Blog 12: The Transition Period – Where Are We Going?
From an environmental standpoint we are presently in a transition period which ends when de-growth, post-capitalism or chaos is reached. There is a contest between Mother Nature and man’s over-use of natural resources and fireguard of the environment.. The outcome of this is unknown at this time and there are several opinions of what can happen to us within estimated time periods. The estimates all depend on how soon climate change and other environmental problems are addressed by everyone living on the earth. The main culprits are countries in North America, European Union (EU), China and India. However, the countries in the south will be affected the most and they are the lowest contributors of the environmental problems.
Several authors have made conclusions as to what could happen in this period and I will note them briefly in this blog. In future blogs I will expand on their content since the information is necessary for people to understand what could happen and become activists for various causes that they feel are the most critical. If people ignore what is happening we have no one to blame but ourselves. People should make decisions through studying the various matters that cause environmental change. We are now seeing the beginning of problems by stronger hurricanes/tornadoes, floods and forest fires. The movement of refugees into the EU and the United States is causing problems that we do not know how to address properly.
An example of current environment factors causing early problems is the drought in Central America. The drought started in 2014 is causing migrations of refugees into Mexico and the United States (US) after major deaths of cattle and a 75% loss of maize and bean crops in Honduras and Guatemala. An article by the Center for Climate and Security. April 17, 2019 “Central America: Climate, Drought, Migration and the Border” describes the conditions that are happening there. This is a very inclusive article about the present conditions there and the ineffective methods of our approach to solve it. The US is spending $620 million on the drug gang control, but does very little to help them improve their food production and provide some food during droughts. Corruption in the governments does not help. If this causing a major problem what will happen when times gets worse.
What makes it difficult to determine what will happen is the Trump Administration? According to an analysis by the New York Times using Harvard Law School’s Environmental Rollback Tracker the Trump Administration has so far (7/13/19) initiated the reversal of 67 environmental laws. Now he is starting on changing the Endangered Species Act. This is all in the name of “reducing restrictions” and providing land for mining, drilling and energy production. If Trump is re-elected there is a chance that we can’t recover. This is why the 2020 election is so important. The problem is that the candidates offered for president on the democratic side is not that exciting or innovative. Most of them need courses in bookkeeping and ecological economics to see if their proposals would work.
There are several opinions out there that are either optimistic or pessimistic (or a combination of both depending on what occurs within a time frame) which describe what the authors think of their predictions for the future. I will just mention the articles and books in this blog and discuss in more detail many of them later. I will also show how I think my community plan could help us reach a positive outcome. Many of the books should be read in their entirety because there is so much information in them that a short analysis would not do them justice and they would be misunderstood. Blog 9 lists many things that could happen detrimentally to us and the earth. They should be kept in mind while reviewing the plans for our future.
The following books would help you understand the predictions for the world’s future with emphasis on the United States. They range from being positive to very negative. Most of them show reasons why actual predictions can’t be made due to all the different systems being present as to what might happen.. They describe a host of problems with our present economic system which includes greed, consumerism, and growing inequity. The books don’t mention lying, but I think it should be added. They also include possible solutions. Partial conclusions or general information under notes are made by George Hunt.
- Immoderate Greatness – Why Civilizations Fail, William Ophius, 76 pages
Thus if preparations for collapse are made at all, they are likely be made too little, too late. Modern civilization is therefore bound for a worse fate than the Titanic. When it sinks, the lifeboats, if any, will be ill provisioned, and no one will come to the rescue. Humanity will undoubtedly survive. Civilization as we know it will not.
Although it would be intellectually dishonest of me to suggest any other outcome-a tragic denouement followed by a lengthy time of troubles- I can vision an alternative to civilization as it is currently conceived and constituted. This alternative, which could not be imposed but would have to emerge slowly and organically, should allow humanity thrive in reasonable numbers on a limited planet for millennia to come. But it would require a fundamental change in the ethos of civilization-to wit, the deliberate renunciation of greatness in favor of simplicity and frugality. For the pursuit of greatness is always a manifestation of hubris, and hubris is always punished by nemesis. Whether human beings are capable of such sagacity and self-restraint is a question only the future can answer. The laws of thermodynamics is controlling what will happen to us as well as exponential growth (a quantity grows exponentially when its increase is proportional to what is already there.). The First Law states that energy is always conserved. It can changed form, but it can neither be created nor destroyed. The Second Law states that entropy tends to increase (where entropy is a measure of chaos, randomness, and disorder). This means that energy tends to decay into less and less useful forms. The idea that technology will allow us to do ever more with ever less is a delusion. The more humanity resorts to technology, the more it expedites entropy and generates other problems. One of these is excessive capacity. This leads to moral decay. Civilization then finds itself tied down by a series of vested interests- physical, social, economic, financial, political and psychological. William Playfair noted in general fall nations are inclined to push to the extreme those means by which they have obtained wealth and power; [in consequence their ruin is thereby brought on with greater rapidity. Note: A must read before other books on the subject of sustainability. In a way it looks like the history of the United States.
- Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth, 249 pages, 2017
Who wants to be an economist?
1. Change the Goal – From GDP to the Doughnut
2. See the Big Picture – from self-contained market to embedded economy
3. Nurture Human Nature – from rational economic man to social adaptable humans
4. Get Savvy with Systems – from mechanical equilibrium to dynamic complexity
5. Design to Distribute – from growth will even it up again’ to distributive by design
6. Create to Regenerate – from growth will clean it up again’ to regenerative by design
7. Be Agnostic about Growth – from growth addicted to growth agnostic
Note: This is an excellent book to help you understand 21st. Century economics. The doughnut plan can be used by any system if they wanted to use it because it incorporates natural systems. It suggests ways for anyone to design for the future.
- Finer Future – Creating An Economy In Service To Life, L Hunter Lovins, Stewart Wallis, Anders Wijman, John Fullerton, 329 pages, 2018
Humanity made calamitous mistakes in the Twentieth and early Twenty-first century, sometimes in the name of progress, but more often springing from inattention, ignorance or simple shortsighted greed. It is possible for humanity to avoid total system collapse. It is possible to create a Finer Future. Attaining it is the challenge for every human today. It is our great work, and as Buckminister Fuller also said, this is humanity’s final exam.
Note: A more optimistic book than many others and backs up its conclusions with data. It is just a question when the world, especially the US, gets serious about climate change. Perhaps too much damage has already been done. They offer three options for our future and it is not business as usual.
- Growing a New Economy – Beyond Crisis Capitalism and Environmental Destruction, Roar Bjonnes, Caroline Hargreaves, 332 pages, 2016. (PROUT)
The global economic and environmental crisis is already here. This crisis can be reduced by instituting the reforms we have suggested in this book but nevertheless, it is a crisis that is inevitable due to the inherent problems with capitalism itself. Thus the urgent need to grow an entirely new economy. This new post-capitalist economy will also be market based, but it will be regulated, not by profit driven corporations and their lack governments but by the ethics of law abiding society upholding the best interests of both people and the environment.
Note: The best approach I have read about an economic plan and solution that has a possibility to be sustainable and also includes the environment. More information can be found on the internet on “Progressive Utilization Theory” or PROUT. The book also provides information on how our present system is not working for everyone causing wide gaps in inequality.
- Pathfinding Our Destiny – Preventing The Final Fall of Our Democratic Republic, Charles Hugh Smith, 111 pages, 2018
In the coming years, we must choose our destiny as a nation. If we choose the existing system, the status quo and everything that is dependent on it will collapse once it encounters non-linear upheaval. The essence of non-linear dynamics is that small events can trigger monumental cascades of disruption. This will be our fate if we cling to our intrinsically corrupt and unsustainable status quo.
I have stressed the casual connection between scarcity and value, and the difference between force and power. Force is necessary to enforce the artificial scarcities and monopolies of corporations and the state. But force isn’t power; force is the absence of power, for power attracts cooperation, effort and sacrifice because it benefits participants serving the common good. No one can predict the timeline of decay and collapse, but we can be confident that these are the only outputs of the status quo.
We have the tools to create a social construct that serves the many instead of the few, one that is sustainable on a finite planet, one that measures well-being not in terms of expansion of consumption but in the shared wealth of social demands being met for the benefit of all.
Note: The book delves into the ways that the present economics of consumption can be changed to benefit society. The PDP presentation in my book also follows the same social processes and ideals.
- Automation, Technology, and Creating Jobs for All – A Radically Different World, Charles Hugh Smith, 215 Pages, 2015
Note: The author is noted for presenting solutions problems in the best interests for everyone in society. It presents a working example for community development – “The Community Labor Integrated Money Economy” (CLIME). The present money being used now would be replaced by the architecture of a “Labor-Backed Cryptocurrency System” called the Largent. This could be used worldwide.
