Climate change and environmental collapse-ultimate challenge to the capitalist "real"?

tryptych

waiting for a time
bassnation said:
whats the point of planning for the future when there is no future?

if it all gets wiped out so that not even a single trace exists, then did it matter?

But this is a given, not a possibilty. Civilisation, the human race are finite things, and we should work from the assumption that at some point there will definately be "no future", rather than wondering about the possibility of such an event.

Global economic collapse, the sun going nova, the heat death of the universe - something, like Nick Drake's "Pink Moon" is "going to get us all". I guess you might find this a depressing thought, or that it makes everything pointless, but I don't.
 

polystyle

Well-known member
Tartarsky , can you say anything more about your holiday in Dorset ?

Having read a few Survival handbooks , Living Off the land texts years ago
Some of those specific items like purifying drinking water , making fire if you have to ,
thoughts of living in that mode for even a few days ,
how tiring it would be too , day after day
Sounds like hard long days out there

I say this having just done a glorious day hike upstate Monday
for hours up and down the hills , sun beaming bright on high green plains
down the wood road and an beach of flat rocks granting easy stepping into the big cool lake
We wished we were staying the night
in a couple little nylon tents up over the next hill , but maybe next time ...

But as we were saying on the trail
'Wouldn't it become feasible for people come up here into the park and just set a living
albeit rough , even for days or weeks at a time in time of crisis ...'
Probably still having to go down to the store in nearest town for alot of stuff
Stashin' lighters and matches !
 

tatarsky

Well-known member
Let's try and get this thread back on track, shall we, and ignore the troll.

KernKätzchen said:
For example, why does economic theory take constant 'growth' as a measure of economic health? Why is it a problem for Italy's economy that its population is no longer growing?

So, why 'growth'?

The orthodoxy in economic theory puts growth front and centre because it is pretty evident that economic growth does give us clear benefits. This occurs almost by definition. Underpinning that growth is consumer demand. If there wasn't that demand, there wouldn't be growth. Which means someone somewhere wanted the additional production. Some previously unsatisfied want has been satisfied - therefore growth is a good thing.

In addition, growth allows us to take more leisure. The number of hours we work has fallen dramatically, believe it or not. Washing machines, Microwave ovens, etc. save us an enormous amount of time.

There are also some slightly more complicated reasons which basically show that growth > low unemployment, which is fundamentally a GOOD thing. People hate being unemployed, and it causes all sorts of political unrest.

There are numerous reasons why the emphasis on GDP is flawed though, and any economist worth his salt recognises this. (In fact, GDP only began in the 30s - every economist prior to that thought in terms of utility/happiness in a kind of Benthamite way)

One of the principal reasons why GDP's flawed is that there are loads of goods and services that don't get included in the numbers. For example, imagine a married couple with some kids. Currently the wife stays at home and looks after the kids, but then one day she decides she's bored and wants her career back. So they hire and nanny and she goes back to work. The additional production from her going back to work is genuine, but what about the nanny. The nanny's job was being done before by the wife, but there was no financial transaction in place. Has the nanny added anything? If the wife's labour of looking after the kids had been included in the GDP numbers, then hiring the nanny would not affect GDP, because her wage would be exactly equal to the theoretical wage of the housewife.

Similarly, i could wash my car for free, or i could pay someone to do it. If i'm lazy and go to the car wash, GDP will go up, but really its artificial.

Then there's all the environmental goods that don't get included - like say, clean air, or the reservoir of oil.

There's another equally fundamental problem, that some economists are waking up to (and, intriguingly, the Tories are flirting with them...), is that whilst GDP has grown massively over the latter half of the 20th Century, pretty much all the data available on the subject declares that we are no happier as a result.

The reason is not because having more stuff and money is bad - it's that we've done it in such a way as to make a lot of other things that affect our happiness change for the worse. Things like unemployment, the role of families, dislocation from local environment, increased crime, you know, the really fucking obvious stuff.

It's amazing that it's taken economists to wake up and smell the rotting sewers, but they are getting round to it. God knows if anyone in politics will pay the blindest bit of attention though. (As i say, Cameron has been flirting...eerghh...i'm skeptical.)

