Climate: Limits and Opportunities for the New Economies

youtube-Logo-2gc2reddit-logoOff the keyboard of Ilaria Perrisi

Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666
Friend us on Facebook

Published on Cassandra's Legacy on June 2, 2017

cassandra_retouched

Discuss this article at the Environment Table inside the Diner


A post by Ilaria Perissi, from her blog "Systems". Ilaria is a researcher at the University of Florence, Italy, currently working at the EU "MEDEAS" project aimed at modeling material fluxes of the EU economy. 

by Ilaria Perissi

In a previous post titled Information, Energy and Human development, I concluded saying that we don’t know what will happen to our society if the planet will be overheated. I don’t have the answer, and maybe I will never have it, but I have surely been gaining new insights on what has been the influence of the climate on the history of civilisation, and what could be its role, if there is any, into a more equitable future and a sustainable society.

I start exactly from this last point: how are we now imagining a future civilisation?

We need a new source of energy that should be renewable (in the way we do not risk total depletion of it, at least till the sun will shine), also thinking about a new economy not based on an intensive exploitation of fossil fuels. That would represent a powerful tool to make a step forward to a better future. But, recently, interesting currents of thought are emerging in the economic scenario promoting alternatives to the incessant growth that already in the 70's revealed, thanks to the study of ‘Limits to Growth’, the weakness of continuing this economic vision on a planet with a limited carrying capacity.

One of these currents is the ‘Circular Economy’ (CE) that proposes a greater resource productivity aiming to reduce waste and avoid pollution, including the shift from fossil fuels to the use of renewable energies, promoting the role of diversity as a characteristic of resilient and productive systems, so that it represents an interesting way out from the limits of the present ‘Linear Economy’.

Another idea is the ‘Degrowth Economy’ (DE) that not only is based on the previous pillars of the CE, but it is also a new philosophy of lifestyle. The DE affirms that prosperity can be of better quality and more equitable for all the humankind even with fewer materials things, abandoning the frenetic rhythms of today's life and harmonising the economy production according to the natural cycles (and I completely agree).

We can grasp from the previous description why this current is called 'Degrowth': it simply pushes in the opposite direction of the widespread concept of 'Growth' economy, whose prosperity is based on the increasing demand of always new goods and services.

To be more precise, 'Degrowth' refers to the lowering of the indicator called Gross Domestic Product (or GDP), that measures the economic performance of a system according to, in simplified terms, the number of goods and services it can provide. Therefore, the DE assesses that more valuable prosperity is possible if we consistently lower the value of this indicator, in particular in those countries we call ‘Developed Countries’, that stand out for their very high level of GDP in comparison to the world average. DE underlines also that this difference in GDP exists because there is a huge gap, both in economic and development terms, between the North and the South of the planet. The predominance of the North holds hostage the South's socio-economic system, slowing down also its potential alternative trajectories toward a better life.

Look at this paragraph, extracted from the very interesting book 'Degrowth: Vocabulary for a new era':

The message is clear and the reality too: the condition of the South of the Planet is very different from that of the North of the Planet. The DE aims at re-equilibrating this difference, conquering a new welfare for all the humans based on more equity and environmental justice. Mumble ..how to do it?

 

 

Usually, when we want to change something in any situation, it is a good idea to check some facts in the past, probably the reasons of the existence of certain things in the present have their roots in history.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thus, when, in the past this predominance of the North economy started, was it due to random factors or are there any facts/evidence in the history of civilisation that advantaged the North in comparison to the South?

Take a look at the following picture:

Figure 1. Chronology of the most important ancient civilizations.

All the most ancient cultures were born in the North hemisphere.

I started to think this fact can not be ‘only’ a coincidence. Why civilization and the economy historically have progressed more in the North than in the South? Could this mainly due to a ‘physically different ‘ space instead of a ‘conceptual different space'?

I think so…The economy is made by humans exchanges, interactions, cooperation: all these conditions in which humans live and lived in the past determine the economy and the characteristics of their civilization (Here, I refer to 'civilization' as the attitude of humankind to dominate the environment according to the fundamentals of rationalism). In particular, the capacity to produce (manufacturing) and the capacity to distribute (transport) are the foundations of any world economic system.

Let’s start to examine which could be the macroscopic differences, in terms of the capacity of transportation and productivity, between North and South of the Earth.

First, we are terrestrial creatures, we move more easily by land than by sea. Also many domesticated animals that have been crucial for transportation, hunting, agriculture and so on, are terrestrials too. Take a look at the following picture:

Figure 2. The surface extension of emerged lands.

