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Dysfunction - Apr 9

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Revolution, flashmobs, and brain chips. A grim vision of the future

Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian
Information chips implanted in the brain. Electromagnetic pulse weapons. The middle classes becoming revolutionary, taking on the role of Marx's proletariat. The population of countries in the Middle East increasing by 132%, while Europe's drops as fertility falls. "Flashmobs" - groups rapidly mobilised by criminal gangs or terrorists groups.

This is the world in 30 years' time envisaged by a Ministry of Defence team responsible for painting a picture of the "future strategic context" likely to face Britain's armed forces. It includes an "analysis of the key risks and shocks". Rear Admiral Chris Parry, head of the MoD's Development, Concepts & Doctrine Centre which drew up the report, describes the assessments as "probability-based, rather than predictive".

The 90-page report comments on widely discussed issues such as the growing economic importance of India and China, the militarisation of space, and even what it calls "declining news quality" with the rise of "internet-enabled, citizen-journalists" and pressure to release stories "at the expense of facts". It includes other, some frightening, some reassuring, potential developments that are not so often discussed.
(9 April 2007)
EB covered this unnerving but fascinating report four months ago. We're glad that it's starting to get some play in the press.

One subject in the report that the Guardian missed is the growing competition for energy:

The Golden Age of cheap energy has passed. Competition for energy supplies will dominate the economic landscape during the next 30 years and world energy demand growth is likely to rise annually by between 1.5 and 3.1%. Sustained high demand from fast-developing economies such as China and India will increase significantly, while established consumers are likely to seek to maintain levels of consumption consistent with sustaining their own growth. This trend is likely to result in highly competitive pricing and the continued enrichment and economic progress of producer countries, including Russia and Iran.

-BA


Stop shopping ... or the planet will go pop

David Smith, The Observer
'Many big ideas have struggled over the centuries to dominate the planet,' begins the argument by Jonathon Porritt, government adviser and all-round environmental guru.

'Fascism. Communism. Democracy. Religion. But only one has achieved total supremacy. Its compulsive attractions rob its followers of reason and good sense. It has created unsustainable inequalities and threatened to tear apart the very fabric of our society. More powerful than any cause or even religion, it has reached into every corner of the globe. It is consumerism.'

According to Porritt, the most senior adviser to the government on sustainability, we have become a generation of shopaholics. We are bombarded by advertising from every medium which persuades us that the more we consume, the better our lives will be. Shopping is equated with fun, fulfilment and self-identity. It is also, Porritt warns, killing the planet. He argues, in an interview with The Observer, that merely switching to 'ethical' shopping is not enough. We must shop less.
(8 April 2007)
Related from the Guardian: Do they know there is more to life than cheap shopping?.


Time to Pay Attention

Chris Martenson, Atlantic Free Press
Probably the most shocking news of the week was not the tension in the Middle East around Iran. No, as disturbing as is the possibility of another shooting war in immediate proximity to 25% of the world’s daily oil shipments, the reality of a trade war with China announced on Friday (March 30th, 2007) was even more disturbing:

The Bush administration, facing heavy pressure to deal with soaring trade deficits, will impose economic sanctions against China as a way of protecting American paper producers from unfair Chinese government subsidies, a Commerce Department official said Friday.

The action will reverse 20 years of U.S. trade policy by treating China, which is classified as a nonmarket economy, in the same way that other U.S. trading partners are treated in disputes involving government subsidies.

The decision was to be announced by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez. Department official said Friday.

...By now, unless you’ve just returned from a month-long spelunking expedition, you are well aware that some serious problems have surfaced in the housing market. Rather, I should say that the housing problems that have been utterly obvious for the past 2 years have finally managed to penetrate the dense shield of Unobtainium325 that seems to protect most of our erstwhile journalists from any contact with reality.

But now that it's "OK" to write articles about all the past housing transgressions there are literally dozens upon dozens of them appearing each week chronicling the meltdown in the subprime and not-so-subprime mortgage markets, vast increases in inventory (up over 500% in some Florida markets over the last year), declining prices, revelations of fraud, and broken hopes. Financial councilors are reporting being overwhelmed by a flood of homeowners facing foreclosure. ..
(3 Apr 2007)

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