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Lessons for the Degrowth Movement

Enviroment

Is degrowth only conceivable in the context of “oversaturated” industrial societies while the global “South” remains dependent on growth? In two installments, this article questions such assumptions. In this first part it introduces positions critical of development which refuse to adopt the Western model of prosperity; the second part will focus on the analysis of these positions with a view to their relevance for the European degrowth movement and the growth debate here.

A common objection against visions of degrowth is raised with regard to the material needs of large parts of the global population – those who live in so-called “developing” or “underdeveloped” countries under conditions of extreme poverty. This group, so the argument goes, essentially depends on growth in order to improve their living conditions.

Interestingly, this argument is often brought forward in order to justify further growth in the global “North,” i.e., growth which in the first instance would benefit much more privileged groups. This line of argument has been easily refuted by the degrowth movement which emphasizes that in view of increasingly scarce natural resources, further material growth in richer industrial countries would rather diminish the prospects for development in poorer regions. The claim that wealth generated in the “North” would somehow “trickle down” to the “South” – the traditional argument of radical free-market theorists extrapolated to the global level – has been too thoroughly discredited over decades of empirical evidence to deserve further attention here.

But even explicit critics of growth, in pursuit of the laudable goal of global justice, often argue that economic development requires further growth in the “South.” Indeed, their demand for an end to growth in OECD countries is often motivated by the desire to enable “sustainable development” in poorer regions. From the perspective of post-development theory, however, the assumptions underlying such demands are quickly revealed to be rooted firmly in Western ideas of progress and growth.

Critique of development: Who develops, and into what?

Although critiques of development may be traced back to the 1960s and 1970s (cf. Esteva 1992, Tévoédjrè 1979), the formation of a “post-development school” took place in the early 1990s (cf. Sachs 1992), in the context of the establishment of postcolonial studies as an increasingly prominent academic field (cf. Ashcroft et al. 1998, Young 1995). In this “school,” a broad range of “tricontinental” (Asian, African and Latin American) authors and Northern writers with professional experience in “development aid” came together in order to thoroughly deconstruct the paradigm of economic “development,” which for decades had rarely been questioned.

These critics foregrounded the ethnocentrism of the dominant concept of development: Western industrial countries are assumed to be the gold standard by which the rest of the world is to be gauged – the less any given society corresponds to this model, the greater the deficit attributed to it. “Development” suggests a prescribed, linear path whose endpoint is marked by the blessings of a modern Western consumer society. Modern understandings of nature (as a resource which awaits submission to and exploitation by humans) and cultural patterns (individual material consumption as the main determinant of prosperity) come as part of the package. Divergent “traditional” world views, meanwhile, are redefined as factors which retard such “development” and must therefore be overcome.

Moreover, this development happens under historically specific conditions: It is to be understood as capitalist development. Its dynamic is necessarily uneven – capitalist development produces and reinforces the phenomenon of social inequality whose abatement is the declared goal of development policy (cf. Lummis 1992). From this angle, a simple “catch-up” imitation of historical patterns of development in the West is considered impossible for geopolitical, economic-technological and ecological reasons. The mainstream’s insistence on retaining such models of development in spite of their dim prospects has the convenient effect of suppressing the question of global (re)distribution of wealth and power: Responsibility for change lies with the “underdeveloped.” The “developed” – in other words, the former colonial powers – are the model, the lodestars on the road to “development.”

Development = growth

The parallels to the growth debate are readily apparent: Usually, development is first and foremost defined by economic growth. A widely recognized measure of development success is Gross Domestic Product (GDP), an indicator sufficiently criticized in the degrowth discourse. But even if one improves this questionable indicator by consulting additional data on median income or income quintiles in order to gauge the living conditions of broad sections of the population, the argumentative validity of such figures remains very limited. (Not least thanks to such criticism, e.g. health and other social indicators are increasingly taken into account when measuring development, although the mainstream economic discourse on development remains fixated on growth.)

Capitalist modernization implies that social relations are increasingly mediated by the market. The more this happens, the greater the growth rate. Western perspectives, however, commonly and conveniently overlook the fact that such market-based exchange in the global “South” does not emerge in a vacuum. In many cases, it rather displaces other forms of economic activity which cannot be captured through a purely monetary indicator such as GDP. In particular, family- or community-based modes of subsistence tend to be neglected in this discourse despite their vital role. Their continuation is often rendered impossible because of market-oriented reforms and the privatization of land, which lead to their replacement by wage labor. Thus, monetary family or community income in a certain region may have increased significantly in any given decade – a success in terms of mainstream development economics – while these people’s actual livelihoods have deteriorated while the loss of subsistence opportunities outweighs any additional monetary income from wage labor.

