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A nice short essay about for-profit education in the age of the end of capitalism. Schools are scrambling to turn themselves into little corporations just in time for the entire paradigm of profit to unravel. The question is, as the country bankrupts itself and the markets dry up, how will schools proceed? Not just universities, but high schools, kindergartens, technical schools, etc? What will education look like in a post-capitalist world?

Will it be more authoritarian, based on mindless discipline and punishments in order to train students to be soldiers or prisoners? Or will it be more democratic, based on the free development of the potential of each child, and preparation for service to the community? That choice is up to us. [alex]

For-profit Education

Milton Friedman’s Dream

Something for advocates of public education to keep in mind now is the changed face of the enemy. The oligarchs; Gates, Broad, the Walton Family, the Bush Family, Bloomberg and the CEO’s represented in the Business Roundtable, had a plan for the destruction of the public schools. They were supremely confident they could bring to fruition Milton Friedman’s dream that education could become a highly profitable industry. Unbeknownst to them though, they had an Achilles Heel. Their plan was fatally flawed because it was inextricably bound up with the dynamic growth of a global capitalist economy.

That’s over with now. Why? For one, because globalization was so successful in its brief heyday. It penetrated every market on the planet. Who would have thought China could become the largest market for autos the way it has this year? It found the absolute lowest wage possible in the undeveloped world. They bumped right up against outright slavery and where possible went over the edge.

The effect of this success was profits on a scale heretofore unimaginable but it also exhausted the systems possibilities for growth. And growth is its lifeblood. Growth kept it healthy and dynamic. When that growth became impossible capitalism turned in on itself. It began to cannibalize itself. That’s when you get Wall Street turning investment banks into casinos and investment vehicles into logarithms. No more real wealth was being created so the bankers turned to magic tricks, in the form of derivatives, to give the appearance of wealth creation. That’s when you get some of the largest corporate entities ever created disappearing into the history books. So long General Motors!

The other thing a global economy had to have if it was going to work was a plentiful and cheap supply of oil. If the world is not now on the downside of the Peak Oil curve, its close enough for government work in the US, China, India, Russia, the EU. Rulers in these developed and developing countries have begun to act along those lines. For instance, the US won’t be getting out of the Middle East anytime soon for the oil supply it offers. US military presence there has nothing to do with silly bleatings over “underwear bombers” or terrorist threats. And for another instance, economic nationalism, in the form of US tariffs on Chinese steel to give one example, is the wave of the future. Globalization cannot withstand the end of free trade or oil driven trade but it faces both. Read the rest of this entry »

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This a review of the newish movie ‘Collapse’, review written by a woman of color named Erinn, which I saw on the Bring the Ruckus website. ‘Collapse’ apparently features Michael Ruppert talking about his apocalyptic visions for the world, filmed from his hideout bunker underground somewhere.  Ruppert maintains a horrific blog and used to edit From the Wilderness, a conspiracy-oriented website that intermixes information about peak oil with 9/11 Truth stuff and other scary things.

I was glad to read Erinn’s review, even though I’m not planning to see this film, because it highlights both the racist/classist elements, as well as the lack of grounding in analysis about social change, that continues to hinder the peak oil “movement.”

What Ruppert, and other scaremongers like William Catton of Overshoot and Jay Hanson of dieoff.com have failed to comprehend is that peak oil and other ecological limits do not in themselves guarantee social disaster just because capitalism is collapsing.  There are non-capitalist, non-fossil fuel-driven ways of organizing society, some of which would be much better, and some much worse.

Peak oil does present us with a stark dilemma, but like any dilemma we have two paths we can go down – of course there’s the path of continued plunder and violence, militarism and neo-fascism – but there’s also that of freedom, democracy, and sustainability.  By hiding this second path from their readers and viewers, Ruppert and other ‘doomers’ inadvertently present compelling arguments for the first.

There’s still plenty of resources to meet everyone’s basic needs of food, shelter, water, etc. But because those in power have control over production, resources are being diverted to socially and ecologically inappropriate ends, like the military, banks, private jets, prisons, tar sands, etc.  Never ever forget that there is always a fundamental political choice of how to allocate resources. Until the peak oil ‘movement’ catches on to this reality, it will continue to be dominated by scared, privileged white folks worried about a future catastrophe yet who don’t see the catastrophes that are already affecting most of the peoples of the world.

