A response to Changing the Conversation

8 12 2017

Ed. Note: Richard Smith’s article, Climate Crisis and Managed Deindustrialization: Debating Alternatives to Ecological Collapse, which Saral is responding to this post, can be found on Resilience.org here, or here on DTM where I republished it. My only gripe with Saral’s essay is the total lack of mention of debt abolition…..  canceling debt is the only way forward when we start talking about what to do about all the job losses.

By Saral Sarkar, originally published by Saral Sarkar blog

In his article,1 Richard calls upon his readers to “change the conversation”. He asks, “What are your thoughts?” He says, if we don’t “come up with a viable alternative, our goose is cooked.” I fully agree. So I join the conversation, in order to improve it.

Let me first say I appreciate Richard’s article very much. It is very useful, indeed necessary, to also present one’s cause in a short article – for those who are interested but, for whatever reason, cannot read a whole book. Richard has ably presented the eco-socialist case against both capitalism and “green” capitalism.

But the alternative Richard has come up with is deficient in one very important respect, namely in respect of viability. Allow me to present here my comradely criticisms. It will be short.

Is only Capitalism the Problem?

(1) Richard writes, “Capitalism, not population is the main driver of planetary ecological collapse … .”. It sounds like an echo of statements from old-Marxist-socialism. It is not serious. Is Richard telling us that, while we are fighting a long-drawn-out battle against capitalism in order to overcome it, we can allow population to continuously grow without risking any further destruction of the environment? Should we then think that a world population of ten billion by 2050 would not be any problem?

I would agree if Richard would say that capitalism is, because of its growth compulsion, one of the main drivers of ecological collapse. But anybody who has learnt even a little about ecology knows that in any particular eco-region, exponential growth of any one species leads to collapse of its ecological balance. If we now think of the planet Earth as one whole eco-region and consider all the scientific reports on rapid bio-diversity loss and rapid dwindling of the numbers of larger animals, then we cannot but correlate these facts with the exponential growth of our own species, homo sapiens sapiens, the latter being the cause of the former two.

No doubt, capitalism – together with the development of technologies, especially agricultural and medical technologies – has largely enabled the huge growth of human numbers in the last two hundred years. But human population growth has been occurring even in pre-capitalist and pre-medieval eras, albeit at a slower rate. Parallel to this, also environmental destruction has been occurring and growing in these eras.

It is not good to tell our readers only half the truth. The whole truth is succinctly stated in the equation:

I = P  x  A  x  T

where I stands for ecological impact (we can also call it ecological destruction), P for population, T for Technology and A for affluence. All these three factors are highly variable. Let me here also quote Paul Ehrlich, one of my teachers in political ecology. Addressing leftists, he once wrote, “Whatever [be] your cause, it is a lost cause unless we control population [growth]”. Note the phrase “whatever your cause”. Ehrlich meant to say, and I too think so, the cause may be environmental protection, saving the earth, protecting biodiversity, overcoming poverty and unemployment, women’s liberation, preventing racist and ethnic conflicts and cleansings, preventing huge unwelcome migration flows, preventing crime, fighting modern-day slavery, bringing peace in the world, creating a socialist world order etc. etc. etc., in all cases stopping population growth is a very important factor. Sure, that will in no case be enough. But that is an essential part of the solutions.

Note that in the equation cited above, there is no mention of capitalism. Instead, we find there the two factors technology and affluence. We can call (and we generally do call) the product of T x A (production of affluence by means of industrial technologies) industrialism, of which there has until now been two main varieties: the capitalist one and the planned socialist one (of the soviet type). Nothing will be gained for saving the ecological balance of the Earth if only capitalism is replaced with socialism, and ruling socialists then try to increase production at a higher rate, which they must do under the pressure of a growing population which, moreover, develops higher ambitions and aspirations, and demands all the good things that middle class Americans enjoy.

(2) Modern-day old-socialists do not deny the existence of an ecological problem. They have also developed several pseudo-solutions such as “clean” and “renewable” energies and materials, efficiency revolution, decoupling of GDP growth from resource use etc.

