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Rapa Nui

Recently I have been reading Collapse by Jared Diamond. I remember reading books by Heinberg, limits to growth, etc ... and we have a chapter that tells the story of Easter Island which has impressed me. There are shocking analogies with present day. Clearly, there are other collapses like the Roman civilization that perhaps look closer. But for me, the collapse in this small, isolated Pacific island evokes me the worst fears. As these people ignored the clear signs of environmental degradation of their land.

Easter Island

Easter Island was colonized possibly around 900 AD. The population in the period before the arrival of Europeans ranged from 6,000 to 30,000 inhabitants. The island was slowly colonized, is famous for it's legendary statues, Moai, ranging in weight to about 90tn, which is essential to keep in mind to understand the history of the island, representing their ancestors. The island was divided into 12 clans, and of course the largest Moai, meant the most glorious ancestor. At first inhabitants occupied the areas closest to the coast, and slowly entering itself on higher grounds.

When Europeans arrived, they found a deforested island, the highest plants barely exceeding 2 meters height. But it was that way before. In fact archaeologists found seeds of a larger variant of the Chilean palm. Recent studies by Catherine Orliac and others found about another 21 plants, mostly extinct trees, studying the fossil traces of ash. These trees were used for canoes, firewood, houses, fruit, etc.. The island was home to at least six species of birds on the island, and about 25 of seabirds nesting in it. These six species disappeared, of the 25 seabirds, 24 stopped nesting on the same island, and only 9 continued nesting on nearby islets. The palms became extinct around 1400, the rest of the trees no later than 1640. Unable to continue making canoes, ended in further pressure the island's resources, depleting shellfish and coastal fishes. Losing the forest eroded the soil that was degraded causing diminishing crops.

All this degradation caused famines, riots, there was indeed a coup in about 1680, in which the military exterminated the nobility, and rejected the previous religious beliefs. Cannibalism appeared. When Europeans reached the island is was wasteland, the people malnourished, the Moai fallen, as they were knocked because of internal conflicts.

Many people wonder, why they didn't noticed it? What were they thinking when they cutted down the last tree? And when the last of the native birds was gone? No, they apparently didn't. There are many reasons. But a very basic one is that "their economy" was growing. The moai were getting bigger. We find it very easy to notice, afterword of course, while the process of collapse develops, not being instant and the requirement of changing ancestral behavior patterns complicates it.

Note: Quick translation of the original in spanish

Lost. Completely lost.

While we are blaming politician and bankers and perceive only small parts of the problem, the great crisis unfolds. The crisis of the 3 E's:

  1. Ecological. Depletion of mineral resources, fisheries, trees, etc, etc. Peak Everything. Exceeding the capacity of the planet, overshoot. Global warming. Pollution. Extinctions.
  2. Energy. Peak Oil. Inability to continue exponential growth in energy consumption. Food and economic model completely dependent on abundant cheap energy.
  3. Economic. The actual economic system needs exponential growth to continue. Exponential debt. Economy based in leverage, accumulation without limits (for some) rather than something functional. Business-As-Usual.

Negative influences

Political and economic corruption of elites. Misidentification of 3 E's. Media manipulation. Short-term policies. Lack of values, moral crisis, this could be a 4th E, Ethics. Etc.

I'm sorry, but while good, the crisis will not be solved by removing some official cars, or lowering the politicians incomes, but of course that may help.

We need to recognize this and make a profound change model that has brought us this far. But if we do not recognize the symptoms forget start solving this problem.

Thoughts of some of the scenarios shown in "Limits to Growth"

Scenario 0: The Earth is flat

Scenario 0

This is what they sell you, Merkel, Hollande, all economists are right. The earth is flat. We can achieve infinite growth economically, technologically, etc. Good news. By 2040-2050 about the food and industrial output tend to infinite as a result of our exponential growth. People weight 500kilos (1100lb) and it rains iphones. We will have a truck, a tank, a plane, and 10 cars each one. You'll go fishing with your nephews in your nuclear aircraft carrier, paid with a mortgage in 1000 years. These economists were right, we are dumb-ass, as we dare to defy the logic of infinite growth and exponential. We know we will have some kinks in about 1400 years when need 100% of the sun's energy, and 1000 years later the entire galaxy. But all these problems are far away, like now, we have always been doomers.

Scenarios 1 and 2: BAU (Business as Usual)

BAU Scenarios

Two models with acknowledging physical limits, without taking action, the current course. On the left, the famous scenario 1, conservative on the abundance of non-renewable resources. Is the stage that is observed today, since we are doing nothing to change the course of events. Scenario 2 is the same but with plenty on nonrenewable resources.

Scenario 4: "Sustainable Growth" / BAU-Green / Bright Green / Green Economy / you name it


We continue growing the economy. In the medium term this scenario is better, since the improvement in the productivity of agricultural land, pollution control, etc., allows us to grow even more than with the usual BAU. The growth of industrial production and population continues to pace. "The earth is flat." It's not likely going to happen. The result is a catabolic collapse. Much of the population is lost very quickly. Similar scenarios give same results with variations. The more the economy had grown, the harder the collapse.

Scenarios 9 y 10: The steady state

Steady state

The first stage "9" results of applying corrective policies. The second stage 10 would had been if this policies started in 1982, to appreciate what it costs us each day by not making decisions. The steady state is achieved by applying population control policies (maximum 2 children per couple in the world), improvements in food production (eg organic food), stabilization of industrial production per capita, control policies for pollution, soil erosion and depletion protocol of nonrenewable resources. This is the degrowth achieving the steady state in a graph.

