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Sustainability and Collapse – Two Debates


Development and sustainability – the debate
Sagar Dhara (founder member of Peak Oil India group), raises important issues for a discussion on development and sustainability. This piece is based on Aseem Shrivastava and Ashish Kotharis’ book, Churning the Earth, published last year, which discusses the growing economic inequity and environmental degradation in India in the last 25 years, and offers the authors’ vision of a future more sustainable and equitable India. Sagar’s review of their book was published in the August 2013 issue of Biblio. Sagar also spoke on this also at the recently concluded 37th Indian Social Science Congress at Aligarh Muslim University, organized around the theme of building an ecologically sustainable society. Read more

In this response to Sagar’s piece (Entropy, Economics, Environment and Ethics), CK Raju writes:
I regard as particularly important one of the questions Sagar has raised, viz., 2.3 “Is sustainable capitalism possible?” One of my talks at the same meeting related to this question, and also to the other question, 2.7 “Do laws of thermodynamics come into play to define sustainability? -How?” This also brings in a key question he has not raised, and which is rarely raised: is any alternative sustainable without transforming ethics? If not, do we have even a proposal for an alternative ethical system? That is, is it possible to have, for example, a socialist society where everyone practices the capitalist ethic of maximising consumption? I found this discordance, between state structures and people’s consciousness, particularly striking on a visit to Berlin a few days after the fall of the wall. I believe a sustainable alternative won’t be all top-down, we need something bottom-up too. Read more

Crash on demand – the debate
Permaculture pioneer David Holmgren’s essay Crash on Demand has kicked up a storm on Peak Oil blogs. Holmgren writes:
My argument is essentially that radical, but achievable, behaviour change from dependent consumers to responsible self-reliant producers(by some relatively small minority of the global middle class) has a chance of stopping the juggernaut of consumer capitalism from driving the world over the climate change cliff.  It maybe a slim chance, but a better bet than current herculean efforts to get the elites to pull the right policy levers; whether by sweet promises of green tech profits or alternatively threats from mass movements shouting for less consumption… An argument can be mounted for putting effort into precipitating that crash, the crash of the financial system. Any such plan would of course invite being blamed for causing it when it happens.
Writer on Peak Oil and Permaculture David McLeod provides a good summary of the debate while joining issue with Holmgren’s detractors. Also included here are links to responses by several leading Peak Oil bloggers to Holmgren’s essay.

NEWS UPDATE

MIT researchers predict global collapse
From Russia Today TV
Researchers at the world-renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) say that, at this rate, the planet is likely to be plagued by a “global economic collapse” in fewer than two decades if humans continue to gobble up natural resources at the same rate they are today. The report was led by MIT’s Jay W. Forrester’s Institute and used a computing model to examine the correlation between global developments and their affect on the Earth. Variables involving the amount of available resources, different level of agricultural productivity, birth control and environmental protection were taken into account to examine what the future holds for the human race and, according to the researchers, it isn’t very good.

Why Shale Oil Boosters Are Charlatans In Disguise
By James Gruber, Forbes Magazine
Something has bothered me of late: why is the price of crude oil still elevated? Other commodities have taken a battering since 2011. Gold, copper and iron ore – all are way down off their peaks. But oil has seemingly defied gravity. And that’s despite increased supply from shale oil in the U.S., still soft demand particularly in the developed world and declining rates of inflation growth across the globe.

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