[Heinberg werkt bij het Post Carbon Institute, een organisatie in de VS die werkt aan een duurzame economie en 'resilient communities' ondersteunt. Voor dit boek maakte hij onder andere gebruik van interviews met belangrijke - wel voornamelijk Amerikaanse - mensen op het terrein van duurzaamheid. Het is bijzonder helder geschreven. Een aanrader!]
"The central assertion of this book is both simple and startling: Economic growth as we have known it is over and done with."(1)
Waarom is dat zo? Vanwege drie redenen: het opraken van belangrijke bronnen zoals fossiele brandstoffen en mineralen; de negatieve gevolgen voor het milieu die het gebruik van die bronnen met zich meebrengt; en de financiële problemen die deze twee zaken veroorzaken in combinatie met de grote schuldenlast die allerlei landen al hebben. En eigenlijk kan dit geen verrassing zijn, want er werd al in 1972 voor gewaarschuwd in het boekje Limits to growth van de Club van Rome (prof. Meadows en collega's aan het M.I.T.).
"The notion that growth cannot and will not continue beyond a certain point proved profoundly upsetting in some quarters, and soon Limits to Growth was prominently 'debunked' by pro-growth business interests. In reality, this 'debunking' merely amounted to taking a few numbers in the book completely out of context, citing them as 'predictions' (which they explicitly were not), and then claiming that these predictions had failed. The ruse was quickly exposed, but rebuttals often don't gain nearly as much publicity as accusations, and so today millions of people mistakenly believe that the book was long ago discredited. In fact, the original Limits to Growth scenarios have held up quite well."(5)
Meer economische groei lijkt noodzakelijk door de toename van de wereldbevolking, de ontwikkeling van arme landen, en door financiële systemen die van zichzelf uit al gebaseerd zijn op groei. De huidige markteconomie kent alleen groei of krimp.
"But as the era of cheap, abundant fossil fuels comes to an end, our assumptions about continued expansion are being shaken to their core. 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.
It is essential that we recognize and understand the significance of this historic moment: if we have in fact reached the end of the era of fossil-fueled economic expansion, then efforts by policy makers to continue pursuing elusive growth really amount to a flight from reality. World leaders, if they are deluded about our actual situation, are likely to delay putting in place the support services that can make life in a non-growing economy tolerable, and they will almost certainly fail to make needed, fundamental changes to monetary, financial, food, and transport systems.
As a result, what could be a painful but endurable process of adaptation could instead become history's greatest tragedy. We can survive the end of growth, and perhaps thrive beyond it, but only if we recognize it for what it is and act accordingly."(7)
Economen hebben theorieën die zeggen dat een markteconomie immuun is voor grenzen aan de groei, omdat er wanneer nodig vervangende bronnen zullen worden gevonden / gemaakt en omdat er efficiënter geproduceerd zal worden.
"Finding substitute resources and upping efficiency are undeniably effective adaptive strategies of market economies. Nevertheless, the question remains as to how long these strategies can continue to work in the real world — which is governed less by economic theories than by the laws of physics. In the real world, some things don't have substitutes, or the substitutes are too expensive, or don't work as well, or can't be produced fast enough. And efficiency follows a law of diminishing returns: the first gains in efficiency are usually cheap, but every further incremental gain tends to cost more, until further gains become prohibitively expensive."(11)
"As mentioned, this book will argue that global economic 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."(15)
Volgt een uitleg van het Peak Oil-argument dat begon met Colin Campbell in 2000: afnemende olieaanvoer en - reserves zouden leiden tot hoge olieprijzen en dat weer tot wereldwijde economische crashes, financiële crises, oorlog om oliebronnen, en zo verder. Dat lijkt allemaal werkelijkheid te worden.
"Meanwhile, the dragging 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 a great majority of people familiar with the scientific data 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 landmark international 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."(19)
"The end of economic growth does not necessarily mean we've reached the end of qualitative improvements in human life.
Not all economists have fallen for the notion that growth will go on forever. There are schools of economic thought that recognize nature's limits; and, while these schools have been largely ignored in policy circles, they have developed potentially useful plans that could help society adapt."(20-21)
Dit hoofdstuk geeft een schets van de geschiedenis van de economie. Lang was er in samenlevingen van jagers / verzamelaars sprake van een gifteconomie: binnen de (kleinere) groep van vertrouwelingen werd alles gedeeld, met buitenstaanders werd handel gedreven.
"Trade is an inherently competitive activity: each trader tries to get the best deal possible, even at the expense of other traders."(28)
"Here is economic history compressed into one sentence: As societies have grown more complex, larger, more far-flung, and diverse, the tribe-based gift economy has shrunk in importance, while the trade economy has grown to dominate most aspects of people's lives, and has expanded in scope to encompass the entire planet. Is this progress or a process of moral decline? Philosophers have debated the question for centuries. Approve or disapprove, it is what we have done."(29)
En vanaf een bepaald moment ging geld daarin een grote rol spelen en een tijdje later ook het bankieren, het uitlenen van geld, het rekenen van rente, en dergelijke.
"We have just surveyed the history of economies — the systems by which humans create and distribute wealth. Economics, in contrast, is a set of philosophies, ideas, equations, and assumptions that describe how all of this does, or should, work."(34)
"The classical theorists gradually adopted the math and some of the terminology of science. Unfortunately, however, they were unable to incorporate into economics the basic self-correcting methodology that is science's defining characteristic. Economic theory required no falsifiable hypotheses and demanded no repeatable controlled experiments (these would in most instances have been hard to organize in any case). Economists began to think of themselves as scientists, while in fact their discipline remained a branch of moral philosophy — as it largely does to this day."(35)
"In theory, the Market was a beneficent quasi-deity tirelessly working for everyone's good by distributing the bounty of nature and the products of human labor as efficiently and fairly as possible. But in fact everybody wasn't benefiting equally or (in many people's minds) fairly from colonialism and industrialization. The Market worked especially to the advantage of those for whom making money was a primary interest in life (bankers, traders, industrialists, and investors), and who happened to be clever and lucky. It also worked nicely for those who were born rich and who managed not to squander their birthright. Others, who were more interested in growing crops, teaching children, or taking care of the elderly, or who were forced by circumstance to give up farming or cottage industries in favor of factory work, seemed to be getting less and less — certainly as a share of the entire economy, and often in absolute terms. Was this fair? Well, that was a moral and philosophical question. In defense of the Market, many economists said that it was fair: merchants and factory owners were making more because they were increasing the general level of economic activity; as a result, everyone else would also benefit...eventually. See? The Market can do no wrong."(35-36)
Met Smith komt er een nieuw element in het economische denken: dat van verbetering, vooruitgang, groei uitgedrukt in BNP. Alleen werd van het drietal economische elementen land, werk, kapitaal het element land gedegradeerd tot een subelement van kapitaal. Met de neoklassieke economische theorie werden steeds meer abstracte eigenschappen aan de modellen toegevoegd. De terminologie werd - misschien wel willens en wetens - vaag en onbegrijpelijk. Vanaf dat moment werd economie wel beschreven als de 'dismal science'. Marx maakte duidelijk wat kapitalisme was: kapitaal moet wel groeien wanneer het privébezit is. Als reactie op liberalisme en marxisme en de sociale ellende bij de werkers ontstond ook een richting die 'sociaal liberalisme' werd genoemd.
"Pioneered by sociologist Lester F. Ward (1841–1913), psychologist William James (1842–1910), philosopher John Dewey (1859–1952), and physician-essayist Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809–1894), social liberalism argued that government has a legitimate economic role in addressing social issues such as unemployment, healthcare, and education. Social liberals decried the unbridled concentration of wealth within society and the conditions suffered by factory workers, while expressing sympathy for labor unions. Their general goal was to retain the dynamism of private capital while curbing its excesses."(38)
Keynes werd er een belangrijke vertegenwoordiger van.
