Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

Take responsibility!

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 18, 2016

End the cycle of oppression and supression! – both by governments and market forces – be together with us and create a liveable future for all of us 🙂

Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

― Edward Abbey

One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.

― Carl Sagan

GDP is a statistical artifact of the mid-20th century. It was created to measure economic life at a time when national boundaries mattered greatly and when factory output was the core foundation of economic strength.

GDP was developed as an indicator during the Great Depression and a war planning tool during WWII, when the primary goal of the government was to stimulate industrial production. It became an official instrument of US economic policy in 1946 after its success as a utility during the war.

As days passed, what was developed as an indicator to measure market activity became a tool to measure economic wealth and human welfare, which was not what GDP was intended for. Interestingly, its creator, Simon Kuznets, warned the government about its limitations as early as 1934. Yet, his concerns went unheeded and we are still using a flawed tool to measure human welfare and well-being.

That said, GDP is a gross measure of total output. It doesn’t distinguish between productive and destructive activities. Proliferation of handguns, nuclear material, increasing fast food consumption, unsustainable credit card debt, stock market bubbles, depletion of natural resources etc “contribute” to a higher GDP.

GDP also assumes all growth is good growth. If we clear-cut a forest and sell the timber it adds to GDP in the current year but significantly reduces the chance the economy can have the same performance the future years. Put another way, GDP does not differentiate between depleting assets or generating incremental wealth.

Savings from energy-efficient devices counts as a negative for GDP growth, even though it is a positive for society. If a coal factory pollutes a river, the clean up is added to GDP, as is the health care cost. But clearly that is a negative for society, even as it is a positive for GDP.

Crime is great for GDP as it necessitates monetary transactions such as hiring guards, buying security systems, purchasing insurance, paying lawyers, building prisons, etc. All these are additive to GDP. But, since most of this economic activity is counter-active, GDP may be overstating the economic growth resulting from all this activity.

While having mothers work has had huge positive impacts on our GDP (since their income and spending now counts as monetary transactions), the GDP accounting implicitly diminishes the value of mothers’ economic activity they used to performed without monetary compensation.

Another example is that many communities used to receive goods/services of value outside the monetary system (e.g. clean water from a nearby stream) from the natural environment. GDP would not take into account the loss of those goods and services if the stream was destroyed by mining but would probably register the income from the raw material extraction.

The biggest challenge, however, is that no one number could possibly serve as a good measure of an economic system. Any statistic involves choices about what to measure, what to include, how to weight those inputs, and what to exclude.

GDP is a usual measure, but we rely on it far too much it to tell us things it cannot. It’s not a very good measure to understand development of a society. Growth is only one of the means to achieving development. Growth alone cannot produce development – it can only lead to material affluence, though we don’t know what the characteristics of that material affluence are.

Our economic growth is increasing at a rate that cannot be ecologically sustained. August 19 is Ecological Debt Day (EDD), also known as Earth Overshoot Day, marking the date when humanity’s resource consumption for the year exceeds Earth’s capacity to regenerate those resources that year. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. We will be operating in overshoot.

Ecological Debt Day is calculated by dividing the world biocapacity (the amount of natural resources generated by Earth that year), by the world Ecological Footprint (humanity’s consumption of Earth’s natural resources for that year), and multiplying by 365, the number of days in one Gregorian common calendar year.

Just as a bank statement tracks income against expenditures, Global Footprint Network measures humanity’s demand for and supply of natural resources and ecological services. And the data is sobering. Global Footprint Network estimates that approximately every eight months, we demand more renewable resources and C02 sequestration than what the planet can provide for an entire year.

There’s much more to do, of course. In particular, there’s more to do on the distributional side of the footprint challenge. Oxfam tells us that, sometime in 2016, the “global one percent” — to richest hundreth of the human population — will own half of everything on the planet. The exact date when this great event takes place is not knowable — the data isn’t good enough — but it’ll happen soon. And the day it does will be at least as important as Earth Overshoot Day 2016.

The vast and growing gap between rich and poor has been laid bare in a new Oxfam report showing that the 62 richest billionaires own as much wealth as the poorer half of the world’s population. The report calls for urgent action to deal with a trend showing that 1% of people own more wealth than the other 99% combined.

Oxfam said that the wealth of the poorest 50% dropped by 41% between 2010 and 2015, despite an increase in the global population of 400m. In the same period, the wealth of the richest 62 people increased by $500bn (£350bn) to $1.76tn. The charity said that, in 2010, the 388 richest people owned the same wealth as the poorest 50%. This dropped to 80 in 2014 before falling again in 2015.

World leaders’ concern about the escalating inequality crisis has so far not translated into concrete action to ensure that those at the bottom get their fair share of economic growth. In a world where one in nine people go to bed hungry every night, we cannot afford to carry on giving the richest an ever bigger slice of the cake.

On Planet Earth live almost seven billion people – but yearly we produce food that could feed 12 billion people. Half of this produce will be destroyed – food for potentially 6 billion people. And that mostly by the societies from the rich areas of the planet.

Growth and development are two different things. Development is not just about economic growth. It’s about building a good society. This good society is one where individuals are affluent, educated, highly skilled, healthy, and well fed, and do not face discrimination and political repression, and are not at the mercy of natural or man-made disasters.

Sustainable production and consumption can be defined as production and use of products and services in a manner that is socially beneficial, economically viable and environmentally benign over their whole life cycle.

Ecological cycles are the various self-regulating processes that recycle the earth’s limited resources; water, carbon, nitrogen, and other elements – that are essential to sustain life.

Understanding how local cycles fit into global cycles is essential to make the best possible management decisions to maintain ecosystem health and productivity for now and the future.

Empowerment is used for an accomplished state of self-responsibility and self-determination. It refers to measures designed to increase the degree of autonomy and self-determination in people and in communities in order to enable them to represent their interests in a responsible and self-determined way, acting on their own authority.

Empowerment refers both to the process of self-empowerment and to professional support of people, which enables them to overcome their sense of powerlessness and lack of influence, and to recognise and eventually to use their resources and chances.

I am opposing a social order in which it is possible for one man who does absolutely nothing that is useful to amass a fortune of hundreds of millions of dollars, while millions of men and women who work all the days of their lives secure barely enough for a wretched existence.

― Eugene V. Debs

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