Citizen Action Monitor

Fossil fuels, NOT economic theories, caused the past 150-years of rapid economic growth – Nate Hagens (7)

We’re beginning to see that the theories don’t offer much predictive reliability for a coming global economy.

No 2290 Posted by fw, June 5, 2018

To access links to all other posts in this series, click on the Tab titled “Where Are We Going? by Dr. Nate Hagens” in the top left margin. 

“The modern human ecosystem can be simply described. We use technology to convert energy and materials into products measured in dollars. We turn the dollars/products into neurotransmitters (feelings) + waste/impact. … because of one-time inputs on geologic time scales, we’ve experienced continual economic growth for over a century. The constant growth we’ve experienced was correlated with human inventions and economic theories, but the cause was finding a bolus [dose] of fossil sunlight. We behave like squirrels living in a forest where a truck full of hazelnuts crashed, living off the freight and thinking it will last forever.”Resilience.org

In today’s post, part 7, I once again selected my above opening passage from Resilience.org’s continuum supplement, which, in my opinion offers greater clarity than Dr. Hagens’ piece.

Having said that, I did find Hagens’ graph of 2,000 years of economic growth instructive. As well, for me, his reference to “the little red box in the upper right was this one-time unique period of massive upward growth” put into sharp graphic perspective Resilience.org’s text: “… we have constructed rules and ‘economic laws’ around a long-by-human-lifespan, but short-by-human-history unique period of time.”

I appreciate that both alluded to the fact that most of today’s economists remain stuck in last century’s economic theories – The dissipation of non-renewable fossil fuels will force a “reworking” of those theories, and a different sort of lifestyle for earth’s inhabitants.

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For those who may wonder why I am presenting each of 40 short continuums in separate posts, my experience is that Dr. Hagens’ challenging content is best taken in small doses. As well, printed text is a way to slow down his rapid-fire, spoken delivery style.

There is a brief bio-sketch about Dr. Hagens at the bottom of this post, along with a link to his website.

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 7, continuum 6, runs from 15:05 to 16:30 minutes. The transcript has been edited for enhanced clarity and readability. Continuum 6 is the last one in the Economy category.

Alternatively, a video of Hagens’ talk, along with a “loosely related” essay on the talk, are available by clicking on the following linked title. This version, published by Resilience.org, also includes excellent readers’ comments, including responses by Hagens.

NOTE — Selected parts of the Resilience.org essay are included in my transcripts, bracketed as [Resilience Supplement].

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Where are we going? by Nate Hagens, Resilience.org, May 8, 2018

TRANSCRIPT (from 15:05 to 16:30)

[THE ECONOMY]

15:05 – [Continuum 6: Economy vs Economics] – The economy versus economics. For those of you who haven’t taken economics, I will summarize what economics is — We take energy and natural resources, we turn [them] into dollars, which gives us brain feelings plus waste. And repeat that at a larger scale.

15:29 – But economic theory has – [Pointing at the graph] — This is the last 2,000 years of economic output for our species. You can see there were 500-year periods of flat, declining growth, which was the average consumption of the average person times the number of people. But the little red box in the upper right was this one-time unique period of massive upward growth where the average American now has 50 times the income that the average human did 200 years ago. We are richer than kings and queens from the past. And during that little period in that box, all the economic theories were designed. But I think they were right for the wrong reasons. And we’re beginning to see that they don’t offer much predictive ability for what’s coming.

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[Resilience.org Supplement] Economy vs Economics – The modern human ecosystem can be simply described. We use technology to convert energy and materials into products measured in dollars. We turn the dollars/products into neurotransmitters (feelings) + waste/impact.  Repeat at larger scale. We often mistake a trend for a reality and a short-term pattern for an axiom of nature. In a modern (and relevant) case, we have constructed rules and ‘economic laws’ around a long-by-human-lifespan, but short-by-human-history unique period of time – where because of one-time inputs on geologic time scales, we’ve experienced continual economic growth for over a century.  The constant growth we’ve experienced was correlated with human inventions and economic theories, but the cause was finding a bolus [dose] of fossil sunlight. We behave like squirrels living in a forest where a truck full of hazelnuts crashed, living off the freight and thinking it will last forever. Economic theories have — until recently – been right about describing our trajectory but for the wrong reasons –  they largely ignore the physical and biological underpinnings of the human endeavor and will have to be reworked.

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About Dr. Nathan John Hagens – 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. At present, Dr. Hagens is a professor at the University of Minnesota where he teaches a systems synthesis Honors seminar called Reality 101, A Survey of Human Predicament. The readings and lectures 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.

Visit Nate Hagens’ personal website at The Monkey Trap.

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