Collapsing systems

Credit: Devfactory, CC-BY-SA 2.0

Another great systems theory based book on why nations fail is out. This time its academic, journalist and writer Nafeez Ahmed, who long wrote for the Guardian but now has his own crowdsourced news site (Insurge-intelligence), who has delivered the goods. 

In his book, "Failing states, Collapsing systems: Biophysical Triggers of Political Violence", Nafeez presents the essential data on resource depletion, net energy decline, economic stagnation (debt bubble) and ties it nicely together with the acceleration of civil unrest around the globe. It's a big picture analysis of how the triple crises of energy, climate and food production impact societies around the world. A current example, according to Ahmed, of how these multiple stressors interact and can lead to systemic failure is war torn Syria. 

Syrian oil production peaked in 1996 while population, and thus consumption, kept increasing. By 2008 the government, who relied on petrol money for maintaining the state budget, had to slash fuel subsidies which tripled the price of petrol and food almost overnight. A huge deal to anyone already spending almost half of their income on food. At the same time as an ongoing drought in the eastern part of Syria devastated harvests and drove people from the countryside into the cities. Yemen experienced a similar fate of depleting resources, peak oil, and the resulting high vulnerability to shocks. Based on these two cases it takes about 15 years for a country that experiences its peak in oil production before additional pressures, such as climate change, contribute to systemic failure. 

It's not only the Middle East. Many other countries, for example Mexico,  are well on their way of having little to no extra oil to export for keeping their budget in balance or pay for subsidies that people depend on. And the counties who are still able to import some oil or have some mix of energy sources to depend on will be a target of immigrants looking to flee bankrupt and failing nations. Which in turn will fuel the nationalist sentiments and a grab for what's left, military interventions. Something we are already witnessing in Europe and the US.


Out of the ashes into the fire

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