Donnerstag, 20. Dezember 2012

George Monbiot: Forbidden Planet


We cannot restrain climate change without a political fight against plutocracy.


By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 4th December 2012

Humankind’s greatest crisis coincides with the rise of an ideology that makes it impossible to address. By the late 1980s, when it became clear that manmade climate change endangered the living planet and its people, the world was in the grip of an extreme political doctrine, whose tenets forbid the kind of intervention required to arrest it.

Neoliberalism, also known as market fundamentalism or laissez-faire economics, purports to liberate the market from political interference. The state, it asserts, should do little but defend the realm, protect private property and remove barriers to business. In practice it looks nothing like this. What neoliberal theorists call shrinking the state looks more like shrinking democracy: reducing the means by which citizens can restrain the power of the elite. What they call “the market” looks more like the interests of corporations and the ultra-rich Neoliberalism appears to be little more than a justification for plutocracy.

More on George Monbiots Blog.



Donnerstag, 13. Dezember 2012

Die Bedingungen der Utopie

"Wenn du kein Utopist bist, dann bist du im Grunde genommen ein Schwachkopf" Jonathan Feldman
Die Schwierigkeit eine Utopie zu entwickeln ist es, aus den engen Vorstellungsräumen auszubrechen die uns unsere Erfahrungen aufgezwungen haben. Wir, die wir nichts anderes kennen, können uns nicht Vorstellen, dass die Nation und der Staat, wie wir sie heute vorfinden, eine sehr junge Geschichte haben. Wie wäre es in einer Welt zu leben ohne Pässe und Staatszugehörigkeit?

Fragen wir einen Gefangenen der sein Leben lang in einer Zelle mit einem Dutzend Bücher verbracht hat, was wer sich sehnlich wünscht, würde er vielleicht sagen „mehr Bücher“. Die Vorstellung einer Welt außerhalb seiner Zelle fällt ihm schwer, es sei denn seine Bücher haben ihm die Augen Geöffnet. Dazu darf der Autor aber nicht in der Nachbarzelle sitzen. Vielleicht aber steuern auch seine Kerkermeister was er zu lesen bekommt und stellen sicher, dass er weiterhin keine Vorstellung von der Außenwelt hat?

Ähnlich reagieren wir wenn wir konstruktive Kritik am vorherrschenden System üben sollen, zu mehr sozialer Gerechtigkeit fallen uns Reichensteuer oder Vermögensabgabe ein. An unseren Staatsgrenzen wacht währenddessen ein hochgerüsteter Militärapparat der die Ausgebeuteten der Nationen, die jenseits des Abgrundes zwischen arm und reich leben, davon abhält, endlich Teilhabe an den Reichtümern zu bekommen die von Süden nach Norden fließen.

Davon sollen oder wollen wir nichts wissen, dieser Kampf der Verzweifelten liegt jenseits unserer Wahrnehmung. Ein System weit brutaler als die institutionalisierte Apartheid Südafrikas sichert uns unseren Wohlstand und die Entrechtung und Ausbeutung des armen Südens. Dieses System ist der Nationalstaat und seine Grenzen.

In historischen Dimensionen bemessen ist die Erfindung der Nationalstaaten, von denen wir Glauben, dass sie unsere Gesellschaft sind, nur einen Wimpernschlag alt. Natürlich hatten wir schon seit Jahrhunderten eine Gesellschaft (oder viele) auch in Zeiten in denen dieser Begriff nichts mit einem Nationalstaat zu tun hatte. Wir die, wir die Kinder de Völkerwanderung sind sind fest Verwurzelt mit der Unverrückbarkeit nationaler Grenzen.

Wer von uns stellt sich unter einer Welt ohne Grenzen aber einen weltweiten Nationalstaat vor? An der Entrückung der EU Kommission von den Bürgern der EU kann man ermessen wie sich eine solche Weltregierung gegenüber den Bürgern dieser Erde verhalten würde.

Die Entwicklung des Staates als Personenverband seiner Bürger und festgelegten geographischen Grenzen, wie wir ihn heute kennen, fällt zusammen mit der ersten industriellen Revolution vor ca. 250 Jahren. Die ersten Verfassungen die auf diesem Prinzip beruhten waren die am 3. September 1791 in Frankreich geschriebene Revolutionsverfassung und die US Amerikanische Verfassung von 1787. Diese Verfassungen standen Pate für alle weiteren Klone der sog. parlamentarischen Demokratie und ihren Verwandten.

Wozu haben wir diesen Staat?
Brauchen wir in Zukunft noch einen Staat?
Warum werden wir regiert und von wem?
Wollen wir überhaupt regiert werden?
Diese Fragen muss eine Utopie neu beantworten

Vor diesem Prinzip eines Staates, waren wir Untertanen eines Monarchen (oder anderen Feudalherren). Die vornehmliche Aufgabe des Staates, war die Erhaltung der Macht der Monarchie. Alle Untertanen hatten zum Erhalt der Macht des Monarchen beizutragen und bekamen die Macht zu spüren, sollten sie versucht haben diese in Frage stellen.

Ich nehme an, dass dieser Sprung der Vorstellungskraft vom Untertan zum Bürger ein gewaltiger war. Die Ereignisse der Französischen Revolution sprechen dafür, dass diese Erkenntnis zu gewinnen ein aufwühlender und emotionaler Moment war der ungeheure Kräfte in den Menschen freisetzen konnte. Der Übergang vom Untertan zum Bürger stellte unsere gesamte Welt auf den Kopf.

Mit diesem Sprung in das Bürgertum begann auch der Siegeszug des Kapitalismus. Diese neue Art von Staat fand seine vornehmliche Aufgabe nicht mehr im Machterhalt seines Feudalherren, sondern in der Sicherung des Eigentums der Bürger.

Auch hier müssen wir unseren Geist weit strecken um uns vorstellen zu können welch immensen Anteil dieser Aspekt unserer Staatsangehörigkeit ausmacht, denn heute bleibt er uns meist verborgen, bzw. wir nehmen diese offensichtliche Tatsache nicht wahr.

Die Verfassungsväter der USA, insbesondere James Madison, hatten diesen zentralen Aspekt staatlicher Macht sehr wohl im Sinn.
„Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government, which impartially secures to every man, whatever is his own.“
Dabei hatten die Verfassungsväter auch ganz klare Vorstellungen darüber wer denn in dem neuen Gebilde das Sagen haben würde und was mit dem Begriff „Property“ vornehmlich gemeint war:
„The people who own the country ought to govern it.“ John Jay
Zumindest ist es Diskussionswürdig ob andere Arten von „property“ wie sie James Madison anspricht (individuelle freiheitliche Rechte) in seinen Augen wirklich den gleichen Schutz genießen wie die Eigentumsrechte des Landbesitzers.

Noam Chomsky (Consent without Consent, 1998) sagt dazu:

„Zudem war ihr Chefarchitekt, James Madison, ein höchst kluger politischer Kopf. In den Verfassungsdebatten warnte er: "Sollte in England das allgemeine Wahlrecht eingeführt werden, dann würde das Grundeigentum in Gefahr geraten. Denn dann würde ein Agrargesetz nicht lange auf sich warten lassen", und Grundbesitz würde an die Landlosen verteilt werden. Dergleichen Unrecht müsse natürlich durch entsprechende Verfassungsbestimmungen verhindert werden: "Die immerwährenden Interessen des Landes müssen gewahrt bleiben" - womit er die Besitzrechte meinte. Für Madison war eine Regierung vor allem verantwortlich dafür, "die wohlhabende Minderheit vor der Mehrheit zu schützen." Diesem Leitsatz sind die Demokratien bis auf den heutigen Tag treu geblieben.„
Wenn wir die Gesetze eines kapitalistischen Staates heute betrachten, dann beschäftigt sich der größte Teil dieser Gesetze mit dem Schutz des Eigentums (und seiner Vermehrung). Auch die militärische Macht einer Nation dient heute vor allem diesem Zweck. Als der ehemalige deutsche Bundespräsident Köhler diese Tatsache aussprach, war die (gespielte?) Entrüstung groß.

Horst Köhler Bundespräsident AD:

"Meine Einschätzung ist aber, dass insgesamt wir auf dem Wege sind, doch auch in der Breite der Gesellschaft zu verstehen, dass ein Land unserer Größe mit dieser Außenhandelsorientierung und damit auch Außenhandelsabhängigkeit auch wissen muss, dass im Zweifel, im Notfall auch militärischer Einsatz notwendig ist, um unsere Interessen zu wahren, zum Beispiel freie Handelswege, zum Beispiel ganze regionale Instabilitäten zu verhindern, die mit Sicherheit dann auch auf unsere Chancen zurückschlagen negativ durch Handel, Arbeitsplätze und Einkommen."
Untersucht man genauer die Gründe hinter den Kriegen und Militäreinsätzen der bestimmenden Industrienationen, so wird man sich schwer tun andere Begründungen zu finden. Die „Verteidigung der Freiheit und der Demokratie“ zumindest fällen einem gewiss nicht als erstes ein.