Particularly feminist authors have repeatedly pointed out these connections while also foregrounding the problem of unpaid, mostly female, care work, which neither in industrial nor in “developing” countries is properly acknowledged (cf. Bennholdt-Thomsen 2013, Gibson-Graham 2007, Mellor 2009, O’Hara 2009, Rahnema 1992). They criticize that the discourse on development and growth is shaped by male norms that focus on formal and paid employment. This approach not only reproduces social differences along gender lines by systematically devaluing those types of work commonly imposed on women, but also leads to a stark misdiagnosis of economic structures, especially in societies that are not yet completely marketized.

As suggested above, in the development debate as well as in day-to-day politics in OECD countries, it is the metaphor of the “growing cake” that allows for the circumnavigation of inconvenient questions of social justice (cf. Sachs 2002). This way, nobody has to give up anything – we simply need more for everybody. This rationale not only collides with ecological limits (the realization that an average US-American or European middle-class lifestyle cannot be globally replicated has become commonplace; this argument, with all its implications for (re)distributive politics, is well illustrated by Thie [2013]). It also ignores the relativity of poverty: individual satisfaction does not depend on absolute material wealth as much as on the social context in which individual levels of consumption are understood and which shapes the opportunities of various income groups for participation in social life. As long as an obscene wealth persists, relative poverty on any level remains problematic.

The first part of this article offered an introduction to post-development thought, which for decades has been trying to deconstruct Western models of prosperity and growth. This second part introduces some of the countless linkages between critiques of development and contemporary European critiques of growth.

The discourse on sufficiency for example – the idea of recognizing what is enough, which has been very popular with the degrowth movement (cf. Linz 2004, Schneidewind and Zahrnt 2013, Winterfeld 2007 and 2011) – is mirrored in the post-development literature despite differences in terminology (cf. e.g. Salleh 2009, Tévoédjrè 1979). Understood as a critical concept not restricted to moralistic appeals to individual consumer behavior, but also envisioning political and economic structures, sufficiency defines both a floor and a ceiling to appropriate material standards of living. By recognizing not only what is “too much” but also what is “too little,” it contains an important claim to (global) social justice. Ascesis is considered just as undesirable as waste and excess. Such orientation towards a sufficient material standard of living leaves enough room for other aspects of human well-being. In addition to being widely recognized by the degrowth movement as an urgently needed corrective, it is also understood as an alternative to the capitalist logic of development within the anti-development literature.

The commons – beyond market and state

The concept of the commons (cf. Helfrich and Bollier 2013), an even more popular buzzword, is a similar case. The orientation towards community-based production and self-organization “beyond market and state” is based on pre-capitalist and persistent non-capitalist forms of social organization, which globally have been either displaced by processes of capitalist modernization or are currently threatened by such displacement. These models are founded on understandings of human nature that are radically different from that of “homo economicus”, which underlies market-based organization. The homo economicus model always assumes the individual as utility-maximizing, which is a narrow-minded caricature of humanity. “Commons”-based approaches combine economic needs with responsibility for ecosystems including humans, and with the human desire for community and communication. They require an enormous degree of local democracy and self-administration. The adoption of such a perspective in the context of thoroughly modernized, bureaucratic societies is a challenge that may be met more easily through engagement with post-development thought.

There are, however, problematic parallels as well. The more reactionary version of anti-growth writing (see e.g. Miegel 2010; critically addressing this: Bouvattier 2011) finds its equivalent in those post-development approaches that glorify “traditional” social structures without concern for gender roles or matters of individual identity. These approaches juxtapose such traditional models as a messianic promise of salvation to the evils of modernization (critically discussed by Ziai 2007). Such ideas make obvious just how important it is to critically engage even with proposals that attack the same enemy – if they do so from a very different angle. If a movement becomes associated with such positions, this will alienate potential allies within the progressive spectrum – who could be convinced by an intelligent and more self-reflexive critique of growth. Here, clear dissociation may be required.

