Each of us lives in a highly complex system, which for most of us comprises our physical and mental health, our family, job, home, community, the attributes of the state or country we live in, the friends we socialize with, and the quality of our physical environment. These all form the total system we inhabit in our day to day lives. There are also many interconnections between the various pieces in our “personal system” and other systems outside of it – other individuals, groups, or countries for example.
Our relative level of contentment then is based upon how well our personal system is functioning. For some of us it functions very well and we have no complaints. For many others, there are significant problems which make life unpleasant. But as long as we can overcome issues that arise without too much difficulty, we accept these problems in the system as “manageable”. We can say we are functioning within the “normal operating conditions” of our system, and can deal with its particular dynamics.
But most systems thinkers know, that any given system once it exceeds its safe operating limits (where the inputs and outputs are not in balance), will eventually become unstable and break down. That break-down may happen slowly and in a linear fashion for some time, but eventually it may go non-linear and accelerate into implosion. The 2008 financial crash was an example of such an implosion of a system that had exceeded its safe operating limits (what is often called a “bubble” in the financial world).
Once a system breaks, depending upon its size, complexity, and level of interconnectedness to other systems, the repair of that system can be very difficult and costly. In some cases, the system cannot be rebuilt as it was and alterations to the old system or a completely new system needs to be created. Because clearly, why would we want not want to make the system less likely to implode again, right?
The 2008 crash revealed a number of significant flaws in the capitalist system. Primarily that our economy runs on credit – banks lend out money that they don’t have as actual reserves (sometimes up to 25 times the amount as their reserve positions), and then people use that money to spend in the economy and then borrow again to pay it back. Money that doesn’t exist is used to make money and then the original loan is paid back with other money that also doesn’t exist.
Banks are able to create money out of thin air because they can legally issue loans far in excess of the money they hold on deposit. In the United States, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve Bank sets reserve requirements, which specify how much money a bank must have on deposit in comparison to its liabilities…the reserve requirements have become more and more lenient…and for some types of accounts is zero…Money that is created by a bank in the form of a loan must be paid back by the borrower. The borrower has to go out and earn this money by engaging in economic activity. In addition to the principal, the borrower has to pay interest, which generates even more economic activity. Debt-based money creation, therefore, drives economic growth. Since loan recipients must pay back more money than they borrow, the total money supply must expand over time to avoid defaults. This additional money can only come from one place: more loans. As a consequence that total amount of debt must increase over time for the financial system to continue functioning under its current conventions. It’s a bit like using your Visa to pay off your MasterCard – except applied to the whole economy.
This “making money off of money” started in the 1950’s as a way to increase economic growth through consumption. With America’s post-war manufacturing capacity fully charged up, someone needed to buy all the things it could produce. Advertising and Consumer Marketing tactics were accelerated and financial instruments were created to give consumers and businesses the capital they would need to make purchases and investments.
Consumerism was on the rise in America, but still in its infancy, when Thorstein Veblen coined the term ‘conspicuous consumption’ in the late nineteenth century. Wars and the Great Depression kept it in check, but it sprang into its adolescence in the 1950’s. That’s when the economist and marketer Victor Lebow wrote his article “Price Competition in 1955” in the Journal of Retailing. With stunning frankness, Lebow laid out this vision for the shopper society: ‘Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today [is] expressed in consumptive patterns.’” – from Enough is Enough by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill
In many ways, this system has provided many advantages. Many of us have benefited from this increased availability of capital and the ensuing economic growth that it produced. The downside is that the growth is perpetual and there are no real mechanisms to limit it within safe operating levels – this is why we have boom and bust cycles. The system exceeds its safe operating limits, breaks, and then we have a bust again. We inject more capital (mostly money that doesn’t exist) through tax breaks or government expenditures (public debt) in order to get the system going again. In fact, since 2008 world debt levels have increased by close to 25% or $35 Trillion Dollars.
In order to pay all of this back, the prescription by government leaders and corporate and finance executives is – more growth. That’s right, we need to grow the economy larger and faster in order to have some chance of managing this debt. But with interest rates at or near zero in most of the developed world, and governments straddled with too much debt and not enough revenues, its hard to see how this will be done so easily.
More importantly, the “more growth” model, is running up against one element in the “system” we cannot easily resolve with money – Climate Change. In fact, in order for us to have any chance at managing the effects of climate change, we need to do less economic activity (which is based on using ever increasing amounts of energy and the pollution it causes). But what we are in fact doing is pursuing a “growth with no limits strategy” in the context of climate change along with a rise in global population from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2042.
This then is the major problem facing the world today – global capitalism and finanicial markets are set up to reward and pursue growth at all costs, while the biggest threat to the viability of our “earth system”, climate change, requires we do less.