As we can see in figure 2, between the parallels – 60°S and + 60° N, i.e. in a climate that is not polar, the available land is much larger in the North than in the South.

Thus, an important macroscopic physical difference between North and South of the planet is the extension of emerged lands in temperate zones.

Moreover, the South portion of emerged lands is fragmented in 3 continents: South America, Africa and Oceania: if we move in the direction West- East (W-E, or vice-versa) we note that these three portions of land are at a distance of several hundreds of kilometers of water. Thus, any civilization born in the South would expand preferentially along the N-S direction.

Quite different is the availability of movement W-E in the North hemisphere. Here, Asia and Europe cover the largest portion of Northern emerged land. It was in these two continents that the most ancient civilizations in the history of humankind were born: China, Egypt, Greek, Romans and others, as already shown in figure 1. Probably, the presence of the Mediterranean sea, that is an almost ‘close’ sea in a temperate zone, permitted the development of navigation techniques and the development of commercial trade routes in more safe and protected areas.

We can summarize saying that the larger the available surface of emerged lands, the more there are possibilities of creating a network of connections and more are it possible to develop cities and manufacturing centers.

So, you will say that today the problem of the trade connections have been overcome by technology, so let’s say that the oceans or the extension of emerged lands don't represent any more serious obstacles in exchanging goods or information also in the South hemisphere.

But there is another problem, if you note, that still remains: along the N-S pathways (meridians), in any point of the globe, we had/have to face with a change in the climate conditions (figure 3).

Figure 3. The figure shows a rough, but significant split, of the three climate zones of the planet: polar, temperate and tropical zones.

Thus, I go back to the opening question of the post: did the climate have any impact on civilization? And could it be related to the productivity of the human beings?

There is an interesting book, ‘Civilization and Climate’ by E. Huntington, that for the first time examined this issue at the beginning of the 1900s.

Huntington, as himself reports, had the mission to investigate: “step by step, the process by which geologic structure, topographic form, and the present and past nature of the climate have shaped man's progress, moulded his history; and thus played an incalculable part in the development of a system of thought which could scarcely have arisen under any other physical circumstances."

I admit I haven’t yet read the entire book but if you search accurately in this treatise you can find that the author clearly reports that the temperate climate is the best environment for the development of civilization, under several points of view. And figure 3 shows that the portion of temperate climate zone in the North of the globe is decisively larger than in the South one.

Here, as one of the examples that reinforce the thesis of the author, I just report the following graphs, from his book:
 

This figure reports the main temperature in which a man, employed in a factory job, is able to reach his best performance in terms of productivity, intended as the best combination of mental and body energies. This temperature it is around 50 °F or 10 °C.

More recent studies assess that, in an office, the ideal temperature for mental activities is around 20-22 °C, and it makes sense: we probably need a warmer environment to reach the optimal mental-body energy combination to work in an office in which we stay sitting almost all the time. And we are sure enough that these average values of temperature are typical of the temperate climate zones.

The book from Huntington offers several more interesting examples, worth thinking about. It simply reveals that the human activities, and even the moral issues, still depend upon Nature. And this is a positive aspect, the author says, because it gives us the opportunity to correct our behaviour, knowing that there are climate physical conditions to take into account, even in planning a new economy.

Especially in a Degrowth Economy, the relationship between our body energy and the climate is, probably, the most important to keep in mind if we want to achieve more equity in the opportunity of future sustainable development for all the cultures, independently of the latitudes they are.

 

What I would like to point out with these ideas, is that the productivity of humans, on which civilization and economy both rely, have been and still remains highly conditioned by climate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The North and the South of the planet are different environments, have different availability of space and climate, i.e. a mainly physical differences, that, reasonably, have affected the history of the world economies with an active role in originating the inequalities we are observing now.

Changing our economy implies to face these climate diversities, maybe now more than in the past, to image a future more equitable civilization as it is described in the vision of a Degrowth Economy, or another new desirable more equitable Economy, that I think, we need so much precisely ‘now’.

The message of Huntington is full of hope, he concludes his treaty saying: ‘If we are able to conquer the climate, the whole world will become stronger and nobler”.