"With the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s, Marxism ceased to have much of a credible voice in economics. Its virtual disappearance from the discussion created space for the rapid rise of the neoliberals, who for some time had been drawing energy from widespread reactions against the repression and inefficiencies of state-run economies. Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan both relied heavily on advice from neoliberal thinkers like monetarist Milton Friedman (1912–2006) and followers of the Austrian School economist Friedrich von Hayek (1899–1992)."(38-39)
"The ideological clash between Keynesians and neoliberals (represented to a certain degree in the escalating all-out warfare between the US Democratic and Republican political parties) will no doubt continue and even intensify. But the ensuing heat of battle will yield little light if both philosophies conceal the same fundamental errors. One such error is the belief that economies can and should perpetually grow. But that error rests on another that is deeper and subtler. The subsuming of land within the category of capital by nearly all post-classical economists had amounted to a declaration that Nature is merely a subset of the human economy — an endless pile of resources to be transformed into wealth. It also meant that natural resources could always be substituted with some other form of capital — money or technology. The reality, of course, is that the human economy exists within and entirely depends upon Nature, and many natural resources have no realistic substitutes. This fundamental logical and philosophical mistake, embedded at the very core of modern mainstream economic philosophies, set society directly on a course toward the current era of climate change and resource depletion, and its persistence makes conventional economic theories — of both Keynesian and neoliberal varieties — utterly incapable of dealing with the economic and environmental survival threats to civilization in the 21st century."(39-40)
Een opvallend modern fenomeen in de moderne economie is de groei van schulden. Bij bedrijven, bij consumenten én bij de overheid. Op de achtergrond speelden theorieën over conjunctuur - groei en krimp wisselen elkaar netjes af - en over dat de markt zichzelf altijd zou corrigeren wanneer overheden en centrale banken er zich maar niet mee zouden bemoeien (neoliberale opvatting; keynesianen vinden dat er wel sturing en regulatie mag zijn). Soms treedt er een 'bubble' op in die groeiperiode of een recessie of depressie in de krimpperiode. Centrale banken beïnvloeden die conjunctuur via de rentepercentages voor leningen: lage rente stimuleert lenen, hogere rente remt dat af. Daarnaast heeft de overheid invloed op die conjuctuur, bijvoorbeeld via belastingmaatregelen.
"Nevertheless, many see the Fed and central banks elsewhere (the European Central Bank, the Bank of Canada, the People's Bank of China, the Reserve Bank of India) as clubs of bankers that run national economies largely for their own benefit."(45)
"Business cycles, and regulated monetary and banking systems, constitute the framework within which companies, investors, workers, and consumers act. But over the past few decades something remarkable has happened within that framework. In the US, the financial services industry has ballooned to unprecedented proportions, and has plunged society as a whole into a crisis of still-unknown proportions. How and why did this happen? As we are about to see, these recent developments have deep roots."(46)
Investeren kan op verschillende manieren: op een stabiele manier (je koopt aandelen en wordt beloond voor niet al te veel risico via dividend) en op een speculatieve manier (je neemt enorm veel risico en je wint enorm of verliest enorm). Die laatste manier van investeren kunnen tot een 'bubble' en een gekte leiden.
"Given the evident fact that bubbles tend to burst, resulting in a destruction of wealth sometimes on an enormous and catastrophic scale, one might expect that governments would seek to restrain the riskier versions of speculative investing through regulation. This has indeed been the case in historic periods immediately following spectacular crashes. For example, after the 1929 stock market crash regular commercial banks (which accept deposits and make loans) were prohibited from acting as investment banks (which deal in stocks, bonds, and other financial instruments). But as the memory of a crash fades, such restraints tend to fall away."(47)
Investeerders zoeken echter altijd naar nieuwe methoden om te verdienen en proberen op die manier de regulatie voor te zijn (opties, derivaten etc.). Die nieuwe methoden zijn meestal bijzonder speculatief en riskant. Het aandeel ervan is in de huidige economie enorm toegenomen. De voortdurende groei tot 2008 werd gefinancieerd met leningen ervan uitgaand dat de groei zou doorgaan en dat de lonen en de huizenprijzen zouden blijven stijgen. Vandaar de toename in schulden.
"Speculative investing has become an accepted practice that is taught in top universities and institutionalized in the world's largest corporations. But as we back up to take in a wider view, we notice larger and longer-term trends that have played even more important roles. One key factor was the severance of money from its moorings in precious metals, a process that started over a century ago. Once money came to be based on debt (so that it was created primarily when banks made loans), growth in total outstanding debt became a precondition for growth of the money supply and therefore for economic expansion. With virtually everyone — workers, investors, politicians — clamoring for more economic growth, it was inevitable that innovative ways to stimulate the process of debt creation would be found. Hence the fairly recent appearance of a bewildering array of devices for borrowing, betting, and insuring — from credit cards to credit default swaps — all essentially tools for the 'ephemeralization' of money and the expansion of debt."(52)
"Which brings us to a key question: If the financial economy cannot continue to grow by piling up more debt, then what will happen next?"(53)
Heinberg geeft hier een zo objectief mogelijk overzicht van de factoren en krachten die werken in de economie na 2008.
"To do this, we will start with a brief overview of the meltdown that began in 2007, then look at the theoretical and practical limits to debt; we will then review the bailout and stimulus packages deployed to lessen the impact of the crisis; and finally we will explore a few scenarios for the short and mid-term future. This won't hurt much. Honest."(56)
Samenvatting van de ontwikkelingen richting financiële crisis van 2007-2008, waarover de meeste auteurs het eens zijn.
"And yet, many analyses overlook the fact that these events were manifestations of a deeper trend toward dramatically and unsustainably increasing debt, credit, and leverage. So it's important that we review this recent history in a little more detail so we can see why, from a purely financial point of view, growth is currently on hold and is unlikely to return for the foreseeable future."(57)
[Heinberg neemt vooral de situatie in de VS als uitgangspunt, waar de ellende ook vooral begon.]
Een paar van die details: grotere afhankelijkheid van buitenlandse energiebronnen (olie), afvlakkende groei, securitisatie van schulden, groeiende schulden, belastingverlagingen voor de rijken, deregulatie van de financiële sector,
"These regulatory changes were accompanied by a shift in corporate culture: executives began running companies more for the benefit of management than for shareholders, paying themselves spectacular bonuses and putting increasing emphasis on boosting share prices rather than dividends. Auditors, boards of directors, and Wall Street analysts encouraged these trends, convinced that soaring share prices and other financial returns justified them."(60)
door dat alles groeiende inkomensverschillen, risicovolle financiële producten, ratingbureaus die de risico's ervan niet zagen, verlaging van de rentes door centrale banken om de economie aan te jagen waardoor nog meer schulden.
"By this time a largely unregulated 'shadow banking system', made up of hedge funds, money market funds, investment banks, pension funds, and other lightly-regulated entities, had become critical to the credit markets and was underpinning the financial system as a whole. But the shadow 'banks' tended to borrow short-term in liquid markets to purchase long-term, illiquid, and risky assets, profiting on the difference between lower shortterm rates and higher long-term rates. This meant that any disruption in credit markets would result in rapid deleveraging, forcing these entities to sell long-term assets (such as mortgage-backed securities) at depressed prices."(61-62)
"Bundled into MBSs, sold to pension funds and investment banks, and hedged with derivatives contracts, mortgage debt became the very fabric of the US financial system, and, increasingly, the economies of many other nations as well. By 2005 mortgage-related activities were making up 62 percent of commercial banks' earnings, up from 33 percent in 1987. As a result, what would have been a $300 billion subprime mortgage crisis when the bubble inevitably burst, turned into a multi-trillion dollar catastrophe engulfing the financial systems of the US and many other countries as well."(63)
"In short, a global economy that had appeared robust and stable in 2007 was suddenly revealed to be very fragile, suffering from several persistent maladies — any one of which could erupt into virulence, spreading rapidly and sending the world back into the throes of crisis."(68)
[Ik neem even een uiterst belangrijk inzicht in zijn geheel over:]
"BOX 2.2 How to Create a Financial Crisis
In their IMF Working Paper, 'Inequality, Leverage and Crises', Michael Kumhof and Romain Rancière construct a simple model for financial crises with the following narrative: (a) growing inequality produces less money for the middle class and more money for the wealthy; (b) the rich loan much of this money back to the middle class so they can continue to improve their living standards even with stagnant incomes; (c) the financial sector expands to mediate all this; and (d) this eventually results in a credit crisis. Kumhof and Rancière write, in summary:
"This paper has presented stylized facts and a theoretical framework that explore the nexus between increases in the income advantage enjoyed by high income households, higher debt leverage among poor and middle income households, and vulnerability to financial crises. This nexus was prominent prior to both the Great Depression and the recent crisis. In our model it arises as a result of increases in the bargaining power of high income households. The key mechanism, reflected in a rapid growth in the size of the financial sector, is the recycling of part of the additional income gained by high income households back to the rest of the population by way of loans, thereby allowing the latter to sustain consumption levels, at least for a while. But without the prospect of a recovery in the incomes of poor and middle income households over a reasonable time horizon, the inevitable result is that loans keep growing, and therefore so does leverage and the probability of a major crisis that, in the real world, typically also has severe implications for the real economy."
