What schools, what education should be, in a natural order world, is not how do we get children to be what we want them to be, but how do we get the best and the potential out of every child in their unique sense and unique self… but like I say, we live in an inversion and so we get the opposite of that… Have you noticed how they say, these politicians about education, “We must prepare children for the workplace.” - In other words, we must prepare unique expressions of ‘All That Is, Has Been And All That Can Ever Be’, to be a cog in a friggin’ machine for the rest of their bloody life - the system should fit us, we should not fit the system.
As we celebrate Earth Day today, we are reminded of a powerful reason to buy American: the out-of-control pollution in China.
It’s not only the cheap, non-union labor in China that is drawing manufacturers to the country. It’s also the lack of environmental protection standards that much of the developed world has set for companies. When a business can destroy the air, land, and water in pursuit of profit, then we all suffer in the long run. Not to mention that it is a completely unsustainable business model.
“My second concern is to articulate that, when all is said and done, the issue raised by Bamako is not a purely African issue. It is bigger than Africa. We’re talking about the world of money, the power of money. And if today, the prejudice of this world of money… Because globalization is about how we can make more money, and how quickly. It isn’t about trying to embrace one another as quickly as possible and give everyone kisses. This is not globalization. And this needs to be made clear. So it’s very important for me that people understand that today it is not feasible to continue depriving part of the world of its wealth to make the rest more wealthy. If the consequences of this are clear in Africa today, it’s because Africa is weaker, and so the repercussions are visible. But the West, too, will have to pay the consequences of this world view, this money-centered ethic.”
Abderrahmane Sissako talking about the motivation for his film Bamako (2006).
This world we live in can be a spooky place, and all we wanted to do was remind them that spooky gets the big headlines, but the planet is actually filled with people who are doing their best to make the world less spooky.
Imperialism is not a stage, not even the highest stage, of capitalism: from the beginning, it is inherent in capitalism’s expansion. The imperialist conquest of the planet by the Europeans and their North American children was carried out in two phases and is perhaps entering a third.
The first phase of this devastating enterprise was organized around the conquest of the Americas, in the framework of the mercantilist system of Atlantic Europe at the time. The net result was the destruction of the Indian civilizations and their Hispanicization-Christianization, or simply the total genocide on which the United States was built. The fundamental racism of the Anglo-Saxon colonists explains why this model was reproduced elsewhere, in Australia, in Tasmania (the most complete genocide in history), and in New Zealand. For whereas the Catholic Spaniards acted in the name of the religion that had to be imposed on conquered peoples, the Anglo-Protestants took from their reading of the Bible the right to wipe out the “infidels.” The infamous slavery of the Blacks, made necessary by the extermination of the Indians—or their resistance—briskly took over to ensure that the useful parts of the continent were “turned to account.” No one today has any doubt as to the real motives for all these horrors or is ignorant of their intimate relation to the expansion of mercantile capital.
The second phase of imperialist devastation was based on the industrial revolution and manifested itself in the colonial subjection of Asia and Africa. “To open the markets"—like the market for opium forced on the Chinese by the Puritans of England—and to seize the natural resources of the globe were the real motives here, as everyone knows today. But again, European opinion—including the workers’ movement of the Second International—did not see these realities and accepted the new legitimizing discourse of capital. This time, it was the famous “civilizing mission.” […] The second phase of imperialism is at the origin of the greatest problem with which mankind has ever been confronted: the overwhelming polarization that has increased the inequality between peoples from a maximum ratio of two to one around 1800, to sixty to one today, with only 20 percent of the earth’s population being included in the centers that benefit from the system. At the same time, these prodigious achievements of capitalist civilization gave rise to the most violent confrontations between the imperialist powers that the world has ever seen. Imperialist aggression again produced the forces that resisted its project: the social revolutions that took place in Russia and China (not accidentally all occurred within the peripheries that were victims of the polarizing expansion of really existing capitalism) and the revolutions of national liberation. Their victory brought about a half-century of respite, the period after the Second World War, which nourished the illusion that capitalism, compelled to adjust to the new situation, had at last managed to become civilized.
Today we see the beginnings of a third wave of devastation of the world by imperialist expansion, encouraged by the collapse of the Soviet system and of the regimes of populist nationalism in the Third World. The objectives of dominant capital are still the same—the control of the expansion of markets, the looting of the earth’s natural resources, the superexploitation of the labor reserves in the periphery—although they are being pursued in conditions that are new and in some respects very different from those that characterized the preceding phase of imperialism.
