Climate hazards too much for the current governance paradigm to handle

Life on Earth is under enormous stress from a rapidly changing environment and climate. A recent study in Nature show how human societies are already impacted by a changing climate in at least 467 different ways. For example, increased water evaporation and increased air capacity to hold moisture, due to warming, have lead to extreme drought in places that are commonly dry (California, Middle East and Southwest Asia) that have lead to higher risk of heatwaves and wildfires. Warmer ocean waters enhances evaporation and wind speeds thus intensifying downpours and the strength of storms and risk of flooding from storm surges aggravated by sea-level rise. 

The cumulative changes from a disrupted climate are so massive and the speed at which they are occuring so rapid, only comparable to when a meteorite killed the dinosaurs som 65 million years ago, that many species will have a hard time adapting. Species must either tolerate the change, move, adapt, or face extinction. We know that species on land are moving polewards by 17 km per decade and marine species 72 km per decade. And just like terrestrial mountainside species are moving upslope to escape warming lowlands some fish species are driven deeper as the sea surface warms. This in turn impacts human well-being and is already forcing people to migrate.

The current socio-economic paradigm has not changed in accordance with occuring biophysical changes and will not be able to handle the mounting pressure unless it adapts or transforms into something new. A rapidly changing world cannot be navigated by concentrated, rigid, hierarchical, short-term social systems that resist change and tries to maintain status quo. We know this to be true of all living systems, including human societies. Civilisations fail to adapt to changing environmental conditions because they try to maintain high levels of sociopolitical complexity (large armies, bureaucracies, social stratification, occupational specialisations) and focus on expansion instead of dissolving into decentralized, smaller, more flexible and innovative units that are able to respond to change more effectively. That's why corporations, with global scope, are doing better than nation states. And why local communities and municipalities are responding more effectively to changes than governments. 

However, the limiting conditions, resource availability, under climate change make adaptation in place difficult since entire regions are becoming increasingly uninhabitable. Thus forcing people to migrate, just like other species do. This in turn puts extra pressure on national governments as social tensions increase over remaining resources. States that fail to provide essential services for their citizens eventually foster uprisings and risk internal conflict and collapse. We already see this occuring in the Middle East (Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Isreal/Palestine, Egypt). 

Unless governments take seriously the need for fundamental change of the sociopolitical system they will be unable to handle to shift to a post-carbon society able to cope with climate change. Trying to expand and pile on further sociopolitical complexity to the system will not work.
Climate Hazards

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When greed and growth kills

The capitalistic system only has two modes of operation, either expanding or collapsing. That's why people are so obsessed with growth, because it stabilises the system. Capitalism is premised on the logic of never ending growth: debts are made on the basis that they can be repaid with future income, and profits are invested to gain future profits. It's the only super-exponentially expansionary socioeconomic system in the history of humanity. And its only made possible by consuming and depleting finite fossil fuels. But it's now coming to an end.

The absolutely religious idea that a nation must grow its economy by 2-3% and population each year only emerged over the last 100 years. The idea of social progress only came about because people attacked peoples spirituality and wanted to replace it with materialistic values and short-termism, viewing the world as a machine, nature to be dominated, and people of as slaves to the system. Taking away everything of real value to people meant it had to be replaced by something else, and that became economic structures, commodification of life. Instead of people's well being and survival focus shifted to financial flows.

Now we pray to the measure called GDP because we have no higher purpose than to be debt slaves until we die. A tragic fate that people strangely cling onto no matter what the costs. We don't even blink when 70% of insects gets annihilated, I mean we all have to make money so whatever….right? No, not if you want to be able to eat in the future. Fishing out the oceans, filling them with plastics, and eroding half of the Biospheres topsoil and people say we should not question material growth!?

The idea of perpetual expansion has taken over our language and infiltrated our subconscious, talking about “green growth”, “personal growth”, “smarter growth” etc. These oxymorons shows how desperate we are to continue lying to ourselves that “everything is fine” and we “only have to make small adjustments” to our way of life. 

Under crude capitalism, stagnation leads to exploding debt, followed by a crisis and austerity for the people while the rich escape safely. And thats what will happen again and again as the world economy gradually contracts until it breaks abruptly and people really start to suffer. And then when you are dirt poor and could have really used a healthy piece of land with access to freshwater to grow food on and insects to pollinate those crops there are none, because you already destroyed them, and so you have to fight for the last remaining resources left to survive. 

