1000 Words


Our crisis is the unraveling of modernity and associated industrialization due to resource/capital depletion (Hall, Lindenberger, Kümmel, Kroeger and Eichhorn, 2001, also Hall and Day, 2009.) This is the consequence of a ‘culture of excess’ that refuses to accept limits: there is human over-population, too many machines along with extractive industrial agriculture. Failures in credit- political- and production sector marketplaces are the manifestation of resource/capital depletion. What is underway is ‘conservation by other means’.

Modernity is a long-running process (550+ years). It has been too successful too long for it to continue. Modernity cannibalizes its capital, as such our crisis is irreversible. Conventional marketplace remedies such as debt jubilees/write-offs, re-distribution, bailouts, stimulus, austerity policies, monetary easing, etc. have no effect on outcome other than to worsen conditions. These are efforts to reclaim capital that no longer exists. Consequently, remedies accelerate unraveling process by increasing gross debt (claims against capital) while exposing remaining capital to consumption at higher rates. The capital ‘pie’ cannot be redistributed, only a new and much smaller pie is to be had and carefully tended. Our smaller pie of non-renewable resources is what we have to make use of, to last us and the rest of the world’s creatures until the end of humanity.

Economists insist that the crisis is one of debt and out-of-control finance or intrusive government. Rather, the crisis is a non-productive physical economy which monetizes resource waste. Popular culture promotes the process, management policy defends the process’ beneficiaries from any undesirable consequences.

Economists insist that capital is symbolic (money) rather than material. Capital = resources (Daly, 2005), all industrial money is debt. Abstract money is infinitely reproducible, material inputs are not. Existence of debt-money is an incentive to waste even as input constraints unravel input-dependent enterprises (petroleum fuel, also topsoil, water and waste-carrying capacity).

Waste-based economy depletes the capital it requires. Adjusting the waste-based economy to operate at greater efficiency depletes capital more thoroughly at a higher rate (Alcott, 2005 RE: Jevons).

On a cash-flow basis the consumption economy is continually ‘underwater’, the gap between capital cost and system return is financed with debt. When input prices are low, the amount to be financed is affordable. Scarcity reprices resource capital, it becomes more costly than what can be affordably financed. At some point both capital and necessary credit are priced out of reach. The outcome is credit-driven ‘demand destruction’ which is currently underway around the world.

That the industrial economy cannot afford itself is self-evident: if the enterprise was productive it would retire its own debts. Industrial productivity is a myth … promoted by industrialists themselves who use credit to effect economies of scale … to continually take on greater amounts of debt.

The Dominion of Debtor-Tycoons

The industrial economy is a system that allows a few to borrow immense fortunes, leaving society to repay the associated debts.

Industries’ promise of future returns stand as collateral for loans which are funneled to the owner. Firms borrow their profits as enterprises cannot earn organic, ongoing real returns (they must continually borrow against the accounts of their customers or that of the state). By answering to the transitory demands of fashion the firm gains access to loans. Sufficient funds are left in firm accounts to maintain the appearance of actual business until it is time to borrow again. Firms by themselves are collateral for nothing, they are abstract containers for promised potential in some undetermined future; the ‘promise’ becomes collateral for debts and nothing more. Resource waste-over-time is the justification for the firm’s borrowing as well as for the firm itself.

A firm’s ‘secondary good’ is jobs provided for willing workers: however, centralized industry eliminates employment. The labor of entire communities is concentrated into a few firms, this reduction in labor is abstract ‘productivity’, a statistical artifact. The debtonomy evolves toward simple arbitrage: money gains money returns directly without the need for physical output or workers. The process enables tycoons while repressing the rest.

Solution: Institutionalized Restraint

 

The aim is to change culture, to substitute restraints within culture that currently makes a virtue of limitless excess. In the conservation culture, the husbandry of all forms of capital becomes virtuous. Finance is re-ordered to provide the necessary rewards for those who conserve. People are paid to conserve rather than the same people borrowing to consume. Desire is redefined in the same terms and by the same means that now reward waste.

Desire has been a monopoly ‘good’ of money lenders, industrialists and advertisers: it is redefined as a good of those trusted to carefully tend resources/capital.

– Confiscate the fortunes of the top-ten wealthiest Americans every year with the proceeds distributed to the poor. Money and wealth are de-sanctified thereby, a limit is automatically imposed as other wealthy look to restrain themselves or lose everything. Taxes on labor can otherwise be reduced.

– Change culture from the bottom, provide leadership by example: managers must pay off debts, get rid of cars and TVs, remove themselves from the suburbs or ‘trendy’ urban areas, refuse to purchase consumer goods and processed-food, refuse to take on debts, pay cash and negotiate with merchants for goods and services, etc. Entrepreneurs gain by conservation and husbandry rather than enabling consumption.

– Create a new American political group or party that excludes money from donors and wealthy candidates! Enforce laws and punish lawbreakers!

– Remove debt subsidy for industry including agriculture: decentralize workspaces re-introduce craft method of independent workshops. Offer constitutionally enforceable freedom from advertising and commercial intrusions. Demilitarize and restructure agencies as militias (Swiss model). Extend credit only for efforts that gain capital by way of husbandry (capital return on capital). Extend credit for endeavors that identify or inventory capital without consuming it (scientific discovery).

