The Great Disruption has arrived


Why didn’t more of us see it coming? After all, the signals have been clear enough – signals that the ecological system that supports human society is hitting its limits, groaning under the strain of an economy simply too big for the planet. But we didn’t and, as a result, the time to act preventatively has passed.

Now we must brace for impact. Now comes The Great Disruption.

It is true that the coming years won’t be pleasant, as our society and economy hits the wall and then realigns around what was always an obvious reality: You cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Not ‘should not’, or ‘better not’, but cannot.

We can, however, get through what’s ahead – if we prepare. I wrote my forthcoming book, The Great Disruption, to help us do that. My conclusion in writing it was this:  not only can we make it through, we can come out the other side in better shape.

First, though, back to the present. There are countless analyses and metrics that clearly describe and record what is happening – our children will surely look back at what we can see now and ask, “What were you thinking?” One is oil prices, again on the way up, driven by surging demand in the developing world. Peak oil, long considered a fringe theory, is now widely acknowledged as inevitable, if not underway.

Leaked US diplomatic cables show evidence that oil reserves have been overstated, along with German military reports framing the connected security threat and comments by the UK energy secretary that the risk is real. No surprises here. Consumption has been outstripping the discovery of new reserves for a long time and, as production peaks, prices will rise – probably dramatically – with major economic consequences. Obvious to those who look.

An even more obvious concern is food. More than anything else, I believe food will come to define our entry into this period. Food prices, after hovering around long-term highs for several years, are now passing the extreme peaks of 2008 as climate chaos takes hold.

With our population growing and our diets moving to more energy- and grain-intensive meat production, supply was already tight. So, when record heat waves and drought hit Russia, crashing their wheat harvest and leading to an export ban, the global price response was rapid.

Next was Brazil. Did you hear about the so-called ‘one in one hundred-year’ drought in 2005 in the Amazon? Well there was another one in 2010, but this time worse. It appears that the Amazon, last year, was a dramatic net emitter of greenhouse gases rather than an absorber. Strange days indeed.

But actually not that strange, and certainly not surprising – you increase the thickness of the earth’s blanket and it gets warmer. Despite the wishful thinking of some, the global climate is behaving as the climate models forecast it would – a bit worse than expected but broadly in line. Indeed, 2010 tied with 2005 as the hottest year on record and, by year’s end, the sea temperature off Australia was the warmest ever recorded.

With warm oceans releasing more water vapour, we saw floods of biblical proportions hit the agricultural regions of Queensland, killing 22 people and impacting an area larger than France and Germany. The floods were quickly followed by one of the most intense cyclone ever to hit Queensland. Not good for food supplies, so expect prices to keep rising, especially considering that this was not a localised problem. Climate chaos is now worldwide, with an unprecedented 19 countries breaking temperature records in 2010.

Think that was just a bad year? Think again. Writing at, Andrew Leonard argued recently that this may all come to a head in China. He quotes the UN, who’ve just warned that a severe drought is “threatening the wheat crop in China, the world’s largest wheat producer, and resulting in shortages of drinking water for people and livestock.” According to a Xinhua report, if serious rain doesn’t fall by the end of this month, the key grain producing region of Shandong will face its worst drought in 200 years. Of course, 200 years ago they didn’t have 1.3 billion mouths to feed. Imagine China facing a food shortage and, with plenty of money in the bank, going on a global shopping spree to feed itself. This, argues food expert Lester Brown, could be China in 2011. Enjoy your daily bread while you can still afford it.

Maybe it will rain there again soon – but next time? People are starting to understand that this type of thing is not a one off. Commenting on rising food prices, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman wrote in The New York Times recently: “The evidence does, in fact, suggest that what we’re getting now is a first taste of the disruption, economic and political, that we’ll face in a warming world. And given our failure to act on greenhouse gases, there will be much more, and much worse, to come.”

But don’t panic. We will wake up soon. Not because the ecosystem is showing signs of major breakdown. Not because people are drowning. No, we will wake up because something much more important to us is now clearly threatened. When you try to create infinite growth on a finite planet, only two things can change: Either the planet gets bigger, which seems unlikely, or the economy stops growing. It’s the end of economic growth that will really get our attention.

