Archive for Outubro, 2015


Norman Pagett

What Downsizing really means…

That we are entering a period of decline is not in any real doubt, at least not among those with the inclination to think about it. ‘Downsizing’ seems to be the commonly used term, but few really understand what it will really mean. No one will willingly accept downsizing if it means a meaningful drop in their standard of living. So it remains a vague notion that it might be somebody else’s problem, and nothing too drastic on a personal level. There is a misplaced concept that we will drift into it gradually as oil decline eases us into another mode of living that will not be too far removed from the one that we enjoy now. We want the creature comforts that we have known for less than a century to remain a permanent feature of our imagined future.
Our most recent history shows that the slightest slowdown of our current economy by just a few percentage points brings an immediate chaos of unemployment and global destabilisation. Yet somehow that won’t apply to a permanent ‘downsizing’; that seems to follow a different set of social rules, as if we can do it and still retain a civilised existence. And of course without downsizing wages too much. We will still expect to eat, buy ‘stuff’ and carry on in employment and even retain our wheels, with the strange certainty that as long as we have wheels, we will have prosperity by involving ourselves in the exchanges of trade that will not differ much to what we have now.
In the face of imminent global chaos, from climate change, overpopulation and energy depletion, billions are being poured into development of alternative methods of transportation. Elon Musk, though producing a first class electric car, proposes it to be a vehicle for the ‘post oil’ age, which will inevitably mean a downsized environment. He ignores the basic reality that no road vehicle in the context of modern usage can function without an infrastructure that is itself a construct of hydrocarbon. The notion is that we can all get into electric cars and continue to drive from home to work and back, and our comfortable lifestyle can carry on much as before. In other words, it is the vehicle itself that creates and supports our prosperity. If we use an electric car, we can still somehow move a lump of metal and plastic around as an integral part of our employment and leisure.
But the electric car adds to the socio-economic complexity of our over-stressed life support system, it does not simplify it. In addition to the factory itself, an electric car needs sophisticated power hungry production systems, a living environment for its workers, housing, roads, schools and so on, as well as the Bolivian lithium mines and the socio-economic-industrial complexity needed in that country, all solely dependent on a vehicle concept that is ultimately a consumer of the hydrocarbon fuel it is promising to replace. All these systems are (hydrocarbon) energy intensive and expensive to produce. In a downsized society, that complexity will not exist, yet our focus on such dead ends as the electric car shows that humankind does not have the means to rid itself of dependence on the wheel. While the electric car might appear to be a bright shiny symbol of continuing wealth and prosperity, it is in fact a block of embodied energy, as subject to the laws of thermodynamics as any other construction. It demands constant energy input to maintain its viability, and serves no useful purpose in a downsized environment because the means to sustain will not be there. No industrialised nation can maintain its road transport system without the constant input of oil. Fossil fuelled vehicles, whether used on land, air or sea produce our food, sustain our infrastructure and maintain the cohesion of nations. And there are no alternatives.
We must face the painful truth: that our fossil fuelled prosperity (temporarily) allowed us to have personal transport, but it was not personal transport that created our prosperity. A downsized lifestyle will mean that we will no longer be able to move around on a whim, for no better reason than we happen to want to drag a couple of tons of steel and plastic around to buy a newspaper or a carton of milk. The car has allowed us to live many miles from our energy sources, whether food or employment. That is going to end. When considering downsized transportation, remember that probably the most useful wheeled vehicles in the pre oil environment were haycarts and war chariots. The only forms of renewable energy were derived from the waterwheel and the windmill. They were manufactured from trees, and needed the energy input from animal and human muscle to give them functionality. We cannot have a future that is dependent on complex industry. It will not work.
When advocating downsizing, there is rarely, if ever, any mention of the healthcare we currently enjoy, which has given us a reasonably fit and healthy 80 year average lifespan.


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One of the prevailing narratives of our time is that we are innovating our way into the future at break-neck speed. It’s just dizzying how quickly the world around us is changing. Technology is this juggernaut that gets ever bigger, ever faster, and all we need to do is hold on for the wild ride into the infinitely cool. Problems get solved faster than we can blink.

But I’m going to claim that this is an old, outdated narrative. I think we have a tendency to latch onto a story of humanity that we find appealing or flattering, and stick with it long past its expiration date. Many readers at this point, in fact, may think that it’s sheer lunacy for me to challenge such an obvious truth about the world we live in. Perhaps this will encourage said souls to read on—eager to witness a spectacular failure as I attempt to pull off this seemingly impossible stunt.

The (slightly overstated) claim is that no major new inventions have come to bear in my 45-year lifespan. The 45 years prior, however, were chock-full of monumental breakthroughs.