This dynamic is also occurring between rich nations and poor nations."(71)
[Koppel dat aan die belastingverlagingen voor de rijken en het is duidelijk dat je op die manier niets oplost.]
Zijn er grenzen aan verschillende vormen van schuld? De staatsschuld kan niet eindeloos toenemen want op een gegeven moment maakt de rente een te groot deel uit van de staatsuitgaven per jaar (in de VS nu al 20% van het budget).
"Clearly, once 100 percent of government revenues have to go toward interest payments and all government operations have to be funded with more borrowing — on which still more interest will have to be paid — the system will have arrived at a kind of financial singularity: a black hole of debt, if you will. But in all likelihood we would not have to get to that ultimate impasse before serious problems appear. Many economic commentators suggest that when government has to spend 30 percent of tax receipts on interest payments, the country is in a debt trap from which there is no easy escape. Given current trajectories of government borrowing and interest rates, that 30 percent mark could be hit in just a few years. Even before then, US credit worthiness will take a beating."(74)
"The absolute size of government debt is not necessarily a critical factor, as long as future growth will be sufficient so that the proportion of debt relative to revenues remains the same. Even an increase in that proportion is not necessarily cause for alarm, as long as it is only temporary. This, at any rate, is the Keynesian argument. Keynesians would also point out that government debt is only one category of total debt, and that US government debt hasn't grown proportionally relative to other categories of debt to any alarming degree (until the current recession). Again, as long as growth returns, further borrowing can be justified (up to a point) — especially if the goal is to restart growth. The risks of increasing government debt can be summarized as: (a) rising interest costs, (b) loss of credit worthiness, and (c) potential currency failure."(75)
De schuld van huishoudens is afhankelijk van bereidwilligheid van banken enz. om leningen te verstrekken en die neemt toe bij de aanwezigheid van onderpanden (meestal huizen) en hogere salarissen of gewoon omdat ze het gemakkelijker maken om te lenen. Dat laatste is gebeurd en maakte dat deze schuld in 30 jaar verzevenvoudigde. Dat weer maakte de economische groei. Maar toen de werkloosheid toenam werd dit een spiraal omlaag. En het is niet eenvoudig om die groei weer op gang te brengen gezien de samenstelling van de bevolking (in de VS althans).
De schuld van bedrijven zal in een crisis niet groeien, deels omdat ze zelf voorzichtig zijn, en deels omdat de banken dan weigeren te lenen (te riskant). Bedrijven zitten nu dus op een berg geld, maar ze weten niet waarin ze dat geld moeten investeren.
Dan de schuld vande financiële sector. Die is sinds de deregulatie zo hoog dat de sector zijn enige echte functie niet meer kan waarmaken: kapitaal verschaffen voor het bedrijfsleven.
"One of the main reforms enacted during the Great Depression, contained in the Glass Steagall Act of 1933, was a requirement that commercial banks refrain from acting as investment banks. In other words, they were prohibited from dealing in stocks, bonds, and derivatives. This prohibition was based on an implicit understanding that there should be some sort of firewall within the financial system separating productive investment from pure speculation, or gambling. This firewall was eliminated by the passage of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act of 1999 (for which the financial services industry lobbied tirelessly). As a result, all large US banks have for the past decade become deeply engaged in speculative investment, using both their own and their clients' money."(78)
"As revealed in sworn Congressional testimony, firms including Goldman Sachs deliberately created flawed securities and sold tens of billions of dollars' worth of them to investors, then took out many more billions of dollars' worth of derivatives contracts essentially betting against the securities they themselves had designed and sold. They were quite simply defrauding their customers, which included foreign and domestic pension funds. To date, no senior executive with any bank or financial services firm has been prosecuted for running these scams. Instead, most of the key figures are continuing to amass immense personal fortunes [mijn nadruk - GdG], confident no doubt that what they were doing — and in many cases continue to do — is merely a natural extension of the inherent logic of their industry."(79-80)
[Ik vind dat schokkend. Vooral ook wanneer je bedenkt met hoeveel geld van de simpele belastingbetalers die financiële instellingen overeind gehouden moesten worden. Ik begrijp niet dat er niemand verantwoordelijk gesteld wordt in zo'n situatie.]
Alles bij elkaar genomen is er nog maar weinig ruimte voor de groei van schulden. Er is dus een schuldencrisis. Je kunt schulden kwijtschelden, maar omdat alles 'schuld' is is dat nu een onwaarschijnlijke aanpak. Faillissementen zijn ook een mogelijkheid (dan wordt de schuld vernietigd).
Wat deden de overheid en de centrale bank toen de crisis uitbrak? Analyse van de situatie in de VS. Het TARP-programma kwam met 'bailouts' van instellingen die dreigden om te vallen.
"The program was controversial, with some calling it 'lemon socialism' (privatization of profits and socialization of losses). Critics were especially outraged when it became known that executives in the bailed-out companies were continuing to reward themselves with enormous salaries and bonuses. Some instances of fraud were uncovered, as well as the use of substantial amounts of money by participating companies to lobby against financial reforms."(84)
"Altogether, the bailouts succeeded in preventing an immediate meltdown of the national (and potentially the global) financial system. But they did not significantly alter the culture of Wall Street (i.e., the paying of exorbitant bonuses for the acquisition of inappropriate risk via cutthroat competition that ignores long-term sustainability of companies or economies). And they did not relieve the underlying solvency crisis faced by the banks — they merely papered these problems over temporarily, until the remaining bulk of the 'troubled' assets are eventually marked to market (listed on banks' balance sheets at realistic values)."(85)
Daarnaast waren er verschillende stimuleringsprogramma's: lastenverlichtingen en investeringen in de infrastructuur. De FED van zijn kant kocht schulden op, leende geld aan financiële instellingen die in de problemen raakten, en vergrootte zijn controle op banken en andere instellingen.
"Documents released by the Fed on December 1, 2010 showed that more than $9 trillion in total had been supplied to Wall Street firms, commercial banks, foreign banks, and corporations, with Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, and Merrill Lynch borrowing sums that cumulatively totaled over $6 trillion. The collateral for these loans was undisclosed but widely thought to be stocks, CDSs, CDOs, and other securities of dubious value."(90)
"Meanwhile, the bailouts of banks and shadow banks have been characterized as government throwing money at financial problems it cannot solve, rewarding the very people who created them. Rather than being motivated by the suffering of American homeowners or governments in over their heads, the bailouts of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in the US, and Greece and Ireland in the EU, were (according to critics) essentially geared toward securing the investments of the banks and the wealthy bond holders."(92-93)
"Together, central banks and governments are barely keeping the wheels on the economy, but their actions come with severe long-term costs and risks. And what they can actually accomplish is most likely limited anyway."(95)
Je kunt al die maatregelen ook zien als uitstel van executie, tijd winnen voor de ellende die er nog aan komt. Een mogelijkheid: de overheid laat de inflatie oplopen (wat te koste gaat van het spaargeld van gewone mensen, de banken hebben er geen last van). De andere mogelijkheid: deflatie doordat mensen gaan sparen, hun schulden aflossen, hun huizen verkopen met verlies, en stoppen met geld lenen om dingen te kunnen kopen (met als gevolg: bedrijven die niets meer kunnen verkopen en over de kop gaan, werkloosheid die oploopt, faillissementen).
"Now is different. As we will see in the next two chapters, both the US and the world as a whole have passed a fundamental crossroads characterized by increasing scarcity of energy and crucial minerals. Because of this, strategies of growth that worked reliably in the mid-to-late 20th century — via various forms of business and technological development — have reached a point of diminishing returns
. Thus the Keynesian spending bridge today leads nowhere.
But stopping its construction now will result in a catastrophic weakening of the entire economy. The backstop provided by government spending and central bank debt acquisition is the only thing keeping the system from hurtling into a deflationary spiral. Fiscal conservatives who rail against bigger government and more government debt need to comprehend the alternative — a gaping, yawning economic void. For a mere glimpse of what major government spending cutbacks might look like in the US, consider the impacts on European nations that are being subjected to fiscal austerity measures as a corrective for too-rosy expectations of future growth. The picture is bleak: rising poverty, disappearing social services, and general strikes and protests."(101)
"If the Keynesian remedy doesn't cure the ailment but merely extends the suffering (while increasing government debt to truly toxic levels), the medicine of austerity may have such severe side effects that it could kill the patient outright. Both sides — left and right, the socialists and free-marketers — assume and hope to the point of desperation that their prescription will result in a rapid return to continuous economic growth and low unemployment. But as we are about to see, that hope is futile."(101-102)
In dit hoofdstuk worden 'de grenzen aan de groei' door factoren, extern aan de financiële crisis, verder uitgewerkt.
