Degrowing the Economy

SUBHEAD: It's only one way to avoid climate catastrophe that we find ourselves in the midst of.

By Jason Hickle on 18 October 2017 for the P2P Foundation -

Image above: View of abandoned city from movie "Blade Runner 2029". From (

You can almost feel the planet writhing. This summer brought some of the biggest, most destructive storms in recorded history: Harvey laid waste to huge swathes of Texas; Irma left Barbuda virtually uninhabitable; Maria ravaged Dominica and plunged Puerto Rico into darkness.

The images we see in the media are almost too violent to comprehend. And these are the storms that made the news; many others did not.

Monsoon flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal killed 1,200 people and left millions homeless, but Western media paid little attention: it’s too much suffering to take in at once.

What’s most disturbing about this litany of pain is that it’s only going to get worse.

A recent paper in the journal Nature estimates that our chances of keeping global warming below the danger threshold of 2 degrees is now vanishingly small: only about 5 per cent. It’s more likely that we’re headed for around 3.2 degrees of warming, and possibly as much as 4.9 degrees.

If scientists are clear about anything, it’s that this level of climate change will be nothing short of catastrophic. Indeed, there’s a good chance that it would render large-scale civilization impossible.

Why are our prospects so bleak? According to the paper’s authors, it’s because the cuts we’re making to greenhouse gas emissions are being more than cancelled out by economic growth. In the coming decades, we’ll be able to reduce the carbon intensity (CO2 per unit of GDP) of the global economy by about 1.9 per cent per year, they say, if we make heavy investments in clean energy and efficient technology.

That’s a lot.

But as long as the economy keeps growing by more than that, total emissions are still going to rise. Right now we’re ratcheting up global GDP by 3 per cent per year. At that rate, the maths is not in our favour; on the contrary, it’s slapping us in the face.

In fact, according to new models published last year, with a background rate of 3 per cent GDP growth it’s not possible to achieve any level of emissions reductions at all, even under best-case-scenario conditions. Study after study shows the same thing: keeping global warming below 2 degrees is simply not compatible with continued economic growth.

This is a tough pill to swallow. After all, right now GDP growth is the primary policy objective of virtually every government on Earth.

Over in Silicon Valley, tech-optimists are hoping that a miracle of artificial intelligence might allow us to decarbonise the economy by 3 per cent or more per year, so we can continue growing the GDP while reducing emissions. It sounds wonderful.

But remember, the goal is not just to reduce carbon emissions – the goal is to reduce them dramatically, and fast.

How fast, exactly?

Climate scientists Kevin Anderson and Alice Bows say that if we want to have even a mere 50 per cent chance of staying under 2 degrees, rich nations are going to have to cut emissions by 8-10 per cent per year, beginning in 2015. Keep in mind we’re already two years in, and so far our emissions reductions have been zero.

Here’s the hard bit. It’s just not possible to achieve emissions reductions of 8-10 per cent per year by decarbonising the economy. In fact, there is a strong scientific consensus that emissions reductions of this rate are only feasible if we stop our mad pursuit of economic growth and do something totally unprecedented: begin to scale down our annual production and consumption. This is what ecologists call ‘planned de-growth’

It sounds horrible, at first glance. It sounds like austerity, or voluntary poverty. After all, for decades we’ve been told that GDP growth is good, that it’s essential to progress, and that if we want to eradicate poverty around the world, we need more of it.

The only reason we’re all chasing GDP growth is because we’ve been made to believe that it’s the only way to improve the incomes and lives of ordinary people. But it’s not.

Politicians and economists rally around GDP growth because they see it as preferable to redistribution. They would rather grow the pie than go about the messy business of sharing what we already have more equally, since the latter tends to upset rich people.

Henry Wallich, a former member of the US Federal Reserve Board, made this clear when he pointed out that ‘Growth is a substitute for equality’.

