Energy and economy

In her post The Next Financial Crisis is not Far Away Gail Tverberg presents an interesting assessment of where the world economy has been, is and is going. It seems to explain a lot of what we see going on.

Gail makes a number of observations, based on extensive research, that appear to look deeper than most so-called economists.

  • our economy is a self-organised system that seems to grow by itself
  • economies can collapse if circumstances are not right cf USSR
  • oil exporting nations can have problems if prices are too low cf Venezuela, whereas oil importing nations can have problems if prices are too high cf Greece
  • energy consumption correlates with and enables economic growth (see Gail’s chart), so cheap energy means high growth cf recent China, India, but not now

world-gpd-growth-has-followed-changes-in-energy-consumption

  • world growth in energy consumption is now negative
  • these factors explain lack of strong Western growth since 2007/8, and corresponding structural problems such as many low-paying jobs resulting in reducing tax take, which generates pressure on public services and so on
  • Likely symptoms of collapse: political parties cannot agree, debt repayment problems, falling international trade, breakdown of higher layers of organisation cf USSR

The point Gail does not really bring out is that economic growth also tends to correlate with negative environmental impacts, so low growth is actually much better for the environment.

We seem to be in a bind: economic growth and social stability versus environment. It is likely that we will always default to the former until the effects of the latter are so disastrous that action is forced upon us.

In a sensible world, we’d be having a big conference to try to work out a better way of managing human affairs that works with the environment, and perhaps decouples perceived benefits from both energy and growth. Which brings us back to the money/debt system, who controls it and who benefits…

In the real world we will just muddle on. And whether Brexit represents a national suicidal impulse or a prescient reading of the runes will not become clear for some time yet! (Its short term negative impact is becoming increasingly clear.)

 

So there is a Magic Money Tree

The status quo is not working, and there is increasingly insufficient money to fund adequate public services in many countries. Let’s try a simple thought experiment.

Suppose that the Central Bank takes back control of the creation of money. Instead of most new money being created by banks as debt, it is just created centrally by the sovereign power – and then loaned at a very low rate to accredited banks to lend on to customers. Let’s call this very low rate delta. Alternatively, delta is taken as a levy on bank lending/debt creation activities – the effect is the same.

Now, if delta is small enough, I would suggest that there will be little or no effect on either bank lending or confidence in the currency. But the sum of a lot of all these small deltas can be quite large. All this money could be passed on to government and would be available either to finance public services or to provide the beginnings of a basic income – and maybe bankers would be not be quite so rich.

Of course, there would need to be adequate safeguards around delta to prevent unscrupulous use by politicians. In the UK, we know how to do such things, eg monetary policy committee.

So there is a magic money tree, after all. Of course, there are others, eg Tobin Tax on financial transactions, as mentioned in an earlier post Magic Money Trees.

The Living Truth

That which is false troubles the heart, but truth brings joyous tranquillity.

Rumi

Is there a universal truth?

I would suggest that truth relates to a frame of reference. It is undoubtedly true that 1+1=2 in the frame of mathematics.

But is it true, for example, that capitalism is the best way to organise human resources, or that democracy is the best way of choosing a leader, or that everything has a materialistic explanation, or similar articles of modern Western orthodoxy? Well it all depends… on the particular circumstances in question.

It seems more appropriate to suggest that truth is relative to its context. Our aim is to live by the best and highest truth in the circumstances in which we find ourselves. We might term this the Living Truth.Read More »

Great Auk

great aukThe story of the Great Auk is well told by The Smithsonian.

Essentially this was a very large bird that lived in great profusion in three islands of the north Atlantic, one near Newfoundland, and two near Iceland. A bit like a penguin or a huge puffin.

When explorers got to these places they were ‘easy meat’ – easily caught and providing a good food source for hungry sailors.

Not only that, their feathers became prized as an alternative to those of the Eider duck. People used to go to stay on the islands just to pluck their feathers, after which the birds died.

By 1775 the possibility of extinction was apparent and the British parliament legislated to ban killing of Great Auks, but there were loopholes.

The American population died out first, then an eruption destroyed the larger of the Icelandic islands. The birds became very scarce, an unsavoury collector’s dream. The last two birds were killed on the smaller island, Eldey, by trophy hunters in 1844, who trod on their egg.

A salutary lesson when we consider how to protect today’s endangered species in a far less amenable environment where there are far more human beings and climate change is occurring at the same time. They can only be saved if we get very serious about it.

Inspired by Elizabeth Kolbert’s book The Sixth Extinction, which contains a fuller description of the history.

Image is the only known illustration of a Great Auk drawn from life. By Ole Worm – Olaus Wormius [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Mr Stanniforth

Although most of the main adult influences on my life growing up in 1950s Lincoln came from family members, this was by no means all. Mr Stanniforth lived near us and was a Sunday School teacher at the local Methodist chapel. At a very young age my brother and I had laid foundation stones for the new Swallowbeck chapel, overseen by my grandma, a staunch Methodist. So we were duly sent to the service on Sunday morning and Sunday School in the afternoon.

To be honest, the services were a bit boring, apart from once a year when an evangelical circuit preacher gave us stirring sermons and a good singsong. At Sunday School, I guess I learned quite a lot about the bible and bible stories, useful background in later life. And I loved playing table tennis at the youth club when I was a bit older.