But something is telling me…that we are going exactly in the opposite direction. The domain on climate risks to go out of our hand, and for this reason, the climate issue remains, in my opinion, the most urgent problem to face to leave a dignified human legacy to the future generations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Support the Diner
Search the Diner
Surveys & Podcasts

NEW SURVEY

Renewable Energy

VISIT AND FOLLOW US ON DINER SOUNDCLOUD

" As a daily reader of all of the doomsday blogs, e.g. the Diner, Nature Bats Last, Zerohedge, Scribbler, etc… I must say that I most look forward to your “off the microphone” rants. Your analysis, insights, and conclusions are always logical, well supported, and clearly articulated – a trifecta not frequently achieved."- Joe D
Archives
Global Diners

View Full Diner Stats

Global Population Stats

Enter a Country Name for full Population & Demographic Statistics

Lake Mead Watch

http://si.wsj.net/public/resources/images/NA-BX686_LakeMe_G_20130816175615.jpg

loading

Inside the Diner

Conditions in the Great Plains are devastating farmers and ranchers.As wildfires blaze across the West, parts of Montana and the Dakotas are experiencing o...

For people interested in buying a Leaf three or four years (you can get one for $12,000 or less) old with high mileage, the following is basically the only cost you need to add to the purchase to get as much mileage out of it as a brand new one.[cente...

Labor historian Paul Le Blanc is the author of more than 20 books and has served as an editor of the eight-volume International Encyclopedia of Revolution and Protest (2009) and of the Complete Works of Rosa Luxemburg (begun in 2013). Le Blanc has more...

27 people arrestedBOSTON – Tens of thousands of counterprotesters crammed Boston Common and marched through cit...

As skywatchers across the United States gear up for what's being heralded as the "Great American Total Solar Eclipse," a team of scientists and pilots is preparing to capture what may be the best view of the August celestial event, from two jet aircraf...

Recent Facebook Posts

Total Eclipse | Dissident Voice

Total Eclipse – The ultimate talisman of the primitive, of what the civilized call the dark ages of prehistory,… https://t.co/UxdPMlPai5

1 hour ago

When will the United States transcend White Supremacy? | Dissident Voice

When will the United States transcend White Supremacy? – Now that the violence in Charlottesville has forced “w… https://t.co/5SSPmRcJv0

1 hour ago

Despite Disavowals, Leading Tech Companies Help Extremist Sites Monetize Hate

From Pro Publica-

2 hours ago

'Blatant Smear': Trump Attacks Boston Anti-Racism Demonstrators as 'Anti-Police Agitators'

‘Blatant Smear’: Trump Attacks Boston Anti-Racism Demonstrators as ‘Anti-Police Agitators’ https://t.co/1dsYt5Kza6

3 hours ago

The SurlyZone

The latest The SurlyZone! https://t.co/O9bMbIqLxa #vaccines

4 hours ago

Diner Twitter feed

Knarf’s Knewz

Conditions in the Great Plains are devastating far [...]

27 people arrestedBOSTON – Tens of thousands of co [...]

As skywatchers across the United States gear up fo [...]

 Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee [...]

Diner Newz Feeds
  • Surly
  • Agelbert
  • Knarf
  • Golden Oxen
  • Frostbite Falls

Just one more before I go. This space is likely to [...]

Not to beat a dead horse, but Lee had already free [...]

Doomstead Diner Daily 8/18[html] [...]

Quote from: Eddie on August 17, 2017, 05:31:13 AMI [...]

I'm somewhere much closer to where you are Su [...]

http://www.youtube.com/v/EueGY2zjGBw[embed=640,412 [...]

Leading elephant conservationist shot dead in Tanz [...]

Dieselgate: Green group grumbles over 'Mickey [...]

Quote from: agelbert on August 16, 2017, 12:09:15 [...]

Conditions in the Great Plains are devastating far [...]

27 people arrestedBOSTON – Tens of thousands of co [...]

As skywatchers across the United States gear up fo [...]

 Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee [...]

Quote from: azozeo on August 14, 2017, 05:17:04 PM [...]

http://www.activistpost.com/2017/04/gold-manipulat [...]

Quote from: Golden Oxen on August 06, 2017, 04:57: [...]

There are unintelligible messages from Karpatok an [...]

Quote from: K-Dog on July 20, 2017, 01:36:05 PMOil [...]

Quote from: luciddreams on August 05, 2017, 06:29: [...]

Quote from: RE on August 05, 2017, 01:00:20 AMThe [...]

I have taken a lot of abuse on my opinion of what [...]

The database has been upchucking a lot of old post [...]

We got another treat to old posting from the Diner [...]

Alternate Perspectives
  • Two Ice Floes
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • From Filmers to Farmers

This and That - Vol. 1 Lines in the Sand By Cognitive Dissonance   When I was younger I would get in [...]

