A recent post by Gail Tverberg explains what many of us suspect, that the world economic/resource/technology/political ‘system’ is running into the buffers. She suggests that this is a problem of the physics of the system, and not something that is easily addressed. Her conclusion makes sobering reading:
“We are dealing with a situation that economists, politicians and central banks are ill-equipped to handle. Raising interest rates may squeeze out a huge share of the economy. The economy was already ‘at the edge.’ We can’t know for certain.
Virtually no one looks at the economy from a physics point of view. For one thing, the result is too distressing to explain to citizens. For another, it is fashionable for scientists of all types to produce papers and have them peer reviewed by others within their own ivory towers. Economists, politicians and central bankers don’t care about the physics of the situation. Even those basing their analysis on Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROEI) tend to focus on only a narrow portion of what I explained in [this post]. Once researchers have invested a huge amount of time and effort in one direction, they cannot consider the possibility that their approach may be seriously incomplete.
Unfortunately, the physics-based approach I am using indicates that the world’s economy is likely to change dramatically for the worse in the months and years ahead. Economies, in general, cannot last forever. Populations outgrow their resource bases; resources become too depleted. In physics terms, economies are dissipative structures, not unlike ecosystems, plants and animals. They can only exist for a limited time before they die or end their operation. They tend to be replaced by new, similar dissipative structures.
While the current world economy cannot last indefinitely, humans have continued to exist through many bottlenecks in the past, including ice ages. It is likely that some humans, perhaps in mutated form, will make it through the current bottleneck. These humans will likely create a new economy that is better adapted to the Earth as it changes.”
We in the West have had the opportunity, since WW2, to live through the best of times, driven by plentiful energy and resources. Now we approach the times of reducing energy and resources, of climate breakdown, of conflict such as we already see today in Ukraine. Our mindsets need to change, and we need a whole new approach to organising the affairs of humankind on earth and its parts, one that is more aligned with the natural world.
The end of civilisations and empires is always a turbulent time, but also one replete with opportunity for renewal. The challenge to all countries and individuals is to ride the waves and emerge in a better place the other side…
But dare any politician say such a thing and get elected?
Featured image of storm clouds by FotoSleuth, via Wikimedia Commons