– Pay young women around the world not to give birth. Pay any 1 billion girls of child-bearing age US$1,000 each per year not to have a child: US$20 trillion total invested over a period of 20 years would reduce population while increasing the capital stock by the US$20 trillions worth of resources not turned to waste.

61 thoughts on “1000 Words

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      1000 words is a hard limit (not mine) but rather the Union for Radical Political Economics (URPE) .

      I don’t know anything about URPE but ‘radical’ appears to be a term of ad-manager’s art. The idea seems to be to coddle the (naive) Wall Street Occupyers and spoon feed them some ‘approved’ economic happy talk. From their web page:

      The Newsletter’s website also includes a calendar, various documents, newsletter archives, and an updated Heterodox Economics Directory. The directory includes an introduction to and description of heterodox economics, updated lists of graduate programs and undergraduate programs, scholarly and popular journals, publishers, and associations. And you can download the whole thing!

      “graduate programs and undergraduate programs, scholarly and popular journals, publishers, and associations.” speaks for itself.

  1. g-minor

    Good article but sometimes over my head. I’d like to see the 2000 or 3000 word version.

    Thanks.

    G

      1. Usman

        Agreed, fantastic post. You should compile a guide of your work, Steve. It makes it easy for newcomers.

      2. eeyores enigma

        “Still takes a great deal of effort to understand ”

        Yes, and as we all know mans purpose on Earth is to ultimately eliminate all effort so for Dogs sake please give us the cliffs notes version.

        Ha!

      3. Jb

        Steve, I’m glad you posted a link to the ‘Culture Change’ post. It’s helpful to go back and re-read your cornerstones. In that one you asked: “When are we going to wise up?”

        It seems there is a strong interest in this not happening:

        http://globaleconomicanalysis.blogspot.com/2012/08/news-anchors-fired-in-spain-for-asking.html

        There are other stories about the lack of media coverage of LIBOR, Ron Paul’s victories in state polls, etc. And now the failure of modernity is spreading to Israel where people are setting themselves on fire because they don’t know what else to do:

        http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=8676

        To stop this and start building ‘Tuscany’ instead of ‘Aleppo’, we need a new narrative and the persistence to develop it over a few decades. If we can collectively take a few simple steps away from industrialized fashion, maybe the rest will sort itself out.

  2. Jb

    How do millions of people shift to a de-centralized, craft based workshop economy? Small local enterprises cannot compete with global industrial processes on a cost basis. Home businesses get their raw materials from the same industrial processes and ship their products globally – we certainly do. Labor rates in the west would have to mirror our Asian cousins.

    It would seem that we need to throw out the current tax code and forgive debts in order to give people an opportunity to start from scratch without being penalized. Strip malls and other non-productive auto based dead-ends must be torn down, their materials recycled / re-purposed, and the soil and water systems re-mediated. It will take decades to un-learn and un-make modernity.

    There are billions of people on the planet but for the grace of fossil fuels. Changing our capitalist market structures isn’t going to be sufficient, we also need optimal growing conditions and a stable climate. Prioritizing local farming on that scale means allocating land, nutrients and water supplies.

    Along the way, we’ll have to redefine our democracy. Monti is working on this right now: http://www.spiegel.de/international/europe/monti-comments-on-parliaments-in-euro-crisis-anger-german-politicians-a-848455.html

    Indeed, slowing our global population is a critical step in making an orderly and equitable transition.

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      It’s a daunting challenge, to get from where we are … to where we have to go. To do so when the establishment is in denial with our 7 billions in tow … we make the task almost impossible for ourselves.

      As for Monti … he’s in over his head. He should quit now, if not he’s gone early next year. His country is bankrupt, it may be the first to split from the EU.

  3. The Dork of Cork

    “Waste-based economy depletes the capital it requires. Adjusting the waste-based economy to operate at greater efficiency depletes capital more thoroughly at a higher rate (Jevons). ”

    Well if a primitive local island community invented a wood gas stove would that not free up more wood for fishing vessels rather then combustion ?
    Sure the population would increase consumption and / or its numbers but how can you stop human creativity ?
    But that concerns itself only with efficiency of existing capital stock but what about new capital such as Uranium which up until one point of time was a rock and before that time even – the element did not even exist in peoples little brains.

    Sure it needs a enormous amount of previous capital built up over centuries before you can have a system dense enough to use the stuff but contary to many people I believe it is a primary energy source that requires refining much like how crude needs refining for most uses.

    The pre industrial pastoral construct was hitting entropy walls in the 17th century – it was no fun for most people.
    Coal was being burned in London to heat homes but the mines were getting deeper – they needed something more powerful then a animal to haul that water out of that mine…. so they came up with the engine.

    If you travel to many European mountain areas the natural envoirment is in far better condition then it was in the 18th century.(although Ski stations do enormous damage)
    In the French Pyrenees for example Beech forest covers the bulk of those Northern slopes up to 1300 metres or so ~
    Certainly back in the 19th century these areas were engaged in very intensive grazing agriculture with multiple landslides destroying many mountain villages.
    The slopes above this village for example was one of the first areas where modern forestry and land management was carried out although its generally recognized that simply leaving the damaged area alone after perhaps emergency work is needed is now the most cost effective solution.
    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barèges

    Now most of these Villages & their local hinterland are only engaged in light agriculture with transhumance activity over 1300m in Summer….. i.e. much of the envoirment has recovered thanks to technology and population movement to more effiecent lowland cities although the shock of the Great war accelerated this process with many of these Beech forests dating from that time.