“We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Happy MLK Day!

[alex knight]

COLLAPSE: A Review

by Erinn

So, I went to see a movie called “Collapse.” I read about this movie a little bit before seeing it (full disclosure: I get caught it weird Internet spaces and was reading an article about Mein Kampf. This movie was mentioned in the article for some reason). The premise of the movie is pretty simple: Michael Ruppert believes that he know how and why the US and global economies are currently collapsing (Get it? That’s the movie title…and the country…). The ticket was like $4, which in LA is pretty much like highway robbery.

Originally I went to see this film because it looked interesting and because of the whole $4 thing. About 30 minutes into the movie, I realized that there was a larger discussion to be had here that went beyond reviewing a film. There are aspects of this film that I found interesting and problematic from a practical political perspective, but I think that there is even a more interesting discussion here on the limitations of some supposedly “leftist” and “revolutionary” political ideologies and the complicated nature of the political moment that is in our near future.

So, just to summarize: The film really focuses on Ruppert and the Peak Oil Movement (which to be fair I know little about.) For those of you that are in the same boat as I am, the Peak Oil Movement refers to the idea/scientific principle that there is a limited amount of fossil fuels in the world. Ruppert looks at the fact that Saudi Arabia, which has the largest, recorded landed oil reserves, now drills for oil offshore. As offshore oil drilling is a much more costly endeavor than drilling for oil on land, this could be an indication that the oil in Saudi Arabia, and thus countries with even less oil, is on the global decline as a “dependable” resource. Ruppert identifies the fact that the economic system that the US and the rest of the world operates with requires “infinite resources” while depending on the “finite resource” of oil as the central paradox of our existence today. The movie goes on to note the limitations of other fuel possibilities (with the exception of solar and wind power, Mike identifies other fuel resources as economically and environmentally unfeasible) and declares that “revolution” (which isn’t ever defined in the film) will come from the anger people feel because of the fuel and food shortages that will plague the world in the upcoming decades.

Ruppert constructs a parable to help the audience understand his perspective. He describes the Titanic and himself as a boat-builder on the ship. He’s just been informed that the ship is going to sink and that there are not enough boats on the ship to save everyone on board the ship. (While telling this parable Ruppert seems to be ignoring the racial and gendered histories of this moment…aka white dudes locking poor and “colored” folks in the engine room of the ship.)

Ruppert says that as a boat-builder, he can select from a group of three sets of people to help: Read the rest of this entry »


The efforts of these pirates to gain desperately-needed resources to escape the extreme poverty of Somalia by capturing vulnerable international shipping seem to be virtually unstoppable. As the article says, Somali pirates now hold about 12 different ships hostage, and this oil tanker (whose cargo is worth about $20 million) was captured some 800 miles off the coast of Somalia.

This constitutes yet another significant “social limit to growth” as I explain in my synopsis – people across the world are less and less willing, or able, to “play by the rules” of global capitalism, when they know the system isn’t working for them. The actions of the Somali pirates are just one dramatic and violent example of a much more generalized pattern of resistance, which is placing significant barriers to profit, and thereby opening up possibilities for new systems to emerge and replace capitalism. [alex]

Somali pirates hijack oil tanker headed to New Orleans

By The Associated Press, Published by Nola.com

November 30, 2009, 11:06AM

The Greece-flagged tanker Maran Centaurus, pictured here, was seized by Somali pirates on Sunday, Nov. 29, 2009. It was headed to New Orleans, according to a report in the New York Times.

The Greece-flagged Maran Centaurus was hijacked Sunday about 800 miles (1,300 kilometers) off the coast of Somalia, said Cmdr. John Harbour, a spokesman for the EU Naval Force. Harbour said it originated from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia and was destined for New Orleans, according to a report the New York Times.

The ship has 28 crew members on board, he said.

The shipping intelligence company Lloyd’s List said the Maran Centaurus is a “very large crude carrier, with a capacity of over 300,000 tons.”

Stavros Hadzigrigoris from the ship’s owners, Maran Tankers Management, said the tanker was carrying around 275,000 metric tons of crude. At an average price of around $75 a barrel, the cargo is worth more than $20 million. Hadzigrigoris declined to say who owned the oil.

