Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Not the environment again…?

with 26 comments

No, indeed not. This post is about the financial crisis.

I have been taking some time to read through the latest set of pages on Schalk Cloete’s One in a Billion blog and came across an excellent animated video, which I believe deserves to be made mandatory viewing for all citizens of planet Earth who have never formally-studied economics (i.e. like me).

Schalk has produced a great series of posts, under the collective title of Collapse, which look at the interconnected nature of all our problems but, it has to be said, they are not for the faint-hearted. Schalk has a wonderful ability to speak plainly but, when the truth is spelt out to you so clearly, it is very challenging stuff.

However, if you are (or have been) as confused by the complexity of the financial services industry as I was; and don’t know what the difference is between a collateralized debt obligation and a credit default swap…

Just watch this – it explains a lot:-

As Schalk points out in “More profitable to speculate than to produce” (i.e. the page where I found this video embedded):

Just to avoid any confusion, I would immediately like to draw a clear distinction between speculators and investors. Investors put the money they have earned through the production of valuable goods and services into some investment fund and trusts that the people who get to use this money will put it to good use (producing even better goods and services) so that it generates a return. This is good and very necessary to make society prosper. Speculators, on the other hand, use a variety of rather bizarre financial vehicles to lever up their bets and manipulate the market so that the valuation of all kinds of assets and commodities fluctuates widely over time. The more volatile the valuation of assets and commodities becomes, the greater the potential to buy at cheap prices and sell at high prices, thereby making a killing every time.

What scares me most about all of this is that, just at the time where humanity is finally facing up to the reality of a problem it has been (more-or-less) collectively ignoring for over 50 years, the pyramid-selling scam that is the financial services industry has finally collapsed. Thus, just as Meadows et al (1972, 1992, and 2005) warned, it is now becoming increasingly self-evident that…
Our Earth is unable to cope with the rate at which we are polluting it.

We have spent decades denying that the Earth has a finite capacity to deal with our pollution; and now we have just run out of money to spend on solving the problem. Basically, we’ve screwed-up, big time. What we need is politicians willing to admit it. What we’ve got is politicians apparently still fixated on the need to stimulate our economies into growing again. What we need is politicians willing to spend money we don’t have (only governments and investment bankers can do this) on investing in the future – renewable energy. What we’ve got is politicians refusing to give up on the past – fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels are history. We need to move on. To do that, we must all connect the dots
(Apologies for misleading you – this post was about the environment after all.)


I posted this on Learning from Dogs yesterday but it seems apt here too:

No it is not. This is the World we have corrupted… And, if it does not make you either angry or sad, I think you must have mislaid your humanity (which is very careless of you).

26 Responses

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  1. I don’t want to boast, but my 2 sites are going deeper in the nature of the crisis than any other source I have come across, worldwide, by a long shot.

    One bottom line is that the very machine that creates money, the fractional reserve system, is itself oligarchic and plutocratic. It’s engaged in its own singularity, just like the CO2 (and both phenomena are entangled).

    Plutocracy thus constitutes its own singularity, and the environment it fosters is… hell, for want of a better word (it’s where Pluto dwells). It’s amusing too, seeing the machines taking over the so called “markets”, trading with each other. The lack of knowledge of physical sciences will lead to a proximal disaster, not just in the biosphere, but in finance and economy, directly.

    Patrice Ayme

    17 August 2012 at 06:31

    • With the greatest of respect, Patrice, your site may well be one of the deepest on the Internet but, as a result, it is not always very easy to fathom (or may be I am just shallow and/or dumb).

      Either way, before someone could tackle something like your blog, they may well need to watch something like this 11-minute video.

      However, as Paul Handover keeps reminding me, rather than endlessly re-stating the nature of the problem, we all need to offer people solutions.

      Good luck with that.

      Martin Lack

      17 August 2012 at 08:34

      • I do agree that my site(s) are difficult to read, not because I am not all fun and games, who I am, but because the concepts are often extremely difficult. I have seen the eyes of top research mathematicians get glassy as I got into the fractional reserve system (a highly non linear problem).

        Before finding a solution one has to find what the problem is. (Paul will certainly admit this.) There are actually plenty of solutions in my sites. From war in Libya (whom I was first to advocate on the Internet, months before BHL), to making a Manhattan style program for Thorium reactors, to colossal energy taxes, financial transaction tax (to put a speed limit on machine trades in finance, etc.) Taxing the plutocracy into submission is a basic request.

        The White House decided to do its own half baked health plan instead of the 5 minutes Medicare For All I advocated, etc. I persist and sign on that one, BTW.

        So I am full of solutions. Augmenting taxes on gasoline in the USA is a no brainer, just like the fact that the like of plutocrat Romney ought to pay more than 13% tax… A hard working lawyer can easily pay 60% tax in the largest metro areas in the USA such as NYC or SF Bay Area. Meanwhile some of the world’s richest people next door pay no tax. None.