    The Hydro industry of 100~ years ago was the Nuclear Industry of its day – it did enormous damage to those European mountains but this fragile envoirment is now recovering to some extent – that would not be possible in a pastoral society where everybody would be dependent on photosynethesis and therefore the last blade of grass would become financially everything to all rather then having a aesthetic value.
    Those Hydro investments of 100 years ago are still incredibly showing on French & Spanish energy balance Graphs……that is some Return on Investment.

    I believe efforts should concentrate on increasing efficiency such as the EIB efforts to link together the credit hyperinflated urban areas that can be saved via 19th century technology (Trams) and creating new capital …..Fission energy.

    Now the powers that be want the cream so they use these fiscal debt instruments to reward the favoured but there is no reason other then political power dynamics why these efforts cannot be accomplished simply by the production of debt free fiat.

    Still there is one High European mountain refuge I know of that transports Keg Beer via Helicopter………the famous Kerosene Beer Dynamic – thee most important of input output equations.

    In fact the place is the most souless of refuges (I would only stay for a few cold ones) although the San Miguel is really really cold…… its better to walk into a place with stale bread and table wine transported into the area with Donkey based Photosynthesis energy.
    It adds to the ambience.

    What does not kill you makes you stronger.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7YLxFk2pZg

    1. Sandor

      There is a delicate balance to be struck between efficiency and redundancy (aka ‘slack’). We need both, individually and collectively. It is another expression of the yin-yang duality which governs physical principles in this universe. Your argument leads one to the conclusion that the stakes are continually being raised by efficiency and the genetic program to reproduce. The only way both directives can be met at this point is planetary off-shoring (mission to terraform Mars) and the next evolution in energy technology, which I think will be low energy nuclear reactions (LENR). Right now, scientists can get it to ‘work’ 70% of the time, because they don’t understand the process. The gap between here and 100% ‘there’ is unmeasurable.

      There are ways both forwards and backwards, and perhaps a hybrid of the two is always in play. This is why archiving, recording, and preserving are essential missions of the human species. We don’t even know what we’re on about yet. Science is inexorably driving us towards self-awareness and re-engineering. There is no doubt in my mind that humans are very trainable creatures. I tend to be more sanguine about the outcome of this crisis than other on this board simply due my assessment of the flexibility, strength, and ‘will to life’ of the human psyche.

      I will also add that for some, what does not kill them can be effectively so traumatic that it leaves them permanently damaged. There are biological ‘points of no return’, so we must be very careful with stress levels.

    2. steve from virginia Post author

      DOC, it’s never a matter of what we want.

      It’s a matter of what sort of beating we are going to accept … and like.

      The key is adjusting human population, discussing it is a taboo (just like everything else).

      :)

      1. Ellen Anderson

        Trouble is – you need lots of young strong backs to produce food and fuel in a non-industrial world where children are wealth.

  4. The Dork of Cork

    A place not as wild as the Pyrenees (By European standards of wildness at least..but not American of course) Switzerland…. too many people , too many tunnels but amazingly even here the bulk of the freight transport is road based simply because it is more convenient and requires less planning)
    Countries need liquid fuel but they don’t need very much – they have simply grown accustomed to the convenience of it all.
    Still the Swiss do a lot of rail stuff…..
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lY5tGBjUYJM

    Incidentally the High altitude farming there is even now far too intense – this is a cultural subsidy made possible by the wealth of the lowlands and Switzerland’s Financial farming of the European & global hinterland.

    PS – Downed American aviators of the second world war were less likely to cross into Spain as they were on average less fit.
    Why ?
    They were already 20 years into a American graffiti car culture unlike most of the pre war Brits who continued to walk to a much greater extent…..keeping ahead of fit Middle aged Austrian Sharp shooters drafted to hunt down these men
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-15690262

    Chemin de Libertie is in classic back woods Europe – not the twee national park , a little European Oasis of natural regrowth.
    http://www.ariege.com/histoire/chemin.html

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDmqzPP9uGs

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      Car culture skipped a beat starting in 1929 until the second world war ended in 1945: Great Depression.

      Aviators shot down of Europe mostly died in their aircraft (poor means of egress, improper training), the bulk of survivors wound up in German POW camps. Because many Luftwaffe were shot down over Britain, the Germans took care of their Anglo-American war prisoners (did not starve them and steal their boots like they did their Russians).

      Large percentage of US recruits were 4-F (unfit for service), consequence of the Great Depression, unemployment, lack of funds/food shortages. Diseases related to malnutrition: bone-developmental disorders, rotten/no teeth, bad hearing, underweight, vitamin deficiencies, heart/circulation diseases; also polio, tuberculosis, untreated chronic infections. Average age of US combat soldier in WWII was 25, average height: 5’5”, weight (enlistment station) was 147lb. (Manchester).

      An aviator bailed out over Europe had no food, no water, no idea where he was, no understanding of language, no maps or compass, may have been severely injured. He also had no money. Any aviator on the ground in Germany (a non-navigator without the presence of mind to bring along a map and a compass) was lost as civilians worked closely with the Gestapo to round up aviators (the civilians hated them and killed them when they had the chance). There were very few places for an American (or UK) soldier to hide in Germany.