As a good (and very, very easy to read) intro the subject, you can check out:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/...-4236450?v=glance&n=266239&s=gateway&v=glance



Ok, question 2: Why is population decline a problem?

Well, there are questions of international economic clout (fewer people = smaller economy) - eg America is fucking massive and has all the power, which is being threatened by China because it's growing so quickly. Remember, America's GDP PER HEAD is lower than many other countries, but it's total GDP is WAAY higher, which gives it its strength.

Also, a declining population also equals an aging population. Which means a BIG pensions liability. Which means people who are of working age get really fucked over paying for all the OAPs (since higher taxes are required).


That help? ;)
 

tatarsky

Well-known member
polystyle desu said:
Tartarsky , can you say anything more about your holiday in Dorset ?

Of course!

It was a fantastic experience, which as i said, was quite exhausting. But then, they did make it deliberately so, making us do quite a lot stuff, to make it a bit more realistic i suppose. But if you wanted to just go away to a forest somewhere and live off the land for a bit, it actually isn't hard.

The most exhausting parts of it are making a shelter and lighting fires by friction. But there's no reason why you can't take a lighter, so that knocks out one of them. Similarly, if you want to be a bit more bushcrafty, there's other techniques that are actually dead easy - using a fireflash and a knife for example. A fireflash is a stick of some composite metal that shards off and gives sparks when you strike your knife against it. Aim those sparks into a pile of silver birch bark, add some kindling, and you're away. Or, you can go a bit more old school and use flint and stone, which is surprisingly easy too, if you take some charcloth with you (which is easy to make at home).

And building your own shelter is great fun, and really rewarding. It was probably the most rewarding thing of the whole week. Sleeping in it's great too.

The trickiest thing is food. If I was going to sod off the wilderness on my own, i would take enough to eat - stuff like supernoodles and the like, that are easy to cook. You could fish, i suppose, but that's always a bit risky. There really isn't very much vegetation that's any use in temperate climates.

Water's a doddle though. Find it. Boil it. Drink it. That'll do most of the time, unless you happen to be right next to a chemical plant. Finding it may involve digging a bit of a hole, but once you've done that, that's it really.

It is really nice to get out of London (the grim air and NOISE!!! really hits you when you get back), but i don't think i'd be up for doing it for a long time, because it would get incredibly tedious.

I suppose if you had some good company it would be alright, and you could probably make it quite comfortable if you got involved in some carpentry. Maybe make a guitar and sing songs round the fire!

Kum ba yah anyone? ;)

Oh, and here's picture of my home for the week. Good eh?
 

KernKätzchen

Well-known member
tatarsky said:
Let's try and get this thread back on track, shall we, and ignore the troll.



So, why 'growth'?

The orthodoxy in economic theory puts growth front and centre because it is pretty evident that economic growth does give us clear benefits. This occurs almost by definition. Underpinning that growth is consumer demand. If there wasn't that demand, there wouldn't be growth. Which means someone somewhere wanted the additional production. Some previously unsatisfied want has been satisfied - therefore growth is a good thing.

In addition, growth allows us to take more leisure. The number of hours we work has fallen dramatically, believe it or not. Washing machines, Microwave ovens, etc. save us an enormous amount of time.

There are also some slightly more complicated reasons which basically show that growth > low unemployment, which is fundamentally a GOOD thing. People hate being unemployed, and it causes all sorts of political unrest.

There are numerous reasons why the emphasis on GDP is flawed though, and any economist worth his salt recognises this. (In fact, GDP only began in the 30s - every economist prior to that thought in terms of utility/happiness in a kind of Benthamite way)

One of the principal reasons why GDP's flawed is that there are loads of goods and services that don't get included in the numbers. For example, imagine a married couple with some kids. Currently the wife stays at home and looks after the kids, but then one day she decides she's bored and wants her career back. So they hire and nanny and she goes back to work. The additional production from her going back to work is genuine, but what about the nanny. The nanny's job was being done before by the wife, but there was no financial transaction in place. Has the nanny added anything? If the wife's labour of looking after the kids had been included in the GDP numbers, then hiring the nanny would not affect GDP, because her wage would be exactly equal to the theoretical wage of the housewife.