"Crucially, in this chapter we will see how and why the most important of these non-financial limits to economic expansion are matters of concern not just for future generations, but for markets and policy makers — indeed, for everyone — today."(106)
Eerste punt is het Peak Oil scenario. Economie draait niet alleen maar om geld. Zonder energie was er helemaal geen economie. De groei van de laatste twee eeuwen is voornamelijk toe te schrijven aan de inzet van fossiele brandstoffen als energiebronnen. Zo is de wereldwijde handel gebaseerd op een transportsysteem dat zonder olie en afgeleide producten volledig tot stilstand zou komen. De productiepiek voor olie is in veel landen al bereikt en zal spoedig globaal zijn.
"The trends in the oil industry are clear and undisputed: exploration and production are becoming more costly, and are entailing more environmental risks, while competition for access to new prospective regions is generating increasing geopolitical tension. The rate of oil discoveries on a worldwide basis has been declining since the early 1960s, and most exploration and discovery are now occurring in inhospitable regions such as in ultra-deepwater (at ocean depths of up to three miles) and the Arctic, where operating expenses and environmental risks are extremely high. This is precisely the situation we should expect to see as the low-hanging fruit disappear and global oil production nears its alltime peak in terms of flow rate."(110-111)
"The likely consequences of Peak Oil have been explored in numerous books, studies, and reports, and include severe impacts on transport networks, food systems, global trade, and all industries that depend on liquid fuels, chemicals, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. In sum, most of the basic elements of our current way of life will have to adapt or become unsupportable. There is also a strong likelihood of increasing global conflict over remaining oil resources.
Of course, oil production will not cease instantly at the peak, but will decline slowly over several decades; therefore these impacts will appear incrementally and cumulatively, punctuated by intermittent economic and geopolitical crises driven by oil scarcity and price spikes.
Oil importing nations (including the US and most of Europe) will see by far the worst consequences. That's because oil that is available for the export market will dwindle much more quickly than total world oil production, since oil producers will fill domestic demand before servicing foreign buyers, and many oil exporting nations have high rates of domestic demand growth."(113)
Steenkool en gas vormen de andere energiebronnen die eindig zijn. De ontwikkelingen lijken op die bij olie, alleen worden deze energiebronnen ingezet voor andere zaken:
"We use these fuels mostly for making electricity, which is just as essential to modern civilization as globe-spanning transport networks. When the electricity goes out, cities go dark, computers blink off, and cash registers fall idle."(113)
Kunnen alternatieve energiebronnen als windenergie fossiele brandstoffen vervangen?
"In 2009, Post Carbon Institute and the International Forum on Globalization undertook a joint study to analyze 18 energy sources (from oil to tidal power) using 10 criteria (scalability, renewability, energy density, energy returned on energy invested, and so on). While I was the lead author of the ensuing report (Searching for a Miracle: Net Energy Limits and the Fate of Industrial Societies), my job was essentially just to synthesize original research and analysis from many energy experts. It was, to my knowledge, the first time so many energy sources had been examined using so many essential criteria. Our conclusion was that there is no credible scenario in which alternative energy sources can entirely make up for fossil fuels as the latter deplete. The overwhelming likelihood is that, by 2100, global society will have less energy available for economic purposes, not more."(117)
"In other words, oil prices have effectively put a cap on economic recovery. This problem would not exist if the petroleum industry could just get busy and make a lot more oil, so that each unit would be cheaper. But despite its habitual use of the terms 'produce' and 'production', the industry doesn't make oil, it merely extracts the stuff from finite stores in the Earth's crust. As we have already seen, the cheap, easy oil is gone. Economic growth is hitting the Peak Oil ceiling."(123)
Hetzelfde geldt in wat andere mate voor de andere energiebronnen die schaars kunnen worden. Daarnaast zijn er andere bronnen die belangrijk zijn voor economische groei, zoals water.
"Limits to freshwater could restrict economic growth by impacting society in four primary ways: (1) by increasing mortality and general misery as increasing numbers of people find difficulty filling basic and essential human needs related to drinking, bathing, and cooking; (2) by reducing agricultural output from currently irrigated farmland; (3) by compromising mining and manufacturing processes that require water as an input; and (4) by reducing energy production that requires water. As water becomes scarce, attempts to avert any one of these four impacts will likely make matters worse with regard to at least one of the other three."(124-125)
Die schaarste ontstaat o.a. doordat de sneeuw- en ijsgebieden die het water aan rivieren leveren in grootte afnemen door de opwarming van de aarde die ook op andere manieren droogte veroorzaakt (naast overstromingen op andere plaatsen). En dat terwijl de vraag naar water toeneemt door de groeiende wereldbevolking, door de intensieve irrigatie in landbouwgebieden, door het gebruik van water in de industrie (bijvoorbeeld bij het oppompen van olie), door de productie van elektriciteit.
Uiteraard is ook voedsel van groot belang voor economische groei.
"At the beginning of the 20th century, most people farmed and agriculture was driven by muscle power (animal and human). Today in most countries, farmers make up a much smaller proportion of the population than was formerly the case and agriculture is at least partly mechanized. Fuel-fed machines plow, plant, harvest, sort, process, and deliver foods, and industrial farmers typically work larger parcels of land. They also typically sell their harvest to a distributor or processor, who then sells packaged food products to a wholesaler, who in turn sells these products to chains of supermarkets or restaurants. The ultimate consumer of food is thus several steps removed from the producer, and food systems in most nations or regions have become dominated by a few giant multinational seed companies, agricultural chemicals corporations, and farm machinery manufacturers, as well as food wholesalers, distributors, and supermarket and fast-food chains.
Farm inputs have also changed. A century ago, farmers saved seeds from year to year, while soil amendments were likely to come from the farm itself in the form of animal manures. Farmers only bought basic implements, plus some useful materials such as lubricants. Today's industrial farmer relies on an array of packaged products (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, feed, antibiotics), as well as fuels, powered machines, and spare parts. The annual cash outlays for these can be daunting, requiring farmers to take out substantial loans.
The path to our current food abundance was littered with incidental costs, most borne by the environment. Agriculture has become the single greatest source of human impact upon the planet as a result of soil salinization, deforestation, loss of habitat and biodiversity, fresh water scarcity, and pesticide pollution of water and soil."(130-131)
Hoe meer voedsel er 'geproduceerd' wordt, hoe meer dat het milieu beïnvloedt.
"The challenges to increasing production come from several directions simultaneously: water scarcity (see above), topsoil erosion (we are 'mining' topsoil with industrial agriculture at almost four times the rate we are mining coal — over 25 billion tons per year versus 7 billion tons), declining soil fertility, limits to arable land, declining seed diversity, increasing requirements for inputs (pests are developing resistance to common pesticides and herbicides, requiring larger doses), and, not least, increasing costs of fossil fuel inputs."(133)
"Here, then is the overall picture: Demand for food is slowly outstripping supply. Food producers' ability to meet growing needs is increasingly being strained by rising human populations, falling freshwater supplies, the rise of biofuels industries, expanding markets within industrializing nations for more resource-intensive meat and fish-based diets; dwindling wild fisheries; and climate instability. The result will almost inevitably be a worldwide food crisis sometime in the next two or three decades."(136-137)
Is genetische modificatie een oplossing? Wat in die sector beweerd wordt is te mooi om waar te zijn.
"So far, gene splicing in food plants has succeeded mostly in generating enormous profits for an increasingly centralized corporate seed industry, and more debt for farmers."(138)
"It's worth noting that for the past few decades a vocal minority of farmers, agricultural scientists, and food system theorists including Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson, Vandana Shiva, Robert Rodale, and Michael Pollan, has argued against centralization, industrialization, and globalization of agriculture, and for an ecological agriculture with minimal fossil fuel inputs. Where their ideas have taken root, the adaptation to Peak Oil and the end of growth will be easier. Unfortunately, their recommendations have not become mainstream, because industrialized, globalized agriculture have proved capable of producing larger short-term profits for banks and agribusiness cartels. Even more unfortunately, the available time for a large-scale, proactive food system transition before the impacts of Peak Oil and economic contraction arrive is gone. We've run out the clock."(138)
Ook metalen en andere niet-herwinbare mineralen zijn van groot belang en ook daar begint schaarste te ontstaan.