      In Low Countries/France it was easier for aviators b/c of functioning/organized resistance groups (established for the purpose of retrieving aviators). Citizens of these countries despised the Germans more than they hated British/Americans. Also, the ‘Allies’ didn’t fire-bomb French/Dutch/Belgian cities like they did to Germans. An aviator parachuting into France had a chance of reaching the coast where he would be picked up by British navy.

      Western France was lager-refit area for Wehrmacht divisions (from USSR). At any time there would be 100k German soldiers in that area along with an active reserve (full-strength) panzer division (from 1942 onward).

      Keep in mind, until 1944, US aircraft flew as little as possible over German-held territory- France/Low Countries to minimize exposure time to excellent German air defenses: flights were over English Channel directly over-water from England to Germany/Ruhr industrial areas/cities in Western Germany. In early 1944 the P-51s were deployed and US bombers were escorted to targets everywhere in the Reich. Luftwaffe could not make up their air-combat losses and shoot-downs of Allied aircraft declined dramatically. The period in question was Spring 1942 – Spring of 1944 (prior to Normandy invasion and ‘Transportation plan’ shift away from bombing industrial targets in Germany toward bombing rail networks leading into Northern France, the petroleum distribution/refineries starting in late-1944.) Before 1942 there were only US ‘volunteers’ flying British aircraft (air defense roles over Britain only. America was not at war with Germany until Dec 9, 1941). It took three-four months for US aircraft to appear in numbers in the UK. Shoot downs during the 1942-44 periods were over the English Channel and Western Germany. After 1944 were shoot downs in Southern and Eastern Europe.

      1. The Dork of Cork

        Yes I remember reading about even more serious illnesses during the recruitment phase for the Boar war.
        I think it shocked the English establishment into some limited action , that and the Antarctic expedition disasters just before the Great war.

        I dug up a old slide photo I took of a memorial Plaque near 1800~ metres perhaps near the mountain Pic d’Orhy in the western Basque area of the French / Spainish border. was in memory of G.G.A. Whitehead DFC (pilot)

        Thanks to the power of the internet I can now see he & his crew were shot down in a Hailifax over Pas de Calais in 1944 , his bombardier was killed in action and only his tail gunner and himself escaped , the rest became POWs.

        Actually now I can see now it was inscribed on border stone 254 – Port Bimbaletat.
        “To commemorate the escape over the Pyrenees in 1944

        Flight Lieutenant DFC GGA Whitehead

        Thank you to members of the Resistance who helped

        Put here by her family in August 2004 ”

        http://www.jpdugene.com/fiches_rando/d_kartxila.htm
        (go to 11.27)

        He became a Judge & Mayor of Boston (England) ….leaving this mortal coil in 2001.
        He had a good innings.

      2. The Dork of Cork

        Sorry that link appears to be broken.
        Go to
        http://www.jpdugene.com

        Then follow

        Randonnées

        Pays Basque

        Pays Basque Nord (Soule)

        Bimbaleta – Kartxila (1758 et 1982m)

        I am not sure if his tail gunner traveled with him but it gives a feel for the terrain that had to get over.(and this is one of the lowest easiest passes not in the central range)
        Although…..
        His aircraft was shot down on the 20th of Jan 1944 so I presume he crossed under Winter conditions which may be why they used such a easy crossing.

  5. cg

    “Confiscate the fortunes of the top-ten wealthiest Americans every year”

    Make it a lottery (every dollar of worth buys you a ticket) and after confiscation put them in an arena to compete and televise it. Gotta sell these measures.

    I certainly don’t know what needs to be done that could be done. Inertia will carry us deeper into the hole we’re digging, like global warming continuing apace for at least another generation even if somehow we stopped every contributing factor today. That hole is already too deep for everyone to escape, but Malthus may provide to fill the bottom of the pit enough to let a few out to cope with what unsullied resources are left.

  6. Jb

    Interesting observations by Michael Hudson:

    http://michael-hudson.com/2012/08/fireside-on-the-great-theft/

    “And now, commercial banks are moving from finance capitalism to casino capitalism to make big gambles. They are essentially financing gambling. That’s what derivatives and “hedge fund” trading are.

    None of this funds industrial investment….So the banks are no longer part of the industrialization process; they are part of the de-industrialization process. This is applauded as the post-industrial economy.”

    The outcome according to Hudson: “Impoverishment.”

    1. Ellen Anderson

      Great link, thanks. Explains why Hudson has been so insightful through the financial crisis. A classical Marxist believes that scarcity is artificial. Back in the 19th century that was probably true. Steve points out that by now it is real.

  7. WinstonSmith

    “The World Crisis in 1000 Words (or less)”

    should read:

    The World Crisis in 1000 Words (or fewer)

    words can be counted:

    http://www.writerightwords.com/write-right-less-versus-fewer/

    this is an excellent post authored by an eloquent writer expressing must-read information.

    please forgive my comment (i’m sure there are those who will think it’s priggish). i’m only trying to help attract those who would turn away from this invaluable information at the mere sight of the “incorrect” title.

    keep up the great work. this is an indispensably incisive blog.

    1. steve from virginia Post author

      Winston, the term ’25 words or less’ is a marketing and linguistic convention that has been around for fifty years or more.

  8. iguanaisland

    Without fossil fuels, would humanity have managed to stay alive on planet earth anyway? Or would resource depletion still have become an issue?

    1. enicar333

      You can learn something about population dynamics by studying nature – here is an excellent one: The relationship between the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) and the snowshoe hare (Lepus americanus) is considered a classic example of how interactions between a predator and its prey can influence population dynamics of the two species.