- From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy – Ecological Economics, Herman E. Daly, 242 pages, 2014
Herman Daly is one of the first authors to include nature in the description of a new way to include it in ecological economic literature. The steady state economy is often discussed in the context of economic growth and the impacts of economic growth on ecological integrity. The size of an economy may undergo one of two trends: growth or recession. Otherwise it is stable, in which case it is a “steady state economy. This is usually applied to national economy, but can also be applied to local, regional or global economy. To be sustainable, a steady state economy may not exceed ecological limits. It also tries to minimize waste.
Note: This book is not as inclusive as some of the other books and a little harder to follow.
- Falter – Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?, Bill McKibben, 256 pages, 2019
Whether the entrenched power actually can be beaten in time I do not know. A writer does not owe a reader hope – the only obligation is honesty-but I want those who pick up this volume to know that the author lives in a state of engagement, not despair.
Note: This is an eye waking book on the present state of the environment and is one of the best books describing what needs to happen as soon as possible. The storms and wildfires are getting worse and happen more often. Up to today wildfires increased to 73,000 for the year in the Amazon Basin. There were 39,759 wildfires last year. The book lists many statistics that describes many of our present problems. He is also encoring the use of solar, wind and water for energy uses as well as mobilizing to save ourselves and the environment. One of the best and up to date book on environmental statistics.
- Heat, Greed and Human Need – Climate Change, Capitalism and Sustainable Wellbeing, Ian Gough, 209 pages, 2017
Writers such as John Urry (2011 – What is the Future?) and Peter Christoff (2013 – Globalization and the Environment) imagined that the failure of transition would bring about fortress states. These would oversee but could effectively manage survival in a permanent state of emergency. The priority goals would be adaptation to a hotter and more unstable climate, entailing policies to secure and maintain supplies of energy, water and food. The dominant political narrative would be survival and minimal national welfare. The maintenance of borders and social order would require new policing powers.
This book has been unashamedly premised on an older assumption of optimism and human progress, but we should be aware of these dark alternatives.
Note: This book believes that we can have an optimistic transition to need-based economy and society, similar to a steady-state economy. The author feels that green growth and recomposed consumption will reduce emissions for enough or fast enough to avert catastrophic climate change.
- Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, Jared Diamond, 525 pages, 2005
The book was written so people could make a better evaluation of our present values and make a decision of how much of our living standard we can afford. It is a history of civilizations and what made them collapse. Very interesting reading.
- Prosperity Without Growth – Economics for a Finite Planet, Tim Jackson, 204 pages, 2011
So our only real choice is to work for change. To transform the structures and institutions that shapes the social world. To articulate a more credible vision for a lasting prosperity.
Note: The book discussions several problems with society such as consumerism, inequity, decoupling, etc. but does offer specific solutions.
- The New Confessions of an Economic Hit Man – John Perkins, 308 pages, 2016
Economic hit men (EHMs) are highly paid professionals who cheat countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars. They funnel money from the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign “aid” organizations into the coffers of huge corporation and into the pockets of a few wealthy families who control the planet’s natural resources. Their tools include fraudulent financial reports, rigged elections, payoffs, extortion, sex and murder. They play a game old as empire, but one that has taken on new and terrifying dimensions during this time of globalization. I should know, I was an EHM.
Note: This may seem like a strange book to include in this list, but it delivers a message of what is wrong with our society. In it greed, unlawful activities and corruption carried on by governments, and mainly the rich (or those soon to become rich). The question is what condition the earth and our social structure be in for these types of activities to stop. This is a question of time that we do not have. What may have worked years ago is sitting on the edge of a cliff now shaking hands with chaos. What will it take to correct Greed? The author has included lists of activities at the end of the book that various people and groups can do. We need to look at these and mold them into our minds. If he had the nerve to publish this book we should have the willingness to make our world better.
Comes After Money – Currency
and Community, Various Authors, 253 pages, 2011
by Charles Hugh Smith
This is not an inclusive list of books on the subject of what the coming future will look like and I encourage everyone to look for others. It is an excellent topic for a discussion group. Most of these books were written before the famous climate change denier – President Trump, so some may not be as positive as they are if they knew the situation now. What he and his cohorts are doing to the environment is shameful and could be the tipping point between a possible positive future or one that is negative coming in a shorter point in time. There are additional books not noted here discussed in my book Toward Self-Sufficiency.