Pirates have increased attacks on vessels off East Africa for the millions in ransom that can be had. Though pirates have successfully hijacked dozens of vessels the last several years, Sunday’s attack appears to be only the second ever on an oil tanker. Read the rest of this entry »


Also published by The Rag Blog and OpEdNews.
We stand at a critical moment in Earth’s history, a time when humanity must choose its future. As the world becomes increasingly interdependent and fragile, the future at once holds great peril and great promise. To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations. – The Earth Charter” (pg. 1).

David Korten, long-time global justice activist, co-founder of Yes! Magazine, and author of such books as When Corporations Rule the World, lays out the fundamental crossroads facing the world in his 2006 book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. In response to global climate change, war, oil scarcity, persistent racism and sexism and many other mounting crises, Korten argues we must recognize these as symptoms of a larger system of Empire, so that we might move in a radically different direction of equality, ecological sustainability, and cooperation, which he terms Earth Community. This is a powerful and important book, which excels in overviewing the big picture of threats facing our ecosphere and our communities at the hands of global capitalism1, and translating this into the simplest and most accessible language so we might all do something about it. It’s pretty much anti-capitalism for the masses. And it has the power to inspire many of us to transform our lives and work towards the transformation of society.

Capitalism and Empire

Of course, Korten has made the strategic decision to avoid pointing the finger at “capitalism” as such in order to speak to an American public which largely still confuses the term as equivalent to “freedom” or “democracy.” In fact the “C” word is rarely mentioned in the book, almost never without some sort of modifier as in “corporate capitalism” or “predatory capitalism”, as if those weren’t already features of the system as a whole. Instead, Korten names “Empire” as the culprit responsible for our global economic and ecological predicament, which is defined as a value-system that promotes the views that “Humans are flawed and dangerous”, “Order by dominator hierarchy”, “Compete or die”, “Masculine dominant”, etc. (32).

Korten explains that Empire, “has been a defining feature of the most powerful and influential human societies for some five thousand years, [and] appropriates much of the productive surplus of society to maintain a system of dominator power and elite competition. Racism, sexism, and classism are endemic features” (25). In this way the anarchist concept of the State is repackaged as a transcendent human tendency, which has more to do with conscious decision-making and maturity level than it does with political power. While this compromise does limit the book’s effectiveness in offering solutions later on, it does speak in a language more familiar to the vast non-politicized majority of Americans, and may have the potential to unify a larger movement for change.

Whatever you want to call the system, the danger it presents to the planet is now clear. Korten spells out the grim statistics: “Fossil fuel use is five times what it was [in 1950], and global use of freshwater has tripled… the [Arctic] polar ice cap has thinned by 46 percent over twenty years… [while we’ve seen] a steady increase over the past five decades in severe weather events such as major hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Globally there were only thirteen severe events in the 1950s. By comparison, seventy-two such events occurred during the first nine years of the 1990s” (59-60). If this destruction continues, it’s uncertain if the Earth will survive.

This ecological damage is considered alongside the social damage of billions living without clean water or adequate food, as well as the immense costs of war and genocide. But Korten understands that the danger is relative to where you stand in the social hierarchy – the system creates extreme poverty for many, and an extreme wealth for a few others. He explains how the system is based on a deep inequality that is growing ever worse, “In the 1990s, per capita income fell in fifty-four of the world’s poorest countries… At the other end of the scale, the number of billionaires worldwide swelled from 274 in 1991 to 691 in 2005” (67). The critical point that these few wealthy elites wield excessive power and influence within the system to stop or slow necessary reform could be made more clearly, but at least the book exposes the existence of this upper class, who are usually quite effective at hiding from public scrutiny and outrage over the suffering they are causing.2

Earth Community – Growing a Revolution

Standing at odds with the bastions of Empire is what David Korten calls “Earth Community,” a “higher-order” value-system promoting the views of, “Cooperate and live,” “Love life”, “Defend the rights of all”, “Gender balanced”, etc. (32). Read the rest of this entry »


Not particularly surprising for those who’ve been paying attention to oil reserve estimates, but it’s now official that the International Energy Agency (IEA) has been deliberately distorting their estimates to make it appear that peak oil is much further away than in reality. Also interesting that the US govt has been pressuring the agency to lie about it.