Lessons for the degrowth movement

A closer look at post-development writing reveals strong parallels to contemporary debates on growth in Europe. In the European context, however, many points of criticism leveled against Western lifestyles are often dismissed as “first-world problems” of saturated middle classes. This view disregards that quite similar sentiments have been voiced in regions where people’s living environments have not yet been completely seized by capitalist modernization and which still find themselves in painful conflict with modernization processes. There, the differences between modern Western world views and alternative perspectives fall into much sharper relief.

Quickly one realizes that — in contrast to the mantra commonly repeated in Western debates – the world is not exactly waiting to imitate Western lifestyles, even if their temptations certainly still exert a strong pull. In fact, the picture is revealed to be much more complex. The pervasive desire not to be condemned to material misery, in any case, should not be equated with the desire to live according to the Western growth model. The fulfillment of the former desire may in fact even require the deliberate rejection of the latter.

At any rate, the degrowth movement would be well advised to consider the needs of prosperous, burnout-threatened Europeans in the context of global developments. The same capitalist dynamics with their geographically very uneven impacts are at the root of hectic work routines in the West and the misery caused by land grabbing, privatization, extractivism and corruption in Africa or Latin America. This directly imposes conclusions critical of capitalism and social domination, and thus well-meaning consent to vaguely defined “growth” (or “development”) in the global “South” – failing to do justice to these conclusions – clearly falls short. Instead, the challenge is to develop a qualitatively different understanding of prosperity and progress that all these perspectives can agree on – and which is connected to a willingness to engage in political conflict.

A revised understanding of “development”

Many models of subsistence provisioning, some of them still in place today, together with their philosophical foundations provide an important source of inspiration in this context, particularly for people in Western (post-)industrial societies. To put it in heretical terms, this leads to a reversal of the conventional understanding of “development.” Suddenly, it is the “developed” Western lifestyle which is considered obviously deficient – and alternative models from other regions of the world set the benchmark. These models, pointing far beyond the market, are not geared towards monetary economic growth.

The first signals of hope are on the horizon. Within the European degrowth movement, there is great interest in the Latin American buen vivir movements (Spanish for “good life” or “good living”; cf. Acosta 2011, Gudynas 2011), which explicitly position themselves in the tradition of anti-development thought. The obvious parallels between ideas of the “good life” on both sides of the Atlantic allow for an aha experience. Deepening these connections would certainly be a worthwhile endeavor.

Degrowth blog



33 Comments on "Lessons for the Degrowth Movement"

  1. Makati1 on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 9:50 am 

    The West is not ready for “the good life” and will have to be forced, kicking and screaming, into it.

  2. ghung on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 10:26 am 

    Degrowth…. I guess that sounds better than contraction (yikes). Gotta keep the growth word in there somewhere. I’m sure that someone will explain that ‘degrowth’ is voluntary; a choice, while contraction is forced by conditions and circumstances. Overshoot doesn’t give a shit how you spin the inevitable decline of industrial civilization. It’ll happen either way.

    At least there’s a move on to accept and prepare (somewhat) for the consequences of our 200 year consumption/expansion party, kind of like bargaining with the host. Going to be one helluva hangover, eh?

  3. Jerry McManus on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 10:45 am 

    Spot on, ghung. The kids have burned through the trust fund money, the party was fun while it lasted but now it is over, the hotel room is trashed, and here comes the bill collector knockin’ on the door…

  4. Kenz300 on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 10:49 am 

    Degrowth starts with a sustainable population.

    Birth Control Permanent Methods: Learn About Effectiveness

    http://www.emedicinehealth.com/birth_control_permanent_methods/article_em.htm

  5. penury on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 10:56 am 

    Degrowth, sounds sort of mild. Actually there is no such thing as de-growth. Either a thing grows or it contracts. In modern society lack of growth spells the death of the current status and a change to what? Hope for a long descent, preferably generations long. You cannot escape the change, perhaps you can with care mitigate somewhat the cost.

  6. aspera on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 11:02 am 

    What ghung said. We keep imagining that voluntary change is still an option. The whole green consumerism notion is based on voluntary behavior change. Thus, it poses no threat to business-as-usual thinking where consumers are sovereign and their purchasing options are to remain inviolate.

    But having ignored many opportunities for voluntary simplicity (starting with Gregg in 1936), we now faces involuntary simplicity.

    Better to get with the program earlier, when we still have some capital (social, ecological, real) left, than later when everything is gone and people start getting hungry.

    Best advice I heard: Start a garden, soon.

