Welcome to the 21st Century – The Crisis of Civilization

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Nafeez Ahmed’s 2011 “Crisis of civilization” film  (80 minutes) brings together the emerging economical, political and environmental trends that are likely to shape our common future over the next few decades.  The main thrust of Nafeez Ahmed’s argument is that energy, environment, economic instability, food production, international militarisation, and terrorism cannot be viewed as separate issues.  They are implicitly interlinked and codependent.  An approach which provides the global context, demonstrated by David Malone’s illuminating analysis of the different interests behind the Syria conflict (see links listed below).

Ultimately, the global situation cannot be sustained using the current neoliberal model and we need a radically different approach.

Richard Heinberg of the Post Carbon Institute said of the film, “a really fantastic overview of the global situation. I don’t think I’ve seen a more comprehensive ‘welcome to the 21st century’.”

The Crisis of Civilization – Full Length Documentary Movie HD

Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed is Executive Director of the Institute for Policy Research and Development in London. He has taught international relations, contemporary history, empire and globalisation at the School of Global Studies, University of Sussex and the Politics & History Unit, Brunel University. His previous books include The War on Truth: Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism (2005) and Behind the War on Terror: Western Secret Strategy and the Struggle for Iraq (2003).  This documentary is based on his book ‘A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilisation: And How to Save It’

Links on Syria:

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono/

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono-part-2-a-partial-analysis/

http://www.golemxiv.co.uk/2013/09/syria-cui-bono-part-three-europe-and-the-usa/

Podcast:

http://ccragg123.libsyn.com/it-s-all-gas-gas-gas-not-an-oil-pipedream-david-malone-on-syria

Too Many People? Or Too Much Greed?

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Too Many People or Too Much Greed?

Peak oil is the Crisis we must face.

I hear UKIP supported saying, “There are too many people”.They’re taking all the jobs. No, the truth is there is plenty of room for all. there is plenty of food for all. Oxfam presented the evidence that we can feed the world four times over. But exponential population growth by any species cannot be sustained. In truth population growth, economic growth are the Earth’s resource are linked. There is no sense, little responsibility, but there is Greed The race to the bottom for the cheapest labour is driven by greed. Wars are fought for greed for oil. One day the oil will run out.

As a species, we are nothing special. We think we are so much cleverer than any other which ever evolved on Earth. We do not have super powers. Superman does not exist. Neither are we built in “God’s own image”.

Like any other species, we succumb to the cyclical powers of nature, whether it is an earthquake, volcano, tsunami or tornado, whether a freak plague of insects, or drought, flood or famine; all of these disasters were written about in ancient times.

Like any other species there are limiting factors on our population, but we can maintain a sustainable population by “living within our means” or maintaining a balanced population size (carrying capacity) which is in equilibrium, living within a world able to supply all our needs for survival.

Yet it is our own activities which increase the risk of extinction. We have knowledge, but we do not use it, share it or act on it. Why not? I’m talking about common sense. The danger is staring us in the face, while we choose to ignore it time and time again. The price of ignoring the evidence will be extinction of mankind. This can be avoided, but we must act, and we need to start now. It’s time we grew up and stopped pretending.

In an interview Professor Hawking spoke to BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme and answered questions put to him by listeners.

He said: “It is possible that the human race could become extinct but it is not inevitable. I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming will befall the earth within a thousand years.”

He also said it was essential humans colonise space to allow them to spread across the universe.

Very simply, we need to consider:

  1. Population growth is unsustainable.
  2. That 95% of oil already has been discovered.
  3. It is perfectly feasible for use to energy needs without using fossil fuels or nuclear power.
  4. Why evidence presented by Scientists is not being acted upon.
  5. Why governments appear to be ignoring all of the above.

POPULATION

Warren S Thompson (1887-1973) on population change spoke of the transition from a world dominated by high mortality, autocracy and subsistence to a ‘new’ world of low mortality, democracy and an ever globalising economy. This period (DTM4) of slow but steady population growth he saw earthly paradise in which mortality, fertility were low. His prediction was that population growth would eventually lead to a slow decline in population (DTM5) due to a very low birth rate, a low death rate and a slow decrease of the total population.

