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Taimur Ahmad: “Optimism of the Will: A Pakistani Grad Student’s Perspective”

July 19, 2023

(Conversation recorded on June 1st, 2023)

Show Summary

On this episode, Nate is joined by recent Stanford graduate and biophysical researcher Taimur Ahmad to discuss energy inequality within and across nations. Taimur offers a unique perspective as someone who has spent years studying the issues of the polycrisis, while also having experience growing up in Pakistan and living in the United States. How does the culture of a nation and its access to energy interrelate to create huge differences in the daily lives of the people who live there? How do the looming implications of climate change and energy depletion impact the relationship between the Global North and the Global South? And how do issues of class, wealth, and ‘fictitious capital’ interplay with the larger poly-crisis at hand?

About Taimur Ahmad

Taimur Ahmad is the author of the Fictitious Capital newsletter where he writes about understanding the base layer of the global system: money/finance, energy, and raw materials. He studied economics at Georgetown University in Qatar and recently completed a graduate degree from Stanford University where he focused on energy policy and electricity markets. After working in agricultural development in Pakistan, he worked in the Middle East supporting clients across energy, CP&I, and national development. From these experiences, he realized the importance of reframing contemporary socioeconomic issues in an energy and ecological systems framework. His work is now focused on exploring the intersection of development in the Global South, degrowth/post-growth, MMT, and leftist social theory.

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Show Notes & Links to Learn More

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00:00 – Taimur Ahmad, Fictitious Capital Newsletter + Info

05:41 – Inequality in the U.S.

06:00 – Polarization in the U.S. comparatively to other countries

06:35 – Pakistan population and GDP, US population and GDP

09:23 – Pakistan energy imports and vulnerability to price fluctuations

09:48 – Impact of Russia/Ukraine war on Pakistan

10:03 – Pakistan Floods

10:13 – Pakistan net importer of food, wheat

10:27 – Pakistan food inflation

12:25 – California black outs from wildfires

13:22 – Decarbonization and the fundamentals of energy

18:01 – Inequality in Pakistan

18:45 – Taking over farmland from poor farmers as a way to reinforce material inequality

19:20 – Social and material inequality reinforcing effect

19:32 – Climate in Pakistan

19:52 – Climate impacts, increased heat and weather events

20:56 – Urban Heat Island effect

22:01 – People on the ground often have an intuitive awareness of changing climate

22:34 – What percentage of the population has air conditioning in Pakistan

25:27 – Global North responsible for 80% of global GHG emissions

25:39 – Global North war disrupting natural gas supply, primarily affecting the Global South

28:40 – Global north exploitation and extraction from the Global South

30:11 – Class warfare

30:55 – Degrowth

31:55 – Small group of people using up most of Earth’s resources

34:35 – Social change of those in power is a rare occurrence

35:50 – New US Industrial Policies

37:25 – “The challenge of modernity is to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned. I’m a pessimist because of intelligence, but an optimist because of will.” –Antonio Gramsci

39:30 – Fictitious Capital

39:43 – Marx, Capital Vol. 3

40:36 – 2008 financial crisis, mortgage securities not accurately representing value

46:06 – Recent climate policies

46:50 – Types and stages of an social movement

49:40 – New Stanford Sustainability School

50:20 – Beyond Growth

51:40 – Paul Ehrlich

54:20 – Affect Theory

55:45 – Enlightenment and the shift of humans’ relationship with nature

56:24 – Hobbes, Locke, The State of Nature

59:30 – Ecosystems and natural features in Pakistan

01:01:52 – Joslin Faith Kehdy + TGS Podcast

1:08:10 – Robert Sapolsky


Teaser photo credit: People in traditional clothing in the Pahari-Pothwari Neelum District in AJK. By Raja Aasim Bin Saleem – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: energy inequality, global polycrisis