Citizen Action Monitor

Are Ottawa’s ideas about the economy, environment and climate dangerously ill-informed?

Contributions by two leading experts on the unrealistic expectation of perpetual GDP growth suggests the Liberals don’t know what they’re talking about.

No 2221 Posted by fw, May 22, 2018

I am in the process of writing to Canada’s leading online progressive news and information outlets and environmental organizations. My purpose is to try to persuade them to become familiar with the “big picture” contributions of Dr. Nate Hagens of the University of Minnesota, and the brilliant Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French engineering consultant, energy and climate expert.

Once exposed to the information-rich, evidence-based “big picture” analysis by these two experts, I am hopeful Canada’s leading progressive voices will see the gaping flaws in the thinking of PM Trudeau, Finance Minister Morneau, Climate Minister McKenna, and Natural Resources Minister Carr (and Alberta Premier Notley).

I have never attempted anything like this before and have no idea how my message will be received, and what influence, if any, it will have on progressive leaders. I was motivated to do this by Dr Hagen’s “What to Do” advice for Individuals: “Be a ‘sleeper’ leader/anchor for the future. Be ready to engage when the world needs your knowledge.” What I want to share is the knowledge mastered by Hagens and Jancovici.

Here is a copy of the form letter I will be sending, but specifically tailored for the recipient.



By way of an introduction, my name is Frank White, resident of Windsor, ON. I publish/edit a website, Citizen Action Monitor, featuring a variety of topics of personal interest. Most of my pieces are reposts of articles/videos I’ve read/watched and to which I have added my own comments. (For more about me, see my website).

I want to thank you for your efforts to keep Canadians responsibility informed about the increasingly worrying human predicament.

With respect, I suggest that one of the problems plaguing almost all mainstream, and even progressive online news reporting, is that they reflect a micro, silo-thinking mentality which can be overly simplistic and misleading, leaving a fragmented, confused public without a relevant, “big picture” understanding of our eco-societal situation.

Although there are some big-picture voices out there, they have difficulty competing with mainstream media for the public’s attention. Moreover, big-picture messages are typically multi-faceted, complex and loaded with graphs and numerical data, posing a considerable cognitive challenge for a distracted public with other, more pressing matters on their minds.

It is in this context that I Implore you to become familiar with the contributions of just two of these shining lights: Dr. Nathan “Nate” Hagens, a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament, and the brilliant Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French engineering consultant, energy and climate expert.

Dr. Nate Hagens

Briefly, Hagens, 51, worked on Wall Street at Lehman Brothers and Salomon Brothers for 10 years before closing his own hedge fund in 2003 to develop a systems synthesis approach to the human predicament. The readings and lectures in his Honors seminar cover literature in systems ecology, energy and natural resources, thermodynamics, history, anthropology, human behavior, neuroscience, environmental science, sociology, economics, globalization/trade, and finance/debt with an overarching goal to give students a general understanding of how our human ecosystem functions as a whole. Such a systems overview is necessary, says Hagens, to see the opportunities and constraints relevant to our future from a realistic starting point.

Jean-Marc Jancovici

Jancovici’s informed vision is bold and therefore immediately rejected by politicians driven by the pursuit of GDP growth. Wikipedia offers this summary of his vision:

The whole economy of occidental countries is based on plentiful and cheap energy. 80% of the world’s energy consumption is derived from fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal). Oil and gas have reached their peak production and will become inexorably depleted.

GDP depends on the quantity of energy available; this is why economic growth, of European Union, for instance, will stop very soon to enter a phase of recession and social crisis.

On the other hand, burning these high-carbon fuels will cause the start of high climate change, non-reversible for a thousand years. He reminds us that the average earth temperature difference between the latest ice-age (c.10, 000 BC) and 1950 is around +5 °C. According to the IPCC, the temperature will rise by +3 °C or +4 °C between 1950 and 2100 if the biggest polluting countries do not respect their commitments to the COP 21. The consequences, such as water stress, starvation, mass migrations, and wars, would be catastrophic.

He recommends particularly that all coal powered stations should be decommissioned within 30 years. The carbon tax will be an essential tool to change the economy.

France needs to make a concerted effort to start re-structuring its old system moving to a decarbonized economy (thermal renovation of building, transformation of agriculture, construction of small cars, transformation of heavy industry, urban densification, etc.) This ambitious goal could be an example for Europe, and Europe could be an example for the world.

According to him, nuclear energy is a necessary evil to reduce climate change (there are far more victims of hydraulic energy, or coal, than of civil nuclear power). He also believes that renewable energies (Photovoltaic and wind energy) will not offset the decline of fossil energies to guaranty us the same living standard.


Below are links to presentations by both of these luminaries. I encourage you to become familiar with their contributions with a view to challenging the dangerously incomplete and misguided ideas about the economy, the environment and the climate being promoted by PM Trudeau, Finance Minister Morneau, Climate Minister McKenna, Natural Resources Minister Carr (and Alberta Premier Notley). In particular, please question their grasp of the significance of the relationship between energy and the economy.

Sources for Nate Hagens

1/ I suggest you start with Part 5 of my 5-part transcript of Hagens lecture Energy, Money and Technology and the Human Superorganism. In particular, scroll down to his Brief Summary; What’s NOT Likely to Happen; and So, What to Do. Here’s the Shortlink:

And here are Shortlinks to the other 4 parts on my website: Pt 1 // Pt 2  // Pt 3 // Pt 4

2/ Where are we going?  Nate Hagens at Kansas Wesleyan University April 23, 2018. Most economists and politicians expect – and rely on – the size of the global economy doubling in the next 25 years or so. Is this possible? Is it desirable? What will be the impacts if it happens? And if it doesn’t? We are unlikely to change significantly ahead of coming events, but we can begin a wider, more reality-based cultural conversation.

Sources for Jean-Marc Jancovici

1/ French engineer schools politicians on the physics of energy and resulting incidences on economics  (Jan 9, 2016) Jean-Marc Jancovici, a French engineer schools politicians with a sobering lecture on the physics of energy and the incidence on economics and climate change. The talk is in French but there are English subtitles superimposed. The subtitles are too long to allow readers to keep pace with the video; one solution is to use the PAUSE/PLAY controls to follow along at one’s own pace.

2/ Jancovici : Can we save energy, jobs and growth at the same time ? (Jan 30, 2018) The depletion of natural resources, with oil to start with, and the need for a stable climate, will make it harder and harder to pursue economic growth as we know it. It has now become urgent to develop a new branch of economics which does not rely on the unrealistic assumption of a perpetual GDP increase. In this Colloquium, Jancovici discusses a “physical” approach to economics which aims at understanding and managing the scaling back of our world economy.


I look forward to seeing an incorporation of the bold, novel, systems-thinking approach of Hagens and Jancovici in some of your organization’s future “big picture” coverage of these issues.

Kindest regards,

Frank White, etc.

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