Similarly, i could wash my car for free, or i could pay someone to do it. If i'm lazy and go to the car wash, GDP will go up, but really its artificial.

Then there's all the environmental goods that don't get included - like say, clean air, or the reservoir of oil.

There's another equally fundamental problem, that some economists are waking up to (and, intriguingly, the Tories are flirting with them...), is that whilst GDP has grown massively over the latter half of the 20th Century, pretty much all the data available on the subject declares that we are no happier as a result.

The reason is not because having more stuff and money is bad - it's that we've done it in such a way as to make a lot of other things that affect our happiness change for the worse. Things like unemployment, the role of families, dislocation from local environment, increased crime, you know, the really fucking obvious stuff.

It's amazing that it's taken economists to wake up and smell the rotting sewers, but they are getting round to it. God knows if anyone in politics will pay the blindest bit of attention though. (As i say, Cameron has been flirting...eerghh...i'm skeptical.)

As a good (and very, very easy to read) intro the subject, you can check out:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/...-4236450?v=glance&n=266239&s=gateway&v=glance



Ok, question 2: Why is population decline a problem?

Well, there are questions of international economic clout (fewer people = smaller economy) - eg America is fucking massive and has all the power, which is being threatened by China because it's growing so quickly. Remember, America's GDP PER HEAD is lower than many other countries, but it's total GDP is WAAY higher, which gives it its strength.

Also, a declining population also equals an aging population. Which means a BIG pensions liability. Which means people who are of working age get really fucked over paying for all the OAPs (since higher taxes are required).


That help? ;)

Thanks, tatarsky. May well check that book out. :) Re: population growth/decline. Take your points but how do they fit with the (likely) fact that current levels of world population growth are ecologically unsustainable?
Re: happiness. There seem to be a lot of surveys about comparing the happiness of various countries, some a bit dodgy imho.
This one, published in the Independent yesterday, is a bit different, however. It ties happiness and longevity statistics to a nation's 'ecological footprint'. So it's less happiness per se than happiness gained from an efficient use of natural resources. Eco-fun. A strange idea. Almost all the countries that come out on top are tropical islands, which given the criteria is no great surprise. Weirdly, Colombia is number 2.
http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article1173235.ece
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"The orthodoxy in economic theory puts growth front and centre because it is pretty evident that economic growth does give us clear benefits. This occurs almost by definition. Underpinning that growth is consumer demand. If there wasn't that demand, there wouldn't be growth. Which means someone somewhere wanted the additional production. Some previously unsatisfied want has been satisfied - therefore growth is a good thing."
I'm not an economist or anything like but it seems that there are several obvious questions that this raises. Firstly, going by what you have just said, if there is no growth then there could be two reasons; demands going unsatisfied or all demands already satisfied. In the second case we would have no need for growth so surely we shouldn't be using it to measure the (economic) success of a society. I think that's roughly what KernKätzchen was getting it.
Secondly, who is to say what constitutes worthwhile consumer demand? You see Hollywood stars or whatever with palaces for their pets which is a relatively new development. If the economy has grown to satisfy that demand (or other less extreme examples) is that necessarily a good thing?
Also, what about things that people don't need anymore, how do they fit into this?
 

tatarsky

Well-known member
KernKätzchen said:
Thanks, tatarsky. May well check that book out. :) Re: population growth/decline. Take your points but how do they fit with the (likely) fact that current levels of world population growth are ecologically unsustainable?

Well, I suppose this takes us some way back to gek's opening gambit. The answer to which, for my money anyway, really comes down to whether technological developments and their adoption can occur fast enough. If they can't, then it's pretty obvious that some kind of resource crisis is bound to result in a catestrophic reduction in population. Either that or climate change plays havoc with our ecosystems and we all either boil, freeze or migrate to the square inch on the planet that remain inhabitable. At that point, I'm not sure people will be so concerned about getting a new iPod. The puzzling thing is that I can't quite work out i think this is a good or bad thing. Surely there's some alternative way out of this krushingly homogenous kultural kollapse? (excuse the k's, i just couldn't help myself ;) ) Certainly, in this respect CC and EC do represent the ultimate challenge to the capitalist (/monopolist?) real. Whether we need to be that ultimate is in question though.

