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  • VIDEOS – Ecologise
    mission to put happiness before economic growth and set a world standard for environmental preservation Continue Reading Special Ringing Cedars and the new silent revolution in Russia Written by Ecologise Apr 10 2016 0 Comments The Ringing Cedars of Russia series of books have sold over ten million copies in Russia and has inspired a massive movement in earth consciousness there Its part of a new silent revolution in Russia where more and more people are leaving the cities to live closer to nature Interestingly the Russian government actively supports it Continue Reading Video Cowism How an engineer is transforming Indian agriculture Written by Contributor Apr 9 2016 0 Comments Chetan Raut founder of the intriguingly named startup Cowism aims to empower distressed Maharashtra farmers to become self reliant and financially independent by integrating commercially useful assets like native cattle into farming practices to improve soil fertility lower input costs and raise profits Invariably the solutions to our problems lie right under our noses says Chetan Continue Reading Special A look back at Kerala s endosulphan disaster Written by Ecologise Apr 2 2016 0 Comments Valiya Chirakula Pakshikal Birds With Large Wings directed by Dr Biju has been declared 2015 s Best Film on Environment It explores the disastrous environmental and public health consequences of pesticide use based on real life events in Kasargode Kerala On this occasion here s a look back at the manmade disaster that continues to haunt Kasargode residents Continue Reading Video Climate science pioneer Hansen warns of disastrous climate shift Written by Contributor Mar 31 2016 0 Comments The world may be much closer to an abrupt and catastrophic climate shift than previously thought That s the warning from modern climate science pioneer James Hansen His latest research suggests that polar ice sheet disintegration may cause sea level rise enough to drown coastal cities not in a few centuries but in a few decades Continue Reading Video Report How renewable energy is already taking over the world Written by Contributor Mar 30 2016 0 Comments Juan Cole writes In 2015 energy companies invested more in new renewables power plants than in fossil fuel plants for the first time in history The majority of these plants were planned for developing countries a sign that the technology is now viewed as less expensive It is clear there is a secular trend upwards Continue Reading Book Video Thanatia The destiny of the Earth s mineral resources Written by Contributor Mar 24 2016 0 Comments Is Gaia becoming Thanatia a resource exhausted planet For how long can our high tech society be sustained in the light of declining mineral ore grades heavy dependence on un recycled critical metals and accelerated material dispersion Thanatia presents a cradle to cradle view of Earth s abiotic resources through a novel approach based on the Second Law of Thermodynamics Continue Reading Video Rice Bowl to Ashtray Documentary on industrialisation and displacement in Chhattisgarh Written by Contributor Mar 22 2016 0 Comments Since its

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  • Development is for the people: A talk by Madhav Gadgil – Ecologise
    the fog of false propaganda by simply failing to record the ongoing large scale destruction of jobs as in the case of fisherfolk of Vashishti river Indeed the rate of growth of employment even in the organized sector has actually declined from 2 to 1 just as the rate of GDP growth has gone up from 3 to 8 Careful analysis by the economist Amit Bhaduri shows that the growth in the organized sector which is all that is measured when talking about India being the country with fastest economic growth in the world deprives more people of jobs by its demands on natural resources such as land and water than are compensated by the new jobs this growth creates Even the RBI Governor Rajan is therefore today talking of one eyed kings We must of course continue to develop modern technology based industries and services but these cannot generate employment on the massive scale required Indeed the rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence mean that human labour is becoming more and more redundant day by day It is therefore imperative that the modern sector must rein in its adverse impacts on the labour intensive natural resource based occupations and livelihoods The modern capital intensive technology based economic sector must instead aim at nurturing a symbiotic relationship with the nature based employment intensive largely unorganized sector Our democracy provides for fashioning such a mutualistic relationship through the 73 rd and 74 th constitutional amendments the Biodiversity Act and the Extension of Panchayat Raj to Scheduled Areas and Forest Rights Acts We must take advantage of this Constitutional framework and work with nature and people to move forward on a path of genuine development a path that would be entirely compatible with making development a people s movement vikaasko janandolan banana 9 WGEEP approach When our Respected Prime Minister Narendra Modiji pronounced in his very first victory speech in Ahmedabad Vikasko janandolan banayenge I was delighted for I dreamt of the new Government seriously taking up this very agenda outlined in WGEEP report an agenda enthusiastically endorsed by BJP in Kerala I immediately clarified to those at the helm of affairs such as Hon Minister of Environment Shri Prakash Javdekar and the then Hon Chief Minister of Goa Shri Manohar Parrikar how the WGEEP proposals really were proposals for undertaking development of the Western Ghats as a people s movement Permit me to quote verbatim from our report Ongoing Development by Exclusion coupled to Conservation by Exclusion What we see around the Western Ghats and rest of country may be termed Development by Exclusion hand in hand with Conservation by Exclusion Despite the 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Constitution that have devolved powers of making decisions relating to development to Panchayat Raj Institutions and Nagarpalikas all development decisions are being thrust on the people For instance in Ratnagiri district several Gram Panchayats and Panchayat Samitis including the Ratnagiri Taluka Panchayat Samiti have specifically passed resolutions relating to environmental issues that are being completely ignored by the State Government WGEEP would like to propose that we should instead attempt to develop a model of conservation and development compatible with each other encompassing the whole of the Western Ghats region to replace the prevailing Develop recklessly conserve thoughtlessly pattern with one of Develop sustainably conserve thoughtfully The fine tuning of development conservation practices to local context that this calls for would require full involvement of local communities Delimiting Ecologically Sensitive Zones ESZ WGEEP believes that it is inappropriate to depend exclusively on Government agencies for constitution and management of ESZs Instead WGEEP suggests that the final demarcation of the Zones including those surrounding Protected Areas as also in context of the UNESCO Heritage Site proposal taking micro watersheds and village boundaries into account and fine tuning of the regulatory as well as promotional regimes must be based on extensive inputs from local communities and local bodies namely gram sabhas ward sabhas Gram Panchayats Taluka Panchayats Zilla Parishads and Nagarpalikas Guidelines only a starting point for discussion WGEEP advocates a graded or layered approach with regulatory as well as promotional measures appropriately fine tuned to local ecological and social contexts within the broad framework of ESZ1 ESZ2 and ESZ3 While advocating fine tuning through a participatory process going down to gram sabhas we provide as a starting point a broad set of guidelines on basis of extensive consultations with officials experts civil society groups and citizens at large Goa RPG 2021model An interesting precedent is that of Goa Regional Plan 2021 The first step in this GRP21 planning was a compilation of a comprehensive spatially referenced database on land water and other natural resources of Goa state this information was selectively shared with all Gram Sabhas and their suggestions as to the desired pattern of land use obtained consolidated and used as an important basis for the preparation of the final plan Regrettably the Government of Goa has not continued with the dialogue failing to go back to the Gram Sabhas when it felt it appropriate to diverge from the Gram Sabha suggestions Nevertheless this is an excellent model that should be implemented in its true spirit 10 Mining in Goa I specifically clarified to both the Hon Minister of Environment Shri Prakash Javdekar and the Hon Chief Minister of Goa Shri Manohar Parrikar that WGEEP was not in favour of simply banning activities like mining everywhere but urged that mining and other such activities should be conducted only after taking the wishes of the local communities on board and ensuring that the benefits truly flow to the people especially the economically and socially deprived segments of the society Thus Goa could revive its currently stagnating mining business and mismanaged community resources through novel initiatives involving people In this context the provisions of the 2006 Forest Rights Act conferring management rights over Community Forest Resources