There are already signs that we are rapidly moving towards a decline due to limiting factors on population. Current global problems such as water, soil and food depletion are signs that human population is growing beyond that sustainable on a planet with finite resources. To survive a species needs to be sustainable and to maintain our carrying capacity (sustainable population) such that the resources are maintained for subsequent and future generations.

“The most startling example of the exhaustion of stage 4 is Russia’s recent demographic performance. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has lost 5.7 million people through higher death rates and lower birth rates. This is equivalent to the emptying of Scotland and the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.”

Paul Chefurka in Population: The Elephant in the Room sees things quite differently than Thompson did, primarily because of oil usage.

“At the root of all the converging crises in today’s world is the issue of human overpopulation. Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet’s finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. The true danger posed by our exploding population is not our absolute numbers but the inability of our environment to cope with so many of us doing what we do.”

OIL

There is no doubt that the discovery of oil and the introduction of its general use is closely linked to the rapid increase in world population and industrialisation. Over the last 2000 years there has been a steady increase in world population, but a very sudden and dramatic increase in population can be seen to coincide with the introduction of oil into general use in around 1900.

The correlation between oil production and human population is very clear

Oil allowed the rapid explosion of population because of industrialisation. Farms could be ploughed by machinery rather than being pulled by the horse, so food production became more efficient. Transport across the globe became a reality. Distribution of food and medicine and other resources became possible over wide geographical areas. It might seem like a dream, like a paradise. But all this is unsustainable. OIl production has peaked, and therefore so has population, and we are set for a decline. The real test of man’s intellect will be how we deal the crisis of Peak Oil.

Peak oil does not mean that the world is about it run out of oil. It refers to the point at which the supply of oil can no longer increase. There is lots of the stuff left; it’s just getting much more difficult to find and extract, which means it is getting very hard, and perhaps impossible, to increase the overall ”flow” of oil out of the ground.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

The good news is that it is perfectly possible to produce energy sufficient to maintain balanced population without oil and without other earth damaging fossil fuels or uranium.

HVDC Power Grids distributing power from the world’s deserts via high-voltage, direct-current cables can sustain the energy needs of the population as long as our Sun continues to shine. Add to this hydro-electric power, wind energy, geothermal energy, wave energy and tidal power.

Overshoot

In ecology, overshoot is said to have occurred when a population’s consumption exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment, as illustrated in this graphic.

The evidence for Climate Change shows the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels. To continue do so without any doubt will lead to disaster, a population overshoot just as yeast in a vat of wine will cease to thrive and eventually die, because of the toxic alcohol levels which the yeast itself produced, so chemicals resulting from our continued use of fossil fuels, or uranium use will take its toll on us, the planet and if we are not careful life itself. Climate Change and Peak Oil must be taken seriously. The Science is very clear. If no action is taken we look at a future without doubt with massive levels of human suffering. Starvation, disease, flooding and war can be avoided.

DENIAL OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

The population explosion was predicted eighty years ago by Warren Thomson. The prediction has been shown to be broadly accurate. Forty years ago, Limits to Growth reported on a human population model World 3 warning that we had to curb growth or risk global meltdown.

It was highly controversial, and not what many wanted to hear. Perhaps it was fear that led to denial. Maybe they were hoping for a Superman.

As Paul Chefurka points out:

“The human cost of such an involuntary population rebalancing is, of course, horrific. Based on this model we would experience an average excess death rate of 100 million per year every year for the next 75 years to achieve our target population of one billion by 2082. The peak excess death rate would happen in about 20 years, and would be about 200 million that year. To put this in perspective, WWII caused an excess death rate of only 10 million per year for only six years. not hard to see why population control is the untouchable elephant in the room – the problem we’re in is simply too big for humane or even rational solutions. It’s also not hard to see why some people are beginning to grasp the inevitability of a human die-off.”