        Unbelievable, and little known…

        Patrice Ayme

        17 August 2012 at 18:50

        • I have to agree with Martin that your comments are sometimes hard to read. But when I have taken the time to do so, I’ve always found myself agreeing with you. The difficulty is in the ‘taking the time’ part. Sometimes, less is more (yet, as you rightly point out in your last paragraph here, sometimes what should be more is, in reality, less).


          18 August 2012 at 21:31

    • What’s the link to your other Blog?

      Paul Handover

      19 August 2012 at 14:16

  2. It explains a lot but far from all. For the bigger picture (well some of it anyway) one needs to read through this The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many this What Uncle Sam Really Wants and this Secrets, Lies, and Democracy which are all sections from the book ‘How the World Works‘ which contains more.

    Those writings are not necessarily anti-America but more anti the ‘archs that exercise power through the real totalitarians that is the Multi-national, or rather Transnational corporations of whom the politicians are simply tools, Obama or Cameron, Mittney or Miliband. Where it is all about maximising profit at the expense of the costs of research and development in the public sector or devolving other costs onto the public sector. Such as having our NHS pick up the pieces when the public sector screws up or when a private security firms fail to deliver.

    For another edge read ‘Vultures’ Picnic‘ by Greg Palast.

    There is much more of course and one can go back into deep history, on a global basis (and I have done much of that) to discover how ‘The System’ evolved.

    Lionel A

    17 August 2012 at 16:49

    • Thanks Lionel. I am away from base for a few days but will take a look upon my return.

      Martin Lack

      17 August 2012 at 18:52

  3. One of your better posts, Martin. A nice top and tail, and well-crafted words between. I would urge anyone who’s reading my waffle down here without first having watched those two short videos up there to go back and do so.


    18 August 2012 at 21:39

  4. dear Pendantry: Thank you for the compliments. I have studied very long lots of the hardest math, physics and logic. Some of the concepts took me incredible efforts to master. Some comfort was found in realizing that it took humanity millennia to establish them. I long practiced difficult sports, such as deep diving (apnea) and mountaineering. I know that what is worthy, when first met, is hard.

    That does not mean that hard makes worthy, but that worthy means hard. Difficulty is the gate to worth. And that corresponds to the way I look at the mind. Complexity out there is reflected by the elaboration of complexity within the brain, and that takes a good deal of effort, and the more elaborated, the greater the effort.

    Patrice Ayme

    19 August 2012 at 03:10

  5. That was an excellent video (explanations of the credit crisis). Thank you, Martin.

    It’s incredible how, the “smarter” we think we are, the more trouble we seem to get ourselves into. We seem to have an inability to say “enough”. As a society, we always seem to take any idea or technology to its extreme. Whether it be thinking of ever-more complex financial schemes to make ever-more money. Or developing better and better technology to extract fossil fuels out of the most difficult places. Or just always wanting buy better and bigger “toys”.

    We need “help”!


    19 August 2012 at 13:29

    • While it’s a natural response to the present global ‘mess’ to seek help, I think most realise that open debate across the peoples of many nations is the only way to build the pressure for change to the point where even the politicians ‘want’ to join in!

      That’s why spreading thoughts, ideas and themes across the digital world of blogging is so important. (And your own blog is just one of many, many fine examples – and can’t wait to read your thesis by the way!)

      Paul Handover

      19 August 2012 at 14:24

    • There are two basic way of getting smarter:
      1) complexify what we already know.
      2) getting to know something else.
      We are clearly in case 2). The natural answer of oligarchies is to go for 1).

      Calling things by their name will be a good start. I will adress Nuclear Armed, Pussy Obsessed Tsar Putin on my site, followed by the Wikileaks situation, where Cameron exhibit the same madness of decapitaing dissent, whatever it takes.

      Patrice Ayme

      19 August 2012 at 17:08

      • Thanks Patrice. I look forward to reading both. Russia is so transparently a failed State. It is the world’s longest-running incomplete revolution – already into its second century. Julian Assange leaves me more confused; as I find some of his actions hard to justify. Nevertheless, despite all the protestations of Sweden’s Foreign Minister that they are not seeking to facilitate his extraordinary rendition to the USA, I do find myself inclined to believe the conspiracy theory explanation of events that says otherwise. Unfortunately, whatever it now does, it seems the UK has now got itself in a completely unnecessary diplomatic mess with no chance of a positive outcome.

        Martin Lack

        19 August 2012 at 18:16

        • I’m trying to write something on Assange too.

          A difficulty is the obviously disproportionate responses of the case. It makes it hard to talk about it, because the facts of government action look completely unbelievable.

          Since when is exactly what a guy decide to wear when having sex a matter of breaching 4,000 years of diplomatic protocol? First he said yes, then he said no, then there was consensual sex (SHE said) then SHE organizes a party for him, then SHE boasts about the great sex all over the Internet, and then the justice system intervenes, three days AFTER SHE organized said party? And she is a gender equity officer in Uppsala, and she has written a treaty on how to exact “revenge” on boyfriends, and she was arrested in Cuba for CIA connected activities?