There is surprisingly good news in all of this. We as humans have long been very good in a crisis. We ignore our health issues until the heart attack; our unwise lifestyle choices until the cancer diagnosis. We ignore our badly designed financial system until the economic crisis; or the threat of Hitler until the brink of war. Again and again, we respond to problems late, but dramatically – and, crucially, effectively. Slow, but not stupid.

This is a good attribute, given what’s coming. We’re going to have to transform our economy very rapidly, including our energy, transport and agricultural systems. This transition – to a zero net CO2 economy – will soon be underway and the business and economic opportunities for those who are ready (and risks to those who aren’t) are hard to overstate.

That’s why China is getting ready to win this race, with significantly more impressive programs to capture the opportunity than most Western countries. They understand that in the new world that is unfolding, being a ‘solar power’ will define geopolitical strength. Maybe the United States will start late, but strongly, surging out of Silicon Valley with a technology boom ready to disrupt and reinvigorate the world again. Time will tell – and probably sooner than you think.

There’s much more to this than technology, though, with some exciting cultural and political challenges ahead as well. In a growth-constrained world, our current central economic policy of ‘keep calm and carry on shopping’ is looking increasingly wrongheaded. It’s certainly insufficient for continued human development. (More good news there, however, because all the research suggests that shopping, or more specifically accruing more money and more stuff, is a very poor way to increase your happiness, once you’re out of absolute poverty.)

In response to the now inevitable crisis, we will demand our governments think more deeply. We will have to adopt policies known to improve quality of life, like encouraging community, social inclusion and – the most heretical idea of all – greater equality and a steady state economy. Interesting times indeed.

Taking all this together, we can now say with a high degree of certainty that change is going to start coming thick and fast. Change in our economy, in our politics, and in our lives. Change that will be challenging, but that will ultimately lead us to a better place.

So get ready for the ride. The Great Disruption is now underway.

45 thoughts on “The Great Disruption has arrived

  1. John Collee

    Amazing, isn’t it how everything changes while our daily lives remain the same. You think, as a kid, that history has chapter headings. The Fall of the Roman Empire, the Spread of Christianity, The Black Death and that these things are announced by town criers and buglers…. In fact, shit happens, incrementally over a period of years or decades, while we all burrow around, immersed in the detail of our daily lives. Now and again we poke our heads up and say: Oh. The world is totally different now. How the *#@* did that happen?

  2. Easy to read, easy to understand. Even the daftest bogan should be seeing that changes are coming thick and fast. Food, water, electricity prices are the first big awakeners for the average punter. Hell, no wonder big corporates are price gouging on everything they can, its getting tough for them to make the profits investors have come to expect. Oh yes yes yes, its gonna be a big disruption for those who want more! Love your work Paul!

  3. I have to quote another magic line from the Daily Mash…the creative description has had me giggling all morning….

    Tom Logan, 15, said: “As a boy in the prime of teenagehood, I am usually frotting myself relentlessly, like a bonobo monkey possessed by the spirit of Jack Nicholson.

    Sorry Paul, but we all need to giggle a bit,and this surely does the job. :)

  4. Thanks Paul for your clear and explicit take on what’s really going on – perfect for those who dare to listen. Whether the world wakes up or not…extreme and rapid change is happening and those who care to respond will enjoy the ride a whole lot more than those who refuse to acknowledge what is actually occuring. Amazing that so many remain in denial as the pace of change accelerates to warp speed. So we can either dig it or bitch about it – either way…it’s coming fast!

  5. David Letham

    An excellent summing up of the situation.

