You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Transportation’ category.


This post was sparked after reading Richard Heinberg’s recent article Life After Growth, which is a much more personal introspection of Richard’s story uncovering the realities of peak oil and the limits to growth.  I recommend that one, but this earlier essay he wrote on the “End of Growth” I believe may go down in history as required reading.

In it he asks what are the fundamental reasons behind the ongoing economic crisis, arguing persuasively that the role of ecological limits like peak oil cannot be ignored as inhibiting growth both in the long term as well as the short.  However, what Richard lacks is an integrated analysis of the social limits to growth, especially the power of social movements all over the globe working against this system of capitalism.

Without a deep appreciation for the rights of poor and exploited people, it is easy to make mistakes, as I believe Richard does in this essay with regards to immigration, for example.  Further, without seeing the big picture of people’s resistance to capitalism and yearning for a new, non-growth, sustainable world, it is easy to lose hope.  And in these difficult times, hope is our most important natural resource. [alex]

Temporary Recession or the End of Growth?

by Richard Heinberg
August 6, 2009.
.

Everyone agrees: our economy is sick. The inescapable symptoms include declines in consumer spending and consumer confidence, together with a contraction of international trade and available credit. Add a collapse in real estate values and carnage in the automotive and airline industries and the picture looks grim indeed.

But why are both the U.S. economy and the larger global economy ailing? Among the mainstream media, world leaders, and America’s economists-in-chief (Treasury Secretary Geithner and Federal Reserve Chairman Bernanke) there is near-unanimity of opinion: these recent troubles are primarily due to a combination of bad real estate loans and poor regulation of financial derivatives.

This is the Conventional Diagnosis. If it is correct, then the treatment for our economic malady might logically include heavy doses of bailout money for beleaguered financial institutions, mortgage lenders, and car companies; better regulation of derivatives and futures markets; and stimulus programs to jumpstart consumer spending.

But what if this diagnosis is fundamentally flawed? The metaphor needs no belaboring: we all know that tragedy can result from a doctor’s misreading of symptoms, mistaking one disease for another.

Something similar holds for our national and global economic infirmity. If we don’t understand why the world’s industrial and financial metabolism is seizing up, we are unlikely to apply the right medicine and could end up making matters much worse than they would otherwise be.

To be sure: the Conventional Diagnosis is clearly at least partly right. The causal connections between subprime mortgage loans and the crises at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Lehman Brothers have been thoroughly explored and are well known. Clearly, over the past few years, speculative bubbles in real estate and the financial industry were blown up to colossal dimensions, and their bursting was inevitable. It is hard to disagree with the words of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, in his July 25 essay in the Sydney Morning Herald: “The roots of the crisis lie in the preceding decade of excess. In it the world enjoyed an extraordinary boom…However, as we later learnt, the global boom was built in large part…on a house of cards. First, in many Western countries the boom was created on a pile of debt held by consumers, corporations and some governments. As the global financier George Soros put it: ‘For 25 years [the West] has been consuming more than we have been producing…living beyond our means.'” (1)

But is this as far as we need look to get to the root of the continuing global economic meltdown?

A case can be made that dire events having to do with real estate, the derivatives markets, and the auto and airline industries were themselves merely symptoms of an even deeper, systemic dysfunction that spells the end of economic growth as we have known it.

In short, I am suggesting an Alternative Diagnosis. This explanation for the economic crisis is not for the faint of heart because, if correct, it implies that the patient is far sicker than even the most pessimistic economists are telling us. But if it is correct, then by ignoring it we risk even greater peril.

Economic Growth, The Financial Crisis, and Peak Oil

For several years, a swelling subculture of commentators (which includes the present author) has been forecasting a financial crash, basing this prognosis on the assessment that global oil production was about to peak. (2) Our reasoning went like this: Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

“When you take the time to research and analyze the wealth that has gone to the economic top one percent, you begin to realize just how much we have been robbed.”

Despite the economic crisis, the ultra-rich seem to be making off quite well, even increasing their incomes while the rest of us worry about unemployment, foreclosure, and bankruptcy.

Crooks and Liars recently posted an article, “Richest 400 Americans See Incomes Double, Tax Rates Halved,” which has the latest statistics on income inequality, but to fully understand the widening gap between rich and poor, check out the following essay from David DeGraw.

How long will we permit this to go on? [alex]

The Richest 1% Have Captured America’s Wealth — What’s It Going to Take to Get It Back?

The U.S. already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis — and it’s gotten even worse.

By David DeGraw / February 19, 2010

Originally published by Alternet. Recovered from The Rag Blog.