That's whats happening in Yemen right now, where millions of people are starving, because they are being bombed to pieces, there is no access to energy or water and people cant afford food. Of Yemen's population of 30 million, 17 million are in desperate need of food aid, and seven million Yemenis are at risk of famine, many children already starving, which the UN has warned would be the worst the world has seen for 100 years.

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Inequality and economic crisis leaves democracies open to totalitarianism

The central assumption of the neoliberal economic model that material consumption and industrial expansion can continue without devastating political and environmental consequences is known to be false. Yet, every politician on Earth is pushing for further material growth which in a time of resource scarcity only leads to rapidly increasing income inequality. This in turn undermines the stability of society. And vulnerable societies that suffer major economic downturns are known to elect dangerous people and do some crazy stuff.

Overexploiting and degrading both ecological and social capital to gain ephemeral financial capital is the pathway to collapse of a society. Anthropological and agent-based modelling studies have shown that any society that undermines its ecological base runs into declining marginal returns from further material growth. When a threshold is passed, and net energy starts to fall, society can no longer afford to maintain its social organisation and infrastructure and starts to decay. If the ruling elite refuses to give up on trying to push the economy to grow the remaining resources will simply be swallowed up by the resource sector and benefit only a small minority of rich elites while the majority grows poorer over time. This will of course cause political turmoil as even the middle class starts to voice their dissatisfaction. And the entire process makes any democracy open to totalitarianism, a form of government in which the state has no limits in authority and does whatever it wants.

Full collapse from over-depletion and high levels of inequality. Source: Castro et al. 2014

“Democracy is first and foremost about equality: equality of power and equality of sharing in the benefits and values made possible by social cooperation” (Sheldon Wolin, 2010, p. 61).

Most societies have no mechanisms for sharing power and the benefits of cooperation in a time of involuntary degrowth, which we are currently in. Every government policy since the 1970s have only worsened the issue by promoting the enrichment of the capital owning class over the worker class through financialisation. Giving out cheap credit has masked the systemic issues and kept the middle class happy for a while, as they get to continue consuming resources in the moment, but its a giant ponzi scheme that will collapse eventually. Meanwhile, the working class has only suffered since the 70s, with falling living standards and increasing poverty, and thus started to heavily mistrust the ruling elite.

Furthemore, wealth equalizing institutions, such as income taxation, has become ineffective in a globalised world. Big corporations and rich individuals can escape national laws and continue to enrich themselves at the cost of everyone else and nature. The world's richest 1 percent now owns as 82% of global wealth, while the poorest 3.7 billion people saw no increase in their wealth in 2018.

When people are desperate for change, ideology becomes a powerful weapon. If people have no way to influence the political system, no equality in control of the instruments of persuasion, other than voting every four years it cannot be called a true democracy. Private control over the media and higher education are examples of public loss of instruments of persuasion.

Rising inequality opens up a power vacuum that is easily filled by leaders of business or populistic parties in order to extract what they want from the system. The rich business elites usually claim the “trickle down” doctrine or that “government is the problem” to justify deregulation and tax cuts for the rich. While populistic parties (left and right) exploit the working class hate of elites and fuels polarisation and division in society while arguing for a centralised strong government. We see this type of development all over Europe and in the US.

The only way to combat this negative development, as I see it, is to promote decentralization of power and strengthening local economies with circular resource flows that stay within certain boundaries through for example a local currency. And promoting self-sufficiency. Also trying to even the playing field by offering alternative stories through online platforms when the mainstream media is failing. I know that many instead are calling for global governance to reign in multinational corporations but that won't be possible in a resource constrained world and it's certainly not what people are going to vote for. 

If no credible options are put forward as the old story breaks apart there is a high chance that people will turn to “strongman” governance in their desperation for change. With potentially catastrophic consequences for peace and security. It's now 100 years since the end of World War I and we are again living in very dangerous times. Europe is so fragile that it feels like any shock could trigger something major, especially if we have a major financial collapse. Unfortunately, such a financial crisis looks increasingly likely as the global debt bubble has started to unravel. I hope there is still some sanity left among people to resist another major war.

