28 May, 2013

Capitalism, Population, Energy & Food - The Next Steps

If you have read any of the articles I have written before this, you might have gathered that western civilisation has reached a turning point in history as our economies flounder and population growth transitions towa­­rds the downside of a bell curve with life changing consequences for western society as a whole over this century.  This will influence how conventional capitalism evolves or fails; to be replaced by something hopefully much more holistically rewarding and equitable in order to avoid chaos and the collap­se of civilisation.
The current form of western capitalism has developed in favour of global tax dodging corporations that can play one nation off against another, as well as a very small elite that control 95% of global wealth and resource distribution.  This is unsustainable within the medium to short term.  Moreover, with rising global competition for dwindling resources, radical change is inevitable as non-renewable resources become increasingly depleted, prohibitively expensive to extract and exploit or become inaccessible.
Declining and ageing populations in the west in conjunction with accelerating global resource depletion by new consumers in the emerging BRICS nations will inevitably result in weakening demand for goods and services in older mature western economies as commodities become less affordable resulting in dwindling consumer confidence in the economy and ensuing economic decline.  This should change the focus of our attention from economic growth towards debt elimination, vigorous resource conservation and transition towards a more resilient ecologically sustainable Steady State Economy where raising quality of life has priority over raising western standards of living aggressively marketed by corporations on behalf of their shareholders, so that a more equitable sharing and distribution of remaining global resources can be achieved in order to avoid international conflict and resource wars.
Our policy makers and politicians have not yet accepted or even recognised this reality and are desperately pursuing a course to stimulate economic growth in order to raise taxes to pay down unsustainable national debts created over the last 20 years and provide for future financial obligations including state pensions for a growing number of longer living pensioners sponsored by a shrinking workforce. 
Our economies are entirely predicated on energy security and population growth to fuel demand for economic growth, neither of which have a long term future on a planet with limited resources.
The elite would like us to believe that new discoveries in science and technology may come to the rescue but my experience is that all advances in technology require greater amounts of energy and may even accelerate resource depletion and the inevitable collapse of civilisation as we know it.
The only possible exception to this would be if we rapidly develop commercially viable space flight technologies and Artificial Intelligence that can facilitate  reliable, unlimited,  clean and secure Space Based Solar Power as well as remote controlled automation and semi-autonomous robotic enabled resource exploitation of the asteroid belt and planets close by.   Colonising the Moon and Mars could then become a reality within this century.
The use of robotics, already prevalent within industry, will also become essential in farming and assisting in the care of the elderly and infirm as our populations continue to age and decline.  However, all mechanical or electrical devices are dependent on energy security to be of any reliable use and so energy security must become the highest priority.
The next priority is to develop sustainable ways to feed ourselves as fossil fuels and the essential ingredients of modern agriculture become scarce and generally unaffordable.  Richard Heinberg in association with the Soil Association has some useful insights as to how to go about this.  We do not have long to fundamentally transform agriculture and implement a more sustainable farming methodology – 20 to 30 years at most.  
Demand for resources, including in particular energy for food production and industry, is directly proportional to population size and attainable standards of living.  If our civilisation is to survive beyond this century it is imperative that all nations urgently stabilise their populations and then allow natural attrition to reduce populations to sustainable levels.
This means that each country must establish what size population it can realistically feed with the resources at its disposal within its borders and then plan to control its population size to an extent that enables sustainable standards of living for its people in perpetuity.  We all share a social responsibility and duty to ensure this happens so that future generations may inherit sufficient resources that guarantee on-going survival of the human race on planet earth.
The current scale of globalisation characterised by the transport of huge volumes of manufactured goods, commodities and agricultural produce from nations on one side of the world to the other will become increasingly less viable as BRICS nation production costs (rising commodity prices and wages) and transport costs escalate while the energy return on energy invested in extracting and refining oil rapidly declines.  There is no substitute for oil where transport is concerned.
Transition towards developing more resilient community focused local economies, built on new worker owned mutual or social enterprise models will become mainstream as we find ourselves having to become more self-sufficient and independent while we learn how to financially and materially live within our means once again.
“Solving the Earth's environmental problems means addressing the size of its human population, says the head of the UK's Antarctic research agency.”  See Population size green priority.
“The population of the UK will rise from 61m to 71.6m by 2033 if current trends in growth continue, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said.
Just over two-thirds of the increase is likely to be related directly or indirectly to migration to the UK.”  However;

“The Optimum Population Trust (now Population Matters) believes that Earth may not be able to support more than half its present numbers before the end of this century, and that the UK's long-term sustainable population level may be lower than 30 million.”  Please Watch the BBC documentary – “How many people can live on Planet Earth?