The Third Curve, a new book by Mansoor Khan is just out. More info on the book, the author and event schedule can be found at: www.mansoorkhan.net. To watch a video of a TEDx Talk by Mansoor, click here
October 2013: Actor Aamir Khan, hosted the launch of his cousin, Mansoor Khan’s book, The Third Curve – The End of Growth As We Know It, at The India International Centre, New Delhi.
The event was attended by several dignitaries holding prominent and respectable positions in the Government of India, academic luminaries, as well as business personalities across various industries. They were keen to understand Mansoor’s paradigm shifting claim that economic growth is not just in trouble for the moment but over for good.
Mansoor warned that the Modern Industrial World stands at a crucial and unavoidable turning point. The sacrosanct paradigm of modern economics, namely perpetual growth, is in the process of ending. He reminded the gathering that our economic growth model makes a simple yet amazingly unreasonable assumption that we have limitless resources and energy on a finite planet. He then explained the lesser known laws of energy that defines limits in a way that is governed by geology. This discipline is called Energetics.
Seen in the light of limits and energy accounting he was able to amply explain why economic growth is flagging and will not be possible in the future. He concluded by asking the world to prepare for a long energy descent which would mean a complete inversion of the principles of economics that are currently based purely on growth.
About the intent of his book Mansoor clarified:
“This book is NOT about morality, justice, equity, environmental consciousness and other noble human values. It is about the head-on collision between:
• Our total acceptance of an infinite economic growth model which is not possible
• The reality of the finiteness of the earth which is evident.“
The book will be launched in October across India in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi at Landmark stores. It will thereafter be available for sale at leading book stores across the country as well as on digital portals.
The Modern Industrial World stands at a crucial and unavoidable turning point. It appears as if the sacrosanct paradigm of modern economics, namely perpetual financial growth, is in the process of ending. Financial markets are collapsing. Growth rates are dropping. The age-old remedies prescribed to revive economic growth are proving ineffective if not outright dangerous. Five years after the 2008 global financial crash nothing seems to work.
Our economic growth model based on the concept of compounding money does not accept this. It therefore makes a simple yet amazingly unreasonable assumption that we have limitless energy and resources on a finite planet to perpetuate exponential growth indefinitely. This assumption appeared to hold true for the last 150 years – the first half of oil reserves. And we are now at the halfway point which is an unprecedented point in history and is called Peak Oil. Peak Oil is not an ideology but an aspect of geology. And the laws of geology behave in a bell curve with a peak in the middle.
Now begins the second half of the story of oil. The global economic collapse of 2008 was the result of this turning point because past the peak we get only less oil. Therefore, less industrial and economic growth. This spells doom to the religion of perpetual economic growth.
Therefore this book is NOT directly about morality, justice, equity, environmental consciousness and other noble human values.
It is about the head-on collision between:
• Our total acceptance of an infinite economic growth model which is not possible.
• Our total denial of the finiteness of the earth which is evident.
“Khan lucidly presents the counterpoint to the ideas of perpetual growth: a keen penetrative look at the state of our natural resources and the laws of energy that govern our hopes and plans for the future. The Third Curve offers an original argument, intricately researched and vividly presented. While not everyone will agree with his conclusions, Khan offers a valuable blueprint of insights for policy-makers and decision-makers who might want to consider his view of the pitfalls and consequences of exponential growth. Densely argued but engaging, The Third Curve marks an intriguing debut.”
Shashi Tharoor – Author, Ex Under-Secretary General, U.N. and Minister of State for HRD, Govt. of India
“A clear, sharp articulation of the insanity and absurdity of the economic assumption that we can have perpetual, limitless growth on a planet with ecological limits. Peak oil, climate chaos, the food crisis, the financial crisis are different aspects of interconnected crises triggered by an obsolete paradigm of perpetual growth. We need a new paradigm based on the ecological reality of the planet. And Mansoor Khan’s new book is vital reading for anyone wanting to participate in evolving a new paradigm.”
Vandana Shiva – Author and Environmental Activist
“Future economic collapses may well be possible if we move on growth paths that do not recognize the finiteness of resources and the fragility of ecosystems. The Third Curve points to the need for business and finance to get real.”
Dr. Ligia Noronha – Executive Director (Research Coordination), The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), New Delhi
“Mansoor has tackled some very complex concepts without compromising on their importance. While this is a book that will certainly generate much debate on both sides, I am certain that those who read it will thoroughly enjoy it. I wish him all success and hope he continues his study into this field, which is greatly in need of more scholarly work such as this.”
Jairam Ramesh – Economist and current Minister of Rural Development, Govt. of India
About Mansoor Khan
An alumnus of IIT Mumbai, Cornell University, and MIT, Boston, Mansoor Khan began his career as a film-maker and went on to make feature films that won several national awards.
Mansoor wrote produced and directed telefilm Umberto. Directed feature film Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak starring Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla. He also wrote and directed his second film, Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander, Akele Hum Akele Tum and directed feature film Josh.
In 2003, he moved to Coonoor to realize his life’s aspiration of starting a self-supporting, organic farm. Spread over 22 acres, the farm, Acres Wild, plays host to those seeking an alternative lifestyle experience.