  7. Plantagenet on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 11:26 am 

    Many people in South America and Africa and Asia are too busy working at crap wages and finding enough food to feed their families to think about slowing down and intentionally moving toward degrowth.

  8. Apneaman on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 11:45 am 

    aspera, was voluntary change ever an option? I mean I know some of you guys have done it, but I mean on a society wide basis. We would have to do a 180. Completely change from a religion of more to a religion of less. That also runs counter to our evolutionary programming. All you people who are stepping away from the herd are freaks. Ape brains will naturally generate a great deal of anxiety in most people at the mere though of not conforming. Over riding that and doing what you think is right takes a great deal inner strength and does not come naturally or overnight. People who say they don’t care what others think always do. People who really don’t care what others think never mention it. Were social monkeys – we evolved to care what others think and western culture is the pinnacle of homogenization and conformity. No apes ever had to experience non stop propaganda like today’s populations. It’s not only insane but it is actually quite cruel as Orwell conveyed to us. Anything one can do to get even the slightest bit of autonomy, physiologically or physically, is worth doing. That’s why all you prepping freaks have my admiration and respect. Crazy assed Freaks.

  9. aspera on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 11:55 am 

    Apneaman, You’re right that it must have always been a minority who intentionally kept life simple, lived below their means, etc. But Boulding said, “If it exists, it’s possible.” So, I guess, the question becomes “what are the conditions under which such behavior change happens?”

    I imagine that when contraction and simplicity become matters of individual and community survival (non-voluntary to anyone intending to survive) then the social norms you mention will change to reinforce the needed behavior.

  10. Davy on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 12:02 pm 

    Ape Man, I see the global societies trajectory as self organizing and irreversible. There is no significant degrowth or management possible except around the edges. The consequences of major change is destabizing and introduces the possibility of collapsing networks.

    At the individual level I see voluntary change as possible. Small communities and organizations can likewise change. The key elemental difference is connectivity. At the global level the system is mature and brittle. Little changes can be made without disturbing the whole system. This is where efficiency has taken us. We are now mechanized and programmed at these levels.

    At the local, community, and individual level one can decouple. Many are not capable because they are cogs in the system and have no clue why anyone would want to decouple. Yet, many like some here on this board recognize the personal and societal importance of disengagement where ever possible. A paradigm shift of descent is near and we will need leadership at the local level to guide those we care about through the shit storm.

  11. Apneaman on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 12:10 pm 

    De-Growth is already upon us. De-struction is forced de-growth on steroids.

    An Army of Firefighters Battles 14 Wildfires in Triple Digit Heat Across California — More than 1,000 People Displaced

    It’s becoming all too clear that we’re rolling with some seriously loaded climate dice.

    California, suffering through its second year of a desiccating 1,000 year drought, is now facing down a new set of related tragedies. Over the past few days temperatures rocketed into record triple digit heat. The Golden State, turning more and more into the withered Brown State, faced hot Santa Anna winds and a new eruption of dangerous fires.

    http://robertscribbler.com/2015/07/31/an-army-of-firefighters-battles-14-wildfires-in-triple-digit-heat-across-california-more-than-1000-people-displaced/

  12. Apneaman on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 12:26 pm 

    The Wettest Rainforest in the United States Has Gone Up in Flames

    When fire can eat a rainforest in a relatively cool climate, you know the Earth is beginning to burn.

    http://www.thenation.com/article/the-wettest-rainforest-in-the-united-states-has-gone-up-in-flames/

  13. Davy on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 1:11 pm 

    Ape Man, I meant active degrowth at the top by humans for purposes of alternative systems. We shot our wad. When nature chooses to degrowth us it over folks. There is no BAU.2. It is post BAU, post industrial, and post modern.

    We can degrowth only by societal suicide which we are doing but at a slow crawl at the moment. Yet, a widespread war between major powers is an example of society suicide degrowth.

    Our political and economic structures are unable and unwilling to accept or pursue meaningful change except in relation to growth. De growth policies at the top would involve the acceptance of the end of BAU and a jump into the dark of descent.

  14. Apneaman on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 1:25 pm 

    Well Davy we actively chose to ignore multiple warnings for decades, (Limits to growth, Jimmy Carter, tens of thousands of earth scientists) so in that fashion we still made a choice. Like a life long smoker who does not want lung cancer, so he convinces himself that maybe he will die of something else first. Apes be crazy.

