The essence of this book can be found in a line written by the ancient Roman Stoic Philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca: "Fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid". This sentence summarizes the features of the phenomenon that we call "collapse," which is typically sudden and often unexpected, like the proverbial "house of cards." But why are such collapses so common, and what generates them? Several books have been published on the subject, including the well known "Collapse" by Jared Diamond (2005), "The collapse of complex societies" by Joseph Tainter (1998) and "The Tipping Point," by Malcom Gladwell (2000). Why The Seneca Effect? This book is an ambitious attempt to pull these various strands together by describing collapse from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. The reader will discover how collapse is a collective phenomenon that occurs in what we call today "complex systems," with a special emphasis on system dynamics and the concept of "feedback." From this foundation, Bardi applies the theory to real-world systems, from the mechanics of fracture and the collapse of large structures to financial collapses, famines and population collapses, the fall of entire civilzations, and the most dreadful collapse we can imagine: that of the planetary ecosystem generated by overexploitation and climate change. The final objective of the book is to describe a conclusion that the ancient stoic philosophers had already discovered long ago, but that modern system science has rediscovered today. If you want to avoid collapse you need to embrace change, not fight it. Neither a book about doom and gloom nor a cornucopianist's dream, The Seneca Effect goes to the heart of the challenges that we are facing today, helping us to manage our future rather than be managed by it.
'The Essential Tension' explores how agents that naturally compete come to act together as a group. The author argues that the controversial concept of multilevel selection is essential to biological evolution, a proposition set to stimulate new debate. The idea of one collective unit emerging from the cooperative interactions of its constituent (and mutually competitive) parts has its roots in the ancient world. More recently, it has illuminated studies of animal behavior, and played a controversial role in evolutionary biology. In Part I, the author explores the historical development of the idea of a collectivity in biological systems, from early speculations on the sociology of human crowd behavior, through the mid-twentieth century debates over the role of group selection in evolution, to the notion of the selfish gene. Part II investigates the balance between competition and cooperation in a range of contemporary biological problems, from flocking and swarming to experimental evolution and the evolution of multicellularity. Part III addresses experimental studies of cooperation and competition, as well as controversial ideas such as the evolution of evolvability and Stephen Jay Gould’s suggestion that “spandrels” at one level of selection serve as possible sources of variability for the next higher level. Finally, building on the foundation established in the preceding chapters, the author arrives at a provocative new proposition: as a result of the essential tension between competition and cooperation, multiple levels may be essential in order for evolutionary processes to occur at all.
Author: Ugo Bardi
Publisher: Springer Science & Business Media
Release Date: 2011-05-27
Genre: Technology & Engineering
“The Limits to Growth” (Meadows, 1972) generated unprecedented controversy with its predictions of the eventual collapse of the world's economies. First hailed as a great advance in science, “The Limits to Growth” was subsequently rejected and demonized. However, with many national economies now at risk and global peak oil apparently a reality, the methods, scenarios, and predictions of “The Limits to Growth” are in great need of reappraisal. In The Limits to Growth Revisited, Ugo Bardi examines both the science and the polemics surrounding this work, and in particular the reactions of economists that marginalized its methods and conclusions for more than 30 years. “The Limits to Growth” was a milestone in attempts to model the future of our society, and it is vital today for both scientists and policy makers to understand its scientific basis, current relevance, and the social and political mechanisms that led to its rejection. Bardi also addresses the all-important question of whether the methods and approaches of “The Limits to Growth” can contribute to an understanding of what happened to the global economy in the Great Recession and where we are headed from there.
Author: Ugo Bardi
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: 2014-04-09
Genre: Business & Economics
As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet’s mineral bounty, the resources we exploit from ores, veins, seams, and wells are gradually becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, or even billions, of years to form are now being squandered in just centuries–or sometimes just decades. Will there come a time when we actually run out of minerals? Debates already soar over how we are going to obtain energy without oil, coal, and gas. But what about the other mineral losses we face? Without metals, and semiconductors, how are we going to keep our industrial system running? Without mineral fertilizers and fuels, how are we going to produce the food we need? Ugo Bardi delivers a sweeping history of the mining industry, starting with its humble beginning when our early ancestors started digging underground to find the stones they needed for their tools. He traces the links between mineral riches and empires, wars, and civilizations, and shows how mining in its various forms came to be one of the largest global industries. He also illustrates how the gigantic mining machine is now starting to show signs of difficulties. The easy mineral resources, the least expensive to extract and process, have been mostly exploited and depleted. There are plenty of minerals left to extract, but at higher costs and with increasing difficulties. The effects of depletion take different forms and one may be the economic crisis that is gripping the world system. And depletion is not the only problem. Mining has a dark side–pollution–that takes many forms and delivers many consequences, including climate change. The world we have been accustomed to, so far, was based on cheap mineral resources and on the ability of the ecosystem to absorb pollution without generating damage to human beings. Both conditions are rapidly disappearing. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world. Bardi draws upon the world’s leading minerals experts to offer a compelling glimpse into that new world ahead.