to tribal as well as other traditional forest dwellers are very pertinent The ownership of such Community Forest Resources remains vested with the state and these cannot be diverted to other purposes We have excellent examples from Gadchiroli district of Maharashtra of how good management of these Community Forest Resources is bringing economic prosperity to tribal communities that were leading a precarious existence earlier Notably now the people are on their own protecting part of these forests as newly constituted strict nature reserves The Forest Rights Act is especially applicable to villages like Caurem in Goa s Kepem taluka Here palpably illegal mining operations have severely damaged water resources adversely affected farming and horticulture and created social anger and tensions The mines are currently closed because of the illegalities and the Caurem Gram Sabha has unanimously resolved that that if they are to be restarted this should be done through the agency of their Multi purpose Co operative Society True the cooperative sector has had its share of problems but so has the private sector and state enterprises At the same time there are shining examples like Amul Dairy of successes in the cooperative sector The Government of Goa ought therefore to seize this golden opportunity and do all that it can to ensure that management of mines by the village level cooperative society succeeds 11 An economy of violence But what has the response of the Government been Permit me to quote from an article by the highly respected writer and social commentator Ramachandra Guha that appeared in Hindustan Times on 24 th April 2016 I then drove to the south east of the state to the village of Caurem set amidst fields and forests Here lives a young tribal activist named Ravindra Velip who has been at the forefront of social protests against illegal mining Last month Ravindra was arrested and taken into judicial custody The next day with the evident complicity of officials responsible for his safety he was blindfolded gagged and savagely beaten He suffered multiple fractures and might have been killed had his screams not brought fellow detainees to the scene whereupon his attackers fled Shockingly the police even refused to file an FIR on this murderous assault In Caurem I met Ravindra Velip his arm in a sling I also met with the villagers whose morale and resolve was intact the women s especially The villagers of Caurem argue that if mining is necessary local co operatives should be entrusted with the job since they would take greater care not to damage the environment while retaining the proceeds within the community Although most Indian and foreign tourists may not know or care something is very rotten in the state of Goa The citizens of Goa know and care since they see and experience it all the time 12 Trickle down No suck up This state of affairs is a result of the fact that Independent India has been nurturing an economy in which the rapidly growing organized industries services sector has developed predatory relations with the natural resource based labour intensive economy that to this day supports well over two thirds of the Indian population The Gandhian economist J C Kumarappa has termed this an economy of violence He pointed out that the Western Capitalism had elaborated a capital intensive economy highly wasteful of natural resources because they had successfully accumulated large capital stocks through draining their colonies and had access to natural resources of whole continents like the Americas taken over by wiping out the indigenous people India did not enjoy that kind of access to capital and natural resources but had to do justice to its huge pool of human resources This called for prudent use of natural resources best accomplished by empowering local communities to safeguard and nurture them and creation of productive employment on a massive scale Kumarappa therefore advocated working out an innovative Indian model of a symbiotic rather than imitating the Western pattern of predatory development In 1971 elections Mrs Indira Gandhi gave the clarion call of Garibi Hatao which implies our doing justice to our vast population of ecosystem people and continually growing ranks of ecological refugees All empirical evidence suggests that we have far from accomplished this India now harbours by far the world s largest concentration of malnourished people Yet the call of Garibi Hatao has now been replaced by one of GDP Badhao It is asserted in teeth of accumulating empirical evidence to the contrary that this growth in GDP would eventually trickle down and with growing prosperity people will ensure environmental protection and social justice But it is argued that all this must wait and that we must now focus our attention single mindedly on economic growth even if it implies flouting our own laws to degrade environment and flouting our own constitution to dispense social injustice But the reality is that what we are currently witnessing is not a process of robust economic growth leading to a trickling down of benefits but a process of economic growth sucking up resources that sustain many from the weaker sections of society leading to their further impoverishment and increasing social strife 13 Greens and the people Since the decade of 1970 s and the Chipko movement there has been a rapid increase in environmental consciousness amongst citizens of India Out of this came the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and the establishment of a Central Department of Environment shortly thereafter People from many different sectors of the society began to ponder on concrete steps that needed to be taken to protect the environment Inevitably many different streams of thinking emerged Many from the rich industrial nations argued that environment will only be protected by the rich and the educated that poor masses of India would never support an environmental movement Movements like Chipko clearly demonstrated that this thinking was in error Many amongst the weaker sections of the Indian population living close to the earth have a tremendous stake in a healthy environment Their quality of life is closely tied to the availability of water in streams and lakes on catching fish and crabs or consuming wild tubers leafy vegetables and fruit They clearly visualize their self interest in protecting their environment Their cultural traditions include guarding banyan and peepal trees peafowl and monkeys blackbuck and nilgai sacred groves and sacred ponds When in a position to do so they participate vigorously in good management of natural resources Yet admittedly people are today often engaged in activities destructive of the natural world This is a result of their being deprived of all rights over natural resources especially since the British rule and of these resources being diverted often at incredible levels of subsidies to serve urban industrial interests Thus bamboo had been handed over in Karnataka to paper mills at Rs 1 50 per ton while basket weavers who were being forced to buy it at Rs 1500 or more per ton had no choice but to helplessly watch paper mills devastate it It was inevitable that under these circumstances the grass roots traditions and practices of control over and prudent use of natural resources have often withered away We have in India a school of environmental philosophy that only sees the resultant destruction of nature by the poor completely ignoring its devastation by a corrupt political bureaucratic combine serving narrow vested interests The English educated middle and upper classes are heavily represented amongst its adherents The anti people machinery of forest and wildlife wings strongly supports this perspective which is accepted by many influential lawyers jurists journalists as well Out of this have emerged Acts like Kerala s Ecofragile Lands Act EFL an Act whose experience has been the mainstay of the propaganda that WGEEP is furthering an anti people agenda an agenda that is creating conservation refugees The experience of the people of the Kerala Ecofragile Lands Act indeed appears to reinforce the fears that conservation can only imply coercion and extortion The same Malayalam term is used for ecofragile lands and Ecologically Sensitive Zones Many people have told me that the EFL Act is draconian allowing the bureaucracy to arbitrarily declare any lands in the proximity of Protected Areas as ecologically fragile without citing any scientific reasons It thereby vests such lands with the government extinguishing all individual rights and titles without any compensation leading to eviction of 8 000 plus farmers from 37 000 acres without compensation Even tribals and marginal farmers have lost land and protests against it have been muted Gramsabhas were not involved in the identification of these lands and forest officials decided on lands to be taken over without any field visits Farmers were not given notice there was only a gazette notification It is also alleged that the powers have been used by corrupt officials to extort bribes and that the same process of extortion has been launched again with the publication of the WGEEP report Of course WGEEP report clearly warns against such conservation by imposition However since the Government did its best to ensure that the report was not available to the public it was easy to mislead people and claim as the Bishop of Idukki so fallaciously did If the recommendations of the WGEEP report are implemented lakhs of people living in the area will lose