Das neu gewonnene Recht auf Eigentum und seine ungehemmte Vermehrung sicherte ab dem 19. Jahrhundert einem kleinen Teil des Bürgertums den zentralen Aspekt von Ausbeutung und Bereicherung für sich in Beschlag zu nehmen; „Aus Geld mehr Geld machen“. Der Kapitalismus war geboren.

Natürlich hatte James Madison recht, wirkliche Demokratie bedingt die möglichst gerechte und effiziente Verteilung der Güter nach dem Bedarf und dem Allgemeinwohl.

David Graeber hat kürzlich die These in den Raum gestellt, dass Kommunismus nichts anderes ist als das Ideal einer gerechten und effizienten Verteilung der Güter und Dienstleistungen nach dem Bedarf und dem Allgemeinwohl. Da eine Marktwirtschaft nichts anderes ist, als ein System der Verteilung der Güter und Dienstleistungen, ist sie nichts weiter als eine bestimmte Form dieses Ideal zu erreichen.

Kapitalismus wiederum setzt marktwirtschaftliche Methoden ein und gibt vor das beste System für die effiziente Verteilung zu sein. Falls es so sein sollte wäre das eine Katastrophe, denn es versagt vollkommen in wesentlichen Bestandteilen dieser Aufgabe, ist also ein „besonders schlechter Kommunismus“. Kapitalismus verteilt Güter und Dienstleistungen extrem ungleich und diese Ungleichheit wächst stetig, dafür ist er aber darin besonders effizient.

Die Idee von Lenin und Stalin, dass eine politische Elite bestimmen könnte was Bedarf und wer Bedürftig ist, führte weder zu Gerechtigkeit noch zu Effizienz. Außerdem hatte dieses Experiment auch noch die völlige Abschaffung der Freiheitsrechte zur Folge. Auch diese Idee war also ein extrem schlechter Versuch am Kommunismus.

Leider ist heute im Sprachgebrauch der Kommunismus mit diesem völlig gescheiterten Experiment einer staatlich organisierten Umverteilung verbunden. Warum dies so ist möchte ich mit einem Wunderbaren Zitat von Philip K. Dick erklären:

“The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.” Philip K. Dick
Die Bedeutung des Wortes Kommunismus wurde von denen in Beschlag genommen die von einer ungerechten Verteilung der Güter profitierten.

Unsere Realität ist natürlich nicht nur durch das Bestimmt was tatsächlich um uns ist. Unsere Realität wird ebenso von denen bestimmt die über unsere Realität die Entscheidungsgewalt besitzen.

Die Macht unsere Realität zu bestimmen nennt man Propaganda und ihr selbsternannter Erfinder war Edward L. Bernays, ein Neffe von Sigmund Freud. Das gleichnamigen Werk „Propaganda“ (1928) hatte schon Göbbels gelesen und die ersten Passagen dieses Textes sind:

„The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

Our invisible governors are, in many cases, unaware of the identity of their fellow members in the inner cabinet. They govern us by their qualities of natural leadership, their ability to supply needed ideas and by their key position in the social structure. Whatever attitude one chooses to take toward this condition, it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons—a trifling fraction of our hundred and twenty million—who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.“
Wer die Macht über Propaganda hat bestimmt also "welche Bücher wir in unser Gefängnis gereicht bekommen". In einem kapitalistischen System, kann derjenige über diese Macht verfügen, der in der Lage ist ein milliardenschweres PR-Budget aufzubringen (PR= ein anderer Name für Propaganda). Die Dienstleister für die Umsetzung der Manipulation sind bekannt.



Um eine Utopie zu Entwickeln muss man sich also nicht nur über das Erheben was man bisher für möglich hielt sondern eine neue Sprache für diese neuen Möglichkeiten finden die nicht die Assoziationen hervorruft die in unserem Köpfen festgeschrieben wurden. Sei es durch die Art wie wir unser Denken selbst beschränken oder durch die Macht der Propaganda.

Eine Utopie muss das bisher gewesene zu Gänze in Frage Stellen und darf nicht die Fehler der Vergangenheit in eine neue Form gießen

Manifest gegen Politik (David Graeber)

Der Begriff der "Politik setzt einen Staat oder einen Regierungsapparat vorraus, der seinen Willen anderen Aufzwängt. "Politik" ist die Negation der Staatskunst, Politik wird per Definitionem von einer Art Elite zusammengebastelt, die glaubt, sie wisse besser als andere, wir ihre Angelegenheiten zu erledigen seien. Wenn man an politischen Debatten teilnimmt kann man höchstens Schadensbegrenzung erreichen, da bereits die blose Prämisse dem Gedanken abträglich ist, Menschen könnten ihre Angelegenheiten selber regeln."


Bloggerkollege Feynsinn hat sich gestern in einer Skizze einer Utopie versucht. Der Versuch ist Mutig und Begrüßenswert.

Leider aber bewegt er sich in den Kreisen seines geistigen Gefängnisses und wünscht sich neue Bücher in seiner alten Zelle. In seinem Modell wird weder der Staat noch seine Macht in Frage gestellt. Der Bewohner seines Staates teilt diese Zelle. Wie denn die Verteilung der Güter und Dienstleistungen nach Bedarf und Gemeinwohl geschehen soll bleibt offen.

Offenbar bestimmt auch in diesem Modell eine „Politik“ diesen Staat. Es wird einige geben (eine Elite) die sich herausnehmen über das Schicksal des Einzelnen zu bestimmen. Die Herrschaft der Wenigen über die Vielen bleibt. Egal wie demokratisch diese Eliten bestimmt werden, aus Ihnen wird sich eine neu korrupte Schicht von Herrschenden bilden.

Sein Modell sieht in den Bürgern implizit eine Gefahr. Freiheit und Eigentum müssen beschränkt werden da wir als Menschen nicht Verantwortungsvoll damit umgehen können.

Die gescheiterten Modelle haben diese Eigenschaften mit Feynsinns Modell gemein. Das politische Individuum ist in diesen Modellen ein unmündiges Kind und muss so behandelt werden. Diese Auffassung teilt er mit den Apologeten des Kapitalismus und den Betonköpfen des Stalinismus.

Menschen werden Verantwortlich handeln wenn sie die Verantwortung haben.
Sie werden aufhören wie Kinder zu sein wenn wir ihnen das Recht zugestehen erwachsen zu werden.


„Wir sind überzeugt, dass Freiheit ohne Sozialismus Privilegienwirtschaft und Ungerechtigkeit, und Sozialismus ohne Freiheit Sklaverei und Brutalität bedeutet“ (Michail Bakunin)
Diese Aussage Bakunins kann man wohl als Bewiesen ansehen.

Ein utopisches Modell, das ich anerkenne, muss nicht nur die Möglichkeit beinhalten zu Entscheiden „Wie“ wir regiert werden wollen, sondern auch „Ob“ wir regiert werden wollen!

Es muss beinhalten wie wir das archaische System des Nationalstaates hinter uns lassen können.
Es muss uns eine Welt ohne Grenzen und Ausgrenzung ermöglichen.
Es muss für kommende Generationen eine lebenswertere Welt garantieren als wir sie heute haben.
Es muss Freiheit und Kommunismus in gleicher Weise umsetzen.
Es muss das Prinzip der Herrschaft von Menschen über Menschen überwinden.

Sonst wird sich in Wirklichkeit nichts geändert haben.

Ein Buch, das von der Welt ausserhalb unserer Zelle erzählt und mit jedem Satz neue Fenster nach draussen öffnet ist "The Memory Bank" von Keith Hart:

Er beschreibt nicht nur sehr klarsichtig unsere Welt sondern entwirft eine inspirierende Utopie.

Donnerstag, 6. Dezember 2012

Right in two

I have seen some of me fellow bloggers posting some lyrics of their favorite bands. Its a very personal thing to do and might be used to analyse the person behind the blog.

Anyway, today I just go for it. If there is one song, that I not only consider one of my favorites but also expresses in poetic form the thoughts I would like this blog to convey; its this one:






Tool: Right in two 

Angels on the sideline,
Puzzled and amused.
Why did Father give these humans free will?
Now they're all confused.

Don't these talking monkeys know that
Eden has enough to go around?
Plenty in this holy garden, silly old monkeys,
Where there's one you're bound to divide it

Right in two

Angels on the sideline,
Baffled and confused.
Father blessed them all with reason.
And this is what they choose.
(and this is what they choose)

Monkey, killing monkey, killing monkey
Over pieces of the ground.
Silly monkeys give them thumbs,
They forge a blade,
And when there's one they're bound to divide it,

Right in two.
Right in two.

Monkey, killing monkey, killing monkey
Over pieces of the ground.
Silly monkeys give them thumbs,
They make a club
And beat their brother... down.
How they survived so misguided is a mystery.
Repugnant is a creature who would squander the ability
to lift an eye to heaven conscious of his fleeting time here

Gotta divide it all right in two (x4)

They fight, till they die
Over earth, over sky
They fight, over life,
Over brawn, over air and light,
Over love, over sun. Over blood
They fight till they die over words, polarizing.

Angels on the sideline again
Benched along with patience and reason
Angels on the sideline again
Wondering when this tug of war will end

Gotta divide it all right in two (x3)
Right in two

Right in two...


