Friday, May 31, 2013

Contending Economic Theories

The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist ~ John Maynard Keynes

Economics – It is a subject that for many seem as dry & distant as they come, but as elucidated by the quote above economics is a discipline – whether we are conscious of it or not – which fundamentally rules our minds, social structures and even the most miniscule aspects of our lives. Like a puppeteer or a wizard hiding behind a curtain the particular variety of economic logic which happens to inundate us is very much a determinant of what we think of as possible (and impossible), how we treat (or maltreat) one another (as well as other forms of life) and even how we conceive of our own self-worth and that of our peers.

Like the air we breath, we are so inextricably intertwined with economics that we often spend a great portion of our lives – or their entirety – completely unaware of the strings that are subtlety pulling us this way and that and how these processes can if blindly followed steer us away from solutions & insights that may very well be the key to greater liberty, prosperity and social progress.

Like a lense, the brand of economic logic we may identify with, or have been indoctrinated by, can narrow our views to such an extent that when we encounter perspectives outside of those we have been inculcated over our lives as being "right" extraordinarily strong emotions can ensue. From a Cold War which on more than one occasion brought humanity to the edge of nuclear annihilation*, to a practically endless stream of the real kind, the potential for a given group, tribe or nation to become lost in their particular brand of economic jingoism can become so pervasive that their ability to engage in dispassionate open dialog and rational evidence-based analysis can all too easily be compromised.

As is becoming obvious with the confluence of ecological, social and economic crises humanity now faces, we as a species are still far from understanding & solving the myriad of issues we collectively face and why in this day and age it is all the more important for all of us to open our minds to as wide a berth of perspectives as possible in order to expand & progress our thinking if we will have any hope of rising to the challenges before us.

To that end, this next excellent podcast from economist Richard Wolff discusses the dominant and often contending economic theories that have brought us to today and how each – if not dogmatically adhered to – can offer an array of alternative lenses in coming to a more complete understanding of the tumultuous world we currently occupy as well as arm us with a much expanded & potent toolkit for crafting – for the whole of humanity – a world of greater abundance & equality.

NOTE: If you are unable to see the audio player above you can download the podcast by clicking HERE.

If you enjoyed this podcast and are interested in exploring this subject further I highly recommend picking up a copy of Richard Wolff's and Stephen A. Resnick's book, "Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian":

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Paradise Reborn

According to extensive scientific research by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)*, each year 12 million hectares (approx. 29.6 million acres) of arable & forested land is being lost to "desertification" – that is the process by which fertile land becomes desert, typically as a result of drought, deforestation, climate destabilization and/or unsustainable agricultural practices.

This represents an amount of territory equivalent to the country of Bulgaria and which annually could produce 20 million tonnes of grain. Since this loss is compounding – 12 million hectares the first, 24 the second, 36 etc. – since 1950 we have now experienced land degradation totaling 1.9 billion hectares* (4.7 billion acres) which is only slightly less than the combined land masses of the United States and Europe.

With global populations still well on the rise and already one-and-a-half billion human beings dependent on degrading lands for their survival*, the pressures for social unrest, resource-related wars, species-wide extinction and environmental collapse are rapidly intensifying and will likely spare no nation as conflicts inevitably bubble over pulling those who remain in the periphery into the fray*.

As alarming as these trends are if left to metastasize – and as lucidly explained by these next amazing videos – we now quite surprisingly already possess the technical know-how as well as the resources if intelligently allocated to fully reverse desertification if we so choose.

If these techniques are comprehensively & swiftly applied, this could mean halting global temperature increases, restoring vast stretches of land to nature, reforming our fossil-fuel intensive industrial farming practices with ecologically sustainable alternatives*, restoring water & food security and in so doing for the first time make major inroads in solving the myriad of real-world planetary-wide crises we presently face.

Possessed with the knowledge that we do have the means to overcome these critical issues at their source – and by doing so a world of abundance far & above anything that exists today could be made a reality – what possible excuses can we now seriously entertain when the grim alternative is to deliver us, our children and grandchildren into a world of needless suffering?

Green Gold

... if you enjoyed this special and are interested in viewing John D. Liu's documentary excerpted above here it is in its entirety:

Hope in a Changing Climate

... and lastly, this phenomenal TED talk from Allan Savory brings even more hopeful evidence to bear on what we can now do if we upgrade our thinking to come into alignment with the interwoven life systems here on Earth:

Allan Savory: How to Green the World's Deserts and Reverse Climate Change.

Related to this topic see Dan Barber: How I Fell in Love with a Fish.