KernKätzchen said:
Re: happiness. There seem to be a lot of surveys about comparing the happiness of various countries, some a bit dodgy imho.
This one, published in the Independent yesterday, is a bit different, however. It ties happiness and longevity statistics to a nation's 'ecological footprint'. So it's less happiness per se than happiness gained from an efficient use of natural resources. Eco-fun. A strange idea. Almost all the countries that come out on top are tropical islands, which given the criteria is no great surprise. Weirdly, Colombia is number 2.
http://news.independent.co.uk/environment/article1173235.ece

And with impeccable timing, Sir Reynolds links to other articles on happiness studies:
http://blissout.blogspot.com/2006_07_01_blissout_archive.html#115268097858392889
 

gek-opel

entered apprentice
Hmm- Tatarsky positing the techno-solution to resource crisis... surely the solution is lifestyle change? Reduction in waste, reduction in use... most of the necessary technology to get by IN COMFORT is here already... isn't it? Its about shifting things (how far is open to debate, obv) in terms of patterns of consumption of energy, however that needs to be achieved. To sit and hope for some technological panacea is wrongheaded, tho a perfectly natural consequence of addiction to our current way of thinking... "technology got us in to this damn mess, it HAS to get us out, doesn't it???"
 

tatarsky

Well-known member
IdleRich said:
I'm not an economist or anything like but it seems that there are several obvious questions that this raises. Firstly, going by what you have just said, if there is no growth then there could be two reasons; demands going unsatisfied or all demands already satisfied. In the second case we would have no need for growth so surely we shouldn't be using it to measure the (economic) success of a society. I think that's roughly what KernKätzchen was getting it.
Secondly, who is to say what constitutes worthwhile consumer demand? You see Hollywood stars or whatever with palaces for their pets which is a relatively new development. If the economy has grown to satisfy that demand (or other less extreme examples) is that necessarily a good thing?
Also, what about things that people don't need anymore, how do they fit into this?

Well yes, therein lies the rub. I think it's pretty clear that economic growth is not the best measure of the success of society.

And for other, even more sinister reasons that you cite.

Fundamental to the frameworks and models that classical economics relies on, is the assumption that the wants of individuals are known a priori, and determined by themselves. As it happens, the second of your reasons for a lack of economic growth (ie because we've got everything we want) was quite a worry for some around the 30s (as a possible theory of the great depression, i think). Business got around this problem by creating people wants, their desires.

If you've seen Adam Curtis documentary 'The Century of the Self', you'll know exactly what i'm on about. Check it here: http://www.dissensus.com//showthread.php?t=3614

This 'Capitalist Real' construct, seems like an idea that needs much further refinement, in particular, clarity on what is meant by Capitalist here (as I attacked early), and how this has gone about enforcing itself as our destined reality. The Century of the Self does a pretty good job of elaborating on the second part.

It's a shame k-punk's ignoring this forum now, I would have liked some greater clarity here. His interpretation is clearly one of a contemporary Marxist, which strays some way for my more strictly economic interpretation. In other words, could his interpretation be quite literal - Capitalist society has the accumulation of Kapital (sorry...) as its ambition, vs a Socialist one which puts Social coordination first?
 

tatarsky

Well-known member
gek-opel said:
Hmm- Tatarsky positing the techno-solution to resource crisis... surely the solution is lifestyle change? Reduction in waste, reduction in use... most of the necessary technology to get by IN COMFORT is here already... isn't it? Its about shifting things (how far is open to debate, obv) in terms of patterns of consumption of energy, however that needs to be achieved. To sit and hope for some technological panacea is wrongheaded, tho a perfectly natural consequence of addiction to our current way of thinking... "technology got us in to this damn mess, it HAS to get us out, doesn't it???"