A Warning not Followed
In 2002 Fritjof Capra wrote the book The Hidden Connections – A Science for Sustainable Living, 268 pages. If our country and the world had started to follow some of the sustainable living suggestions advocated in the book everybody would be in a much better position today on a path toward sustainability. David Orr, author of The Nature of Design in a review of the book noted that “No one has thought more persistently or productively of the science of systems and the ways in which humankind is stitched into the larger fabric of life than Fritjof Capra. The Hidden Connections is an insightful, useful and hopeful book that bridges science with real social change. A compelling description of the ecological enlightenment now under way.” It would be interesting to know why more ecological actions were not followed through to now.
In his review, Paul Hawkin, author of The Ecology of Commerce and many other books wrote “
Fritjof Capra’s writings form the most comprehensive underpinning for sustainability today. In The Hidden Connections he extends his mastery the science of sustainability with a lucid integration of disparate subjects, from chaos theory to social activism, from neurophysiology to trade.”
At that time he noted that social networks were beginning to change due to the social linkages through networking technology. Social networks were becoming all-pervasive. He discusses. This phenomenon in detail alone with different communities, leadership, business environments, networks of global capitalism, information technology revolution, the new economy, transformation of power, questions of sustainability and several subjects. He noticed that the new economy’s social and comic impacts and global capitalism in their present forms are unsustainable and needs to be fundamentally redesigned.”
Other topics discussed in his book are the food revolution, ecoliteracy, ecodesign, (a process in which our human purposes are carefully meshed with the larger patterns and flows of the nature world), principals of ecology, solar energy, automobiles, etc. He felt the “global market” is really a network of machines programmed according to the fundamental principal that money making should take precedence over human rights, democracy, environmental protection or any other value. He feels that our future toward a sustainable world would not be easy and hopes that sustainability can become possible. But he also notes that the chaos theory could alter the situation and there could be breakdowns. He does not have a solution because the problems then were not as bad as they are now and the prospects are dimmer.
Presently there is so much information available now supporting both sides as to what our future will be. The positive and negative feedback loops are in a battle. Guy Gaucet published an article in Peak Prosperity and The Great Transitive initiative on July 8, 2019 titled Charting How We Get There. He feels that we are in the beginning of a Great Transition to an Ecological Civilization. He lists 12 stages that a major change like this would go through. He suggests that our economies must change from their present erroneous neoclassical assumptions and models where they only measure value by price and economic growth. The article needs to be reviewed and analyzed and perhaps altered to your own viewpoints.
Personally I feel we should get to a post-capitalist society as soon as possible using many of the ideas mentioned in some of the books I have listed. Some the ideas I feel that are most important are:
- A worldwide reduction of military spending by using new approaches to reduce the need for continual buildup.
- Look at the list of most sustainable companies and pay to have them develop guidelines for companies that aren’t sustainable.
- Create a feasible sustainable energy policy which include short and long range costs with emphasis on renewables. Update and improve the electrical grid.
- Develop no growth policies and reduce advertising and consumption.
- Create viable social movements by education in all of the schools that show needed changes.
- Establish funding for providing business plans for people and small companies who have a purpose to help society.
- Change our present education systems so they adapt to society’s needs. Reduce costs.
- Redo our food distribution system and go local with food production as much as possible. This means reducing the need for distributors and more profits to farmers. Place an empathis on using sustainable practices (regenerative farming and agro-ecology) by reducing using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Reduce acreage devoted strictly for animal feed and ethanol and use diversity of plant on acreage to improve soils.
- Promote many ideas suggested by PROUT and later CLIME if needed.
- Develop low waste policies and manufacturing practices so products last longer.
- Reduce many companies that are monopolies or companies such as Tyson that control the poultry business.
- Change our financial sector to prevent present practices (ex.-need control of derivatives and bring back Glass-Steagal law.
- Investigate corruption in the government. Put restrictions on campaign finance and if possible gerrymandering. Shorten time of election period 3 months.
- Really need proper immigration laws that are fair for everyone.
- Develop more cooperation and sharing even if this means we don’t have a Congress.
- Restore our environment and our understanding of nature. Read books.
- Reduce my belief in the chaos theory by improving proper use of natural resources
- Institute laws and other changes in our society to reduce inequality.
Personally I hope the good (sustainability) will win but now chaos is on sustainability’s 35 yard line and going for a winning touchdown.
In Blog 13 I will describe how the Pilot Demonstration Project I designed that is located in the book Toward Self-Sufficiency can be used now to address some of these problems.