Just in case you wonder about the "religious" subcontext, I would like to add that Tool (or Maynard James Keenan) are all but (openly) religious, but use the angels perspective in this song to be able to express their thoughts about humanity from an outsiders perspective (just like I use the aliens perspective in this blog).

Keenan has never (ony in an april fools prank) commented about his or any religion. The fact that he carried a business card stating he was "Jesus H. Christ" says something about what he thinks about worship, being it about gods or rock stars. (I can very much relate).

If there is a message that he has tried to get out in all of his projects, it is that people should not let themselfs be manipulated but find their own truth by opening their eyes and minds and getting themselfs informed.

See another of my favorites: Pet, by Perfect Circe that contains one of the best verses ever in any song lyrics:

"Swayin' to the rhythm of the new world order and
Counting bodies like sheep to the rhythm of the war drums."

Montag, 3. Dezember 2012

Discrimination of Youth

For new Readers: I have posted several articles  (in german) on what I consider to be a widespread discrimination of youth. Our civilisations are waging a war against youth, we can see that from spain to egypt. Young people are forcefully kept out of participating in society and have their future stolen by the rich old men.


I also think, what lies in the future will not only be a class struggle but will also be the most vicious conflict between generations ever. It seems I am not alone with this theory.


On TruthDig.org, " professor, critic and political theorist Henry A. Giroux talks about a subject in which he’s become expert: the systematic ways that governments across the globe visit violence on young people."

Montag, 26. November 2012

Was Ökonomen noch nie über Wachstum wissen wollten

... und auch nie zu Fragen getraut haben.

Dies ist ein Beitrag zur Blogparade des Wirtschaftswurms zum Thema Grenzen des Wachstums.

Wachstum ist ein positiv besetzter Begriff. Er trägt das Versprechen vom Grünen und Blühen in sich. Wachstum wird gleichgesetzt mit Wohlstand und Fortschritt. Kritiker des Wachstums befinden sich dadurch in einer schlechten Ausgangsposition um ihre Argumente vorzubringen. Hat uns nicht Wachstum all diese Errungenschaften unserer Zivilisation beschert, die unser Leben lebenswert machen? Wie kann ein Wachstumskritiker dies nur in Frage stellen?

Wer Wachstum kritisiert muss also eine Hürde des Missverständnisses überwinden bevor er überhaupt anfangen kann seine Argumente vorzubringen. Diese Einstiegshürde in die Diskussion verwehrt der Wachstumskritik den Zugang zur öffentlichen Meinung und die Meinungshoheit im öffentlichen Raum hat der Wachstumsjünger.

Wachstumskritiker sind „Untergangspropheten“ und „Schwarzseher“, ihre Ausführungen zeitraubend und mühsam. Das Buch „Grenzen des Wachstums“ des Club of Rome wurde von weit weniger Menschen gelesen als es angegriffen und kritisiert wurde.

Der Wachstumsjünger muss nicht erklären was er unter Wachstum versteht. In einer Diskussion wird niemals festgelegt für was der Begriff in seinen Augen steht. Das Wohlwollen des Zuhörers ist ihm von vorneherein sicher. Der Kritiker ist zu langen Ausführungen gezwungen bevor er überhaupt seine Argumente vorbringen kann.

Was wir Kritiker aber verlangen, ist, dass die unangenehmen Fragen gestellt werden die sich die Ökonomen oder Wirtschaftspolitiker offenbar nicht stellen wollen.

Von was für einem Wachstum sprechen wir überhaupt?
Wer profitiert vom Wachstum wirklich, leiden auch Menschen unter dem Wachstum?
Gibt es einen Preis des Wachstums und sind wir bereit ihn zu Bezahlen?
Wie funktioniert Wachstum aus der Sicht der Ökonomen, wo sind ihre blinden Flecken?

Diese Fragen sind meiner Meinung nach berechtigt und von ungeheurer Tragweite für unsere Gesellschaft.

Es gibt seit geraumer Zeit offenbar keinen Zusammenhang mehr zwischen gemessenen Wachstum und Wohlstandszuwachs in hochindustrialisierten Ländern wie Deutschland oder den USA.

Der Produktivitätszuwachs kommt seit über 20 Jahren nur noch wenigen zugute. Anscheinend kam es zu entscheidenden Änderungen seit dieser Zeit, die die Auswirkungen des Wachstums auf die Gesellschaft betreffen.

Die negativen Auswirkungen des Wachstums allerdings, müssen von allen getragen werden. Die Verursacher von Umweltschäden oder Klimaerwärmung sind schwer zu ermitteln und oft nicht mehr greifbar, die Auswirkungen bekommen alle zu spüren.

Im Namen des Wachstums sind wir bereit immer fragwürdigere Energiequellen anzuzapfen um den Energiehunger zu Stillen der aus dem Wachstum erfolgt. Fracking und Tiefsee-Ölplattformen verursachen stetig neue Rekorde der Umweltzerstörung, dennoch werden die Wachstumsversprechen der Wirtschaftsprognosen meist nicht erfüllt, die Profitprognosen der Ölindustrie aber durchaus.

Die Krisen der Finanzwelt, der der Löwenanteil an den Profiten des Wachstums der letzten Jahrzehnte zugute kam, konnten von den Ökonomen und Wachstumsjüngern nicht vorhergesagt werden. Die Kosten der Krise tragen genau die Steuerzahler und die Bezieher von Sozialleistungen, die bestimmt keine Vermögensgewinne in den letzten Jahren erzielt haben.

Einen Zusammenhang zwischen dem Wachstum und dem Vermögenszuwachs weniger sehr reicher Individuen ist dagegen durchaus zu erkennen. Sie sind es die offensichtlich Profitiert haben vom Wachstum der letzten Jahre.

Was also ist gemeint mit einer Politik die alles daransetzt neues Wachstum zu generieren?

Ist damit gemeint, dass wir weiterhin die Ressourcen unserer Erde verschwenden, damit einige wenige profitieren aber alle die langfristigen Kosten tragen müssen?

Ist damit gemeint, dass Ungerechtigkeit weiter wächst? Oder die Umweltzerstörung? Oder die Konten in Steueroasen?

Wachstumskritiker wollen diese Fragen klären bevor sie mit einer fertigen Politik im Namen des Wachstums konfrontiert werden.

Wachstum wurde in jüngster Vergangenheit gleichbedeutend mit Ausbeutung. Stellt man die Frage nach den Grenzen des Wachstums mit dem Begriff der hinter dem Wachstum verborgen ist, wird klar was Wachstumskritiker umtreibt.

Frage: Gibt es Grenzen der Ausbeutung?
Antwort: Ja, und hoffentlich haben wir diese bald erreicht!

Unendliches Wachstum/Ausbeutung klingt dann wie eine Drohung und nicht wie die Verheißung als die sie uns verkauft wurde.

Man stelle sich bei jeder Erwähnung des Wortes Wachstum an dessen Stelle das Wort Ausbeutung vor und plötzlich erlebt man Wirtschaftsminister Rösler ganz neu.

Ich habe in Rahmen dieses Blogs eine neue Definition vorgeschlagen die Wachstum so definiert, dass ich mit einer echten Wachstumspolitik einverstanden wäre. Ich würde gerne eine offene Diskussion mit Ökonomen über das Wachstum führen. Vielleicht fühlt sich ja irgendein Ökonom der den Wirtschaftswurm verfolgt dazu berufen sich diesen Fragen ehrlich zu stellen.

Dienstag, 23. Oktober 2012

The farmland analogon

Growth is a complex matter. Its measurement as GDP gain has given reason for debate as we now see that GDP gain alone will not define a society’s wellbeing. Herman Daly, growth critic for decades, has summarized the fallacies of growth on the casse website (second part).
Criticism of GDP growth can be summarized in the following arguments:
  • To have more is certainly not beneficial if we already have enough. There is no use in having more washing machines if everybody owns one already.
  • The measurement of the GDP in currency falsely implies a decoupling from physical realities, while money supply might be endless, our world is not. Production needs the physical reality. There is only so much land to grow food on.
  • The future costs of growth are not calculated into the GDP. The total benfits of growth can be smaller than its costs. Waste, pollution, etc. could bind more productivity over time than is gained by wasteful production.
  • Consumption of resources and common goods is counted as growth (income) even if nothing was produced but money. (Cutting down a Forest is growth, depleting fishing grounds is growth, burning oil is growth etc.).
  • Production and services that do not enter the market do not add to the GDP. The people in a rural society producing their own food, the practitioners of the new urban gardening trend or people that help somomebody out of friendship or kinship do not add to the GDP growth even if they produce essential goods and services for the survival of their society.
Growth had its benefits for society in the past, this is not even disputed by growth critics, but to ignore the above "headwinds" of growth is a certain path to ruin and destruction.

These arguments above give rise to the most important questions everybody has to ask himself and the leaders he has chosen:
  • How did we grow in the past?
  • Can we grow this way forever?
  • Are there other ways for growth?
  • Do we need growth in the future?
  • What growth do we need, if any?
  • Who will benefit from future growth who will suffer from it?

