Economics, Society, peak oil — by George Monbiot May 18, 2013
When scholars sell out, the consequences are grave.
In 1927 the French philosopher Julien Benda published a piercing attack on the intellectuals of his day. They should, he argued in La Trahison des Clercs (the treason of the scholars) act as a check on popular passions(1). Civilisation, he claimed, is possible only if intellectuals stand in opposition to the demands of political “realism” by upholding universal principles. “Thanks to the scholars,” Benda maintained, “humanity did evil for two thousand years, but honoured good.” Europe might have been lying in the gutter, but it was looking at the stars.
But those ideals, he argued, had been lost. Europe was now lying in the gutter, looking in the gutter. The “immense majority” of intellectuals, artists and clergy had joined “the chorus of hatreds”: nationalism, racism, the worship of power and war. In doing so, they justified and magnified political passions. Across Europe, scholars on both the left and the right had become “ready to support in their own countries the most flagrant injustices”, to abandon universal principles in favour of national exceptionalism and to proclaim “the supreme morality of violence”. He quoted the French anarcho-syndicalist Georges Sorel, who eulogised “the superb blond beast wandering in search of prey and carnage”.Comments (0)
Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change — by George Monbiot May 12, 2013
Corruption and short-termism are pushing us along the path of sorrows.
The records go back 800,000 years: that’s the age of the oldest fossil air bubbles extracted from Dome C, an ice-bound summit in the high Antarctic. And throughout that time there has been nothing like this. At no point in the pre-industrial record have concentrations of carbon dioxide in the air risen above 300 parts per million. 400 is a figure that belongs to a different era.
The difference between 399 and 400ppm is small, in terms of its impacts on the world’s living systems. But this is a moment of symbolic significance, a station on the Via Dolorosa of environmental destruction. It is symbolic of our collective failure to put the long term prospects of the natural world and the people it supports above immediate self-interest.Comments (5)
Aid Projects, Community Projects, Economics, Society, Urban Projects, peak oil — by Andrew Willner May 9, 2013
We live in dangerous times, when economic collapse, climate chaos, and peak oil threaten the foundations of society, abundance, and all we hold dear. “Business as usual” will no longer suffice, because that way leads to certain pain, peril and impoverishment.
Unspeakable acts of violence like the slaughter at the Sandy Hook school or the Boston Marathon bombing; natural disasters like Katrina and Sandy; economic uncertainty; technical failure; “peak everything;” and climate change can offer opportunities for either despair and disengagement or innovative collaboration. In the aftermath of such disasters communities often experience a surge of purposefulness to deal with the crisis. As a result, there is a need for better understanding of the specific and general resilience of communities, ecosystems, organizations, and institutions to cope with change.Comments (0)
Biodiversity, Economics, Health & Disease, Insects, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by George Monbiot May 2, 2013
Amazingly, the UK government has not defined the precautionary principle and appears to have no idea what it is.
Here’s something remarkable I stumbled across while researching my column on Monday, but did not have room to include. I hope you’ll agree that it is worth sharing.
I was trying to understand the context for the new chief scientist’s cavalier treatment of scientific evidence, in an article he wrote opposing a European ban on neonicotinoid pesticides. These are the toxins which, several studies suggest, could be partly responsible for the rapid decline in bees and other pollinators.Comments (1)
Economics, Society — by Aldo Leopold May 1, 2013
Aldo Leopold (1887-1948)
When god-like Odysseus returned from the wars in Troy, he hanged all on one rope a dozen slave-girls of his household whom he suspected of misbehavior during his absence. This hanging involved no question of propriety. The girls were property. The disposal of property was then, as now, a matter of expediency, not of right and wrong. Concepts of right and wrong were not lacking from Odysseus’ Greece: witness the fidelity of his wife through the long years before at last his black galleys clove the wine-dark seas for home. The ethical structure of that day covered wives, but had not yet been extended to human chattels. During the three thousand years which have since elapsed, ethical criteria have been extended to many fields of conduct, with corresponding shrinkages in those judged by expediency only.Comments (2)
Consumerism, Economics, Ethical Investment, People Systems, Society, Village Development — by Kenton Zerbin April 29, 2013
Maximum security, maximum return. Who doesn’t want that? In a world of uncertainty and change, more than a few people are reconsidering where it is they want their money.
I grew up being encouraged to save and invest in savings. The two are not the same thing. To invest in savings is to invest in money itself. To put your money into money… such a strange idea. But in a civilization bent on growth, how can your money not grow as well? It really isn’t a bad idea if you have faith that growth never ends….Comments (4)
Infographics on the distribution of wealth in America, highlighting both the inequality and the difference between our perception of inequality and the actual numbers. The reality is often not what we think it is.Comments (2)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Economics, Society — by George Monbiot April 24, 2013
Devolving policy to “the market” doesn’t solve the problem of power. It makes it worse.