But in August 2015, the financial markets are again headed straight into full “bust” territory. Here is what economist Robert Shiller said in May of this year regarding market valuations:
Robert Shiller, professor of economics at Yale University and a Nobel laureate, agrees with Yellen that stocks are overvalued right now. “The U.S. stock market has been this high only three times since 1881,” he notes, citing the Great Depression, 1996 to 1999 during the dotcom bubble and 2004 to 2007 before the housing bubble burst. “The suggestion is that the market might do very well for a while, and then crash,” he adds. Using a ratio Shiller developed called the Cyclically-Adjusted Price-Earnings (CAPE) measure, he looked at current stock prices relative to earnings over the past ten years in real terms. Shiller says that while the average CAPE ratio since 1951 has been 19.1, the current ratio is around 27 — more than 40% above the average. He does, however, caution that today’s situation “seems qualitatively different” with less euphoria and “more fear of secular stagnation…. You might say the stock market is in a ‘reasonable range,’” given the low long-term interest rates. However, the “outlook is for increases in long-term rates,” he points out. – May 26th, 2015 from Knowledge@Wharton
Schiller developed his own PE ratio as well and from his numbers, the current PE ratio is overvalued by close to 60%:
Date: Sat, 25 Jul 2015 09:44:37 -0500
Shiller P/E: 26.5 ( -1.07%)
Shiller P/E is 59.6% higher than the historical mean of 16.6
Implied future annual return: -0.4%
Historical low: 4.8
Historical high: 44.2
S&P 500: 2079.65
Regular P/E: 20 (historical mean: ) source: http://www.gurufocus.com/shiller-PE.php
After the 2008 crash, we were able to achieve a relatively fast market recovery by keeping interest rates at zero and flooding the market with liquidity. Could that work again? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem we have a lot of room to do any more on that front.
If the market crash is based upon or coincident with major breakdowns among a number of different systems simultaneously and perhaps even multiple simultaneous or closely spaced events within a given system, financial engineering will not be able to make up for the losses very easily.
We have been putting band-aids on a lot of things in our society and like the proverbial little boy trying to hold back the breaking dam by putting his fingers in bursting holes – we have done too little, and it may be too late. We may have exceeded safe operating limits in a number of world systems and be close to a tipping point which will force us into radical restructuring of major parts of our existence on earth.
I believe that we’ve reached a precarious situation in a number of different systems across the world – environmental, financial, political, technological, health, energy, cultural / media, and socio-economic that are impacting each other simultaneously.
Here are some relevant data points or “canaries in the coal mine” alerting us to take action quickly:
This chart points out the nine major planetary processes and shows that for four of them (climate change, biosphere integrity, land system change, and biogeochemical flows) humanity is now exceeding the planet’s safe operating boundary, and by a large margin in some cases.
This is from a study originally done in 2009 at the Stockholm Resilience Center and updated in 2015 with more granularity). The authors of the study point out that transgressing one or more of the planetary boundaries could lead to catastrophic changes at the continental to planetary scale. Dietz and O’Neill in Enough is Enough point to other data from the Global Footprint Network that “humanity’s ecological footprint is currently 50% larger than global ecosystems can accommodate. This situation is called ‘ecological overshoot’ and is akin to living in debt. We can only continue to consume at our current rate by liquidating the planet’s natural resources or overwhelming its waste absorption capacities.”
The Global Footprint Network chart above points out that we are on track at our current levels of economic output and resource expenditures to consume the resources of 2 Earths by 2030 (the U.S. with 5% of the world’s population, uses 25% of the world’s energy, and if everyone on the planet consumed at the level of the U.S. we would need the resources of six earths). Even if we were to reduce carbon emissions by 30% per the latest proposals by the IPCC and Obama administration, we would just get back to where we are today – using 1.5 earths. So, the current proposals are not enough and will not stop the rise in climate issues around the world as we are already experiencing. [One question you may be wondering is what is the financial cost to the global economy of significant climate change over the next 30 years. Banking giant Citigroup issued a report on August 19th, 2015 and answered that very question: the answer is $44 Trillion.]
We’ve clearly not taken the necessary steps to contain man-made impact to the environment and its affect on climate and other factors. However, it’s also likely that the changes we are seeing around the world to global weather patterns is not just human caused. NASA has been tracking the following:
- Increased Solar Flare activity (see background here).
- Alterations to the earth’s magnetic orientation and weakening of earth’s magnetosphere – the earth’s magnetic polartity is changing 10x faster than the historical norm. We could have a pole switch within our life time which could severely impact communication and power grids along with possibly triggering large scale flooding.
- Climate change is being seen on other planets within our solar system. David Wilcock has put together a 7 minute video overview of the data that is worth watching. And, science journalist Bill Nye hosted a panel discussion in 2012 on interplanetary climate change which you can watch here.