  15. J-Gav on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 2:48 pm 

    Ungrowth? Downgrowth? Abgrowth?

    As the saying goes: “He who would dine with the devil had better bring a very l-o-ong spoon.”

  16. aspera on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 3:37 pm 

    Regress? Decline? Descent? Downshift?

    Yes, getting the words, metaphors and stories well-framed is important.

    But getting the cold-frame planted is essential.

  17. Apneaman on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 3:59 pm 

    California’s Drought Is So Bad That Thousands Are Living Without Running Water

    “This is an ever-expanding, invisible disaster.”

    http://m.motherjones.com/environment/2015/07/drought-5000-californians-dont-have-running-water

  18. Apneaman on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 4:54 pm 

    World Faces Olive Oil Shortage

    The price of Spanish olive oil reached its highest point since 2006

    Prices for Spanish olive oil are approaching an all-time high as hot weather and disease harm the country’s harvest.

    http://time.com/3976500/spanish-olive-oil-shortage/

  19. Boat on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 7:05 pm 

    Degrowth is necessary. Lifestyle is important. Like clean water, Efficient house etc. The world can do both. Regulations and incentives on one side of the ledger and carbon tax and disincentives on the other.
    Why do we as humans give tax breaks for children instead of adding tax for each child. Why do we have immigration when water is stretched. Why are healthy people with a healthy life style required to pay for unhealthy people with unhealthy life styles. These are easy fixes, just political.

  20. BC on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 9:27 pm 

    http://contractionism.org/

    http://www.panarchy.org/schumpeter/imperialism.html

    file:///C:/Users/Dad.NONIE/Downloads/Imperialism%20and%20Social%20Classes_2.pdf

    BTW, “development” is a euphemism for the expropriation of external resources and exploitation of foreign slave labor by the Anglo-American imperial trade regime, i.e., “globalization” (“offshoring”), which is the historical successor to British Empire.

    Boat, all excellent questions (whether intended to be rhetorical or otherwise). Capitalism and the owners of capital requires scarcity, artificially “enclosed” or real, in order to commoditize and monetize the scarce resources for profit (or for cheap inputs to the higher orders of profitable production). Capital and profits must grow via scarcity, expropriating resources, holding wages low as a share of output and in comparison to (productive and financial) capital share, and accumulating surplus labor value, including labor gains from technological innovation.

    Once GROWTH of profits from cheap resources, labor, and marginal gains from innovation peak and can no longer be sustained, the system becomes a mass of contradictions and prohibitive costs to its viability and eventual survival.

    Modern capitalism began at approximately the emergence from the cooling of the Maunder Minimum, the onset of the warming period we continue to experience, and the shift in the Atlantic ocean currents, all of which combined to permit the more adventurous apes living on the overpopulated European continent to migrate westward across the Atlantic in search of arable land, forests, slaves, and treasure to plunder.

    A warmer climate, population migration, and occupying foreign lands allowed for large-scale expropriation and exploitation of biomass wealth and resulting boom in population.

    World population accelerated from a rate of ~0-0.4% for much of human ape existence to a rate after the onset of the Industrial Revolution that eventually reached a compounding doubling time of 35-40 years in the 1950s-60s, which has recently decelerated to a doubling time of 60-65 years.

    Forests and arable lands require 50-100 years to replenish sufficient biomass and nutrients. We human apes have plundered these resources at the peak rate of depletion that now requires no population growth for 2-3 replenishing cycles, or ~100-150 to 200-300 years. Doing the simple differential math implies that over the course of the century, human ape population must decline by at least 75-80%. 😀

    We often hear about bubbles in the stock and unreal estate markets, junk bonds, collectibles, trophy properties, etc.; but the biggest bubble of all time is the global human ape population bubble. All bubbles burst, and the largest bubbles burst spectacularly, declining back to the point at which the super-exponential rate of acceleration commenced. This implies that, in sufficient time, the human ape population will “correct” all of the gains since the 18th century by no later than the end of this century.

    Therefore, increasing population, debt, resource depletion per capita, immigration, and paving grasslands and watersheds is blatant ecocide and, by definition, mass-social suicide.

    But the kids are alright . . . and all the children are insane . . . waiting for the summer rain . . .

  21. Makati1 on Fri, 31st Jul 2015 10:32 pm 

    Well put, BC.