But we can flip Wallich’s greedy little quip on its head: if growth is a substitute for equality, then equality can be a substitute for growth. By sharing what we already have more fairly, we can render additional economic growth unnecessary.

In this sense, de-growth is nothing at all like austerity. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. Austerity means cutting social spending and slashing taxes on the rich in order to – supposedly – keep the economy growing. This has crushing consequences for ordinary people’s lives.

De-growth, by contrast, calls for cutting the excesses of the richest while redistributing existing resources and investing in social goods – universal healthcare, education, affordable housing etc.

The whole point is to sustain and even improve human wellbeing without the need for endless economic expansion. De-growth is a philosophy that insists that our economy is already more than abundant enough for all of us – if only we learn how to share it.

One easy way to do this would be to roll out a universal basic income and fund it through new progressive taxes – taxes on carbon, on land, on resource use, on financial transactions, and so on.

This is the most sensible and elegant way to share our abundance, and it comes with an added benefit: if the basic income is high enough, it will free people to walk away from unnecessary jobs that produce unnecessary stuff, releasing some of the pressure on our planet.

Crucially, de-growth does not mean we have to get rid of the stock of stuff that we already have, as a nation: houses, furniture, shoes, museums, railways, whatever. In fact, it doesn’t even mean that we have to stop producing and consuming new stuff.

It just means we have to reduce the amount of new stuff that we produce and consume each year.

When you see it this way, it’s really not so threatening.

If we degrow by 5 per cent per year (which is what scientists say is necessary), that means we have to cut our consumption of new stuff by 5 per cent. It’s easy to make up for that by just repairing and reusing stuff we already have. And we can encourage this more creative approach to stuff by curbing advertising, like Sao Paulo, Chennai and other cities have done.

Of course, there are deeper, more structural dimensions of our economy that we will have to change.

One of the reasons we need growth is to pay off all the debt that’s sloshing around in our economy. In fact, our entire money system is based on debt: more than 90 per cent of the currency circulating in our economy is loans created out of thin air by commercial banks.

The problem with debt is that it comes with interest, and to pay off interest at a compound rate we have to work, earn, and sell more and more each year. In this sense, every dollar of new money we create heats up the planet.

But cancel the debt and shift to a debt-free currency, and suddenly we don’t have to labour under this relentless pressure. There are already plenty of ideas out there for how to do this.

Still, we have to be honest with ourselves: : the Stern Review projects that climate change is set to cost us 5-20 per cent of global GDP per year, which is going to violently change our economy beyond all recognition, and cause enormous human suffering in the process.

The storms that churned across the Atlantic this summer are only a small taste of what is to come.

The choice is clear: either we evolve into a future beyond capitalism, or we won’t have a future at all.

Dr Jason Hickel: An anthropologist who works on political economy and global justice. He is the author of a number of books, including most recently The Divide: A Brief Guide to Global Inequality and its Solutions(Penguin 2017).

Into the Cold and Dark

SUBHEAD: American life which emerges from this maelstrom will not look like what we’re living in today.

By James Kunstler on 20 October 2017 for -

Image above: Illustration of obese crazy American with machinegun. By Pokket Mowse at Found at (

It amuses me that the nation is so caught up in the sexual mischief of a single Hollywood producer when the nation as a whole is getting fucked sideways and upside down by its own political caretakers.

Behind all the smoke, mirrors, Trump bluster, Schumer fog, and media mystification about the vaudeville act known as The Budget and The Tax Cut, both political parties are fighting for their lives and the Deep State knows that it is being thrown overboard to drown in red ink.

There’s really no way out of the financial conundrum that dogs the republic and something’s got to give.

Many of us have been waiting for these tensions to express themselves by blowing up the artificially levitated stock markets.

For about a year, absolutely nothing has thwarted their supernatural ascent, including the threat of World War Three, leading some observers to believe that they have been rigged to perfection.