    However, I think we need to move beyond “…transition – to a zero net CO2 economy” as our target. We’ve only had 0.8C warming since humanity started burning fossil fuels and we’re already committed over the next 100 years to another 0.6C warming with what’s already in the atmosphere because of the huge time lags in the climate system. We’re currently at 388ppm CO2 and increasing at around 2ppm per year. We should be aiming to go carbon-negative, not just neutral, to draw back to the widely regarded climate-safe level of 350ppm (

  6. Lyndsay Holme

    All commonsense commentary on what has been sadly inevitable. You can’t keep ignoring the people who have been thinking deep and hard about this for at least 4 decades but who have been made to look like pariahs ie Rachel Carson, Paul Erhlick, James Lovelock et al. Increase the population, increase consumption, increase supply and demand, increase so called economic growth from increased production – where does it all end? Even Galbraith he’d left the key factor out of the equations all his professional life just before he died – the cost to the environment (and we planeteers are part of that landscape!). Well said Paul and I echo John’s comments above. Thanks for more interesting and provocative thoughts on which we must base some action.

  7. having just read the vitriolic rantings by Gerard Henderson about the commie Greens it was a delight to read this article Paul.Blind Freddy can see the writing on the wall and yet there are none so blind that won’t see.
    I would hate to leave fixing up the planet to a few scientists who reckon that we can slice the tops off the Himalayas,Andes etc and hope that CO2 will be sucked up by the Basalt in these mountains.Correct me if this is wrong as there are more radical approaches than this one.

  8. Martin Wells

    Paul, with our food security in mind, what do you think of the “don’t sell Australia short” campaign by local radio station 5aa?.

  9. Mond from Oz

    Reason and bitter experience speak with one voice – but Murdoch and the Koch brothers and the Republican Congress speak with another (to say nothing of little Gerard H.). They know that haIf the population has an IQ under 100; they know how to divert them with the entertaining brutalities and concocted crises of commercial sport and the delicious adulteries of Hollywood starlets.

    To a variable degree we share an understanding of the enormity of the changes that will be forced upon us. Will we make timely preparation? Abandon ‘growth’? Will the Pope endorse contraception while BP and the coal owners admit their error? Or will we hide under the well funded blanket of denial until it is all far too late?

    I am in my eightieth year. The damage has been done in my lifetime.

  10. Richard Brenne

    Paul Gilding’s excellent essay is one of the best summaries of our global problems and solutions I’ve seen. I support every solution he mentions, but feel that they’re a little glib, overly optimistic and unrealistic, as much as I’d like to believe them (and in the Tooth Fairy and that the Rock never made a movie with that name).

    So below I’ve reprinted Gilding’s essay and then added comments of my own in parenthesis, beginning where Gilding turned gelding:

    But don’t panic (Panic!). We will wake up soon (Really? Zzzzzzz). It’s the end of economic growth that will really get our attention (And be completely misunderstood by virtually everyone).

    There is surprisingly good news in all of this (For those who feel the death of all life on a planet is good news, see Hansen). We as humans have long been very good in a crisis. We ignore our health issues until the heart attack (then after); our unwise lifestyle choices until the cancer diagnosis (then smoke through our tracheotomy). We ignore our badly designed financial system until the economic crisis (and then use taxpayer money to bail out billionaires and perpetuate that system); or the threat of Hitler until the brink of war. Again and again, we respond to problems late, but dramatically – and, crucially, effectively. (I’ll give you part of the WWII thing, but that was the most easily understood, visceral problem, while reaching the limits to growth in every way is much the opposite.) Slow, but not stupid (Slow and incredibly stupid).

    This is a good attribute, given what’s coming. We’re going to have to transform our economy very rapidly, including our energy, transport and agricultural systems. This transition – to a zero net CO2 economy – will soon be underway and the business and economic opportunities for those who are ready are hard to overstate (What we most need are more rich people, and the economic system that is the motivational force for all life in every Universe, our Lord and Creator, the Free Market, which has done nothing wrong but create the problem in the first place).

    In response to the now inevitable crisis, we will demand our governments think more deeply (If by “think more deeply” you mean “find scapegoats”). We will have to adopt policies known to improve quality of life, like encouraging community, social inclusion and – the most heretical idea of all – greater equality and a steady state economy (An economy evidently based on pigs flying F-16s landing on the frozen reaches of hell).

    Taking all this together, we can now say with a high degree of certainty that change is going to start coming thick and fast. Change in our economy, in our politics, and in our lives. Change that will be challenging, but that will ultimately lead us to a better place (In our next life).

