To understand our predicament, you must understand that the flow of energy, fossil fuels, humans have tapped into for running our economy, machinery, and energy-intensive mode of living has some serious environmental drawbacks, namely climate change and ocean acidification, which will certainly lead to our own destruction with the business-as-usual path we are so determined to follow. Some of the other consequences of basing our way of life so heavily upon fossil fuels are resource wars, support of brutal dictatorships in resource-cursed countries, hypocritical foreign policies based on resource control rather than the publicly professed mantra of human rights and democracy, the fomentation of resentment and terrorism towards the West, etc. So if you couple fossil fuels with capitalism, then you have a truly planet-destroying system. Capitalism is coerced competition for finite wages and resources, pitting person against person, company against company, and nation against nation. My favorite quote from Horborg: Is the war on terrorism and climate debate two sides of the same coin?
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To understand our predicament, you must understand that the flow of energy, fossil fuels, humans have tapped into for running our economy, machinery, and energy-intensive mode of living has some serious environmental drawbacks, namely climate change and ocean acidification, which will certainly lead to our own destruction with the business-as-usual path we are so determined to follow.
Some of the other consequences of basing our way of life so heavily upon fossil fuels are resource wars, support of brutal dictatorships in resource-cursed countries, hypocritical foreign policies based on resource control rather than the publicly professed mantra of human rights and democracy, the fomentation of resentment and terrorism towards the West, etc. So if you couple fossil fuels with capitalism, then you have a truly planet-destroying system. Capitalism is coerced competition for finite wages and resources, pitting person against person, company against company, and nation against nation.
My favorite quote from Horborg: Is the war on terrorism and climate debate two sides of the same coin? Both are confined to the parts of the world that have amassed the most purchasing power. Last January we caught up with Professor Hornborg to see where his latest thinking on machines, money and climate change stand and how we, as the concerned and informed, can intervene to make a difference.
Q: You have suggested that the difficulties in understanding the relationship between the environment, the economy and technology arise partly out of the separation between the social and natural sciences within the university. Bringing the natural and social sciences together implies entangling material dimensions of the environment with the cultural processes of society.
How has this split mystified our understanding of the relationships between ecology and economics, and how is this affecting our ability to respond to major events such as the mass extinction of species, climate change and global inequality? It is becoming increasingly obvious that material processes in the biosphere are very much intertwined with cultural aspects such as our ways of thinking and our consumption patterns.
The most obvious example is perhaps climate change, which we know is largely driven by our patterns of consumption. As long as economists continue to think that the only relevant metric for measuring global trade is money, they will not see the asymmetric net transfers of real resources such as energy and matter that make technological expansion possible within some areas of the world.
Q: Your analysis of technology as a globally situated event that requires the establishment of multiple asymmetric economic linkages to be in place raises questions about the role of technology in current ecological problems.
If technology, and in particular machine technology, requires inequalities in the terms of global trade, how are we to assess the appropriate use and level of technology employed in solving ecological problems? For example, by shifting to ethanol European car drivers may think they are becoming sustainable, but Brazilians engaged in growing sugar cane may be growing less sustainable as a result.
Solving ecological problems should not be about finding new technological solutions, which generally means shifting the problems onto someone else, but about developing new economies and lifestyles which reduce environmental degradation.
Could you elaborate on how the illusion of machine technology came to take hold and what relevance unmasking machine power for what is —a globally situated object- has for encouraging a more politically just and environmentally sound society? Our faith in technology emerged most markedly in the early nineteenth century, as colonial Britain was accumulating resources from all over the world and investing its economic surpluses in new machinery.
To British economists of the time, it seemed as if ecological land constraints had been overcome once and for all, and the magic wands of labor and capital would suffice for economic progress to continue. That is exactly the time when modern economic ideology was born. What these Europeans could not grasp was that their capital was built on the exploitation of land and labor elsewhere in the world.
In other words, the factors of production were NOT substitutable in an absolute sense. We are all ultimately dependent on land. Given the latest financial crises, what do you foresee the role of currency to be in the transformation of the relationship between ecology and economics?
The financial crises illustrate the risks a society takes when it permits monetary assets and real, biophysical resources to become so thoroughly dissociated from each other. Our current problems with overconsumption would not have been possible if money had not become so completely disconnected from material resources. I am not saying that the gold standard that we abandoned in the seventies was a solution, but at least it limited the possibilities of printing ever more money to keep the treadmill of consumption and production spinning at a pace that satisfies the corporate demand for profits.
But the real problem with money is not that it is fictitious, as all money must be, but that it embodies the idea that everything can be exchanged for everything else. What we need is an economy with at least two incommensurable currencies, to distinguish between values that should not be interchangeable, such as local subsistence and survival versus globalized entertainment. How are we to approach the reality that we are already thoroughly enmeshed within a technosphere that now seems to require our continued maintenance so as not to leak the wrong toxic substances into the wrong environments and the fact the we need to be equally attentive to the livelihood of the biosphere which we depend upon for life?
Our technological fixes are no less absurd than the fetishism that brought earlier civilizations to collapse, whether through overinvestment in armies Rome , temples Maya , or megalithic statues Easter Island.
Q: Given that you believe that an integration of the social and natural sciences would lead to better policy strategies, could you comment on the differences or similarities between these two spheres?
Do the cultural, political and economic relations that social scientists study differ in nature from the ecological and material systems that a natural scientist study? Their conjunction seems necessary, and yet problems of integration seem numerous. What is our way forward here? Yes, the social and natural sciences study different kinds of phenomena and need to respect the limitations of either approach.
Societies have always implicated questions of power, unequal distribution, and collective processes of meaning-creation and ideology. Ecosystems can be studied and understood without insights about any of these things.