“The war against working people should be understood to be a real war… Specifically in the U.S., which happens to have a highly class-conscious business class… And they have long seen themselves as fighting a bitter class war, except they don’t want anybody else to know about it.” — Noam Chomsky

As a record amount of U.S. citizens are struggling to get by, many of the largest corporations are experiencing record-breaking profits, and CEOs are receiving record-breaking bonuses. How could this be happening, how did we get to this point?

The Economic Elite have escalated their attack on U.S. workers over the past few years; however, this attack began to build intensity in the 1970s. In 1970, CEOs made $25 for every $1 the average worker made. Due to technological advancements, production and profit levels exploded from 1970-2000. With the lion’s share of increased profits going to the CEO’s, this pay ratio dramatically rose to $90 for CEOs to $1 for the average worker.

As ridiculous as that seems, an in-depth study in 2004 on the explosion of CEO pay revealed that, including stock options and other benefits, CEO pay is more accurately $500 to $1.

Paul Buchheit, from DePaul University, revealed, “From 1980 to 2006 the richest 1% of America tripled their after-tax percentage of our nation’s total income, while the bottom 90% have seen their share drop over 20%.” Robert Freeman added, “Between 2002 and 2006, it was even worse: an astounding three-quarters of all the economy’s growth was captured by the top 1%.”

Due to this, the United States already had the highest inequality of wealth in the industrialized world prior to the financial crisis. Since the crisis, which has hit the average worker much harder than CEOs, the gap between the top one percent and the remaining 99% of the U.S. population has grown to a record high. The economic top one percent of the population now owns over 70% of all financial assets, an all time record.

As mentioned before, just look at the first full year of the crisis when workers lost an average of 25 percent off their 401k. During the same time period, the wealth of the 400 richest Americans increased by $30 billion, bringing their total combined wealth to $1.57 trillion, which is more than the combined net worth of 50% of the US population. Just to make this point clear, 400 people have more wealth than 155 million people combined.

Meanwhile, 2009 was a record-breaking year for Wall Street bonuses, as firms issued $150 billion to their executives. 100% of these bonuses are a direct result of our tax dollars, so if we used this money to create jobs, instead of giving them to a handful of top executives, we could have paid an annual salary of $30,000 to 5 million people. 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 »


One of Philadelphia’s larger newspapers puts Paul Glover, local currency and mutual aid-based health care advocate, on its cover story. As always, Paul makes wise and witty proposals to help us solve our economic and ecological woes, and now people are finally listening!

My favorite solution: “Neighborhood watch instead of neighborhood watch TV.” [alex]

Prepare for the Best

A guide to surviving — and thriving in — Philadelphia’s new green future.

Published: Jan 28, 2009
CityPaper

The Dark Season closes around Philadelphia. Wolves howl, “Tough times coming!” Young professionals with good jobs study budget cuts, watch stocks flail. Career bureaucrats are laid off; college students wonder who’s hiring. Old-timers remember when Philadelphia staggered through the terrible Depression years without jobs or dollars, while crime and hunger rose. Some districts here never escaped that Depression — they’re still choosing between heating and eating.

As usual, the future will be different. Philadelphia’s responses to global warming and market cooling, high fuel and food prices, health unsurance, mortgages, student debt and war will decide whether our future here becomes vastly better or vastly worse. Whether we’re the Next Great City or Next Great Medieval Village. Imagine Philadelphia with one-tenth the oil and natural gas.

But to hell with tragedy. Let’s quit dreading news. Take the Rocky road. There are Philadelphia solutions for every Philadelphia problem.

Imagine instead that, 20 years from now, Philadelphia’s green economy enables everyone to work a few hours creatively daily, then relax with family and friends to enjoy top-quality local, healthy food. To enjoy clean low-cost warm housing, clean and safe transport, high-quality handcrafted clothes and household goods. To enjoy creating and playing together, growing up and growing old in supportive neighborhoods where everyone is valuable. And to do this while replenishing rather than depleting the planet. Pretty wild, right?

Entirely realistic. Not a pipe dream. And more practical than cynical. The tools, skills and wealth exist.

Mayor Michael Nutter foresees we’ll become the “Greenest City in the United States.” So it’s common-sensible to ask, “What are the tools of such a future?” “What jobs will be created?” “Who has the money?” “Where are the leaders?” “How will Philadelphia look?” “What can we learn from other cities?”

Some of the proposals sketched here can be easily ridiculed, because they disturb comfortable work habits, ancient traditions and sacred hierarchies. Yet they open more doors than are closing. They help us get ready for the green economy, and get there first. Big changes are coming so we might as well enjoy the ride. You have good ideas, too — bring ’em on.

