Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Earth Policy Institute June 27, 2012
by Lester R. Brown, Earth Policy Institute
No previous civilization has survived the ongoing destruction of its natural supports. Nor will ours. Yet economists look at the future through a different lens. Relying heavily on economic data to measure progress, they see the near 10-fold growth in the world economy since 1950 and the associated gains in living standards as the crowning achievement of our modern civilization. During this period, income per person worldwide climbed nearly fourfold, boosting living standards to previously unimaginable levels. A century ago, annual growth in the world economy was measured in the billions of dollars. Today, it is measured in the trillions. In the eyes of mainstream economists, our present economic system has not only an illustrious past but also a promising future.Comments (5)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by George Monbiot June 24, 2012
Editor’s Preamble: In a prevous editorial life, I used to make a decent attempt at commentary for these large international events — those organised with some pretention towards shifting us onto a ’sustainable path — but I no longer have the energy for it. Pinning our hopes on politicians’ plans for ‘greening the economy’ is a bit like using your digital alarm clock. The alarm rings, then we hit ’snooze’ periodically — with a multi-year interval between wake up calls…. All these meetings seem to do is cement a mindset of ‘leave it to the experts’, whilst these ‘experts’ obfuscate with shifting nuances of language. The results coming out of Rio+20 are certainly disappointing, but in no way surprising. It is said, and it’s not hard to believe, that a large industry can do more damage in a couple of hours than the average individual can make in their entire lifetime. While ‘consumers’ are generally targeted as the main culprits (it’s very convenient for industry, and the politicians that pander to them, to pass the blame to the little guy), incentivising or mandating change in industry is therefore of the upmost importance. (Indeed, some industries need to disappear entirely, whilst other new carbon-neutral/positive industries need to begin.) These industries do ’serve’ consumers, however, so no matter what way we look at it, the end user is at least partly responsible for the resource use, emissions and pollution of the industries whose products and services they avail themselves of. But, due to the mass consolidation of industry over the last few decades, it has become increasingly difficult for consumers to have a choice — and even more difficult to really know the environmental cost of the products and services we use, as what we know about these usually far-removed industries is only what they tell us. Political frameworks/policies, industry, media and advertising largely shape social structures — so consumers can ultimately end up being captive participants in a system not of their making. These players will never reinvent the system for us, so we should quit waiting for that to happen.
The Rio Declaration rips up the basic principles of environmental action.
by George Monbiot: journalist, author, academic and environmental and political activist, United Kingdom.
In 1992 world leaders signed up to something called “sustainability”. Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: “sustainable development”. Then it made a short jump to another term: “sustainable growth”. And now, in the 2012 Earth Summit text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into “sustained growth”.Comments (3)
Consumerism, Deforestation, Global Warming/Climate Change, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Gordon Fraser-Quick June 23, 2012
Editor’s Note: If you’re in the Northern Rivers area of NSW, Australia (or if you can otherwise make it!), please support this important initiative!
In response to the threat of growth of the damaging CSG mining industry a troupe of volunteers based in Lismore, NSW has embarked on an ambitious musical educational adventure.
CSG The Musical is being produced along the lines of a musical theatrical extravaganza with humour, satire and high energy theatre to provide education and entertainment.
On show at the Lismore Workers Club on Thursday 28 June to Saturday 30 June the fun filled fast facts and laughter will raise much need funds for the battle against the damaging CSG industry.Comments (1)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Biodiversity, Conferences, Consumerism, Economics, Global Warming/Climate Change, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Village Development, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Samuel Alexander June 21, 2012
In a few days the international community will be meeting in Rio de Janeiro, to hold the most significant environmental conference since the Rio Earth Summit of 1992. As the planet’s ecosystems tremble under the weight of overconsumption, this conference surely provides one of few remaining opportunities for governments to take environmental issues seriously.
Will the world’s leaders dare to think beyond the growth paradigm that lies at the root of our environmental crises? Will they be bold enough to constrain the overconsumption of natural resources or even acknowledge the problem of stagnating oil supplies? Sadly, history provides little grounds for confidence. What is more likely is that the conference will simply warm the climate further through an exchange of hot air disguised as genuine commitment.Comments (0)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Community Projects, Conferences, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, People Systems, Population, Presentations/Demonstrations, Society, Village Development, peak oil — by Albert Bates
It is the start of Rio+20, the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and the Global Ecovillage Network has a strong contingent here from all over the world. We have erected a dome at the People’s Summit in Cupala dos Povos (Flamingo Park) and are providing a “Speaker’s Corner” for ecovillages, Transition Towns, Occupy, and others to strut their stuff. So what is it that ecovillages and permaculture bring to this discussion?