    (This was originally written for Climate Progress, in a slightly pessimistic – or more unfortunately, realistic – mood. It is really just an elaborate seconding of my octogenarian friend, Mond from Oz at #11 above, who demonstrates what every society except ours has known, that among those seeking wisdom throughout their lives, it generally increases with age.)

  11. Sounds about right, as much as anyone can be anyway. All we can discern is the general direction, but rarely the amount or timing of such change. But the direction is enough. It can at least inform any decisions we are making anyway, such as whether to spend a lot on a big inefficient house, live high and assume good investment returns , or live careful and be conservative. I made a very simple decision about cars. Keep the old one and use local skilled mechanics to keep it well maintained. Dont rush out and pay a premium for a replacement whether big or a hybrid or whatever. Keep life compact and dont allow the travel circle to keep expanding. Support local produce and lear to gow a few things. It is handy how most of the simple changes to save dependence on high cost energy save money anyway , so it is not really that hard. Hmm , what to do for recreation, play golf and consume mssive resources and my money? or … walk and swim and ride a bike and garden. Where to for a holiday from the office ?.. fly halfway around the world? of go and work 4 hours a day for bed and food on an organic farm in my region. Put your super in funds that have been tracking the envirnmental scene for decades and knwo who is the real deal and who is greenwash as capital raising and deployment shifts from mad consumerism to the sustainable retrofit and utilities.
    Plenty to do other than just sit and worry. Meanwhile though, unravel the debts and remain in a postion of minimum dependence, and maximum flexibility

  12. Nice article. However,

    “A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

    Antoine de Saint-Exupery

    There are plans and scenarios out there for making this change and the earlier we support them and put them into practice, the less disruption we will have to put up with..

    Here’s one:
    Has your MP read it?

  13. It was interesting to see a whole column of letters in The Age after the Queensland floods, from people saying they weren’t too keen on paying the flood levy when it would only assist in rebuilding houses in the zone which climate change is rendering useless for the future – and that the time is now for the Queensland and federal governments to start making big changes, instead of rebuilding houses on coastal fringes so that they can be flooded or swept away all over again.
    Great to see those views voiced.
    However, in all the TV coverage of the floods, of which my husband and I watched maybe five or six hours on the days and afterwards, we saw only one report from a scientist explaining that this was the El Ninia effect, warmer oceans evaporating and creating rainfall, and that essentially climate change was the cause. Only one report on the cause, but lots of heart warming coverage of people putting a spin on the community spirit and how great Aussies are at pulling together.
    Conclusion? I blame the media – for feeding the great Aussie population the palatable stuff they think they can take, and holding back on what we really need to hear think about. And we only watch the ABC! Christ knows what flannel the boofheads watching the commercial channels are being fed.
    I think Paul’s comment is correct, in that the main challenge is still one of getting the message ito the mainstream.

  14. It is more than half a century since I began my career in journalism. Any pride I may have had in my profession was gone before I finished my cadetship (see Fiona Stocker). I persevered on the reasoning that, at least when I was reporting, I would try always to get as near the truth as possible and to resist my subjective inclinations. But now I am retired and I am allowing my emotions and deep-seated central beliefs full rein. There really is no cure for the problems that confront humanity. Paul Gilding’s diagnosis of our ailments and the solutions he suggests are brilliant. His optimism is misplaced. We humans are hell bent on becoming the shortest-lived life form our planet has (mis)conceived. Only after our demise (and our elimination of untold numbers of other life forms) will Earth be able to seriously gain ground in repairing the damage.

  15. Just ponder if China called in all money loaned and stopped exporting and then concentrated on its own internal problems outlined in the book.

    It then only exported goods to pay for those imported to meet its own needs.

    As a dictatorship it could do it as as was done by Eisenhower stopping production of cars in WWII.

  16. We are now in year #7 of peak oil. We have entered the phase of armed conflicts about oil which will reduce oil production beyond what is dictated by oil geology.