A Tale of Three Times

Before diving into the defense of my bold claim, let’s set the stage with a thought experiment about three equally-separated times, centered around 1950. Obviously we will consider the modern epoch—2015. The symmetric start would then be 1885, resulting in 65-year interval comparisons: roughly a human lifetime.

So imagine magically transporting a person through time from 1885 into 1950—as if by a long sleep—and also popping a 1950 inhabitant into today’s world. What an excellent adventure! Which one has a more difficult time making sense of the updated world around them? Which one sees more “magic,” and which one has more familiar points of reference? The answer is obvious, and is essentially my entire point.

Take a moment to let that soak in, and listen for any cognitive dissonance popping inside your brain.

Our 19th Century rube would fail to recognize cars/trucks, airplanes, helicopters, and rockets; radio, and television (the telephone was 1875, so just missed this one); toasters, blenders, and electric ranges. Also unknown to the world of 1885 are inventions like radar, nuclear fission, and atomic bombs. The list could go on. Daily life would have undergone so many changes that the old timer would be pretty bewildered, I imagine. It would appear as if the world had blossomed with magic: voices from afar; miniature people dancing in a little picture box; zooming along wide, hard, flat roads at unimaginable speeds—much faster than when uncle Billy’s horse got into the cayenne pepper. The list of “magic” devices would seem to be innumerable.

Now consider what’s unfamiliar to the 1950 sleeper. Look around your environment and imagine your life as seen through the eyes of a mid-century dweller. What’s new? Most things our eyes land on will be pretty well understood. The big differences are cell phones (which they will understand to be a sort of telephone, albeit with no cord and capable of sending telegram-like communications, but still figuring that it works via radio waves rather than magic), computers (which they will see as interactive televisions), and GPS navigation (okay: that one’s thought to be magic even by today’s folk). They will no doubt be impressed with miniaturization as an evolutionary spectacle, but will tend to have a context for the functional capabilities of our gizmos.

Telling ourselves that the pace of technological transformation is ever-increasing is just a fun story we like to believe is true. For many of us, I suspect, our whole world order is built on this premise.

On the flip side, I can think of loads of things about modern life that would have been perfectly familiar even to an ancient Egyptian. These are on the side of what it means to be human: laughter, drama, jealousy, shelter, bodily functions, family, jerk-wads, motherly love, tribalism, scandal, awe over the stars, etc. Because these are such constants, it is not hard for me to imagine key elements of the far future of humanity (see previous list). As far as technology goes: buzzing electric toothbrushes? I’d be foolish to count on them. But I’d bet on the wheel remaining important.


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The biggest bank in the western world has just come out and declared that the global economy is “already in a recession”.  According to British banking giant HSBC, global trade is down 8.4 percent so far this year, and global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars is down 3.4 percentSo those that are waiting for the next worldwide economic recession to begin can stop waiting.  It is officially here.  As you will see below, money is fleeing emerging markets at a blistering pace, major global banks are stuck with huge loans that will never be repaid, and it looks like a very significant worldwide credit crunch has begun.  Just a few days ago, I explained that the IMF, the UN, the BIS And Citibank were all warning that a major economic crisis could be imminent.  They aren’t just making this stuff up out of thin air, but most Americans still seem to believe that everything is going to be just fine.  The level of blind faith in the system that most people are demonstrating right now is absolutely astounding.

The numbers say that the global economy has not been in this bad shape since the devastating recession that shook the world in 2008 and 2009.  According to HSBC, “we are already in a dollar recession”…

Global trade is also declining at an alarming pace. According to the latest data available in June the year on year change is -8.4%. To find periods of equivalent declines we only really find recessionary periods. This is an interesting point. On one metric we are already in a recession. As can be seen in Chart 3 on the following page, global GDP expressed in US dollars is already negative to the tune of USD 1,37trn or -3.4%. That is, we are already in a dollar recession. 

Here is the chart that Zero Hedge posted along with the quote above.  As you can see, the only time global GDP expressed in U.S. dollars has fallen faster in recent years was during the horrible recession of seven years ago…

HSBC Chart

But there are still a whole lot of incredibly clueless people running around out there claiming that “nothing is happening” even though more signs of trouble are erupting all around us every single day.

For instance, just today CNBC published an article entitled “The US is closer to deflation than you think“, and Twitter just announced that it plans to lay off 8 percent of its entire workforce.

But of course the biggest problems are happening in “emerging markets” right now.  The following is an excerpt from an article that was just published in a major British news source entitled “The world economic order is collapsing and this time there seems no way out“…

Now act three is beginning, but in countries much less able to devise measures to stop financial contagion and whose banks are more precarious. For global finance next flooded the so-called emerging market economies (EMEs), countries such as Turkey, Brazil, Malaysia, China, all riding high on sky-high commodity prices as the China boom, itself fuelled by wild lending, seemed never-ending. China manufactured more cement from 2010-13 than the US had produced over the entire 20th century. It could not last and so it is proving.