  • It was reported that Scientists didn’t like Limits because the authors, anxious to publicise their findings, put it out before it was peer-reviewed.
  • The political right rejected its warning about the dangers of growth.
  • The left rejected it for betraying the aspirations of workers.
  • The Catholic Church rejected its plea for birth control.
  • The economists, who claimed human technological inventions would surely solve it all.

But, ominously, as New Scientist reports on 10th January 2012

The common perception is that the work was discredited scientifically. It wasn’t.”

It wasn’t just confusion. “Misunderstanding was enhanced by a media campaign very similar to the one that has been recently directed against climate science.”

Most journalists and BBC presenters do not have a background in Science, most having alternative degrees such as history or linguistics. But it is not all about knowledge, it is about political will. Much is spoken about ignorance of Science. Much is spoken about neo-liberalism too. Margaret Thatcher must take some responsibility for the neoliberalism which has resulted in the excessive wealth of a few. But Margaret Thatcher understood Science. She held a degree in Chemistry and worked as a Research Chemist. So Thatcher should have known better.

It is not just the reporting of scientific evidence that journalists avoid. It seems that purpose of the media is not to inform at all. Articles are carefully chosen by editors. Censored newspapers print what suits the rich and powerful.

GOVERNMENTS’ LEGACIES

If globalisation means anything it should mean that we act as One World. Communication today is possible without jet travel. The time has come for our governments to work together. It is time for the truth to be heard. Governments serve the people. Their legacies will depend on how they act now. There must be an end to lies and manipulation of the media. It is time governments stopped treating the people as children and give us the facts we need to know.

Global poverty results from the plutonomy which now controls the earth. In Greece people are already abandoning their children. Can you imagine that? The human suffering which will result from population overshoot is unimaginable. We would expect starvation, poverty, and mass deaths. It is a nightmare, not the dream of paradise.

We can avert it. This world must act as One World.

Let’s spread the word.

References and Further Reading:

From Think Left:

There is no Superman to save us from Peak Oil.

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There is no Super-Man

Peak oil is the Crisis we must face.

As a species, we are nothing special. We think we are so much cleverer than any other which ever evolved on Earth. We do not have super powers. Superman does not exist. Neither are we built in “God’s own image”.

Like any other species, we succumb to the cyclical powers of nature, whether it is an earthquake, volcano, tsunami or tornado, whether a freak plague of insects, or drought, flood or famine; all of these disasters were written about in ancient times.

Like any other species there are limiting factors on our population, but we can maintain a sustainable population by “living within our means” or maintaining a balanced population size (carrying capacity) which is in equilibrium, living within a world able to supply all our needs for survival.

Yet it is our own activities which increase the risk of extinction. We have knowledge, but we do not use it, share it or act on it. Why not? I’m talking about common sense. The danger is staring us in the face, while we choose to ignore it time and time again. The price of ignoring the evidence will be extinction of mankind. This can be avoided, but we must act, and we need to start now. It’s time we grew up and stopped pretending.

In an interview ahead of his birthday (8 January 2012), Professor Hawking spoke to BBC’s Radio 4 Today Programme and answered questions put to him by listeners.

He said: “It is possible that the human race could become extinct but it is not inevitable. I think it is almost certain that a disaster, such as nuclear war or global warming will befall the earth within a thousand years.”

He also said it was essential humans colonise space to allow them to spread across the universe.

Very simply, we need to consider:

  1. Population growth is unsustainable.
  2. That 95% of oil already has been discovered.
  3. It is perfectly feasible for use to energy needs without using fossil fuels or nuclear power.
  4. Why evidence presented by Scientists is not being acted upon.
  5. Why governments appear to be ignoring all of the above.

POPULATION

Warren S Thompson (1887-1973) on population change spoke of the transition from a world dominated by high mortality, autocracy and subsistence to a ‘new’ world of low mortality, democracy and an ever globalising economy. This period (DTM4) of slow but steady population growth he saw earthly paradise in which mortality, fertility were low. His prediction was that population growth would eventually lead to a slow decline in population (DTM5) due to a very low birth rate, a low death rate and a slow decrease of the total population.