These cosmic changes along with man-made impacts are increasingly resulting in serious climate events that have major adverse effects on humanity and they are likely to get worse. Even just one or two simultaneous large scale events (earth quake, tsunami) in major world metropolitan areas would be enough to cause severe consequences to financial markets, food supplies, and overall economic functioning.
- There is a fundamental mismatch of corporate perpetual growth objectives against the finite resources of the planet. The idea of “just continue to make the pie bigger” isn’t sustainable. Technology can help alleviate some of the impact but not all. And where it can really help requires major changes to our economic system and politics. But up till now, political and social compromise to meet the needs of all stakeholders has not been achieved. The current way capitalism is structured is not sustainable. We will either change it pro-actively or further painful catalysts will arise that will force us to create the new necessary models. Those catalysts are coming sooner than later in my opinion.
- U.S. Debt is at 105% of GDP (US$ 17 trillion, est.2014). At some point, people want to be paid back. And, if there is another 2008-like financial crash, the option of printing more money, taking on more debt, and lowering interest rates won’t be there.
- As of 2012, of the $3.5T U.S. Federal spending budget, 24% was for healthcare, 17% was for direct defense department military spending; 16% for discretionary spending (50% of discretionary spending account went for military related spending); social security 24%, other mandatory 12% and net interest 6%. So, around 50% of U.S federal expenditures are for war and illness. And another 24% for retirement costs that are under-funded.
- Silicon Valley is experiencing a bubble possibly bigger than the 2000 dot-com era.
“Bill Gurley, the prominent investor behind Uber and Snapchat, has been sounding the tech bubble alarm for months now. He’s preached about the dangerous appetite for risk in the market, the alarmingly high burn rates and the excess of capital sloshing around in Silicon Valley. We may not be in a tech bubble, the venture capitalist said, but we’re in a risk bubble. There is no fear in Silicon Valley right now,” he said. “A complete absence of fear.” He added that more people are employed by money-losing companies in Silicon Valley than ever before.” – Fortune, May 2015
- World powers are increasingly looking to change the balance of power away from the U.S. to a more distributed model. There are many things going on there, but one of the most relevant to the financial markets is the attempt by Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRICs) to create an alternative currency with the aim to replace the U.S. dollar as the reserve currency. If that happens, federal debt becomes much tougher to manage and global trade dynamics become affected.
- War / ISIS. Ground war in the Middle East may be inevitable based on current geopolitical pressures and the low state of world consciousness. The U.S. is already spending $2 Trillion a year on our global military efforts (including veteran benefits and medical costs) along with the psychological toll of one U.S. soldier / veteran committing suicide every hour around the clock. Aside from the critical moral issues, can we really afford more war? An economy partially driven by a continuous war footing doesn’t work (especially when the financial underpinnings go away…).
- The ever-present Political Gridlock is leading to increased political polarization which is leading the U.S. down a dangerous road.
Growing polarization among political elites is a bright, flashing warning of social unrest and imminent collapse of American power and prosperity. Polarization among elites poses a severe threat to any complex society. Polarization is a real problem for society, not just fodder for talk shows. It means that elites are fighting for their personal advantage within a highly competitive system — but they no longer fight to improve or protect the social system as a whole…Turchin cautions that today’s hostile political climate looks a lot like conditions in the run-up to the Civil War. Then as now, politicians and the public at large became increasingly shrill and belittling to those who held different beliefs. Then as now, politicians became increasingly rigid, refusing to acknowledge that different people could reasonably hold different views, and treating disagreement as a sign of stupidity, corruption or even treason. Then as now, politicians refused to compromise…The question is whether we can pull back from the brink and begin to forge a new, less passionate, less divisive way of governing. Turchin is not optimistic: “The worsening structural-demographic trends argue that things will be quite a lot more violent than the 1960s” he says. “How much worse – I don’t want [to] even think about it.” – March 2013 U.S. News and World Report article by David Brodwin [Peter Turchin is a professor at the University of Connecticut and an active commentator on what he calls “social evolution.”]
- Automation in the long term will be good for humanity, in the short term it will hurt. University of Tokyo is on track to have their Artificial Intelligence system up and working by 2020 that can replicate any white collar job currently being done in Japan. Already radiologists and lawyers have had their jobs automated by robotics and artificial intelligence. The trend is accelerating. The jobs created in the last recovery are mostly minimum wage. They will easily be automated out and white collar work is not far behind. We have no national or international plan to deal with this impending change (though the Universal Basic Income proposal being floated in Switzerland and the EU is interesting). Instead, we keep telling kids that college will ensure they get a good job (which is true in terms of percentage likelihood versus a high school diploma, but diminishing in its impact).
