Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Future: Low Growth West; High Growth East

China rising
Martin Kettle has an interesting and disturbing article in today's The Guardian, headed Austerity is here to stay, and we'd better get used to it:

But we are going to have to get used to austerity. Because relative scarcity, and the need to do more with less, are not going to go away in a hurry. Austerity is remaking our world. The point is to make the best of it. Welcome to 21st-century Europe.
 Today's quarterly inflation review by the Bank of England is merely the latest in a series of indicators that remind governments and peoples across Europe and beyond that the old days are simply over, done, finished. Recovery would be sustained but slow, said the Bank. 

The economy was sluggish. The environment unfavourable. Things might be weaker for longer.

The message is hard to miss. Times have changed. The only thing that is certain is further uncertainty. We may have come out of recession again, but the idea that Britain, let alone the countries of the eurozone, can expect to see any resumption of the kind of growth rates to which we have all been accustomed since the second world war, is increasingly fanciful. 

We are living through not a downturn but an epochal change, and we need to make a more consistent effort to understand what this implies.

The most interesting news story of the last week – which was nothing to do with the BBC and made few of the newspapers – illustrates what is at stake. During the next 50 years, according to a newly published OECD growth report, the world economy is expected to grow at about 3% a year. Most of that growth, however, will be in Asia and the developing nations. 

Growth in Europe, including the UK, will be much less robust – and will often actually decline.

He points out that we have failed to grasp what the result of three decades of conscious hollowing out policies in the West are:

It is tempting to read a report like the OECD's and say, yeah yeah, we all know all that stuff about the rise of Asia and the decline of the west. And maybe we all do. But probably only at a rather theoretical level. For most of us, relative decline is something we read about but don't think about until it hits us on the head. Most of us have barely started to grasp what it may mean for our living standards and our politics.

And not just in 50 years' time, either. These large shifts are already under way. Their impact is now, as well as later. Just look around the world this week.

Politicians in the West have a high hurdle to jump if they are to (i) understand what has happened; (ii) tell their citizens what went on and is now taking place; and (iii) come up with some solutions to a fifty year future of flat to declining growth and living standards.
If they don't, they will be swept aside every time an election is held.
And Canada will not escape this austere future.


  1. The Keystone GarterNovember 16, 2012 12:02 pm

    Fuscum peat moss is mostly East. AB is draining theirs and on NWT it is frozen.
    If floating catotelm (dead moss) and floating trees matrix prevent keeping the carbon from near the surface, dumping sand and then adding the live acrotelm layer, should work. I'm hoping pH levels of the wood in the matrix will correlate with concentration of phenolics (the moecules that keep carbon in bog wood sequestered). If the hydrology of the matrix is connected to the forest flooding, drying, the pH should rise, which releases carbon. I need to know what pH level of liquid around a log, keeps the log sequested. An acrotelm on the surface would reduce evaporation and add some phenolics, prolly. Flooding isn't so bad as long as the matrix phenolics aren't diluted. I'm looking at Eastern Canada as a surface of different water levels as phenolic concentrations. Need quick growing bog trees too. There isn't that much volume of wood in a forest. No one has done the pH research because trees that fell on the surface were exposed to air for a decade or two so no one thought of tree sequestered carbon in bogs until recent UK research. A cdn remote wind powered agri-pump would be nice. I'll wait for cdn oil sands and CIBC to invent...

  2. TKG - your comments are interesting but perhaps you should try to comment on the topic of the blog posts. Makes more sense, eh?

  3. The Keystone GarterNovember 19, 2012 5:28 pm

    I guess treeplanting in the East is a safer assumption than water pumping R+D and fast growing spruce/pine R+D.

    I don't think growth has much meaning anymore. Quality-of-living is associated with low carbon emissions and computer technologies than are decreasing in cost. We need consumption metrics that take into account self-satisfaction as well as variety of, and propensity to sample, a variety of activities/products. And accouting Crowns is very immature.
    The UN has 4 things in its metrics. I'd go with longevity, legality of safe narcotics and activities, ability to be educated, and ability to accrue $10000 PPP in essentials services/income annually. So a future holograph living room system, it could be part of a guaranteed annual income for some if it educated or taught work skills. It will be worth more than the price tag.


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