  22. Boat on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 12:02 am 

    BC,
    You finally wrote something I can agree with.
    I still believe climate change will change the worlds perception of sustainability and will rapidly make much better choices as problems multiply. Large countries like the US, Europe,China, Russia will have to come out with one voice to make the required changes, they have to rally the herd instinct.
    The largest headwinds are nationalism and religion. May your tribe go forth and multiply is the standard for group survival since the beginning. That is tough to change but must.
    Most doomers don’t think it can’t happen. I just tend to have more faith at the moment.

  23. GregT on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 1:34 am 

    “I still believe climate change will change the worlds perception of sustainability and will rapidly make much better choices as problems multiply.”

    We’re long past the point of sustainability Boat, and the Earth could give a damn about our perceptions. We collectively had the chance to make “choices” about 4 decades ago. We made the wrong choices back then, and we’re still making the wrong choices now.

    “The largest headwinds are nationalism and religion.”

    “I just tend to have more faith at the moment.”

    Faith in what Boat? Nationalism, or religion? Faith isn’t going to solve anything. You are either a part of the problem, or a part of the solution.

    What are you doing Boat? Or are you waiting for someone else to solve the world’s problems for you?

    Most “doomers” are actually trying to initiate change. Instead of waiting for somebody else to do it for them.

    Your government isn’t going to save you, and neither is your faith.

  24. Boat on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 1:52 am 

    Greg, I have continually shown through comments and links of a fast changing world where we are making better decisions. I don’t believe it’s to late but will have to get worse before the will to get serious changes the paradine.

    I have read a lot of your comments, your not that dumb so why are you playing dumb.

    I still believe climate change will change the worlds perception of sustainability and will rapidly make much better choices as problems multiply

    Faith in what Boat? Nationalism, or religion? Faith isn’t going to solve anything

    The largest headwinds are nationalism and religion. May your tribe go forth and multiply is the standard for group survival since the beginning. That is tough to change but must.

    You directly twisted my words to say the opposite. Did you misread or do you not have the ability to read what I write.

    I still want a consensus on what crash means. Like no one will go to work? Very few cars? Tell me

  25. MrNoItAll on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 2:03 am 

    “I still want a consensus on what crash means.”

    I prefer the word “collapse”.

    We are in the early stages of collapse. Don’t see it? Look around.

    There is no official definition of “economic collapse” or “civilizational collapse”. I suppose you’ll know it when you see it.

    I suspect it will involve collapse in commodities prices, collapse in demand, collapse in international trade, excessive unpayable debt accrued to nations and to citizens, energy companies scraping the bottom of the barrel in a desperate losing bid to keep sufficient energy flowing into the economy, thousands and perhaps millions of people losing their jobs and being forced into poverty or flight from chaos/civil war, breakdown in politics, increasing threats and loss of liberties, and a growing awareness that something is really wrong.

    But that’s just the beginning.

    Exactly where we are now.

  26. Apneaman on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 2:16 am 

    Collapse is a process, not an event.

  27. Boat on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 2:24 am 

    BC thinks the collapse will happen within the next 6 months with no chance of recovery. I think I got that right. I don’t want to put words in his mouth. He’s got 5 1/2 months left.

    If, the big if, the worst case scenario happened not including WWII: No one would get paid. No one would go to work.
    438 nuclear plants world wide would melt down. Dams would not be controlled. No fires would be put out. The list of tragedy would be endless.
    There would be only a few survivors is select spots. I would not expect to survive more than a few months if I were extremely lucky. Preparation in that scenario is useless.

    But I don’t see a collapse. I also think I know this. You have to make money on change for change to happen. Like Nat Gas replacing coal. Like in the next 15 years a huge investment in solar and wind replacing nat gas. Cars will go electric as oil does get to $150 a barrel or so etc.

  28. GregT on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 2:27 am 

    Boat,

    Any decisions that continue to ignore the natural biosphere, in order to continue on with BAU and human exceptionalism, are extremely bad choices. We are not in control here Boat. Never have been, and never will be.

    Consensus means nothing. You are ignoring the physical reality of the planet on which you live. Work, cars, and everything else that you probably think as normal, are not. They are all extremely short blips in time, brought on by our exploitation of fossil fuels. The same fossil fuels that are more than likely going to cause our species extinction, and likely within your lifetime. If you are under 50.