There are already signs that we are rapidly moving towards a decline due to limiting factors on population. Current global problems such as water, soil and food depletion are signs that human population is growing beyond that sustainable on a planet with finite resources. To survive a species needs to be sustainable and to maintain our carrying capacity (sustainable population) such that the resources are maintained for subsequent and future generations.

“The most startling example of the exhaustion of stage 4 is Russia’s recent demographic performance. Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, Russia has lost 5.7 million people through higher death rates and lower birth rates. This is equivalent to the emptying of Scotland and the city of Newcastle-upon-Tyne.”

Paul Chefurka in Population: The Elephant in the Room sees things quite differently than Thompson did, primarily because of oil usage.

“At the root of all the converging crises in today’s world is the issue of human overpopulation. Each of the global problems we face today is the result of too many people using too much of our planet’s finite, non-renewable resources and filling its waste repositories of land, water and air to overflowing. The true danger posed by our exploding population is not our absolute numbers but the inability of our environment to cope with so many of us doing what we do.”

OIL

There is no doubt that the discovery of oil and the introduction of its general use is closely linked to the rapid increase in world population and industrialisation. Over the last 2000 years there has been a steady increase in world population, but a very sudden and dramatic increase in population can be seen to coincide with the introduction of oil into general use in around 1900.

The correlation between oil production and human population is very clear

Oil allowed the rapid explosion of population because of industrialisation. Farms could be ploughed by machinery rather than being pulled by the horse, so food production became more efficient. Transport across the globe became a reality. Distribution of food and medicine and other resources became possible over wide geographical areas. It might seem like a dream, like a paradise. But all this is unsustainable. OIl production has peaked, and therefore so has population, and we are set for a decline. The real test of man’s intellect will be how we deal the crisis of Peak Oil.

Peak oil does not mean that the world is about it run out of oil. It refers to the point at which the supply of oil can no longer increase. There is lots of the stuff left; it’s just getting much more difficult to find and extract, which means it is getting very hard, and perhaps impossible, to increase the overall ”flow” of oil out of the ground.

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY

The good news is that it is perfectly possible to produce energy sufficient to maintain balanced population without oil and without other earth damaging fossil fuels or uranium.

HVDC Power Grids distributing power from the world’s deserts via high-voltage, direct-current cables can sustain the energy needs of the population as long as our Sun continues to shine. Add to this hydro-electric power, wind energy, geothermal energy, wave energy and tidal power.

Overshoot

In ecology, overshoot is said to have occurred when a population’s consumption exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment, as illustrated in this graphic.

The evidence for Climate Change shows the environmental damage caused by burning fossil fuels. To continue do so without any doubt will lead to disaster, a population overshoot just as yeast in a vat of wine will cease to thrive and eventually die, because of the toxic alcohol levels which the yeast itself produced, so chemicals resulting from our continued use of fossil fuels, or uranium use will take its toll on us, the planet and if we are not careful life itself. Climate Change and Peak Oil must be taken seriously. The Science is very clear. If no action is taken we look at a future without doubt with massive levels of human suffering. Starvation, disease, flooding and war can be avoided.

DENIAL OF SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE

The population explosion was predicted eighty years ago by Warren Thomson. The prediction has been shown to be broadly accurate. Forty years ago, Limits to Growth reported on a human population model World 3 warning that we had to curb growth or risk global meltdown.

It was highly controversial, and not what many wanted to hear. Perhaps it was fear that led to denial. Maybe they were hoping for a Superman.