It’s good that Richard rejects the idea that green capitalism can save us. But why can’t it? “Because”, he writes, “companies can’t commit economic suicide to save the humans. There’s just no solution to our crisis within the framework of any conceivable capitalism.” This is good, but not enough. Because there are old-socialists (I know many in Germany) who believe that it is only individual capitalists/companies and the system capitalism that are preventing a rapid transition to 100 percent clean renewable energies and 100 percent recycling of all materials. Thanks to these possibilities, they believe, old-socialist type of industrialism, and even economic and population growth, can be reconciled with the requirements of sustainability. I don’t think that is possible, and I have also earlier elaborately explained why.2 Said briefly, “renewable energies” are neither clean nor renewable, and 100 percent recycling is impossible because the Entropy Law also applies to matter. What Richard thinks is not clear from this article of his. It is necessary to make his thoughts on this point clear.

Is Bottom-up Democracy of Any Use in the Transition Period?

(3) Richard writes, “Rational planning requires bottom-up democracy.” I do not understand the connection between the two, planning and democracy. At the most, one could say that for better planning for the villages, the planning commission should also listen to the villagers. But at the national level? Should, e.g., the inhabitants of each and every 500 souls village in the Ganges basin codetermine in a bottom up democratic planning process how the waters of the said river and its tributaries should be distributed among ca. 500 million inhabitants of the basin? If that were ever to be attempted, the result would be chaos, not planning. Moreover, how do you ensure that the villagers are capable of understanding the national interest and overcoming their particular interests? Such phrases are only illusions.

In his 6th thesis, Richard sketches a rosy, idealistic picture of a future eco-socialist society and its citizens. That may be attractive for him, me and other eco-socialists. But this future lies in distant future. First we would need a long transition period of contracting economies, and that would cause a lot of pain to millions of people spoilt by consumerism or promises of a consumerist future. We shall have to convince such people, and that would be an altogether difficult job. We should tell them the truth, namely that austerity is necessary for saving the earth. We can promise them only one thing, namely that all the pains and burdens as well as the benefits of austerity will be equitably distributed among all.

What to Do About Jobs?

(4) Richard writes: “Needless to say, retrenching and closing down such industries would mean job losses, millions of jobs from here to ChinaYet if we don’t shut down those unsustainable industries, we’re doomed.” And then he puts the question “What to do?” We can be sure that all people who wholly depend on a paid job for their livelihood, whom we must also win over, will confront us with this jobs question. Let me finish my contribution to this conversation with an answer to this question. 

There is not much use talking to ourselves, the already converted. We need to start work, immediately and all over the world, especially in those countries where poverty and unemployment is very high. We know that, generally, these countries are also those where population growth is very high. People from the rich countries cannot simply tell their people, sorry, we have to close down many factories and we cannot further invest in industrializing your countries. But the former can tell the latter that they can help them in controlling population growth. The latter will understand easily that it is an immediately effective way to reduce poverty and unemployment. A massive educative campaign will of course be necessary in addition to concrete monetary and technical help.

In the rich countries, contrary to what Richard perhaps thinks, it will not be possible to provide new equivalent jobs to replace those jobs we need to abolish. For such countries, reducing working hours and job-sharing in the short term, and, in the long term, ostracizing automation and labor-saving technologies, and using labor-intensive methods of production instead, are together the only solution. That is already known. Another thing that would be needed is to negate free trade and international competition. However, it must also be said openly that high wages and salaries cannot be earned under such circumstances. 

We eco-socialist activists must begin the work with a massive world-wide political campaign in favor of such ideas and policies.

Notes and References

1. Smith, Richard (2017) “ Climate Crisis and Managed Deindustrialization: Debating Alternatives to Ecological Collapse.”