    The biggest problem that we face isn’t religion, or nationalism. It is our complete disregard for the only planet that we will ever have. It is our belief that we are somehow above nature. We are not. We are born of this world, and we will die on this world. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    We are not making better decisions Boat, at least not the vast majority of us. You have the opportunity to be the change that you wish to see in the world. If you are not attempting to do so, then you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

    The planet Earth could care less whether we survive as a species or not. That is up to us. The Earth will continue on without us. It may take a few million years to right the damage that we have done, and continue to do, but the Earth has all of the time in the world. WE do not,

  29. Boat on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 2:50 am 

    Greg T,Any decisions that continue to ignore the natural biosphere, in order to continue on with BAU and human exceptionalism, are extremely bad choices. We are not in control here Boat. Never have been, and never will be.
    I agree with all of that.

    Work, cars, and everything else that you probably think as normal, are not. They are all extremely short blips in time, brought on by our exploitation of fossil fuels.

    I agree with your time line as human existence being a blip and will always be a blip no matter how long we last. Time is very long. Before human and after.

    Consensus means nothing…The biggest problem that we face isn’t religion, or nationalism…

    I will give this another shot. Let’s say damaging weather gets 30% worse over 10 years. The cost to rebuild for the survivors will become much more apparent. The populations of the earth will have a much better idea of the danger they are in. The consensus I was talking about is the danger and damage related to climate change. National leaders will be able to run and win on a eliminate co2 platform. Will it be to late? Anybody’s guess but I hold out hope.

  30. GregT on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 3:15 am 

    The biggest problem with climate change isn’t the weather, or a rise in the oceans Boat. It is the loss of biodiversity. Our species is reliant on an entire chain of other species. We are destroying that chain on which we need to survive. Which individual species finally does us in is anyone’s guess, but my best guess at this point is phytoplankton, but it could be a species of beetle, or a frog, or even a bacterium.

    National leaders are not going to change anything. They are all far too involved in our destruction. Greed is what will ultimately lead to our demise Boat, and greed is what motivates the vast majority of politicians.

    We either stop burning all fossil fuels now, and deal with a vast reduction in our populations, or we keep doing what we are, and face extinction. No politician is going to campaign on a vast reduction in population. They would never get voted in to power. We have already passed the point of no return, decades ago, the ship is going down Boat, and it is doubtful that there will be any survivors.

    Hope isn’t going to change reality. Sorry Boat, but hope is right up there with faith, and religion.

  31. Boat on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 3:35 am 

    No politician is going to campaign on a vast reduction in population. They would never get voted in to power.

    Then were dead and no reason to prep. Not only do the politicians have to campaign and change the tax structure to support sustainable levels of population but the religious leaders have to buy in. If populations are already getting killed and displaced at a much faster rate and that doesn’t warrant serious change in the populations attitudes, well they will die.
    Most of the difference I have with doomers is I think humans can and will adjust. They will adjust when it hurts their pocket book. Then point 2 is I don’t see it happening in the next year or 5 years. Disaster will happen on a slow sliding scale. I have no problem with opinions. Hell, we all got one.

  32. Makati1 on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 4:38 am 

    No change is coming, the cliff is fast approaching and the herd is gaining speed. There is no “save’ in our future. Never was. Never will be. There will be no change in direction until we all plunge over the edge into extinction.

    We are seeing the results of our lifestyle of 40 years ago, today. Even if we stopped ALL pollution now, it would continue to get worse for at least another 40 years. And, by then, too many feedback loops will have been activated. It is already too late. All we can do as individuals is to try to ease the pain that is coming for ourselves and our loved ones.

    Channel Tunnel migrant crisis: Man dies as 1,500 try to enter.
    Europe’s migrant crisis: Thousands storming UK border.
    ‘Swarm’ of migrants crossing Mediterranean.
    Irish truck drivers face threats from migrants with ‘iron bars, broken bottles and machetes’.
    We’ve rescued 5,500 migrants from sea in three months, says charity.
    Hungary Says Fence to Stop Migrants Will Be Done by Aug. 31.
    Calais crisis: Migrant situation reaches fever pitch.
    France deploys riot police to bolster Calais security.
    Sweltering Iraq declares four-day weekend from Thursday.
    Squeezed By Drought, California Farmers Switch To Less Thirsty Crops.
    Drought Friendly Diet Starts with Whole Grains.
    California is behind a whole year’s worth of rain.
    Sakhalin fishery companies puzzled by absence of salmon.
    Warming oceans, low river levels raise B.C. fish mortality fears.
    Summer swelter: Heat wave scorches from coast to coast.
    Under the Bridge: The Crime of Living Without a Home in Los Angeles.
    What’s The Cost Of Nuclear Decommissioning? Too Much.
    Shrinking Colorado River is a growing concern for farmers and other water users.
    Wildfires continue to rage in western U.S..
    U.S. Flood Risk Could Be Worse Than We Thought.
    How Ocean Acidification Could Endanger Hundreds of Marine Species.
    Snowpack drought has salmon dying in overheated rivers.
    Invasive Florida Worm Could Pose A ‘Significant’ Threat To US.
    http://ricefarmer.blogspot.fr/

