantify it better, than many people I have watched/read.

Thank you for the link and the lively discussion

Warm Regards
I watched the video in its entirety. I must say his prophesies - if one may call them that - despite being backed by facts, that have been chosen by him, are not guaranteed. They may even be worse?

Aside from that I got a lot out of the video. My make-up is one of a sceptic, why, I do not know. I tend to view things with a syllogistic eye on the premise.

Be sure to watch the question period, where he describes humankind’s 24 civilisations. All but the current one have collapsed, owing to depletion of water and topsoil. He stresses that the current rapid depletion of these resources is far more ominous than fossil fuel depletion.

This statement is fraught with problems for me – an uneducated “Pom” in the land of OZ.

Another “Pom” Arnold J Toynbee ( A Pom by the way, for northern hemisphere peoples is an English migrant to Australia) also did a fair bit of research in the 60's and concluded differently. The differences are very significant to any conclusion(s) – I contend.

In my fantasies I dream of a world without money. Whilst he offered nothing new it is refreshing that he was able to quantify it better, than many people I have watched/read.

Thank you for the link and the lively discussion

Warm Regards
My sincere apologies for the triple post... Mal
Most of the people who die of malnutrition have a bigger issue with potable water, some having to walk, then carry it, for miles to get to the nearest source. Since human priorities are air, water and THEN food, these people have to dedicate so much of their time and available calories to obtaining water that they can't dedicate enough time to food production and gathering (as they say, there are only so many hours in a day...).

This, of course, is mainly an African issue. I have no idea what to do about that continent. When the founder of Doctors Without Borders starts urging people to NOT donate to his organization because healing the sick in Africa simply leads to a life of further suffering and is crueler than allowing them to die, coupled with their ridiculous lack of infrastructure and widespread government corruption (in case anyone did want to perform large scale public works projects there...oops, they can't), the continent is basically fucked.

There are only 3 issues I can think of, worldwide, which are unsolvable/lose-lose propositions - abortion, Israel/Palestine and Africa.

Until someone can tell me something new about one of them, I give up.
And, 80% of the world's resources is still a lot and would still be a lot less with a lot less people, but yeah...Americans are greedy, worthless pieces of shit with over-inflated senses of entitlement, myself included.
Americans are greedy, worthless pieces of shit with over-inflated senses of entitlement, myself included.

Hey Malcolm, I feel your pain I really do....

Mate, I have met many Yanks who would share their wealth, their hopes and dreams, their very souls to change things. The level of sincerity is incredible...
I guess what I am saying is where we are born is no big deal - it DOES shape us. Travel undoes that for some - I am one.

Good luck "angry-ant" love to catch up with you one day...
Warm Regards