"Declining oxygen levels, acidifying oceans, disappearing species, threatened oceanic food chains, changing climate — when considering planetary changes of this magnitude, it may seem that the end of economic growth is hardly the worst of humanity's current problems. However, it is important to remember that we are counting on growth to enable us to solve or respond to environmental crises. With economic growth, we have surplus money with which to protect rainforests, save endangered species, and clean up after industrial accidents. Without economic growth, we are increasingly defenseless against environmental disasters — many of which paradoxically result from growth itself. Unfortunately, in the case of climate change, there may be a time lag involved (even if we stop carbon emissions today, climate will continue changing for some time due to carbon already in the atmosphere), so that the end of economic growth cannot be counted on to solve the environmental problems that growth has previously generated."(152)
"Until now the dynamism of growth has enabled us to stay ahead of accumulating environmental costs. As growth ends, the environmental bills for our last two centuries of manic expansion may come due just as our bank account empties."(153)
Maar zullen slimme mensen niet altijd weer slimme technieken verzinnen om die limieten aan de groei te overschrijden? De stelling van veel economen etc. is:
"New inventions and greater efficiency will always trump looming limit."(156)
'Wanneer de olie op is, vinden we wel weer een andere energiebron,' is het idee. Maar ethanol was het niet en hetzelfde geldt voor de op het moment populaire biobrandstoffen: het produceren er van kost meer aan energie en andere zaken dan ze aan energie opleveren. Ook batterijen zijn als vervanging van benzine niet overtuigend.
"Increasingly, substitution is less economically efficient. But surely, in a pinch, can't we just accept the less-efficient substitute? In emergency or niche applications, yes. But if the less-efficient substitute must replace a resource of profound economic importance (like oil), or if a large number of resources have to be replaced with less-useful substitutes, then the overall result for society is a reduction — perhaps a sharp reduction — in its capacity to achieve economic growth."(160)
"At every step down the ladder of resource quality, more energy is needed just to keep the resource extraction process going, and less energy is available to serve human needs (which presumably is the point of the exercise)."(161)
"We will be doing a lot of substituting as the resources we currently rely on deplete. In fact, materials substitution is becoming a primary focus of research and development in many industries. But in the most important cases (including oil), the substitutes will probably be inferior in terms of economic performance, and therefore will not support economic growth."(161)
Economische groei en de beschikbaarheid van energie hangen erg met elkaar samen. Heinberg laat aan de hand van allerlei onderzoeken zien dat daar weinig op af te dingen valt.
"Once again: energy efficiency is a worthy goal. When we exchange old incandescent light bulbs for new LED lights that use a fraction of the electricity and last far longer, we save energy and resources — and that's a good thing. Full stop.
At the same time, it's important to have a realistic understanding of efficiency's limits. Boosting energy efficiency requires investment, and investments in energy efficiency eventually reach a point of diminishing returns. Just as there are limits to resources, there are also limits to efficiency. Efficiency can save money and lead to the development of new businesses and industries. But the potential for both savings and economic development is finite."(171)
"To the degree that energy efficiency helps us adapt to a shrinking economy and more expensive energy, it will be essential to our survival and well being. The sooner we invest in efficient ways of meeting our basic needs the better, even if it entails short-term sacrifice. However, to hope that efficiency will produce a continuous reduction in energy consumption while simultaneously yielding continuous economic growth is unrealistic."(173)
"From 1986 to today, in just 25 years, the typical consumer-grade personal computer has increased in performance thousands of times over while dropping in price — noticeably so if inflation is factored in.
So why hasn't the same thing happened with energy, transportation, and food production during this period? If it had, by now a new car would cost $750 and get 2000 miles to the gallon. But of course that's not the case. Is the problem simply that engineers in non-computer industries are lazy? Of course not. It's because microprocessors are a special case. Moving electrons takes a lot less energy than moving tons of steel or grain. Making a two-ton automobile requires a heap of resources, no matter how you arrange and rearrange them. In many of the technologies that are critically important in our lives, recent decades have seen only minor improvements — and many or most of those have come about through the application of computer technology."(178)
"Yet when it comes to how we get our food, water, and power, and how we transport ourselves and our goods, relatively little has changed in any truly fundamental way. The nearly miraculous developments in semiconductor technologies that have revolutionized computing, communications, and home entertainment during the past few decades have led us to think we're making much more 'progress' than we really are, and that more potential for development in some fields exists than really does. The slowest-moving areas of technology are, understandably, the ones that involve massive infrastructure that is expensive to build and replace. But these are the technologies on which the functioning of our civilization depends.
In fact, rather than showing evidence of great technological advance, our basic energy, water, and transport infrastructure shows signs of senescence, and of vulnerability to Murphy's law — the maxim that anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. In city after city, water and sewer pipes are aging and need replacement. The same is true of our electricity grids, natural gas pipes, roads, bridges, dams, airport runways, and railroads."(179-180)
"Most economists regard division of labor and globalization as strategies that can continue to be expanded far into the future. To think otherwise would be to question the possibility of endless economic growth. But there are reasons to question this belief."(183)
Specialisatie treedt vaak op waar goedkope energie beschikbaar is.
"But take away cheap energy and it becomes more cost-effective to do a growing number of tasks locally and with muscle power once again. As energy gets increasingly expensive, a countertrend is therefore likely to emerge: generalization.(...)
Globalization will suffer a similar fate, as it is vulnerable not only to high fuel prices, but grid breakdowns, political instability, credit and currency problems, and the loss of satellite communications."(184)
"The near-religious belief that economic growth depends not on energy and resources, but solely on increasing innovation, efficiency, trade, and division of labor, can sometimes lead economists to say silly things."(185)
Is er werkelijk geen sprake meer van groei? Wanneer we naar China kijken lijkt dat nogal mee te vallen. Maar natuurlijk heeft Heinberg het over een globaal gemiddelde.
"In this chapter we will explore the growth prospects of the Asian economies. We will also examine the dynamics of currency wars. And we will see how rich and poor countries, and demographic sectors within those countries, are likely to fare in post-growth economy, and how increasing competition for depleting resources may drive nations toward conflict."(190)
De snelle groei van de Chinese economie is inderdaad ongekend. Maar ook China zal de beschreven grenzen tegenkomen. Deze economie steunt voor een groot deel op steenkool (70% van de totale energie wordt er door geleverd). Maar ook de kolossale voorraden steenkool in China zijn op een gegeven moment uitgeput. En ze kunnen op de termijn (productiepiek rond 2020) waarop dat gebeurt niet vervangen worden door gas of alternatieve energiebronnen of nucleaire energie (waarin China enorm veel investeert) of door import van steenkool (landen zullen hun voorraden steeds meer zelf willen / moeten gebruiken). Conclusie: uiteindelijk kun je alleen maar het verbruik van die energiebronnen (dus de groei) omlaag brengen.
"Like Japan, China subsists largely on exports while investing heavily in infrastructure, paying for the latter with private savings that come from tamping down consumption. Beijing adopted the Japanese growth model in the 1990s, when its deregulation and opening up of the country's economy was widely praised. While these policies created tens of millions of jobs, as well as thousands of new roads and millions of new buildings, they have also generated imbalances reminiscent of Japan in the 1980s — except that in many ways China has gone even further out on a limb."(195)
Met andere woorden: als het buitenland niet meer afneemt / kan afnemen en het binnenland niet méér aan consumptie doet, is er een gigantisch probleem. Maar China heeft door de eenkindpolitiek, de urbanisatie, de veroudering van de bevolking ook andere problemen.
"By keeping its workforce young and denying them benefits, China's leaders keep costs down. American or European companies that move production to China or buy Chinese goods gain leverage to rewrite terms of employment with their older workers at home — or they can simply shut down domestic factories.
China's youthful labor force attracts foreign investment. But as the country's work force ages, its competitive advantage may evaporate. Moreover, the lack of adequate pensions and healthcare for Chinese workers will eventually result in worsening social stresses and strains."(197)
"We have discussed China at some length, not only because it has become the world's second-largest national economy and is the world's foremost energy user, but because it is emblematic. India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam are each pursuing somewhat different paths toward the same grail of rapid economic growth, but their strategies and vulnerabilities are sufficiently similar that an understanding of China's predicament provides useful context for gauging these other countries' prospects."(201)
"Altogether, the world's currencies could hardly even be said to comprise a coherent 'system': harmony and functionality are maintained only at great cost (with most of that cost ending up as profits to currency traders and speculators). But as world economic growth shifts into reverse, stresses within the global community of currencies may become unbearable.
With its enormous levels of public and private debt and its continuing trade deficits, the US has something to gain from a lower-valued dollar. This would make its export goods more attractive to foreign buyers; meanwhile, by making imports more expensive, it would help encourage savings and investment in domestic production. It would also enable the country to pay back its government debt with currency of lower value, effectively wiping out part of that debt. Maintaining low interest rates helps reduce the dollar's value, and the United States has kept interest rates low since the start of the crisis. But the US doesn't want to announce to the world that it is seeking to trash the dollar, because this could reduce the dollar's viability as the world's reserve currency — a status that yields multiple advantages to America's economy, and one that is increasingly being challenged."(205)
"Over the longer term, the ecosystem of world currencies faces increasing dangers if growth fails to return in the US, and if the Chinese economic juggernaut falters.