    And on and on…

  33. Davy on Sat, 1st Aug 2015 6:07 am 

    I always like to get back to the systematic view of this collapse process. Go right to the basics of food and fuel. These are international markets in our globalized world. This means vast distribution networks, expensive production, and timeliness. The problem I see with any kind of significant slowdown is the decay of the system itself delivering food and fuel. The loss of confidence and velocity of trade that comes with a slowdown eventually affecting must have food and fuel. A slow down the system can increasingly not stomach hence the central banks alarm recently.

    Population is the biggest issue now. Deaths are expensive systematically. The death of nation states is destructive and expensive. We have a core systematic structure of critical nodes and networks that gives us a brittle resilience. We have managed an amazing growth within this arrangement but at huge costs to sustainability and resilience. Unfortunately we are at the point of irreversibility. We are stuck in a self-organizing growth meme bumping up to limits and marginal returns.

    Time is the biggest issue for me not if. We appear to be in a collapse process now that is roughly a point between a bumpy plateau we have been on since 2005?? and what appears to be a bumpy descent recently 2012??. This collapse process position is uneven and dispersed. It is turbulence, it is random, and it involves abandonment. Abandonment comes with less and that is what limits require.

    Currently the abandonment is the expendable peoples and countries. The rich globally will still manage growth for a time. This has always been the case historically. Even among species the strong survive as the weak die. In some ways we can say strong humans are the ones with money in an economic collapse view point. Many will manage stasis by creative and focused effort lower down the ladder. An ever increasing amount of people will be discarded by the system not because of any conspiracy but because of limits to the support of an overpopulation that continues to grow. An overpopulation that continues to grow in a self-organizing manner.

    This is why climate change efforts will never work. We are likely past a workable solution but even if we had the technology we still cannot manage population. That population is driven by a growth meme with a fossil fuel culture requiring growth to function. Our problems are becoming predicaments because of population. If it were not for our overpopulation we may have options on multiple fronts to mitigate societal problems.

    I get back to time. For us here it is about time. 10 years is an eternity for me sitting here now drinking my coffee and thinking about a collapse process. 10 years is nothing by historical views. I think we are in the decade of collapse. We are at that inflection point where turbulence can cause a systematic collapse process rather quickly. Times of difficulties breed wars of different types and degrees like trade wars, hot wars, and cultural wars. These wars are systematic decay that will disrupt our resource needs for an overpopulation in overshoot.

    We are being rebalanced by nature and in general all species in our position hit a bottleneck. The question is when with what degree and duration. Where is important because a critical node will sink the ship. We have cracks everywhere but no failures of critical support.

    I keep getting back to 3-5-10 stair step collapse process. Maybe I am just stuck in a doom view. I see too much momentum for an immediate dangerous drop in economic activity but I see serious inertia’s in place leaving us at a 3-5 year systematic breakdown period. I feel 10 years is the period of the second much more difficult break period that will likely mean significant loss of life from food and fuel disruptions.

    Forget the 3, 5, and 10 and just picture a stair step with a near term collapse event leading to stabilization only to drop much harder a few years later from systematic decay. That is what I am feeling and I just don’t know how real that feeling is. Abrupt climate change could easily happen in 10 years. Population nearing unsustainable growth in 5-10 years. Peak oil dynamics and unsustainable debt are all near term collapse process issues that fit this time period currently.

    As for today and the rest of the year I feel it will be exciting but no fireworks yet. I am dooming and prepping for the worst but praying for a few more years. I am praying for a more gentle collapse that will have less pain and suffering. In my mind that is all that is left. The stages of death leading to mitigation and adaptation to pain and suffering that will be large scale and widespread in 3-5 years. This is what should be discussed and isn’t.

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