Author: Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker
Release Date: 2017-11-12
Current worldwide trends are not sustainable. The Club of Rome’s warnings published in the book Limits to Growth are still valid. Remedies that are acceptable for the great majority tend to make things worse. We seem to be in a philosophical crisis. Pope Francis says it clearly: our common home is in deadly danger. Analyzing the philosophical crisis, the book comes to the conclusion that the world may need a “new enlightenment”; one that is not based solely on doctrine, but instead addresses a balance between humans and nature, as well as a balance between markets and the state, and the short versus long term. To do this we need to leave behind working in ”silos” in favor of a more systemic approach that will require us to rethink the organization of science and education. However, we have to act now; the world cannot wait until 7.6 billion people have struggled to reach a new enlightenment. This book is full of optimistic case studies and policy proposals that will lead us back to a trajectory of sustainability. But it is also necessary to address the taboo topic of population increase. Countries with a stable population fare immensely better than those with continued increase. Finally, we are presenting an optimistic book from the Club of Rome.
The biggest challenges facing human wellbeing today are widening income inequality, continuing global poverty, and environmental degradation. Luckily, these problems are simple to solve — in theory. In practice, however, they are much harder to solve, because we are required to come up with solutions that are acceptable to a political majority in the rich world. Most of the commonly proposed “solutions” are simply not acceptable to most people. Many of these proposed solutions — like stopping the use of fossil fuels — require a sacrifice today in order to obtain an uncertain advantage in the far future. Therefore they are politically infeasible in the modern world, which is marked by relatively short term thinking. In Reinventing Prosperity, Graeme Maxton and Jorgen Randers provide a new approach altogether through thirteen recommendations which are both politically acceptable and which can be implemented in the current period of slow economic growth around the world. Reinventing Prosperity solves the forty year old growth/no-growth standoff, by providing a solution to income inequality, continuing global poverty and climate change, a solution that will provide for economic growth but with a declining ecological footprint. Reinventing Prosperity shows us how to live better on our finite planet — and in ways we can agree on.
Author: Alice J. Friedemann
Release Date: 2015-12-09
Genre: Technology & Engineering
In lively and engaging language, this book describes our dependence on freight transport and its vulnerability to diminishing supplies and high prices of oil. Ships, trucks, and trains are the backbone of civilization, hauling the goods that fulfill our every need and desire. Their powerful, highly-efficient diesel combustion engines are exquisitely fine-tuned to burn petroleum-based diesel fuel. These engines and the fuels that fire them have been among the most transformative yet disruptive technologies on the planet. Although this transportation revolution has allowed many of us to fill our homes with global goods even a past emperor would envy, our era of abundance, and the freight transport system in particular, is predicated on the affordability and high energy density of a single fuel, oil. This book explores alternatives to this finite resource including other liquid fuels, truck and locomotive batteries and utility-scale energy storage technology, and various forms of renewable electricity to support electrified transport. Transportation also must adapt to other challenges: Threats from climate change, financial busts, supply-chain failure, and transportation infrastructure decay. Robert Hirsch, who wrote the “Peaking of World Oil Production” report for the U.S. Department of Energy in 2005, said that planning for peak world production must start at least 10, if not 20 years ahead of time. What little planning exists focuses mainly on how to accommodate 30 percent more economic growth while averting climate change, ignoring the possibility that we are at, or near, the end of growth. Taken for granted, the modern transportation system will not endure forever. The time is now to take a realistic and critical look at the choices ahead, and how the future of transportation may unfold.
Author: C R Whittaker
Release Date: 2004-07-31
Do the Romans have anything to teach us about the way that they saw the world, and the way they ran their empire? How did they deal with questions of frontiers and migration, so often in the news today? This collection of ten important essays by C. R. Whittaker, engages with debates and controversies about the Roman frontiers and the concept of empire. Truly global in its focus, the book examines the social, political and cultural implications of the Roman frontiers in Africa, India, Britain, Europe, Asia and the Far East, and provides a comprehensive account of their significance.
Author: Henry Rowe Schoolcraft
Release Date: 1851
Genre: Indians of North America
This is the autobiographical account of an explorer, government administrator, and scholar whose researches into the language and customs of the Chippewa and other Native American peoples of the Great Lakes region are considered milestones in nineteenth-century ethnography. After a childhood in Hamilton, New York, Schoolcraft gained attention for the reports and journals he wrote on trips west to explore mineral deposits in Arkansas, Missouri, and the old Northwest. Later, he joined the Cass expedition to the Lake Superior region, where he served as an Indian agent in St. Mary (Sault Ste. Marie) from 1822 to 1836. During that time, he continued to make regular exploratory journeys. On one of these, in 1832, he located the Mississippi River's source at Lake Itasca, Minnesota. From 1836 to 1841, Schoolcraft served as Michigan's superintendent of Indian Affairs and helped to bring about a treaty with the Ojibwa (1836), who as a result relinquished their claims to most of northern Michigan. Schoolcraft's memoirs are noteworthy for their detailed geographic, geological, political, military, folkloric, historical, and ethnographic information. Married to a woman of Native American background, he was sympathetic to certain aspects of the Indian societies he encountered. Nevertheless, he saw the sweep of new settlers into Indian lands as inevitable, and accepted as necessary the removal of Native peoples beyond the advancing boundaries of the United States. Schoolcraft believed that soldiers, diplomats, federal officials, and missionaries could do their jobs more effectively if they learned native languages and understood Indian customs. These motives, along with his literary aspirations, gave rise to his explorations of Indian cultural life. He discusses Indian myths and legends at length and talks about how he transformed them into his own Algic Researches (1839), the work that inspired Longfellow's "Hiawatha." Schoolcraft also corresponded or visited with Washington Irving, Thomas Jefferson, Albert Gallatin, and many of the era's other leading intellectuals, and details his conversations with them.