Debt-based currencies that are traded without any clear international exchange standard create an inherently unstable situation."(208)
Maar terugkeer naar de goudstandaard is praktisch uitgesloten.
"The transition from the present system back to a gold standard would be intolerably chaotic, if it is even theoretically possible. Other kinds of fundamental national and global currency reforms (such as we will touch upon in the next chapter) may have better practical prospects over the long run, but are currently outside the realm of serious discussion among policy makers.
Without a return to economic growth, there is no sufficient remedy for the rapidly worsening stresses between and among the world's currencies. The lid can probably be kept on this boiling kettle in the short term, but over the course of the next decade it becomes more and more likely that something will give way."(208)
"As nations compete for currency advantages, they are also eyeing the world's diminishing resources — fossil fuels, minerals, agricultural land, and water. Resource wars have been fought since the dawn of history, but today the competition is entering a new phase."(208)
"Unfortunately, rising costs and flagging returns from resource conflicts will not guarantee world peace. History suggests that as nations become more desperate to maintain their relative positions of strength and advantage, they may lash out in ways that serve no rational purpose.
Again, no crisis is imminent as long as cool heads prevail. But the world system is losing stability. Current economic and geopolitical conditions would appear to support a forecast not for increasing economic growth, democracy, and peace, but for more political volatility, and for greater government military mobilization justified under the banner of security."(212)
Bevolkingsgroei was mogelijk door economische groei. Maar kunnen we die bevolking nog onderhouden wanneer die groei verdwijnt?
"During the coming post-growth decades, the nations of the world will face somewhat differing challenges depending on their size of population, rates of population growth, median age, and degree of urbanization."(212)
"The end of economic growth will pose demographic challenges to all societies. But having more people will result in a bigger challenge than having fewer."(213)
"The continent of Africa will probably encounter the worst demographic challenges of any region in the decades ahead. Its population is expected to double its numbers by 2050, according to the UN. By then, Africa's urban population may have tripled, with 1.3 billion living in cities. These trends of rapid population growth and rapid urbanization cannot be sustained in a world of declining energy, scarce water, and changing climate, and will soon become enormous liabilities as today's quickly growing slums turn into centers of even greater human misery.
South Asia will also encounter enormous problems.(...)
The US has the fastest growing population of any industrialized country — mostly due to immigration (though immigration rates have declined in the last couple of years, probably due to the economic crisis). Already a hot-button issue, immigration could become even more of one as the economy contracts."(213-214)
"The population issue has been highly politicized, and those who argue for controls on population growth are often demonized as elitist, racist, or misogynist. This is tragic, because the ongoing debate has caused humanity to put off dealing with the problem for far too long. And it is the poor, and especially poor women and children, who will pay the price for this delay."(215)
"By calling rich industrialized countries 'developed' and poor non-industrial countries 'underdeveloped', policy makers were in effect saying that industrialization is equivalent to the healthy biological process of maturation, and should be the goal of all human societies. Through a trade-led process of economic expansion, non-industrial countries with subsistence economies and large indigenous populations must aim to become urbanized, consumer-driven, cosmopolitan manufacturing centers (according to this view): it is their right and destiny to do so.
This set of assumptions was always questionable. Indeed, it has been attacked with some vigor by Vandana Shiva, Helena Norberg-Hodge, Martin Kohr, Jerry Mander, Doug Tompkins, Gustavo Esteva, Edward Goldsmith, Ivan Illich, Manfred Max-Neef, David Graeber, and other prominent development critics (sometimes also known as post-development–theorists).(...)
Development, according to the critics, was actually a euphemism for post-war American hegemony; and indeed it was the US (along with its European allies) that provided the loans, trade rules, educational templates, and media images that would reshape societies across the global south."(217)
"Two books galvanized anti-globalization activism and epitomized the arguments of development critics: Ancient Futures (1991) by Helena Norberg-Hodge, and Confessions of an Economic Hit Man (2005) by John Perkins."(220)
Het zou heel goed kunnen dat ontwikkelingshulp in de toekomst geen discussiepunt meer is, om de eenvoudige reden dat de 'rijke' landen er geen geld meer voor willen / kunnen uittrekken vanwege het einde aan hun economische groei.
"Nations whose subsistence farmers still form a significant proportion of the over-all population, though in recent decades termed 'underdeveloped', may in fact have some advantages in the post-growth world. Rather than continuing with ruinous attempts to install fuelguzzling food and transport systems, these countries should be adopting the 'appropriate' or 'intermediate' technologies that have been advocated for several decades by E. F. Schumacher and others. Appropriate technology (or AT) is typically laborand knowledge-intensive rather than capital-, resource, and energy-intensive. Examples include the use of local natural materials for building, the small-scale generation of local power from methane digesters, and the purification of water in households with porous ceramic filters.
People in currently wealthy nations may well find themselves adopting similar technological strategies in the decades ahead. In the process, there may be a substantial reversal of the trend, seen since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, toward greater wealth inequality among nations."(223)
"According to the school of 'Human Scale Development' developed by Manfred Max-Neef, Antonio Elizalde, and Martin Hopenhayn, fundamental human needs are ontological (stemming from the condition of being human); they are also few, finite, and classifiable — as distinguished from the conventional notion of economic 'wants' that are infinite and insatiable. They are also constant through all human cultures and throughout history; what changes is the set of strategies by which these needs are satisfied. Human needs are a system — that is, they are interrelated and interactive."(223)
"The absolute number of people living in poverty — across a range of definitions — has consistently declined globally during the past 50 years, and the percentage of people living in poverty has fallen even faster.49 Nevertheless, according to a study by the World Institute for Development Economics Research at United Nations University, the richest one percent of adults has continued to pull ahead, owning 40 percent of global assets in the year 2000, with the wealthiest ten percent of adults accounting for 85 percent of the world total. The bottom half of the world adult population owns barely one percent of global wealth."(225)
"Humankind has been seduced by a temporary abundance of cheap fossil energy into ignoring limits to Earth's resources, and limits to the ability of economies to keep piling up debt. Our task now is to understand these limits so we can intelligently and inventively back away from them and begin to maximize our opportunities within them.
In the next two chapters we will explore how humanity might apply creativity to the task of adapting to depleting resources and stagnant or shrinking economies. As we are about to see, it is essential that we deal with the immediately looming monetary-financial crisis if we are to buy time to set ourselves on a course for a happier, more sustainable, and more secure future."(229)
"So far, we are on course for full-force collision. The fundamental problems with our monetary and financial systems have not been addressed, but only papered over.
Our financial-monetary system is not just vulnerable to periodic internal disruptions like credit crises, it is inherently unsustainable in the emerging context of energy and resource constraints. And if the financial-monetary system seizes up, this will imperil society's ability to respond to any and all other crises. This means that, whatever our other priorities may be, we must also immediately devote effort to reforming the financial-monetary system.
This chapter is mostly about what governments can do — must do, in fact — to get past the wall of looming financial-monetary collapse. As we will see, there may be more than one strategy that could work. But having averted immediate collision, we won't be in the clear: this short-term barrier in humanity's path must be negotiated in a way that also steers us around slower-developing problems such as climate change and resource depletion. If not, civilization will carom from one crisis to the next."(232)
"At some point in the next few years, stock and real estate values will plunge, banks will close, and businesses will shutter their doors. Monetary, financial, and social systems built upon the expectation of growth will simply fail in growth's absence. In the worst instance, that failure could take the form of a nearly complete cessation of trade, as occurred nationally in Argentina in December, 2001. Some sort of new economy would inevitably emerge from the wreckage, but in scale and scope it would be a shadow of the one we knew just a few years ago. Measured in GDP, it might correspond to the world economy of fifty, a hundred, or even a hundred and fifty years ago.
The pursuit of the ideals of fairness, openness, and freedom, and the fights against corruption, greed, and tyranny will of course continue, as they must, but these struggles will play out within the constraints of a shrinking economy. Promises of plenty if only new leaders and policies are put in place will prove hollow. Social progress could yield relative change in economic conditions (advancing the prospects of the poor versus the rich), but not absolute change (the economy will still be contracting); meanwhile, the more intense the conflict, the more resources will be consumed that might have been devoted to helping households and communities adapt.