      Google this one: THE INTRODUCTION, INCREASE, AND CRASH OF REINDEER ON ST. MATTHEW ISLAND

      I am of the belief that had technological/industrial humans wisely used their inventions to improve living standards in very limited areas and used restraint in breeding to produce more healthy and intelligent offspring – that humanity would have advanced to the point of Interstellar Space Travel, and would have joined the other species in the Universe. You may learn some interesting truths at Open SETI.

      Of course – that sort of ideal is “racist”, “elitist” etc. etc.

      So instead we have a great big garbage dump of humanity that is making the Planet unlivable for most creatures, murdering, killing and torturing others in ever expanding and novel new ways, thanks to technology – and able to kill millions in one blow with “advanced weaponry.” YEAH – I want to be a part of THAT….

      Somehow the brain-numbed, dumbed down and low grade/defective genetic material – which populates our large Cities, is going to go for “Institutionalized Restraint” and accept cash rewards for not breeding.

      Think about that – cash rewards for not breeding.

      I’m the “ELITIST”? LOL. Steve suggests, AND IS CORRECT, in that most humanity has more in common with Pavlov’s Dogs than intelligent creatures that explore Interstellar Space. Where’s my free stuff! Where’s mine! If science could cut the head off of humans, hook up tubes and wires and keep them alive while watching TV – it is my belief that most humans would opt for this. That is the ideal of 21st. C humanity – non-stop low-grade entertainment with a constant flow of feel good Dopamine.

      Humanity is about to be passed through “the eye of the needle”. The “wheat is about to be separated from the chaff”. It will cleanse the land.

    2. p01

      I think it’s pointless to wonder what would have happened if [insert event here] because we can never know and it frankly does not matter anyway. I remember an interview with Nicole Foss at a radio in NZ, in which the interviewer was wondering what if we have not discovered fossil fuels, or what if we haven’t had a financial crisis. Guess what, we DID discover them, and there WAS a time when there was no financial crisis (which time coincided with the US peak oil), but both events are in the past now and are historical FACTS, nothing to change about them.
      On the other hand, now that fossil fuels have exploded the population and moved it completely away from common sense and self sufficiency, and debt was used as a tool to circumvent the obvious bankruptcy of the industrial model (be it -capital or commun- ism) one can wonder if there’s any future for the human race at all. Then, there’s the nukes, so I would say the chances are about as close to zero as the limits of a very rapid converging function can approach zero.

  9. Sandor

    The crisis in one picture: Brent priced in euros:

    http://www.zerohedge.com/sites/default/files/images/user3303/imageroot/2012/08/20120808_BrentEUR.png

    The renewed tensions in the Middle East along with Draghi and Bernanke’s promises to buy gov bonds (aka ‘printing’) have quickly pushed Brent Crude to within 5 euros of its all time high. Italy and Spain are already in recession. They cannot afford the growth needed to service the debt, nor can they afford further contraction. This currency-oil arbitrage is what checks the hands of the Central Bankers. They cannot ‘hyperinflate’ the debt problem away without making industrial life unaffordable.

    The collateralized term structure of Western Finance’s balance sheets has dictated the policy response thus far. The system cannot afford haircuts, but it cannot afford outright monetization either. They have maneuvered their way into the monetary-energy box canyon, hoping for a miraculous helicopter airlift to save us, all the while driving us deeper into the canyon. The slightest tremor now risks a landslide.

    1. Phlogiston Água de Beber

      Industrial life is already unaffordable. If I understand Steve correctly, it has always been unaffordable. That unpleasant truth could be ‘papered over’ by pushing some of the cost into the future. However, that requires a widely held belief that the future can afford it. It is now abundantly clear from the known data that the future cannot afford much of anything. Thus the ‘paper’ is getting harder to get signatures on. Down the line a bit, it will be, for all practical purposes, impossible to get those signatures.

      1. Sandor

        I use ‘affordable’ in the present sense of the word meaning that today, the average western worker can afford to pay rent, utilities, food and transportation. It also implies that companies can afford to pay for raw materials and pass on the costs to the end users. ‘Unaffordable’ means that the bare necessities of industrial life are too expensive. It means there is not enough to go around. We are not there yet. There is still room for demand to contract much, much further. ‘Unaffordable’ means there is no longer financing for 8-year olds to run iPhones because gas is $15/gallon and bread is $15/loaf. ‘Sustainable’? No. But up until now, it has been quite affordable for the duration of the Industrial Revolution.

        What current-day ‘Westerners’ don’t seem to want to swallow is that the industrial lifestyle has only ever been ‘affordable’ based on implicit and explicit global imperialism, stealing (aka ‘exporting wealth’) from the poorest populations and extracting the stored solar energy of the planet. There is little desire for the ‘haves’ to pay it back, hence the employment of painkillers, pharmaceutical and monetary. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological survival strategy.

      2. enicar333

        Life IS unaffordable.

        “The rise in the abandonment of infants across Europe is most visible in the spread of “baby hatches” or “boxes” across Europe, where unwanted infants are left anonymously.

        The phenomenon was previously more prevalent among immigrants, but it is becoming more widespread among financially desperate members of the local population. …

        George Protopapas, National Director of the charity’s Greek division said that parents already struggling with keeping a roof over their heads are now barely managing to keep their children clothed and fed, if at all.