all their freedom and will be forced to vacate the area by themselves before the government evacuates them 14 Divide and rule Yet the ecosystem people constitute a vast majority of the Indian population and in our democracy have some albeit limited clout Disempowered and increasingly impoverished as they are today they see little hope of a better life while pursuing natural resource based occupations and livelihoods So they are eager to get out and join the ranks of omnivores The tragic reality is that while this is certainly feasible for a limited number of people India cannot become a country entirely populated by omnivores as the United States largely is As mentioned above the omnivore employment opportunities are in fact shrinking with rapid advances in automation and artificial intelligence One human can now produce far more than earlier a phenomenon labelled increasing labour productivity Thus Jamshedpur steel plant of the Tatas employed 85 000 workers in 1991 to produce1million tons of steel worth 0 8million U S dollars In 2005 the production rose to 5 million tons worth about 5 million U S dollars while employment fell to 44 000 In short output increased approximately by a factor of five employment dropped by a factor of half implying an increase in labour productivity by a factor of ten Similarly Tata Motors in Pune reduced the number of workers from 35 to 21 thousand but increased the production of vehicles from 129 000 to 311 500 between 1999 and 2004 implying labour productivity increase by a factor of 4 But this reality does not deter our political leaders from making false promises One of the maker in India slated to make a large investment in Pune district in Maharashtra is Foxconn and the Maharashtra CM has announced that the factory will create 50 000 jobs However this same company is famous for having invested 11 billion dollars in robotics It currently employs 100 000 people in its factory in China and is aiming to replace half its manpower by robots in near future So it is pretty much certain that its production facility in India will be so completely robotized that there will be very few opportunities for the Indians beyond a handful of technically trained people The number thus employed will certainly be far smaller than the number of people who will lose their current means of livelihoods with the acquisition of land and diversion of water and other resources to the upcoming factory Yet people are desperately looking for such jobs in organized sector and if they come from currently socially or economically weaker backgrounds believe that the only way they can get into this omnivore stream is through reservations in educational

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  • Cars, Capitalism and India – Ecologise
    and its aggressiveness on the hand and manufacturing of monster sports utility vehicles SUVs on the other The psychologist Adler interpreted the aggression of motorists on the road as a way of overcoming an inferiority complex Weakness is sought to be compensated by brutality The SUV seen as the vehicle of the empire a gargantuan capsule of excess consumption created by the Americans partly to get over the insecurity arising out of the defeat in Vietnam In India s class war on the road many of the killers now are the rich young riding their expensive cars arrogant and drunk speed demons and the victims are mostly the poor There have been several well publicised cases of rich persons driving at high speed and killing poor pedestrians or footpath dwellers the Salman Khan case the Nanda BMW hit and run case and the Carter Rd killing of seven pavement dwellers are just a few prominent examples Criminality among the rich and the motor car seem to go together There is a much better understanding of the issues among certain creative writers and film makers The French film maker Jean Luc Godard for example sees the traffic jam as the symbol of the failure of capitalism in his 1967 film Weekend The film is a dark comic apocalyptic vision of capitalist consumer society In Godard s film consumer society destroys itself in automobile wrecks rushes into violence The bored and apathetic heart of the bourgeoisie is never far from acting out its homicidal fantasies In Milan Kundera s novel Immortality the hero is a professor who slashes the tyres of motor cars and motor cycles because they have made the beauty of cities invisible destroyed the environment and public space Cars represent globalization speed worship and greed The Indian context A developed country is not one in which the poor drive motor cars but one in which the rich travel by public transport And building more roads for cars to reduce congestion is like trying to put out a fire with petrol However India and China are on a disastrous path of motorization and have failed to learn from the mistakes committed by the more advanced capitalist countries Mobility in India is talked of mainly in terms of fancy cars which boast of picking up speed in seconds Few talk of the mobility of the poor who often cannot afford even non motorized transport Here the poor are massacred on roads on a scale unmatched in the world We strive to protect our children from paedophiles child molesters but ten times more children are killed by speeding vehicles That should concern us more but does not Over 140 000 people were killed by motor vehicles in India in 2014 more than anywhere else in the world The death rate per vehicle population in India is far higher than in countries like the US or England Many Western countries have sharply brought down their death numbers But in India the death numbers are rising steeply At the same time as a result of underinvestment in public transport people are treated like cargo to be funneled from one point to another The railway authorities themselves admit the system is inhuman After a great start in asserting our role in the arena of street life and transport we seem to have suffered a regression A most remarkable agitation took place in Kolkata in 1953 An increase in tram fare by one paisa was met by a furious protest by Left parties for nearly a month Several protesters were killed and injured in police firing and the resistance forced the British company to withdraw the increase Jyoti Basu was one of the leaders of that agitation years later he endorsed the Nano motor car project At least a section of the Left in India appears unfortunately to be enamoured of the internal combustion engine In Mumbai till the 1980s cotton textile workers the main creators of surplus in the country for years lived close to the mills though in dark small overcrowded rooms They could organize themselves and there was a bustling working class culture Narayan Surve the distinguished poet who grew up as an orphan saw the streets as his university Here on the streets in the morchas he met Marx and many writers This democratic culture is now being lost due to redistribution of urban space in favour of the rich facilitated by the car A rational transport policy is a part of broader urban planning process A socially just land use would mean the work place should be near the residence of workers so as to eliminate or reduce the need for travel We do not need mobility for the sake of mobility It has to serve a social purpose But it is the rich who are now seeking to create such an environment where they live close to the work place The car lobby controls much of the media with advertisements splashed on the front pages and inside as well as shamefully compromised articles Socialisation of land and restructuring of the urban structure are essential But in practice accumulation by dispossession is very much in evidence The big recent Adarsh scandal involving retired army generals and admirals and former chief ministers pertains in fact to the land of the BEST bus depot in the prime area of Cuffe Parade in Mumbai Development rights over this land were used to build more floors for luxury housing for these bigwigs The crisis of unavailability of safe convenient public transport was poignantly reflected in the horrible case of rape and murder in a private bus in Delhi in 2012 Public debate on the issue was confined to the issue of allegedly inadequate legal provisions to punish rapists It needs to be broadened to address on the neglect of public transport Culturally too the kind of brute masculinity involved in the incident is linked to the motor car culture and urban maldevelopment Vast uninhabited dead

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  • Update: Chennai floods and climate change – Ecologise
    Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Google Opens in new window 15th May 2016 15th May 2016 Thought for Food at Palampur Himachal Pradesh Workshop on eating responsibly sharing strategies and tools for doing so Share this Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Google Opens in new window 18th May 2016 22nd May 2016 Two short courses on Development at Azim Premji University Bangalore Designed for professionals working in various domains of development Share this Click to share on Twitter Opens in new window Click to share on Facebook Opens in new window Click to share on Google Opens in new window 24th May 2016 3rd June 2016 View All Events Special Features Commuters carry their motorbikes through a waterlogged street in Chennai AP Update Chennai floods and climate change Written by Ecologise Dec 7 2015 0 Comments Studies show that with rising global temperatures the intensity of rain spells is increasing both in the southwest and northeast monsoons says M Rajeevan director Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology While no single weather event can said to be directly affected by global warming the probability of heavy rain increases in the climate change scenario What is sinking Chennai Down to Earth special feature Even as countries attempt to reach a climate deal that can avert the devastating impacts of climate change unusually heavy rains pound Chennai causing dangerous waterlogging in many parts of the city Chennai floods Climate change footprints in freak weather The Times of India Studies show that with rising global temperatures the intensity of rain spells is increasing This has been seen both in the southwest and northeast monsoons says M Rajeevan director Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology Pune So while no single weather event can said to be directly affected by global warming the probability of heavy rain increases in the climate change scenario Chennai floods due to global warming Expert DNA We re facing a deadly combinations of temperature rise reduced rainfall and erratic monsoons in certain areas with a threat of drought said Dholakia This will mostly occur in central and north eastern parts of the country Other areas such as the coasts will see extreme precipitation events giving rise to floods The current state of Chennai the floods in Uttarakhand Kashmir the heat waves in Telangana are all such events caused by these changes explained Dholakia Chennai floods are not a natural disaster they ve been created by unrestrained construction Nityanand Jayaraman Scroll in Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa s response to the floods in Tamil Nadu is frightening A report in NDTV quotes her as saying Losses are unavoidable when there s very heavy rain Swift rescue and relief alone are indicators of a good government These words are intended to normalise a human made disaster and gloss over the pathology of urban development under successive administrations Ripples in

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  • Subhash Palekar: From farmer to national treasure – Ecologise
    because they are easy to adopt and his training sessions include detailed instructions he actually dictates them word by word Other organic natural farming practices that may be equally effective or even more so have been relatively less successful in gaining widespread acceptance because they often place a lot of demands on the farmer Some require him to drastically change cultivation practices others require extensive labour or externally derived inputs Zero Budget Natural Farming on the other hand has relatively lower barriers to entry Misunderstood One thing one quickly comes across after meeting Subhash Palekar or listening to his talks is his passion for the topic despite a mild mannered way of speaking This also reflects in his writings At the same time he is not very articulate when speaking in a language usually English or Hindi other than his native tongue Marathi This is an unfortunate combination and sometimes leads to misunderstanding The English language version of the books and his website are of atrocious editing quality Palekar acknowledges this in the books but refuses to yield to the editor s pen He argues that the books are meant for farmers and not as literature One unfortunate outcome of this is that many in the English speaking world are quick to reject his ideas without understanding them Therefore there is little mention of his work in the English language media although vernacular media in South India especially the TV channels have covered him extensively Palekar tends to be a polarising figure even among those who promote organic farming in the country The Organic Farming Association of India OFAI a leading body of the organic farming movement does not acknowledge his work directly anywhere on its website except in the news feed Even the list of organic farmers in the state of Maharashtra in the website s resources section finds no mention of his work This again in my view arises out of a misunderstanding of Palekar s ideas In his talks he comes down heavily against agricultural universities for promoting chemical farming This is understandable What is less clear to most people is that while promoting his own version of natural farming Palekar even criticises promoters of organic farming equally strongly He actually abhors the term organic This has to be understood in a context In the early days of the movement agricultural universities and government literature on organic farming used to encourage extensive inputs that must be purchased from the market What Palekar is actually against is this reliance of the farmer on the market He argues that the corporates and the government conspire to keep exploiting the innocent farmer like they did during the so called Green Revolution by promoting chemical fertilisers and hybrid seeds This view although far fetched is not without merit Palekar is a student of Gandhi and his ideology is strongly rooted in Gandhi s idea of village self reliance A core idea in his ideology therefore is that farmer should not rely

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  • ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’: What it means and how to respond – Ecologise
    innovation will also lead to a supply side miracle with long term gains in efficiency and productivity Transportation and communication costs will drop logistics and global supply chains will become more effective and the cost of trade will diminish all of which will open new markets and drive economic growth At the same time as the economists Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee have pointed out the revolution could yield greater inequality particularly in its potential to disrupt labor markets As automation substitutes for labor across the entire economy the net displacement of workers by machines might exacerbate the gap between returns to capital and returns to labor On the other hand it is also possible that the displacement of workers by technology will in aggregate result in a net increase in safe and rewarding jobs We cannot foresee at this point which scenario is likely to emerge and history suggests that the outcome is likely to be some combination of the two However I am convinced of one thing that in the future talent more than capital will represent the critical factor of production This will give rise to a job market increasingly segregated into low skill low pay and high skill high pay segments which in turn will lead to an increase in social tensions In addition to being a key economic concern inequality represents the greatest societal concern associated with the Fourth Industrial Revolution The largest beneficiaries of innovation tend to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital the innovators shareholders and investors which explains the rising gap in wealth between those dependent on capital versus labor Technology is therefore one of the main reasons why incomes have stagnated or even decreased for a majority of the population in high income countries the demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased The result is a job market with a strong demand at the high and low ends but a hollowing out of the middle This helps explain why so many workers are disillusioned and fearful that their own real incomes and those of their children will continue to stagnate It also helps explain why middle classes around the world are increasingly experiencing a pervasive sense of dissatisfaction and unfairness A winner takes all economy that offers only limited access to the middle class is a recipe for democratic malaise and dereliction Discontent can also be fueled by the pervasiveness of digital technologies and the dynamics of information sharing typified by social media More than 30 percent of the global population now uses social media platforms to connect learn and share information In an ideal world these interactions would provide an opportunity for cross cultural understanding and cohesion However they can also create and propagate unrealistic expectations as to what constitutes success for an individual or a group as well as offer opportunities for extreme ideas and ideologies to spread THE IMPACT ON BUSINESS An underlying theme in my conversations with global CEOs and senior business executives is that the acceleration of innovation and the velocity of disruption are hard to comprehend or anticipate and that these drivers constitute a source of constant surprise even for the best connected and most well informed Indeed across all industries there is clear evidence that the technologies that underpin the Fourth Industrial Revolution are having a major impact on businesses On the supply side many industries are seeing the introduction of new technologies that create entirely new ways of serving existing needs and significantly disrupt existing industry value chains Disruption is also flowing from agile innovative competitors who thanks to access to global digital platforms for research development marketing sales and distribution can oust well established incumbents faster than ever by improving the quality speed or price at which value is delivered Major shifts on the demand side are also occurring as growing transparency consumer engagement and new patterns of consumer behavior increasingly built upon access to mobile networks and data force companies to adapt the way they design market and deliver