          And since when is a European Arrest Warrant out, WITHOUT ANY charge? An EAW is a most serious thing. They have always been successful.

          Why don’t we arrest banksters instead? The conspiracy is blatant, for all to see. and that it precisely the idea: see we conspire for you all to admire and respect. Learn, little ones, your new world, where Big Brother does not just watch you, but will come to cage you, if you just did not tuck the sheets just right! Or whatever. In any case, tremble!

          So there is no confusion whatsoever. Just as Sweden collaborated with Hitler’s plutocracy, Sweden is collaborating with USA plutocracy. I guess giving all these Nobel prizes to the USA, for no good reason whatsoever, is not enough…

          Patrice Ayme

          19 August 2012 at 22:14

        • I agree with Assange that the USA needs to end its witch-hunt against Wikileaks (if it is having one); and I am concerned by the absence of a credible explanation from the Swedish judiciary as to why they cannot just interview Assange via Skype? Furthermore, I think Assange has good reason to be scared of ending up in the USA, as were others from here who have been extradited (young computer hacker and retired battery salesman).

          Martin Lack

          20 August 2012 at 09:05

    • Thanks for the feedback, JP. All thanks for the video should directed to Schalk. I do hope you have visited his blog for the full “course of treatment”?

      Martin Lack

      19 August 2012 at 17:58

  6. Patrice.

    Re. Assange.

    Noam Chomsky has pitched in with support and he is one astute observer.

    Here is just one of a number of video clips with a more recent article here Assange Is A True Democrat: Chomsky.

    Lionel A

    20 August 2012 at 10:40

  7. Sweden has refused to send a Swedish police official to interview Assange. Ms Anna Ardin is on the record everywhere saying the sex was consensual, and even taking umbrage at those who claim it may not have been. So what is she whining about? The fact he used the awe she had for him to remove the condom, and then still have a consensus? She wants her sex and condemn it?

    At some point reasonable people have to call crooks for what they are. It’s not because Hitler was talking about peace all the time that it was what he really wanted, or prepared. Quite the opposite. (And it’s not because Geek idiots say one should never learn form the Hitler experience that they are right!)

    I will look at Chomsky videos.

    Patrice Ayme

    20 August 2012 at 18:02

    • If Assange told her he was using a condom when he wasn’t, he is clearly a very unpleasant person; and deserves to be found guilty of sexual assualt.

      However, if that is true, why did the Swedish police drop the case; then pick it up again when the Wikileaks scandal flared-up?

      Martin Lack

      20 August 2012 at 18:51

      • The timing makes no sense: if she was unhappy with her consensual sex (she said!) with Assange, why did she organized a party for him, after boasting all over the Internet? And yes why did they accuse him of rape, then removed the accusation, then put an EAW on him for… talking?

        If they want to talk to him so bad, why don’t they go to him? Sure if Swedish police wanted to talk to me without telling me why and used an EAW for that, I would make a point not to cooperate. We are not slaves.

        Patrice Ayme

        21 August 2012 at 02:07

        • All very true and, like I said, now leaves the UK with no prospect of a positive outcome unless either Sweden or USA modify their position (no pun intended).

          Martin Lack

          21 August 2012 at 09:30

  8. That is a great video – it explains the problem in a down-to-earth manner, which I think is absolutely vital. If you want the rest of the population to learn about an issue and therefore create the capacity to change things, information needs to be accessible and easy to understand. There’s no point speaking in heavy jargon – like many people who talk about this subject do – as the only real way to change things is to speak to EVERYONE. Jargon creates a closed community which shuns others from taking part – how can that ever do any good?

    I find by far the best video to start people off is this one by the Post Carbon Institute. It’s clever, creative, funny and very watchable. As you say about the video above, everyone should watch it:

    The Contemporary Caveman

    14 September 2012 at 09:56

    • Dear Contemporary Caveman, thanks for following my blog and for commenting here. I can only thank Schalk Cloete onece again for bringing that financial crisis video to my attention. As for the PCI, if you select it from the Category list in the right-hand window, you will see that the “Who Killed Economic Growth” video has been posted on this site numerous times (and not always by me) since this time last year. I agree with you, everyone should watch it (and I never get tired of watching it).

      Martin Lack

      14 September 2012 at 10:27

      • Ah, I had not dug deep enough into your blog to see any PCI material, apologies! I’m fairly new to this game (learning about environmental issues) and I’m gaining more new knowledge everyday. I’m not from an ‘environmental’ background originally, and it was actually Richard Heinberg’s/PCI’s work (along with a healthy appetite for Robert Newman’s eco/political comedy) that convinced me that this is what I – and everyone else – should be taking part in. I’m now starting a MSc in Environmental Governance next week and very much looking forward to a future in the field and making a difference!

        I’ll be making sure I keep up-to-date with your blog, it’s a real fountain of knowledge!

        The Contemporary Caveman

        14 September 2012 at 11:25

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