On the other hand, as economists and others illustrate, social systems can be studied if not understood without any regard to the flows of matter and energy that preoccupy the ecologists. To understand the interface between social and ecological systems we need to understand POWER as partly material, partly symbolic. Social power is based on unequal access to material resources, but also on the ideological mystification of such inequalities.
Q: Uncertainties of measurement and misleading methodological approaches characterize current economic attempts to manage the world system. How can we characterize and develop change that ensures the development of a truly sustainable world system? Second by using their political agency ultimately as voters in democratic political systems to choose representatives who are prepared to reorganize the economy for the long-term good of all people and ecosystems, rather than for the short-term benefits of corporate interests.
Q: What, in your opinion, are the most effective modes available with which to express a need for change within the current political and economic regimes? If traditional models of education, politics and economic theories are not serving the urgency of the crises at hand, what action do you advise concerned peoples to take?
The best we can do is to develop awareness of our global predicament and resort to it as opportunities for real change appear, not least as we confront crises of various kinds in the future. Crises, whether financial, environmental, or other or a combination of them , can offer possibilities of change, and it is important for society not to be confused by such events, but to understand what is happening and be prepared to safeguard the health and security of citizens.
Must we begin from scratch so as to completely re-interpret the ingredients and causes of our crises, or do we in fact have something like a base or foothold from which we can begin a renewed attempt to make a difference in the world? Who are the primary thinkers involved that provide us with tools that the 21st century can believe in? The Internet has provided humanity with a unique chance to globally communicate about crises and how to handle them.
I will not mention any specific thinkers, only note that the social and natural sciences both have rich traditions of thought that attempt to show how social power and inequalities are interconnected with natural circumstances such as land constraints, soil fertility, and thermodynamics. We need more current researchers working on how these different kinds of knowledge can be stitched together.
Unfortunately, a very small minority of researchers is dedicated to such challenges. That it was the turning point. In the course of that decade were visualized the unsustainable contradictions within global fossil fuel-driven industrial capitalism.
We sat glued in front of the television screen and saw the towers fall, again and again. Where did all this hate come from? Are there really such contradictions in the global community? Could it have to do with oil, this stored solar energy from the ancient landscape that drives most of our lives, that we can afford to continue paying for it?
And to whom then is this resource so critical that some countries are prepared to go to war for it. Vice President, Nobel Committee and the UN climate panel agree on the reality of global warming, may we take it seriously? Should we stop using fossil fuels? Then came the financial crisis — the worst stock market collapse since Is the world economy really so vulnerable? And how is it that economists could not predict it? Are there contexts in the world that economists have not understood?
We now, therefore, use the remaining oil faster than we can find new deposits. We realize that oil prices will rise in the future, making our current lifestyle increasingly untenable… a two hundred year old bubble approaching the breaking point. We have lived in the former solar energy of epochs instead of the annual insolation stored in living plants. What should we do when we can no longer afford oil?
How will the land be sufficient when it once again will have to support both people and vehicles? It used to be horse feed we had to compete with, now it is the cane for ethanol. Not only do biofuels take up land space needed for food for a growing world population, but they also can not be nearly enough to sustain the consumption levels that the rich world has become accustomed to.
China became an economic power by cashing in on cheap labor and lax environmental laws. We buy Chinese goods like never before. A whole world had understood that the American people could no longer hope to solve global conflicts by taking up arms. But what options are there really for Obama? And just before the decade is over, we will experience COP Fifteen thousand delegates and a hundred heads of state will gather in Copenhagen to discuss whether there is any hope.
We know that carbon dioxide emissions are only continuing to increase despite all the warnings and promises. We recognize that emissions are as unevenly distributed in the world as money. An average American emits Perhaps we can imagine a connection between these various trends and events? Is the war on terrorism and climate debate two sides of the same coin?
Economic growth is basically about earning money to expend resources. And the more money we earn today, the more resources we can afford to consume tomorrow. No wonder it is difficult to reduce carbon emissions. But this is a logic that economists are not trained in. Can we hope that the next decade offers more insight — and more power shifts? The bought-and-paid politicians sitting in Washington are simply the marionettes of the corporations and financial elite who are dictating public policy and regulations.
Preserving the Status Quo There is no right wing or left wing, only the aristocracy and the serfs a vertical paradigm.
To know this is to be like a fish who has broken the surface of the water, realizing he was in water the whole time. A Kabuki Play "What we have, in what passes for US democracy in , is a kabuki play that Cicero put to papyrus years earlier.
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On the other hand, Hornborg misses a range of issues that provide a much more balanced picture of what resilience is intended — and not intended — to do. Here are four quick points: 1. On the other hand, resilience scholars are well aware of the problem, and some attempts have been made already. The wording might be different, but the main message is the same: communities and ecosystems are under severe pressure from globalized markets, and the impacts tend to affect the poorest the most. So, no disagreement there I assume. We are getting there There is a wide spread notion that resilience theory is advanced by ecologists trying to apply ecological theory on social systems e. Hornborg pp.
Help Center Find new research papers in: Rather than nervously safeguarding world trade with its escalating greenhouse gas emissions, we have every reason to reconsider what might be perceived as true human progress and quality of life. Trump is simultaneously chided for refusing to cut emissions, and for promoting a trade policy that reduces the causes of such emissions. Anthropological perspectivesp. Global socioenvironmental change and sustainability since the Neolithic. Dual organisering, hierarki og firedelingslogik i Andes: Most environmentalists and researchers put their faith in new technologies for harnessing the sun and wind, and hope that politicians can be persuaded to act. A good read for the weekend. The Czech-Canadian energy researcher Vaclav Smil has found that switching to renewable energy would use up vast amounts of landhrnborg the land-saving benefits of the Industrial Revolution.
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