Our Society Is Not Sustainable by Brishen Hoff

Our society is not sustainable. Our goal is to grow the GDP from one year to the next. GDP is the total dollar value of goods and services consumed. So our goal is to consume an ever increasing amount of goods and services on a finite planet. This is outrageous! Opening a new landfill, building more houses, spilling oil into the ocean, building a new mall with parking lots on farm land, manufacturing cars, etc all serve to grow the GDP. Size of economy or GDP = (# of people) X (average person's consumption) The more people there are, the more economic activity, the higher the GDP. Because resources per capita declines as the number of people increases, I think GDP per capita is quickly becoming inversely correlated with GDP. The more people there are, the poorer each person becomes on average (of course this doesn't affect the major CEOs atop the economic growth pyramid scheme) One way the Canadian, US, Australian, UK, etc governments have been trying to grow the GDP is to bring in hundreds of thousands of immigrants for exponential population growth. This also brings cheap labour for CEOs. In the USA, a new study shows that immigrants quadruple their greenhouse gas emissions upon arrival: This doesn't seem to bother the CEOs. To further illustrate how unsustainable our society is, in the USA there were more babies born in 2007 than any other year in their history. There was a record 4.315 million babies born in the USA in 2007 which is more than any year of the so-called baby boom. According to the latest WWF Living Planet report, humanity is consuming natural resources 30% faster than the earth can produce them and by 2030 we will need 2 planets. The report says that from 1970 to 2005, global biodiversity has declined by 33%. If you want to live in a sustainable society, you cannot have population growth of any kind. Population growth is simply not sustainable. Humanity is already in ecological overshoot. SOLUTIONS: (If you want to live in a sustainable society...) 1) Do not reproduce and tell others why that is important. 2) Advocate reducing immigration intake so that our population can decline to a sustainable level.

Should the US bail out General Motors?

Should the US government bail out a company that has resisted government and community calls for stricter environmental and safety standards? General Motors and other car companies have continually resisted calls for their products to meet safety and environmental standards. This reluctance to be a good corporate citizen has created huge environmental, social and economic consequences. For example, the continual production and marketing of fuel guzzling motor vehicles for urban use has unnecessarily depleted global oil supplies and poured out carbon dioxide and various pollutants hazardous to human health. The US government should spend this money on a major railway (light, heavy, freight and commuter) building program to redirect employment into sustainable industries and reduce the US contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions. Making public transport available to more people is also a good way to ease the strain that petrol prices are having on already stretched household budgets.

Keep fighting for the Murray Darling in spite of our Government

What's in a title?
Just because the Federal Government calls South Australian Senator, Penny Wong, Australia's "Minister for the Water amd Climate Change," does that necessarily mean that she is really there for the environment?

The other Environment Minister, Peter Garratt, hasn't been there to save Port Melbourne's marine environment. It seems like, with two Federal environment ministers, Australia is just trashing nature faster, and setting the rest of us up for the four horsemen.

All over Australia, concerned citizens are trying to warn, educate and activate their fellow citizens because they simply cannot rely on the government to do it.
Let us not be too naive. People need to remember that governments do not save the environment or conserve national treasures; it is always people who force conservation.

Governments just step in afterwards and link their names to a popular success.

Bearing this in mind there is a great deal of reason for Australians everywhere to keep on fighting for the Murray Darling River so that the government finds it too difficult to maintain the strongholds of the big end of town, big users, corporates, and irrigators with impressive short-term cash-flows, on the MDB.

But now some of those big users say they are ready to swap water for cash.

In an announcement which shocked Australians, on 6th August 2008, Penny Wong declared that the government would not take water from higher up to save South Australia's Lower Lakes (Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert.)

Yesterday, 11 Aug 2008, about 5000 people (an extraordinary turn-out for South Australia) came to Goolwa at the Mouth of the Murray and booed the name of Penny Wong and Premier Mike Rann, in their absence. John Coombe, Alexandrina Council chief executive, stated that there are more than 5000 gigalitres still stored upstream, and he called for at least 250 gigalitres to be sent down the Murray. Apparently recognising that our economy relies on the environment, he called for a better performance on the issue from leaders, first for the river and the environment and then for communities and business.