    Visit my web site crudeoilpeak dot info for more details

  17. In 1990, I pondered this “future” scenario and, inspired by the idea that humans would not act until the world was at a crisis point, which I called “the Collapse”, I wrote my first novel, Nemeton. In this, I created a fictional valley where a pocket of humans drew together to not only survive, but to learn how to thrive with ‘trust’ as the foundation of their new way of living. Working together, they shared food and labour. The time of the cities was over for a time, but eventually they found a better reason for being other than money collection – as learning and communication centres.
    Humans need a purpose for living, not just a reason to shop. I’ve always been a dreamer… now it’s time to prepare: stop depending upon others as much as possible, be empowered and live the dream.

  18. Heard your NPR interview today “on Point” – really refreshing to hear such a clear argument for economic change. I will get to library for you book.

    I have been suggesting to my corporate clients creating a virtual workplace that would have CSR (Corporate Social & Environmental Responsibility) – policies, methods and tools embedded in its DNA – a prototype of a new business model for the 21st century – a transparent simulator to test-drive the assumptions that CSR in its most complete realization is smart business with solid economic values. I get a lot of excitement when presenting demonstrations – but it stalls at the CEO’s desk because it is ultimately disruptive to the existing business. I will not argue that point since it is in fact the truth. Nice to hear you be so uncompromising in telling it.

  19. I must admit I am a disappointed. Mr. Gilding identifies the problem in the early chapters and then deals only with the symptoms i.e. CO2 admissions, the acidic sea, bumping into the finite amount of natural resources, etc. Although these are very real problems and need addressing the underlying problem of increasing population is essentially ignored. I fail to see how redistribution of wealth and zero economic growth will equate to zero population growth. Actually that will exasperate the problem, the $1.25/day poor will gain wealth to obtain more and better food and health care, thus increasing life expediency and decreasing early mortality rates which would increase the rate of the world’s population, which is the exact opposite of what is needed.
    Mr. Gilding’s own estimate of a 9 billion population in 2050 will equate to between 15 or 20 billion by the end of this century. This is way too many people for this tiny planet to absorb with any kind of quality of life. The question before our great thinkers of this world is: How to achieve a zero population growth within the next four decades? If a viable solution is not thought of and implemented, I am afraid the last half of this century will see and feel the wrath of Mother Nature, and this will not be pretty.

  20. Paul Gilding

    Dave: Without dismissing the issue of population, (clearly less people would make the task easier) the math of economic growth suggests that it’s per capita increases in wealth that are the big driver. Between now and 2050, population growth is forecast to increase our impact by 30%. But in the same time frame, per capita economic growth is forecast to increase our impact by around 300%. So I still think that economic growth is the key issue.

  21. I recently read the Great Disruption and enjoyed it immensely. I don’t do much secular reading and I gained a lot of insight in the bible with your book. Clearly not something you were aiming for, I thank you just the same.

    When I read that the fishing industry could or will collapse mid century the verse in Isaiah 19:8 became very clear: “The fishers also shall mourn, and all they that cast angle into the brooks shall lament, and they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish.”
    There is a very strong resistance in the Christian community, that I am part of, to agree that Mankind has caused the ecological situation we find ourselves in. The question I have been able to formulate and defend after reading your book is, why not? Through out the bible is the occurrence of God using the behavior of Man to achieve His goals. If God says the world is going to come to an end, why not let Man cause that to happen?

    I agree with you that the situation will be remedied. It states clearly that a man will rise up with the answer to our world problem and then require all the world to worship him. The anti-christ will be seen all over the world when he is revealed (this is what it says in the bible). I think this also agrees with the world currency disaster and that that dilemma will usher in the mark of the devil by which no one will be able to buy or sell without that mark, however it manifests itself as a physical mark or a credit system.

    I know these ideas are contrary to your view of the situation but putting aside your own bias, does it stand to reason that the parallels exist?

    God told man in the beginning to subdue the earth. I’m thinking, at this point, mission accomplished. I don’t think the earth can be much more subdued and still support more human life for any significant period of time.

