The End of Economics as We Know It
Richard Heinberg is one of the world’s most effective communicators on the urgent need for the world to transition to a sustainable future. He takes a big picture perspective of the interconnectedness of economics, energy, and the environment in his latest book.
Here is an extended excerpt from the first chapter. Links to additional and related media are included at the end.
We are, and will be, seeing a cavalcade of environmental and economic disasters, not obviously related to one another, that will stymie economic growth in more and more ways….
Each will be typically treated as a special case, a problem to be solved so that we can get “back to normal.” But in the final analysis, they are all related, in that they are consequences of growing human population striving for higher per-capita consumption of limited resources, all on a finite and fragile planet…
The result: we are seeing a perfect storm of converging crises that together represent a watershed moment in the history of our species. We are witnesses to, and participants in, the transition from decades of economic growth to decades of economic contraction…
This book will argue that growth is over because of a convergence of three factors—resource depletion, environmental impacts, and systemic financial and monetary failures. However, a single factor may be playing a key role in bringing the age of expansion to a close. That factor is oil.
…The Industrial Revolution was really the Fossil Fuel Revolution, and the entire phenomenon of continuous economic growth…is ultimately based on ever-increasing supplies of cheap energy…
…In September 2008, the global financial system nearly collapsed. The reasons for this sudden, gripping crisis apparently had to do with housing bubbles, lack of proper regulation of the banking industry, and the over-use of bizarre financial products that almost nobody understood. However, the oil price spike had played a critical (if largely overlooked) role in initiating the economic meltdown…
Meanwhile, the debate about what to do to rein in global climate change exemplified the political inertia that had kept the world on track for calamity since the early ’70s. It had by now become obvious to nearly every person of modest education and intellect that the world has two urgent, incontrovertible reasons to rapidly end its reliance on fossil fuels: the twin threats of climate catastrophe and impending constraints to fuel supplies. Yet at the Copenhagen climate conference in December, 2009, the priorities of the most fuel-dependent nations were clear: carbon emissions should be cut, and fossil fuel dependency reduced, but only if doing so does not threaten economic growth.
The end of growth is a very big deal indeed. It means the end of an era, and of our current ways of organizing economies, politics, and daily life. Without growth, we will have to virtually reinvent human life on Earth.
- Richard Heinberg, The End of Growth
The End of Oil – chapter summaries and excerpts at The Post Carbon Institute
Videos by Richard Heinberg (about 6 minutes each)
300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds / Who Killed Economic Growth
Interview of Nate Higgins on ChrisMartenson.com
This is riveting, in-depth discussion of our economic, environmental, and societal predicament. If you have the time, this really ties it all together. Until recently, Nate Higgins was lead editor of The Oil Drum, one of the most popular and highly-respected websites for the analysis and discussion and global energy supplies, and the future implications of the energy decline that we are facing. He holds a Master’s Degree in Finance from the University of Chicago and recently completed his PhD in Natural Resources at the University of Vermont. Previously, he was President of Sanctuary Asset Management and a Vice-President at the investment firm Solomon Brothers and Lehman Brothers.