Sadly, the scenario I have just laid out is not necessarily the worst-case outcome. It is possible to imagine ones in which environmental disasters or energy shortages play more prominent roles, and where collapse comes sooner and is more complete. Whether contraction is chaotic or controlled, and whether it comes sooner or later, a radical simplification of the economy is more or less inevitable, as systems designed for cheap energy and economic growth slam up against environmental limits. And the risk of uncontrolled, chaotic collapse is considerable.(...)
I am about to argue, however, that economic contraction need not entail catastrophe and sorrow if the process is managed well."(235-236)
Over 'debt jubilee' (kwijtschelding van schulden), wat mensen ondere een bepaalde inkomensgrens / spaargeldbedrag ontziet en vooral de rijken raakt. Iets dergelijks zou op enorm verzet stuiten onder die groepen. Andere mogelijke maatregelen: 'debt-free money' (zie p.239), wetten tegen woekerrente, opkopen van obligaties door centrale banken, staatsbanken.
"Clearly, none of these strategies can solve the longterm problems of declining energy and minerals, rising population, and worsening environmental crises. They are merely ways to avert the looming wall of monetaryfinancial collapse. Once we have bought some time, we must begin to redesign certain basic structures of the economy that currently function properly only in a context of constant growth. One of these structures consists of the money we use."(241)
"... debtbased currency can only function well in an expanding economy."(241)
Maar een terugkeer naar edelmetalen als de basis van geld is problematisch (er is niet genoeg van).
"This means we will have to reinvent money in the years ahead. Given money's importance, it would be natural to assume that the discussion about currency systems and how they function is robust, featuring a wide-ranging literature, numerous college courses devoted to the subject, and so on. This is far from being the case. The notion that alternative kinds of money may be possible, some of them superior to debt-based currency, has occurred to some (Henry Ford, for example, is reputed to have been enamored with the idea of an energy-backed currency), but only a very few thinkers seem to have explored money systems in depth. The project requires that we start by taking account of genuine human needs and then ask how money can be used to help satisfy them. It also requires a careful examination of our current monetary system and its vulnerabilities and failures. The goal should be to design a system — possibly involving several interlocking currencies to be used simultaneously but for different functions — that would liberate the exchange process from political and banking interests that presently tend to distort and commandeer it for their own ends: a system that could serve the needs of a steady-state or shrinking economy as easily as those of one that is growing."(241-242)
"Herman Daly is one of several authors who have advocated for the proliferation of local currencies; others include Dierdre Kent (Healthy Money, Healthy Planet); Richard Douthwaite (The Ecology of Money); Bernard Lietaer (The Future of Money: Creating New Wealth, Work and a Wiser World); and Thomas Greco, Jr. (Money: Understanding and Creating Alternatives to Legal Tender). Among the most successful of US local currencies is BerkShares ... "(243)
"Greco, Douthwaite, Daly, and others agree that governments should support and facilitate the emergence of local currencies. Lietaer notes that complementary currencies "meet unmet needs with unused resources", and uses the mileage programs of the major airlines as an example of complementary currencies already familiar to most people."(244)
"The past three decades, and especially the past three years, have seen an explosion of discussion about alternative ways of thinking about economics. There are now at least a score of think tanks, institutes, and publications advocating fundamentally revising economic theory in view of ecological limits. Many alt-economics theorists question either the possibility or advisability of endless growth. The fraternity of conventional economists appears to be highly resistant to these sorts of challenging new ideas. Governments everywhere accept unquestioningly the existing growth-based economic paradigm, and this confers on mainstream economists a sense of power and success that makes them highly averse to self examination and change. Therefore the likelihood of alternative economic ideas being adopted anytime soon on a grand scale would seem vanishingly small. Nevertheless, alternative thinking is still useful, because as growth ends the managers of the economy will sooner or later be forced to try other approaches, and it will be extremely important to have conceptual tools lying around that, in a crisis, could be quickly grasped and put to use."(246-247)
"The following four fundamental principles must be established at the core of economic theory if economics is to have any relevance in the future:
• Growth in population and consumption rates cannot be sustained.
• Renewable resources must be consumed at rates below those of natural replenishment.
• Non-renewable resources must be consumed at declining rates (with rates of decline at least equaling rates of depletion), and recycled wherever possible.
• Wastes must be minimized, rendered non-toxic to humans and the environment, and made into 'food' for natural systems or human production processes.
Further, economics must aim for a dynamic balance between efficiency (maximizing throughput) and resilience (adaptability, redundancy, diversity, and interconnectivity) — whereas today economists focus almost entirely on efficiency.
The contributions of the alternative economists (via schools of thought known as ecological economics, environmental economics, and biophysical economics) can be divided into three broad categories: critiques of existing economic system, proposals for an alternative system, and strategies for making the transition from one to the other."(247)
"In Europe, a 'degrowth' movement has taken root, founded on the ideas of Mohandas Gandhi, Leopold Kohr, Jean Baudrillard, André Gorz, Edward Goldsmith, Ivan Illich, and Serge Latouche. The work of Romanian economist Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen (1906–1994) was especially pivotal in setting the movement on its path: his 1971 book titled The Entropy Law and the Economic Process pointed out that neoclassical economics fails to acknowledge the second law of thermodynamics by not accounting for the degradation of energy and matter."(248-249)
"In the United States, the term 'degrowth' is seldom mentioned; however, over the past twenty years a similar trend in thinking has spurred the 'voluntary simplicity' movement, which questions the environmental, psychological, and social costs of ever-growing consumption. The movement has roots in the ethical beliefs of religious groups like the Amish, but also in the writings of philosopher Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) and back-to-the-land pioneers Scott and Helen Nearing (1883–1983; 1904– 1995, authors of Living the Good Life). The books Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin (1981), and Your Money or Your Life by Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin (1992), and the documentary film 'Affluenza' (1997) helped define this movement, which now also features magazines and newsletters to assist in the formation of local simple living networks. Many simplicity advocates promote Buy Nothing Day, which falls on the Friday following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, as an antidote to pre-Christmas shopping frenzy.
The US has also spawned systematic critiques of standard economic theory. Henry George (1839–1897) has been called America's most important home-grown economist; his writings explored the implications of the principle that each person should own what he or she creates, but that everything found in nature, most importantly land, should belong equally to all humanity. Economist Thorstein Veblen (1857–1929) criticized the wastefulness of consumption for status. More recently, the book Small Is Beautiful by German-British economist E. F. Schumacher (1911–1977) inspired Bob Swann (an American pioneer of land trusts) to found the E. F. Schumacher Society, which is now the New Economics Institute, one of several US organizations that promote a basic restructuring of the economy according to ecological principles."(249-250)
Deze auteurs doen weer allerlei voorstellen voor een alternatieve economische aanpak, waaronder een belasting op financiële transacties, hervorming van bedrijfswetgeving, het stichten van coöperaties. Vervolgens wordt de kritiek op het BNP als een maatstaf voor economische groei nog eens op een rij gezet.
"Four of the main objections:
• Increasing self-reliance means decreasing GDP. If you eat at home more, you are failing to do your part to grow the GDP; if you grow your own food, you're doing so at the expense of GDP. Any advertising campaign that aims to curb consumption hurts GDP: for example, vigorous anti-smoking campaigns result in fewer people buying cigarettes, which decreases GDP.
• GDP does not distinguish between waste, luxury, and a satisfaction of fundamental needs.
• GDP does not guarantee the meaningfulness of what is being made, bought, and sold. Therefore GDP does not correlate well with quality of life measures.
• GDP is 'Gross Domestic Product'; there is no accounting for the distribution of costs and benefits. If 95 percent of people live in abject poverty while 5 percent live in extreme opulence, GDP does not reveal the fact."(255)
Er worden alternatieven voorgesteld als de MEW, ISEW en GPI.
"If civilization fails, it won't be for a lack of good ideas. Some of these have been around since the 1970s — a few since the 1870s. Which brings up the question: Why, if so many solutions are available, does my 'default scenario' for the future look so dreary?
Perhaps the suggestion that 'Our problems are resolvable in principle' needs to be followed by an 'if' clause and a 'but' clause.
The 'if' clause: If we are willing to change our way of life and the fundamental structures of society. Many people assume that solving our problems means being able to continue doing what we are doing now. Yet it is what we are doing now that is creating our problems. Every 'solution' mentioned above comes at a cost in terms of fundamental changes in individual and societal behaviors and priorities.