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The Middle East on Fire

Source: FAO Aquastat, Oxford Analytica

When people from the West and its mainstream media try to analyse what's happening in the Middle East all they talk about is armed conflict and war. But never do they mention the deep fundamental drivers of energy, water scarcity and climate change

Many countries in the Middle East are extremely vulnerable and on the verge of break down because they cannot deal with mounting economic/energy and environmental costs. Only a little disturbance is needed to make these states fall apart and then all hell can break loose. It has nothing to do with what type of people they are, its simply a matter of survival that brings out the worst in people. When water resources dry up, agriculture collapse, there's no way to make and income and food becomes unaffordable people tend to riot no matter which country. Thats what happened during the French revolution, after 1 million died from famine and peasants turned on the ruling elite.

Displaying a complete lack of understanding of the situation, and utter lack of morality, the imperial powers decided to try and grab the regions oil resources by getting rid of Saddam Hussein but instead created a power vacuum that was filled by al-Qaeda extremists who rapidly transformed into the Islamic State. Then followed by a proxy war over resources and power between many different actors in the region. Never ending fighting with no real benefits for anyone involved. The US "divide and rule" strategy is an utter failure. 

Intensifying the fight against extremists doesn't deal with the fundamental drivers of why they exist in the first place. Instead its producing more extremists as the conditions that laid the groundwork for the rise of IS are worsening. The long-term ecological crisis of especially water stress is worsening in the region. Severe drought conditions intensified by water mismanagement and climate change have led to failed crops and lack of clean drinking water. Leading to increasing food import reliance and pushing people to move into the cities where there are no job opportunities, creating tensions. Then government subsidies for food and fuel get slashed as state revenues from falling oil exports decline. This at a time when oil and food prices have steadily risen and have had major spikes on the international market. That's the perfect storm

Absolutely nothing have been done to build local capacity to cope with extreme weather or manage ecosystems more sustainably. The conditions of deepening water scarcity are projected to intensify in coming years and decades. Meanwhile population keeps growing. And that's why the future in the region looks bleak. The US idea of turning Iraq into a booming oil economy is simply nonsense. Even if there is still more oil left in Iraq, compared to Syria, Yemen or Egypt, they too will face peak oil within a decade or so. Hedging your entire future on oil is utterly idiotic and as we witness very destructive.

Yemen reached a production peak in oil in 2001 and has now practically collapsed. Acute water scarcity and lack of food is reaching levels of mass famine. Nationwide fuel shortages are routine and economic activities have come to a halt. Livelihoods are destroyed, people starve and live in misery, and yet the US and UK support Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign of the country. 

The Conflict Shoreline by Eyal Weizman. Shows the aridity line, areas of about 200 millimetres of rainfall a year, considered the minimum for growing cereal crops on a large scale without irrigation, and western drone strikes in red dots

Egypt has become a net importer of oil and food and is struggling to pay its bills for a growing population. Poor water management (irrigation, pollution, dumping of waste) and growing demand has led to water scarcity in the country. Cairo residents don't have access to water for large portions of the day. The U.N. World Water Development report for 2018 warns that Egypt is currently below the U.N.’s threshold of water poverty and dramatically heading towards absolute water scarcity (500 m3 per capita).

Even if we are able to limit global warming to 2 degrees the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will become unbearably hot and many parts unlivable in the coming future. Prolonged heat waves and dust storms will plague the already arid region. Destroying much of the region's agricultural potential. Researcher are expecting a climate exodus from the region. Of which we have seen only the beginning. 

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Earth System Sensitivity

Annual global temperatures from 1850-2017. The colour scale represents the change in global temperatures covering 1.35°C. Credit: Climate Lab Book, 2018

The Earth System

Earth is a complex dynamic system. Earth system dynamics can be understood in terms of trajectories between alternate states separated by thresholds that are controlled by nonlinear processes, interactions, and feedbacks. For example, over the past 1.2 million years Earth has remained in a state of glacial and interglacial cycles. The current temperature change at 1,2°C above a preindustrial baseline has already pushed Earth out of the next glaciation cycle.