"The definitive work on the West's water crisis." --Newsweek The story of the American West is the story of a relentless quest for a precious resource: water. It is a tale of rivers diverted and dammed, of political corruption and intrigue, of billion-dollar battles over water rights, of ecological and economic disaster. In his landmark book, Cadillac Desert, Marc Reisner writes of the earliest settlers, lured by the promise of paradise, and of the ruthless tactics employed by Los Angeles politicians and business interests to ensure the city's growth. He documents the bitter rivalry between two government giants, the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, in the competition to transform the West. Based on more than a decade of research, Cadillac Desert is a stunning expose and a dramatic, intriguing history of the creation of an Eden--an Eden that may only be a mirage. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Degrowth is a rejection of the illusion of growth and a call to repoliticize the public debate colonized by the idiom of economism. It is a project advocating the democratically-led shrinking of production and consumption with the aim of achieving social justice and ecological sustainability. This overview of degrowth offers a comprehensive coverage of the main topics and major challenges of degrowth in a succinct, simple and accessible manner. In addition, it offers a set of keywords useful forintervening in current political debates and for bringing about concrete degrowth-inspired proposals at different levels - local, national and global. The result is the most comprehensive coverage of the topic of degrowth in English and serves as the definitive international reference. More information at: vocabulary.degrowth.org View the author spotlight featuring events and press related to degrowth at http://t.co/k9qbQpyuYp.
Author: Alan Kirman
Release Date: 2010-09-13
Genre: Business & Economics
The economic crisis is also a crisis for economic theory. Most analyses of the evolution of the crisis invoke three themes, contagion, networks and trust, yet none of these play a major role in standard macroeconomic models. What is needed is a theory in which these aspects are central. The direct interaction between individuals, firms and banks does not simply produce imperfections in the functioning of the economy but is the very basis of the functioning of a modern economy. This book suggests a way of analysing the economy which takes this point of view. The economy should be considered as a complex adaptive system in which the agents constantly react to, influence and are influenced by, the other individuals in the economy. In such systems which are familiar from statistical physics and biology for example, the behaviour of the aggregate cannot be deduced from the behaviour of the average, or "representative" individual. Just as the organised activity of an ants’ nest cannot be understood from the behaviour of a "representative ant" so macroeconomic phenomena should not be assimilated to those associated with the "representative agent". This book provides examples where this can clearly be seen. The examples range from Schelling’s model of segregation, to contributions to public goods, the evolution of buyer seller relations in fish markets, to financial models based on the foraging behaviour of ants. The message of the book is that coordination rather than efficiency is the central problem in economics. How do the myriads of individual choices and decisions come to be coordinated? How does the economy or a market, "self organise" and how does this sometimes result in major upheavals, or to use the phrase from physics, "phase transitions"? The sort of system described in this book is not in equilibrium in the standard sense, it is constantly changing and moving from state to state and its very structure is always being modified. The economy is not a ship sailing on a well-defined trajectory which occasionally gets knocked off course. It is more like the slime described in the book "emergence", constantly reorganising itself so as to slide collectively in directions which are neither understood nor necessarily desired by its components.
Author: Charles R. Hadlock
Release Date: 2012
Beginning with one of the most remarkable ecological collapses of recent time, that of the passenger pigeon, Hadlock goes on to survey collapse processes across the entire spectrum of the natural and man-made world. He takes us through extreme weather events, technological disasters, evolutionary processes, crashing markets and companies, the chaotic nature of Earth's orbit, revolutionary political change, the spread and elimination of disease, and many other fascinating cases. His key thesis is that one or more of six fundamental dynamics consistently show up across this wide range. These "six sources of collapse" can all be best described and investigated using fundamental mathematical concepts. They include low probability events, group dynamics, evolutionary games, instability, nonlinearity, and network effects, all of which are explained in readily understandable terms. Almost the entirety of the book can be understood by readers with a minimal mathematical background, but even professional mathematicians are likely to get rich insights from the range of examples. The author tells his story with a warmly personal tone and weaves in many of his own experiences, whether from his consulting career of racing around the world trying to head off industrial disasters to his story of watching collapse after collapse in the evolution of an ecosystem on his New Hampshire farm. Creative teachers could use this book for anything from a liberal arts math course to a senior capstone seminar, and one reviewer suggested that” it should be required reading for any mathematics graduate student heading off into a teaching career.” This book will also be of interest to readers in the fields under discussion, such as business, engineering, ecology, political science, and others.