Biosphere Collapse: The Biggest Economic Bubble Ever

cropped-10-Earth-AP.jpgThe global environment collapses as in the pursuit of short-term growth, humanity overruns natural ecosystems including the atmosphere that make Earth habitable. Together we urgently address inequity, climate change, overpopulation and natural ecosystem loss or alone we each face the horrors of economic, social, and ecological collapse.

“Horrendous inequity whereby a few hundred people possess half of Earth’s wealth as more than one billion live on less than $1.50/day is evil incarnate and will kill us all… The human family will only avert biosphere collapse if we choose to live more simply, share more with others, go back to the land, have fewer kids, protect and restore ecosystems, grow more of our own food, end fossil fuels, and embrace social justice and love.” – Dr. Glen Barry

 

Newspapers are full of disastrous warnings if economic growth does not return to Greece, or if it drops a couple points in China. Rarely in human history have so many been so fundamentally wrong about a matter of such importance as the desirability, and even the possibility, of perpetual economic growth.

The real threat to human well-being is not that there is too little economic growth. Rather, it is that there is too much, and that we have overshot how much growth can occur without collapsing our shared environment.

The industrial growth economy is ravaging natural ecosystems. Stocks of natural capital – including water, soil, old-growth forests, wild fish, etc. – are being pillaged to artificially inflate short-term economic growth numbers.

Modern industrial capitalism’s narrow focus upon GDP growth as a measure of a society’s well-being utterly fails to account for the very real and detrimental costs of liquidating Earth’s natural life-support systems.

Infinite growth on a finite planet is a recipe for disaster. Nothing grows forever and trying inevitably rips apart any system seeking to do so.

Continued ravaging of Earth’s natural ecosystems for short-term growth is the biggest economic bubble ever. Such a short-term, myopic focus upon economic growth can only end in social and ecological collapse.

The problem

Keystone-XL-Will-First-and-Foremost-Harm-Latinos-Group-Argues-436370-2The global ecological system is collapsing and dying. The biosphere – our one shared environment that makes Earth habitable – is having its constituent ecosystems liquidated for resources. Inequitable overconsumption has achieved such momentum that key ecological planetary boundaries have been surpassed, raising the very real possibility of humanity pulling down the biosphere as we collapse.

Far more is at stake than abrupt climate change as natural ecosystem loss, ocean dead zones, freshwater scarcity, soil erosion, nitrogen deposition and many other aspects of ecological decline merge and worsen the others.

This sudden surge of human impact upon the naturally evolved biosphere – as human numbers went from one to seven billion in just over a century – can fairly be characterized as willful ecocide.

Yet this relentless industrial growth continues to be falsely equated with progress. Many are unlikely to respond to warnings of imminent doom from specialists until they are much more uncomfortable and unhappy than they are now. By then it will be too late.

Progress to avoid global biosphere collapse has been impeded by numerous other maladies that plague the human condition including inequity, permawar, disease, abject poverty, and authoritarianism. Horrendous inequity whereby a few hundred people possess half of Earth’s wealth as more than one billion live on less than $1.50/day is evil incarnate and will kill us all.

The vision

Exponential economic growth on a finite Earth can only end in collapse. Humanity must embrace a steady state economy – whereby the increment of natural capital harvested is replenished annually – or being ends.

The human family will only avert biosphere collapse if we choose to live more simply, share more with others, go back to the land, have fewer kids, protect and restore ecosystems, grow more of our own food, end fossil fuels, and embrace social justice and love.

Large and connected natural ecosystems must remain the context for human society. Human settlements must exist within the limits of their bioregions, linking human being with local ecological constraints.

Those that are smarter and work harder will still have more, but not grotesquely so. Basic needs of all of humanity, natural ecosystems, and kindred species will be met. The challenge of our time is to quickly embrace these necessities while remaining free, and extending the benefits of an economically secure and free existence to all of Earth’s inhabitants.

