Population

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Tal como hemos aprendido en los dos capítulos anteriores, nuestra nación padece unos niveles de endeudamiento hasta ahora desconocidos y muestra asimismo una incapacidad histórica para el ahorro.

Como algunos podrían rezongar que no es justo que miremos únicamente del lado de la deuda y de la incapacidad para el ahorro, ahora vamos a ocuparnos de los activos. Al fin y al cabo, ¿qué importancia tiene si alguien no ahorra nada y debe 1 millón de dólares, si posee 10 millones de dólares en el banco? Esa es una buena pregunta, así que veamos los activos.

Para empezar, ¿qué es un activo? Una definición podría ser que los activos son bienes que alguien posee en propiedad y que son convertibles en dinero; por ejemplo, recursos totales de una persona o negocio, tales como dinero en efectivo, pagarés y cuentas por cobrar, carteras de valores, existencias, fondos de comercio, mobiliario, maquinaria o propiedades inmobiliarias.

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Wie wir in den vorangegangenen Kapiteln gesehen haben, hat die USA einen in ihrer Geschichte nie dagewesenen Verschuldungsgrad erreicht und versagt ebenso beispiellos beim Sparen.

Nun, man könnte einwenden, dass es nicht besonders sinnvoll ist, nur Schulden und Ersparnisse zu betrachten, sondern auch alle sonstigen Vermögenswerte einzubeziehen. Aber spielt es am Ende wirklich eine Rolle, wenn man keine Ersparnisse und $1 Million Schulden hat, wenn es z.B. noch irgendwo Vermögenswerte von $10 Millionen gibt? 

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In Crash Course Chapter 18: The Environment, Chris Martenson explains how multiple essential resources are being depleted at ever faster rates. Our money system requires continual economic growth, but energy depletion will run headlong into dwindling resource returns to limit future growth options. Overpopulation will increase competition and demand for fossil fuel energy sources such as crude oil and coal, as well as for natural gas and sources of alternative energy.

In this chapter, Peak Coal, Peak Uranium, and copper extraction are explored as illustrations challenging long-held assumptions about the inevitable certainty of continued global economic expansion. This chapter makes it easy to understand why careful management of our natural resources will be necessary for our economic and environmental future.

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In theory, there’s nothing problematic with living in a world full of exponential growth and depletion curves – as long as the world does not have any boundaries. However, exponential functions take on enormous importance when they approach a physical boundary, as seems to be the case for oil in the very near future. Both discoveries and production indicate that we could be at oil’s exponential boundary already.

We can make a very strong case that both population and our money system are utterly dependent on the continued expansion of oil energy. But what if our exponentially-based economic and monetary systems, rather than being the sophisticated culmination of human evolution, are really just an artifact of oil? What if all of our rich societal complexity and all of our trillions of dollars of wealth and debt simply are the human expression of surplus energy pumped from the ground?

What will happen to our exponential, debt-based money system? Is it even possible for it to function in a world without constant growth? These are important questions, and they deserve answers.

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Our nation has a historic, never-before-seen level of debt and a historic failure to save. Along with debt and savings, one also has to consider assets. After all, does it really matter if you have no savings and a million dollars of debt, if you have assets worth 10 million?

An asset is an item of ownership that is convertible into cash. Assets comprise the total resources of a person or business, including such things as cash, notes, accounts receivable, securities, inventories, goodwill, fixtures, machinery, and/or real estate.

Debts are fixed, while assets are variable. When you take on a debt, there it placidly sits, growing larger until you make payments on it. Assets, on the other hand, are variable, sometimes gaining and sometimes losing value.

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In order to understand the urgency I feel about the issues covered in the Crash Course, you need to understand the power of compounding. If something, such as a population, oil demand, a money supply, or anything else steadily increases in size in some proportion to its current size, and you graph it over time, the graph will look like a hockey stick.

Said more simply, if something is increasing over time on a percentage basis, it is growing exponentially. With exponential functions, the action really only heats up in the last few moments. There is simply not a lot of maneuvering room once you hop on the vertical portion of a compound graph.

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In the Crash Course we will learn a few foundational Key Concepts. None is more important than exponential growth. Understanding this will greatly enhance our chances to form a better future.

Once an exponential function “turns the corner,” even though the percentage rate of growth might remain constant and possibly quite low, the amounts do not. They pile up faster and faster.

Oil consumption, the US money supply, world population, worldwide water use, species extinction, and other critical areas all follow an exponential curve in their growth, and all have turned or will soon turn that critical corner.

Taken one at a time, any one of these areas could command the full attention of every earnest person on the face of the planet, but we need to understand that they are, in fact, all related and connected.