World Crisis: Theme-baskets — “Earth themes”

Posted in Global Net Assessment

Dear Class, Here are the six “Earth themes” we covered last night. I have tried to take your presentations and distill them into key sub-themes, or issues within each basket. This is just my take on the most significant things you identified in your talks.

Energy —

  • Unexpected global supply shocks. This suggests that there are “expected” supply shocks that the market generally anticipates, or is sensitive to — as opposed to the hit from the blue. Such shocks can certainly move the world economy into recession, and possibly to regional war, but will not break the system.
  • However, within such an environment, a further breakdown of the global energy market, plus hoarding (after the disruption war or other crisis), could accelerate economic subsidence in regions dependent on energy imports. This would further segment the world system.
  • Continued high production and burning of fossil fuels — like the vast increase in Chinese coal-burning power plants — could lead to a spike in CO2 PPM, which could trigger even larger positive feedback loops for COrelease worldwide.

Food/Water —

  • Because food, like energy, is a world commodity, a sudden shortage+spike in price could lead to subsidence  in regions dependent on imports they can no longer secure. Food would no longer be a world commodity, but the dependencies created by a world market would doom many.
  • Hoarding by producers, plus an absence of any sort of world food “bank” could intensify such disruption and make it a world crisis.
  • More gradually, an insatiable demand for meat (China especially) leads to a decline in grains’ production, or heavier overworking of colonial agribusiness in Africa.
  • Overall world grain production hits a (absolute) wall, but is still treated as a commodity by the global market — so many are deprived.
  • Unexpected grains’ (food production) collapse (multitple potential causation here from new disease strains to GM consequences).
  • What does true water collapse in select countries (Peru, Yemen) do to the world network and marketplace? Is there a scramble for water, and regional hoarding by the few and powerful, at the expense of the numerous and weak?

Severe Weather —

  • Disproportionate impact single-events, vs. a new, highly destructive regional weather pattern (i.e., monsoon shift). Localized impact, yet with potentially very high mortality (India, Bangladesh)
  • Intermediate shifts (El Nino, Pacific Decadal Oscillation) negative impact on already-stressed human communities — drought tipping points may be reached and passed, as we are seeing in California and the American Southwest).
  • Pushes coastal communities to the limit of readjustment — a major problem then of forced migration of populations. But how then to feed hundreds of millions?

Climate Change —

  • What is a climate change tipping point? How to we bound in scale and time? What does it mean in systemic terms? Should we understand it as a point of no return for the world system (where it can no longer be reconstituted), or a point of no retun 
  • What is the biggest potential near-term hit for long-term climate change? The Oceans dying? What does such a hit do to the human system? Is this what we should be looking for in terms of climate change consequences, or does climate change operate more over the long-term background: Limiting and constraining the world system, or amplifying other negative dynamics?
  • How does the first negative earth-shift affect other areas, like: Food production, water sources, river management?

River Struggle —

  • When does Eurasian/Himalayan river-appropriation lead to open conflict with India and Vietnam?
  • Apart from war, what does an absence of river sharing and collective management mean to the viability of river-dependent populations?
  • What is the role of himalayan glacial subsidence in accelerating the slide to conflict and war?

Pandemic —

  • As in: New, big, spreads, kills. Each of these factors is present in the mix of new pathogen creation today. Plus our historical case studies tell us that complex helpmates like climate change and dense human-animal mixing, plus a tight global network and lowered human immunity, make pandemics happen. All of those features are present today.
  • Can we identify the significant role of climate change, dense human-animal sharing, world network mechanisms, and lowered human immunity in terms of how these factors might facilitate the worldwide spread of a new pandemic?
  • How does a successful pandemic create world system subsidence — through initial global panic, or after a certain level of global death?

Tomorrow, the rest of you will brief us on the “Human themes” — and the sub-issues within each of those six baskets. Then, next Tuesday we will try and begin to put the puzzle into some more harmonious — if necessarily complex — analytic interrelationship!