Failure in efforts to promote smaller families, end fossil fuels, and to restore natural ecosystems will mean worsening widespread ecological havoc, mass death and the bad sort of anarchy, before humanity and Earth drop into nothingness.

The transition

A better life than endless consumption of toxic crap that kills ourselves and others is possible. It requires returning to the life-giving envelope of natural ecosystems and valuing experience over stuff. Much is already known regarding proven techniques to live and work more sustainably, educate yourself and start transitioning your family to live more lightly upon Earth.

We each must seek to go back to the land. More of our subsistence will have to come from what we can produce from the land and soil and sun and hard labor. The future of work lies in permaculture, regenerative enterprises, and creative self-expression that nurture learning and human evolution.

The Jeffersonian vision of agrarian democracy requires living full healthy lives upon the land, from the fruit of our own hands and minds, while rejecting authoritarianism and its pernicious hate, bigotry, and scapegoating. We must join with others in our community to re-localize our existences, as we fully embrace the global family.

For capitalism to have any future as we mobilize to avoid biosphere collapse, a global carbon tax that seeks to rapidly phase out fossil fuels, and de-industrialization of all activities that negatively impact the biosphere, will prove essential. Otherwise industrial capitalism will have to swiftly be replaced at any cost.

In America and the world we are already witnessing the rise of authoritarian demagoguery in response to rising scarcity. The charlatan nature of such political thought must be outed as we commit to green liberty and transitioning to socially just ecological sustainability. Together let’s make it so.

 

** Dr. Glen Barry has written Earth Meanders essays for over a decade.

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28 Responses

  1. Forty years ago, Americans measured economic wealth by how much we were saving. There used to be Public Service Announcements on TV encouraging us to save! Now, a savings account earns minimal interest and we look at the Consumer Spending Index as a measure of success. We can’t fix this post-industrial problem until we become a post-consumerist society.

  2. Julia (Jill) Dalton says:

    We are the only species stupid enough, narcissistic enough, so bloated with hubris and self importance that we would destroy the very planet that sustains us and gives us life.

  3. ralph mcrae says:

    I know it’s hardly worth the effort anymore, but I still have guys coming at me demanding proof for climate change.

    One of em (no surprise) is an investment analyst. I’m wondering if the last good chance to save us from destruction was back in 07, when all the bankers were afraid of total financial collapse! In retrospect, it would have been the best thing that could have ever happened…for most of us.

  4. Diane says:

    Dr. Barry,

    I am in full agreement with your assessment of the worlds future in what is wrong and how we can fix it.

    The image of a steady-state economy is inspiring. Some of the doom and gloom can be a turn off.

    Capitalism, to capitalize at the expense of you fellow humans seems to me a bad idea.

    As I have said to you before, your work is sorely needed to remind us of what we need to do.

    My work now centers on the mass media and how the main-stream press is not free. It is owned. And the only way to change how we humans think is to fix our broken communication system which now goes to the highest bidder.

    All the best in your good work.

  5. Marc says:

    Yeah it’s too late to reverse negative developments. The amount of energy stored in the oceans is equivalent to an explosion of an atomic bomb every three seconds during a very very long time.If stopping to produce CO2 this moment, it still takes between 40 and a 1000 years to retain a balanced situation.Be good and kind to eacht other.No one can escape.(Hope neither NASA).Emeritus prof. McPherson estimates the end is at plm 2030

  6. Marc says:

    We are dead already.The last ones that notice is us

  7. Les W Kuzyk says:

    People are crisis managers, and when crisis becomes recognized my play out in various scenarios.

