15 April 2008

I posted the following comments on a blog post by a Member of Parliament, Dr. Lam Pin Min, concerning soaring rice prices:

I think the Singapore government is doing the right thing in allowing the SGD to rise, but it is not a good long term solution. Singapore and the rest of the world are not addressing the root causes of the food problem: overpopulation, limits to growth and declining availability of fossil fuels. Just as you cannot cure a cancer patient by treating the symptoms, so you cannot solve the current food crisis by addressing only the symptoms - which in this case is price inflation. A stronger SGD may help in the short term, but it does not address the root causes.

First, we need to understand the "perfect storm" that we are about to face. In a presentation by Paul Chefurka: We are facing a perfect storm of 1) Ecological Collapse, driven by the depletion of natural resources and Climate Change; 2) Energy shortages, driven by Peak Oil and Peak Natural Gas; 3) Economic destabilization driven by American debt loads and a complex and unsustainable global financial system.

I shudder every time I hear our ministers encourage more childbirths and their overemphasis on economic growth. Don't they understand our limits to growth? Have they not read the works and warnings by scientists who have been telling us since the 1970s that humanity's unrestrained growth will result in ecological collapse? Don't they get it?

The Green Revolution of the 1970s was successful due not only to molecular genetics, but also to increased use of pesticides, diesel or gas powered irrigation pumps, and synthetic nitrogen fertilizes - all of which are highly dependent on oil and natural gas. We are unfortunately witnessing a "peak" or decline in the availability of such fossil fuels to which there are no suitable substitutes. How shall modern farmers, who are highly dependent on these resources, grow enough to feed the world in coming years?

Instead of emphasizing economic growth, or should I say Uneconomic growth since such growth only inflates our GDP numbers but not necessarily our well being, our government needs to rethink their priorities and look at how we can become more resilient and sustainable even at the expense of growth. They need to aim for the following:

1) Zero or better still, negative population growth

2) Increase local food production to the point of or near self-sufficiency

3) Increase local energy production to the point of or near self-sufficiency

4) A Steady State Economy

These goals may sound too radical, but I believe it's the only way to ensure our survival and sustainability in the long run. Cuba successfully overcame their oil crisis in the 1990s when they lost 90% of their oil imports after the collapse of the Soviet Union - whom they were so dependent on for oil. It will serve us well to study what they did for this could very well happen to us. In time to come, do not be surprise if such an oil crisis happens to us in a very short period of time because of nationalism and hoarding by oil exporting countries.

Is there anyone in parliament who is perceptive enough to understand these issues? Is there anyone in parliament who is bold enough to bring up these issues and to challenge our flawed assumptions in economics and growth?

I don't wish to sound presumptuous or arrogant, but the following links should be required reading for all our ministers and MPs. I have gone through the links and I am very concerned about our future. These links have altered my fundamental worldview. Frankly, I'm feeling very pessimistic about our survival chances unless we address the above concerns immediately. We don’t have much time left.

Peak Oil Primer

Converging Crisis (PDF)

Youtube lecture on exponential growth and overpopulation

Fossil Fuels and Agriculture

Threats of Peak Oil to the Global Food Supply

The Economist Has No Clothes

Mainstream Economics and the Environmental Crisis

FAQ on Steady State Economy

Peak Oil and Economic Growth

World Scientists' Warning To Humanity (1992)

How Cuba Survived Peak Oil

Cuba's Special Period

Uneconomic Growth

Biophysical Economics

Approaching the world’s environmental problems through the Entropy Law

World Financial Crisis Explained