The research project is based on a new cross-disciplinary ‘Human And Nature DYnamical’ (HANDY) model, led by applied mathematician Safa Motesharri of the US National Science Foundation-supported National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, in association with a team of natural and social scientists. The study based on the HANDY model has been accepted for publication in the peer-reviewed Elsevier journal, Ecological Economics.
It finds that according to the historical record even advanced, complex civilisations are susceptible to collapse, raising questions about the sustainability of modern civilisation:
“The fall of the Roman Empire, and the equally (if not more) advanced Han, Mauryan, and Gupta Empires, as well as so many advanced Mesopotamian Empires, are all testimony to the fact that advanced, sophisticated, complex, and creative civilizations can be both fragile and impermanent.”
Evolution of Civilisations: Prelude to Collapse (1)
By investigating the human-nature dynamics of these past cases of collapse, the project identifies the most salient interrelated factors which explain civilisational decline, and which may help determine the risk of collapse today: namely, Population, Climate, Water, Agriculture, and Energy.
These factors can lead to collapse when they converge to generate two crucial social features: “the stretching of resources due to the strain placed on the ecological carrying capacity”; and “the economic stratification of society into Elites [rich] and Masses (or “Commoners”) [poor]” These social phenomena have played “a central role in the character or in the process of the collapse,” in all such cases over “the last five thousand years.”
Evolution of Civilisations: Prelude to Collapse (2)
Currently, high levels of economic stratification are linked directly to overconsumption of resources, with “Elites” based largely in industrialised countries responsible for both:
“… accumulated surplus is not evenly distributed throughout society, but rather has been controlled by an elite. The mass of the population, while producing the wealth, is only allocated a small portion of it by elites, usually at or just above subsistence levels.”
The study challenges those who argue that technology will resolve these challenges by increasing efficiency:
“Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but it also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use.”
Productivity increases in agriculture and industry over the last two centuries has come from “increased (rather than decreased) resource throughput,” despite dramatic efficiency gains over the same period.
Modelling a range of different scenarios, Motesharri and his colleagues conclude that under conditions “closely reflecting the reality of the world today… we find that collapse is difficult to avoid.” In the first of these scenarios, civilisation:
“…. appears to be on a sustainable path for quite a long time, but even using an optimal depletion rate and starting with a very small number of Elites, the Elites eventually consume too much, resulting in a famine among Commoners that eventually causes the collapse of society. It is important to note that this Type-L collapse is due to an inequality-induced famine that causes a loss of workers, rather than a collapse of Nature.”
Another scenario focuses on the role of continued resource exploitation, finding that “with a larger depletion rate, the decline of the Commoners occurs faster, while the Elites are still thriving, but eventually the Commoners collapse completely, followed by the Elites.”
In both scenarios, Elite wealth monopolies mean that they are buffered from the most “detrimental effects of the environmental collapse until much later than the Commoners”, allowing them to “continue ‘business as usual’ despite the impending catastrophe.” The same mechanism, they argue, could explain how “historical collapses were allowed to occur by elites who appear to be oblivious to the catastrophic trajectory (most clearly apparent in the Roman and Mayan cases).”
Applying this lesson to our contemporary predicament, the study warns that:
“While some members of society might raise the alarm that the system is moving towards an impending collapse and therefore advocate structural changes to society in order to avoid it, Elites and their supporters, who opposed making these changes, could point to the long sustainable trajectory ‘so far’ in support of doing nothing.”
However, the scientists point out that the worst-case scenarios are by no means inevitable, and suggest that appropriate policy and structural changes could avoid collapse, if not pave the way toward a more stable civilisation.
The two key solutions are to reduce economic inequality so as to ensure fairer distribution of resources, and to dramatically reduce resource consumption by relying on less intensive renewable resources and reducing population growth:
“Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion.”
The NASA-funded HANDY model offers a highly credible wake-up call to governments, corporations and business – and consumers – to recognise that ‘business as usual’ cannot be sustained, and that policy and structural changes are required immediately.
Although the study is largely theoretical, a number of other more empirically-focused studies – by KPMG and the UK Government Office of Science for instance – have warned that the convergence of food, water and energy crises could create a ‘perfect storm’ within about fifteen years. But these ‘business as usual’ forecasts could be very conservative.