    Here are some speculations, and more coming.
    https://0urnearfuture.wordpress.com/books-and-short-stories-2/

  8. The Military Industrial Complex and HAARP are controlling the jet stream and the weather. They are spraying us with aluminum, barium and strontium, lead and mercury. Chemical trails sprayed from planes. Look Up. The spraying is interfering with the normal activity of the sun. Trees and animal species are dying. Forests are burning up. Asthma, Alzheimers, Autism and ADHD are on the rise. Also Parkinsons and Lou Gerrings Disease. The elite (Illuminati…Agenda 21) have underground bunkers built, while we will have to face the ongoing global warming which they are making worse with their geo-engineering, as they say it is to cool the planet. They are making it worse. They want to reduce the population.The ice is melting to almost nothing in the Arctic as we speak. Methane gas is releasing into the atmosphere. They now want to rape the Arctic as they have with the rest of the planet. Let’s join in the fight. For more reliable info go to: https://www.facebook.com/dane.wigington.geoengineeringwatch.org

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely right on. And a travesty that so many are blind to this. I’m educating people every day (nicely) but it’s so much like the ‘twilight zone’, people don’t want to believe it.

  9. Unfortunately, nothing is organic anymore. We have another battle to fight first. The Military Industrial Complex is spraying Aluminum, Barium and Strontium into the atmosphere, from above, around the globe. Some refer to them as chemical trails. Look up.They say it is to help cool the planet, to reflect back the suns rays. But they are creating a heat box. Along with HAARP they are controlling the jet stream and weather. They are trying to kill us off. Trees and species are dying. The forest are burning. Monsanto has developed Aluminum resistant seeds…hmmm. Wash your fruits and vegetables! Let’s work together and fight. Go to this reliable site for more information https://www.facebook.com/dane.wigington.geoengineeringwatch.org

  10. ivan olivieri says:

    siete qui’ per salvare la terra cioe’ per salvare gli esseri umani con tutta la natura che intorno vive,,,,e la cosa piu’ bella che potete fare,,,,grazie

  11. zerihun kassa says:

    unless the human species learn to manage its endless luxury destructive demand the plant will continue to heat and eventually will destroy the human race with all its wish!

  12. Good job describing our situation and the transition needed. I agree with those who see capitalism as a problem and those who see how powerful our foe is but disagree with those who choose to ignore the possibility for a better future. I also think we cannot ignore money because money has as much if not more to do with power as it does economics. The money power has been in the hands of private money lenders for centuries now and they have directed the flows of human enterprise and industrialization. Thus, along with all the disbursed regenerative systems we need to implement we also need to take the money power away from these private companies who control our money supply for personal gain and are heavily invested in social management (media & schooling) that we pay for our own enslavement. To begin with every nation must reclaim its monetary/economic/political sovereignty and issue money based on care for the people, investing in more secure disbursed systems of human habitation. We are all in the same boat as Greece, controlled by debt created out of thin air and this requires a political electoral revolution to change the power structure that we may pursue a more humane existence in harmony with our planet.

  13. Anonymous says:

    We the masses have to take a radical turn, those few at tje top won’t. The thing is that most pwiple wont act until its too late. today there many organisations, community groups and individuals that have clear visions about the world we want, how can we articulate this.into one movement? We cant keep pointing out the problems or possible solutions…we need to act!

    • Howard Switzer says:

      Anonymous, I agree that the many need to get more organized and united into a movement. I once helped for a Peace and Justice Center, it was comprised of some 30 non-profits, each with its own issue, each a symptom of the overall problem. I could see that they all connected at the top, all required money and government action to make the change they desired. This is why I became a member of the Green Party, the problem is a political issue. The root of the problem is that money is created and controlled by a private monopoly instead of being a function of public government. People believe government creates the money, it does not, and those who do are only interested in personal gain not public benefit. Any government that does not create the money is controlled by those who do. And those who do don’t care about the numerous negative impacts on the world this system causes, poverty, concentration of wealth, wars, pollution, violence, hunger, poor health and systems that don’t really work to benefit the many but only benefit the few. Unfortunately the Green Party too is distracted by the many symptomatic issues and is unable to focus on the problem. I am working on changing that…..help!

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