Mr Stanniforth was a jolly, balding, portly middle-aged man, always reminding us about next Sunday whenever he saw us. My biggest memory is of him repeatedly telling us that ‘alcohol is evil’. Even my young mind thought, can alcohol be evil, when many of the adults I know go to the pub from time to time? Maybe this set in train doubt about religious organisations from an early age, probably the opposite of what was intended.

 

Loganberries and politics

Our loganberry bush never ceases to amaze me at this time of year. Over the last month or so new shoots have thrust forth, now towering over my head, over 8 feet tall. At the same time, last year’s stems are prolifically fruiting, yet at simultaneously dying, increasingly showing brown and wilting leaves.

It’s all just in time, as the new growth soon begins to overwhelm the old and deprive it of light. This is life – the old life fruits and matures, giving way to the thrusting energies of new life.Read More »

Collective Narcissism 

I like Eric C’s post on Signs of Collective Narcissism, which seems to capture a useful concept that neatly describes some of today’s more alarming phenomena – nationalism, religious extremism, political extremism, populism, racism, sexism…

Of course this is the collective equivalent of narcissism of the invidual ego – the narcissism of a group. The job of all groups is to transcend this group ego and place it in support/ service of the whole, rather than serving itself at the expense of the whole.

Political parties, religions, followers of strong leaders, in particular please note.

 

 

People of the Lie

“…the uncanny game of hide and seek in the obscurity of the soul, in which it, the single human soul, evades itself, avoids itself, hides from itself.”

Martin Buber

Recent events brought to mind psychotherapist M.Scott Peck’s book People of the Lie: The hope for healing human evil, published 1983, which I read many years ago now.

Peck’s book is actually about the psychology of evil, or rather seeking towards such a thing.

He gives a useful definition of evil:

  • Evil is that which kills or suppresses life or the life force.
  • Goodness is its opposite – that which promotes life and liveliness.

There is an element of such evil in all of us, but what matters is how we respond and evolve. If we invoke the mask of self righteousness, a self-image of perfection, and are not open to the evil that might be within then we deceive ourselves – the biggest lie.Read More »

Magic Money Trees

“There’s no magic money tree”

Tory general election campaign slogan.

Well there are lots of them, actually.

How about the ability of banks to create money out of thin air and charge interest on it, gaining profits in the process? Why do you think banks have the biggest buildings in towns and cities and reliably generate huge salaries, bonuses and profits? Central banks could take over all money creation, to the benefit of all. See discussion at Positive Money.Read More »

The Plastic Grass Gardening Society

Echoes my own thoughts:

Eyes in the back of my Head

P1010824This is real grass…

Neighbours whose garden backs on to ours are having some hefty work done. Workmen arrived a couple of days ago, dismantling the decking, bashing all hell out of the concrete underneath, roughly rotovating the lawn (most of the garden is lawn) and clearing everything. Today – horror of horrors – a large white sheet covering the rotovated area has been put in place and we know what that probably means.

Plastic grass.

Someone we know recently killed off all signs of wildlife in their garden by laying plastic grass and installing a stone patio. A tree had to come down to allow this to happen, but there was a promise of pots and tubs to bring a bit of life to the area.

I dislike plastic grass intensely and nurture a secret desire to discover, in a guerilla kind of way, if it melts or burns….

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There’s a Way, May

Prime Minister Theresa May appears to have misunderstood the result of the recent UK general election. She asked for a mandate on Brexit. The mandate she got with a hung parliament was to work with the other parties to achieve a Brexit acceptable to the majority.

The intended agreement with the DUP is a dangerous and irrelevant sideshow. Who wants to revive any signs of the Irish Troubles we lived through for so many years? So the UK government must be seen to be scrupulously non-partisan.

It’s irrelevant because her own party will never agree on the way forward, so she needs agreement from parts of other parties, particularly Labour, to reach an acceptable Brexit deal.

Personally I’d like to see a government of national unity in this national emergency. But failing that, how about the Brexit negotiating group being led jointly by David Davis and Kier Starmer, with members from both parties?

There’s a Way, May.

Simian encounter

We were quietly gliding through the peaceful mangrove swamps at Damas Estuary near Quepos, Costa Rica, and came across a troupe of capuchin monkeys, or white-faced monkeys as they are more colloquially called. As we edged into the bank two came over to size us up. The younger one was a bit disturbed.

Soon we got the warning baring of teeth, not to come closer, but the older monkey realised we were no threat. His face looks quite wise. Real natural wisdom.

Costa Rica has just four species of monkey: the howler monkey mentioned in a previous post, these capuchins, spider monkeys and the smaller squirrel monkeys. We saw squirrel monkeys, but they moved around too quickly to get good photos.

Broad billed motmot

‘There’s a motmot’, our guide at Hanging Bridges near Arenal volcano in Costa Rica exclaimed. It was hiding up in the branches and the first photographs were miserable. By moving around the tree I managed to get a better shot. This seems to be a broad billed motmot, part of the motmot family.

motmot

motmot tailThese birds are closely related to the kingfisher, see the beak, and have long tails, unfortunately cut off in the photo. But see this one.

Blue crowned manakin

I believe that this little bird we saw in Costa Rica’s Danaus Ecocentre is a female blue crowned manakin. It’s not at all blue, I hear you say. It seems the female is not, whereas the male has a beautiful iridescent cian cap

blue crowned manakin f

This picture from Flikr would seem to confirm the identification. The more obvious green manakin is theoretically only in Panama, but then that’s not far from Costa Rica.

Anyone got any better identification?