As I state in my Synopsis, peak oil is one of the most important ecological limits, which will prevent global capitalism from continuing to expand – if it hasn’t already. [alex]

Guardian / UK Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Key Oil Figures Were Distorted by US Pressure, Says Whistleblower

Watchdog’s estimates of reserves inflated says top official

by Terry Macalister

The world is much closer to running out of oil than official estimates admit, according to a whistleblower at the International Energy Agency who claims it has been deliberately underplaying a looming shortage for fear of triggering panic buying.

The senior official claims the US has played an influential role in encouraging the watchdog to underplay the rate of decline from existing oil fields while overplaying the chances of finding new reserves.

IEADistortion

This official oil production estimate is overly-optimistic

The allegations raise serious questions about the accuracy of the organisation’s latest World Energy Outlook on oil demand and supply to be published tomorrow – which is used by the British and many other governments to help guide their wider energy and climate change policies.

In particular they question the prediction in the last World Economic Outlook, believed to be repeated again this year, that oil production can be raised from its current level of 83m barrels a day to 105m barrels. External critics have frequently argued that this cannot be substantiated by firm evidence and say the world has already passed its peak in oil production.

Now the “peak oil” theory is gaining support at the heart of the global energy establishment. “The IEA in 2005 was predicting oil supplies could rise as high as 120m barrels a day by 2030 although it was forced to reduce this gradually to 116m and then 105m last year,” said the IEA source, who was unwilling to be identified for fear of reprisals inside the industry. “The 120m figure always was nonsense but even today’s number is much higher than can be justified and the IEA knows this.

“Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,” he added.

A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone. I think that the situation is really bad,” he added. Read the rest of this entry »


This article only scratches the surface of why capitalism as a system based in constant expansion is absolutely incompatible with a planet of real social and ecological limits, peak oil being one. My book will flesh these arguments out in greater detail, but for now check out what Professor Wolff has been cooking up. [alex]

Peak Oil and Peak Capitalism

by Professor Richard Wolff, March 27, 2009.

Originally posted on The Oil Drum, and on Rick Wolff’s homepage.

wolff_real_wages

Worker Productivity (blue) vs. Wages (pink), 1890-2009

The concept of peak oil may apply more generally than its friends and foes realize. As we descend into US capitalism’s second major crash in 75 years (with another dozen or so “business cycle downturns” in the interval between crashes), some signs suggest we are at peak capitalism too. Private capitalism (when productive assets are owned by private individuals and groups and when markets rather than state planning dominate the distribution of resources and products) has repeatedly demonstrated a tendency to flare out into overproduction and/or asset inflation bubbles that burst with horrific social consequences. Endless reforms, restructurings, and regulations were all justified in the name not only of extricating us from a crisis but also finally preventing future crises (as Obama repeated this week). They all failed to do that.

The tendency to crisis seems unstoppable, an inherent quality of capitalism. At best, flare outs were caught before they wreaked major havoc, although usually that only postponed and aggravated that havoc. One recent case in point: the stock market crash of early 2000 was limited in its damaging social consequences (recession, etc.) by an historically unprecedented reduction of interest rates and money supply expansion by Alan Greenspan’s Federal Reserve. The resulting real estate bubble temporarily offset the effects of the stock market’s bubble bursting, but when real estate crashed a few years later, what had been deferred hit catastrophically.

Repeated failure to stop its inherent crisis tendency is beginning to tell on the system. The question increasingly insinuates itself even into discourses with a long history of denying its pertinence: has capitalism, qua system, outlived its usefulness? Read the rest of this entry »


[The tremendous waste and planned destruction that is inherent to capitalism is really quite astounding, but acknowledging this opens a great doorway for all those concerned about social justice and protecting the environment.  Rational production, organized by society rather than for profit, would allow a great reduction in environmental damage, without sacrificing social welfare.  In fact, as Don Fitz points out, economic production scaled to meet human and ecological needs would be so much more efficient than capitalist production that we could produce far less, while simultaneously increasing quality of life dramatically.

This brief overview of the military, food, health care, etc. industries suggests ways to completely transform and down-scale the economy, which would actually make us all richer. Worth the read! -alex]

We Can Produce Less and Consume More

by Don Fitz

Originally published by ZNet, July 15, 2009.

A major gulf between environmental and social justice activists is “stuff.”  Environmentalists (or at least serious ones) say “less.”  Social justice organizers have the habit of saying “more.”