Above fallacies of growth and open questions can be formulated as one central question:

Is our (growth capitalist) society so dependent on unsustainable growth that it will collapse if growth comes to its inevitable end?

All these open questions about growth will define our future first and foremost. As long as these questions are not answered all other discussions are moot. How we answer those questions, will affect every aspect of our life.

And yet, the economic and political leaders and our media are stonewalling this discussion. Growth economics are presented as the only possible alternative for our society to thrive.

Behind these false assumption lies the neoliberal ideology. Its mantras are: Growth is the answer to all problems of society, growth goes on forever, the invisible hand of the market will always ensure growth by inspiring innovations that deal with any obstacle to growth.

These assumptions can be falsified easily by numerous scientific studies, basic math or physics and by common sense. This does not impress our leaders at all. The growth doctrine is followed with fanatic fervor.

In the last post I presented a anthropological analysis of the findings of Robert J. Gordon. It might have helped to understand why growth had happened, and what forces drove it. I also tried to explain again why endless growth is impossible and that there is evidence that the end of growth has been reached.

Also, based on the analysis of Robert Gordons findings, I would put forward a systematic flaw in the capitalist growth economy. Growth in a capitalist system steers itself into situation where the friction between the state, the people and the capitalists interests must increase from the moment that growth can no longer keep up with capital gains (the increase of private capital by interests).

I will try to summarize my understanding of growth and to illustrate the inherent flaws of capitalist growth economy in an analogon.

The Farmland Analogon

For this analogon let us picture our society as a small village settling on a little Island. The villagers represent the society or the "state" in my analogon. The reasons for growth to happen, as described by Robert Gordon, were the industrial revolutions happening in our past.

In my analogon of the village, this is represented by the villagers reclaiming farmland on which to grow new crops. Let us say the farmers found a new well in an arid corner of the island. (Science and technology and the evolution of society open the possibility for an industrial revolution.)

Reclaiming this farmland (initiating the industrial revolution) can only be achieved by the villagers (the state) as it does not immediately produce returns (and thus is of no immediate interest to "the market"), but only opens the possibility to do so in the future. All hands have to invest work (taxes) to make the land arable.

To get returns, anybody who wants to produce on this new farmland has to have seeds to sow, and the ability to plow the field and harvest the crop.

In my analogon the seeds represent the investment that has to be made, by investors, banks or the state using "surplus from earlier harvests".

To sow and harvest the village will have to find somebody or something to do the work (The farmers, the work force of the population).

They would also need water and minerals for the crops to grow (resources like oil, ores, etc.). Without it the new farmland can’t produce yields at all.

If the village has all those things, the success of the undertaking is determined by the efficiency with which the workload is handled. It’s measured in the productivity they have invested in relation to the products returned per worker (unit labour cost).

"Governments will always play a huge part in solving big problems. They set public policy and are uniquely able to provide the resources to make sure solutions reach everyone who needs them. They also fund basic research, which is a crucial component of the innovation that improves life for everyone." Bill Gates

How market forces drive innovation (or not)

In any society, be they "capitalist" or "socialist", these steps are the same. Market mechanisms did not come into play so far. The "market forces" and the "invisible hand" make their entry when the efficiency with which the claimed new marked is exploited is determined. (increasing production per worker).

If the village has a capitalist system the "market forces" will drive the invention of new machines for more efficient plowing and harvesting or an entrepreneur might invent new ways to enhance the harvest. (Fertilizers, Pesticides etc.). In a state socialist system this might take longer as the motivations for finding new efficient ways for production are lower.

But there are restrictions. The  farmland is of a certain size that can’t be expanded and it will need water, sun and minerals to produce crops. This represents the natural boundaries of earth and the fact that resources are limited and efficiency can not exceed a maximum. So efficiency will rise steeply at first but to be more efficient will get harder with time.

Please refer to Stefan L. Eichner if you would like to know more about market forces, innovation and growth:

Thanks to S. L. Eichner for his great work explaining the
mechanisms of growth and innovation in market driven economies
(http://stefanleichnersblog.blogspot.de/)


In the long run the villagers will have optimized all ways of producing crops on this newly claimed farmland. Production will not rise anymore but stay constant, provided I have enough farmers, water and minerals and my climate is stable. (market saturation is reached)

In the end, the field will only provide the village with the same amount of crops every year if they can somehow sustainably supply all the factors that are needed.

In our current economy, the "water" we use is oil. We are taking it from a finite resource. If the villages new found well runs dry the crops will wither and die no matter how many farmers they use to plow or harvest.

To rely on the market will not help if your production depends on finite ressources. Increasing efficiency will not fight the drought or "invent" new water.

(For explanations see my posts about the limits of growth due to finite ressources here, german only, or this one about the problems with compensating for peak oil, in english).

Even if the ressources are in endless supply the invisible hand will slow progress because it is attached to the arm of capitalism.

Why capitalism impedes innovation and growth:

When the end of growth is reached (either way) it depends very much on how the village has organized itself as a society. In western capitalist societies this land is now surely owned by some landlord. (The owner of the means of production and large capital, the capitalist in the classic sense).

Source: H.Genreith, Dead Man Walking Model (german)
This landlord is by now accustomed to the fact that his share of the yields grows every year (by the exponential effects of interest) and he thinks that this will go on forever (because he can’t see why not or does not care). His firm believe is, that he is entitled to an ever increasing share of the harvest. Many years growth only ensured the rise of his share and finally got to be the only reason why growth was needed (see here or here for scientific arguments for this development, german only).

To satisfy his greed the workers share will finally decline every year that growth did not keep up with the landlords demands (or they are laid off and less workers work overtime). The village that is raising taxes from all the workers (not the landlord) is getting poorer despite the successes of raising production for years and being the power that made reclaiming the field possible, while the landlord accumulates riches. (The neoliberal growth capitalist ideology holds to the myth that low taxation, especially low taxation of the very wealthy is benefitial to growth, this is untrue as this study shows.)

Due to the dropping taxes the impoverished village is no longer able to afford to send out a geologist (scientist) to search for a new well, even if the well should fall dry. If the village did not find a well then now it might be too late. Also, finding the next well will be harder and will proabably provide less possibilities for new growth. (productivity growth was less for every cycle of industrial revolution.)

The landlord though is not at all interested in a new patch of land reclaimed or a new well found.This new field would belong to some other landlord and his profits and power would decline. Instead he raises productivity by carelessly endangering future yields. I.e. as the soils minerals are depleted he uses lime that will bring him more yields for some time but ruin the field for years to come.

In the real world "lime" stands for the harmful byproducts of growth that last longer than its short term benefits, like fracking waste, CO2 production, radioactive waste, etc. described by Gordon as the "downwind" of growth or by Herman Daly as uneconomic growth.

Source: CASSE (steadystate.org)


It is obious today, that unchecked, the growth capitalist system will not work to the benefit of mankind. Instead of heeding the warnigs of a climate collapse and investing into renewable energy, established giants in the (i.e. oil) industry intensivate production (fracking etc.) and increase the tremendous overshoot allready existing.

These big (i.e. big oil) players in the market use their considerate power to impede the development of alternative renewable energy sources. Meanwhile oils spills, toxic waste, radioactive waste, CO2 emissions etc. will bind future productivity in an ever increasing amount, denying future generations the benefits of growth or even the standard of living we have today.

Whenever a societies consumption is higher than its carrying capacity (overshoot),
 it reacts with intensivation that decreases the future carrying capacity.
(Marvin Harris,Orna Johnson, cultural anthropology)


In the end something happens that everybody thought would never happen again when the new field was reclaimed. The harvests decline and can no longer feed the grown population. Most people might still be better off as before the new well was discovered but now they are used to a higher standard of living and are getting angry, but some even might be facing starvation and get desperate.

Here the analogon ends. How the populace of the village reacts is random and we will see what the future will bring.

Montag, 22. Oktober 2012

Innovation Growth and Capitalism

Robert J. Gord0n (Northwestern University) recently published this wonderful peace of science that was immediately and widely admired, discussed and then discarded. The reason why it has been discarded is obvious, Gordons point being:
“Since Solow’s seminal work in the 1950s, economic growth has been regarded as a continuous process that will persist forever. But there was virtually no economic growth before 1750, suggesting that the rapid progress made over the past 250 years could well be a unique episode in human history rather than a guarantee of endless future advance at the same rate.”
Of course this is not acceptable to anyone in the establishment, as growth ideology has “no alternative” in politics since the days of Thatcher, Reagan and Kohl.

To understand the patterns of growth in the past 250 years, Gordon defines three Industrial revolutions in this period of seemingly endless growth:
"The analysis links periods of slow and rapid growth to the timing of the three industrial revolutions (IR’s), that is,
IR #1 (steam, railroads) from 1750 to 1830;
IR #2 (electricity, internal combustion engine, running water, indoor toilets, communications, entertainment, chemicals, petroleum) from 1870 to 1900;
and IR #3 (computers, the web, mobile phones) from 1960 to present.