        Protopapas cited the example of a four-year old child left at a nursery by her mother with a note that read: “I will not be coming to pick up Anna today because I cannot afford to look after her. Please take good care of her. Sorry.”

        According to Protopapas, the charity does not have exact figures for economic orphans, but over the next few years he expects “there will be more cases like this.”

        Data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority shows that 27.7 percent of Greeks are now facing penury.”

        Of COURSE, “Human Rights” are being violated!

        “Article 7 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, states that every child has ‘the right to know and be cared for by his or her parents,’ he said.

        “When a child is abandoned, this right is violated,” he said.

        Abandoned children in Europe

  10. rcg1950

    Sandor said –
    “What current-day ‘Westerners’ don’t seem to want to swallow is that the industrial lifestyle has only ever been ‘affordable’ based on implicit and explicit global imperialism, stealing (aka ‘exporting wealth’) from the poorest populations and extracting the stored solar energy of the planet.”

    Beyond economics, what Western (and now many other) people haven’t been able to see much less swallow is that the hyper-industrialization of production renders life increasingly shitty headed toward unbearable. Industrial education has produced literate barbarians. Industrial medicine gives us long-lived invalids. Industrial transport gives us traffic jams, separates us from those we care about and makes natural mobility (walking) dangererous if not impossible. Industrial democracy gives us Obama vs. Romney.

    I am channeling Ivan Illich here of course. But sometimes in the effort to understand the economics of advanced industrial life we lose sight of how this system impoverishes the spirit as well as the body. And the more we ask of the system to save us from the catastophes it produces the more grim are the system’s ‘solutions.’ In Illich’s words — from ‘Tools for Conviviality (1972):

    “The bureaucratic management of human survival is unacceptable on both ethical and political grounds. It would also be as futile as former attempts at mass therapy. This does not, of course, mean that a majority might not at first submit to it. People could be so frightened by the increasing evidence of growing population and dwindling resources that they would voluntarily put their destiny into the hands of Big Brothers. Technocratic caretakers could be mandated to set limits on growth in every dimension, and to set them just at the point beyond which further production would mean utter destruction. Such a kakotopia could maintain the industrial age at the highest endurable level of output.

    Man would live in a plastic bubble that would protect his survival and make it increasingly worthless. Since man’s tolerance would become the most serious limitation to growth, the alchemist’s endeavor would be renewed in the attempt to produce a monstrous type of man fit to live among reason’s dreams. A major function of engineering would become the psychogenetic tooling of man himself as a condition for further growth. People would be confined from birth to death in a world-wide schoolhouse, treated in a world-wide hospital, surrounded by television screens, and the man-made environment would be distinguishable in name only from a world-wide prison.”

  11. dolph

    How do people behave when they realize there is no future?

    I know enough about humanity to know we are headed for rough times. Salvaging beauty before we die is the thing to do.

    1. Phlogiston Água de Beber

      Dolph, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that question asked before. It has been many a millennium since all of humanity has had any real reason to address it. Cults like Heaven’s Gate excepted of course. That kind of makes it an unknowable. The isolated examples, like Heaven’s Gate, Jonestown, Okinawan women at the end of the invasion in WW-II suggest suicide might be what many will choose. Of course, some believe they might have a future if they do their part to remove enough of their competitors. It may be that disposing of the dead will just add to the miseries.

      The people I’ve had discussion with almost all seem to recognize the future will be sh*tty. There do not seem to be all that many who are ready yet to accept that there might not be one.

    2. steve from virginia Post author

      ‘The Future’ is a collection of cultural artifacts, advertising vehicles (also where we go/from whom … to steal).

      Who will we steal from if not our great-grandchildren? We’ve already strip-mined the past, we abhor the present … what’s left?

      We made assumptions about our grandchildren and their George Jetson lives without understanding that they cannot possibly have them with us in the way. The pain we suffer now is the result of the (modest) thefts that took place starting in the 1950s and 60s.

      Jettisoning the future is probably the first thing we need to do.

    1. Jb

      Thanks Chartist. Looks like we should expect some very bad economic news (or a war?) in the next several months. Now if I only knew what to do about it…

      1. Ellen Anderson

        JB – Reduce your inputs before they are taken away (conservation by other means.) Get a goodly supply of potatoes!
        I think it will be war. The big money interests are not going to sit back and watch a jubilee no matter what form it takes. After all, the big banks and corporations have come back bigger and stronger after each war. This time though it will consume and waste the last of the non-renewable resources. What it does to population overall depends upon where it is. However, the “developed” world has already booby-trapped its populated areas with nuclear power plants.
        You know, most people are just getting on with their lives.

      2. Jb

        My thanks to you both. The trick is to know what to do and when. Cash gives us flexibility to act quickly. The other trick is getting your loved ones ‘on board’ and ready for impact. There’s only so much one can do on one’s own.

        In the back of my mind I worry that a sudden credit crunch could put those companies and services we were counting on, to disappear. For example, I like to use Smart Pots for my potatoes, sweet potatoes, hops, carrots, etc. We live in the city and these are easy to move around, control weeds, etc. I would like to buy more, but am holding back, saving the cash… my work has almost completely dried up.

        I must admit that the ‘Get the hell out’ message appeals to me as a very small investor. Why risk losing what little I have? If the market is going to drop 50%, why not take an early distribution and take a 30% hit? What a bargain! What to do, what to do.

        Time to go check for eggs. My four hens are more reliable than the markets.