As Paul Chefurka points out:

“The human cost of such an involuntary population rebalancing is, of course, horrific. Based on this model we would experience an average excess death rate of 100 million per year every year for the next 75 years to achieve our target population of one billion by 2082. The peak excess death rate would happen in about 20 years, and would be about 200 million that year. To put this in perspective, WWII caused an excess death rate of only 10 million per year for only six years. not hard to see why population control is the untouchable elephant in the room – the problem we’re in is simply too big for humane or even rational solutions. It’s also not hard to see why some people are beginning to grasp the inevitability of a human die-off.”

  • It was reported that Scientists didn’t like Limits because the authors, anxious to publicise their findings, put it out before it was peer-reviewed.
  • The political right rejected its warning about the dangers of growth.
  • The left rejected it for betraying the aspirations of workers.
  • The Catholic Church rejected its plea for birth control.
  • The economists, who claimed human technological inventions would surely solve it all.

But, ominously, as New Scientist reports on 10th January 2012

The common perception is that the work was discredited scientifically. It wasn’t.”

It wasn’t just confusion. “Misunderstanding was enhanced by a media campaign very similar to the one that has been recently directed against climate science.”

Most journalists and BBC presenters do not have a background in Science, most having alternative degrees such as history or linguistics. But it is not all about knowledge, it is about political will. Much is spoken about ignorance of Science. Much is spoken about neo-liberalism too. Margaret Thatcher must take some responsibility for the neoliberalism which has resulted in the excessive wealth of a few. But Margaret Thatcher understood Science. She held a degree in Chemistry and worked as a Research Chemist. So Thatcher should have known better.

It is not just the reporting of scientific evidence that journalists avoid. It seems that purpose of the media is not to inform at all. Articles are carefully chosen by editors. Censored newspapers print what suits the rich and powerful. (See The Human Body )

GOVERNMENTS’ LEGACIES

If globalisation means anything it should mean that we act as One World. Communication today is possible without jet travel. The time has come for our governments to work together. It is time for the truth to be heard. Governments serve the people. Their legacies will depend on how they act now. There must be an end to lies and manipulation of the media. It is time governments stopped treating the people as children and give us the facts we need to know.

Global poverty results from the plutonomy which now controls the earth. In Greece people are already abandoning their children. Can you imagine that? The human suffering which will result from population overshoot is unimaginable. We would expect starvation, poverty, and mass deaths. It is a nightmare, not the dream of paradise.

We can avert it. This world must act as One World.

Let’s spread the word.

References and Further Reading:

Paul Chefurka in Population: The Elephant in the Room

Peak Oil News

Stephen Hawking on Climate Change

Limits to Growth

2052 A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years -Jorgen Randers (Published July 2012)

Boom and Doom, New Scientist Revisiting Prophesies of Collapse

Peak Oil can fuel a Change for the Better

How and Why Journalists avoid the Population- Environment Connection

Fossil Fuel Subsidies dwarf renewables

The Demographic Transition

How the world’s economies will fare in 2050 (if the environment doesn’t collapse first)

BBC: Greek children too poor to care for their children,

From Think Left:

Capitalism, NeoLiberalism, Plutonomy, and Neo -Feudalism

Some of the Scientific Evidence – Climate Change

Clean Coal (Another Financial Device for the City?)

Energy for Somerset: Nuclear or Tidal?

Peak Oil, Neo-Liberalism and Think Left

Coal is our Heritage not our Future!

Soaking up the Sun: Ed Miliband, the Coalition and Climate Change

Peak Oil, Neoliberalism and Think Left

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The intention of Think Left is to add to the left-wing voices challenging the remaining vestiges of New Labour ideology.  Each author is a member of the Labour Party and they take individual responsibility for the views that they express.  However, all share the common aim of wanting a contemporary LP which incorporates the values of socialism into policies for future government… a Labour Party that will tackle ‘the huge institutional blockages of neo-liberal capitalism’ (1).

It is now widely accepted that the Third way of New Labour was a continuum with Thatcherism and the policies of deregulation and globalization which led to the credit crunch of 2008 (2).

The Coalition government far from abandoning this clearly disastrous and now discredited economic framework, have utilized the crisis to justify unnecessary cuts and a draconian process of dismantling and privatizing the Welfare State, the NHS and education.