It provides evidence that IR #2 was more important than the others and was largely responsible for 80 years of relatively rapid productivity growth between 1890 and 1972. Once the spin-off inventions from IR #2 (airplanes, air conditioning, interstate highways) had run their course, productivity growth during 1972-96 was much slower than before. In contrast, IR #3 created only a short-lived growth revival between 1996 and 2004. Many of the original and spin-off inventions of IR #2 could happen only once – urbanization, transportation speed, the freedom of females from the drudgery of carrying tons of water per year, and the role of central heating and air conditioning in achieving a year-round constant temperature.”
This is very consistent with the arguments I have presented here in this blog in which I have applied the Ideas of Marvin Harris Cultural Materialism to understand our society and provide an outlook to our future.
The described Industrial revolutions have several things in common:
  1. All industrial revolutions have not been initialized by market forces but are the result of infrastructural investments made by “the State”. Providing the populace with access to water, electricity, sanitation, means of transportation, health care, free access to the internet are clearly in their essence of socialist and egalitarian character. I would also add, that the basis of these revolutions has been laid by government funded research and science and also needed a social revolution and the invention of the welfare state to come to pass.
  2. After the groundwork of an industrial revolution has been laid, the private sector and market mechanisms made use of it to provide the applications needed to benefit from this revolution. As households had access to water, gas and electricity the private sector could start selling them washing machines and dish washers, electrical stoves, central heating, electric light bulbs etc., freeing productivity for more and more production and thus growth.
  3. All revolutions depend on each other, take away energy and the returns of transportation or information technology will be taken away also.
  4.  When a saturation of the markets opened by a revolution has been reached (the moment everybody has a washing machine) further inventions in this market provide less growth until the market degenerates into a consumer market that rather satisfies status symbols than freeing additional productivity.
  5. The returns of each industrial revolution, meaning the amount of freed productivity, diminish with every revolution. It is very probable that no future revolution will bring us the same returns that the beginning of the age of fossil fuels has brought us.
  6. The longer the basis for the industrial revolution has been established and the markets saturated, the more the private sector gained control over the distribution of the commodities to increase their profits. As this devolution has progressed, the less the private sector has contributed to growth by providing new applications of the revolution. Today more and more people are denied the commodities that led to freeing productivity by the private sector, making the private sector itself an important reason why real growth slows in the saturated industrialized societies and worldwide.

As we can see from the above graphic, Gordon predicts growth to go on but to slow in the future.

In the near future we will need to invest more and more productivity into compensating the loss of cheap energy resources that led to this chain of industrial revolutions. Freed productivity by cheap energy will so be lost to us for a long time until we have finished compensating, if we can compensate the decrease of oil production at all.

There are no efforts under way to find a new source of cheap energy. It is very likely that growth will not only stop, once oil production declines, but we will be thrown into the greatest recession of all times.

We will also need to invest more and more into dealing with the negative effects of earlier revolutions and past growth. The effects of wasting fossil fuels will have to be faced. For this, there is no end in sight and climate change can go on to harras us for hundreds of years and bind a lot of productivity.

Dealing with these negative effects of past growth can only be achieved by a joint social effort and not by "the markets" which produced the problems we face today. Achieving the current productivity in the future without further exploitation of common ressources will require an industrial revolution itself, dealing with the climate crises another.

Benefitial innovations by "the market" will probably only deal with compensating these negative effects of past growth and not provide a new industrial revolution. These will have much less return in freed productivity, examples are energy efficiency, digitalization or automation. Most innovation though will try to cope with the ever decreasing sastisfaction of new consumer products in satuated markets by finding new excessive ways for wasteful consumption.

Economists and politicians promising endless growth do not have an answer to the arguments written here. The TINA (there is no alternative) propaganda is, of course, a lie. The assumption that only the invisible hand of the market provides the innovations we need for growth is also not only false, the neoliberal market ideology is very much opposed to real innovation.

Past growth was an interplay of investments by society and market mechanisms providing new means to free productivity based on innovations in science, social organisation and infrastructure.

Capitalism can be viewed as the part of the system that has provided individuals and companies the means to profit from the achievements of society by profiting from finding new ways of making use of these achievements or making production more efficient. As the mutual benefits of new applications of technology decline by the law of diminishing returns, capitalists seek also profits in disregard of the common good.

Today capitalism is a problem for society as profits of this interplay of society and the market accumulate in the hands of very few capitalists only. Capitalism today prohibits growth by draining ressources and productivity for wasteful production and accumulation of wealth and is not by itself able to start a new industrial revolution. Accumulated capital and power that was formed from the exploitation of achievements and ressources of society is itself wary of change as it undermines its means for profit and power.

State controlled socialism on the other side would be a problem as the benefits of this interplay for the individual and private company and thus the motivation for finding new applications are nonexistant and potential for productivity gains might not be realized. The political elite in state socialist systems is wary of change as it potentially undermines its source of wealth and power.

Corruption of the government and stagnation are the result of either of the two extreme ideologies, it seems.

This interdependence between state and markets is ignored by neoliberal economic ideology. the state is always pictured as inefficient and the private sector as the only source for innovation. Looking at Gordons analysis of growth we can only conclude that liberalisation, privatization and austerity are clearly in total opposition of what has provided us with growth in the past. It will take away freed productivity by controlling and taking away the commodities we need (water, gas, electricity, health care, education, homes). It is implemented solely for the sake of private capital gain and in disregard of the common good.

This course will inevitably lead to a new social revolution and it does so right now as many see that the chicago boys concepts are a total failure.

What social revolution the end of growth will bring us can only be guessed (the Bolivian water war could be a hint though) and I have tried to do so in this blog. I can only urge my readers to understand that endless growth is a dream and policies and ideologies that base themselves around endless growth will fail.

In short, the current policies ensure not only the end of growth but the collapse of society.

Freitag, 27. Juli 2012

Biosprit und die Lufthansa

In der SZ habe ich dieses wunderbare Zitat gefunden:
"Die Lufthansa habe ihm gesagt, entweder fliege man in 30 Jahren mit Biosprit oder gar nicht mehr. Sämtliche skeptische Prognosen der Wissenschaft hätten sich in der Vergangenheit als Fehlprognosen erwiesen, sagt er gelassen." ( Helmut Lamp, im Hauptberuf Weizenbauer an der Kieler Förde )
In dem relativ guten Artikel wird mit dem Glauben aufgeräumt Biosprit hätte etwas mit Nachhaltigkeit zu tun. Ich hätte mir jedoch eine bessere Aufarbeitung der Daten gewünscht. Auch der Autor in der SZ hatte wiedermal keine Ahnung von den Größenordnungen über die wir hier sprechen.

Das Zitat aber ist angesichts der Flughafenausbaupläne der Lufthansa für mich ein echtes Fundstück. Offensichtlich ist sich die Lufthansa Peak Oil doch bewusst. Die Lufthansa rechnet (laut "ja zur 3" initiative) mit einem Wachstum des Flugverkehrs von 3,6% pro jahr.

In Deutschland werden heute "nur" ca 10 Millionen Tonnen Kerosin/Flugbenzin getankt..  (Quellen: Wikipedia). Bei konstantem Wachstum von 3,6% steigt der Bedarf in 30 Jahren auf über 30 Millionen Tonnen.

Wieviel Getreide oder Rapsöl man wohl benötigt um "Aviation Biofuel" herzustellen? Keine Ahnung. Meine grobe Abschätzung wäre 2T Biomasse für 1T Aviation Biofuel. Woher nehmen wir die?

Der Anbau und Transport von Getreide kostet leider ebenfalls Primärenergieträger. Woher nehmen? 
Am besten betreiben wir auch die Traktoren und Lastwägen mit Biokraftstoffen. Das funktioniert sicher, oder?

Wieviel Tonnen Biomasse brauchen wir also um die Flieger in der Luft zu halten? Einverstanden mit 70 Millionen Tonnen? Bei einer Produktion von z.B. 44 Millionen Tonnen Getreide pro Jahr in Deutschland frage ich mich schon wie das mit dem Fliegen klappen soll.

Weiten wir das Szenario auf die Welt aus. Ein Mensch benötigt ca 100Kg Getreide pro Jahr um zu überleben. Allein um den Luftverkehr von heute aufrecht zu erhalten würden wir ca. 500 Millionen Tonnen Biomasse (Getreide usw.) benötigen.

Das ist Nahrung für 5 Milliarden Menschen in einem Jahr!

Wenn die Alternativen also laut Lufthansa "Biosprit oder gar nicht mehr fliegen" lauten, dann muss wohl "gar nicht mehr" die richtige Antwort sein. Warum wir uns diese Dinge immer selber berechnen müssen und unsere Medien diese Dinge nicht im Ansatz vermitteln, muss jeder für sich selbst beantworten.

Neuer Artikel dazu in der Zeit: Der große Selbstbetrug 

Donnerstag, 12. Juli 2012

Whistleblowers, where are you?

I am not sure if I have any readers from the rest of the world, and if yes, if they have read about the nazi terror cell known as "NSU". If not, please get yourself informed at wikipedia.

The institution that should protect the people in this country, namely the Verfassungsschutz (Secret Service equivalent) and the BKA (federal police), have become the target of an investigation comittee. As it appears, these instituitions have not only failed to stop a group of nazi terrorists that murdered people and robbed banks, they might even have supported them.