- Japan has deployed its first “nanny” robot this year and McDonalds is testing a completely automated fast food restaurant where robots do most of the work with limited human assistance.
- There is also a dark side of AI – autonomous military AI and Robotics. View the recent letter by Tech leaders warning of this possibility.
- The Technology and Business sectors will certainly create viable solutions for economic and environmental sustainability. The interesting things of recent merit are actually those that are driving a “sharing” economy – Uber and AirBnB as examples. Driverless cars will also reduce resource needs as people can share these cars through car sharing services. But it will also mean a need for less workers in the automative and transportation industries. These technological advancements are also creating a zero-marginal cost society – where many things can be created for free. Add in automation from robots and artificial intelligence and this becomes more likely. Futurist Jeremy Rifkin sees this happening in the near term:
This collaborative rather than capitalistic approach is about shared access rather than private ownership. For example, 1.7 million people globally are members of car-sharing services. A recent survey found that the number of vehicles owned by car-sharing participants decreased by half after joining the service, with members preferring access over ownership. Millions of people are using social media sites, redistribution networks, rentals and cooperatives to share not only cars but also homes, clothes, tools, toys and other items at low or near zero marginal cost. The sharing economy had projected revenues of $3.5 billion in 2013.
Nowhere is the zero marginal cost phenomenon having more impact than the labor market, where workerless factories and offices, virtual retailing and automated logistics and transport networks are becoming more prevalent. Not surprisingly, the new employment opportunities lie in the collaborative commons in fields that tend to be nonprofit and strengthen social infrastructure — education, health care, aiding the poor, environmental restoration, child care and care for the elderly, the promotion of the arts and recreation.
As for the capitalist system, it is likely to remain with us far into the future, albeit in a more streamlined role, primarily as an aggregator of network services and solutions, allowing it to thrive as a powerful niche player in the coming era. We are, however, entering a world partly beyond markets, where we are learning how to live together in an increasingly interdependent, collaborative, global commons. -NY Times March 15, 2014, The Rise of Anti-Capitalism, by Jeremy Rifkin
U.S. health care costs are now 18% of GDP. It is a very good thing that Obamacare now provides health coverage to more people. It has also lowered the cost growth curve. But it cannot reverse the cost curve without further changes to the health care system (and more importantly to people’s lifestyle choices and changes to chemical and electromagnetic pollution in our environment, food, and water supplies). Therefore, fundamental changes in societal living norms is necessary. There are certainly people waking up to new ways of holistic living, but we have a long way to go.
- 50% of the U.S. population will get heart disease in their life time.
- 50% of the U.S. population will get cancer in their life time.
- 35% of the U.S. population is obese (as of 2012); 20% of children aged 6-11 are obese; 43% of all U.S. adults expected to be obese by 2018
- 30% of all U.S. adults above age 65 have diabetes.
- 20% of the U.S. population is still smoking.
- NIH estimates that 10% of the U.S. population are habitual drug addicts.
- Healthline reports that approximately 10% of the U.S. population suffers from clinically diagnosed depression (actual number is much higher as many people don’t get diagnosed nor seek treatment); total growing at 20% per year.
How long can this go on?
- We passed peak-oil a few years back. We need alternatives deployed more widely – for environmental reasons, but also to fundamentally change the cost-basis for basic living – everything we do, consume, and build is too expensive (and as a result too damaging to the environment) in our current system due to the cost of energy and an emphasis on disposability. I do think alternative energy and new concepts will happen more quickly, but when they do, it will fundamentally restructure most businesses and allow new ones to come on line. Incentives are not there yet however to accelerate the deployment of new (not just alternative) energy sources.
- The dangers of fracking on the environment are well known – though denied by people profiting from the destruction it causes our environmental infrastructure. It’s not a long term solution and a major environmental disaster might unfortunately have to happen for us to let it go. *Over the last year 1,200 fracking firms went out of business. 97% of fracking firms are operating at a loss at current oil prices. There is $1 Trillion of debt that these companies took out that may be defaulted on. The Southern states also expect over 300,000 lost jobs in the fracking industry by end of this year.
Culture / Media
- Most mainstream media (paper, tv, movies, radio) is controlled by a small number of people. There are limited ethical constraints in their business model and a dearth of values. What they value the most is being able to draw viewers through a fear generating approach (the amygdala of the human brain, the seat of the flight or fight response, is trained to protect the body by reacting to fearful situations first and with the most intensity) – that’s why we pay attention. Attention equals advertising revenues, which means more money for media owners. Fear is very profitable.
- Unfortunately, when we are in a fearful state, it has grave implications to our physical health, our mental state, and our ability to have empathy or kindness toward others. A perfect combination if you want to keep people in a competitive and aggressive mindset (leading to less harmony, more mindless consumption, more support for violent sports and military efforts, and a continuing supply of customers for the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries).