2. My views expressed in this article have been elaborately presented in my book:
Eco-Socialism or Eco-Capitalism? – A Critical Analysis of Humanity’s Fundamental Choices (1999). London: Zed Books,  and in various articles published in my blog-site


Dick Smith on growth; emphatically yes…and no

16 08 2017


Ted Trainer

Another article by my friend Ted Trainer, originally published at on line opinion……

The problems of population and economic growth have finally come onto the public agenda, and Dick Smith deserves much of the credit…but he doesn’t realise what’s on the other end of the trail he’s tugging.

For fifty years a small number of people have been saying that pursuing population and economic growth on a finite planet is a very silly thing to do. Until recently almost no one has taken any notice. However in the last few years there has emerged a substantial “de-growth” movement, especially in Europe. Dick Smith has been remarkably successful in drawing public attention to the issue in Australia. He has done more for the cause in about three years than the rest of us have managed to achieve in decades. (I published a book on the subject in 1985, which was rejected by 60 publishers…and no one took any notice of it anyway.) Dick’s book (2011) provides an excellent summary of the many powerful reasons why growth is absurd, indeed suicidal.

Image result for dick smith

Dick Smith

The problem with the growth-maniacs, a category which includes just about all respectable economists, is that they do not realise how grossly unsustainable present society is, let alone what the situation will be as we continue to pursue growth. Probably the best single point to put to them is to do with our ecological “footprint”. The World Wildlife Fund puts out a measure of the amount of productive land it takes to provide for each person. For the average Australian it takes 8 ha of to supply our food, water, settlement area and energy. If the 10 billion people we are likely to have on earth soon were each to live like us we’d need 80 billion ha of productive land…but there are only about 8 billion ha of land available on the planet. We Australians are ten times over a level of resource use that could be extended to all people. It’s much the same multiple for most other resources, such as minerals, nitrogen emissions and fish. And yet our top priority is to increase our levels of consumption, production, sales and GDP as fast as possible, with no limit in mind!

The World Wildlife Fund also puts the situation another way. We are now using resources at 1.4 times the rate the planet could provide sustainably. We do this by for example, consuming more timber than grows each year, thereby depleting the stocks. Now if 10 billion people rose to the “living standards” we Australians would have in 2050 given the 3% p.a. economic growth we expect, then every year the amount of producing and consuming going on in the world would be 20 times as great as it is now.

Over-production and over-consumption is the main factor generating all the alarming global problems we face is. Why is there an environmental problem? Because we are taking far more resources from nature, especially habitats, than is sustainable. Why do about 3+ billion people in the Third World wallow in poverty? Primarily because the global economy is a market system and in a market resources go to those who can pay most for them, i.e., the rich. That’s why we in rich countries get almost all the oil, the surpluses produced from Third World soils, the fish caught off their coasts, etc. It’s why “development” in the Third World is mostly only development of what will maximise corporate profit, meaning development of industries to export to us. Why is there so much violent conflict in the world? Primarily because everyone is out to grab as many of the scarce resources as they can. And why is the quality of life in the richest countries falling now, and social cohesion deteriorating? Primarily because increasing material wealth and business turnover has been made the top priority, and this contradicts and drives out social bonding.

Dick has done a great job in presenting this general “limits to growth” analysis of our situation clearly and forcefully, and in getting it onto the public agenda. But I want to now argue that he makes two fundamental mistakes.

The first is his assumption that this society can be reformed; that we can retain it while we remedy the growth fault it has. The central argument in my The Transition to a Sustainable and Just World (2010a) is that consumer-capitalist society cannot be fixed. Many of its elements are very valuable and should be retained, but its most crucial, defining fundamental institutions are so flawed that they have to be scrapped and replaced. Growth is only one of these but a glance at it reveals that this problem cannot be solved without entirely remaking most of the rest of society. Growth is not like a faulty air conditioning unit on a house, which can be replaced or removed while the house goes on functioning more or less as before. It is so integrated into so many structures that if it is dumped those structures will have to be scrapped and replaced.