The late philosopher Ivan Illich, in his 1974 book, Energy and Equity, observed that conventional wisdom would have it that “the well-being of a society can be measured by the number of years its members have gone to school and by the number of energy slaves they have thereby learned to command.” This conventional wisdom would seem to be now widely shared by both non-governmental organizations and UN intergovernmental agencies working on issues such as education, the rights of women and minorities, and indigenous peoples. Illich challenged it.
“The energy crisis focuses concern on the scarcity of fodder for these slaves,” he said. “I prefer to ask whether free men need them.”Comments (3)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Paul B Farrell June 15, 2012
Editor’s preamble: It’s refreshing and even somewhat reassuring when a major stock market website runs an article like the one below….
Everything you know about economics is wrong
A stray dog stands on a rubbish dump at the seafront
in Sidon, southern Lebanon.
Yes, everything you know about economics is wrong. Dead wrong. Everything. The conclusions of economists are based on a fiction that distorts everything else. As a result economics is as real as one of the summer blockbusters like “Battleship,” “The Avenger” or “Prometheus.”
The difference is that the economic profession is a genuine threat, not entertainment. Economics dogma is on track to destroy the world with a misleading ideology.
Why? Because all economics is based on the absurd Myth of Perpetual Growth. Yes, all theories and business plans based on growth are mythological.Comments (17)
Biodiversity, Consumerism, Deforestation, Economics, Education, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, Nuclear, Population, Society, Soil Erosion & Contamination, Water Contaminaton & Loss, peak oil — by Samuel Alexander June 5, 2012
Editor’s Note: To follow, I think, is a very important look at Ted Trainer’s work — one that broaches an oft-avoided but critically essential conversation. I must confess to only having read a single article from Ted Trainer previously, which I posted here, but from that article, and the document below, I sense that similar thought processes in my own experience, and Ted’s, have led to the similar conclusions. Some of my thoughts along similar lines are evidenced here, here, here, here, here, here and here, as a few of many examples. In short, permaculture must be taken to mean ‘permanent culture’, and not just ‘permanent agriculture’ (as some would have it, as evidenced by the wrath I endure whenever we discuss economics and politics on this site…). And, for those interested, in regards to the ‘debate’ between Ted, Rob Hopkins and Brian Davey (see section 6), I empathise and agree with each perspective, as it happens. For me they’re all different sides of the same form, but none of the points raised eliminate the need for a systemic rework of socio-economic political systems. Rather, Rob and Brian’s perspective just emphasise how much work we have to do to get people on board and working to the same fruitful end. The final quoted passage from Theodore Roszak (bottom of article below) tells me we’ve come to similar conclusions, where he states the need for tangible living examples of happy low-tech implementations of how to live — the very purpose behind my work in creating the Worldwide Permaculture Network, to showcase and inspire people with what is possible, so permaculturists can share their own learning journey and insights into the how of it.
1. Ted Trainer and the Simpler Way
For several decades Ted Trainer has been developing and refining an important theory of societal change, which he calls The Simpler Way. His essential premise is that overconsumption in the most developed regions of the world is the root cause of our global predicament, and upon this premise he argues that a necessary part of any transition to a sustainable and just world involves those who are overconsuming accepting far more materially ‘simple’ lifestyles. That is the radical implication of our global predicament which most people, including most environmentalists, seem unwilling to acknowledge or accept, but which Trainer does not shy away from and, indeed, which he follows through to its logical conclusion. The Simpler Way is not about deprivation or sacrifice, however; it is about embracing what is sufficient to live well and creating social and economic systems on that basis. This essay presents an overview of Trainer’s position, drawing mainly on the most complete expression of it in his latest book, The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World, an analysis which is supplemented by some of his more recent essays. My review is designed in part to bring more attention to a theorist whose work has been greatly underappreciated, so the review is more expository than critical. But in places my analysis seeks to raise questions about Trainer’s position, and develop it where possible, in the hope of advancing the debate and deepening our understanding of the important issues under consideration. I begin by outlining the various elements of The Simpler Way and proceed to unpack them in more detail.Comments (17)
Conferences, Consumerism, Society, peak oil — by Craig Mackintosh PRI Editor April 25, 2012
Susan Krumdieck, speaking at the Australasian Permaculture Conference (APC11)
in Turangi, New Zealand, April 2012
Photo © Craig Mackintosh
Susan Krumdieck is an Associate Professor working in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. Originally gaining her PhD in the U.S.A., her home country, Susan decided to relocate to New Zealand, where her desires to be more proactive along sustainability lines would be less likely to end in job termination!