      3. dolph

        Heck if I know what to do.

        The best I can suggest is to focus on individual strengths/weaknesses, learn to give up alot and preserve a few things. Know thyself.

        Learn to give up “the world.” After all it’s lust for the world that has gotten us into this mess.

      4. Ellen Anderson

        I read Neville Shute’s ‘On the Beach’ when I was a young teenager. I was devastated – pretty sure the world would end before I even got to stay out after dark without my parents. Then I read Ivan Illich and Paul Goodman and the Limits to Growth and I despaired. Forty years later I am still here despairing and hating traffic and development and knowing it can’t/shouldn’t go on. The only difference is that a lot more people seem to agree with me. Even though it seems like we are a tiny minority – and we are perhaps – it is a huge change from forty years ago.
        I hope Steve has stopped reading the comments ’cause he isn’t going to like this, but I used to tell my kids “Stay positive, do what you can do and the Lord will provide.” (female lord, of course!)

  12. The Dork of Cork

    More trammy Porn……….this time from Montpellier -now a Model Heavy Tram town.
    This recent video captures nicely the fact all 4 tram lines focus on Gare de Montpellier Saint-Roch
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nvPudC98aVI

    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_de_Montpellier-Saint-Roch

    Notice the size of these trams (some are 7 piece units)

    This reflects the intensive passenger numbers of these Routes despite the fact Montpellier is not a very large city.
    Line 1 (blue) is one of the busiest tram routes in France with 47~ million passenger movements a year.
    Line 2 : 22~ million a year….
    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligne_2_du_tramway_de_Montpellier

  13. The Dork of Cork

    Hmmm…. extension of tram line 2 using a disused train line is in the soup….it looks like a tram train set up as it will also travel on a section of the existing tram line 2 ,then on a unused (urban section) rail line that will integrate with the main line not far from the main station……complicated execution me thinks.

    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligne_de_Paulhan_à_Montpellier
    Linking the villages /towns of
    Fabregues , pop :6,214

    Cournonterral , pop :5,900
    Cournonsec , pop : 2,199 (although both of these settlements are some distance from the old line)

    Montbazin , pop 2,846
    Gigean , pop 5,362
    Poussan, pop 4,821 (not on the old rail line)

    Hmmm Very interesting…….
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQyUKnCf0YY

    However the more conventional tram line 5 will probally be built before this very interesting line in 2017.
    But the possibilities in France are almost endless for these sort of projects….. as long as the periphery keeps on giving………..

  14. The Dork of Cork

    I like the way line 3 (the largest trams with the 7 sections) avoids the (albeit small) airport so as to do its duty and serve the urban area of Perols……..
    routes.wikia.com/wiki/Tramway_de_Montpellier_(Ligne_3)

    Its withen spitting distance of the Beech and may indeed follow the Long Gaudy coast in the future – perhaps as far to the now little almost unused Gare du Grau-du-Roi.
    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gare_du_Grau-du-Roi

    Much like how the Belgium Coast tram operates today.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JoHkZTBu4qU

    Although it would be much warmer then the Flanders coast of course.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3BPN2pMaGo

    There is really no unsolvable problem to Europe other then its car Industry – it wishes to drag everybody down into the Abyss -it seems.

    1. The Dork of Cork

      PS – it looks like Gare du Grau-du-Roi was the busiest it ever was this summer…….with 1 Euro tickets for day trips to the beech from Nimes.

      It is not without its problems … major problems -with traders up in arms due to petty theft etc….
      The local newspaper covers the story.
      http://www.midilibre.fr/2012/07/25/du-grau-du-roi,539134.php

      It now looks like they have come up with a solution of sorts – under 16s must be accompied by a Adult and 16 -18s must get a letter from their perents – don’t ask me how this will work.
      The Street urchins of Nimes must be having a great time with all those naive tourists.
      It just goes to show what a change in transport patterns & dynamics does to a town as the local authorties try to increase mobility and encourage commerce in suffering tourist towns.
      It went so far as the local supermarket closing before the train arrived.

      Google translate
      This room and it laughs hard on the train between Nimes and Le Grau-du-Roi. Five lads romp on one of the benches of 12 h 51 (two oars or five hundred seats). A train under heavy guard. Railway police patrol cars.

      One of five teenagers took out his cell phone, connect the speaker and will loop the latest hits to his buddies laughing. One of the SNCF agents pass a smile to the kids and waved off the speaker. The warning was not enough. This time, one of the officers, in uniform, of Suge (monitoring rail) intervenes. A first and a second reprimand … “Next time, it is outside,” the officer tells her hefty.

      The teenager is in a tight front of his buddies and then complied. Minutes later, the incident is already forgotten and the laughter and jokes begins again.

      Since the return of warm weather, the train from sea to € 1 refueling, or overflow , weekends or Wednesdays. Saturday, 12 h 51 was stormed. Eight hundred people for five hundred seats have arrived at the Gare du Grau du Roi less than an hour later.

      And the last two scheduled return from 17 hours were very difficult. “It was borderline unmanageable,” said one witness. At the station, Suge and guards present at each departure were hard pressed to contain the crowd. And the railway police had to intervene on one or even two early fights on the train. Faced with this influx, the SNCF had to adapt its service until the summer (more trains, including a return later) which will begin July 7.