products and services A key trend is the development of technology enabled platforms that combine both demand and supply to disrupt existing industry structures such as those we see within the sharing or on demand economy These technology platforms rendered easy to use by the smartphone convene people assets and data thus creating entirely new ways of consuming goods and services in the process In addition they lower the barriers for businesses and individuals to create wealth altering the personal and professional environments of workers These new platform businesses are rapidly multiplying into many new services ranging from laundry to shopping from chores to parking from massages to travel On the whole there are four main effects that the Fourth Industrial Revolution has on business on customer expectations on product enhancement on collaborative innovation and on organizational forms Whether consumers or businesses customers are increasingly at the epicenter of the economy which is all about improving how customers are served Physical products and services moreover can now be enhanced with digital capabilities that increase their value New technologies make assets more durable and resilient while data and analytics are transforming how they are maintained A world of customer experiences data based services and asset performance through analytics meanwhile requires new forms of collaboration particularly given the speed at which innovation and disruption are taking place And the emergence of global platforms and other new business models finally means that talent culture and organizational forms will have to be rethought Overall the inexorable shift from simple digitization the Third Industrial Revolution to innovation based on combinations of technologies the Fourth Industrial Revolution is forcing companies to reexamine the way they do business The bottom line however is the same business leaders and senior executives need to understand their changing environment challenge the assumptions of their operating teams and relentlessly and continuously innovate THE IMPACT ON GOVERNMENT As the

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  • Gail Tverberg: The Physics of Energy and the Economy – Ecologise
    operating a computer in a lighted room can make more calculations than a woman who inscribes numbers with a stick on a clay tablet and adds them up in her head working outside as weather permits As long as the quantity of supplemental energy supplies keeps rising rapidly enough human labor can become increasingly productive This increased productivity can feed through to higher wages Because of these growing wages tax payments can be higher Consumers can also have ever more funds available to buy goods and services from businesses Thus an economy can continue to grow Besides inadequate supplemental energy the other downside risk to continued economic growth is the possibility that diminishing returns will start making the economy less efficient These are some examples of how this can happen Deeper wells or desalination are needed for water because aquifers deplete and population grows More productivity is needed from each acre of arable land because of growing population and thus falling arable land per person Larger mines are required as ores of high mineral concentration are exhausted and we are forced to exploit less productive mines More pollution control devices or higher cost workarounds such as renewables are needed as pollution increases Fossil fuels from cheap to extract locations are exhausted so extraction must come from more difficult to extract locations In theory even these diminishing returns issues can be overcome if the leveraging of human labor with supplemental energy is growing quickly enough Theoretically technology might also increase economic growth The catch with technology is that it is very closely related to energy consumption Without energy consumption it is not possible to have metals Most of today s technology depends directly or indirectly on the use of metals If technology makes a particular type of product cheaper to make there is also a good chance that more products of that type will be sold Thus in the end growth in technology tends to allow more energy to be consumed Why Economic Collapses Occur Collapses of economies seem to come from a variety of causes One of these is inadequate wages of low ranking workers those who are not highly educated or of managerial rank This tends to happen because if there are not enough energy flows to go around it tends to be the wages of the bottom ranking employees that get squeezed In some cases not enough jobs are available in others wages are too low This could be thought of as inadequate return on human labor a different kind of low Energy Return on Energy Invested EROEI than is currently analyzed in most of today s academic studies Another area vulnerable to inadequate energy flows is the price level of commodities If energy flows are inadequate prices of commodities will tend to fall below the cost of producing these commodities This can lead to a cutoff of commodity production If this happens debt related to commodity production will also tend to default Defaulting debt can be a huge problem because of the adverse impact on financial institutions Another way that inadequate energy flows can manifest themselves is through the falling profitability of companies such as the falling revenue that banks are now experiencing Still another way that inadequate energy flows can manifest themselves is through falling tax revenue Governments of commodity exporters are particularly vulnerable when commodity prices are low Ultimately these inadequate energy flows can lead to bankrupt companies and collapsing governments The closest situation that the US has experienced to collapse is the Depression of the 1930s The Great Recession of 2007 2009 would represent a slight case of inadequate energy flows one that could be corrected by a large dose of Quantitative Easing QE leading to the lower cost of borrowing plus debt stimulus by China These helped bring oil prices back up again after they fell in mid 2008 Figure 2 World Oil Supply production including biofuels natural gas liquids and Brent monthly average spot prices based on EIA data Clearly we are now again beginning to experience the effects of inadequate energy flows This is worrying because many economies have collapsed in the past when this situation occurred How Energy Flows of an Economy are Regulated In an economy the financial system is the regulator of the energy flows of the system If the price of a product is low it dictates that a small share of energy flows will be directed toward that product If it is high it indicates that a larger share of energy flows will be directed toward that product Wages follow a similar pattern with low wages indicating low flows of energy and high wages indicating higher flows of energy Energy flows in fact pay for all aspects of the system including more advanced technology and the changes to the system more education less time in the workforce that make advanced technology possible One confusing aspect to today s economy is the use of a pay you later approach to paying for energy flows If the energy flows are inadequate using what we would think of as the natural flows of the system debt is often used to increase energy flows Debt has the effect of directing future energy flows in a particular direction such as paying for a factory a house or a car These flows will be available when the product is already part of the system and thus are easier to accommodate in the system The use of increasing debt allows total demand for products of many kinds to be higher because it directs both future flows and current flows of energy toward a product Since factories houses and cars are made using commodities the use of an increasing amount of debt tends to raise commodity prices With higher commodity prices more of the resources of the economy are directed toward producing energy products This allows for increasing energy consumption This increased energy consumption tends to help flows of energy to many areas of the economy at the same time wages taxes business profitability and funds for interest and dividend payments The need for debt greatly increases when an economy begins using fossil fuels because the use of fossil fuels allows a step up in lifestyle There is no way that this step up in lifestyle can be paid for in advance because the benefits of the new system are so much better than what was available without fossil fuels For example a farmer raising crops using only a hoe for a tool will never be able to save up sufficient funds energy flows needed to pay for a tractor While it may seem bizarre that banks loan money into existence this approach is in fact essential if adequate energy flows are to be available to compensate for the better lifestyle that the use of fossil fuels makes possible Debt needs are low when the cost really energy cost of producing energy products is low Much more debt is needed when the cost of energy extraction is high The reason more debt is needed is because fossil fuels and other types of energy products tend to leverage human labor making human labor more productive as mentioned previously In order to maintain this leveraging an adequate quantity of energy products measured in British Thermal Units or Barrels of Oil Equivalent or some similar unit is needed As the required price for energy products rises it takes ever more debt to