Well quite...hence my use of the phrase 'technological developments and their adoption'.
 

gek-opel

entered apprentice
But as you say Tatarsky (or perhaps imply?) the whole system which creates these pressures runs on one principle: ever expanding demand- given the fundamental economic principle is that we exist in a world of limited resources, should not the aim be to REDUCE demand? (I could bring in Buddhism here... but I won't) Obviously this destroys the model of sustainable economic growth that has been the benchmark of post-1980s capitalism... what models of stable or reducing demand are there within a capitalist system? Are we talking along the same lines as Galbraith here or what? A lot of the current economic solutions to climate change involve utilising the market mechanism (eg- carbon trading) to take into account the broader value of environmental production and the costs of environmental damage-- is this enough to create an economic model which will reduce energy consumption sufficiently to avoid a severe collapse?
 
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tatarsky

Well-known member
Actually, I think this is more Malthus than Galbraith. Who called for 'moral restraint' as the only solution.

We're DOOMED!

I know your not convinced by any argument that relies on technological change. But do keep in mind that Malthus was wrong, in that he was concerned with a lack of food - arguing that population grew exponetially, while food could only ever grow arithmetically, leading to catastrophes. That turned our to be completely wrong, as agricultural developments allowed for population growth way beyond what the good reverend thought possible. You could be wrong in the same way.

On the other hand, given the breadth of the problems that climate change and resource crisis could potentially bring, perhaps you're right.

As for whether a capitalist model could revert to a system that had stable or even declining output at its core... perhaps it could. From a theoretical point of view, this would require a dramatic shift away from gdp as the primary metric. Something new would need to replace it, which would presumably involve taking account of the 'stock' of natural assets. The difficulty comes in pricing stuff. This is why carbon trading should be made to succeed. Unfortunately, i've heard its not working tremendously well. From a more practical, political perspective, wrestling all the vested interests into enacting such a massive change in gear seems highly unlikely.
 
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gek-opel

entered apprentice
Err yeah the European carbon trading market collapsed recently I think...

Ever increasing demand and finite resources just don't compute surely? Or am I underestimating human ingenuity here, and we will be saved by remarkable scientific and technological genius?
 
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tatarsky

Well-known member
gek-opel said:
Err yeah the European carbon trading market collapsed recently I think...

Ever increasing demand and finite resources just don't compute surely? Or am I underestimating human ingenuity here, and we will be saved by remarkable scientific and technological genius?

You could be... particularly when you consider that an increasing amount of that demand is coming from products that use up very little resource. like mp3s, for example. Demand for intangibles could perhaps sustain this economy based on growth principals.
 

tatarsky

Well-known member
matt b said:
that's a touch harsh.

Is it? Throwing your weight around, criticising the very essence of a thread that had already gone on for 5 pages and that people had openly declared as being a good conversation, and doing it in a manner that was fundamentally designed to be insulting and dismissive. I don't know about you, but for me, that's called trolling.

Sure, go ahead and argue with the tenets of gek's ideas, but i question the point of doing so in the manner in which it was done. There's no point in having an argument unless you're actually trying to convince the other person of your point of view. Otherwise, you're just being a twat.
 

gek-opel

entered apprentice
:mad: I don't personally mind being insulted- its quite funny to see people venting their ire... still is it not best to keep things away from the needlessly ad hominem?
 

swears

preppy-kei
The American right's complete wilful ignorance of global warming is all the more distressing when you think that somebody as right wing as Thatcher had accepted it as fact as far back as 1989.
 

matt b

Indexing all opinion
tatarsky said:
Is it? Throwing your weight around, criticising the very essence of a thread that had already gone on for 5 pages and that people had openly declared as being a good conversation, and doing it in a manner that was fundamentally designed to be insulting and dismissive. I don't know about you, but for me, that's called trolling.

er, ok but i took bassnation's post as a comment on the style of language used, which for many not versed in PoMo/ modern academic discourse is alienating. that's far from trolling in my book.

any way, back on-topic...

surely the issue is really about the whys and wherefores of economic theories that externalise/ignore social cost?
 

gek-opel

entered apprentice
That's not necessarily the be-all and end-all, but it is an important aspect.... but that goes beyond merely climate change and into social responsibility. There's no doubt then that if such real costs (and potential benefits???) could be incorporated that capitalism might garner more pleasing results- but how are they to be assessed, and how are they to be implemented? The problem really comes as competing economies refuse to accept a disadvantage to their potential economic output if others don't do likewise...
 
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