Furthermore, Earth is a water planet and incredibly inert. The time lag between cause and effect, between the heating and the final change in temperature, is large. The full warming effect of a large emission pulse may not be felt for several decades or centuries. As a result, the currently observed change in temperature represents only a part of the eventual expected increase in temperature resulting from already released greenhouse gas emissions.

Exactly where a potential planetary threshold, between a livable state and a hothouse state, might be is uncertain. Steffen et al. (2018) suggests 2°C as the critical limit, stating that passing two degrees could trigger tipping elements in the Earth System that could cascade, triggering further tipping elements, causing rapid warming beyond human control. 

Thus, actions taken over the next decade could significantly influence the trajectory of the Earth System for tens to hundreds of thousands of years and potentially lead to conditions that would be inhospitable to humans and to many other species.

Main point: Earth is tracking a hothouse pathway

Earth System Sensitivity

How the climate system will respond to increasing CO2 levels depends on time-scale and which feedbacks we consider. Taking into account fast feedbacks such as clouds, water vapour, snow cover change, and aerosols we get a climate sensitivity of about 2-4.5°C to a doubling of CO2. But this does not include slow longer-term feedbacks such as ice sheet disintegration, changes in carbon cycle (e.g. permafrost thaw), vegetation cover changes, or changes in oceans ability to store carbon. If we include all feedbacks, both fast and slow, we get a Earth System Sensitivity of 3-6°C.  

Estimated temperature changes from fast and slow feedbacks. Source: Schmidt, 2016

Studies of past climates in Earth's history show that long-term feedbacks play an important role in Earth's overall climate. For example, during the mid-Pliocene some 3-4 million years ago, when global mean temperatures were about 3-4°C warmer than preindustrial and sea levels 10-25 meter higher than today, CO2 levels peaked at 450 ppm. Our current concentration levels stand at 410 ppm CO2, but temperatures have only risen about + 1,2°C, so Earth is likely to warm up at least to similar levels eventually. And we would over millenia have sea-level rise of up to at least 10 m.

The reason why most people don't talk about ESS is due to the fact that its presumed to take centuries or millennia for these slow feedbacks to kick in. But the issue now is that the rate of change is many times faster than any natural rate in Earth's history. Only comparable with catastrophic rare events such as the meteorite strike that took out the dinosaurs some 66 million years ago. This means that longer-term “slow” feedbacks such as melting of ice sheets and changes in permafrost carbon stores are starting to occur now, much quicker than expected, and will likely impact humanity during this century.

Which means that on top of some more warming from rapid feedbacks that has yet to be realised due to thermal inertia we also face the consequences of slow feedbacks already coming into play. These biogeophysical forces are incredibly strong and could become dominant in driving the system. Thus limiting the range of potential future trajectories.

Main point: Earth's climate is more sensitive to forcings than standard scenarios of future warming assumes

Biogeophysical Feedbacks

Some of the key negative (dampening) feedbacks such as carbon uptake by land and oceans and reflectivity by ice and snow that have maintained the Earth system in favourable conditions are weakening. We are now witnessing ever more systems close to or passing a threshold, tipping point, causing abrupt change. The challenge with tipping points is that they're often easiest to identify in retrospect.

For example, Arctic sea ice crossed a tipping point in 2007 and is now in terminal decline and could be gone during the summer by 2040 or earlier. Due to the loss of reflective ice the dark oceans are now absorbing more energy, in turn accelerating regional warming, further melting ice and snow. It also influences jet stream patterns causing more extreme weather events in northern latitudes. The loss of Arctic sea ice has also flipped the Barents Sea from acting as a buffer between the warmer Atlantic and colder Arctic ocean to now being essentially an extension of the Atlantic.

A warmer Arctic also leads to thawing of permafrost in the region. Before believed to be a rather gradual process, new studies show abrupt (decades) thaw in Alaska and Siberia due to the formation of thermokarst lakes. Releasing CO2 and CH4 to the atmosphere and accelerating warming. 

