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It is now imperative that we quickly find our way to a steady-state economy

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Our current social order is no longer sustainable. Our economic system is based on a tragically flawed set of premises, namely that we can extract all we want from the environment, pump all the waste we want into it, and make most of our wealth, as a nation, by speculating financially. An oversimplification? Yes. But it refers to an important and dangerous trend which will here be laid out and explored.

We are taught to assume that our societies must forever continue to grow both in numbers of persons and amount of consumption. But this is a monstrous lie. Why so? Simply because the world is finite and we have already greatly exceeded the amount of resource consumption that is compatible with our continued avoidance of economic and ecological collapse. Explanation: This avoidance of economic and ecological collapse requires that the functioning of our society does not threaten the existence of the vast majority of the biota biota on which we are totally dependent. As things stand now, however, the way our political-economic system is arranged, and the consumption it promotes even requires -- has already triggered the sixth great extinction event, and is in the process of precipitating the economic and ecological collapse we had hoped to avoid.

What is ironic about this is that we are one of the species that is now threatened in this sixth great extinction event. This is because our existence depends, as already stated, on the basic biotic arrangement that has existed for the last many million years, and we are destroying much of that biota and causing the rest of it to undergo major rearrangements. In short, our actions have set in motion slow but inexorable forces that will accelerate the degradation of the natural world on which we are so dependent.

That may well take many centuries to fully play out, but what will happen very much sooner is that we will loose our capacity to do the kind and amount of economic work that has been the hallmark of modern civilization, and upon which our civilization utterly depends.

Here's how it will happen: Our world, even the less developed nations, runs on fossil fuels and our available supply of fossil fuels is starting to decline. Oil is declining at an alarming rate and oil is the kingpin fossil energy source. Why? Because it takes diesel fuel to mine and transport coal. Hence, all fossil fuel energy sources will go into decline with the shortage of oil and diesel, even though there will still be lots of fossil fuels left in the ground.

And because of this, our current form of social organization, our forms of governance, our economic processes, and our approaches to education of the younger generations cannot continue for much longer. We are therefore on the verge of a kind of social and economic collapse that will probably come within the next decade.

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Several Keynesian economists, most notably Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, have called for more and massive spending on job creation to thereby put money into the pockets of people who will go out and buy more stuff. But think about this in terms of the already excessive consumption we have already seen to be leading to economic and ecological collapse. In the face of this potential collapse (from excessive consumption), how then can the so-called health of our economy be viewed, by these economists and just about everyone else, as being based on the growth of consumption?! "If we don't consume enough," their reasoning goes, "there won't be enough work for other people, to make the stuff (or services) that we want. Then there will be more people out of work, less spending, etc."

What kind of corner have we painted ourselves into here?

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Several years after receiving my M.A. in social science (interdisciplinary studies) I was an instructor at S.F. State University for a year, but then went back to designing automated machinery, and then tech writing, in Silicon Valley. I've (more...)

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