finance a similar amount of energy product plus the higher cost of homes cars factories and roads using the higher cost energy In fact with higher energy costs capital goods of all kinds will tend to be more expensive This is a major reason why the ratio of debt to GDP tends to rise as the cost of producing energy products rises At this point in the United States it takes approximately 3 of additional debt to increase GDP by 1 author s calculation Figure 3 Inflation adjusted Brent oil prices in 2014 primarily from BP Statistical Review of World Energy shown beside two measures of debt for the US economy One measure of debt is all inclusive the other excludes Financial Business debt Both are based on data from FRED Federal Reserve of St Louis Clearly one of the risk factors to an economy using fossil fuels is that debt levels will become unacceptably high A second risk is that debt will stop rising fast enough to keep commodity prices at an acceptably high level The recent slowdown in the growth of debt Figure 3 no doubt contributes to current low commodity prices A third risk to the system is that the rate of economic growth will slow over time because even with the large amount of debt added to the system the leveraging of human labor with supplemental energy will not be sufficient to maintain economic growth in the face of diminishing returns In fact it is clearly evident that US economic growth has trended downward over time Figure 4 Figure 4 US annual growth rates using real or inflation adjusted data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis A fourth risk is that the whole system will become unsustainable When new debt is issued there is no real matching with future energy flow For example will the wages of those taking on debt to pay for college be sufficiently high that the debtors can afford to have families and buy homes If not their lack of adequate income will be one of the factors that make it difficult for the prices of commodities to stay high enough to encourage extraction One of the issues in today s economy is that promises of future energy flows extend far beyond what is formally called debt These promises include shareholder dividends and payments under government programs such as Social Security and Medicare Reneging on promises such as these is likely to be unpopular with citizens Stock prices are likely to drop and private pensions will become unpayable Governments may be overthrown by disappointed citizens Examples of Past Collapses of Economies Example of the Partial Collapse of the Former Soviet Union One recent example of a partial collapse was that of the Former Soviet Union FSU in December 1991 I call this a partial collapse because it only involved the collapse of the central government that held together the various republics The governments of the individual republics remained in place and many of the services they provided such as public transportation continued The amount of manufacturing performed by the FSU dropped precipitously as did oil extraction Prior to the collapse the FSU had serious financial problems Shortly before its collapse the world s leading industrial nations agreed to lend the Soviet Union 1 billion and defer repayment on 3 6 billion more in debt A major issue that underlay this collapse was a fall in oil prices to the 30 per barrel range in the 1986 to 2004 period The Soviet Union was a major oil exporter The low price had an adverse impact on the economy a situation similar to that of today Figure 5 Oil production and price of the Former Soviet Union based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2015 Russia continued to pump oil even after the price dropped in 1986 In fact it raised oil production to compensate for the low price energy flow it received per barrel This is similar to the situation today and what we would expect if oil exporters are very dependent on these energy flows no matter how small Oil production didn t fall below the 1986 level until 1989 most likely from inadequate funds for reinvestment Oil production rose again once prices rose Figure 6 shows that the FSU s consumption of energy products started falling precipitously in 1991 the year of the collapse very much a Seneca Cliff type of decline Figure 6 Former Soviet Union energy consumption by source based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy Data 2015 In fact consumption of all fuels even nuclear and hydroelectric fell simultaneously This is what we would expect if the FSU s problems were caused by the low prices it was receiving as an oil exporter With low oil prices there could be few good paying jobs Lack of good paying jobs in other words inadequate return on human labor is what cuts demand for energy products of all kinds A drop in population took place as well but it didn t begin until 1996 The decrease in population continued until 2007 Between 1995 and 2007 population dropped by a total of 1 6 or a little over 0 1 per year Before the partial collapse population was rising about 0 9 per year so the collapse seems to have reduced the population growth rate by about 1 0 per year Part of the drop in population was caused by excessive alcohol consumption by some men who had lost their jobs their sources of energy flows after the fall of the central government When commodity prices fall below the cost of oil production it is as if the economy is cold because of low energy flows Prof Francois Roddier describes the point at which collapse sets in as the point of self organized criticality According to Roddier personal correspondence Beyond the critical point wealth condenses into two phases that can be compared to a gas phase and a liquid phase A small number of rich people form the equivalent of a gas phase whereas a large number of poor people form what corresponds to a liquid phase Like gas molecules rich people monopolize most of the energy and have the freedom to move Embedded in their liquid phase poor people have lost access to both energy and freedom Between the two the so called middle class collapses I would wonder whether the ones who die would be equivalent to the solid state They can no longer move at all Analysis of Earlier Collapses A number of studies have been performed analyzing earlier collapses Turchin and Nefedov in Secular Cycles analyze eight pre fossil fuel collapses in detail Figure 7 shows my interpretation of the pattern they found Figure 7 Shape of typical Secular Cycle based on work of Peter Turchin and Sergey Nefedov in Secular Cycles Again the pattern is that of a Seneca Cliff Some of the issues leading to collapse include the following Rising population relative to farmland Either farmland was divided up into smaller plots so each farmer produced less or new workers received service type jobs at much reduced wages The result was falling earnings of many non elite workers Spiking food and energy prices Prices were high at times due to lack of supply but held down by low wages of workers Rising need for government to solve problems for example fight war to get more land install irrigation system so get more food from existing land Led to a need for increased taxes which impoverished workers could not afford Increased number of nobles and high level administrators Result was increased disparity of wages Increased debt as more people could not afford necessities Eventually the workers who were weakened by low wages and high taxes tended to succumb to epidemics Some died in wars Again we have a situation of low energy flows and the lower wage workers not getting enough of these flows Many died in some cases as many as 95 These situations were much more extreme than those of the FSU On the favorable side the fact that there were few occupations back in pre industrial days meant that those who did survive could sometimes resettle with other nearby communities and continue to practice their occupations Joseph Tainter in The Collapse of Complex Societies talks about the need for increasing complexity as diminishing returns set in This would seem to correspond to the need for increased government services and an increased role for businesses Also included in increased complexity would be increased hierarchical structure All of these changes would leave a smaller share of the energy flows for the low ranking workers a problem mentioned previously Dr Tainter also makes the point that to maintain complexity Sustainability may require greater consumption of resources not less A Few Insights as to the Nature of the Physics Problem The Second Law of Thermodynamics seems to work in a single direction It talks about the natural tendency of any closed system to degenerate into a more disordered system With this view the implication is that the universe will ultimately end in a heat death in which everything is at the same temperature Dissipative systems work in the other direction they create order where no order previously existed Economies get ever more complex as businesses grow larger and more hierarchical in form governments provide more services and the number of different jobs filled by members of the economy proliferate How do we explain this additional order According to Ulanowicz the traditional focus of thermodynamics has been on states rather than on the process of getting from one state to another What is needed is a theory that is more focused on processes rather than states He writes the prevailing view of the second law is an oversimplified version of its true nature Simply put entropy is not entirely about disorder Away from equilibrium there is an obverse and largely unappreciated side to the second law that in certain circumstances mandates the creation of order We are observing the mandated creation of order For example the human body takes heat energy and transforms it to mechanical energy There is a dualism to the entropy system that many have not stopped to appreciate Instead of a trend toward heat death always being the overarching goal systems have a two way nature to them Dissipative systems are able to grow until they reach a point called self organized criticality or the critical point