From “Yes We Can” to “Now We Do”

As President Barack Obama says, “Change comes not from the top down, but from the bottom up.” Philadelphia’s chronic miseries suggest that primary dependence on legislators, regulators, police, prisons, bankers and industry won’t save us. They’re essential partners, but the people who will best help us are us. Read the rest of this entry »


A massive wave of layoffs was announced yesterday by 12 major US corporations, including Caterpillar, General Motors, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and Pfizer. Microsoft also announced its first-ever mass layoffs of 5,000 workers. Overall, more than 75,000 jobs are being cut from the workforce after Unemployment levels were reported as 7.2% in December, the highest level in over 16 years, with no end to the bleeding in sight.

As more and more workers fill the unemployment rolls, it’s time to ask: where will future jobs come from?  While government and corporate bigshots plan yet another “economic stimulus” and bailout of the banks, what long-term jobs can we realistically create right now?

Lots of answers present themselves if we look through the lens of peak oil, and start replacing our oil-based economy with a people-based economy. Instead of relying on greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels, we can tap into the power of human labor, which happens to be our greatest renewable resource.

Certainly there is a need to employ millions to weatherize homes and build and install solar panels and wind turbines (which Obama may address), but there is also a huge need to re-tool Detroit automakers to STOP producing gas-guzzling individual cars, and start making buses, trains and other forms of public transit. Bicycles are also desperately needed, so we need workers to build them and more to repair them too.

We also need lots more doctors and nurses if we make health care universally available, and social workers and therapists to help deal with the psychological trauma our population has suffered from militarism and soulless consumerism.  Since many of these jobs require education and training, we need to hire lots more teachers, and we also need education to be a lot more affordable to so more people can access these kinds of careers.

Perhaps the largest gains in the job sector can be achieved by shifting food production away from mega-scale agribusinesses and fossil-fuel intensive monoculture and factory farms, towards community-based, local, organic, family farming and free-range livestock raising.  By breaking up the huge corporate farms into family-size and community-size plots, we can repopulate rural America (and stop suburban sprawl), produce better, healthier food, respect animal rights, and create millions of new landowners.  Simultaneously we can follow the example of Cuba and turn our blighted inner-cities into gardens, by utilizing permaculture and organic community-run agriculture, which would reduce crime and poverty in our decaying urban areas, bring quality food to places currently plagued by malnutrition, and create millions upon millions of rewarding and meaningful jobs.

How will we finance it?  Simple.  Disassemble the huge financial firms and multinational corporate banks whose greed caused this economic crisis and create thousands of local banks and credit unions, run by people in the community (even more jobs!)  Taxing the rich would help a lot too, and we can cut tons of wasteful government spending on things like the wars in the Middle East, excessive prisons, and nuclear, biological and chemical weapons.  The money is right there, we just need to redirect it to things that actually help people instead of killing them.

This of course requires a revolutionary change in the economic and political structure of the United States, which means average people like you and me having control over the decisions affecting our lives, instead of remaining at the whim of wealthy elites who in the current crisis have shown themselves unable to run a lemonade stand, let alone the global economy.

[alex]

Deluge of layoffs hits U.S. economy

January 27, 2009

Los Angeles Times

By Jerry Hirsch and Maura Reynolds

Caterpillar

Scott Olson, Getty Images
A worker walks between Caterpillar earth-moving equipment at a road construction site near Joliet, Ill. The company has announced that it will cut nearly 20,000 jobs as the recession reduces demand for its products.

Companies including Home Depot, Caterpillar, Pfizer and Sprint plan to cut nearly 60,000 jobs, adding urgency to the need to agree on a stimulus plan.

U.S. companies slashed nearly 60,000 jobs Monday, adding impetus to the Obama administration’s efforts to reach agreement on a plan to pump $825 billion into the economy over a two-year period.

But it’s unclear whether even that massive influx of funding and tax cuts would be enough to get companies hiring again in the near term.

The cuts by firms including Caterpillar, General Motors, Texas Instruments, Home Depot, Sprint Nextel and Pfizer brought the total of jobs shed so far this month to 187,550, more than November or December and well over double the number of January 2008, according to employment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc.

Analysts believe that Obama’s strategy of pouring money into state and local governments could prevent layoffs and furloughs of public sector employees, including teachers, police officers and other government workers.

Economists have estimated that the plan will protect or create 3 million to 4 million jobs in the next two years.

But the U.S. economy lost 2.6 million jobs last year and could lose 2 million more during the first half of this year. Read the rest of this entry »


Richard Heinberg (author of the seminal work The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies) lays out a clear program for Obama, to move the US away from its current suicidal path and towards a green economy.  However, the danger may be that Obama has surrounded himself with people who are telling him to do the exact opposite of each of these recommendations.  Our job, as a movement, is to move the country away from fossil fuels by blocking the construction of more death machines (coal plants, oil-guzzling cars, the military…), and by simultaneously creating irresistible alternatives. [alex]

Memo to the President-elect on Energy Realism and the Green New Deal

MuseLetter 200
December 2008 by Richard Heinberg

Executive Summary

Our continued national dependence on fossil fuels is creating a crippling vulnerability to both long-term fuel scarcity and catastrophic climate change.

