The 1% to own 50% global wealth by 2016?

Prior to the Davos World Economic Forum of the super-rich and super powerful, the accelerating concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands has been again headlined by researchers.  This article in today’s Guardian describes the startling trend:

Oxfam’s research, published today, shows that the share of the world’s wealth owned by the best-off 1% has increased from 44% in 2009 to 48% in 2014, while the least well-off 80% currently own just 5.5% … on current trends the richest 1% would own more than 50% of the world’s wealth by 2016 …  just 80 people own the same amount of wealth as more than 3.5 billion people (down from 388 people in 2010).
 [This BBC website article explores the statistical basis of this and other types of  assertions and Jeremy Williams’ blog has a link to the Oxfam Report]
It is worth considering how this distribution of wealth might relate to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals starting January 2016. 

Eating away our life support systems

The Guardian today has yet another warning of the self-destructive impact of humans on their planet. It revisits the planetary boundaries research of the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC) and emphasises the unprecedented rate of ‘eating away’ that scientists are now recording as economic growth remains the driving force in modern science.

Since 1950 urban populations have increased seven-fold, primary energy use has soared by a factor of five, while the amount of fertiliser used is now eight times higher. The amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.

Will Steffen of the SRC  is quoted:

“We are clearing land, we are degrading land, we introduce feral animals and take the top predators out, we change the marine ecosystem by overfishing – it’s a death by a thousand cuts. That direct impact upon the land is the most important factor right now, even more than climate change.”

On the same day this headline article in the New York Times reported another scientific meta-analysis of research that reveals the extreme effects of human activity under the title “Ocean Life Faces Mass Extinction”.

A more extreme press item on the same report is here. It places the blame on 60 years of neo-liberal capitalism and uses rhetorical language such as ‘breaking our planet’.

2015 International Year of the Soil

According to The Land Institute, soil is every bit as non-renewable as oil, and it is essential for human survival. Healthy soil is the foundation for food, fuel, fiber, and medical products, and is a vital part of ecosystems. It stores and filters water, provides resilience to drought, plays an important role in the carbon cycle, and is the foundation of agriculture and food production.

According to plant geneticist and president of The Land Institute Wes Jackson, and farmer and author Wendell Berry, “our present ways of agriculture are not sustainable, and so our food supply is not sustainable. We must restore ecological health to our agricultural landscapes, as well as economic and cultural stability to our rural communities.”

The United Nations is recognizing and trying to educate the passengers of Spaceship Earth about our vital dependence on this thin layer of mineral and organic matter on the surface of the lithosphere. Therefore the UN has declared this year the IYS.  Just how much impact this  move will have remains to be seen.  if the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development that has just ended is anything to go by, the IYS will not feature greatly in public discourse!

For an article elaborating this Food Tank post see here.

2014 is the hottest year on record

Jeremy Williams blogged this piece today with yet more confirmation of what so many now accept as scientific consensus. The BBC website on the same day carried this article  about how much and where fossil fuel will need to be left in the ground by 2050 as ‘unusable resources’ to ensure that global warming does not exceed 2 degrees Celsius. However, there are still those who see the issue of climate change as unresolved, particularly because of the dependence on computer modelling. One site worth looking at is that made by Judith Curry of Georgia State University. This article ‘Will a return of rising temperatures validate the climate models?’ by Donald C. Morton offers a scholarly and reasoned note of scepticism.