This is the nature of neoliberalism.  Any economic crisis, war or natural disaster is managed and manipulated to justify an ‘upward redistribution of wealth accumulation by dispossession’.  The main techniques, in the modern neoliberal sense, for dispossessing  (‘parasitising’) the wider population are through privatisations and commodification, financialisation, and state redistributions.

‘…neoliberalism is essentially about the reconstitution of class power by the global economic elite.  Thus neoliberalism in its practice has not been a “utopian project to realize a theoretical design for the reorganization of international capitalism” …. but a practical political project meant to restore the power of economic elites…. a kind of one sided neoliberalism, where government intervention is bad if it would protect labour or the environment, but government intervention is good if it will help economic elites.’ (3)

The implicit consequences of the Coalition government’s stated policies of cuts would result in less spending on public services in the UK than that of the US by 2014/15 (4).

The next Labour government must govern in the interests of the overwhelming majority, promoting equality, fairness and protection of the vulnerable …  and in particular protection of the disabled and long-term sick who are under horrifying attack by the coalition government.  There must also be an end to the hidden agendas, the ‘economies with the truth’, the ‘good days to reveal bad news’ … an end to the lying and manipulation.

However, there is an even greater related threat that does not seem to be fully appreciated by the mainstream media or our politicians.

 

The crisis of energy, peak oil production and climate warming. 

Not only has de-regulation had its impact in hastening these crises but the global population and the global economy face dire consequences from our dependence on fossil fuels.  As the 2006 Stern report moderately states:

As we reach the peak of oil production, we can almost certainly expect enormous hikes in the price of oil, combined with enormous and unpredictable dips.

 

In 2008, Stern was reported as saying that he had “badly underestimated the degree of damages and risks of climate change” in his ground-breaking 2006 report.’ (5)

 

Marxist economist and ecologist John Bellamy Foster (27.08.11) is more explicit about the inability of neoliberal capitalism to address climate change. 

‘….as the global financial crisis has turned now into a global stagnation that is affecting the economies of the triad (the United States, Europe and Japan) and much of the rest of the world … the system is unlikely to respond to climate change at all…..public attention is diverted from climate change as an issue, necessary actions are not taken while the overall problem gets worse.

The truth is that the capitalist system is unable to respond to climate change: either in periods of prosperity or stagnation, and in the latter case everything but the latest stock quotes and profit figures recede into the background.’ (6)

 

Former scientific director at Greenpeace, Jeremy Leggett (31.05.11) says ‘the dangers of peak oil are actually much worse than the credit crunch’ even if one ignores the question of emissions and climate warming.

In 2008, a group of large companies completed a business risk assessment exercise and unanimously concluded that not only was peak oil of very high consequence and very high risk but the probability is that we will reach peak oil within the next 4 years … by 2015 (7).

At some time after that point, producer countries will begin to restrict oil exports for their own domestic consumption.  The price of oil will explode but there will likely be actual shortages which will cause massive economic and social disruption.

We, in Think left, will make it a priority to focus on the imperative that an incoming Labour government be ready to address this emerging crisis, with its potentially dire consequences for the UK because it is clear that the Coalition government is not taking the very urgent and necessary steps to de-carbonise our economy.

(1) http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/2011/04/blue-labour-no-thanks/#more-2264

(2) www.essex.ac.uk/ecpr/events/jointsessions/paperarchive/grenoble/ws6/barry_paterson.pdf.

(3) http://www.blogisdead.net/2009/02/review-of-david-harveys-brief-history.html

  (4) http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-923X.2011.02169.x/full 

(5)  The Stern Report http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/1804159/stern-admits-report-badly-underestimated-climate-change-risks

(6)    John Bellamy Foster  http://climateandcapitalism.com/?p=5273

(7 )  Jeremy Leggett http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPKLKWIh3gA&feature=youtu.be

Written contributions welcome from those who share our analysis, philosophy and priorities.

Please contact us at admin@think-left.org