      “Oddly enough, on Sunday evening, it is often much quieter,” says a regular. Yesterday, the return of 17 h 12 went off without incident. A dozen officers and gendarmes watched Suge grain at the Gare du Grau du Roi .”

  15. The Dork of Cork

    It looks like RFF will go ahead and rebuild a convential train route that will integrate with the new Orleans Tram B on the eastern suburbs and central rail station of Orleans
    http://www.agglo-orleans.fr/deplacements-urbains/train-157.html

    This line can be seen quite clearly running Parallel to the New Orleans Tram B (eastern suburbs section) video I posted recently ( see 2.00m)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WZSGVRv42_0

    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/41794663
    This line will probally operate convential diesel X73500 railcars rather then go for the much more capital intensive Tram Train option.

    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ligne_d’Orléans_à_Gien

    So half the line will be rebuilt with it stopping at 3 to 4 major towns & villages before it enters the Orleans suburbs…….

    Fantastic long term planning – notice how the French did not touch the old rail route when building the new Tram line………..which would have been the cheaper initial option.

    Elegance is the key to everything in a energy constrained world.

  16. The Dork of Cork

    So 27KM of new continuously welded steel & ballast for 100million~ Euro…(+ 6/7 New ,refurbished stations)
    20 million extra for electric power – perhaps in the future.
    1 DMU every 30 minutes during peak times

    http://www.rff.fr/IMG/pdf/20120106_CpresseOrleans_Chateauneuf-2.pdf

    http://www.rff.fr/IMG/ORC-Fiches-communes-derniereversion.pdf

    100 million for half a rail line closed to passenger traffic in 1939…….not a hell of a lot of money in the great scheme of things……and to think 1000s of KM like these can be brought back on line.

    GDP is such as artificial metric – 100 million spent on fixed capital formation shows up on the books no matter what quality it is.
    The French economy has been reported as static / Stagnant – kept up amongest other things by Gross fixed capital formation projects much like the above.

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2012/0814/breaking7.htm

    Meanwhile……..
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-19252724
    “The economies of the 27 members of the EU also contracted by 0.2%.

    Among the eurozone’s biggest contractions, Portugal’s GDP shrank 1.2%, Cyprus recorded a 0.8% contraction and Italy was down 0.7%”

    Greece takes the biscuit again – its non consumption of oil fuels the cores dreams.

    “Comparable figures from Ireland and Greece are not yet available.

    On Monday, Greece released GDP figures that showed its economy contracted by 6.2% in the second quarter, compared with the same period a year earlier, but did not provide figures for the quarter compared with the previous quarter”

  17. The Dork of Cork

    PS a mistake on my part – The existing line must be operational for rail freight as it appears a company makes freight wagons in what looks like a large facility on the outskirts of Saint Denis Hotel employing 350 people ~

    http://www.abrfi.com

    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Denis-de-l’Hôtel.

    This fits into what appears to be a strategic plan to upgrade freight lines near major agricultural areas of France as seen in the recent Aquitaine region investments – using mixed passenger DMU traffic as a excuse for major investment.

  18. The Dork of Cork

    To give a idea of how Important France is to food production in Europe we need to look at total cereal production 2009 /10 (000 tonnes)
    Usable production Domestic comsumption self suff %
    France : 70,173 36,849 190
    Germany :49,982 42,479 118
    Poland :27,664 27,021 102
    Italy :20,105 25,239 80
    UK :24,268 21,138 115
    Hungary :16,831 7,797 216
    Romania :16,778 12,098 139

    So its not just wine and chesse.
    France is thee major exporter of cereal in western Europe despite their love of bread in pretty much everything.
    It exports some of its cereals through La Rochelle with 3,548,691 tonnes handled in Y2011
    In the late 80s & 90s (post EMU) there was a modal shift towards trucking…..this now appears to be reversing.
    “Late 2011, rail has exceeded for the first time the million mark tons (1.06 Mt) of freight pre-or post-shipped by rail. This represents an increase of 57% for 4 years. The modal share of rail in the port now stands at 12.63% of port traffic, against 8.96% in 2007″

    vimeo.com/46625605

    fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_port_maritime_de_La_Rochelle

  19. The Dork of Cork

    OK – France is the bread basket of Europe producing 70.173 million tonnes of cereal in 2009 /10
    Much of it produced in the Paris Basin , much of which is exported out via the Seine River.
    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/16826727
    ……Rouen Port is the biggest exporter of Grain in France.
    Also France is the biggest Cattle producer.
    Of the 86.757 million cattle in Europe during December 2010 France had 18.992 million of these ,with Germany next – holding 12.706 million….

    OK – of course Germany produces a hell of a lot of PIGS but who is counting ?

    Excellent interview in this excellent series

    fromalpha2omega.podomatic.com/

    His first interview….
    Energy and the wealth of nations

  20. The Dork of Cork

    Meanwhile the Battle for the survival of the very rural Ales – Besseges railway line continues………….
    http://www.panoramio.com/photo/36825158

    – this from July cuttings
    http://www.midilibre.fr/economie/transport/index_10.php
    http://www.midilibre.fr/gard/besseges/index_5.php

    This is a example of classic local French politics mixed up with State subsidies.
    Its a question of subsidising the car industry or subsidising the rail industry.
    If the state produces money to subsidise the tickets at 1 Euro a trip like in Nimes what will happen to all those village cars ?…..and the car Industry.?

    Oil availability may settle the issue – especially if France becomes sovergin again.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSmNSlQIn9w

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