The Third Curve is the outcome of Mansoor’s own journey, an extensively researched piece of work that examines the co-relation between the compulsions of economic growth and the limits imposed on us by Nature. Questioning the efficacy of the modern industrial world, The Third Curve unfolds truths that civilization might perforce have to accept not merely as a possibility but as a way of life.
Mansoor has delivered lectures on various aspects of The Third Curve at institutions like the Indian School of Business, Indian Institute of Management, The Foreign Services Institute, CEO Club (Bangalore), Bombay Chartered Accountants Association and Morgan Stanley.
The author can be contacted at [email protected]
What inspired you to question the concept of perpetual growth?
The simple truth is that I was inspired by reality. The reality that is unfolding all around is that of collapsing economics. When you understand energy you can see the correlation between energy and economics and this is not the way we look at the world. We only see it through the money lens not the energy lens. And energy is the true currency of the universe.
I realised that most people are not aware of the reality of Peak Oil which is that we crossed the highest point of oil extraction that is possible from the earth in 2005 and beyond that we go into global energy decline and that automatically results in shrinkage of the industrial world and marks the end of growth. And even if some people are aware of Peak Oil they are not aware of energy principles and so assume that it is very easy to find some other source of energy to run the world the way we have been doing so far. So the 2008 economic collapse based on the reality of peaking of oil in 2005 was no surprise to people like me who were studying reality of energy and in fact predicting the collapse. Post 2008 I felt it was high time to write a book as now people would be more receptive because they were actually experiencing the real effects of energy decline manifested in shrinking economics all over the world.
Are you providing a solution?
Solution is a wrong word, to start off with. Solutions are for problems. The inevitable energy descent that we face is not a problem but a predicament like old age or death. It is a certainty and so needs a different approach. And that is the approach of acceptance and adjustment. The last chapter of my book is called Transition and it addresses what we need to do to our economic models, businesses, industries, communities and life style to this predicament of energy descent and resultant economic shrinkage.
The principles of transition are well worked out by the Transition Movement started by Rob Hopkins of U.K. and are now being practiced in 800 different towns around the world. These movements are built bottom-upwards. This means they are initiated by the citizens of those towns and not by the government. This is because citizens are all feeling the effects of economic shrinkage by virtue of reduction in production, factory closedowns and disappearing jobs and so they accept the inevitable future of energy descent and the end of growth. They don’t wait for governments to make the change because in fact governments cannot as they are too invested in the idea of perpetual growth. But citizens can and this initiative will finally filter up to the governments. The Transition Movement principles are the answer to your question.
Why are you convinced that the concept that growth is over is 100% true?
That growth is over cannot be called a concept. It can only be a called a reality though you may question it. So to understand this reality we have to understand that real energy principles that have been grossly neglected in our understanding of how our world works. We have only been dealing with money which is only a token. Energy is the only true currency of the universe and we have shaped our modern industrial world on the basis of a humongous amount of stored energy in the form of oil, natural gas and coal. This amounts to a 250 million years of stored sunlight capital half of which we have burnt in just 150 years. This is ridiculous and dangerous. Besides all resource availability on this planet follows the bell curve. It goes up steeply, then tapers until it reaches the peak at the middle point and then begins a descent down to zero. This is geology and not ideology. We are exactly at half way point now and the descent has begun.
Even more, people who were scientifically studying and following energy patterns especially oil were not surprised by the 2008 global economic collapse. We were in fact predicting it because we understood the underlying principles of the false economic paradigm of perpetual growth that was divorced from any reality of energy and resources. 95% of what us energy discipline people were talking has come true and is coming true even now. 95% of what the economic discipline people were predicting has come wrong. That is because the set of rules has inverted. That is proof enough.
The current perpetual exponential economic growth model is in fact designed to collapse. But to be convinced yourself that what I am saying is 100% true you have to read that book in entirety and then look at the events of economic collapse unfolding all around the world. The book gives you a new lens of evaluating these events from an energy decline perspective and you will see that these events will make a lot more sense than the reasons being attributed to them by conventional economic and political wisdom.
Where all did you research?
I read dozens of books and followed a variety of blogs and forums of experts and groups that have been studying the idea of Peak Oil, Energy Descent and Economic Shrinkage for over 2 decades. I used the power of the internet to correlate this perspective in reality by following real world news that was reflecting this argument. I further combined all this with my own understanding of energy and its rules.
It is a broad-based research as the subject requires a very holistic understanding of the multiple crisis that modern industrial civilisation faces. Most people who don’t understand the seriousness of energy descent are focussed on only a few aspects of it and so are easily convinced that it is simply a case of finding alternative energy sources, or increasing efficiency or relying on human ingenuity or technology. This is absolutely untrue and I explain each of these false solutions in my book. You simply cannot run an infinite economic model of growth based on the reality of a finite planet.
How long did it take for you to write this book?
I have been studying the subject of Peak Oil since 2001.But much of the background writing happened over the last 5 years as I gave lectures at over 2 dozen venues on the subject of Peak Oil and Economic Decline. These included the Indian Institute of Management (Bangalore), Indian School of Business (Hyderabad), The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI New Delhi), The Foreign Services Institute (New Delhi) and Morgan Stanley (Mumbai). I have also given 3 Tedx talks.
All this experience and feedback from the audience, who whole-heartedly agreed with the argument, convinced me to get down to writing it in the form of a book.
The actual writing of the book took one and a half year.