Citizen Action Monitor

“Governments and institutions do whatever they can to keep access to energy growing” – Nate Hagens (22)

No institution, no government worldwide is planning for less than 2% growth in the next 50 years. Growth is the plan, the game is the plan.

No 2305 Posted by fw, June 18, 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. 

Dr. Nate Hagens

“The game right now is that we maximize quarterly earnings, as small businesses, as large corporations, as nations, as a culture. … But what ends up happening is we cooperate at these scales to provide brain services – feelings – to as many voters we can? Those brain services are highly correlated with energy consumption. Energy consumption is highly correlated with fossil energy consumption. We are de facto functioning as a dissipative structure. … Instead of planning for what is going to happen – and in my opinion we’re going to run out of options to keep things growing, and we’re going to have a smaller economy, and we’re going to all have to react to that …. But no one is planning for that.”Nate Hagens

Quick recap. Yesterday’s post, Pt 21, continuum 20, completed a series of 4 posts grouped in “The Environment” category. A core message of this segment is that human’s energy and material throughput, in a never-ending pursuit of GDP growth, is taking a heavy toll on Earth’s environment and its poorer human as well as non-human inhabitants.

With today’s post, Pt 22, continuum 21, Dr. Hagens begins the first in a series in his “Our Culture category”. To repeat for emphasis:  Hagens advances the thesis that modern human cultures cooperate at various scales (individuals, corporations, nations) to maximize surplus monetary profits, which deliver brain services – good feelings – to voters. These brain services are highly correlated with energy consumption. Energy consumption is highly correlated with fossil energy consumption. Thus, the resulting global, human Amoeba “Superorganism” effectively functions as an energy dissipative system. Ergo, our economic growth game is the plan.

Below is the embedded video of Hagens’ 60-minute address, followed by an 18-minute Q&A session. My transcript of Pt. 22, continuum 21, runs from 32:12 to 34:02.

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.

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

TRANSCRIPT (from 32:12 to 34:02)

[OUR CULTURE] –

32:12[Continuum 21: Game vs Plan] – CULTURAL. The Game versus the Plan. The game right now is that we maximize quarterly earnings, as small businesses, as large corporations, as nations, as a culture. That is the plan. If we maximize earnings today, that will have the best outcome for Salina in 2040 or 2060.

32:40 – But what ends up happening is we cooperate at these scales to provide brain services – feelings – to as many voters we can? Those brain services are highly correlated with energy consumption. Energy consumption is highly correlated with fossil energy consumption. We are de facto functioning as a dissipative structure.

33:08 – If you measure the CO2 level is Mauna Loa volcano in Hawaii at any time in the last 50 years or 100 years, a scientist could interpolate [estimate] the size of the human economy based on that. So we are in many ways functioning like an energy dissipating structure. Instead of planning for what is going to happen – and in my opinion we’re going to run out of options to keep things growing, and [as the right graphic illustrates] we’re going to have a smaller economy, and we’re going to all have to react to that – and I think there will be some scary things and some unbelievably positive things.

33:46But no one is planning for that. There’s not a single institution or government in the world that is planning for anything less than 2% growth in the next 50 years. Growth is the plan, the game is the plan.

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[Resilience.org Supplement]Heat Engine vs Intelligent Foresight [Note change in continuum terms] – In modern human culture we cooperate at various scales (individuals, corporations, nations) to maximize representations of surplus (monetary profits). Once we understand that 1) all goods and services leading to economic output first require a primary resource conversion, 2) GDP is highly correlated with energy, 3) to provide ‘brain services’ to as many people as possible, governments and institutions do whatever they can to keep access to energy growing, (credit creation, rule changes, guarantees, etc.) The common economic statistic Gross Domestic Product takes on a different connotation. To a reasonable approximation: GDP could be renamed as GDB – Gross Domestic Burning, as underpinning every economic transaction, a small fire happened somewhere on earth.  From a birds-eye view, modern human society is thus functioning akin to an energy dissipating structure. With a collective focus on short term profits, we tacitly assume the best futures will naturally arrive.  But viewed from a perspective of GDB, the market itself cannot use intelligent foresight, only march forward, 3 months at a time.

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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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