The most obvious implication of this kind is that in a zero growth economy there can be no interest payments at all. Interest is by nature about growth, getting more wealth back than you lent, and this is not possible unless lending and output and earnings constantly increase. There goes almost the entire financial industry I’m afraid (which recently accounted for over 40% of all profits made.) Banks therefore could only be places which hold savings for safety and which lend money to invest in maintenance of a stable amount of capital stock (and readjustments within it.) There also goes the present way of providing for superannuation and payment for aged care; these can’t be based on investing to make money.

The entire energising mechanism of society would have to be replaced. The present economy is driven by the quest to get richer. This motive is what gets options searched for, risks taken, construction and development underway, etc. The most obvious alternative is for these actions to be come from a collective working out of what society needs, and organising to produce and develop those things cooperatively, but this would involve an utterly different world view and driving mechanism.

The problem of inequality would become acute and would not only demand attention, it would have to be dealt with in an entirely different way. It could no longer be defused by the assumption that “a rising tide will lift all boats”. In the present economy growth helps to legitimise inequality; extreme inequality is not a source of significant discontent because it can be said that economic growth is raising everyone’s “living standards”.

How would we handle unemployment in a zero-growth economy? At present its tendency to increase all the time is offset by the increase in consumption and therefore production. Given that we could produce all we need for idyllic lifestyles with a fraction of the present amount of work done, any move in this direction in the present economy would soon result in most workers becoming unemployed. There would be no way of dealing with this without scrapping the labour market and then rationally and deliberately planning the distribution of the (small amount of) work that needed doing.

Most difficult of all are the cultural implications, usually completely overlooked. If the economy cannot grow then all concern to gain must be abandoned. People would have to be content to work for stable incomes and abandon all interest in getting richer over time. If any scope remains for some to try to get more and more of the stable stock of wealth, then some will succeed and take more than their fair share of it and others will therefore get less…and soon it will end in chaos, or feudalism as the fittest take control. Sorry, but the 500 year misadventure Western culture has had with the quest for limitless individual and national wealth is over. If we have the sense we will realise greed is incompatible with a sustainable and just society. If, as is more likely we won’t, then scarcity will settle things for us. The few super privileged people, including Australians, will no longer be able to get the quantities of resources we are accustomed to, firstly because the resources are dwindling now, and secondly because we are being increasingly outmanoeuvred by the energetic and very hungry Chinese, Indians, Brazilians…

And, a minor point, you will also have to abandon the market system. It is logically incompatible with growth. You go into a market not to exchange things of equal value but to make money, to get the highest price you can, to trade in a way that will make you richer over time. There are “markets” where people don’t try to do this but just exchange the necessities without seeking to increase their wealth over time e.g., in tribal and peasant societies. However these are “subsistence” economies and they do not operate according to market forces. The economies of a zero-growth society would have to be like this. Again, if it remains possible for a few to trade their way to wealth they will end up with most of the pie. This seems to clearly mean that if we are to have a zero-growth economy then we have to work out how to make a satisfactory form of “socialism” work, so that at least the basic decisions about production, distribution and development can be made by society and not left to be determined by what maximises the wealth of individuals and the profits of private corporations competing in the market. Richard Smith (2010) points this out effectively, but some steady-staters, including Herman Daly and Tim Jackson (2009) seem to have difficulty accepting it.

Thus growth is not an isolated element that can be dealt with without remaking most of the rest of society. It is not that this society has a growth economy; it is that this is a growth society.

So in my view Dick has vastly underestimated the magnitude of the changes involved, and gives the impression that consumer-capitalist society can be adjusted, and then we can all go on enjoying high levels of material comfort (he does say we should reduce consumption), travel etc. But the entire socio-economic system we have prohibits the slightest move in this direction; it cannot tolerate slowdown in business turnover (unemployment, bankruptcy, discontent and pressure on governments immediately accelerate), let alone stable levels, let alone reduction to maybe one-fifth of present levels.

