What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

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What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

By aiming for this, can we sidestep ills of the Crash?

===========================================

This was inspired by a post from "Methinkshe" on GEI, my own forum:

QUOTE

Some thoughts on growth: I wonder whether there is a danger of too great a counter-swing from engineered/excessive growth to no or low growth. Healthy growth is not only desirable, it is essential to life and dynamic systems. It is only when growth is engineered to satisfy greed or gratify self that, imo, it becomes dangerous. The converse - no growth - can only result in decimation, destruction and ultimately death. UNQUOTE

What you are writing about is right at the core of Martenson's thinking !

As I understand it, CM believes that sustainable growth becomes an oxymoron.

At some point, growth will push to a point where the economy is consuming resources beyond what can be replenished. Then resources get used up, and current growth will require some shrinkage in the future.

Many folks, not only CM, believe we are well beyond the point of sustainability, and the more we "grow" now, the more we will have to shrink-back, or even die-back in the future. Obviously, this reduction in size (of consumption, of debt, of the size of the economy, ...and of population?) may prove very painful to the many who will be alive when the shrinkage is underway.

CM's idea is that we are measuring the wrong things. Our measures of GDP are mainly measures of consumption, not of wealth. By focussing only on consumption, we are driven towards doing the wrong things, and making the wrong investments. The past 2-3 decades have shown us that we now have an economy which is prone to malinvestments. For example, look at the so-called "broken window fallacy." If a typhoon destroyed a big city, then the country might have high growth for a few years afterwards, as the city is rebuilt.

But is that what we would want?

To have an economy which only seeks growth, even if that growth is mainly to repair past mistakes made by misguided economic leadership? I don't think so. There must be a better way.

I think it could be very interesting to seek to understand and better define Chris Martenson's stated goal of: Sustainable Prosperity. An economy driven to achieve Sustainable Properity, may find that it is better designed to maximise things other than growth. Such an economy may be better at maximising and increasing other things, like: wealth, knowledge, and maybe even: wisdom and happiness.

And isn't this a worthy goal that we can all seek?

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

"Sustainable development", 

...according to the World Commission on Environment and Development, is :-

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising 

the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." ["Our Common Future", 1987]

...in seeking a definition through Google, I thought the following one was rather good...

In Hong Kong, the Chief Executive made a 1999 Policy Address describing an endeavour to build Hong Kong into a world-class city while making Hong Kong a clean, comfortable and pleasant home. He admitted that this worthy goal would require a fundamental change of mindset. "Every citizen, every business, and every Government Department would needs to start working in partnership to achieve sustainable development". In his definition, sustainable development for Hong Kong means:

+ Finding ways to increase prosperity and improve the quality of life while reducing overall pollution and waste;

+ Meeting our own needs and aspirations without doing damage to the prospects of future generations; and

+ Reducing the environmental burden we put on our neighbours and helping to preserve common resources. ("1999 Policy Address")

Click HERE to watch an introductory video clip on what is meant by "sustainable development" in a HK context.

 

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

The idea of Sustainable Prosperity means the following to me:

  • To distinguish between "making a living" that benefits only an individual, from "making a living" that benefits the individual, the community, the state, and the ecology. To be truly sustainable and fruitful, an individuals work should enhance his/her economic and ecological environments.
  • Any personal "wealth" or prosperity that is achieved at the expense of the greater community, society or ecosystem, is ultimately a drain on the long-term viability of all.
  • That change starts with the individual and spreads outward to the community and beyond.

I'm not so sure that Dr. M's definition is the same as mine, and would be interested to hear him elaborate on it some more.

 

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

I like your definition, JAG!

Based on the point below, I don't think you would want to see a financial sector at 30% of the economy.  My own view is that the bankers turn parasitic when they exceed about 20% of the economy, since they no longer have enough genuine business to do, and they try to generate profits by feeding off the economy.

It is a great pity that so many of our society's top brains are going into finance and lawyering, and so few into engineering and science.  Meantime, China graduates over 50,000 new engineers per annum.

JAG wrote:
  • Any personal "wealth" or prosperity that is achieved at the expense of the greater community, society or ecosystem, is ultimately a drain on the long-term viability of all
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

Drbubb:

Great thread - a good positive thought process to make our focus -- thanks

Drbubb said:

"My own view is that the bankers turn parasitic when they exceed about 20% of the economy, since they no longer have enough genuine business to do, and they try to generate profits by feeding off the economy."

How about 5% ? -- I don't have any rational calculation to back the number up, but my gut tells me it should be much lower than 20%

Jim

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
drbubb wrote:

I like your definition, JAG!

Based on the point below, I don't think you would want to see a financial sector at 30% of the economy.  My own view is that the bankers turn parasitic when they exceed about 20% of the economy, since they no longer have enough genuine business to do, and they try to generate profits by feeding off the economy.

It is a great pity that so many of our society's top brains are going into finance and lawyering, and so few into engineering and science.  Meantime, China graduates over 50,000 new engineers per annum.

JAG wrote:
  • Any personal "wealth" or prosperity that is achieved at the expense of the greater community, society or ecosystem, is ultimately a drain on the long-term viability of all

Although I'm sure all of us (or at least most of us) here have a pretty similar vision of the kind of world we'd like to live in, quite frankly, I'm extremely leery of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, or any other UN organizations. The central planning that always emanates from them has an Orwellian aspect I'm not at all comfortable with. What troubles me most is that none of them demonstrate any understanding of the realities of our economic system, and so they seek to control the uncontrollable. Chris's recent blog on Copenhagen explains this dilemma with his typical clarity. http://www.peakprosperity.com/blog/copenhagen-agreement-economic-growth-you-cant-have-both/33022

I'm not sure I know "what is ultimately a drain on the long term viability of all," and I'm quite sure I don't want some international authority to determine it for me. If the conclusion, not unrealistically, is that there are already too many of us, then perhaps my mere presence on the planet can already be construed as a drain! So here's my much simpler definition of 'sustainable prosperity.' Sustainable prosperity is prosperity achieved with an economic system that does not 'require' growth. My concept - and I would imagine it's Chris Martenson's concept too (although he'll have to speak for himself) - is that as long as all money is created from debt, bearing interest, there can be no such thing as sustainable prosperity - at least that we can be sure of - who knows, though? We might soon develop nuclear fusion, sea water desalination, atmospheric air purification, and space colonization - but I'd rather not have to count on it!

Best

Greg

 

 

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
jpitre wrote:

Drbubb:

Great thread - a good positive thought process to make our focus -- thanks

Drbubb said:

"My own view is that the bankers turn parasitic when they exceed about 20% of the economy, since they no longer have enough genuine business to do, and they try to generate profits by feeding off the economy."

How about 5% ? -- I don't have any rational calculation to back the number up, but my gut tells me it should be much lower than 20%

Jim

Jim,

I completely agree about the percentage of the economy in finance. Even 5% sounds high. Although, obviously in the credit based system we have, banks have a very important function, in my view, they are inherently parasitic. Here's an interesting quote from Paul Volker about all the derivatives and other innovations of recent decades;  "I wish someone would give me one shred of evidence that financial innovations led to economic growth - one shred of evidence." I've often wondered, when John Paulson personally walked off with $3.7 billion, by betting short on Bear Stearns, what productivity or value was being added to society, worthy of such a stupendous reward? The only thing I can think of is that a lot of people with considerably lightened 401Ks or IRAs will have to take a second job or put off retirement for a while!

Greg

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
GregSchleich wrote:

Although I'm sure all of us (or at least most of us) here have a pretty similar vision of the kind of world we'd like to live in, quite frankly, I'm extremely leery of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, or any other UN organizations.....

I'm not sure I know "what is ultimately a drain on the long term viability of all," and I'm quite sure I don't want some international authority to determine it for me. 

Greg,

Where did I mention "the World Commission on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, or any other UN organizations....." or "some international authority?

I'm talking about personal responsibilities here, not politics. I'm talking about adopting a lifestyle that improves your life, your local community, and your local ecology.

The only time I "talk politics" is to point out the futility of such a conversation.

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
jpitre wrote:

Drbubb:

Great thread - a good positive thought process to make our focus -- thanks

Drbubb said:

"My own view is that the bankers turn parasitic when they exceed about 20% of the economy, since they no longer have enough genuine business to do, and they try to generate profits by feeding off the economy."

How about 5% ? -- I don't have any rational calculation to back the number up, but my gut tells me it should be much lower than 20% 

Jim

I got that figure from Kevin Phillips, who used it in his book, Bad Money.

I think he looked back to a time in US history when bankers were though to play a predominantly positive role in the economy, and observed what percentage of the economy they were then.  Since finance got to be more than 20%, we have had frequent crises from over financing.

Another writer, Richard Duncan, talks about how the US moved away from Capitalism in the 1960's when LBJ realised he could have Guns and Butter: a war in Vietnam and a Great Society, by ignoring prudent borrowing limits.  That gave bankers more room for growth, but it led to what Duncan calls "Debtism", which is what the US economy has lived on for several decades.  Apparent prosperity was maintained by adding more and more debts.  But now the US consumers have reached their debt limits, and they cannot borrow any more, and lenders realise it too. So we move into a new phase, which Duncan calls "State-ism", where the economy is sustained by bailouts and dole payments.  This will fall over too, if and when the State loses its ability to borrow and print money.

The interview that Jim Puplava has done with Duncan is excellent, and I recommend it to everyone here.

Podcast : http://www.netcastdaily.com/broadcast/fsn2010-0109-2.mp3

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

This post is from a similar thread on my GEI site, but I think it is highly relevant to the discussion here:

QUOTE

You have forgotten improvements in PRODUCTIVITY - which with recent history (last 300+ years) is quite spectacular in terms of manufactured goods, transport and agriculture

Where the "benefits" of improved productivity & resultant economic growth went is a different  matter entirely !

UNQUOTE

Ah, but how do you measure productivity?

If we spend a good deal of money buying cars, and drive around everywhere consuming loads of gasoline, then the economy may be more "productive" in the sense of GDP than one where people live in comfortable brownstones, and walk and and from work.

But the productivity of the Car scenario, really means burning through and using up a scarce resource. In the Brownstone scenario, the people may have a better quality of life while consuming less of their limited fossil fuels, and so in my own way of think, the Brownstoners are genuinely more productive, but how would you measure that?

Perhaps you need to find a way of measuring some outputs (patents, creativity, or such) and comparing that with the consumption of non-renewable resources.

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

 The Hong Kong definition of sustainable prosperity seems nice, but lacking in reality or true understanding of what sustainability really means. Hong Kong is an example of a completely unsustainable economy. It is dependent on imported goods/food for survival of its people as well as its business which is in turn dependent on worldwide international trade. Add in the problems of peak oil and the economy is hanging by a thread.

Google shows up a recent report (2007) by Geoffrey Chen, Robert Footman on peak oil comments:

"Hong Kong is almost 100% dependent on imported goods and
services (as it has limited agriculture, manufacturing and no natural resources). In
addition, both Hong Kong’s key economic activities and positioning as a hub is
highly sensitive to the availability of affordable oil. Disruptions in oil supply and
permanently higher prices could jeopardize these activities, and undermine Hong
Kong’s status as a regional hub."

 "Peak Oil is a clear and present danger and the HKSAR Government needs to take a
proactive approach to risk management"

I often hear the term "Sustainable development" bandied about by many who sound as if they know what they are talking about, when is reality they are only providing superficial window dressing. Every frame in the HK video shows large usage of energy and not a single comment about how that energy usage may be sustained.

I am very skeptical that  cities (especially large ones) that are not tied directly to adequate food, water and needed energy nearby will be able to survive in the longer term at all. More likely to be the salvage yards of the future.

 I've heard sustainability experts talk about how efficient people living in a city like New York are and how badly the country folk do when it comes to energy usage and sustainability. Could be that if one calculates the the energy consumed by an individual in a New York apartment who takes the subway to work, the consumption  may be low, however by adding all the support needed from outside to grow & transport food & supplies, eliminate waste by hauling it all thousands of miles to dump on some one else' land -- everything must be hauled in from somewhere and then back out to somewhere. Add oil at a few hundred dollars a barrel to that and see what happens. NYC has a line of garbage truck over 12 miles long every day leaving the city early in the AM. Trainloads of baked (high energy use) human waste are transported for disposal as far away as Texas --- the list goes on -- and none of it is sustainable in a low energy environment.

I don't think that there is a simple answer other than to look back at a time around 1900 when the world operated somewhere near a sustainable energy consumption and try to imagine how we are going to adapt to that energy level over the next 50 years or so. Horses and mules come to mind and much more in the way of home made goods created in the workshop or garage out back will help as well as chickens and gardens. Somebody figured out that the amount of energy used in this country is more or less equivalent to 90 billion people working full time - if true, then we can only produce about .3% manually of our current energy requirements. I know we have some coal, oil and other resources that we can draw on for some time, so it is not THAT bad, but I find the magnitude of the quantity of energy that we take for granted mind-boggling. It is a giant problem for which nobody has come close to finding an answer.

We can't figure out how to go to the store to buy stuff  without using a gallon of precious gasoline to even get get there never mind that the stuff we get comes from thousands of miles away. Our entire way of living is going to change -- and only then after a great deal of trial and error will we begin to get an idea of what is sustainable and what is not.

I've recently installed enough solar PV to be totally self sustained energy wise for the next 40 or so years (beyond my life expectancy) -- however, what happens after that? I won't have to worry, but was that a sustainable decision? Certainly better than some ways of proceeding, but it may or may not work for the long term.

This is a good thread to discuss our ideas further, so please keep the ideas flowing

Jim

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
JAG wrote:
GregSchleich wrote:

Although I'm sure all of us (or at least most of us) here have a pretty similar vision of the kind of world we'd like to live in, quite frankly, I'm extremely leery of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, or any other UN organizations.....

I'm not sure I know "what is ultimately a drain on the long term viability of all," and I'm quite sure I don't want some international authority to determine it for me. 

Greg,

Where did I mention "the World Commission on Environment and Development, Agenda 21, or any other UN organizations....." or "some international authority?

I'm talking about personal responsibilities here, not politics. I'm talking about adopting a lifestyle that improves your life, your local community, and your local ecology.

The only time I "talk politics" is to point out the futility of such a conversation.

Jeff,

My bad. You've definitely been wronged.  Apparently my short term memory is a little more challenged than I realized, because for some reason, having read through the posts, I didn't just confuse your quote with the quote from the World Commission on Environment and Development (from drbubb's earlier post #1), I actually thought yours was a quote FROM it - don't ask. Revisiting it, I see it's the same general idea, but not even close, wording wise - maybe I just can't reliably compare two sentences, more than ten seconds apart, anymore!  And so of course this wouldn't have made any sense to you. My apologies.

drbubb wrote:

"Sustainable development", 

...according to the World Commission on Environment and Development, is :-

"Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising 

the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." ["Our Common Future", 1987]

That's what I THOUGHT I was referring to (honest, it wasn't just a completely incoherent rant!).  

But as for the politics you think are a waste of time, I was reacting, legitimately, I think, to what appeared to be an endorsement on the thread, of an intergovernmental agency whose history and associations I find concerning - and the UN connection to the IMF and the World Bank only seemed to highlight the folly of expecting real environmental change without monetary reform. But I don't mean to keep steering the conversation in directions you don't want to go. I respect the concept of personal responsibility you've articulated here, and it's difficult to argue about the futility of ever enacting real political change, but my own sense of personal responsibility requires me not to just go quietly into the night, either. That's all.  

Peace

Greg

 

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
drbubb wrote:

Another writer, Richard Duncan, talks about how the US moved away from Capitalism in the 1960's when LBJ realised he could have Guns and Butter: a war in Vietnam and a Great Society, by ignoring prudent borrowing limits.  That gave bankers more room for growth, but it led to what Duncan calls "Debtism", which is what the US economy has lived on for several decades.  Apparent prosperity was maintained by adding more and more debts.  

Hunh.  This sounds a lot like what I call "Jenga"....

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity?

EXCERPT from JPitre

The Hong Kong definition of sustainable prosperity seems nice, but lacking in reality or true understanding of what sustainability really means. Hong Kong is an example of a completely unsustainable economy. It is dependent on imported goods/food for survival of its people as well as its business which is in turn dependent on worldwide international trade. Add in the problems of peak oil and the economy is hanging by a thread.

== ==

Thanks for that very thoughtful response !

It seems that the HKSAR's definition of "Sustainable Development" is very different from yours!

Your definition makes real sense to me, but it is a 2009/10 definition, which seems to include:

+ Virtually complete self-reliance; ie no need to trade with others

+ Ability to grow enough food to feed the local population

+ Ability to generate sufficient energy to meet local needs

HK is unlikely to ever aim for such self-reliance. Such a concept assumes that there is no reason to exploit one's competitive advantages.

For instance, a city like HK is very dense, and can provide things that density enjoys, like:

+ Multiple tourist attractions within a small area: sight-seeing, food, shopping, etc.

+ A plethora of commercial opportunties + Professional expertise in all manner of fields

... You get the idea.

But the same density, also makes land expensive, so that cities are not great places to grow food. Nor are they good places to concentrate power plants. Nevertheless, many of HK's trading partners are not far away. As examples:

+ Guangdong province surrounds HK, and it is nearly self-sufficient in food albeit, specialty and luxury items can be imported from else where, and

+ About half of HK's electrictity is nuclear power, supplied by the Daiwa Bay power plant, which is just across the border, and is a JV between HK's China Light & Power and Guangdong Nuclear.

I would argue that the specialisation that HK has is naturally different than what you will find across the border in China. I also think that HK's notion of sustainable development appropriate includes the notion of trading with others areas with different specialisations, and different competitive advantages.

But for Hong Kong to remain sustainable, it cannot become too dependent financially (as the US has done over the past 2-3 decades), and it should also seek to avoid losing its "commercial and trading edge" (again, as the US has) so that it may be left vulnerable to a huge rise in something vital like food and energy prices.

+ + +

Perhaps you are suggesting that Chris Martenson's idea of Sustainable Prosperity, also includes the concept of local self-reliance. Is that true, and obvious to others here? If you see a total breakdown of society, terms of trade, and existing competitive advantages become meaningless, then I would agree that localised self-reliance may be an essential part of sustainability. But I would prefer to think of this as a special, more narrow case

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
drbubb wrote:

Perhaps you are suggesting that Chris Martenson's idea of Sustainable Prosperity, also includes the concept of local self-reliance. Is that true, and obvious to others here? 

Dr. Bubb,

Dr.M. has said in the past "that your only as prepared as your neighbor is" (or something similar), implying that self-reliance in the community is just as important as individual self-reliance. 

Personally, I think the foundation of  positive change on any scale, is the personal pursuit for a more self-reliant lifestyle. Of course, no one can be completely self-reliant, but even a small effort in this regard has the ability to transform one's psychology from fear and helplessness, to hope and liberation. 

Economic crisis or not, a more self-reliant lifestyle for the individual, is the stepping stone to a better community and eventually a better country.

Just my inflation adjusted 2 cents.

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

 Hong Kong is so unique in the economic world as to be almost magical, so it is difficult to guess at how it may fair in a future of scarcity - especially for an outsider such as myself.

I do not think that HK will  be immune to most of  the principles espoused by Martenson  and others having to do with the the effects of scarcity, (especially Peak Oil) and the need for self reliance. On the other hand, given its position and historical relationship to its trading partners, it may well have an illogical mystique similar to that of gold that will hang on well past an otherwise logical conclusion. While much of the current global trade we are all involved in will slow to a trickle, trade will still exist at some level (I think of sail boats & spice as an example) and those trading centers best suited from a relationship/experience and location point of view are likely to survive best - perhaps a tough survival at a fraction of existing size, but still providing some its historical function.

I continue to smile at the the naivety of many of the “Sustainability” planners when I hear them espousing ( as the HK video does) simplistic window dressing for this new buzzword. I know that video was done some time ago, however I still hear a similar refrain from many sources -- and few touch reality.

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

As JAG said above, we're only as sustainable as our neighbors/community.  I'm all about that.  I've been busting my heinie to get my social circle organized, and we're only now just beginning to have meaningful conversations about how we could band together in a way that helps us support each other's prosperity.  It's going to take a good long while as many folks think we're currently just having a little economic hiccup and soon enough les bon temps will roulez again.  But I take heart from the truth that at least we have coalesced a solid group of thoughtful folks who -- once they take the red pill (or it's shoved down their throat by reality) -- would be ready to try creative solutions to the growing problems with which we have to deal (i.e., what is sustainable prosperity and how do we git our hands on some?).

Viva -- Sager

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

"I continue to smile at the the naivety of many of the “Sustainability” planners..."

In fact, one of the reasons that HK has been successful is that they constantly worry about whether or not they will have a commercial role in the future.  Now, many wealthy mainlanders are buying property in HK, because they want a base here.  It is partly because taxes are lower here, but more than that - there's an "international atmosphere" and economic and political freedom that no mainland Chinese city can match.  I think that HK may have a special role to play in keeping communication and commercial relationships alive, as the stresses between the US and China rise in a coming time of scarce oil.   I could see many Americans blaming China for their weak dollar (if the Chinese sell the currency), which will serve to put dollar oil prices up, while Oil in terms of Chinese currency remains stable.

I fully blame Americans for the mess they are in. They consumed like drunken sailors, thinking that house price appreciation was the same as genuine savings.  All Chinese, including those in HK are good at saving.  This is partly because they do not trust their government, and partly because they want to be self-reliant in their old age.  I think the average debt to equity on HK housing is 30-35% here, about half what it is in the US.  And if you look at their other savings

Another difference is that almost no one really needs a car in Hong Kong.  I think that something like 60% of Hongkongers live within 10 minutes walk of a Mass Transit stop.  The train service here is highly efficient, and the MTR Corp. makes money, requiring no subsidy from anyone.  

It is laughable to think that the average American could give HK Chinese a lecture about being self-reliant.  I am not saying you are the "average" American, Jim.  From your postings you are clearly thinking about a range of issues, that most approach with complacency. However,there really are a huge number of lessons that America can learn from this place.  But I have found huge resistance from people in taking those lessons onboard, when I have made postings on forums, like the KunstlerCast chatboard.

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

drbubb -- good stuff. You are right that we Americans (I’m actually Canadian although have spent most of my time over the last 35 years here in the US) have walked right into the mess we are in using our best thinking and have nobody to blame but ourselves.

Whatever the future holds, the solutions will not come easily and we all need to be open to learning from others -- Hong Kong and otherwise.

I know that almighty automobile is a blight on our world and the most obvious energy problem that needs to be rectified, however sustainability goes far deeper than the obvious. Resilience is a term that we will hear much more about in the future. For instance, how does a system of living survive a shock such as the electricity being turned off? Perhaps from lack of fuel, terrorist attack or lack of replacement equipment makes little difference -- can tall buildings continue to operate? Of course the answer is no. Once past the first few days and the standby power also quits the structure become quite useless. If this is true, then in the longer term future, the larger cities are at serious risk of being livable at all.

What does a farmer do if the power goes off -- not much changes except that he might go to bed a little earlier and start up the old wood stove to cook some food and forget about a few new fangled gadgets that don’t work very well anyway. And he probaly has a few solar panels to produce what little electrical power he does need

As I have mentioned previously, nearly all resources required to support any large city must come from elsewhere and therefore to be an economically viable unit, the city must create things of value to be able to “import” from the outside. Tell me what a city like, say, New York has of value to offer to the rest of the country/world once the monetary stranglehold held by the bankers is removed?

Consider what we need to survive and thrive - food, shelter, clothing, energy and some raw materials to make tools needed for everyday living. Which of those come (or could come) from the big city. I think the answer is that very little is produced in the high-rise big city environment other the stuff that we can do without for the most part.

Many things we have and do need to be re-thought

Jim

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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

I think sustainable prosperity in terms of globalization will look like hi tech clipper ships generally plying the same routes as their forbearers.

If I were Warren Buffett or perhaps a Rothschild I would hire a very smart Aussie to design such a ship. After all they did beat us with the winged keel and took the Americas cup.

As an aside a very good friend of mine who did time on the states dime told me when he got out " being rich is spending Christmas with your kids"

It is something I will always remember.

V

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drbubb
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

How large is "your community"?

Will we soon all be surrounded by guns and fierce dogs?

===========================================

"As JAG said above, we're only as sustainable as our neighbors/community"

I agree with that. But how big is your community?

Is "community" you and your immediate neighbors, or your larger neighborhood, or your city, town, state or country... or the entire planet?

As I have said above, HK is part of a larger area that encompasses the Pearl River Delta (including cities like: Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Macau, Zhuhai, and Foshan.) And beyond that, it is part of a larger area which includes parts of Guangdong province where food is grown, and electricty generated from coal and nuclear fuel.

I would argue that the relevant "community" is one in which there are common interests, and political cohesion.

We have imagined for years that there is a "global community", where people everywhere can become reliant on the others, and globalisation is a happy fact that would bring continuing benefits through internatonal trade, and a global exchange of goods and services. But the reality is that globalisation has delivered huge imbalances. Jobs were spread across the globe, and real incomes have equalised to an increasing extent. Emerging market economies rose, with countries like Japan and Korea, and then China and Vietnam becoming factories to the world, and generating jobs and economic growth from their exports to the developed world.

But those in the privileged Western countries did not want to accept that they were in competition with "cheap" labor in emerging market countries. And emerging economies did not want to give up their cost advantage by spending the surplus Dollars, Pounds, and Euros they were making in foreign trade, and driving down the value of the currencies in the countries buying their exports. So Western countries kept spending, maintaining an endangered lifestyle by buying more goods, and more houses than they needed, and using borrowed money, typically secured on their own homes. And exporters-to-the-West recycled their surpluses by purchasing government bonds and other debts from the Western countries. This recycling operation kept the wheels turning, as shown in this diagram, from a 2005 article called Lessons of the Grandparents*:

From the article:

// The net result of the action of Greenspan's money machine is that Debt has grown in the US, while China and Japan have accumulated massive holdings of US debt. Meantime, other investors seeking better returns than on US government T-Bonds, have gorged themselves on mortgage-related debt, the product of the refi boom. By mid-2004, U.S. Household debt had risen to 86% of GNP, up from 64% just ten years earlier, and foreigners hold a majority of US treasury debt, up from almost insignificant amounts in 1994. (source: Comstock Partners, as quoted in Barrons, 25 Oct.2004)

So the wheel turns round and round, with consumer goods flowing into our country. Because the money flowed back from exporting countries- we have paid for purchased goods, not through working and earning higher incomes, but simply by increasing our debt. So far, this vendor finance, recycling operation has seemed painless. For a long time, we hardly noticed as debt built-up rapidly in the form of increased household mortgage debt and as massively increased liabilities of the US government. But the bad news is that, slowly and quietly, the US has lost control of its own destiny. //

So now the West has built up debts that it cannot repay. And Eastern countries have their savings invested in debts from the West that are going to have to be restructured, with some portion written off. As we saw in the Latin American crisis in the 1970's, so we will see in the Western sovereign debt crisis of the 20-Teens.

It is obvious, I think that Western countries are going to have to cut back on their borrowings, and generate more of their own savings. That will only come with a big cutback on consumer spending, and also a reduction in major expenditures, and such would happen if the West imports less foreign oil. Now the West can decide to plan and manage this reduction in oil consumption, by taking measures like imposing a gasoline tax, that will make oil more expensive and generate some tax revenues. Or it can wait for "market forces" to do the job. This will mean that as Western currencies lose value, then oil denominated in Western currencies, like the Dollar, Sterling, and the Euro will rise to levels that choke off demand.

Some imagine that Peak Oil will mean that everyone cuts back globally as oil prices rise. But here's another scenario which I find even more plausible: The West, and the US in particular, will get priced out of its oil imports, as the savings rich countries in Asia and the Middle East go on increasing their oil uasge. In 2009, we saw China buy 13 million new cars, that was more than were sold in the US, despite the effort to stimulate car purchases through a bizarre and reckless program called "cash-for-clunkers." Most Americans do not need new cars, they may be hard-pressed to keep the ones they own already operating if dollar oil prices soar, as I expect they will in the years to come. Bribing them to buy new cars is poor leadership. It would be akin to encouraging heroine consumption by handing out shiny new needles. Honestly, the US does not need that. It needs to start rethinking, and restructuring the way that Americans life.

I like to tell American friends and family that visit Hong Kong, that they should start thinking, and maybe choosing for themselves between two viable futures: Hong Kong and Havana. The future of the US suburbs is bleak, people will not be able to live in huge McMansions miles and miles away from where they work, burning up huge amounts of imported gasoline. And I think the apparent promise offered by hybrids and electric cars is nothing but a suburbanites fantasy. There are problems about where the fuel for these alternative vehicles will come from. And besides that, few American will be able to afford these expensive new vehicles, and the upkeep on the roads that they need for transport.

America must begin to face its realities in an adult fashion. That will mean allowing more density, in the way that HK has had forced upon it, so that once people live in a denser community, public transport becomes financially viable. This will require a change in the way that Americans think about the choice of living in the city versus living in the suburbs. Already we are seeing that homes in "walkable neighborhoods" are holding their values better than suburban McMansions, especially where those neighborhoods are connected to jobs, schools, and hospitals by good and affordable public transport (as in Hong Kong.)

The other choice is the "Havana choice", where people grow locally the food they consume, and people's livelihood shifts towards farming. I think than many on this website may have made this choice. In some ways it looks safer, especially when food is such an essential, and the future of America is so obviously threatened by an addiction to debts. But agriculture in the US is highly dependent on petroleum in natural gas. Not only do these fuels run the equipment needed to farm the land. They also are needed as inputs for the production of fertilisers. How many in the US are willing to move all the way to the Havana model, where energy inputs become miniscule?

Anyway, this has been a good discussion so far, and I want to keep it going. Eventually I would like to return to the headline topic, which is: What is Sustainable Prosperity? It is not easy to define, particularly since you must decide over what sphere of influence do you look at sustainability. If the US economy is about to self-destruct, then it is essential to look for smaller units of organisation that are viable. I sincerely hope that we are not headed for a world were we are all living in individual farmhouses, surrounded by guns and fierce dogs. == == Lessons of the Grandparents :: http://financialsense.com/fsu/editorials/2005/1003.html

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jpitre
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

I think that the Havanna Choice is closer to a sustainable future than the Hong Kong option. And yes we in the West including America are going to have to re-vamp our food production system. Something like 15% (or more) of us will be back on the farm so that we can have enough to eat and fertilizer will be organic - the agricultural system will have to devolve back to organic/permaculture basics and most of the food manufacturing systems will disappear. 

Will Americans choose the Havanna model willingly? - no - but then necessity is the mother of invention and we will find our way there eventually. I suspect the majority of American men will (although ambivalent) ultimately welcome the opportunity to step off the corporate treadmill with its attendant sense of servitude, and leave the consumer dominated life style with the desperate need to live in a shopping mall and all it entails. The fair sex will generally have more difficulty making the transition, however given a generation or two, it will seem normal to tend to the garden working together with a good man rather than "shopping 'till one drops"

Perhaps our means of measuring prosperity will evolve to a (higher?) a different level.

Jim

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drbubb
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

Here's how I see the Hong Kong or Densification model arising:

I think many shopping centers will become abandoned, while manufacturing returns to the US.  (Jeff Rubin talks about "the return of manufacturing" to America in his interview last week with Jim Puplava.)

Where will those factories be located?  Rather than erecting new buildings, why not house factories in disused shopping centers?  

This would require the change in zoning laws, and once that begins, I can imagine that people will see the advantage of having a walkable community grow up around where they work, especially if they are working in a former shopping center, which may not be a complete eyesore.  So you could see main streets created around the shopping center/factor areas leading to nearby brownstones and apartment houses.  If the design and makeover is done by a talented New Urbanist architect, it could be reasonably pleasing.  The whole idea would be to put the pedestrian at the heart of the community, and not the automobile.  Parking lots would shrink, and walkable streets and apartment houses would spring up in their place.

(This factory became a mall.  Why not a change in reverse?)

Eventually, when the density reaches a certain level, people might have buses connecting one mall/factory/newtown center to another.  If the regular traffic becomes heavy enough, then a mass transit system or light rail could be built to connect the living and working nodes with others.

For many, this may represent a higher quality of life than living in a distant suburb somewhere, where commuting is very expensive, and the cost of heating and air conditioning a home is breaking budgets.  Also, local areas may find it difficult to maintain schools, hospitals, and other infrastructure like street lights and water in sprawling suburban areas.  The tax base will simply not be there any more.  If people want to survive, they will need to seek out others to bring the density that will allow the infrastructure to be held together.

A car may come to be seen as a symbol of slavery to oil companies and suburban taxes, rather than a symbol of freedom.  A well designed walkable community, with a viable economic living arrangement, providing more choices, will be what people aspire to, not an expensive white elephant McMansion in a dying suburb.

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SagerXX
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)
drbubb wrote:

"As JAG said above, we're only as sustainable as our neighbors/community"

I agree with that. But how big is your community?

Is "community" you and your immediate neighbors, or your larger neighborhood, or your city, town, state or country... or the entire planet?

Yes, yes, yesyesyesyes, and yes.

I've started with myself and my wife.  We're working on our immediate social circle.  When I get that knocked together, I'll start in on the local region.  When I get *that* sorted, I'll probably take a break and enjoy some rest.  Play a little pinochle, maybe go kayaking.

Then I'll get stuck in on getting NY state's act together.  I make no promises after that's accomplished.  With any luck, other people in other states will be doing as I'm doing and we'll meet at our common border[s] and celebrate.  Maybe with some pinochle or a good long kayak.  Or burgers, beers and karaoke.

I'm only 1/3 kidding.

Viva -- Sager 

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drbubb
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

"I've started with myself and my wife. We're working on our immediate social circle. When I get that knocked together, I'll start in on the local region. When I get *that* sorted, I'll probably take a break and enjoy some rest. Play a little pinochle, maybe go kayaking. Then I'll get stuck in on getting NY state's act together."

Okay.

But let's come back to the concept of sustainable prosperity.  What are you aiming for?  How do you measure progress?

Presumably, it is something other than: the level of your bank balance, or the size of your car or home.

Is it: How many acres you have on your farm?  The number of people who show up at your next birthday party, or other social engagement?

In all seriousness, I do think it will be very useful in helping others to "get it" and stay focussed, if we can begin to develop some concrete measures of what we are aiming for.

One big advantage that the Capitalist system has is that it has a clear means of "keeping score": the profit and loss statement.  A successful business is one that makes a profit.  By generating a profitable surplus, a company throws off the resources needed to keep it alive and growing.  If it makes a loss, its future may be threatened.  What a clear system this is!  How powerfully this focuses company employees on the profit motive.

We should be thinking about the measures we need to keep our own efforts going in forming sustainable communities.

I will be developing this idea further with future posts here.

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deggleton
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

CM says that growth and prosperity are mutually exclusive possibilities, given a surplus.  A surplus being an accomplishment that is not assured, we have to base our answers to the question on some very reliable means of production and it/they must begin with photosynthesis.  Otherwise, it's game over.

If we don't soon transition to a culture that daily converts maximum sunlight to chemical energy, effective heat and electricity, and parks carbon dioxide and water in rebuilt soils, we're probably done.  We've sent so much soil to(ward) sea and knocked out so many species that were recently part of humans' life support system, it's hard to be optimistic and hard to be certain.

If we make such a transition to solar, we will have acknowledged and respected habitats we don't yet.  Having done so, we can move on to long lost (unprecedented?) valuation of spirit and heart, farther away from stuff that does not matter.  An inspiration economy is possible... and unlimited.

There comes a point of reverence for who and what is alive where growth and prosperity are one.  Pointing to mutual exclusivity, CM was talking about the material world as if it is the whole.

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SteveW
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Re: What is Sustainable Prosperity? (Martenson's concept)

Sustainable prosperity.

It was understood by Mr. Micawber in simple terms; "Copperfield, my boy, income one pound, expenses twenty shillings, sixpence result misery ; income one pound, expenses nineteen shillings, sixpence result happiness." Something we seem to have forgotten.

My grandfather who was born in 1886 was prosperous. He walked down to the mill (woolen manufacturing) 5 days a week, lived in rental accomodation and had sufficient surplus for his lawn bowling hobby. In the 1950s we learned how robots would in the future relieve us almost entirely of work, enabling us to pursue whatever hobbies or artistic endeavours we pleased. Now how did that work out?

Our needs are food, shelter and clothing, while our desires are hobbies and toys. Food is the most critical need in the time beyond peak oil. The Haber process invented in 1909 for fixing atmospheric nitrogen is now responsible for producing the ammonia fertilizer required for feeding over 2 billion people. Current feedstock for this process is natural gas. Without this industrial production or successful genetic engineering of more organisms for nitrogen fixation our population will not exceed 4 billion. This food sustainability problem will occur over several decades, rather than within the next 10-20 years. If everyone now living had only 3 grandchildren then the population would be about 3.75 billion around 2110 and 2 billion in 2210. Sustainable prosperity is not possible without sustainable food and the elephant in the room no-one wants to talk about is our population and how to deal with it. China has made some effort and I would suggest a lottery to attempt to reduce population humanely. Economists scream at the suggestion since a larger population means economic growth, which just shows how misplaced the idea of "economic growth" surely is.

Our energy needs must be weaned off ancient sunlight and transferred to contemporary sunlight and the Earth's internal heat. 30,000 years ago our ancestors used caves which maintained a fairly constant year round temperature. As our housing stock is replaced it needs to use these techniques of Earth bermed housing or tapping ground heat using sophisticated heat exchangers.

Clothing comes down to fibre. We need leave the nylon and polyester behind and go back to wool, cotton, jute etc. Hemp makes excellent fibre and is now legally grown in Canada (the low cannabinoid variety).

Sustainable prosperity is having these basic needs met and then having sufficient time left over to fashion tools, tell stories and drink beer.

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