Well, the algo-bots might be pretty fine-tuned, and the central bank inputs of fresh “liquidity” pretty much assured, but for all that, these markets are still human artifacts and Murphy’s Law still lurks out there in the gloaming with its cohorts, the diminishing returns of technology (a.k.a. “Blowback”), and the demon of unintended consequences.

Many, including yours truly, have expected the distortions and perversions on the money side of life to express themselves in money itself: the dollar.

So far, it has only wobbled down about ten percent. This is due perhaps to the calibrated disinformation known as “forward guidance” issued by this country’s central bank, the Federal Reserve, which has been threatening — pretty idly so far — to raise interest rates and shrink down its vault of hoarded securities — a lot of it janky paper left over from the misadventures of 2007-2009.

I guess the lesson is that when you have a pervasively false and corrupt financial system, it is always subject to a little additional accounting fraud — until it’s not. And the next thing you know, you’re sitting in the rubble of what used to be your civilization.

The ever more immiserated schnooks who make up the former middle-class know that their lives are crumbling, and may feel that they’re subject to the utterly overwhelming forces of a cruel destiny generated by a leviathan state that hates and despises them.

And of course that is exactly why they turned to the Golden Golem of Greatness for salvation.

Alas, Mr. Trump has not constructed a coherent strategy for defeating the colossus of fakery that drives the nation ever-deeper toward the cold and dark.

He has a talent for distraction and disruption, though, and so far that gave cover to a whole lot of other people in power who have been able to stand around with their hands in their pockets doing nothing about the sinking state of the nation.

Now, the vaudeville act is coming to a spectacular conclusion as the trappings of Halloween go back in the closet and the pulsating, LED-studded Santas go up on the rooftops.

Every ceremony of American life seems drained of meaning now, including the machinations of government over the budget and taxes.

The revolution to come out of this frozen swamp of irresponsibility will be the messiest and most incoherent in world history. Nobody will have any idea what is going on outside the geo-storm of failure.

About the only thing one can say for sure is that the American life which emerges from this maelstrom will not look a whole lot like what we’re living in today.

I remain serenely convinced that when it finally passes, the air will be fresh again and the sun will shine, and a lot more people will know what is real and what is not.


The Path We Take

SUBHEAD: Turn left in 300 feet … turn left … turn left…. Rerouting … rerouting … rerouting.

By Brian Miller on 3 OCtober 2017 for Winged Elm Farm -

Image above: Modern dashboard automobile navigation system displays route ahead and can anticipate traffic ahead. From (

Recently, a young relative of mine set out on a 600-mile road trip to attend his cousin’s wedding — and got lost halfway there when his phone went dead. Hearing of his misadventure I was confused. How could someone go so far and then get lost?

And how did a dead phone terminate his travels?

Did he not consult a map? Own one? Pick up the free one at the state line?

No, apparently a map wasn’t needed because he had a smart phone. Until it wasn’t.

The would-be wedding guest set off on an eight-hour-plus journey, armed with no more than an address to guide him in where and how he was going. So, what did he do, when the phone, and consequently the GPS, died? He turned around and drove home.

As kids, my older brother and I would sit down with the National Geographic and, starting in June, begin to dream about August vacation destinations. The back pages of the magazine were chock-full of advertisements from state tourism boards.

We’d send off for packets from exciting places like Montana, New Mexico, and Idaho, all locations with elevations higher than the six-feet-above-sea-level spot that we called home.

Soon, fat packages of maps and “things to do” would arrive in the mail.

The maps would be unfolded on the kitchen table, where we would trace out routes we might take on the most narrow and obscure road possible. “Let’s drive down this little road in this valley south of Missoula,” I’d say. We’d pull out the encyclopedia and read about places we were going to visit.

There were shoeboxes jammed with maps in the closet, a big globe and stacks of atlases in the den.

Today, in my own library, there resides a broad assortment of state and international maps and world and historical atlases. Because, maps give us more than a hopeful path to a distant destination. They inform.