This gets us to the second issue on which I think Dick is clearly and importantly mistaken. He believes a zero growth economy can still be a capitalist economy. This is what Tim Jackson says too, in his very valuable critique of the present economy and of the growth commitment. Dick doesn’t offer any explanation or defence for his belief; it is just stated in four sentences. “Capitalism will still be able to thrive in this new system as long as legislation ensures a level playing field. Huge new industries will be created, and vast fortunes are still there to be made by the brave and the innovative.” (p. 173.) “I have no doubt that the dynamism and flexibility of capitalism can adjust to sustainability laws. The profit imperative would be maintained and, as long as there was an equitable base, competition would thrive.” (p. 177.)

Following is a sketch of the case that a zero growth economy is totally incompatible with capitalism.

Capitalism is by definition about accumulation, making more money than was invested, in order to invest the surplus to have even more…to invest to get even richer, in a never-ending upward spiral. Obviously this would not be possible in a steady state economy. It would be possible for a few to still own most capital and factories and to live on income from these investments, but they would be more like rentiers or landlords who draw a stable income from their property. They would not be entrepreneurs constantly seeking increasingly profitable investment outlets for ever-increasing amounts of capital.

Herman Daly believes that “productivity” growth would enable capitalism to continue in an economy with stable resource inputs. This is true, but it would be a temporary effect and too limited to enable the system to remain capitalist. The growth rate which the system, and capitalist accumulation, depends on is mostly due to increased production, not productivity growth. Secondly the productivity measure used (by economists who think dollars are the only things that matter) takes into account labour and capital but ignores what is by far the most important factor, i.e., the increasing quantities of cheap energy that have been put into new productive systems. For instance over half a century the apparent productivity of a farmer has increased greatly, but his output per unit of energy used has fallen alarmingly. From here on energy is very likely to become scarce and costly. Ayres (1999) has argued that this will eliminate productivity gains soon (which have been falling in recent years anyway), and indeed is likely to entirely stop GDP growth before long.

Therefore in a steady state economy the scope for continued capitalist accumulation via productivity gains would be very small, and confined to the increases in output per unit of resource inputs that is due to sheer technical advance. There would not be room for more than a tiny class, accumulating greater wealth very gradually until energy costs eliminated even that scope. Meanwhile the majority would see this class taking more of the almost fixed output pie, and therefore would soon see that it made no sense to leave ownership and control of most of the productive machinery in the hands of a few.

But the overwhelmingly important factor disqualifying capitalism has yet to be taken into account. As has been made clear above the need is not just for zero-growth, it is for dramatic reduction in the amount of producing and consuming going on. These must be cut to probably less than one-fifth of the levels typical of a rich country today, because the planet cannot sustain anything like the present levels of producing and consuming, let alone the levels 9 billion people would generate. This means that most productive capacity in rich countries, most factories and mines, will have to be shut down.

I suspect that Dick Smith is like Tim Jackson in identifying capitalism with the private ownership of firms, and in thinking that “socialism” means public ownership. This is a mistake. The issue of ownership is not central; what matters most is the drive to accumulate, which can still be the goal in socialism of the big state variety (“state capitalism”.) In my ideal vision of the future post-capitalist economy most production would take place within (very small) privately owned firms, but there would be no concern to get richer and the economy would be regulated by society via participatory democratic processes.

So I think Dick has seriously underestimated the magnitude of the change that is required by the global predicament and of what would be involved in moving to a zero-growth economy. The core theme detailed in The Transition… is that consumer-capitalist society cannot be fixed. Dick seems to think you can retain it by just reforming the unacceptable growth bit. My first point above is that you can’t just take out that bit and leave the rest more or less intact. In addition you have to deal with the other gigantic faults in this society driving us to destruction, including allowing the market to determine most things, accepting competition rather than cooperation as the basic motive and process, accepting centralisation, globalisation and representative big-state “democracy”, and above all accepting a culture of competitive, individualistic acquisitiveness.

The Transition… argues that an inevitable, dreadful logic becomes apparent if we clearly grasp that our problems are primarily due to grossly unsustainable levels of consumption. There can be no way out other than by transition to mostly small, highly self-sufficient and cooperative local communities and communities which run their own economies to meet local needs from local resources… with no interest whatsoever in gain. They must have the sense to focus on the provision of security and a high quality of life for all via frugal, non-material lifestyles. In this “Simpler Way” vision there can still be (some small scale) international economies, centralised state governments, high-tech industries, and in fact there can be more R and D on important topics than there is now. But there will not be anything like the resources available to sustain present levels of economic activity or individual or national “wealth” measured in dollars.