More info:

Usual mistakes:

  • The limits to growth are not predictions. The system is too complex to be predicted. But if you can study their tendencies. And how they affect the choices we make.
  • It is not a political book.

Quick translation of the original in spanish

Creating jobs without economic growth

Note: quick translation of the original in spanish.

Interview with Cospedal ELPAIS.COM
I would like to make some considerations regarding Mrs. Cospedal (president of Castilla la Mancha) interview.

One idea is, that to create jobs we need to work more hours. Certainly not just Cospedal says this, any friend or family member may think that too. But I do not think it's that simple. There is a problem of productivity in Spain, it seems so, but paradoxically we work the most hours in Europe, maybe Greece too. I do not reach the same conclusion. There are other problems that can affect it, such as the extravagant Spanish work schedules. In Portugal they have a 42.5 hours per week schedule. She advocates for something similar in Spain.

These statements, "we have to work more hours" are great slogans for elections, very hearty, but I do not think they would work as you may expect. The fact is that without growth the current economic system can not generate jobs. While the economy is declining you make people work more hours, production which is decreasing is divided among fewer people ultimately generating more unemployment. To me these statements make me imagine the Mayans sacrificing more people to appease the "wrath" of the gods that came in the form of drought. I think it's a superstition. This crisis has many causes, but you could resume that infinite growth on a finite planet is not possible. Of course better or worse management, the banking issue, but really everything is related, is essentially the ecology, resources, energy. This website provides a lot of documentation and links to know more. As we are currently overshooting, and the current system requires exponential growth to not become dysfunctional, this is creating a huge tension. The chance to continue economic growth without an increase in the energy input is 0. We may still have a periods of economic growth, but these will become shorter and shorter in time and the periods of recession will become longer and longer.

In the face of the process ending economic growth as we know it the chances to create employment do not go through the measures adopted and surely to be adopted. The solution is painful for many, is to work fewer hours, and distribute that work and that wealth better. The solution is a good degrowth. It's going to get tough. We will likely reach 6 million unemployed, and the end it's not in sight. How long are we going to be able to continue paying subsidies? Are we condemning unemployed to a permanent situation? I am not in favor of subsidies if they can work. In an economy that is going to decline distributing work is the most humane solution. What about people who have mortgages, how are they going to deal with this? The system is broke, we should be talking of partial defaults of everyone, as they will have to work less hours. We are rescuing banks, but why not rescue people instead? Who makes the first move? For it is clear that the elites are happy for now, the only time shit is for the people below. In a sense it is like the prisoner's dilemma.

I worry about that we are not identifying the causes and consequences of this crisis. We are wasting time, and the consequences will aggravate if we persist in the impossible.

This week videos

This excellent video by James Hansen

China's Ghost's cities. Is China growth real? Or is another massive bubble? For some time I've been thinking about this, not everything is as they tell.

About change

Why is it so difficult to change? Why you probably do not want to read more after reading a few lines?

Very few people at this point does not have the knowledge at least subconsciously, that something is going wrong. This crisis is like no other. Is obvious it's impact on our ecosystem, global warming, pollution, but especially palpable in the most direct terms, social unrest, the economic crisis. Many are already aware of the consequences of our excesses. Growth has limits, and we have overshoot, and now beginning to pay the consequences.

It is obvious, and I will speak more about it in another article, when you explain these problems to people, they enter in a phase of denial. Most often, we shield ourselves with all kinds of excuses, or just change the TV channel, or as lately just wait for someone to make the law, others will solve the problem. As a friend of mine thinks, at least in the West live in a permanent adolescence, we behave like children, wayward children and we do not understand any limit, we don't want to know where our trash ends, how that was manufactured, etc.. We want to continue dreaming of our 300hp car, with our 60" TV, etc.. The reality is, that in the future, it will be slower, smaller, poorer. As nobody wants to accept, because we behave like a child who is hides behind a curtain, you see the feet, but he thinks of himself as invisible.

Behind the curtain

There is no place where you can hide, nor escape, we are all interrelated, everything is interconnected. I used to believe we had a free market, but there is no such thing, at least not free in the sense that it is infinite. We can't pump an unlimited amount of oil from the earth's crust, nor gold, nor silver, nor anything else. Our economy is a subset of the earth's economy, and not vice versa as we pretend to believe. In nature, man is no the only animal that behaves like if an infinite market is there, a plague of locusts for example behaves similarly. The problem with this attitude is that it usually doesn't end well.

To avoid the worst consequences involves a lifestyle change, which is definitely one of the main reasons for our inaction. We like our selfish lifestyle, in fact, we are all conditioned to do so since childhood. We have to unlearn it and it is not easy. Our generation and the immediate after are won't reach the stars, but will have to deal with more mundane tasks. We have to repair and heal the planet, our psyche and our ethics between us and our environment. And these aren't small tasks, in fact the circumstances in which we'll begin to react, will be the biggest challenge for humanity ever.

And where are you now? You still behind the curtain? Your curtain does not make you invisible. Some of us are ready to play some cards that have the best way to solve the problem in most fair way for everyone.

I recommend you to check the media linked in this web to know more about the subject.