This divisive question cuts to the edge of the sort of society we want to build.  Deep greens envision a world with much less stuff.  A great outline is Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff. [1]  An excess of human-produced objects destroys species habitat, poisons communities with toxins, depletes oil and intensifies climate change.

Social justice activists, however, have devoted centuries to denouncing capitalism as placing fetters on the expansion of production.  Whether the struggle is against racism, for labor rights, or resistance to imperialism, the cry is for the oppressed to have a much bigger piece of the pie.

In response to the current economic crisis, a near-unanimous chorus sings “There must be a stimulus package.”  There is considerable debate over the size of the stimulus and what should be stimulated but not a whimper asking whether growth is really a good idea.  It is a rare Michael Moore suggesting that auto plants should not produce autos, but rather solar panels and windmills for a society without privately owned cars. [2]  It is even more rare to hear suggestions that auto plants should manufacture less and that unemployment could be resolved by shortening the work week.

A shorter work week is not exactly of the top of most environmental agendas.  In fact, environmentalists often shoot themselves in the foot when they call for “sacrifices” from those who have already done more than their fair share of doing without.

Production and consumption: A broken connection

These conceptual problems stem from progressives using corporate economic frameworks.  The error is believing that there is a connection between the amount of production and the amount of consumption.  The common misperception is that an increase in consumption requires increased production, and, conversely, a fall in production means there will be less available to consume.

Accepting corporate economics, environmentalists make the false conclusion that if CO2 levels are to drop, then people must consume less.  Social justice activists mistakenly believe that putting people back to work and providing basic necessities for all requires an increase in production.  Neither of these are true.  The greatest decrease in CO2 levels would come with a change in production and requires no personal sacrifice.  Increasing production would not guarantee enough jobs; but, changing production could.

The mistake in economic thinking is hardly surprising since there was a direct link between production and consumption during more than 99% of human history.  In pre-capitalist societies, if people wanted more, they produced more of what they wanted.  This characterized the first few centuries of capitalism.

But between WWI and WWII, something happened that could only be considered a problem within the capitalist mode of production: Industry had the ability to produce enough to satisfy everyone’s basic needs.  The first capitalists to realize this were aghast.

Jeffrey Kaplan chronicles their dismay at the discovery “that the industrial capacity for turning out goods seemed to be increasing at a pace greater than people’s sense that they needed them.” [3] Though a tiny handful of business leaders thought that America should switch to a four hour workday, most concluded that such leisure could breed radicalism and that a failure to increase production would threaten profits.

In 1929 President Herbert Hoover’s Committee on Recent Economic Changes announced the growing corporate consensus that capitalism could best survive by creating artificial needs. The Committee gleefully announced that “Economically we have a boundless field before us; that there are new wants which will make way endlessly for newer wants, as fast as they are satisfied.” [4] Read the rest of this entry »


[Good news from the best oil/environment writer, Heinberg. The current economic crisis is easing pressure on the planet and its resources, ecological danger is decreasing. This is hopeful. I particular enjoy this statistic: “in the first four months of 2009, more bicycles were sold in the US than cars and trucks put together (over 2.55 million bicycles were purchased, compared to fewer than 2.4 million cars and trucks).”

Lately i’ve become convinced that hope is our greatest ally in working for a better world. If this article doesn’t inspire you, look at what’s happening in Iran at this moment. – alex]

Look on the Bright Side

Richard Heinberg

Originally published by Post Carbon Institute, June 5, 2009.

Recently I’ve begun compiling a list of things to be cheerful about. Here are some items that should bring a smile to any environmentalist’s lips:

  • World energy consumption is declining. That’s right: oil consumption is down, coal consumption is down, and the IEA is projecting world electricity consumption to decline by 3.5 percent this year. I’m sure it’s possible to find a few countries where energy use is still growing, but for the US, China, and most of the European countries that is no longer the case. A small army of writers and activists, including me, has been arguing for years now that the world should voluntarily reduce its energy consumption, because current rates of use are unsustainable for various reasons including the fact that fossil fuels are depleting. Yes, we should build renewable energy capacity, but replacing the energy from fossil fuels will be an enormous job, and we can make that job less daunting by reducing our overall energy appetite. Done.
  • CO2 emissions are falling. This follows from the previous point. I’m still waiting for confirmation from direct NOAA measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere, but it stands to reason that if world oil and coal consumption is declining, then carbon emissions must be doing so as well. The economic crisis has accomplished what the Kyoto Protocol couldn’t. Hooray!
  • Consumption of goods is falling. Every environmentalist I know spends a good deal of her time railing both publicly and privately against consumerism. We in the industrialized countries use way too much stuff — because that stuff is made from depleting natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) and the Earth is running out of fresh water, topsoil, lithium, indium, zinc, antimony…the list is long. Books have been written trying to convince people to simplify their lives and use less, films have been produced and shown on PBS, and support groups have formed to help families kick the habit, but still the consumer juggernaut has continued — until now. This particular dragon may not be slain, but it’s cowering in its den.
  • Globalization is in reverse (global trade is shrinking). Back in the early 1990s, when globalization was a new word, an organization of brilliant activists formed the International Forum on Globalization (IFG) to educate the public about the costs and dangers of this accelerating trend. Corporations were off-shoring their production and pollution, ruining manufacturing communities in formerly industrial rich nations while ruthlessly exploiting cheap labor in less-industrialized poor countries. IFG was able to change the public discourse about globalization enough to stall the expansion of the World Trade Organization, but still world trade continued to mushroom. Not any more. China’s and Japan’s exports are way down, as is the US trade deficit.
  • The number of vehicle miles traveled (VMT) is falling. For decades the number of total miles traveled by all cars and trucks on US roads has relentlessly increased. This was a powerful argument for building more roads. People bought more cars and drove them further; trucks restocked factories and stores at an ever-growing pace; and delivery vans brought more packages to consumers who shopped from home. All of this driving entailed more tires, pavement, and fuel — and more environmental damage. Over the past few months the VMT number has declined substantially and continually, to a greater extent than has been the case since records started being kept. That’s welcome news.
  • There are fewer cars on the road. People are junking old cars faster than new ones are being purchased. In the US, where there are now more cars on the road than there are licensed drivers, this represents an extraordinary shift in a very long-standing trend. In her wonderful book Divorce Your Car, Katie Alvord detailed the extraordinary environmental costs of widespread automobile use. Evidently her book didn’t stem the tide: it was published in the year 2000, and millions of new cars hit the pavement in the following years. But now the world’s auto manufacturers are desperately trying to steer clear of looming bankruptcy, simply because people aren’t buying. In fact, in the first four months of 2009, more bicycles were sold in the US than cars and trucks put together (over 2.55 million bicycles were purchased, compared to fewer than 2.4 million cars and trucks). How utterly cool.
  • The world’s over-leveraged, debt-based financial system is failing. Growth in consumption is killing the planet, but arguing against economic growth is made difficult by the fact that most of the world’s currencies are essentially loaned into existence, and those loans must be repaid with interest. Thus if the economy isn’t growing, and therefore if more loans aren’t being made, thus causing more money to be created, the result will be a cascading series of defaults and foreclosures that will ruin the entire system. It’s not a sustainable system given the fact that the world’s resources (the ultimate basis for all economic activity) are finite; and, as the proponents of Ecological and Biophysical Economics have been saying for years, it’s a system that needs to be replaced with one that can still function in a condition of steady or contracting consumption rates. While that sustainable alternative is not yet being discussed by government leaders, at least they are being forced to consider (if not yet publicly) the possibility that the existing system has serious problems and that it may need a thorough overhaul. That’s a good thing.
  • Gardening is going gonzo. According to the New York Times (“College Interns Getting Back to Land,” May 25) thousands of college students are doing summer internships on farms this year. Meanwhile seed companies are having a hard time keeping up with demand, as home gardeners put in an unusually high number of veggie gardens. Urban farmer Will Allen predicts that there will be 8 million new gardeners this year, and the number of new gardens is expected to increase 20 to 40 percent this season. Since world oil production has peaked, there is going to be less oil available in the future to fuel industrial agriculture, so we are going to need more gardens, more small farms, and more farmers. Never mind the motives of all these students and home gardeners — few of them have ever heard of Peak Oil, and many of the gardeners are probably just worried whether they can afford to keep the pantry full next winter; nevertheless, they’re doing the right thing. And that’s something to applaud.

[T]he items outlined above suggest that we’ve turned a corner. Read the rest of this entry »

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