The Greenland ice sheet is now melting rapidly, the ice caps melting irreversibly. Accelerated surface melt has doubled Greenland's contribution to global sea level rise to 0.74 mm per year since 1992–2011. The interior ice sheet could cross a tipping point slightly under 2C warming. Global sea level rise has accelerated to 4.8 mm/yr

The Amundsen Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet has already crossed a tipping point and is melting irreversibly. This will likely trigger a collapse of the rest of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet on decadal time scales. Leading to at least 1 meter sea level rise this century. Partial deglaciation of the East Antarctic ice sheet is likely for the current level of atmospheric carbon dioxide, contributing to about 5 metres of sea level rise in the first 200 years.

Melting freshwater pouring into the Atlantic has slowed down the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) that transports heat from the Gulf of Mexico to Northern Europe. Slightly cooling northwest Europe and piling up heat along the southeast waters of the US. This in turn increases temperature differentials between tropical and sub-polar waters that can drive stronger storms. 

Main point: Abrupt changes are already occurring in the climate system, passing 2°C would likely prove catastrophic

Human feedbacks on the system

As I have explained above, the climate system is much more sensitive to even small perturbations than most people think. Another way of showing this fact is to look at human impacts on the climate before industrialisation. 

Since the rise of agriculture, human activities on Earth have played a role in shaping ecological and climatic conditions. There is good evidence to suggest that the rise of agriculture actually had a positive (amplifying) feedback on early climate, hindering a new ice age to occur. 

Atmospheric CO2 and CH4 increases during the last few millennia are anomalous compared to preceding interglacial periods. The same time period when agriculture spread across the continents and emitted greenhouse gases by clearing forests for crops and pastures, domesticating livestock and burning crop residues. Suggesting that emissions were large enough to warm climate and prolong the natural interglacial warmth.

Ruddiman et al. (2016) show evidence for what seems to be a trend brake in naturally falling CO2 and CH4 concentrations some 6000-5000 years ago, towards increasing concentrations most likely driven by anthropogenic forcing.

We know that agriculture spread across the world during this time period. Agrarian civilisations started to flourish along the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus and Yellow River some 7000-5000 years ago. Cultivation was dependent on flow and ebb cycles that in turn relied on seasonal rains and melting snows packs in the mountains. These formed the conditions for production of surplus food (energy) which allowed societies to expand and grow more complex.

Ruddiman and colleagues show how the development of irrigated rice paddies in Asia and widespread livestock domestication some 5000 years ago coincides with increases in methane emissions. Just like today, forests were cut down, vegetation slashed and burned to make way for agriculture all across Eurasia, Africa and the Americas. This generated CO2 emissions which in turn impacted climate. 

Archeological data records a shift from forest cover to more open vegetation in northern and central Europe that began som 6000-5000 years ago and was complete by the start of the industrial era. Similarly, early deforestation was likely caused around the Mediterranean by extensive land use by Greek and Roman civilisations. In Britain and France, forests had already been reduced to near-modern levels by 2500-2200 years ago.

East central China had widespread forest cover until 8000 years ago, followed by a persistent decrease especially after 6000 years ago. Archaeological sites, proxy for population density, in central China increased thirtyfold between 8000–7000 and 5000–4000 years ago. By 4000 years ago, coal had come into use as a fuel source in the Yellow River Valley because of lack of wood. Deforestation of southern China during the spread of rice agriculture after 5000 years ago added to the ongoing CO2 increase.

In India, sedentary farming and clearance emerged between 5000 and 3500 years ago, with especially rapid settlement expansion on the Deccan Plateau and in the Ganges plains. 

All this evidence provides support for the idea that large-scale deforestation led to a rise in CO2 during the middle and late Holocene. Many models have missed this because they assume low population numbers and small forest clearance per person and thus show low emissions. But this doesn't fit with historical evidence of larger per capita forest clearing 2500-1000 years ago than during industrial times. Probably because land use was inefficient and required large amounts of land but became more intensive over time as agricultural methods changed.

The simulation above indicates much greater deforestation during the millenia preceding the industrial era in agreement with pollen evidence. In contrast, standard reconstructions that assume small constant per capita clearance during preindustrial times show 40-80% of forest cover still persisting in Europe by the year 1800. Meaning massive deforestation must have taken place within the last 200 years to explain current low forest cover. But this doesn't fit with historical evidence of pervasive reforestation in western and central Europe since 1800, not deforestation. 