- Economist Thomas Piketty showed in his book, Capital in the 21st Century, that Income inequality in the U.S. is almost at the same level now as it was at the time of the French Revolution. It’s also not limited to individual wealth and control either. A TED Talk in 2012 titled – “Who controls the world?”, by Zurich based physicist, complex systems theorist, and hedge fund researcher James B. Glattfelder, showed that 737 top shareholders have the potential to collectively control 80 percent of the global Transnational Corporate Value. That level of control and interconnectedness actually introduces a high degree of risk as serious financial and other issues would quickly spread throughout the global corporate and banking system. Most of those 737 top shareholders are at U.S. and UK banks.
- As U.S. demographics change along with income disparities and a break down in economic mobility, race relations have badly deteriorated in recent years (it’s fair to say they never were in full function, just smoldering underneath the surface).
- Global population rising: UN estimates that global population will rise from 7 Billion to 9.2 Billion people by 2042.
- Currently 20% of U.S. children are living in poverty and close to 49 Million Americans overall live in poverty. The family of four poverty line is $23,550. Many millions more americans live in very difficult and stressful conditions. This is in the richest country in the world…We still don’t have universal health care and universal pre-k as most advanced countries do. Educational research shows that children who don’t have access to early childhood education fall behind dramatically by 3rd grade and can’t read as well. After, that they can’t keep up which leads to disciplinary problems in the class room, additional expense for the schools, disruption to other students, and high drop out rates. Eventually most of these children end up in poverty. This is all part of the high degradation in U.S. workforce performance and lower student test scores along with the highest per student k-12 cost in the world.
- 76% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, with little to no emergency savings, according to a survey released by Bankrate.com. Fewer than one in four Americans have enough money in their savings account to cover at least six months of expenses, enough to help cushion the blow of a job loss, medical emergency or some other unexpected event, according to the survey of 1,000 adults. Meanwhile, 50% of those surveyed have less than a three-month cushion and 27% had no savings at all. – from CNN/Money
- At the global level, we aren’t anywhere close to an equal and just society. 2/3 of the planet is living on less than $7/day and is facing significant threats from food and water shortages along with large threats from climate change.
- The U.S. population is armed to the teeth. From the Brady Center:
- On average, 31 Americans are murdered with guns every day and 151 are treated for a gun assault in an emergency room.
- Every day on average, 55 people kill themselves with a firearm, and 46 people are shot or killed in an accident with a gun.
- The U.S. firearm homicide rate is 20 times higher than the combined rates of 22 countries that are our peers in wealth and population.
- An average of seven children and teens under the age of 20 are killed by guns every day.
- American children die by guns 11 times as often as children in other high-income countries.
- Firearm homicide is the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle crashes) for young people ages 1-19 in the U.S.
- Medical treatment, criminal justice proceedings, new security precautions, and reductions in quality of life are estimated to cost U.S. citizens $100 billion annually.
All of the above issues arise due to a belief in the “Illusion of Separation” between us and others, and the planet itself. When we don’t recognize ourselves as inherently interconnected and interdependent, then we end up pursuing actions and ways of being which are harmful to ourselves and others. The chart below summarize the current state of this situation in the U.S.:
Most of us have not understood the true nature of reality. Quantum Science principles show that we are all highly interconnected to each other and the planet through energy fields. The discovery of Quantum Physics over 100 years ago along with electromagnetic field theory that preceded it, has not fully been integrated into our various systems of living, ethics, and values and so we continue to struggle to find solutions to our most pressing problems because essentially we are looking at them in the wrong way.
In the early 19th century, new physical phenomena were discovered that could not be described by Newtonian physics. The discovery and investigation of electromagnetic phenomena led to the concept of a field. A field was defined as a condition in space which has the potential of producing a force. The old Newtonian mechanics interpreted the interaction between positively and negatively charged particle like protons and electrons simply by saying that the two particles attract each other like two masses. However, Michael Faraday and James Clerk Maxwell found it more appropriate use a field concept and say that each charge creates a “disturbance”, or a “condition” in the space around it, so that the other charge, when it is present, feels a force. Thus the concept of a universe filled with fields that create forces that interact with each other was born. Finally, there was a scientific framework which could explain our ability to affect each other at a distance through means other than speech and sight. – author and former NASA Physicist, Barbara Ann Brennan
If we are not viewing our world and our bodies in terms of energetic fields – then we cannot understand the root cause of problems. As an example, in medicine, we can keep coming up with band-aids that partially address symptoms, but we remain perplexed why we cannot create cures for big health challenges once and for all. The same goes for every other area – finance, technology, politics, media, etc. If we don’t understand that we are energy beings who are all connected to each other (and the planet) and how what we do and think, physically and mentally affects ourselves and others, then we keep creating ways of living based on an idea that we are all separate, disconnected material entities. Modern progressive science tells us that’s wrong, and the world’s spiritual traditions have been saying the same thing for thousands of years.