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  • Richard Heinberg: An open letter to climate leaders – Ecologise
    foods While we re at it we could begin sequestering enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon in topsoil by promoting farming practices that build soil rather than deplete it If we got a good start in all these areas we could achieve at least a 40 percent reduction in carbon emissions in ten to twenty years Level Two The harder stuff Solar and wind technologies have a drawback they provide energy intermittently When they become dominant within our overall energy mix we will have to accommodate that intermittency in various ways We ll need substantial amounts of grid level energy storage as well as a major grid overhaul to get the electricity sector to 80 percent renewables thereby replacing natural gas in electricity generation We ll also need to start timing our energy usage to better coincide with the availability of sunlight and wind energy That in itself will present both technological and behavioral hurdles Electric cars aside the transport sector will require longer term and sometimes more expensive substitutions We could reduce our need for cars which require a lot of energy for their manufacture and de commissioning by densifying our cities and suburbs and reorienting them to public transit bicycling and walking We could electrify all motorized human transport by building more electrified public transit and intercity passenger rail links Heavy trucks could run on fuel cells but it would be better to minimize trucking by expanding freight rail Transport by ship could employ modern fsails to increase fuel efficiency this is already being done on a tiny scale but re localization or de globalization of manufacturing would be a necessary co strategy to reduce the need for shipping Much of the manufacturing sector already runs on electricity but there are exceptions and some of these will offer significant challenges Many raw materials for manufacturing processes either are fossil fuels feedstocks for plastics and other petrochemical based materials including lubricants paints dyes pharmaceuticals etc or currently require fossil fuels for mining and or transformation e g most metals Considerable effort will be needed to replace fossil fuel based materials and to recycle non renewable materials more completely significantly reducing the need for mining If we did all these things while also building far far more solar panels and wind turbines we could achieve roughly an 80 percent reduction in emissions compared to our current level Level Three The really hard stuff Doing away with the last 20 percent of our current fossil fuel consumption is going to take still more time research and investment as well as much more behavioral adaptation Just one example we currently use enormous amounts of cement for all kinds of construction activities Cement making requires high heat which could theoretically be supplied by sunlight electricity or hydrogen but that will entail a nearly complete redesign of the process While with Level One we began a shift in food systems by promoting local organic food driving carbon emissions down further will require finishing that job by making all food production organic and requiring all agriculture to sequester carbon through building topsoil Eliminating all fossil fuels in food systems will also entail a substantial re design of those systems to minimize processing packaging and transport The communications sector which uses mining and high heat processes for the production of phones computers servers wires photo optic cables cell towers and more presents some really knotty problems The only good long term solution in this sector is to make devices that are built to last a very long time and then to repair them and fully recycle and re manufacture them when absolutely needed The Internet could be maintained via the kinds of low tech asynchronous networks now being pioneered in poor nations using relatively little power Back in the transport sector we ve already made shipping more efficient with sails in Level Two but doing away with petroleum altogether will require costly substitutes fuel cells or biofuels One way or another global trade will have to shrink There is no good drop in substitute for aviation fuels we may have to write off aviation as anything but a specialty transport mode Planes running on hydrogen or biofuels are an expensive possibility as are dirigibles filled with non renewable helium any of which could help us maintain vestiges of air travel Paving and repairing roads without oil based asphalt is possible but will require an almost complete redesign of processes and equipment The good news is that if we do all these things we can get to beyond zero carbon emissions that is with sequestration of carbon in soils and forests we could actually reduce atmospheric carbon with each passing year Plans will look different in each country so each country and each state needs one 2 It s not all about solar and wind These two energy resources have been the subjects of most of the discussion surrounding the renewable energy transition Prices are falling rates of installation are high and there is a large potential for further growth But with a small number of exceptions hydropower continues to serve as the largest source of renewable electricity The inherent intermittency of wind and solar power will pose increasing challenges as percentage levels of penetration into overall energy markets increase Other renewable energy sources hydropower geothermal and biomass can more readily supply controllable baseload power but they have much less opportunity for growth Hopes for high levels of wind and solar are therefore largely driven by the assumption that industrial societies can and should maintain very high levels of energy use If energy usage in the United States could be scaled back significantly 70 to 90 percent then a reliable all renewable energy regime becomes much easier to envision and cheaper to engineer but the system would need to look very different Solar and wind would serve as significant sources of electricity and with usage timed to its availability but hydro geothermal and some biomass when environmentally appropriate would serve as baseload power 3 We must begin pre adapting to less energy It is unclear how much energy will be available to society at the end of the transition there are many variables including rates of investment and the capabilities of renewable energy technology without fossil fuels to back them up and to power their manufacture at least in the early stages Nevertheless given all the challenges involved it would be prudent to assume that people in wealthy industrialized countries will have less energy even taking into account efficiencies in power generation and energy usage than they would otherwise have assuming a continuation of historic growth trends This conclusion is hard to avoid when considering the speed and scale of reduction in emissions actually required to avert climate catastrophe As climate scientist Kevin Anderson points out in a recent Nature Geoscience paper According to the IPCC s Synthesis Report no more than 1 000 billion tonnes 1 000 Gt of CO2 can be emitted between 2011 and 2100 for a 66 chance or better of remaining below 2 C of warming over preindustrial times However between 2011 and 2014 CO2 emissions from energy production alone amounted to about 140 Gt of CO2 Subtracting realistic emissions budgets for deforestation and cement production the remaining budget for energy only emissions over the period 2015 2100 for a likely chance of staying below 2 C is about 650 Gt of CO2 That 650 gigatons of carbon amounts to less than 19 years of continued business as usual emissions from global fossil energy use The notion that the world could make a complete transition to alternative energy sources using only that six year fossil energy budget and without significant reduction in overall energy use might be characterized as optimism on a scale that stretches credulity The how much will we have question reflects an understandable concern to maintain current levels of comfort and convenience as we switch energy sources But in this regard it is good to keep ecological footprint analysis in mind According to the Global Footprint Network s Living Planet Report 2014 the amount of productive land and sea available to each person on Earth in order to live in a way that s ecologically sustainable is 1 7 global hectares The current per capita ecological footprint in the United States is 6 8 global hectares Asking whether renewable energy could enable Americans to maintain their current lifestyle is therefore equivalent to asking whether renewable energy can keep us living unsustainably The clear answer is only temporarily if at all so why attempt the impossible We should aim for a sustainable level of energy and material consumption which on average is