Why is there a Northwest Angle exclave in Minnesota, and just what is an exclave anyway? Where were the original colonial boundaries of North Carolina? How did the frontier of the late Roman Empire contract? Maps inform, and they also feed our curiosity:

Is Puerto Rico surrounded by water? (Why, indeed it is, Mr. President.)

They serve as a springboard into the past, present, and future. And, yes, even answer the mundane: What are my options for getting to a wedding in Oregon?

Of course, GPS is a remarkable technological feature. It gets us to a destination without getting lost, without having to wonder where we are. Yet, cocooning ourselves in a cushion of geographical illiteracy also breeds a listless lack of awareness, demanding nothing more from us than an abiding self-interest.

And, in the absence of an alternative mode of mapping — whether it’s orienting to the sun or grabbing the gazetteer — when the GPS goes dark, it leaves us with no option but to turn around and go home, wherever that might be.


Truth about Military Recruiting

SUBHEAD: Military recruiters don't tell the whole truth. Help us complete the picture.

By Kip Goodwin on 3 October 2017 for Hawaii Peace and Justice -

Image above: Volunteers providing information about the truth regarding US military recruitment in support of 808truth2youth and Hawaii Peace and Justice. From

The Pentagon spends $1.4 billion annually on public relations and recruiting, teaming with professional sports, Hollywood, and the video gaming and media industries. Their primary audience is 15 to 25 year olds, the demographic from which they recruit about one quarter million annually.

There are missing pieces in the recruitment narrative, and there is no organized effort on the part of the schools or anyone else to fill in gaps. We need your support to meet the need. If we reach our goal, more than 20,000 Hawaii youth will have the opportunity to learn:
Enlistment contract promises made to the enlistee can ALL be broken.
Service term is for eight years, and may be extended.
Job training is for military, not civilian jobs.
College benefits are NOT guaranteed.
Our young Hawaii citizens who are committing to military service have a right to know:

Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs report in 2016 that 10 to 17% of combat veterans suffer PTSD and 10-23% have traumatic brain injury (TBI).  25% have some to extreme difficulty in social functioning, productivity and self care.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in 2015 male veterans 50% as likely, women vets almost twice as likely to be homeless, than the general population.

In 2014, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 100 men reported military sexual trauma. "For women, an experience of sexual trauma while in the military greatly increases risk of homelessness."

The Veterans Administration reports in 2016 thirty veterans per 100,000 population commit suicide, more than twice the number for the general population. On average, twenty veterans are committing suicide every day.

America's Health Rankings, based on interviews with 400,000 Americans in 2016, reported 62% higher rate of heart disease and 13% higher rate of cancer in veterans than in the general population.

Modern neuroscience teaches us that the parts of our brains that allow reason to overcome emotion don't fully mature until our early to mid twenties. The military plays on this with promises of adventure. Our mission is to fully disclose the reality of the military commitment, during active duty and afterward.

808truth2youth is currently engaged in social media outreach to our children growing into adulthood in low income communities (the most recruiter-vulnerable) on the four main islands. Every six days, our posts have gone out to hundreds of young people on Facebook. We have surpassed 10,000 "reaches". You can see these posts on our Facebook page, 808truth2youth.

We encourage them to consider alternatives, especially education leading to secure, good paying careers that promote peace. Our donation website,, has a how-to guide to the best schools, and scholarships exclusively for students who show an interest in social justice, nuclear disarmament and conflict resolution.

Please help us empower our youth with the truth about the military and by extension about America's addiction to a war economy and the endless cycle of war that will end only when a critical mass of awareness is arrived at.

Image above: Retired Special Forces Master Sergeant Stan Goff explains what military life really entails. From (

Thank you! for what support you can give for our Hawaii youth's right to know.

You can donate to our mission through Hawaii Peace and Justice, our fiscal sponsor.

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Hawaii Peace and Justice
2426 O`ahu Avenue
Honolulu, Hawaii 96822-1967

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