Fortunately there are various technological and societal solutions based on Quantum principles being worked on to address all of these different areas, but even if some were to come on line in the next few years, it will still require a massive shift in human consciousness to deploy them peacefully and for the common good. New solutions deployed within the same “service to self” or “profit maximization and growth at all costs” mindset will only delay or critically wound the successful deployment of these fixes to our problems. So there will clearly need to be significant adjustments in society at mental consciousness and physical levels to allow us to avoid the massive societal crash we are headed for.
The Good News
The good news is that there are many people who are working at the frontier of the new, more equitable and just global society that is in the process of being born. The Enough is Enough authors in particular outline a number of key things that need to happen for us to get to what they call a sustainable “steady-state” economy. They define a Steady-State economy as one “that aims to maintain a stable level of resource consumption and a stable population. It’s an economy in which material and energy use are kept within ecological limits, and in which the goal of increasing GDP is replaced by the goal of improving quality of life.”:
- New meanings and measures of progress
- Limits on material and energy consumption, waste production, and conversion of natural lands
- A stable population and labor force
- A more and efficient capital stock
- More durable, repairable products
- Better pricing, including a carbon price
- A shorter work year and more leisure time
- Reduced inequality
- Fewer status goods
- More informative and less deceptive advertising
- Better screening of technology
- More local (and less global) trade of goods and services
- Education for life, not just for work
Dietz and O’Neill explain what needs to be held steady and what can change within a steady-state economy:
It’s important to distinguish between what’s on and what’s off the list of things to hold steady in a steady-state economy. Only a few items need to be held steady – the number of people, the stock of artifacts (built capital), and the quantity of material and energy flowing the economy. In contrast, the list of items that can change is long. It includes knowledge, technology, information, wisdom, the mix of products, income distribution, and social institutions among other things. The objective is to have the items on this second list improving over time, so that the economy can develop qualitatively without growing quantitatively. In short, a steady economy is an economy with enough as a goal. It prioritizes well-being over consumption, and long-term health above short-term gains. It focuses on innovation and development instead of growth. The pursuit of endless economic growth, with all of its downsides, is clearly unsustainable in the twenty-first century. A steady-state economy is the sustainable alternative to perpetual economic growth.
Implementing the enough is enough economy will take a giant leap in consciousness. Fortunately we already have people and organizations in the U.S. and around the world who are creating the ground work for the new organizations, business models, technologies, and social structures that will be necessary for a more sustainable life style. I am hoping that we can have a smooth transition to this more stable and just society, but of course it may not work out that way.
Ultimately, there will need to be new industries, new products, new energy sources, new living arrangements, and perhaps even new monetary and financial systems (or even no monetary system!). The current math just doesn’t work, we have exceeded safe global operating conditions and will have to make drastic changes in order to compensate.
The evolutionary trend is that the world is evolving in a direction towards higher levels of integration, interconnectedness, and unity. Forces that are aligned against that trend are powerful and along with natural forces that are emerging in our environment (man made and otherwise), both will cause major disruptions to all aspects of our economies and lives in the years ahead. The process is accelerating. To properly manage the effects of these forces will require us to reduce our output and waste, and not accelerate our growth and consumption as the current versions of capitalism and the stock market are set up to promote.
As the continuing “catalysts for change” arrive to challenge us, hopefully more of us will take the opportunity to say no to band-aids and instead work to adopt more meaningful changes for ourselves and our fellow citizens. With that in mind, here are some resources to begin your own journey to assist the world in getting to a more sustainable footing:
First, read Enough is Enough by Dietz and O’Neill and then start following those organizations that are working to bring about a sustainable post-capitalist reality:
- Center for the Advancement of the Steady-State Economy (CASSE)
- The New Economics Foundation
- New Economy Coalition
- The Post Growth Institute
- The Post Carbon Institute
- Earth Economics
- Ethical Markets
- To see a vivid futuristic possibility of a saner, more equitable world that unleashes human potential, take a look at the work of Jacques Fresco. Fresco, a long time scientist, inventor, and master level systems thinker is the CEO of The Venus Project and author of Designing the Future. He has a bold vision for a future that is beyond politics, war, and poverty. It’s based on using technology and automation to unleash humans from resource scarcity which will usher in a new level of peace and abundance for every world citizen. It will of course require a dramatic rise in human consciousness and the reuniting of science and spirituality to get there (something which Mr. Fresco doesn’t seem to fully appreciate (but that’s ok, we need to start someplace, and his dramatic technological vision is breath-taking in scope). You can also watch the Future by Design documentary on Youtube.