The current economic crisis requires substantial national policy shifts and enormous new government injections of capital into the economy. This provides an opportunity for a project whose scope would otherwise be inconceivable: a large-scale, coordinated energy transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy.

This project must happen immediately; indeed, it may already be too late. We have already left behind the era of cheap and plentiful fossil fuels, with a permanent decline of global oil production likely underway within three years. Moreover, the latest research tells us we have less than eight years to bring carbon emissions under control if we hope to avoid catastrophic climate change. Lacking this larger frame of understanding and action, a mere shift away from foreign oil dependence will fail to meet the challenge at hand.

The energy transition must not be limited to building wind turbines and solar panels. It must include the thorough redesign of our economic and societal infrastructure, which today is utterly dependent on cheap fossil fuels. It must address not only our transportation system and our electricity grid, but also our food system and our building stock.

Our 21st century nation’s dependence on 20th century fossil fuels is the greatest threat we face, far more so than the current financial crisis. A coordinated, comprehensive transition to an economy that is no longer dependent on hydrocarbon fuels and no longer emits climate-changing levels of carbon—a Post Carbon Energy Transition—will be the Obama Administration’s greatest opportunity to lead the nation on a path toward sustainable prosperity.

Overview: Need and Scope

As a new Administration prepares to take the reins of power, America’s economy is descending into a recession or, quite possibly, a depression. Read the rest of this entry »


Now I hope people don’t see this article as ‘support for the Soviet Union’ or something ridiculous like that, but I think this is a very insightful and amusing article, based on a powerpoint presentation.  The question is, was the USSR more prepared for the economic collapse it suffered than the US is for the collapse it will soon suffer?  Orlov lived through the former and seems to think that it was.

Also note that I strongly disagree with his recommendation to abandon politics – he’s right that politicians are swine but i think he’s wrong in overlooking people’s ability to build a resistance movement that can make real changes to our society, despite politicians best efforts to derail it.  So with that, enjoy the article! [alex]

Closing the ‘Collapse Gap’: the USSR was better prepared for collapse than the US

by Dmitry Orlov
Originally published be Energy Bulletin, December 4, 2006.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I am not an expert or a scholar or an activist. I am more of an eye-witness. I watched the Soviet Union collapse, and I have tried to put my observations into a concise message. I will leave it up to you to decide just how urgent a message it is.

My talk tonight is about the lack of collapse-preparedness here in the United States. I will compare it with the situation in the Soviet Union, prior to its collapse. The rhetorical device I am going to use is the “Collapse Gap” – to go along with the Nuclear Gap, and the Space Gap, and various other superpower gaps that were fashionable during the Cold War.

Slide [2] The subject of economic collapse is generally a sad one. But I am an optimistic, cheerful sort of person, and I believe that, with a bit of preparation, such events can be taken in stride. As you can probably surmise, I am actually rather keen on observing economic collapses. Perhaps when I am really old, all collapses will start looking the same to me, but I am not at that point yet.

And this next one certainly has me intrigued. From what I’ve seen and read, it seems that there is a fair chance that the U.S. economy will collapse sometime within the foreseeable future. It also would seem that we won’t be particularly well-prepared for it. As things stand, the U.S. economy is poised to perform something like a disappearing act. And so I am eager to put my observations of the Soviet collapse to good use.

Slide [3] I anticipate that some people will react rather badly to having their country compared to the USSR. I would like to assure you that the Soviet people would have reacted similarly, had the United States collapsed first. Feelings aside, here are two 20th century superpowers, who wanted more or less the same things – things like technological progress, economic growth, full employment, and world domination – but they disagreed about the methods. And they obtained similar results – each had a good run, intimidated the whole planet, and kept the other scared. Each eventually went bankrupt. Read the rest of this entry »

Enter your email address and subscribe to get the latest End of Capitalism news right in your inbox..

Join 881 other followers

You are here

Friendly Websites

Anda La Lucha
- Andalusia Knoll

Feminist Frequency
- Anita Sarkeesian

Recovering Hipster
- Heather

Praxis Makes Perfect
- Joshua Kahn Russell

Organizing for Power
- Lisa Fithian

Misanthropic Anthropologist

For Student Power
- Patrick St. John

AIDS and Social Justice
- Suzy Subways

Follow on Twitter!

Books I’m Reading

Alex's  book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists
Advertisements