Main point: The Holocene climate was partly a consequence of human feedbacks on the climate system

Climate Change Adaptation

Changes in temperature and precipitation have always impacted people by affecting what they could and couldn't grow to harvest food (energy) for survival. 

The climate stabilised about 7,000-5,000 years ago coinciding with the flourishing of agrarian civilisations along the Nile, Tigris, Euphrates, Indus and Yellow River. Cultivation was dependent on flow and ebb cycles that in turn relied on seasonal rains and melting snows packs in the mountains. These formed the conditions for production of surplus food (energy) which allowed societies to grow more complex.

But agrarian societies have always been vulnerable to climatic changes. Sudden cooling events or extended droughts caused widespread famines and sometimes collapsed entire communities. Especially vulnerable were those who relied on single crops or undermined the ecological base for survival for example through intense deforestation. 

For example, a sudden cooling that happened around 3,700 to 3,000 years ago greatly influenced populations in Asia. The most dramatic changes were seen in high latitude and high-altitude areas in Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau. Crops started to fail and widespread famine took hold. This forced people to migrate, shift to more cold resistant crops, or turn to pastoralism. Cooling temperatures also affected Northern China between AD 291-360, a time when the Chinese capital was relocated from Xian to what is now Nanjing, in the south. Again, people would have had to adapt by migrating, changing crops, herding cattle or trading. It was not an easy process and lots of conflicts arose.

The difference now is of course that the rate of change is much more rapid and that its becoming hotter, not colder, which humans have had less of an experience adapting to. Furthermore, there are no virgin lands left to move to when one region becomes uninhabitable, the world is full and most ecosystems severely degraded. Using migration as a tool for adaptation doesn't work that well anymore. We have also become heavily reliant on just a few crops and undermined diversity by eradicating species. This makes our current civilisation very vulnerable to a changing climate.

Main point: Humans can adapt to a changing climate but this time the rate of change is much more rapid and migration is not a good option

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Involuntary degrowth and its consequences

We are in a double bind. Growing the economy will cause catastrophic climate change and massive biological extinction. But not growing the economy will lead to lots of suffering under the current neoclassical economic structure. Of course, we could chose to change our entire economic system so that its in line with the biophysical reality we live in, i.e. we would have to give up on growing materially and lower our consumption radically but do so in a more orderly and just fashion. But no, we have made no such decision, instead every government on Earth is trying to push its economy to grow further while dabbling in some greenwashing on the side.

Because we, especially the ruling elites, don't like the alternatives we have to choose from in this dilemma we have tried to maintained status quo at any cost. With the consequence of rapidly rising inequalities, failing infrastructures, collapsing ecosystems, climate disruption and failing states. But now this strategy has reached its end game. The global economy which has been stagnating and on life-support by central bankers stimulus for over a decade is starting to fall apart. All the while people around the world are electing unsavory authoritarian leaders “strong men”, that promote heavy extractive practices, due to increasing mistrust of the ruling elite. The latest example being Brazil.

And nowhere in the mainstream media or from elected politicians do we hear about the underlying issues of our current predicament. About how net energy decline restricts growth and forces the economy to contract. The fact that trying to push for further material growth now costs more than it benefits society. Or that it's simply not possible to fuel our current overconsumptive, overpopulated and destructive techno-industrial society with renewable energy. Not to mention the fact that it's not desirable since it would destroy the ecosystems upon which our very survival depends.

Using total factor productivity as an indicator of returns on innovation, Bonaiuti (2018) has shown how industrial nations have gone through three industrial revolutions of which the latest is now coming to an end. After the peak in the 1930s, when global oil and gas EROI hit a peak, productivity decreased until it reached only 0.34% in the period 1973-95. When US oil production peaked and massive privatization and debt accumulation took off to fund further consumption. The third industrial revolution, known as ICT, has not been powerful enough to compensate for the declining returns of the second industrial revolution. This is evidence that advanced capitalist societies such as the US, Europe and Japan have entered a phase of declining marginal returns or involuntary degrowth with detrimental impacts on societies capacity to maintain its institutional framework.