    Will a WWII level mobilization usher in the change? There was a huge Christian influence in the WWII war effort(many other religions as well but I’m going somewhere with this). Depending on what poll you look at, 97% of humanity claim there is a God. Knowing the diversity of what people consider to be “God” who knows what that means? Also understanding that only in Christian doctrine, there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ. That to be saved by God you not only have to believe in Jesus Christ but that Jesus Christ is also God. All of that said and “if” true, no other religious doctrine equals salvation meaning all other religions are false. With the rising popularity of Muslim religions and the emergent church what percent of our population are really Christians? Even in evangelical circles the numbers bare out the same thing. 97% believe in God but only 3% read the bible and or tithe. Could the same WWII effort be accomplished without the same fundamentals in play? All I can say is, we will see. I know that God through Jesus Christ is fond of doing the impossible with almost no human intervention, (Re: 300 soldiers of Gideon , through God, routing a force that couldn’t be numbered).

    I don’t know exactly why but in the last few years I have personally nearly eliminated my own consumption to primarily eating. I exclusively take mass transit and through business, focus exclusively, economically on bringing the top down and the bottom up by minimal consumptive means.

    I greatly appreciate your message of hope. Being a Christian I believe in the message of hope. You’ve latched onto that message. I just wonder if we will find that hope is in Mankinds endurance and technology or if in fact that hope will be delivered through the grace and mercy of God through Jesus Christ.

    Keep digging. You’re going in the right direction.

  22. I have just finished reading “Great Disruption…” and have never read such a clear and easily understood explanation of where we are at and how we got here. Should be required reading for every high school senior. I am 65 and experienced my first awakening reading Carson, Schumacher, Ehrlich, and others during the late sixties and seventies. Reading Paul’s book has been like another awakening for me. I find myself more at peace in my own mind with what is coming now that I have an understanding of just where we are at. In other words I no longer pay attention to the media discussion among the denier’s, they are like lost souls. Now I can focus on what is important.

    However, Paul is more hopeful than convincing that humans will follow their species survival extinct and form a common union of effort to deal with the coming impacts. He relies too much on the positive example of WWII mobilization by the Allies while ignoring all of the horrific human actions that caused the war. We must remember that civilization went from the intellectual heights of Hellenistic Greece, the libraries of Alexandria Egypt, and the enlightened Moorish society of Spain into the Christian Dark Ages.

    Myself I am inclined to believe that Americans will chose right wing fascism over enlightened democracy when the times become harsh and severe measures are required. Perhaps it will eventually evolve into a more benign community based ethic when citizens realize the right wing has no ideas that actually work to alleviate our misery. I hope I am wrong on this.

    If you have not read this book, please do so for your own peace of mind.

  23. Thank you for the book Paul. You expressed so very well what I have known instinctively for years and years.

    The planet cannot sustain perpetual growth…not economic growth, not physical growth and certainly not population growth. I have been a total doomsday believer until your book. Maybe, just maybe, you are right and we will rally to the cause and be better for it in the end. Utopia is not possible, as we all know, but a better life certainly is…it is the change in values that I am the most hopeful about.

    Lawyers used to be the culprits; then I added politicians; then I added doctors; then I added the corporate world; then I added the retail world; the media has been creeping in that direction lately….and now I truly see that Marketers belong at the front of the line. Your book has been an inspiration for me. I am looking for new investment options; I will buy little simply because I actually do not need one thing. I will begin to give away what I do have to those who might need it. I am older and may not see the Great Disruption but I will work toward your very hopeful outcome the rest of my days.

    PS – I will be buying several more copies of your book to send to those in my realm who will understand….and possibly believe what you are saying….especially my CEO.

  24. Loved the book and hope the hopeful part of it comes to pass. It will be interesting to see if the current US and European debt crises will cause any deeper economic thinking among politicians, or indeed among mainstream economists. At the moment they only seem to be able to think in terms of getting growth going again while paying lip service to the need to limit carbon emissions.