As of now, the comittee is being stonewalled by the agency and the police. Informations get out, because incompetence and corruption were too big to hide, but so far, there has been nobody that found his heart to really blow the whistle and shed some light on what really is going on. What is clear, the failures in arresting these terrorists are not explainable by incompetence only, somebody, has protected them. Was it one person, a group of people, a secret network? No one knows for sure. 

This bothers me very much. That there is no employee of the Verfassungsschutz that feels bound to his conscience, the common good, democracy and the values this country ostensibly stands for, speaks volumes about the condition of this service.

Can it really be? Is there nobody in Verfassungsschutz or the police who is having the courage to speak out? Nobody who is willing to give us the german equivalent of "the pentagon papers" and be the german Daniel Ellsberg?

Being a whistleblower might feel like being a traitor, but, in times like these, keeping your mouth shut, not telling the comittee what you know, shredding evidence or deleting files is betrayal to the people you swore to protect.

We need to know from how high up the protection for the NSU nazis was coming from. Germans need the truth, and we need it now. If this crime is not solved, if not all the tiny failures come to light, if the ones responsible are not beeing taken to court, 70 years of dealing with our fascist past will be in question.

So please, somebody come out and bring us the truth! 

Dienstag, 3. Juli 2012

Natural Gas Liquids and infinite ressources of stupidity

According to this recent study of Harvard University, Peak Oil could indeed be delayed by some decades, due to the rapid development of Natural Gas Liquid (NGL) exploitation in the USA.

I admit, this post comes hard for me. After having tried to increase public attention to peak oil for years, it seems that the downslope is further off as I and many experts expected. The report seems to withstand closer scrutiny though.

Many will sigh a breath of relief when reading this. The exploitation of natural ressources will commence for another few decades in which we will have time to prepare for the decreasing oil production.

NGL production seems to grow fast enough to compensate the diminishing conventional oil production we face today for some time. It could even lead to a small increase of oil production if prices are high and stable.

To believe it will spur growth the same way that the exploitation of conventional oil did until recently, is expecting too much. I expect the current situation of effective stagnation of growth to continue while oil production plateaus and per capita oil production will continue to sink slowly with increased population. The current development of raking in capital gains by increasing social inequality will continue to hassle us.

If you have watched Prof Bartletts lecture about exponential growth against a finite ressource you will understand when I say: we only turned the clock back from 1 min before 12 to 1 min and 30 sec before 12.

I find it hard to believe that any western society will use this precious time we supposedly have gained before hitting the wall to prepare for a sustainable society.

The basic considerations about peak oil stay the same, the effects of wasting fossil fuels will become worse though. For future generations this news is bad indeed. As predicted by the Club of rome, CO2 emissions will inevitably increase for another few decades while we exploit these additional fossil fuels.
 
Launch: "2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years"


According to the new book by the Club of Rome the global climate collapse could happen in the second half of this century. World temperature could well reach a point soon when global warming becomes unstoppable and self enhancing. The reason is the inability of capitalism to bring about a change towards a sustainable society. If growth can be acchieved by any means capitalism will embrace it at all costs.
"It is unlikely that governments will pass necessary regulation to force the markets to allocate more money into climate-friendly solutions, and (we) must not assume that markets will work for the benefit of humankind," (Club Of Rome)

I was more optimistic concerning global warming than the Club of Rome. Until now there seemed to be a tight race between global warming and oil depletion that I thought would lead to future CO2 emissions well below the forecasts the Club of Rome worked with (due to the inevitable end of growth and its consequences that would bring the end of growth capitalism).

So I had had hopes that humans would be saved from their own stupidity and the global climate collapse by luck, but if there is one ressource to be counted on to be infinite its human stupidity.

To produce Oil from unconventional ressources will increase CO2 emissions drastically. Unconventional ressources are well below the EROEI (Energy Return On Energy Invested) of 20:1 that conventional crude oil offers and range between 2:1 for tar sands to about 5:1 for NGLs. By exploiting NGL we will produce huge amounts of CO2 only to burn this expensively won energy to waste it for useless consumption, again.

Unconventional hydrocarbon ressources come with another price. The industry has yet to prove that this technology is safe for the environment and that they are able to recycle the huge amounts of contaminated water they are producing. Actually, I could not find evidence that recycling the contaminated water would not bring down the EROEI to below 1:1, as most of the millions of tons of water are contaminated with saline ingredients that can only be extracted by investing huge amounts of energy. Currently most of the contaminated water is dumped into rivers, pressed into the drilled holes or just dumped on waste disposal sites.

Btw: The recycling that has been implemented so far does not actually restore the water quality but makes parts of it reusable for more fracking while concentrating most of the unwanted chemicals in higher solutions that have to be disposed as toxic waste.

So even without adding the costs for many accidents that have happened, the hidden additional costs for society are high. Just like with nuclear energy, in the end the public sector will probably be made responsible to get rid of the waste that hydraulic fracking and tar sand minig will have produced.

I would also expect the competition for making NGL exploitation cheaper to lead to more sloppiness and an increased chance of accidents and widespread pollution by fracking chemicals.

The lecture, that growth capitalism brings about ruin to mankind will hit us later but harder.

The urgency to take action is higher than ever before. If you are expecting to still live in the year 2075 or if you care for your children enough you will have to actively bring about a change today, Its in your hands now.

(See also George Monbiot in the guardian )

Freitag, 22. Juni 2012

Odious Debts

The first recorded word for ‘freedom’ in any human language is the Sumerian amargi, a word for debt-freedom. (David Graeber)
Debt has always been used to suppress and enslave people and many revolutions in the history of mankind have been about the cancellation of debts.

It is thus not surprising that the legality of debts have also concerned legal thinkers for a long time. 1927, legal theorist Alexander Nahum Sack formulated an international doctrine that describes what debts by countries should not be legaly binding in international law:
"When a despotic regime contracts a debt, not for the needs or in the interests of the state, but rather to strengthen itself, to suppress a popular insurrection, etc, this debt is odious for the people of the entire state. This debt does not bind the nation; it is a debt of the regime, a personal debt contracted by the ruler, and consequently it falls with the demise of the regime.

The reason why these odious debts cannot attach to the territory of the state is that they do not fulfil one of the conditions determining the lawfulness of State debts, namely that State debts must be incurred, and the proceeds used, for the needs and in the interests of the State.

Odious debts, contracted and utilised for purposes which, to the lenders' knowledge, are contrary to the needs and the interests of the nation, are not binding on the nation – when it succeeds in overthrowing the government that contracted them – unless the debt is within the limits of real advantages that these debts might have afforded.

The lenders have committed a hostile act against the people, they cannot expect a nation which has freed itself of a despotic regime to assume these odious debts, which are the personal debts of the ruler" (Source Wikipedia)
This doctrine has been frequently used in the past to argue for the cancelation of debts that preceding governments imposed on their successors.

It was invoked by the USA in 2003 after the fall of Saddam Hussein, when the USA declared that the Iraky people should not be responsible for the debts of Saddam Hussein.

2008 Raffael Correa succesfully installed an international audit for the legality of Ecuadorian debts that freed Ecuador of a very large portion of their international obligations.

The Syriza Party in Greece demanded just such an audit for the debts that Greece has accumulated in the past. The relief that has been expressed in the EU about the victory of Nea Democracia probably resulted from the fact that this audit will not happen for one more legislative period (or until ND/PASOK are forced to resign).

The Greece documentary DEBTOCRACY looks into just a view of the debts that now serve as an excuse to crush Greece, and finds some that would be very inconvenient for the new rulers of greece and the troica.

The makers of DEBTOCRACY have recently finished another documentary called CATASTROICA that concerns itself with the privatisation measures that are imposed on Greece by the troica. Privatisation always follows after a country has accumulated ilegal debts that economic hit men have successfully "negotiated".

Both movies can be found online at www.dailymotion.com

I myself also have doubts, that the debts that have been amounted in the crisis to "save" the international financial institutions are legitimate. Reading the above definition, the debts, that we as the tax payers are asked to pay, are very odious to my nose, as they are obviously very much "contrary to the needs and the interests of the nation".

Addendum: there is one obvious criteria I would definetly add to the above definition of odious debts.

"If a loan has been signed after the contractor of the debt has been influenced by the creditor with private advantages that have been offered by the creditor or third parties with the intend to corrupt the contractor, or if the contractor has been influenced by blackmail or force, the public should not be obliged to pay these debts."

I would guess that most of the current national debts could be argued to fall under this criteria.

Mittwoch, 13. Juni 2012

The paradox faith in science

There is one argument often coming up in discussion with self proclaimed optimists when talking about the upcoming energy crisis or climate collapse:

"Science, innovation and technology will take care of our problems; I have faith in our ingenuity."

Whenever I hear this, I usually give up all hope of reaching this person with logical arguments and try to change the subject. It is a paradox of religious proportions that requires blind faith and a life of indoctrination to accept. We have come to point in our history when (honest) scientists across most fields of natural sciences will tell you something like:

"Our scientific research shows that mankind has some grave problems and with these problems, we can’t help you anymore, there are physical limits to what technological progress can acchieve, you as a member of society and as a individual are the only one that can help you now."

