Thursday, 13 November 2008

Events dear boy, events

I have received some email complaints about the incessant stream of bad news that I've been sending. Here is my reply...

Ok point taken. There has been some logic in what I've been doing at least in my own mind, sending so many doom and gloom emails - I've not just been doing it to depress everyone. As you know my views have become pretty extreme lately. I'm sure that this is a unique time in human history and massive changes are coming, perhaps very soon. It could even be the case that in 100 years time people will look back and see the 2 world wars as little blips compared to what's coming, in our lifetimes. I've spent most of my career dealing with risks, the credibility or otherwise of different scenarios and the ways in which people don't face up to information they don't like. All my training and experience makes me pretty sure I'm right about this, that I'm right to have these "extreme" views and it is just a question of time, perhaps just a few years before it becomes obvious to everyone.

The Michael Lewis article is a nice little history of the finance industry over the last 20 odd years. I would go further than Lewis. I think that's it's pretty clear now that not only has the finance industry been a giant bubble lasting 25 years, the entire world economy has been a bubble over that time. Our entire adult lives we've experienced the end stage of the rapid economic growth that kicked off with the industrial revolution. So the world around us that has shaped our attitudes and beliefs, and formed the cultural norms that we tend to accept without question, has all been a bubble, a kind of illusion in a way.

I think it takes an awful lot of thinking and evidence to counteract the beliefs that are built up over a lifetime. If you read the Lewis article he talks about the Eisman character, who bet against the banks because he realised that everyone else was mad. Everyone else was making too much money on the sub-prime business to say anything. I think the sub-prime story is a very good analogy for the state of the whole world. So few people have an incentive to see things as they really are.

I’m reading a book at the moment called “The Growth Illusion” by Richard Douthwaite (I think he may go too far sometimes, but he makes a lot of good points) http://www.amazon.co.uk/Growth-Illusion-Economic-Impoverished-Endangered/dp/1870098765/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1226602024&sr=8-1

In the introduction Douthwaite says that during writing the book he came to understand that his entire way of looking at the world changed. This was written about decades ago by the sociologist Lester Milbrath as two worldviews, the Dominant Social Paradigm and the New Environmental Paradigm. There are lots of differences between the two but basically the first gives priority to economic growth and believes that science will be able to overcome any risks to the natural world. The second is sceptical about human ability to understand the natural world sufficiently well to avoid doing serious damage from growth.

30 years ago it may not have been clear which worldview was a more useful or correct representation of how the world is. Now, if anyone bothers to read about it the information is overwhelming that the DSP is a crock of s*** - humanity is collectively deluding itself. It's so overwhelming that switching from the bogus paradigm to the more realistic one feels like waking up from being asleep. The trouble is that our mainstream politics has so far to travel before it gets to a more realistic place. Where we expect to live with less energy, less consumption, less travel, less choice of goods and services, more localisation. None of this has to be negative, less materialism would be a wonderful thing for our society. This is a very exciting time to be alive and I really believe that a lot of the changes can be very beneficial for us.

Ok, 3 positive suggestions:
1. Come with me on the climate change march – Saturday 6th December. http://www.campaigncc.org/ It does make a difference how many people go on the march, I reckon the government will look at the number of people and part of how they gauge the public’s appetite for radical action will be based on the number of people that turn out to march.
2. Check out the transition towns movement http://transitiontowns.org/
3. When we next get together, we take just one or two hours out of our game playing weekend to talk about these issues and what we can do.

1 comment:

Aaron A Aardvark said...

Not complaining at all...

Just saying that if things are going to go to hell in a hand basket even partly the way you say they will, then we need to actively prepare for it. If you read the posts in reply to Chris Martenson's site, half the people are talking 'survivalist' and potentially the collapse of civilisation as we know it...