Susan has since used her position and considerable talent, and that of her students, to collect data pertinent to dealing with the plight of urban centres in a peak oil context.Comments (6)
Consumerism, Economics, Society, peak oil — by Dean Fantazzini March 27, 2012
by Dean Fantazzini, Moscow School of Economics, Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia
The Deepwater Horizon incident demonstrated that most of the oil left is deep offshore or in other locations difficult to reach. Moreover, to obtain the oil remaining in currently producing reservoirs requires additional equipment and technology that comes at a higher price in both capital and energy. In this regard, the physical limitations on producing ever-increasing quantities of oil are highlighted, as well as the possibility of the peak of production occurring this decade. The economics of oil supply and demand are also briefly discussed, showing why the available supply is basically fixed in the short to medium term. Also, an alarm bell for economic recessions is raised when energy takes a disproportionate amount of total consumer expenditures. In this context, risk mitigation practices in government and business are called for. As for the former, early education of the citizenry about the risk of economic contraction is a prudent policy to minimize potential future social discord. As for the latter, all business operations should be examined with the aim of building in resilience and preparing for a scenario in which capital and energy are much more expensive than in the business-as-usual one.Comments (2)
Alternatives to Political Systems, Consumerism, Eco-Villages, Economics, Food Shortages, Global Warming/Climate Change, People Systems, Society, Village Development, peak oil — by Pietro Zucchetti March 22, 2012
This is an interview with Rob Hopkins, the founder of the Transition Town movement founded in Totnes, United Kingdom. The interview is about what Transition Towns mean, and how he came up with this idea as a permaculture teacher. The interview also covers how is this concept important now, during the present global crisis, and how the Transition Town movement can get involved in educating people to cope with a future in energy descent, which is starting not tomorrow, but right now! It ends with his prediction for the near future.
Duration: 23 minutes
Compost, Consumerism, Food Forests, Food Plants - Annual, Food Plants - Perennial, Irrigation, Land, Medicinal Plants, Nurseries & Propogation, Plant Systems, Rehabilitation, Trees, Urban Projects, Water Harvesting, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson March 14, 2012
Richard Heinberg not only talks the talk, but also walks the walk, as we get to see in the video at bottom. Peak Moment host, Janaia Donaldson, visits Heinberg and his partner Janet Barocco in their own venture in sustainable living in suburban Santa Rosa, California.
When they bought the place in 2001 it was a complete disaster, Richard tells Janaia, but it had advantages that drew them to it, such as being within walking distance of where they worked and shopping areas, having a large ¼ acre block and the house itself being small enough that they felt capable of remodelling and caring for it.
The ‘before’ shot
Energy Systems, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson March 13, 2012
When we think of wind power, we most likely think either of the huge wind farms now dotted across the globe, or the good ol’ country windmills that have been the backbone of our outback stations’ water supply.
But how often do we hear of windmills being built from scratch, let alone in a poor African nation, such as Malawi?
William Kamkwamba did just this, and we can share his story in his autobiography, his children’s edition of the book and also on various interviews and documentaries on him that have been produced, some of which I discuss in more depth below.
I read his book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind a few months back and found it quite moving. It brings home some harsh realities, which some people may wish to remain blind too… but these aren’t written in a sensational way, rather just an honest re-telling of daily life, by a young man. But it’s not all about hard times and despair. It’s about the way William was able to move beyond just accepting his lot in life, to create something remarkable to turn it around — a fully working windmill, cobbled together out of junk parts and what he had on hand.
And possibly the most remarkable thing of all? William was only 14 years old when he did this!Comments (7)
Community Projects, Energy Systems, Markets & Outlets, Processing & Food Preservation, Village Development, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson March 9, 2012
Peak Moment host Janaia Donaldson joins Fulvio Casali, Kathy Pelish and Alex Tokar, co-founders of the Salish Sea Trading Cooperative, on the deck of the sailboat Soliton, docked in Ballard, near Seattle, Washington.
The Salish Sea Trading Cooperative have teamed up with Nash’s organic produce in Sequim, where twice a month they arrive by sailboat, to collect the produce, before heading back to Ballard for distribution to the local community through their CSA scheme.Comments (0)
Community Projects, Consumerism, Demonstration Sites, Food Shortages, Plant Systems, Village Development, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson March 7, 2012
Economics, peak oil — by Anthea Hudson February 29, 2012
Nicole Foss at Adelaide Seminar
Who would have thought a seminar on the economy could have passion and run the audience through a gamut of emotions, all in a couple of hours? But this was so much more than an economics lecture, even though the future of economies and financial systems were the basis for it.
Nicole Foss, a Canadian woman with a warm smile and engaging personality, took us on a journey through what we can expect in our economic future, how it all relates to other areas, such as our growing energy problems, and branched out into widespread practical ideas for what we can do to make our passage through it less painful.Comments (0)