Capital growth or Life?

This 2 minute video  sets out the fundamental problem of ensuring a sustainable future in the Anthropocene Epoch.  It is, of course, a gross binary-choice generalisation of a matter of great complexity but it sets out states what is so often avoided – that the drive for wealth that underpins capital accumulation has had devastating consequences for the natural world and the systems of the geosphere that support life on planet earth.

Much of this capital has been used to release fossil fuel that was locked for millions of years in the lithosphere. This cheap energy has allowed technological civilisation to flourish and overshoot the capacity of the planet to support it.  Two remarkably important and brilliant presentations illustrate the effects of this maladaptive consequence of capital accumulation:

Johan Rockstrom  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9ETiSaxyfk Beyond the Anthropocene (21 minutes) – presentation at the Davos World Economic Forum in Jan 2017 offers hope of exponential decrease in CO2 emissions to zero by 2050 + pace of exponential acceleration

Nate Hagens – https://un-denial.com/2018/01/27/by-nate-hagens-energy-money-and-technology-from-the-lens-of-the-superorganism/ (80 minutes) – a comprehensive ‘big picture’ presentation of exponential human impact on the planet fueled by a 200-year long temporary blip in available cheap fossil energy

Here is a favourite blogger’s take on the short video with which I started the above blog entry.

Heatwave 2018

Simon Lewis is Professor of Global Change at Leeds University and he wrote this Guardian article in response to the heatwave in Western Europe that is continuing into mid-July 2018. The article laments the failure of politicians to place climate change as high on the political agenda as Brexit or other distractions from the accelerating human impact on the planet.  Lewis is co-author with Mark Maslin of a 2018 book The Human Planet. CO2 emissions that accelerate global warming result from the impact of fossil-fueled conversion of resources into products and services for the current global population of 7.6 billion. The consumption of these products and services and related CO2 emissions that underlie global warming is extremely uneven and Lewis and Maslin pose the following question and offer stark alternative answers:

  • What will be the outcome of billions of people trying to match the resource use of the richest? How to make resource consumption across the world fairer & below sustainable environmental limits?
  • Either environmental breakdown
  • Or globally coordinated action towards global equality. (Lewis & Maslin, 2018)

The arrival of the US President in the UK at the time of the current heatwave reminds us that globally coordinated action towards global equality  is not his priority as he pulls out of the Paris Agreement and strives to MAGA (Make America Great Again) in a win:lose approach to the future that undermines international institutions.

China – from ecological disaster to ‘ecological civilisation’?

A recent article published in Nature by Australian researchers is summarised here  along with two videos from the academic popular journalist on-line publication The Conversation.

Long-term public investment has brought about huge ecological advances since the misguided hubris of Mao’s campaigns to control nature misfired and led to large-scale environmental degradation and much human suffering in rural areas. President Xi has invented the goal of building an ‘Ecological Civilisation’ by working with nature not against it. Not all has gone well, thusfar, but there have been vast benefits in undoing the errors of past badly conceived unintended impacts of ignoring natural processes that maintain equilibrium between societies and the natural world.