The 'but' clause: But our society as a whole is not inclined to do what is required to solve them, even if the consequences of failing to do so are utterly apocalyptic."(261)
"All of the solutions to our growth-based problems involve some form of self-restraint. That's why most of those solutions remain just good ideas. That's also why we will probably hit the wall, and why the outcomes described in the previous chapters of this book are likely. The sustainability revolution will occur. The depletion of nonrenewable resources ensures that humankind will eventually base its economy on renewable resources harvested at rates of natural replenishment. But that revolution will be driven by crisis.
The crucial question is, how serious will that crisis have to be to get our collective attention and force us to change our behavior? Will the crisis be so severe as to destroy the very basis of civilization? If so, we will have lost everything worthwhile that human beings have achieved during our past few centuries of struggle, invention, and inquiry. It need not be so, and by working now to ensure that the tools that are needed to enable the economy and society to adapt to the post-growth era are sharpened and available, we can create the conditions for a rapid response when our collective internal discounting mechanisms finally adjust to the scale of the crisis facing us.
Nevertheless, if some scale of impact is inevitable, this poses profound immediate challenges for individuals, families, and communities. How should we be preparing?"(265-266)
Heinberg aarzelde om dit boek te publiceren, omdat het zou kunnen bijdragen aan paniek en crisis.
"If political leaders and voices in the major media are unwilling to consider the possibility that growth is ending, then at least this information should be available to receptive individuals and communities so they can prepare themselves for what is coming. This was the argument for publication.
Even so, there is irony and risk. The strategies that individuals should be pursuing to prepare for the end of growth (disengaging from consumerism, getting out of debt, becoming more self-sufficient) are things that — if everyone did them — would keep the economy from recovering and would push us further into recession.(...)
Somehow we have to prepare individually for the ending of growth (a process likely to be accompanied by economic and political upheavals) while at the same time preserving and building social cohesion and laying the groundwork for a new economy that can function in a post-growth, post-fossil fuel environment. It's a tall order, but nothing less will do."(268)
We moeten ons dus individueel voorbereiden op slechte tijden, maar tegelijkertijd is het belangrijk om de sociale cohesie binnen de gemeenschappen van mensen te versterken. In tijden van crisis is het huidige indivualisme - waarbij we niet eens onze buren kennen - het slechtste idee.
"The remainder of this chapter is devoted to suggestions for what you can do to help your community become more resilient and better able to weather the approaching storms."(270)
Voorbeeld: Transition Initiatives (startte in de UK door Rob Hopkins) en Transition Towns.
"The 'transition' that's being referred to is away from our current growth-based, fossil-fueled economy and toward a future economy that is not only sustainable but also fulfilling and interesting for all concerned."(270)
" There are limits and obstacles to the Transition strategy. In the worst instance, Transition can manifest as merely another talk shop for lefties and aging former hippies. However, Hopkins recognizes that it must be something very different from this if it is to succeed, and that Transition must address practical matters having to do with infrastructure and practical economics."(272)
"At least Transition sees what's needed, even if it's not yet entirely up to the task."(273)
Over de Common Security Clubs:
"In addition to Transition Initiatives, something more is called for. As we work together on getting beyond oil and other fossil fuels, we also need to find mutually supportive ways to deal with immediate impacts from the fracturing of the economy. Joblessness, home foreclosures, and business failures are leaving a wake of destruction in communities, neighborhoods, and families. How are we to cope? Must we shoulder these losses household by household, or does it make more sense to get together with friends and neighbors to find shared ways to come to terms with the economic impacts of the end of growth?
Once again there is good news. A program already exists called Common Security Clubs with exactly this mandate. The program was started by a team of economic justice and ecological transition activists connected to the Institute for Policy Studies and On the Commons, who put together a pilot curriculum in January 2009. Over 55 clubs have followed the suggested program, while another 100 or so groups have been inspired and informed by it and have adopted other names. The Clubs have a three-pronged strategy:
Learning together: Using popular education tools, videos and shared readings, participants deepen their understanding of economic issues and explore questions like: Why is the economy in distress? What are the ecological factors contributing to the economic crisis? What is our vision for a healthy, sustainable economy? How can I reduce my economic vulnerability? How can I get out of debt?
Mutual aid: Through stories, examples, web-based resources, a workbook, and mutual support, participants reflect on what makes them secure. How can I help both myself and my neighbor if either of us faces foreclosure, unemployment, or economic insecurity? What can we do together to increase our economic security?
Social action: Common Security Clubs recognize that many of our challenges won't be overcome through personal or local efforts. State, national, and even global economic reforms are needed. What state and federal policies will increase our personal security? How can we become politically engaged so as to further those policies?"(273-274)
[Die clubs heten nu Resilience Circles. Overigens zijn die alleen in de VS te vinden, en dat vind ik een nogal typisch. De Transition Initiatives zijn vanuit de UK wel internationaal gemaakt / geworden, waarom die Circles dan niet?]
"As important and helpful as Transition Initiatives and Common Security Clubs are, they share an annoying shortcoming: they tend to be invisible to the majority of people even in the towns and cities where they happen to be flourishing."(275)
Hoe kunnen die organisaties zichtbaarder worden? Heinberg stelt voor om midden in de stad een plek / een centrum te maken dat gemakkelijk bereikbaar is en van waaruit gewerkt wordt aan het bekend maken van al deze initiatieven.
[Zijn beschrijving heeft toch wel een erg zweverig karakter, het klinkt bijna als die typisch Amerikaanse liefdadigheid, maar dan met verdergaande activiteiten. Ik lees niets over stemgedrag, andere politiek, kritiek naar boven, verantwoordelijk stellen van allerlei machthebbers, en zo verder.]
"Are these strategies sufficient to smooth our way through the economic and environmental crises of the next few decades? Unfortunately, no: It's going to be a bumpy ride in any case — though a lot bumpier if we do nothing. As I have emphasized already, much work needs to be done in terms of national and global economic and environmental policies (the kinds of responses discussed in Chapter 6); yet even if needed national and global monetary and energy reforms were to be enacted — and this would be no small accomplishment — we would still face decades of perilous environmental, economic, and social challenges."(280)
Heinberg verwijst naar Michael Greer's The Ecotechnic Future waar het gaat om de vraag welke technieken ons kunnen helpen aan een duurzame toekomst.
"When looking to the past for clues about how our lowerenergy future might look and feel, it's hard to avoid becoming fixated on images from movies and television programs like Little House on the Prairie or Brother Cadfael. Some people find these depictions of a simpler life in bygone days attractive; others bristle at the thought that our descendants might have to do without computers, cell phones, and personal automobiles, busying themselves instead with plows and axes, herbs and chickens. Will the march of history pry our electronic toys from our cold, dead hands? How far back down the trail of complexity and technological sophistication might we have to retreat? Can we surrender cars, highways, and supermarkets, but still keep cultural exchange, tolerance, and diversity, along with our hardwon scientific knowledge, advanced healthcare, and instant access to information?
That last question deserves considerable thought. During the past couple of centuries, energy consumption (and, more recently, debt) increased along with population and nasty environmental impacts. Social, cultural, and human benefits also proliferated. All three trends were closely related, with energy growth being the primary driver. In the decades ahead, available energy will decline. This will probably lead to declining population. It might or might not lead to declining environmental impacts (that depends on how we handle the transition: if we burn every last lump of coal, every last tree, and every last ton of tar sands, all in an effort to keep the lights on and the economy growing, then we might alter the energy decline rate at the cost of laying waste to the planet; on the other hand, if we reduce fossil fuel consumption proactively to protect the climate, we might preserve more of the biosphere at the cost of driving the energy curve down more sharply). But what about social and cultural benefits? Will they inevitably wither along with energy consumption?
This, I believe, will be one of the great questions and challenges of the coming century."(281-282)
[Ja, maar een echt bevredigend antwoord geeft hij toch niet. Het is goed dat al die initiatieven richting duurzaamheid bestaan, natuurlijk. Maar zo lang dat zo weinig mensen betreft - en dan vaak ook nog mensen die gestudeerd hebben, meer achtergrond hebben dan andere - en de grote meerderheid van mensen op ezels stemt om het land te besturen, zo lang zal er weinig veranderen aan de kortetermijn-ideeën over economie die zo veel mensen er op na houden: groei moet, materialisme is goed. Al veertig jaar sinds Schumachers Small is Beautiful verscheen en vele waarschuwingen, boeken, initiatieven, organisaties verder. En nog steeds schreeuwen de politici internationaal om groei. Die noodzakelijke menstaliteitsverandering komt er gewoon pas als de hele zaak instort, ben ik bang. Hongersnoden, oorlogen om brandstoffen, zelfverrijking van een kleine elite, steeds meer armoede, natuurrampen, een eindeloze hoeveelheid slachtoffers, energietekorten. Misschien dan ...]