But these honest scientists will be ignored and dismissed as doomsayers by the same persons that in the next sentence will praise the ingenuity of scientific progress.

In case of peak oil, it’s the geologists, the engineers, the physicists, the anthropologists, the chemists etc. that point out the limits of growth since more than 50 years. In the case of climate change it’s the IPCC that is made up of over 1200 climate scientists surveyed by 2500 peer reviewers that verified their results.

Be aware that I would not urge you to believe anything these scientists say, at least not before having doubted them and checked their methods, their motivations and their results.For science, more than anything needs doubt. Doubt is the driving force behind human ingenuity and the only true source of knowledge. Having faith in science is as much an untenable contradiction as proofing the existence of God.

But after having (at least by some estimates) checked scientific results, (and only then), blind faith is replaced by knowledge.

But the self proclaimed optimists and believers in scientific progress arrive in this blissful state of delusion by "intuition" only, usually without any real knowledge and ignoring proof they could see with their own eyes.

If they would, just for a minute, use the methods of scientific heuristics to gather knowledge by observing nature, instead of relying to being passively fed the half truths and regurgitated lies on TV, they might see the paradox they are caught up in.

Today, our media seems more successful in making people accept untenable contradictions than the Catholic Church ever was. It is if as we have lost all common sense we had since Aristotle has formulated the "law of non-contradiction" over 2000 years ago.

So, please, just as Albert A. Bartlett says in his famous lecture, recheck whatever I say, don’t trust me on faith, but more important, don’t trust yourself. We, as humans often lie to ourselves much more than anyone else ever does. The only cure to delusion and the trappings of our mind are the tools that science has invented.

If you want to have faith in something have faith, that in using these tools you will acquire knowledge, and knowledge you have gained in this way is something you can put your trust in.

Why cant innovation save us in the face of peak oil? Read here.

Samstag, 5. Mai 2012

Wir sinken nicht

Endlich mal was lustiges auf diesem Blog, wird aber auch Zeit:

"Die Meinungsfreiheit die wir meinen ist frei von jeder Meinung!"




Click here for english version


Freitag, 4. Mai 2012

Demystifying the miracle of the market

The zealots of economy will argue that everything that has been said in this blog is ridiculous nonsense because, if a commodity gets rare and its price increases, due to the laws of supply and demand, the amazing force of innovation will take care of the problem by itself.

What if growth stops and capitalism doesn't
So let’s take a look at that assumption. What will happen if oil gets scarce and its price is rising from a market perspective? We will not even consider the developments described in the posts before and assume capitalism will survive the end of growth. We still know though that 95 % of the goods that we produce are not only dependent on energy but directly dependent of oil as a resource.

Furthermore there is no resource that can be exploited without the aid of energy and/or oil, therefore all resources and all products and services prices will rise (in relation to their dependency on oil). So not only oil will get scarce but everything will. As a result GNP will drop, as obvious (for anybody but economists) if a key ingredient of your production process gets scarce, and if you can’t compensate it with anything else, you will not be able to produce as much or can’t produce at all. If a producer can’t produce, he will have to close shop so invariably unemployment will rise.

As this will happen throughout all industries, the GNP will decrease, while prices go up. What does it mean when everything gets more expensive? Surely many people will not be able to consume as much as they did before, if they were already stretched thin (as many are), they will get desperate and angry. To be able to afford their costs of living they will demand higher wages or some help from society. Social unrest, strikes and a class struggle will ensue.

So we will have at our hand high inflation and lower production, lower surpluses, more unemployment, a class struggle and much lower GNP. I will call that a global recession. In this situation of a global recession the magical hand of the markets will have to be mighty indeed to save capitalism, but let’s assume it does.

To solve the problems of oil scarcity we will not only need one invention, but thousands, innovations like how to make rubber cheaply without oil, how to produce naphta (resource for 80 % of all chemical products) without oil, how to grow corn without chemical fertilizer, how to fuel trucks without diesel etc.

Most of the time, we will find, that the solution is a problem in itself. Of course we could substitute fossil fuels with bio fuels, but we need fossil fuels to grow and transport agricultural products, and, we will need to eat something too. If you do the math, you will find we will not even have the area of agricultural land to grow enough of it, so this is not an option. Similar problems will arise with other strategies (atomic energy, fission, etc).

Also, when trying to save this market that solves anything, we will not only have to invent fast enough to match current oil production but keep up with an exponentially rising demand. Meaning, that with a steady growth of demand of 3.5%, to fuel growth of GNP we will have to have produced MORE substitutes of fossil fuels in 20 years than the total amount of ALL fossil fuels we have used up in history minus the amount of oil that we could still produce (that will be down to 50 % at that time with a estimated 3,5% drop in production).

So in the end this arithmetic comes down to roughly 75% of total world oil resources that we have exploited in all our history (approximately 1000 billion barrels) replaced by  750.000.000.000 Barrel of Oil equivalent that we will have to have produced at the end of a time span of 20 Years.

During that time, coal, gas and many other resources will probably also reach their peak, especially if we try to substitute oil with them (i.e. coal), leading to further decrease of production, GNP and more work for the invisible hand to come up with more substitutes for things we have taken for granted for a hundred years now.

An arithmetic example

Let us use some arithmetic again on this. One Liter of crude contains about 37.000.000 J. One Barrel is a little less than 160 liters so it contains an energy equivalent of roughly 5.920 * 1012 J. We Multiply that by 750 * 109 bl from above and get final Energy equivalent of 4.4 * 1024 Joule or 1,23 * 1018 KWh that we need to have produced in 20 Years.

As a physicist I would opt for creating a sustainable cycle of energy production and would probably vote for synthetic fuels created by using sustainably produced electricity (wind gas, solar fuel etc.).

Let us say we will be very successful in creating a process for producing an oil substitute (i.e. solar fuel) with an efficiency of 50% (which would be very good indeed) so we would need electricity in an amount of estimated 2.5 * 1018 KWh to produce enough to meet our demands in crude oil substitution alone. (Note: btw. this process needs catalysts made from rare metals today that we are running out of very quickly, i.e.  Copper and Platinum).

2010 we were producing 5000 GW or 4.38 * 1013 KWh per year in electricity worldwide (REN21 renewable worldwide status report 2011). 67.6% of this electricity was produced with fossil fuels, 13% with nuclear energy and the rest 19.4% renewable with only 3.3 not coming from hydropower (which is not to be growing anymore as we ran out of rivers to use).

Keeping up this energy output (which would be hard) would bring us non closer to our goal than 57000 years to produce the power we would need to have produced in 20 years to substitute oil.

Note that a huge amount of electricity produced is produced by using fossil fuels (67.6%), so we need to replace these facilities with new ones based on our innovation. If we would like to do so by using non hydro renewable energy and meet the growing demands, we would need to aim for a steady growth of renewable energy by approximately 100% per year for a cumulated output of more than 2.5 * 1018 KWh in 20 years, to have at the end an output that is a million times higher than today.

Year100'% growth renewable energy production / KWh
11,45E+12
22,90E+12
35,79E+12
41,16E+13
52,32E+13
64,63E+13
79,26E+13
81,85E+14
93,71E+14
107,41E+14
111,48E+15
122,96E+15
135,93E+15
141,19E+16
152,37E+16
164,74E+16
179,49E+16
181,90E+17
193,79E+17
207,59E+17
211,52E+18
Sum 3,04E+18

Right now we manage 20% growth, which is not too bad but will hardly be enough. A steady growth fof 20% would bring us to a renewable energy production of 9.24*1013 KWh per Year which is only 1/16000 of what we need! It would be more than twice of all electricity that we produce today. It will be enough to keep up with our electricity demands, but surely will not be enough to substitute oil.

 100% seems not so utopian altogether though (if one does not understand the arithmetic of exponential growth). Surely this is doable? (this would of course apply to other forms of energy production, i.e. nuclear energy, with the added problems of exponentialy increasing waste).

In Germany there were already an astounding number of 367000 people employed in the renewable energy industry. If we would have this industry grow by 100% per year in 20 years we would need 200 billion employees in renewable energy business in Germany alone! I am not sure I would want to live here anymore and the efforts in reproduction might be more than I could handle. But maybe by being more efficient this number would not apply?

We invested 211 Billion $ into renewable energy in 2010. Growing by a 100% every year would bring this number up to 100 000 000 000 000 000 $ in 20 years. 0.1 billion billion $. As an investor I would start buying stocks now!

When growth stops we need growth to grow but it stopped?

One thing should be obvious though, whatever this substitute may be that the magic hand of the market conjured up out of thin air, we will need to have the production capacities to deliver huge amounts of it in a very, very short time span, and we do not have them at all right now. I can’t even imagine how many facilities for solar fuel we will need to build, how many wind parks and solar cells. As seen above, we will need a million times more renewable energy plants than we have today. Obviously this will cause a lot of work, things to be produced, workers to be paid etc. It will be the greatest effort that mankind ever undertook, meaning it will require growth!