significantly lower than at present Efforts to pre adapt to shrinking energy supplies have understandably gotten a lot less attention from activists than campaigns to leave fossil fuels in the ground or to promote renewable energy projects But if we don t give equal thought to this bundle of problems we will eventually be caught short and there will be significant economic and political fallout So what should we do to prepare for energy reduction Look to California its economy has grown for the past several decades while its per capita electricity demand has not The state encouraged cooperation between research institutions manufacturers utilities and regulators to figure out how to keep demand from growing by changing the way electricity is used This is not a complete solution but it may be one of the top success stories in the energy transition so far rivaling that of Germany s Energiewende It should be copied in every state and country 4 Consumerism is a problem not a solution Current policy makers see increased buying and discarding of industrial products as a solution to the problem of stagnating economies With nearly 70 percent of the United States economy tied to consumer spending it is easy to see why consumption is encouraged Historically the form of social and economic order known as consumerism largely emerged as a response to industrial overproduction one of the causes of the Great Depression which in turn resulted from an abundant availability of cheap fossil energy Before and especially after the Depression and World War II the advertising and consumer credit industries grew dramatically as a means of stoking product purchases and politicians of all political persuasions joined the chorus urging citizens to think of themselves as consumers and to take their new job description to heart If the transition to renewable energy implies a reduction in overall energy availability if mobility is diminished and if many industrial processes involving high heat and the use of fossil fuels as feedstocks become more expensive or are curtailed then conservation must assume a much higher priority than consumption in the dawning post fossil fuel era If it becomes more difficult and costly to produce and distribute goods such as clothing computers and phones then people will have to use these manufactured goods longer and repurpose remanufacture and recycle them wherever possible Rather than a consumer economy this will be a conserver economy The switch from one set of priorities and incentives consumerism to the other conservation implies not just a major change in American culture but also a vast shift in both the economy and in government policy with implications for nearly every industry If this shift is to occur with a minimum of stress it should be thought out ahead of time and guided with policy We see little evidence of such planning currently and it is not clear what governmental body would have the authority and capacity to undertake it Nor do we yet see a culture shift powerful and broad based enough to propel policy change The renewable economy will likely be slower and more local Economic growth may reverse itself as per capita consumption shrinks if we are to avert a financial crash and perhaps a revolution as well we may need a different economic organizing principle In her recent book on climate change This Changes Everything Naomi Klein asks whether capitalism be preserved in the era of climate change while it probably can capitalism needs profit more than growth that may not be a good idea because in the absence of overall growth profits for some will have to come at a cost to everyone else And this is exactly what we have been seeing in the years since the financial crash of 2008 The idea of a conserver economy has been around at least since the 1970s and both the European degrowth movement and the leaders of the relatively new discipline of ecological economics have given it a lot of thought Their insights deserve to be at the center of energy transition discussions 5 Population growth makes everything harder A discussion of population might seem off topic But if energy and materials which represent embodied energy are likely to be more scarce in the decades ahead of us population growth will mean even less consumption per capita And global population is indeed growing on a net basis births minus deaths we are currently adding 82 million humans to the rolls each year a larger number than at any time in the past even if the rate of growth is slowing Population growth of the past century was enabled by factors many of which trace back to the availability of abundant cheap energy and the abundant cheap food that it enabled that may be reaching a point of diminishing returns Policy makers face the decision now of whether to humanely reduce population by promoting family planning and by public persuasion by raising the educational level of poor women around the world and giving women full control over their reproductive rights or to let nature deal with overpopulation in unnecessarily brutal ways For detailed recommendations regarding population matters consult population organizations such as Population Institute and Population Media Center Population is a climate issue 6 Fossil fuels are too valuable to allocate solely by the market Our analysis suggests that industrial societies will need to keep using fossil fuels for some applications until the very final stages of the energy transition and possibly beyond for non energy purposes Crucially we will need to use fossil fuels for the time being anyway for industrial processes and transportation needed to build and install renewable energy systems We will also need to continue using fossil fuels in agriculture manufacturing and general transportation until robust renewable energy based technologies are available This implies several problems As the best of our remaining fossil fuels are depleted society will by necessity be extracting and burning ever lower grade coal oil and natural gas We see this trend already far advanced in the petroleum industry where virtually all new production prospects involve tight oil tar sands ultra heavy oil deepwater oil or Arctic oil all of which entail high production costs and high environmental risk as compared to conventional oil found and produced during the 20 th century Burning these heavier dirtier fuels will create ever more co pollutants that have a disproportionate health impact and burden on low income communities The fact that the fossil fuel industry will require ever increasing levels of investment per unit of energy yielded has a gloomy implication for the energy transition society s available capital will have to be directed toward the deteriorating fossil fuel sector to maintain current services just as much more capital is also needed to fund the build out of renewables Seemingly the only way to avoid this trap would be to push the energy transition as quickly as possible so that we aren t stuck two or three decades from now still dependent on fossil fuels that by then will be requiring so much investment to find and extract that society may not be able to afford the transition project But there s also a problem with accelerating the transition too much Since we use fossil fuels to build the infrastructure for renewables speeding up the transition could mean an overall increase in emissions unless we reduce other current uses of fossil fuels In other words we may have to deprive some sectors of the economy of fossil fuels before adequate renewable substitutes are available in order to fuel the transition without increasing overall greenhouse gas emissions This would translate to a reduction in overall energy consumption and in the economic benefits of energy use though money saved from conservation and efficiency would hopefully reduce the impact and this would have to be done without producing a regressive impact on already vulnerable and economically disadvantaged communities We may be entering a period of fossil fuel triage Rather than allocating fossil fuels simply on a market basis those who pay for them get them it may be fairer especially to lower income citizens for government with wartime powers to allocate fuels purposefully based on the strategic importance of the societal sectors that depend on them and on the relative ease and timeliness of transitioning those sectors to renewable substitutes Agriculture for example might be deemed the highest priority for continued fossil fuel allocations with commercial air travel assuming a far lower priority Perhaps we need not just a price on carbon but different prices for different uses We see very little discussion of this prospect in the current energy policy literature Further few governments even currently acknowledge the need for a carbon budget The political center of gravity particularly in the United States will have to shift significantly before decision makers can publicly acknowledge the need for fossil fuel triage As fossil fuels grow more costly to extract there may be ever greater temptation to use our available energy and investment capital merely to maintain existing consumption patterns likely for the rich above all and to put off the effort that the transition implies If we do that we will eventually reap the worst of all possible outcomes climate chaos a

    Original URL path: http://www.ecologise.in/2015/12/16/nine-issues-for-climate-leaders-to-think-about-on-the-journey-home/ (2016-05-02)
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