  25. While the core concept of unsustainable economic growth is sound, and many prescriptions for the ills are generally a positive step (albeit at the risk of hyperauthoritarianism if not totalitarianism), I would rethink the situation of too many people working too hard to buy “stuff”.
    Again, lot of truth, but I believe the underlying reason of striving for higher income is because money degrades over time, taxes increase relative to buying power. The high costs of housing, transportation, education, property taxes and so on are due to government actions, and the burden is placed squarely on the world’s middle classes. Governments need to shift this burden (if they are going to maintain their scale, another argument) to the ultra-rich and yes, force the poor to live more responsibly.

  26. Ocean acidification and pollution are what will call a halt to all this human acivity. As noticed in a coment by “in4mayshun” in MarketWatch, everyone is fixed on warming, whereas, check and click on “acidification” to see the horrible facts, don’t take my word for it, check for yourself to see that I am not leading folks awry. Soon, with the TV-TEA people in full throat, the oceans will die, they have already been noticed to be dying now!

  27. Hard to see how you can be as sanguine about the ‘Great Disruption’ and its likely outcomes as you appear to be. You seem to imagine that the institutions of the current paradigm will simply evaporate when confronted by the intractable truth. They won’t. We will see a desperate step by step relinquishment of power as the crisis they/we have promulgated runs increasingly out of control.

    Globally we are confronting the likely deaths from disease, thirst, starvation and the desperate wars these will generate, of billions of people this century.

    Australia will not escape. Driven by a combination of skyrocketing oil prices and global food shortages Australian food prices will probably go through the roof (as you indicate) just at the time that the possibility of feeding ourselves will be severely reduced by decreasing rain levels, increasing extreme weather events like drought and flood and increasing temperatures in the Murray Darling food bowl and the south west of WA. At the same time, as one of your commenters noted, the seas will cease to become sources of food – whether by acidification as he believes or simply because an increasingly desperate global population has fished them out (predicted before 2050) is immaterial.

    At a time when we will seriously need the capacity to make things for ourselves our industrial capacity, never strong has been destroyed by a combination of government neglect (bi partisan commitment to a free global manufacturing market) and our soaring dollar courtesy of the mining sector.

    At a time when we will desperately need clear accurate information on which to base political decisions we are faced with a media firmly in the control of incredibly blinkered self interested groups hell bent on preserving their right to wring every last dollar out of the dying system.

    By the time the institutions of the old paradigm have fallen over the fuel, food, water crisis will be so acute that there will be little resource of any kind left over to devote to the climate crisis that may well finish us off as a race. Remember that unless the growth economy winds up very quickly two or three decades. so many climatic tipping points will have been passed that global warming will become self perpetuating release of methane from permafrost and under Arctic Ocean, release of carbon from tropical peat, loss of sea and forests as carbon sink etc.

    Tell me Paul what do you know that I don’t that underpins your apparent optimism?

  28. Another couple of thoughts. The world is littered with the remnants of civilizations that, confronted with generally self inflicted environmental disaster, were unable to mobilize themselves sufficiently to save their civilization. What is different this time is that unless we act effectively and quickly enough this crisis may very well spell the end of us. On the positive side, this time we at least understand the causes and remedies. On the negative side all manner of psychological impediments to effective action have surfaced, effectively delaying remedial action at a time when delay may well mean death. Can these be overcome quickly enough – who knows?

    I really hope that the path forward that you outline comes to pass – I really do but I’m afraid the scenarios sketched out by Gwynne Dyer in his book ‘Climate Wars’ may be closer to the mark.

  29. as a farmer you soon learn about stocking rates, ie how many sheep you can put in a paddock for how long. governed by how much pasture and water is there to be had.
    we are approaching or have reached our stocking rate, and we don’t have a sheperd to come and let us into the next paddock.
    food and water is the issue forget your toys and games lifestyles etc
    accept the reality

  30. Kjell Eirheim

    With a forceful public voice like Paul Gilding’s, it is a great shame that the vital issue of population growth is not seriously discussed in his book. He is hiding it behind his belief that economic factors will somehow take precedence, without making good on his claim that the economic growth he stipulates will some to pass. By avoiding the population issue, he conveniently also avoids upsetting the religious lobby. It is the irony of the book that, by omission, it encourages and actually supports this lobby. This is, of course, disgraceful.

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