Originally published sometime in October, 2012
We are headed towards a multi-polar world. While this phenomenon is good from a lot of different perspectives, it does have some costs associated with it.
Now, these costs are very tangible, as with the rise of global consumerism, the price for virtually everything goes up. It starts with oil as the engine of global growth and it then has a ripple effect on everything from food, to lumber, metals, precious metals, uranium to tons of other commodities. Plus the consumption necessitates increased cycles of industrialization and with our current mechanisms of production, it equals into increased carbon emissions.
The ‘engine’ that is driving this consumption is the global growth itself. As billions are lifted from poverty and towards a better life. This phenomenon is rapidly picking up pace in the BRIC countries and thenext eleven will soon follow.
One can kind of extrapolate what this phenomenon means for everyone with GDP’s and standard of living rising for billions of people. There is going to be an impact of sorts on the G-20 countries and it’s inhabitants, but between the predictions from Jeff Rubin and James Wolfensohn, I am not entirely sure what the true quantitative impact would really be. Also, one of the major points to consider is that we haven’t really seen the full impact of globalization due to the economic lull since 2008.
* Before we get into the details, it’s a fairly common observation that in order to grow economies of scale you need energy. That is why I decided to start this blog-post and it’s title with a focus on energy. Part of the same observation is that our world runs on Oil. If the production of oil gets substantially impacted due to any given reason, then the repercussions for the world economy would be disastrous. Actually it reminds me of the article that Asimov wrote, titled the Nightmare Life without Fuel. Too bad Time Magazine requires a subscription to view this article. But like I said, the predictions (by Asimov) were nothing short of dire/end of the world kind of scenario.
In terms of a litmus test: Now maybe this is a really crude mechanism, but generally I just compare theBaltic Dry Index with the Price of Oil and I’m thinking that we should get ready for some serious turbulence in the immediate future. That is, when the global economy eventually picks up steam.
But before that, there are a couple of very dynamic changes occurring. These changes, might offset the repercussions when it comes to the rising cost of commodities. Oil being the first and foremost amongst all of them. Also, a very crucial element to consider is that if the cost of oil in particular keeps increasing the way it has been increasing, then it has the potential to further wreak havoc with most of the developed (nascent recovery) economies.
Specific to the topic of dynamic changes, the key points to consider are:
There are also some really interesting news item, such as the one about China and it’s aspiration for putting a man on the moon by 2024. China wants to mine the moon for Helium 3 link While it appears that mining the moon for Helium 3 and then shipping it back to earth will not be that sustainable by conventional methods. Nonetheless, it will set the precedent for setting up a lunar colony and then potentially venture out further in space for mining other minerals (by mining asteroids e.t.c). link and link
So like I said, really dynamic mix and the possibilities are indeed endless. But there needs to be a collective will to wean ourselves off of fossil fuels and then using our imagination to think of the possibilities. Off topic, but I am increasingly beginning to believe that a lot of the crisis-es come to existence due to a) a collective failure of our imagination and b) failure as a result of the very institutions and experts that we have created. And how major decisions that have the potential to impact hundreds of millions or lives (quality of) are made by one or two expert analysts! –> without any kind of consensus from a wider body. One genius can maybe think of a majority of the possibilities, but they will always miss one or two crucial aspects of the Big Picture. Better to consult with the crowd for some of these perplexing problems. c) Failure of these institutions because they were not designed to handle the growth of 7 billion inhabitants? These very failures have resulted into these institutions (I don’t even know what these institutions are btw) using weird tactics. But that’s a different blog-post.
There are answers hidden in the collective human intellect and maybe even the collective human consciousness. But the various systems and mechanisms we have designed, never even allow these questions get out of those very systems! So how can we expect to find answers? In short, I see bad systems design (systems thinking) which leads to bad policies, which leads to really bad problems. But on the flip side I also see how Technology (the Internet) is bringing people together and how institutions of various kinds are leveraging technology and systems (crowdsourcing) to find answers to question that they have been unable to fix inside the firewall. I truly hope this trend of global collaboration, transparency, problem solving continues and that it gives birth to a culture of global honesty.
* The next portion of this blog-post was supposed to evolve into the topic of prosperity. But that too is a very wide and varied topic, involving a dynamic mix. In an ideal world, prosperity itself, doesn’t just have to do with growing economies of scale and increasing net exports. Actually, I am getting tired (lol), but I am reminded of this one talk by Hans Rosling at the Ted Talks. It manages to harness how the entire world is doing in that respect, as Hans talks about poverty and how the world is digging itself out of this menace. link. The part I like the most about this talk is the enormous positive changes going on in Africa.
* The last topic that I wanted to focus on was, the Carbon Footprint. One of the fundamental dichotomies if not the most fundamental, is for the species to tackle this problem. It’s a dichotomy, because we need to grow economies but it doesn’t need to come at the expense of destroying the environment. So that is why it is very important to wean off of fossil fuels, to stop, stall and then reverse deforestation, to protect our fresh water systems, to stop the loss of Eco-systems and subsequently the loss of the millions (yes millions) of other species that inhabit the planet along with us and that have also evolved with us for hundreds of millions of years. Some have proposed that the only way for this to occur is for the human race to go back to a hunterer-gatherer era. I don’t think so. Rather, we just need to make sure that our actions and the industrial growth is sustainable. We can certainly develop the technology to get us there, but it’d need a collective will before that happens. It’s really not a wide scale conspiracy that the impending threat of climate change and the impact of non-sustainable industrialization continues to be ignored. But it rather has everything to do with how the circuitry in our brains is just not wired in a way (anymore), that would allow us to acknowledge and act against these threats. link
A massive, wide scale shift in consciousness is required, unfortunately I am not sure how that is going to be accomplished at this time.
Maybe, this is really it. By just talking to each other openly and honestly.