I have no doubt that the quality of life in The Simpler Way (see the website, Trainer 2011) would be far higher than it is now in the worsening rat race of late consumer-capitalism. Increasing numbers are coming to grasp all this, for instance within the rapidly emerging Transition Towns movement. We see our task as trying to establish examples of the more sane way in the towns and suburbs where we live while there is time, so that when the petrol gets scarce and large numbers realise that consumer-capitalism will not provide for them, they can come across to join us.

It is great that Dick is saying a zero-growth economy is no threat to capitalism. If he had said it has to be scrapped then he would have been identified as a deluded greenie/commie/anarchist out to wreck society and his growth critique would have been much more easily ignored. What matters at this point in time is getting attention given to the growth absurdity; when the petrol gets scarce they will be a bit more willing to think about whether capitalism is a good idea. Well done Dick!

“As Capitalism’s Crisis Deepens, Thoughts of Socialism Return Again”

28 05 2015

I found this totally captivating, AND educational……  he doesn’t address everything we discuss here on DTM, but this is well worth making a big jug of coffee to listen to….  enjoy!

These programs begin with 30 minutes of short updates on important economic events of the last month. Then Prof. Wolff analyzes several major economic issues. For May 13th, these will include:

  1. Socialisms Vary: Bernie Sanders to Hugo Chavez to Francois Hollande and Beyond
  2. Socialism, Communism, and the Role of the State
  3. Marxism and Socialism

Talkin’ bout a revolution revisited

8 11 2013

GreedyI wrote this about a week ago in response to articles and comments written over at the Australian Independent Media Network regarding our infamous friend Russell Brand’s assertions voting was a waste of time…….  Having been published now, it’s time to also put it up here……  Enjoy.

To say Russell Brand has had an impact on the blogosphere would be the understatement of the year.  His notion that we should all stop voting has brought out all the people who don’t, those who are thinking about it, and those who think the whole idea is the abandonment of hard won liberty and democracy . . .The crux of Brand’s position on our systems of government really resonated with me when he told Paxman in that now infamous BBC interview “Well I don’t think it’s working very well, Jeremy. Given that the planet is being destroyed. Given that there is economic disparity of a huge degree. What are you saying? There’s no alternative? There’s no alternative? Just this system?”

The system (I call it the Matrix…) is indeed broken.  I was prompted to write this article by OzFenric‘s assertion that Democracy had been poisoned by Capitalism.  As it happens, I totally agree.  But how did this come about?  I’m old enough to remember when this wasn’t so…..  I’m starting to think that Capitalism really went berserk once Communism was defeated with the fall of the USSR and the demolition of the Berlin Wall.  Unconstrained by the cold war, Capitalism decided to take us lefties on, and not just take us on, but convert us.  And it largely worked.  At the last election, the Socialist Party garnered 0.07% of the vote . . . yet right wing micro parties did far far better than that.  Was winning the socialist ‘struggle’ meant to be ‘us’ becoming Capitalists?

With roughly twice as many years under my belt as Brand, I can remember all sorts of things he doesn’t even know occurred.  Trivial things.  Like the fact that in my twenties, one never heard about the stock market as part of ‘the news’.  Nor the price of gold or oil, unless of course we were having a less trivial oil shock because the US hit Peak Oil and the Arabs wouldn’t sell them their oil at the ridiculously low price of the time, causing gold to reach $800 an ounce . . . I remember those things, but I also remember not understanding them.  I was too busy having fun, and no I wasn’t doing drugs like Brand.  Once that crisis passed, nobody mentioned the price of gold or oil again; well not for another 10 or 15 years.  Now it’s a substantial section of ‘the news’.  Everyone seems fixated with money now, as if it was some sort of measure of wealth, instead of course being a measure of debt…..