Adelaide ecologist David Paton said that a permanent larger flow is needed.

The Australian that Adelaide ecologist, David Paton, said, "The recent (Council of Australian Governments- COAG) agreement had {...}simply put off the decisions until 2018." He indicated that a permanent larger flow was needed.

Not enough water has been left by agriculture and towns to permit the river to keep functioning. This is one hell of a statement about modern economics, government and technology; it seems that our government and economists have vastly overestimated this continent's capacity for abuse; they cannot blame incipient climate change for all of this.

Chickens of energy shortage come home to roost in London stock market

In London the growth economics gravy-train for golden boys is going off the rails and it looks like 10,000 to 40,000 traders may lose their jobs, according to a report on the French news on France2 Info 20h on 28-5-08. London has been known as a world financial capital for a few years now and thousands of traders go to work every day there. The so-called sub-prime crisis, however, and oil prices, seem to be coming home to roost. Since the beginning of the year, 4000 traders have been quietly sacked. The sackings are made discretely, very quickly, to avoid demoralising those still on board. Traders won't risk their jobs by talking about the situation, but it is anticipated that up to 40,000 will lose their jobs by the end of the year. Sheila Newman

Australian ecological history - and future

Hi Denis. Hope you will find my changes helpful. Note that the input format has been changed from 'Filtered HTML' to 'Full HTML' to allow for the inclusion of image files and tables. The 'p' tags enclosing your paragraphs aren't strictly necessary. On most non-non drupal sites, they are. Here they are not, but I like to put them in anyway. Drupal automatically generates them if they are not there. - James

Consider the history of the development of Australian civilization over the past two centuries in terms of the various forms of tangible capital . That intangible capital based on money has had a major influence on the decisions that have been made but no impact whatsoever on what has actually happened in the substantial operation of the ecosystem so the influence of money is only marginally relevant to this examination. The operations of Australian civilization have, of course, been very dependent on natural income, like sunshine and rainfall, but only capital usage will be examined here. The income will be presumed to continue, as ever. The crucial point is that everything done and used by society entails the irreversible consumption of some of the natural bounty whether it is income or capital. Natural capital has been transformed inefficiently and temporarily into material capital but know how and tools have improved that to give industrial capital . Whilst natural capital and material capital are tangible deterministic materialistic structures, industrial capital is largely an abstraction. The worth of the construction is dependent on its contribution to the operation of society. A derelict skyscraper does not contribute to the operation of society so is worthless industrial capital although its construction entailed an appreciable depreciation of natural capital being transformed into material capital. The industrial capital being considered here is the construction, infrastructure, goods and services that make worthwhile contributions to the operation of society. Society has good reason to be proud of many of the achievements in building up industrial capital, as they have enabled a high material standard of living for many. Unfortunately the irrevocable eco cost has not been fully taken into account. At the same time, social capital had also increased, partly because automation has given people more time and energy for learning and other positive activities . But society now seems to have been spoilt by all this easy to unsustainably consume natural capital.

[ a figure is intended to go here when I can sort out how to move it]

1800 1850 1900 1950 2000 2050

This figure roughly depicts what has happened. The major aspect of the development has been the construction of material capital at the expense of the natural capital, albeit inefficiently and only temporarily . The combination of the natural capital and the material capital has continually decreased due to wear and tear of the material capital combined with this inefficiency of the transformation and the operational costs involved. The industrial capital, however, has increased rapidly due to the increasing know how and improved technology enabling better use being made of the natural capital . Thus the worth advantage (WA) curve illustrates the ability of humans to make what may be deemed to be worthwhile use of the depreciation of natural capital entailed in building up civilization. This is the progress that society is encouraged to believe in. There is reason to believe that the increase in WA has slowed down in recent decades and it may well have peaked, as depicted in the figure. This is because so much effort has in recent decades gone into building up the edifice of civilization that is not really worthwhile while the foundations have been allowed to deteriorate . The use of the fossil fuels has enabled the construction of this edifice – and the initiation of climate change. So some of the non-worthwhile constructs have come at a grievous eco cost. A case can also be made that social capital in Australia peaked decades ago but that issue is not being considered here.
It can be argued that the increase in industrial capital in Australia in the past century roughly offsets the resultant decline in the natural capital. Know how and technology can be deemed to have offset the deleterious consequences of using the natural capital. In fact, many people would argue that the life style so many people enjoy in this country is well worth what has been done to the environment. That is a myopic view. It does not take into account the facts that the industrial capital will need to use natural capital in the future for maintenance as well as operation while its availability is declining.