China’s banks are, in effect, bust: few of the vast loans they have made can ever be repaid, so they cannot now lend at the rate needed to sustain China’s once super-high but illusory growth rates. China’s real growth is now below that of the Mao years: the economic crisis will spawn a crisis of legitimacy for the deeply corrupt communist party. Commodity prices have crashed.

Money is flooding out of the EMEs, leaving overborrowed companies, indebted households and stricken banks, but EMEs do not have institutions such as the Federal Reserve or European Central Bank to knock up rescue packages. Yet these nations now account for more than half of global GDP. Small wonder the IMF is worried.

It is one thing for The Economic Collapse Blog to warn that “the world economic order is collapsing”, but this is one of the biggest newspapers in the UK.

I was writing about these emerging market problems back in July, but at that time very few really understood the true gravity of the situation.  But now giant banks such as Goldman Sachs are calling this the third stage of the ongoing global financial crisis.  The following comes from a recent CNBC piece entitled “Is EM turmoil the third wave of the financial crisis? Goldman thinks so“…

Emerging markets aren’t just suffering through another market rout—it’s a third wave of the global financial crisis, Goldman Sachs said.

“Increased uncertainty about the fallout from weaker emerging market economies, lower commodity prices and potentially higher U.S. interest rates are raising fresh concerns about the sustainability of asset price rises, marking a new wave in the Global Financial Crisis,” Goldman said in a note dated last week.

The emerging market wave, coinciding with the collapse in commodity prices, follows the U.S. stage, which marked the fallout from the housing crash, and the European stage, when the U.S. crisis spread to the continent’s sovereign debt, the bank said.

You know that it is late in the game when Goldman Sachs starts sounding exactly like The Economic Collapse Blog.  I have been warning about a “series of waves” for years.

When will people wake up?

What is it going to take?

The crisis is happening right now.

Of course many Americans will refuse to acknowledge what is going on until the Dow Jones Industrial Average collapses by several thousand more points.  And that is coming.  But let us all hope that day is delayed for as long as possible, because all of our lives will become much crazier once that happens.

And the truth is that many Americans do understand that bad times are on the horizon.  Just check out the following numbers that were recently reported by CNBC

The CNBC All-America Economic Survey finds views on the current state of the economy about stable, with 23 percent saying it is good or excellent and 42 percent judging it as fair. About a third say the economy is poor, up 3 points from the June survey.

But the percentage of Americans who believe the economy will get worse rose 6 points to 32 percent, the highest level since the government shutdown in 2013. And just 22 percent believe the economy will get better, 2 points lower than June and the lowest level since 2008, when the nation was gripped by recession.

If you want to believe that everything is going to be just fine somehow, then go ahead and believe that.

All I can do is present the facts.  For months I have been warning about this financial crisis, and now it is playing out as a slow-motion train wreck right in front of our eyes.

We are moving into a period of time during which events are going to start to move much more rapidly, and life as we know it is about to change in a major way for all of us.

Hopefully you have already been preparing for what is about to come.

If not, I wouldn’t want to be in your position.

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I’LL BEGIN with an interesting debate that took place some years ago between Carl Sagan, the well-known astrophysicist, and Ernst Mayr, the grand old man of American biology. They were debating the possibility of finding intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. And Sagan, speaking from the point of view of an astrophysicist, pointed out that there are innumerable planets just like ours. There is no reason they shouldn’t have developed intelligent life. Mayr, from the point of view of a biologist, argued that it’s very unlikely that we’ll find any. And his reason was, he said, we have exactly one example: Earth. So let’s take a look at Earth.

And what he basically argued is that intelligence is a kind of lethal mutation. And he had a good argument. He pointed out that if you take a look at biological success, which is essentially measured by how many of us are there, the organisms that do quite well are those that mutate very quickly, like bacteria, or those that are stuck in a fixed ecological niche, like beetles. They do fine. And they may survive the environmental crisis. But as you go up the scale of what we call intelligence, they are less and less successful. By the time you get to mammals, there are very few of them as compared with, say, insects. By the time you get to humans, the origin of humans may be 100,000 years ago, there is a very small group. We are kind of misled now because there are a lot of humans around, but that’s a matter of a few thousand years, which is meaningless from an evolutionary point of view. His argument was, you’re just not going to find intelligent life elsewhere, and you probably won’t find it here for very long either because it’s just a lethal mutation. He also added, a little bit ominously, that the average life span of a species, of the billions that have existed, is about 100,000 years, which is roughly the length of time that modern humans have existed. […]

Noam Chomsky,Human intelligence and the Environment,

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Tus vecinos no se conformarán con un YA OS LO DIJE