Total Factor Productivity % of the Private Non-Farm Business Sector (1750-2014). Source: Bonaiuti (2018)

Historical estimate of the global EROI of oil. Source: Court and Fizaine (2017)

In other words, fundamental resources are becoming scarce and expensive and we are becoming poorer and cannot afford to maintain or grow our current society so it starts to crumble. This shows up in the economy in terms of increasingly expensive basic resources like food, rising levels of debt, rising income inequality, underinvestment in infrastructure (e.g. health care, education, railways), and higher unemployment etc.

People are experiencing their living standards falling while politicians are telling them everything is just fine as is, or that the issue can be solved by tweaking the system. But this is no longer enough, people are fed up with false promises and incompetent governments. And rightly so, but the thing people don't realise is the fundamental drivers of our current situation and the fact that no matter how much more they exploit and destroy nature will it improve their lives. Actually, the opposite is true, it only undermines their own wellbeing in the long run. Only investments into low-energy infrastructure and restructuring of the entire economy, focusing on increasing social and ecological capital, can lessen people's suffering. Yet people around the world are voting for violent idiots that promises economic growth by aggressive exploitation of the remaining ecosystems that sustain all biological life.

For example, if the new president of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro has his way the Amazon rainforest will be decimated to give way for unsustainable soy plantations. The biodiverse rich region and home to traditional peoples will be destroyed and the ecosystems capacity to oxygenate the planet and store carbon will be greatly impacted. Bolsonaro also has plans to legalise the use of weapons on a wider scale which will probably lead to further indiscriminate killings of people trying to safeguard the Amazon and promote wide scale illegal logging. This of course will only undermine Brazilians wellbeing but the majority believe the opposite to be true.

Economic decline led by net energy decline doesn't have to result in despotism, although it can. A number of other factors are likely influencing how politics in resource scarce times turns out. Weak institutions, dysfunctional media, high levels of inequality, high population growth, high levels of private debt, a powerful military, and high vulnerability to changes in environment are other generic factors likely playing a role. Other factors tied directly to energy include: high dependency on food imports, government budgets tied to fossil fuel exports, high per capita energy use, and high dependency on energy imports.

There are several measures governments and organisations can take to reduce the risk of a society falling into the hands of a dictator. For example by promoting independent media, investing in low-energy infrastructure, reducing political polarization, strengthening democratic institutions, discouraging inequality, building local food production capacity, decentralising the economic and political system, limiting population growth, and reducing financial instability. In other words, the opposite of what many governments are trying to do currently. So people need to wake up to the realities of our situation and demand change, but such change needs to be guided by the understanding of biophysical realities. Otherwise it is doomed to fail, will only promote further violence and destruction.

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Getting rid of lawns - Planting Meadows

There are many ways in which we as individuals can impact biodiversity and ecosystem health. One simple positive change would be for households to change their monoculture grass lawns into biodiverse meadows. 

In Sweden, 52% of the urban green areas are lawns and in the United States lawns cover about 2% of the land area. Lawns may cover as much as 1.4% of the global grassland area and lawn grass is the largest irrigated nonfood crop. This is a extremely wasteful use of resources simply to maintain lawnscapes that does not promote biodiversity or food production.

Gardens could have many positive impacts, for example: providing habitats, storing carbon, air purification, nutrient cycling, water filtration, that are ruined by destructive management practices such as power lawn-mower, irrigation, pesticide use and chemical fertilizers. Lawns usually have very little biodiversity because they are monocultures. 

Lots of studies show that allowing gardens to become more wild, i.e. more diverse like natural ecosystem, by for example planting meadows or food forests would help promote biodiversity while providing us with vital ecosystem services such as fruits, healthy soils, pollination, cleaner air etc. Biodiverse healthy garden ecosystems also provide tremendous aesthetic and cultural values that are achievable without lots of money. Not only that it gives us joy and mental reprieve in a time of enormous social stress.

In many industrial societies, gardens have an enormous potential to provide habitat for many species on the verge of extinction due to the loss of traditional landscapes. Meadows and food forests require very little intervention, are beautiful and provide habitat for a number of threatened species. In a temperate climate like Sweden, meadows that bloom from spring to autumn are a suitable replacement for lawns and would provide relief for many species that once were common in the days of open pastures and small scale non-mechanical farming.

There is now a practical handbook in how to cultivate a meadow in your own garden from the Swedish University of Agriculture that can be found here.

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