C6 of The Great Disruption - The Year That Growth Stopped

In this chapter Gilding argues that 2008 was the year that The Great Disruption started - that these two "crash" indicators occurred...
  • Resource limitations forced prices up
  • Ecosystem hit tripping points
He also recounts reactions to his arguments.

Ecosystem tripping points
  • Melting of northern icecaps accelerates, exposing dark blue ocean which heats faster which accelerates ice melting.
  • Melting of frozen tundra accelerates the release of large quantities of methane which is a greenhouse gas which traps heat which accelerates release of methane.
  • Ocean acidification increases which reduces the ocean's ability to absorb CO2 which prevents shellfish from forming shells and coral reefs from growing and heats the atmosphere.
Prices Going Up
  • Oil becomes increasing difficult to extract - easily accessible oil has all been found, is being used - meaning "peak oil" has or soon will happen. Oil price goes up. (The "new normal" for gas is well over $3 gallon.)
  • Global food prices go up (the "new normal" for a meal in a decent dinner is now $10) - because...
  • there are more people demanding more
    there is less arable land (due to development, overpumped aquifers, falling water tables, overallocated rivers, diminishing crop yields, expanding deserts, etc.)
    rich people (us) eat more and better food,
    corn is diverted to biofuel instead of food.
  • When he first started presenting his story to social and business leaders Gilding was regarded as "intellectual entertainment" - written off as an "extremist and merchant of doom". Gilding's theory is that these are good people who have invested their professional and personal lives in the notion of growth. It had become a given, a fact of life not to be challenged.
  • After the crash of 2008 was well under way, Gilding got different reactions. The same leaders mentioned above felt that something was going - some change had happened. Many agreed in principle with Gilding - in the direction that things were heading, but were more optimistic that something could be done to forestall the ultimate collapse.
  • Gilding quotes Thomas Friedman (Flat Earth guy)... "What if the crisis of 2008 represents something more fundamental than a deep recession. What if it's telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall - when Mother Nature and the market both said, 'No more.' "
Personal aside
I wonder if the current debt ceiling crisis is not a semi-unconscious reaction to the start of The Great Disruption. Both sides still talk about maintaining growth. Liberals say that we can spend our way back to 2.5% GDP growth and 8% unemployment. The semi-crazy tea party people claim that halting the growth of government will foster economic growth - maybe even a return to a pre-modern utopia where Billy Grahm and The Beaver reign supreme. However I get a sense that the craziest tea party people, the ones with the wildest eyes, those willing to go to the wall know in their non-sentient souls that more going on.

Related books
The smart systems at Amazon tried to sell me these books...
  • Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet by Tim Jackson
  • Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update by Donella Meadows
  • Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development by Herman Daly

No comments: