Waves of immigration, at growth’s beginning and end

A 1995 article in the Wall Street Journal offered this vivid image and a good discussion of the waves of immigration to the US from various other parts of the world during the past two centuries.    They coincide with the great period of economic growth, and the radical changes in the economic environment as we went from the beginning of growth to its end.

Growth has changed from creating limitless opportunity for all, to creating unmanageable conflicts with the environment and within a society no longer upwardly mobile, perhaps in decline.    That’s a very different world for immigrants to come into.

It’s no reflection on their different cultures, necessarily, as each wave of immigration seems to represent an old culture becoming adventurous.    It may well also not benefit a society to accept waves of immigrants as it is no longer creating expanding opportunity for itself.  That seems likely to have little to do with the immigrants themselves, though.    Still, the wave of the 1900’s came to build a great society, and the wave of today is picking up scraps in a society losing its way and coming into great conflict with its own success.

One of the great stories of modern economic growth and its tragedy

The sad story of modern economic growth is that its formula for great success became its formula for tragic failure, all by itself, almost overnight, caused only by our neglecting to read nature’s signal to respond to our limits.    That formula for success during growth is the self-investment or “seed” principle.  You plant your seed to get more seed to plant.  You use your profits to multiply your projects.      Continue reading Waves of immigration, at growth’s beginning and end

How natural system bankruptcy works.

Bankruptcy occurs…

when a system becomes unable to supply its own needs, and gets cut off from former supplies.    So, it’s a system that may seem to be working fine, but drifts over the line of profitability, and is abruptly rejected by its environment.

…when systems can’t generate “net-energy”

resource productivity * societal productivity < 1.0

From beginning to end environmental systems need to produce some minimal margin of excess resources as profit, to maintain cushions for everything.  Otherwise their parts will not have time to respond to shortages and their environmental connections break down.

Becoming both more costly to supply and more costly to run, to the limits of profitability, causes system bankruptcy, as it did for Rome.   Rome wasted resources on making its high society richer throughout its decline, as if that would reverse its resource depletion.

… disillusionment occurs and systems break into parts, to end their lives.

Continue reading How natural system bankruptcy works.

Disaster Hidden by the Weather, a Larger Toll

Katharine Q. Seelye’s Year Packed With Weather Disasters Has Brought Economic Toll to Match by was in the NY Times yesterday.  This is my letter to her.


I’m an economic systems physicist, and one of my favorite gold mines for hidden information about events is checking out what’s happening behind the news when more than one natural system of change is involved.  How nature’s systems work tends not to be reported, actually hidden from view *within the internal organization of the systems doing the work*, so you need to discover them.

There are two or three different long term trends behind the recent flurry of news about weather related disasters.   There are the long term trends of climate change and development in hazardous places.   There’s also a faster changing trend that began recently, also associated with severe weather in the minds of many people.

Disasters hit like lightning, like our emerging resource disaster too.

Continue reading Disaster Hidden by the Weather, a Larger Toll

The economic “crazies” all around

the alternative journal Yes! published “Building a Resilient Economy“, a fairly well informed discussion of alternative economic approaches… except for being just like “business as usual” in one critical regard.

It's that false promise we love too much

The economic “crazies” all around..    comment by Phil Henshaw Aug 15, 2011

Of course the most glaring group of “economic crazies” are the business as usual crowd, but I’ve also looked equally closely at the alternative economics literature. There’s no question but that the alternative schemes are differently crazy, but just as unworkable in a physical world as BAU.

Continue reading The economic “crazies” all around

Profiting from mayhem, is that what’s next?

Andy Revkin reposted on Dot Earth my comment (below) on Can Jeremy Grantham Profit From Ecological Mayhem? by Carlo Rotella in the NY Times Magazine.   On Dot Earth Andy also inserted other views, posting them together as Linear Resources + Exponential Demand = ?.

The gist is that it does indeed *seem* an economy designed to consume its resources ever faster would end in mayhem.    Except that’s not how nature always does it, making it a choice.   To solve it would change our institutions, but not would be a lot worse.

The mayhem option is there, and as I’ve discussed in an Profiting from Scarcity and Vicious spirals & relief.   From a systems science and sustainable investment view I have an article in the current New European Economy, “A decisive moment for Investing in Sustainability” also with discussed of Jeremy Grantham’s financial world view and research comments and links at big news… from Henshaw, Grantham &… the earth.

Appended are my two responses to the Dot Earth discussion, #12 “science is finding questions for which there are confident answers” and #28 a more modern view of Malthus.

A general map of emergence to decay for natural self-managing systems


What most people don’t adequately factor in…,

including Grantham, is how classically similar to a “Malthusian crisis” our collision with the resource limits of the earth is.  Our economy is having to adjust to the earth providing linear rates of supply to satisfy our built-in exponentially growing demand.  What’s hidden from view is that nature has two ways to handle that classic crisis of natural limits. Continue reading Profiting from mayhem, is that what’s next?

Does living in social networks change how we think??

The WNYC radio program On The Media, with Brook Gladstone and Bob Garfield is always insightful, and this week addressed The Personal Impact of the Web, and how the internet is changing human culture & society.   There has been some question whether the dramatic changes in how people think and behave are good or bad, or just “change” that older generations feel left out of…

Of course it’s “all of the above”, and I added the following as a comment regarding how in an information age, social networks naturally tend to create their own realities to live in, with the consequence of becoming detached from the changes in the natural world occurring around them…


"Cyberboy" learning that nature is now the network?

Bob & Brooke, Your ideas about how the internet is changing us are insightful and entertaining as always, but honestly, you’re missing the physics of it. The “internet generation” somewhat corresponds to the “productivity people”, the driving force of economic activity and growth around the world, and the internet is a major productivity tool, allowing us to control more and more with less and less awareness of it.
Continue reading Does living in social networks change how we think??

It’s the leeches that make us strong!!

I say it in that ironic way to emphasize the changing role of putting money into the economy to take more out.   It does make the economy grow stronger at first.   Standing outside the struggle of its creative struggle, letting your idle money milk it for more money, first has a stimulus effect on growth, but in real terms is always being being a leech on the system too.

While the system is discovering ever more opportunity to expand the more it expands, then “being a leech” at first does indeed make it bigger and stronger.   That corresponded to the period roughly from 1600 to 1950.

From then on it has successively weakened and foreshortened the future for economic system as a whole.    It’s the continuing use of money to demand ever growing earnings from one’s idle savings from the past, past the point in time when it starts accelerating the depletion of economic resources and opportunity, is the

“Mr Hyde” that automatically follows the “Dr Jekyll”

of magic productivity that being a financial leech begins with.

Continue reading It’s the leeches that make us strong!!

2nd Global Heart Attack, …lifestyle change needed

We’re driving an underperforming asset to return ever more

Excessive demands on ANY relationship naturally produce systemic collapses, like we’re now experiencing.   I’ve been pointing to the root causes, in considerable detail, for many years.  Ignoring them hasn’t made them go away.

It’s like compelling a runner to run faster when their body needs a rest.  At natural limits you need to pace yourself, in response to the responses of the world around you.

It’s hard to grasp how we could have developed a world of expert designed systems that ignore that most obvious principle of survival, but it never the less is clearly evident. Our cultural belief is that driving the economy to produce multiplying returns is the ideal of economic stability.

Pushing too hard naturally leads to collapse

Continue reading 2nd Global Heart Attack, …lifestyle change needed

Return to a world that works? Learn to steer!

Jay Hanson’s post to EconCritique@yahoogroups.com that “Economics is rotten at the center: The “Math/Logic Paradigm.” was passed on to me.   He basically found that economics is a social construct, of ideals that can’t be discovered in nature, and prompted this [edited] reply.

Jay,   I like how you aim at finding the conceptual errors.   It’s a good clue that problematic assumptions are neither possible to prove or disprove, suggesting they are just social constructs or definitions, rather than principles of nature discovered by observation.

A still greater fault may be found in our expectation that the world follows our abstract models at all.  That nature would follow our social ideals itself seems to be a pure social construct unsupported by observation.   Our beliefs we construct of our own abstract ideals are quite unable to articulate many features of how the systems of nature work, so it’s a mystery we haven’t acknowledged it.

The art of steering, timing the world for the moment to act

Continue reading Return to a world that works? Learn to steer!

What would release the logjam?

On our largely ineffective defense of the earth
and of our own prosperity

My critical reading of events is that “everything’s on hold”, speaking broadly about our need respond to how we’re altering the earth.    As I see it, for as long as I’ve been watching every “hopeful response” that gets made has been gutted, when someone needed to add either a prominent or hidden “business as usual” escape clause.

The IPCC climate mitigation protocols are an example, saying that the costs are not to reduce the long term rate of economic growth.  It’s as if to say “OK we’ll fix the problem as long as we can keep multiplying the causes”.    People always feel forced to concede to money interests and when pressed admit they don’t know if multiplying the economy’s physical impacts will keep producing multiplying problems for us and nature, as we’ve been watching take place.

Where we all are today, spinning our wheels

Continue reading What would release the logjam?