The general expectation of society, fostered by governance and business, is to believe that industrial capital will continue to increase along the lines of the upper, future curve (a) in the figure. That is, what is regarded as the material standard of living will continue to increase even though some problems are emerging due to population growth and urbanization. That belief is a simple mistake. It is not possible. The natural capital curve for the future indicates why. Natural capital is declining at a rapid rate now but that rate cannot be sustained . The current slope is very high, due largely to the rapid use of the fossil fuels and fostered by population, consumption and infrastructure growth. The rapid increase in fiat money and the inappropriate use of credit has just speeded up this rate of use of the limited natural capital. This rate cannot be sustained as capital becomes scarcer, as the future trend to the limit indicates. It is bound to follow a trend like that indicated by the (b) curve . This means that the rate of industrial capital development will also decline, especially as problems coalesce. Improved understanding and technology may affect the trend indicated by the (b) curve slightly but the problems will be exacerbated as long as population and consumption growth continue. It is quite likely that the social capital will also decline quite rapidly as people find it hard to come to terms with what ‘progress’ really now means as ecological forces exert their control. WA is bound to decline too as resources have to be assigned out of the limited remaining capital to repair some of the crumbling infrastructure.

These curves roughly represent a stochastic situation, especially with respect to the future. The natural capital that has been used can be estimated quite accurately and the consequential material capital nearly as accurately. The industrial capital is even more stochastic as the definition of what is worthwhile or useful is quite subjective. The well off in the cities have very different views to the more realistic ones in rural communities. It can be argued that the remaining natural capital is particularly stochastic. For example, drillings off shore in the North West shelf may enhance Australia’s limited reserves of oil. That could shift the expected natural capital curve up slightly, (c), but this makes little difference to the nature of the prognosis. It may even inhibit the waking up to reality, so exacerbating the impact of other problems!

It would seem that the operations of society are being profitable if the rate of increase in industrial capital (the rate of return) exceeds the rate of decrease of natural capital (the eco cost). That is, the use of know how and technology amplifies the material capital increase rate sufficiently to make WA >> 1. There is a good case that current Australian civilization shows an accrued profit because the efforts of the community over time have far outweighed the irrecoverable costs of using natural capital. But this profit should be written down by the commitment to maintain the deteriorating infrastructure during its lifetime in combination with the loss of useful know how . The reality then is that the current profit is gross profit and the net is that left after the write down . Some time in the future there will be insufficient natural capital left to enable the operation and maintenance of the declining material, so industrial, capital . Eventually this capital will tend to zero as will the aggregated net profit . Australian civilization will then have been a blip on the evolutionary time line that operated through using up the limited natural capital available to it in combination with using natural income.

A natural question is what can society now afford with this view of the future reality. Know how and technologies in combination have enabled the construction of the infrastructure of civilization that has a high worth advantage by using up natural capital. This enables many of the population to have a high material standard of living by consuming natural capital at a high, unwise rate. The cost has been the depreciation of natural capital so the need is to make wiser use of what is left. Society will have to power down to do this but how much of the advantage has to be surrendered? How much of the worth of cities and associated infrastructure can be retained , bearing in mind that they have to be maintained as well as operated? The point is that people will not be able answer the question. It is ironical that civilization irresponsibly and unknowingly initiated an irreversible but unsustainable chain of events . Humans will now have to try and live with the consequences using blunted tools. Ecological forces are now belatedly taking control of the operation of the foundations of civilization. Economic forces have fostered the exuberant depreciation of the natural capital, so, ironically, the strengthening of the influence of the ecological forces . Civilization is running out of oil. It has already used over half of this natural bounty capital and adjusting to a declining supply will not be easy . The loss of climate familiarity and soil fertility will not help the necessary adjustment of food production for the loss of support provided by oil as population continues to grow. Pollution of land, sea and air will just exacerbates all the other problems, including the lack of potable water. The question that society should be addressing is what can be done to make the wisest possible use of the remaining capital, bearing in mind that natural forces really do control most of what will happen in the future. Will many of society be able to concentrate on using their particular skills because they can be confident that others can still meet their basic needs? That is very doubtful. The impact of the declining availability of natural capital is likely to trickle up so even the well off will become impotent in due course. It is ironical that for all its supposed value, money will continue to be impotent. It cannot change the course of the future although it can change the speed to destruction slightly. It has accelerated the rush to this destruction very much this century, with the Asian giants taking over from the Western powers in the race. Australia is just following this global trend as befits a faithful hound.

