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Deep thought - June 24

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Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.


Adapting to the New Normal

Sanjay Khanna, Corporate Knights
James Hansen is director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the world’s most respected climate scientists. Earlier this year he spoke at the prestigious TED conference in Long Beach, Calif., and stated what may seem a non-threatening fact: data collected from 3,000 Argo floats that record temperatures around the world’s oceans at different depths showed that the earth’s energy imbalance is precisely “six-tenths of a watt per square metre.” The calculation represents the extra energy, trapped in the earth’s atmosphere, which feeds global warming.

Then came Hansen’s kicker.

“That may not sound like much,” he remarked, “but when added up over the whole world… it’s the equivalent to exploding 400,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs per day, 365 days per year. That’s how much extra energy earth is gaining each day.”

According to Hansen, this may be an unfortunate precursor to what could amount to global sea-level rise of between one and five metres during this century.

Welcome to the new normal.

The new normal is a period of human history when natural disasters tied to climate change and political uncertainties related to economic and financial distress are all too common. Yet, it’s mainly the economic and financial crises we face that dominate the concerns of businesses, governments and citizens.
(11 June 2012)



Trade-Off
Financial System Supply-Chain Cross-Contagion:
a study in global systemic collapse.

David Korowicz, FEASTA
Overview

This study considers the relationship between a global systemic banking, monetary and solvency
crisis and its implications for the real-time flow of goods and services in the globalised economy. It
outlines how contagion in the financial system could set off semi-autonomous contagion in supplychains
globally, even where buyers and sellers are linked by solvency, sound money and bank
intermediation. The cross-contagion between the financial system and trade/production networks
is mutually reinforcing.

It is argued that in order to understand systemic risk in the globalised economy, account must be
taken of how growing complexity (interconnectedness, interdependence and the speed of
processes), the de-localisation of production and concentration within key pillars of the globalised
economy have magnified global vulnerability and opened up the possibility of a rapid and largescale
collapse. ‘Collapse’ in this sense means the irreversible loss of socio-economic complexity
which fundamentally transforms the nature of the economy. These crucial issues have not been
recognised by policy-makers nor are they reflected in economic thinking or modelling.

As the globalised economy has become more complex and ever faster (for example, Just-in-Time
logistics), the ability of the real economy to pick up and globally transmit supply-chain failure, and
then contagion, has become greater and potentially more devastating in its impacts. In a more
complex and interdependent economy, fewer failures are required to transmit cascading failure
through socio-economic systems. In addition, we have normalised massive increases in the
complex conditionality that underpins modern societies and our welfare. Thus we have problems
seeing, never mind planning for such eventualities, while the risk of them occurring has increased
significantly. The most powerful primary cause of such an event would be a large-scale financial
shock initially centring on some of the most complex and trade central parts of the globalised
economy.

The argument that a large-scale and globalised financial-banking-monetary crisis is likely arises
from two sources

(Bloomsday 16 June 2012)



Zombie Politics and the Walking Dead

Trevor Malkinson and R. Michael Fisher, Beams and Struts
There’s a lot going on in the TV show The Walking Dead that’s worthy of comment, but there’s one aspect of the show that has struck me in particular- that the civilization we’ve built and have come to depend on, could be undermined in short order, returning us quickly to a survivalist state of The-Walking-Dead-Soundtrack1nature.

... The second premise of this zombie analysis came to me via David Macleod and a conversation a few of us were having on TJ’s post about The Montreal Student Protests. David opened my eyes to a whole field of research and writings that are dealing with “energy decline” and the “limits to growth”. The basic premise of this discourse, as I understand it, is that we’ve built a very complex civilization on the back of cheap fossil fuel energy, but this cheap energy is no longer in abundance (is in fact in decline), and is thus becoming gradually more expensive, which is going to increasingly make our current form of civilization unsustainable, and this disruption of the status quo is going to be politically very unstable. Premise two.

So as I swirled and swished these two notions around in my head with what I’d seen in The Walking Dead, something occurred to me- oh shit, we’re the freiken zombies!!

It could be that the zombie apocalypse depicted in The Walking Dead is a terrified cry from within that we’re zombies who can’t stop wantonly consuming resources, and that we’ll devour this civilization of walking-dead-2ours right to the last morsel if we keep going the way we are. Think about zombies for a second- the zombie (apparently) has little to no frontal lobe activity and is instead controlled by the mammalian instincts of the limbic system. All they want to do is eat flesh, and they’re never satiated no matter how much they get. The smell of flesh triggers in them an appetite that cannot be controlled, and will never be filled.

All of this is also true for the addict. When the rush of craving comes on for the addict the limbic system takes control; this is why in 12 Step programs people are advised to pick up “the thousand pound phone” and call someone immediately. A conversation with another sympathetic human can bring the other more evolved parts of the brain back online, giving the addict the capacity to resist the impulse and make another choice. But if not the addict becomes an undead machine seeking one thing with singular reflex-driven focus. We’re a civilization of addicts. And believe me, this is something I know from the ‘inside’. If we look at our addiction to sugar alone, and what it’s doing to our brains, you can see we’re deep down the rabbit hole. Zombies everywhere.

Consumer capitalism relies on the boundless manufacturing of unquenchable desires to maintain its growth. Here’s the French philosopher and psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva:
(June 2012)
David MacLeod (mentioned in the article) is a contributor to EB.

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