A lot of things have changed in my sixty odd years.  I clearly remember us only having one car, a Renault that was so small the family couldn’t fit in it.  And the only reason we even had this car was that it was supplied to my father by his employer to do his work for them.  I remember having no phone (of any kind), no TV, no fridge, no Traction lounge, no house of our own, in fact we had almost nothing.  I remember an absolutely epic trip when I was seven years old, moving from the south of France to Belgium in my father’s Citroën (you know, the type they use in Maigret and WWII films…)  In this car we shoe horned my parents (someone had to drive!), my grandmother, five kids and all our belongings…  Everything.  One thousand kilometres with the boot roped up to stay shut and the roof rack having to be adjusted forward again every few hundred k’s because it was sliding backwards in the wind drag.  And trust me, we weren’t going fast.No affluence here, move along…..

With two more siblings born in Belgium, by 1963 my Communist parents decided they’d had enough, and sought asylum in Australia looking for a better future.  The rest as they say . . .

Looking back fifty years, it would be easy to say Capitalism was good to us.

There’s an old saying:  “If you’re not a socialist at 20, you haven’t got a heart.  If you’re still a socialist at 50, you haven’t got any money”.  That must explain why the Socialist Party only received 0.07% of the vote at the last election.  I don’t know why they bother.  I mean, you have to get at least 0.5% of the vote like the Motoring Enthusiast Party to have any chance of getting into the Senate…!  But I digress.

Raised in a Communist household, you’d think my future was sealed, but after ten years working as a public servant after leaving school, I decided to have a crack at Capitalism and started my own business.  During the eighties, which even though that decade started under the conditions of the aforementioned oil shock and the Howard induced recession, was one of the fastest growing periods known to Homo Capitalus.  I single handedly managed to grow my photographic studio from nothing to $150,000 a year turnover in just eight years.  I really thought I was made.  For a brief period, I even abandoned Socialism!  I was rich . . . well I felt rich.  In reality, I was seriously indebted….  This could never end, now could it….?  My naivety knew no bounds, but was soon enough shaken by the ‘recession we had to have’.  Much of my work came from advertising agencies which fostered insatiable growth and consumerism, and once people started losing their jobs, people stopped consuming, and advertising budgets collapsed.  As did my business.  Was this all that the much heralded Capitalism I had embraced meant to achieve?  Failure . . . ?

What followed, for me at least, was a mid-life crisis (you know, the one I was never going to have) entwined with the discovery of environmentalism.  Two books changed my life.  Ted Trainer’s ‘Abandon Affluence’, and the Club of Rome’s ‘Limits to Growth Report’.  I was blown away by the fact that the utter unsustainability of Capitalism had completely escaped my attention.  What was wrong with me?  How could I even have worked for the evil advertising industry?  Yet every man and his dog was hard at work, denigrating those anti growth books; we can’t have reality getting in the way of unfettered profits, now can we…..

At this stage, still full of optimism and wanting to change the world, I retrained in Renewable Energy technology, and joined the Greens.  I abandoned affluence and Capitalism, sold all my crap, rid myself of all debts, and downsized like you wouldn’t believe.

Whilst I at first believed our looming predicaments could in fact be fixed, what I really learned was that it was all too late.  Why I believe this would take far far more space than an article like this can allow, but it’s all relentlessly laid out in this blog.  The numbers simply do not stack up . . .

Since Capitalism converted all of us lefties to embrace affluence, the growth of the economy and population means we are fast approaching uncontrollable climate change.  In cyberspace, there are two kinds of blogs I now realise.  Those like this one (meaning the AIMN for whom this was originally written…) that debate politics and environmental issues – without really knowing the enormity of the predicaments looming on the horizon – and the doomerblogs, like mine, run by people who ‘get it’.  There’s even a whole bunch discussing ‘Near Term Human Extinction’, now known by its own acronym, NTHE.  Never heard of it?  Look it up . . . fascinating stuff, might even make you think voting is a waste of time!