[….] Y hoy, vivimos en el miedo. Quizás no sea todavía un miedo con todas las letras, claro y nítido como la hoja del cuchillo con que te amenazan en una calle oscura, pero hay miedo. Hay miedo a seguir en la pobreza después de encontrar un trabajo. Hay miedo a que el esfuerzo no se vea recompensado de ninguna manera. Hay miedo a que el futuro sea cada vez más gris, o más frío, o menos tranquilo.
Algunos nos esforzamos en tratar de identificar los orígenes del problema y, con más o menos acierto, nos juntamos en sitios como este para debatir si es la energía, o la deuda, o la superpoblación, o la  gestión del agua lo que está tras esa sensación de desasosiego. La mayoría, sin embargo, quizás con mayor pragmatismo, no se preocupa de aquello que considera fuera de su control y sostiene una sana higiene psicológica negando cualquier problema o achacando la situación a un ciclo más de los de toda la vida.
Y así, por mucho que nos esforcemos en hablar de energías renovables, comunidades de base, permacultura y agricultura sostenible, todas esas alternativas al sistema siguen y seguirán siendo minoritarias, probablemente hasta dos minutos antes del colapso, o más probablemente, hasta diez días después.
La cuestión es que todos los que se burlan del peak oil, de la escasez de recursos y de los problemas del agua seguirán ahí cuando llegue el momento de la caída. El problema es que todos los tecnooptimismas, los cornucopianos, los que creen que ya se inventará algo o que hay recursos para todos por tiempo ilimitado, también seguirán ahí. Su error no los va a disolver. Su irresponsabilidad no los va a multiplicar por cero: seguirán ahí, manteniendo su mayoría.
Y cuando llegue el gran batacazo no se van a conformar con un “ya te lo dije”. Los que se rieron de los que les explicaban la situación real, los que se burlaron de todas las advertencias no se van a encoger de hombros y limitarse a desaparecer: van a extender el miedo, buscar un culpable y reaccionar por encima, muy por encima, de lo necesario y lo razonable. ¿Y sabéis por qué? Porque no tendrán ni idea de lo que ha sucedido, no estarán preparados para asumir lo que se les viene sobre sus cabezas y no estarán en modo alguno dispuestos a reconocer que se han equivocado. Como mucho, dirán que un grupo malvado lo planeó todo en una oscura sala gótica, porque es mejor pensar que hay alguien a los mandos que sospechar que el avión va sin piloto.
Y aunque estuviesen dispuestos a asumir su error, ¿de qué serviría? Creo que lo que mejor ilustra el núcleo del asunto es lo que me respondió un amigo al que traté de hablarle de la situación energética: “Mientras quede algo, hay que disfrutar de ello, y cuando no quede nada, habrá que pelear por sobrevivir, como los demás, como los que prefirieron ahora renunciar a las últimas migas”. Y en su visión simple y cortoplacista, tenía razón.
Ser consciente de lo que sucede no te va a librar de las puñaladas el día que todo se vaya al carajo. Conocer  la agricultura ecológica no te va a librar de los saqueadores cuando llegue el hambre. Tu vecino, el que ahora se descojona de ti a mandíbula batiente cuando le dices que las cosas van muy mal, no se va a conformar con un “ya te lo dije” y se presentará a tu puerta, armado, con otros energúmenos como él, para llevarse lo que pueda quedar en tu casa.  Y ese día, lo mismo que te sucede hoy, no te servirán de nada tus razones. Lo único que te librará ese día es haberte hecho amigo de otros energúmenos, también armados, que hablen su mismo idioma y los pongan en fuga a tiros o cañonazos.
Cuando haya cinco patatas y treinta bocas, el primero que sobrará será el que tenga la feliz idea de decir “aquí no sobra nadie”.  Cuando se enfrenten las culturas para imponer un modo de vida, el primero que sobrará será el que diga que todas las culturas se equivalen. Cuando llegue la hora de la desconfianza y el sacrificio, y se necesiten comunidades locales fuertes, el primero que sobrará será el cosmopolita, porque las comunidades locales fuertes, con lazos sociales sólidos,  esas que tanto alabamos y proponemos como solución, no son ni abiertas ni cosmopolitas. Cuando llegue la hora de recordar cómo se suma y cómo se resta, los que ahora pasan de todo y se burlan del problema seguirán siendo mil contra uno, seguirán mirando a su alrededor en busca de su propio beneficio, como ahora, y seguirán sin aceptar que puede haber más razones que las suyas.
El día del gran debate, cuando llegue la realidad a arbitrar quién estaba en lo cierto, te pasará como hoy: igual que se burlan de tus razones porque estás en minoría se burlarán de tus derechos si no puedes defenderlos de una manera efectiva. […]
Vizinhos com fome

Vizinhos com Fome

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