- Read “It’s Not Climate Change — It’s Everything Change” – a stunning visual essay by author Margaret Atwood. She starts the article by showing three vivid post peak-oil scenarios in which the world (sooner than later) looks dramatically different based upon choices we make today about how we supply and use energy and the overall impact on the environment and our lives. The remainder of the essay goes into detail on how we are exceeding safe operating conditions in many of the earth’s natural systems as a result of our lifestyle and economic choices and what we could do differently.
- The post-capitalist future is coming sooner than we think and the UK economist and journalist Paul Mason is at the forefront of explaining it to us. His article, The End of Capitalism has Begun appeared recently in the UK’s Guardian newspaper and is based on his new book: Postcapitalism, A Guide to Our Future.
- Sociologist and Futurist Kingsley Dennis has great insight into how the next generation of children, who he calls The Phoenix Generation, will usher in a new global era of higher consciousness and world evolution. Mr. Dennis explains that this new group will be carrying a lot less ideological baggage than their elders because they instantly have access to technology and information that their predecessors did not. See his work at his website.
- To see how capitalism in a kinder, gentler form which balances people, planet, and profits visit the website of B-Lab, the nonprofit that created a new form of business entity called the B-Corporation (B for Benefit) which allows companies to take on things other than maximizing profit as their core mission and priority.
- Read the article – A Humanist Economics – Louis Kelso and the Hope of Broadened Ownership. A look at the implications of Thomas Pickety’s work on wealth inequality and the prospects for change.
- Read Leading from the Future, by MIT professor Otto Scharmer. The book states that “meeting the challenges of this century requires updating our economic logic and operating system from an obsolete “ego-system” focused entirely on the well-being of oneself to an eco-system awareness that emphasizes the well-being of the whole. It presents proven practices for building a new economy that is more resilient, intentional, inclusive, and aware.” You can also take the ULab MOOC on edX – Transforming Business, Society, and Self – which is based on the book and Otto Scharmer’s work.
- In a TED Talk published, former scientist and now long-time Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard offers his simple solution to climate change, biodiversity loss and global inequality. The problem, he says, is selfishness, and the solution is altruism. It’s a simple—even naïve—idea, but Ricard makes a compelling case that altruism is a real, effective solution.
- Watch this video showing progressive biologist David Sloan Wilson explaining why mainstream economics is bankrupt and how a new economic paradigm can improve the world.
- Read “Stop Stealing Dreams” – Seth Godin’s manifesto on the issues with our current educational system. “The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake: We spend a fortune teaching trigonometry to kids who don’t understand it, won’t use it, and will spend no more of their lives studying math. We invest thousands of hours exposing millions of students to fiction and literature, but end up training most of them to never again read for fun (one study found that 58 percent of all Americans never read for pleasure after they graduate from school). As soon as we associate reading a book with taking a test, we’ve missed the point. Even though the workplace and civil society demand variety, the industrialized school system works to stamp it out. The industrialized mass nature of school goes back to the very beginning, to the common school and the normal school and the idea of universal schooling. All of which were invented at precisely the same time we were perfecting mass produc- tion and interchangeable parts and then mass marketing.We continually raise the bar on what it means to be a college professor, but churn out Ph.D.s who don’t actually teach and aren’t particularly productive at research, either. We teach facts, but the amount of knowledge truly absorbed is miniscule.”
- See how the start up BlueRise is working to harness energy from the power of oceans: Bluerise is a technology provider and project developer of Ocean Thermal Energy solutions. The thermal energy stored in the tropical ocean can be used to generate sustainable electricity, cooling, and fresh water. They utilize the ocean resource by means of innovative technologies for desalination, agriculture and aquaculture among others.
- Become familiar with The Environmental Working Group whose mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, they drive consumer choice and civic action.
Explore how Systems Thinking is the critical skill to think holistically and create meaningful solutions:
- An concise three page Introduction to Systems Thinking with easy to understand examples by Daniel Aronson (author and host of www.Thinking.net).
- Read The Dawn of System Leadership in the Stanford Innovation Review. “The deep changes necessary to accelerate progress against society’s most intractable problems require a unique type of leader—the system leader, a person who catalyzes collective leadership.There are three core capabilities that system leaders develop in order to foster collective leadership. The first is the ability to see the larger system. In any complex setting, people typically focus their attention on the parts of the system most visible from their own vantage point. This usually results in arguments about who has the right perspective on the problem. Helping people see the larger system is essential to building a shared understanding of complex problems. This understanding enables collaborating organizations to jointly develop solutions not evident to any of them individually and to work together for the health of the whole system rather than just pursue symptomatic fixes to individual pieces.”
- View Peter Senge’s: “Systems Thinking for a Better World” – video.