“Getting it” is quite a process.  I’ve been at it now for close on twenty years.  I don’t expect anyone reading this to suddenly ‘get it’.  It’s all about the numbers; they simply do not add up . . . I just can’t say this enough.  Once you truly realise what ‘they’ have done to us, and the environment, once you truly understand the mathematics of exponential growth, once you understand what a scam the whole debt economy is, and once you realise that ‘they’ will do nothing about it (even though they know . . . ) because there are no solutions apart from ‘them’ losing their wealth and power . . . you too may well start thinking voting is a complete waste of time.

I don’t know what Brand knows.  I reckon if he came here for dinner, we could have a doozy of a conversation.  But Brand’s gut feeling is right.  We need a revolution.  It could so easily be a bloodless one too . . . What the next system needs to be like will be worked out after a serious shake up of the establishment.  Capitalism is doomed to fail, just like every other ponzi scheme ever dreamed up before it has failed.  There will be a lot of people walking around like zombies in the streets wondering WTF happened . . . and we the zombies outnumber ‘them’ a million to one (they are not really the 1% at all..), ‘they’ do not stand a chance.  ‘They’ are shit scared I reckon.  Hence all this cyber spying and neo fascist nonsense we are beginning to read about everywhere.  The next ism will have to be invented.  I don’t know how it will turn out any more than Brand does.  But everything’s about to change, and most people have no idea.  And they vote.  Still.

The end of community?

10 04 2013

It’s 3AM, and I can’t sleep……  and it appears the internet can’t stop talking about Margaret Thatcher.  I mean, who would have thought I would write two posts about her?  But I just had an epiphany of sorts, since reading this:

Perhaps, though, Thatcher “the monster” didn’t die yesterday from a stroke, perhaps that Thatcher died as she sobbed self-pitying tears as she was driven, defeated, from Downing Street, ousted by her own party. By then, 1990, I was 15, adolescent and instinctively anti-establishment enough to regard her disdainfully. I’d unthinkingly imbibed enough doctrine to know that, troubled as I was, there was little point looking elsewhere for support. I was on my own. We are all on our own. Norman Tebbit, one of Thatcher’s acolytes and fellow “Munsters evacuee”, said when the National Union of Mineworkers eventually succumbed to the military onslaught and starvation over which she presided: “We didn’t just break the strike, we broke the spell.” The spell he was referring to is the unseen bond that connects us all and prevents us from being subjugated by tyranny. The spell of community.

I was on my own” writes Russell Brand…….  which got me thinking of course, because I’ve said many times on this blog that “we are on our own” as the powers that be do nothing to fix the looming dilemmas.  And when you think about it, it’s a counter-intuitive thing to say for a leftie like me…..

It was Thatcher who famously articulated the words “there is no society”.  No society?  Is that not tragic?  In many ways, she and Reagan did rid us of “society”, swapping it for “economy”.  And now I wonder if it wasn’t that revolution which has gotten us into this ungodly mess.  It was Thatcher’s revolution that got rid of society, even of socialism when you think about it……  “the left” died a long time ago, just ask Philip Adams.

Turning “society” into a bunch of selfish self serving greedy populace whose only thought is what else will they buy next is exactly why we’ve ended up with depleted resources and a debt crisis.  Everyone today feels “entitled”.  And it took Thatcher’s death to make me realise it was mostly her doing (Reagan also has a lot to answer for).

The concept of community, or rather the spell of it as Brand writes, of course also probably keeled over once cities took over from villages, and even villages turned into towns.  I have no doubt that many aspects of “progress” are no good at all for us.  And we will pay the price, one day soon, for allowing this to occur.  Especially if Brand is right and we end up “subjugated by tyranny” as even Dennis Meadows thinks.

There could be a counter revolution of course.  The pendulum swings a lot over the eons.  Though it may run out of energy on this last most important swing of all, the one swing the very survival of humanity depends on.  In some ways it’s a great pity Thatcher won’t see everything she ever believed in destroyed by her own ism.

We live in interesting times” has never applied more than today……