After Russell Brand’s out-pour on the Paxman show, I decided to dig up an interview given by Jeremy Grantham on Bloomberg. He speaks on population, science, growth, phosphorus, oil, coal, technology, wheat, global geopolitics… everything. He pretty much backs up everything that Russel Brand talked about, the difference is that he’s a Wall St darling, has done the numbers and doesn’t look like a pirate.
The reactions to Brand’s passionate diatribe has been predictable. Left leaning papers suggesting that this might be the start of the revolution, right wing journos clinging to this great life that we all have. The issue at hand is that the last 250 years have been special. Since coal, human endeavor has reached heights the likes of Plato, Descartes and Newton never imagined. Yet we hold on to those two hundred years, and forget the preceding times, the hardships humans faced, the collapse of societies, over and over again. Jared Diamond explains this in his book, aptly named Collapse. For real insight into how the human brain works, one need only read up on how Easter Islanders caused their own demise. It’s funny and horrifying at the same time, mostly because it holds a mirror to our own society, at the effects of deforestation, the 6th mass extinction, the burning of fossil fuels all while trying to feed and clothe a population that will reach 9 billion by 2050. Why so funny? It just so happens that the earth has 5 time more fossil fuels thanit’s ok to burn in order to stay within the 2 degree limit agreed by 95% of scientist to prevent irreversible changes. And we have decided to fry. A couple of graphs might prove useful here:
The two graphs show the same thing – that we are well on the way to creating our very own hell on earth. It’s all completely preventable. We have the technology, science and even the common sense to avert global disaster. Common sense, unfortunately, is not as widespread as it should be.
When Russell Brand talks about being disenfranchised, about the elite serving corporations, this is what he is talking about. Knowing what we know, changes should already be happening. Yet we are still arguing details. The truly disappointing aspect of the situation is that this new paradigm presents an opportunity to get creative. Let’s not even think about climate change. We know that exhaust fumes from various sources lead to health issues, that sedentary lifestyles are causing obesity to increase, that healthier employees are better workers. Dealing with this issues will help to decrease pollution levels, create vibrant, healthy communities, keep people out of over crowded hospitals. These interventions will help to employ people in jobs that make a difference, to discover, to experiment and to once again build communities that have been eroded by the exponential influence of free market liberalism on meth – it might be fun to start with but it eventually becomes an ugly addiction which ends in disaster. I do not say this because I am about the doom and gloom but because, as Grantham would say: The numbers say so.
Jeremy Grantham also happens to state something that I have been convinced of for a while. Economics does not work when humans involved. The theory calls for perfect information for buyers and sellers among other things, which is clearly an impossible situation. People like Jeremy Grantham, Russell Brand and Elon Musk (my holy trinity) give me hope for the world – through finance, popular culture and creativity.
The full interview with Grantham is here. Though it’s 55 minutes long, it’s well worth a look.