Remember where we started out, that we need energy and oil to have growth but we don’t have them? But the hand of the market will solve this problem? Recursion is another concept (like arithmetic) that economists do not seem to be able to grasp, and therefore choose to ignore.

We could have thought about preparing for peak oil and started this endeavor when we still had a steady growth of oil production. Not that there has not been a horde of scientists (even economists like Kenneth Boulding) that have pointed out the problem from early on, but what would have been the virtues that could have achieved this endeavor?

They would have been foresight, modesty, common sense, solidarity, caring about future generations, respect for our nature and the willingness to accept losses to further the common good, virtues capitalism is desperately lacking because they would have severely gotten in the way of making money, and that, to capitalism, is unacceptable.

In the end it turns out, real innovation is not so much of a trait of capitalism at all.

Fitting Quote by George Monbiot (Guardian)
"We have used our unprecedented freedoms – secured at such cost by our forebears – not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need.

The world's most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet."

Donnerstag, 3. Mai 2012

exponential growth

Why, you ask, can I be sure that peak oil is immnent and the end of growth is reached?

The simple answer is, that I made an effort to understand the exponential function.

 If you didn't please see this video of a lecture by Physicist Albert A. Bartlett on "Arithmetic, Population, and Energy."




Continue this lecture on Youtube: Part 2,

Mittwoch, 2. Mai 2012

Mobilizing society in the face of peak oil

This is a copy of a french initiative by leading french oil experts to apeal for more recognition of the gravity of peak oil:



Mobilizing society in the face of peak oil

After more than a century of ever increasing production and consumption of oil, the Earth is being depleted, and the concept of “peak oil”, hitherto ignored, has become a pressing reality. This strain is already becoming evident through the use of extraction methods that require ever greater amounts of energy, resources and investment.
The fact that a resource is finite means that its extraction rate will grow, reach a maximum, plateau, and finally decline. Inexpensive and easy-to-access oil follows this pattern. Most experts, including the International Energy Agency, admit that it reached its global production peak a few years ago.
Despite the recent discoveries of new oil fields reported in the media, the world keeps consuming each year more oil than is discovered through exploration. The extraction of hard-to-access oil – so-called non-conventional oil (tar sands, shale oil, deep-water offshore fields…) – will be much more expensive and, more importantly, much slower. It will therefore be unable to prevent the decrease in global oil production, following a plateau that is expected to last only until 2015-2020. Alternative energies, even if they are vigorously developed, cannot compensate for the reduction in oil production, either in quantity or in cost of production. No substitute for liquid fuels is available today at the scale of current or future demand.
It is inevitable that less energy and fewer resources will be available to us in the future, the more so as the world’s population is increasing and developing countries are industrializing rapidly. Furthermore, oil-exporting countries are using an ever-increasing share of their production to fuel their own development.
The fact is that the functioning of modern societies depends upon sustained economic growth, which goes hand in hand with escalating consumption of energy and resources.
It is therefore urgent that we anticipate the inexorable descent of energy availability. The physical limits should trigger a real transition of society toward a major decrease of our dependence on non-renewable resources through a profound change in our behavior, in the organization of our nation (land use, infrastructure) and of our economy. If this transition is not anticipated and planned for, it will take place in a chaotic manner, with disastrous economic consequences, such as occurred in the subprime crisis. The foundations of democracy and peace could thus be threatened.
In this context, it is essential that policy makers, but also all social and economic actors as well as citizens become aware of this issue and demonstrate foresight, in order to forestall the very real risk to social cohesion and the functioning of all vital sectors of our community.
The signatories invite all candidates for future elections to take into account this urgent situation. They call on the candidates to take a stand on this issue through debates and concrete policy proposals. These proposals need to be consistent with the physical reality of resource extraction and must enable us to cope with the upcoming decrease in energy available to our society.
Signatories :
  • Pierre René Bauquis -    Former Director of Strategy and Planning at Total
  • Jean-Marie Bourdaire -    Former  Director of Economic Studies at Total, former Director of Studies at WEC
  • Yves Cochet -    European Deputy, former Environment Minister.
  • Jean-Marc Jancovici –     Consultant, energy and CO2 issues, ASPO France
  • Jean Laherrère -    Former Chief of Exploration Technologies at Total
  • Yves Mathieu -    Former Hydrocarbon Reserves Project Manager at the Institut Francais du Petrole (French Petroleum Institute)
  • Philippe Labat -    Oil Consultant
  • Jean-Luc Wingert -    Consultant, ASPO France
  • Bernard Durand -    Former Director of the Geology Division at the Institut Francais du Petrole
  • Jacques Varet -    Former Director of Prospecting at BRGM, former President of Eurogeosurveys
Note : Translation also published on Energy Bulletin

Dienstag, 1. Mai 2012

Struggle for a future continued

In my first post I outlined how capitalist economy and the “western culture” could thrive by exploiting the natural resources. My central argument is, that the unsurpassed surpluses in industrial countries were only possible by the exploitation of fossil energy. 

The concept of monetary gain as the driving force of all human interaction and the resulting economic that puts the siphoning of these surpluses by a capitalist elite in the center of our culture is based on the presumption that these surpluses not only exist indefinitely but grow exponentially forever.
As the production of Crude Oil has peaked in 2006 and will probably start declining very soon I argue that the basis of neoclassical economy, the capitalist economic system and the culture that is based on it, will collapse. As this is obviously happening all around us these presumptions should not come as a surprise.

Also, if connecting the dots between energy output and accumulation of wealth, it is not surprising that peak oil production and peak liquidity are happening at the same time, in fact it is a strong evidence for the assumptions made above.

Peak liquidity also means that the concentration of wealth and power reached its climax today. The power is mostly concentrated in financial industry and especially in investment banking. These financial institutions that are struggling with the amounts of liquidity they have to handle, have been driven to ever more radical measures to guarantee the yields they have promised to their customers.

They have as yet done so but could only achieve further capital gains for the rich by stealing from public wealth (state budgets, tax money, common goods etc.). This power also corrupted these financial institutions themselves to also (or primarily) act in their own interest, often even in fraudulent disregard to the customers they serve.

Even though capital has long ago disconnected itself from national boundaries and has become what we call globalization today, the governments of the countries where these institutions and most of their customers are at home have been corrupted by them beyond realistic hopes of salvation.

The struggle for the remaining resources is, and has been, the cause for more and more conflicts around the globe but especially in the middle-east. Many of the countries that still hold oil reserves have dismissed all pretense of democracy and the ruling elites of these countries greedily rake in profits while they still can. (Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya (past, future?), Russia, Sudan …)

It is obvious that the powers that be, those that thrived on the surpluses gained of the exploitation of virtually free energy, will not step down, distribute their wealth and live in modesty ever after. It is obvious that they feel they have a right to their capital gains and pursue this ostensible right by force. It is also obvious that they concentrate economic power, means of production, political power and armed forces in a way never seen before. The described results of peak oil will only escalate in the future.

Today the capitalists feel sure enough in their hubris to forgo any act of kindness towards the lower classes, because they can, as they are in control of the executive, and they must, because growth is no longer possible.

It is also a fact that we will not be able to sustain the leeches any longer. While it might be obvious for many it is not obvious for the leeches themselves. For their capital gains to grow further, the pressure they put on anybody working in a dependent employment will be increased. 

As long as there was enough surplus to sustain capital gains by the increase of fossil fuel production to fuel the production of more (and more excessive, wasteful and worthless, i.e. SUVs) goods of consumption, it was possible to appease the public majority in capitalistic societies with some adjustment to the distribution of the riches.

As growth comes to a halt and surpluses sink, they enforce the reduction of wages to compensate. This can be seen in all countries around the western world today as wages stagnated for twenty years while capital gains skyrocketed.

Of course the result is the increasing gap between rich and poor and the end of any vertical social mobility that might have existed, as it is intended to be by those who are responsible for this development. If there is no growth, the rich can only get richer by the poor getting poorer (and by denying the not so poor any chance for also getting rich).

Especially the young generation is virtually shut out of partaking in this collapsing culture. For an ever increasing percentage of young people, finding a paying job that provides for their livelihood, an affordable home or any other positive outlook into the future seems impossible. Many break down under the increasing demands of the society, while education, health care or any other kind of benefit, that society has doled out freely to past generations is now only granted to the rich and their offspring.

The things that are done today in the name of greed show that any restraining boundaries that might have existed have fallen. Evident examples are trading with the debts of “third world” countries by vulture funds, land grabbing and the speculation with food or the circulation of fake malaria drugs in africa (the list could go on forever with examples of destruction and death in the name of money). 

Even if it is hard to believe, it will get even worse in the future. As the corruption of governments grows, the fraudulent nature of trading worsens and the boundaries between “legitimate business” and organized crime get thinner, we will see more and more atrocities, things we couldn’t even imagine humans being capable of to come to the surface.

The embarrassing puppet shows staged by the “world leaders” to bring about a change for the better in banking regulation, wildlife protection, fishing regulations, global warming etc. were nothing more than a further waste of time and money. All they did was bringing to our notice the ineptitude of governments to put any kind of a moral restraint on the greed and wastefulness of capitalism.

continued here