We Are All Going To Die! By Cognitive Dissonance   This one is short and sweet folks. The subject al [...]

Have You a Positive Personal Practice? (Part Two) By Cognitive Dissonance   My apologies for how tar [...]

Have You a Positive Personal Practice? By Cognitive Dissonance   Those who dive deeply into unmaskin [...]

Dark Homes By Cognitive Dissonance   While we closed on the purchase of our mountain cabin in March [...]

Event Update For 2017-08-17http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-08-16http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-08-15http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-08-14http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

Event Update For 2017-08-13http://jumpingjackflashhypothesis.blogspot.com/2012/02/jumping-jack-flash-hypothesis-its-gas.html Th [...]

With a bit of ice on the floor depositers could almost ride the seeds right on in (photo by Global C [...]

Well, at least it was made sure that the Svalbard Global Seed Vault looks real pretty (photo courtes [...]

Now it's data that makes the world go round? It's comfortably accepted by many that what w [...]

I left off last week's post – "Money Doesn't Grow on Trees, Industrial-Scale Renewabl [...]

When you wish upon a star the Blue Fairy sends Tinker Bell, who plants a magic seed, which grows int [...]

Daily Doom Photo

man-watching-tv

Sustainability
  • Peak Surfer
  • SUN
  • Transition Voice

A Personal Forest"Every year on New Years Day I write down my annual electric meter reading, chart the milage of [...]

Is God Serious?"How ironic is it that having cornered some seemingly unique absence of reality, adherents cann [...]

The Gospel of Chief Seattle: Written For Television"No bright star hovers about the horizon. Sad-voiced winds moan in the distance. Some grim Neme [...]

Can Foodies Save the Planet?"Facing all of these grave threats, humans collectively have chosen to go insane."Having a [...]

Snowflake Summer"Why has academia descended into neo-fascist regimentation?"We didn’t give serious thought [...]

The folks at Windward have been doing great work at living sustainably for many years now.  Part of [...]

 The Daily SUN☼ Building a Better Tomorrow by Sustaining Universal Needs April 3, 2017 Powering Down [...]

Off the keyboard of Bob Montgomery Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666 Friend us on Facebook Publishe [...]

Visit SUN on Facebook Here [...]

In the echo-sphere of political punditry consensus forms rapidly, gels, and then, in short order…cal [...]

Discussions with figures from Noam Chomsky and Peter Senge to Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama off [...]

Lefty Greenies have some laudable ideas. Why is it then that they don't bother to really build [...]

Democracy and politics would be messy business even if all participants were saints. But America doe [...]

A new book argues that, in order to survive climate change and peak oil, the global money economy ne [...]

Top Commentariats
  • Our Finite World
  • Economic Undertow

Once a person realizes that food prices and metals prices must go up at the same time--also home and [...]

" It’s not what you know, but how you can use what you know to meet the goals of organizations. [...]

Vigilante protesters start DIGGING UP body of Confederate general and KKK leader Nathan Forrest from [...]

Welcome to new day, added 's' to 'http' so everyone should feel more secure ... [...]

Just to be clear about all the different administrations mentioned; All the while not one thing that [...]

Clintons job was to keep the party going, BJs under the desk for all! Bushs job was to tell jokes an [...]

Hey Steve, why don't you look into becoming REs neighbor. After the great power down, you can l [...]

Think Vermont. All you need is a wood stove and an internet connection. I'll bet you have a lot [...]

RE Economics

Going Cashless

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Simplifying the Final Countdown

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Bond Market Collapse and the Banning of Cash

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Do Central Bankers Recognize there is NO GROWTH?

Discuss this article @ the ECONOMICS TABLE inside the...

Singularity of the Dollar

Off the Keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Kurrency Kollapse: To Print or Not To Print?

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

SWISSIE CAPITULATION!

Off the microphone of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Of Heat Sinks & Debt Sinks: A Thermodynamic View of Money

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Merry Doomy Christmas

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Peak Customers: The Final Liquidation Sale

Off the keyboard of RE Follow us on Twitter @doomstead666...

Collapse Fiction
Useful Links
Technical Journals

In this paper, we study the use of wheat land fallow production systems as a climate change adaptati [...]

Ambulance services are in operation around the world and yet, until recently, ambulance data has onl [...]

In this investigation, a numerical model expressing advection and diffusion effects is used to exami [...]

Follow on our http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/forum/