Immigration myths demolished by economics journalist

The main justification given for Australia's current record high levels of immigration, that is that solves the Skill shortage has been disputed in a recent article by Sydney Morning Herald economics Editor Ross Gittins.

... Clearly, the Government believes high levels of skilled migration will help fill vacancies and thus reduce upward pressure on wages.

That's true as far as it goes. But it overlooks an inconvenient truth: immigration adds more to the demand for labour than to its supply. That's because migrant families add to demand, but only the individuals who work add to supply.

Migrant families need food, clothing, shelter and all the other necessities. They also add to the need for social and economic infrastructure: roads, schools, health care and all the rest.

... So though skilled migration helps reduce upward pressure on wages at a time of widespread labour shortages, immigration's overall effect is to exacerbate our problem that demand is growing faster than supply.

Whilst Gittins has shown up yet another logical flaw in the case for immigration, his own position, or at least the position as represented within this relatively short article, has its own potential logical inconsistencies.

Whether immigration should be used to depress wages, even if Gittins disputes that this is occurring, should be open to question. The picture that pro-immigration economists like to paint is of everyone's wages shooting to the stars unless immigration is ramped up dramatically. In fact, the normal effect in countries such as the US, Canada and the UK is for wages to be depressed although incomplete measures of inflation and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), a flawed measure of prosperity, conceal much of this effect. On top of that, the averaging of incomes disguises what is happening at the bottom end of the income spectrum as the income distribution gap widens. In Australia, the resources boom further masks this effect as skilled, semi-skilled and even a few unskilled workers are in a position to obtain higher wages, but these are not spread uniformly across the community and, furthermore, incur considerable ecological cost, and a cost to future generations.

If Gittins is right and the extra demand created by meeting the need in new immigrants overcomes their counter-inflationary effect, it is, nevertheless, clearly unsustainable, that is unless the migrants are bringing with them wealth from the countries they are coming from. Even then, this can't be sustainable in the longer term once that wealth is consumed. All this demonstrates that the economic case against immigration can be problematic, although not anywhere near as problematic as the economic case for immigration.

However, the case against immigration on the grounds of its effects on housing affordability and, more critically, on our environment are far more clear and indisputable. On housing, Gittins writes:

The wonder of it is that, despite the deterioration in affordability, house prices are continuing to rise strongly almost everywhere except Sydney's western suburbs.

Why is this happening? Probably because immigrants are adding to the demand for housing, particularly in the capital cities, where they tend to end up.

They need somewhere to live and, whether they buy or rent, they're helping to tighten demand relative to supply. It's likely that the greater emphasis on skilled immigrants means more of them are capable of outbidding younger locals.

In other words, winding back the immigration program would be an easy way to reduce the upward pressure on house prices.

The role immigration plays in ratcheting up housing costs has been understood by property speculators for years. That is why they openly lobby the Federal Government for higher immigration.

On the environment, Gittins shows that immigration must necessarily add to Australia's Greenhouse gas emissions as most immigrants were coming form countries with lower ecological footprints and lower.

The other great cost only implied in this article, is the sheer destruction of our ecological life support system. The clearing of farmland and bushland for housing and the excessive demands upon our natural resources including fresh water, made necessary by continued population growth threaten to turn this country into a barren desert within decades at most.

Gittins concludes:

... leaving aside the foreigner-fearing prejudices of the great unwashed, the case against immigration is stronger than the rest of us realise - and stronger than it suits any Government to draw attention to.