- Read the article How Engineers Think in terms of Systems: “The core of the engineering mind-set is what I call modular systems thinking. It’s not a singular talent, but a melange of techniques and principles. Systems-level thinking is more than just being systematic; rather, it’s about the understanding that in the ebb and flow of life, nothing is stationary and everything is linked. The relationships among the modules of a system give rise to a whole that cannot be understood by analyzing its constituent parts.” – from Guru Madhavan in his book – Applied Minds: How Engineers Think
Get up to speed on Quantum Reality and how Consciousness is at the center of everything:
- The designer of Intel’s first microprocessor, physicist Frederico Faggin, who went to on to start a number of other pivotal companies including Zilog, Cygnet, Synaptics, and Foveon has now turned his prodigious technical talent to reconciling spirituality with science and answering the question – What is Consciousness? Faggin has created a non-profit foundation to drive scientific inquiry into the foundations of consciousness and hopes to use his deep understanding of quantum science to more clearly understand the true nature of reality. This article lays out in a thorough and clear fashion his understanding of what consciousness is and what science needs to tackle for further understanding.
- Read the article – Consciousness: Why Materialism Fails, by Larry Dossey, MD. “The most urgent issue we humans face is how we conceive ourselves — whether as complex lumps of matter guided by the so-called blind, meaningless laws of nature, or as creatures who, although physical, are also imbued with something more: consciousness, mind, will, choice, purpose, direction, meaning and spirituality, that difficult-to-define quality that says we are connected with something that transcends our individual self and ego. Every decision we make is influenced by how we answer this great question: Who are we? There is growing awareness that the endless arguments between proponents of these two views are more than hairsplitting disagreements among experts, but they have real consequences for our future on earth, and perhaps whether we shall have a future. As novelist and statesman André Malraux (1901-1978) said, the twenty-first century will be spiritual, or it will not be.” – from OpenSciences.org
- Dr. Robert Lanza who was voted the 3rd most important scientist alive by the NY Times and one of the pioneers of stem cell therapies gives an 18 minute video overview of his book – “Biocentrism: How Life and Consciousness Are the Keys to Understanding the Nature of the Universe“ Lanza studies the intersection of physics, quantum mechanics and astrophysics as they apply to Biology. His theory of Biocentrism teaches that life and consciousness are fundamental to the universe. It is consciousness that creates the material universe, not the other way around he explains.
- View the short video – The Shortcomings of Religion and the Coming Revolution, by Roberto Unger. “For over 200 years the world has been set on fire by a revolutionary message. The message is that every individual human being is divine. That all of us despite the constraints and humiliations that surround us can share in a greater life and share even in the attributes that we ascribe to God.” And with this as his starting point, Roberto Unger embarks on an exploration of the processes by which social change and spiritual rebirth could beget a living actualization of individual human divinity. The title of Unger’s new book, The Religion of the Future, refers to the theoretical product of a modern spiritual revolution. The goal of this revolution would be to promote a greater life for the ordinary individual. The means by which this revolution would be achieved depends entirely on the important relationship between personal conduct and the structures of society.
- Read the article – The Conscious Organization: Prospects for a Self- Actualized Workforce by John Renesch in the Journal of Values-Based Leadership. This is my first exposure to John Renesch, Silicon Valley based writer who has been writing on evolving forms of business and organizational structures since the 1980’s. This article from 2012 is a great glimpse into what the more evolved business environments of the future could look like as the on-going shift in global consciousness occurs. *Those of us working in main line corporations will wish this vision was a reality today…Complement with The Seven Levels of Organizational Consciousness by Richard Barrett – one of the pioneers of the Conscious Capitalism movement.
- Listen to the Science Set Free Podcast with progressive biologist Rupert Sheldrake. Each 30 minute segment is a very intelligent discussion with BBC science and society writer Mark Vernon.
- Listen to the Conversations Beyond Science and Religion Podcast with Philip Comella. Philip is an environmental lawyer and trained philosopher who bridges the gap between left and right brain thinking to understand the truth on big issues with his excellent range of guests.
Here are some additional resources to aid in the elevation of your personal consciousness:
- Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment, by Marc Gafni
- Mindfulness, Pathway to Divine Consciousness
- The (re)-Discovery of the Human Energy Field
- The Core Principles of the New Spiritualist
- 20/20 Consciousness
- Seeing the Oneness of our Reality
- Mindfulness – Experiencing Reality in HD
- How Yogic Breathing Transforms the Mind and Body
- What the Mind Needs to Tune into Cosmic Intelligence
- Co-Creating with Source Energy – The New Paradigm of Success
- Eckhart Tolle – Living with Meaning, Purpose, and Wisdom in the Digital Age (video)
You can of course also see additional resources at the Resource Section on the Think Smarter World site.
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