In other ages, states sought to seize as much power as they could. Today, the self-hating state renounces its powers. Governments anathematise governance. They declare their role redundant and illegitimate. They launch furious assaults upon their own branches, seeking wherever possible to lop them off.
This self-mutilation is a response to the fact that power has shifted. States now operate at the behest of others. Deregulation, privatisation, the shrinking of the scope, scale and spending of the state: these are now seen as the only legitimate policies. The corporations and billionaires to whom governments defer will have it no other way.Comments (4)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, People Systems, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by Marcin Gerwin April 18, 2013
The disappearing Amazon rainforest
Marcin Gerwin: You propose introducing a new international law of ecocide as an amendment to the Rome Statute. Ecocide is defined as “an extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.” Why do we need the new law to protect the planet? Aren’t current regulations enough?Comments (2)
Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society — by George Monbiot April 15, 2013
We have offshored both our consumption and our perceptions
Every society has topics it does not discuss. These are the issues which challenge its comfortable assumptions. They are the ones that remind us of mortality, which threaten the continuity we anticipate, which expose our various beliefs as irreconcilable.
Among them are the facts which sink the cosy assertion, that (in David Cameron’s words) “there need not be a tension between green and growth.”
At a reception in London recently I met an extremely rich woman, who lives, as most people with similar levels of wealth do, in an almost comically unsustainable fashion: jetting between various homes and resorts in one long turbo-charged holiday. When I told her what I did, she responded, “oh I agree, the environment is so important. I’m crazy about recycling.” But the real problem, she explained, was “people breeding too much”.Comments (5)
Biofuels, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change — by Earth Policy Institute April 12, 2013
by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute
The world is in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Over the last decade, world grain reserves have fallen by one third. World food prices have more than doubled, triggering a worldwide land rush and ushering in a new geopolitics of food. Food is the new oil. Land is the new gold. 1
The abrupt rise in world grain prices between 2007 and 2008 left more people hungry than at any time in history. It also spawned numerous food protests and riots. In Thailand, rice was so valuable that farmers took to guarding their ripened fields at night. In Egypt, fights in the long lines for state-subsidized bread led to six deaths. In poverty-stricken Haiti, days of rioting left five people dead and forced the Prime Minister to resign. In Mexico, the government was alarmed when huge crowds of tortilla protestors took to the streets. 2
After the doubling of world grain prices between 2007 and mid-2008, prices dropped somewhat during the recession, but this was short-lived. Three years later, high food prices helped fuel the Arab Spring. 3Comments (0)
Consumerism, Economics — by Kim Hayes April 4, 2013
Click here for more details
Most folks familiar with permaculture understand how zones are used in the design of a piece of property. Depending on slope, contour, house placement, hydrology, and functional use, amongst other criteria, zones are never created as concentric circles like a bulls-eye or dart board. Use of the land, and the flow of activities, becomes a primary driver of the shape of a zone.
As it turns out, money has its own flow as well. This series of maps show how dollar bills move about or flow between humans during commerce in the US. You will notice the dollar bills ignore State lines, rivers and major highways that people travel on regularly. I feel this map can be used as a fantastic tool assisting in creating hub areas for evaluating goods and services, the creation of local currencies and a myriad of other transition focal points.
The ideas are endless. The ‘all seeing eye’ on ol’ George has opened my eyes with a new perspective on local money.Comments (0)
Consumerism, Economics, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss — by George Monbiot April 3, 2013
17 years, and the phone companies still haven’t sorted out the issue of conflict minerals.
If you are too well connected, you stop thinking. The clamour, the immediacy, the tendency to absorb other people’s thoughts, interrupt the deep abstraction required to find your own way. This is one of the reasons why I have not yet bought a smartphone.
But the technology is becoming ever harder to resist. Perhaps this year I will have to succumb. So I have asked a simple question: can I buy an ethical smartphone?Comments (3)
Consumerism, Economics, Society, peak oil — by Earth Policy Institute March 29, 2013
by Janet Larsen, Earth Policy Institute
Freeing America from its dependence on oil from unstable parts of the world is an admirable goal, but many of the proposed solutions—including the push for more home-grown biofuels and for the construction of the new Keystone XL pipeline to transport Canadian tar sands oil to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast—are harmful and simply unnecessary. Gasoline use in the United States is falling, and the trends already driving it down are likely to continue into the future, making both the mirage of beneficial biofuels and the construction of a new pipeline to import incredibly dirty oil seem ever more out of touch with reality.Comments (1)
Economics, People Systems, Society — by Rhamis Kent March 11, 2013
Something interesting happens to you once given an opportunity to take a well-taught, well-presented, and properly contextualized Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) course. You are provided with new tools with which to view virtually every conceivable topic through very different eyes – in this instance, economics & history.
The American Civil War, for example, could easily be understood as America’s first energy war. It was also explicitly a war over capital – the most important capital the United States held at the time, enabling it to become the world’s greatest, most influential economic power with the eventual emergence of mass industrialization & financialization globally.Comments (14)