Additions to the BioPhysical Economics Agenda

Humankind is underestimating its predicament and overestimating its abilities to muddle through.

It is underestimating the predicament in that
       a) humankind may not be able to recover from expected drops in environmental supports
              and resulting civilization collapse.
       b) People lack the ability to visualize the injuries that result.

It is overestimating its abilities to muddle through
       possibly because BPE is not using its science to demonstrate the
       impotence of various proposals to address the problems it uncovers.

Thus I propose 5 additions to the BPE agenda. Each addition has been proposed as a separate presentation to the Conference committee in Vancouver.

"Who Gets Injured and When"

While the BPE economics community already has demonstrated why parts of current civilization will fail, their efforts to communicate the resulting injuries are weak.

To strengthen this weakness BPE has to convert its findings into an injury metric that influences a change in course. This metric might be "who gets injured and when."

Only after it becomes common knowledge, that most of our children will die of starvation or conflict this century, will humankind have a chance of implementing the changes that will prevent it. I would like to present a 10 min video "Losing our energy slaves." which converts a small part of BPE knowledge into a view of "who gets injured and when".

How to Calculate Sustainability

While EROI, EROEI, Net Energy, and LCA create measurements that differentiates among processes like deep water drilling, fracking shales, wind turbines and solar PV, these calculations do not tell us if any of these processes can support a sustainable civilization. I will present a video to help visualize calculations that determine sustainability.

The video follows this outline: Think of an island nation not unlike Japan that can be isolated from the rest of the world. With no imports or exports and no natural coal, petroleum, or uranium resources. The island would have to convert all internal combustion engines to electric motors. (Yes, no planes.) And then create enough wind turbines, additional power gird, and energy storage to run everything.

The video will map out the flows of energy, materials, and labor as they contribute to creation and maintenance of infrastructure, food production, manufacturing, healthcare, education and entertainment to service a population, at a per capita wellbeing, with limited percentage of total resources diverted to conflict, enough natural environment left to maintain its natural state, and uses its renewable resources below renewing rates. The imagined results of the proposed calculator, produces e.g. SKIL Note100 titled "What does a sustainable civilization look like? "

From Overshoot to Sustainability?

There is no sustainability if there is overshoot. Humankind is already in overshoot.
       Ecological footprint analysis shows humankind consuming 1.5 times what the earth produces.
       Consumption of renewing resources above their renewing rates, degrades production
              (e.g. fisheries, or soil) and this expands overshoot from 1.5 to 2 or 3 earths.
       Increasing inequity creates social conflict which increases consumption,
              increasing overshoot to 4-5 earths.
        After civilization collapses and we lose the production it makes possible,
              e.g. economies of scale, protection of trade,
               and specialization of labor, overshoot could be pushed to 6-7 earths.
       Getting rid of the inequity without lowering the developed world's wellbeing,
              would increase overshoot to 14 earths.
       And finally the consumption of fossil and atomic energy resources to exhaustion
              by the year 2100 expands overshoot to more than 100 earths.
              (and this is without any increase in population.)

I would like to present two videos to demonstrate that humankind will soon be in overshot by more than a factor of 100.
            How Much Degrowth is Enough? 12 min
                              based on available energy
            How much population decline saves civilization? 6.3 minutes
                              based on peace and soil preservation

Unwinding the Human predicament?

It took humankind many millennium to get into our overshoot condition and humankind will have to get out of it in less than a century or risk losing the entire human experiment.

A working paper lays out a path that uses a grassroots process to create billions of individuals who know/believe
       1) injuries exist on our civilization's path that are worth avoiding
       2) an alternate design of civilization exists that does not create these extreme injuries 
       3) forces exist that produce and maintain this design
       4) a social contract exists that creates these forces.
       5) a 3 billion person constituency could implement this social contract
       6) there is a process that can create this constituency.

e.g.(item 4) the social contract

The social contract limits the number of births each year using a birth lottery. The lottery besides causing rapid population decline stabilizes the population at a sustainable level. It conflates civilization to 3 city states with a cumulative population of 50 million. It limits energy deliveries to 360GW of hydro electric power. Ends use of exhaustible resources like fossil or atomic fuels. Limits human access to the "non-inhabit zones." Limits the consumption of renewables below the natural renewing rates. Maintains access to non renewables like minerals and metals (without mining) through prepaid recycling. Greatly expands the definition of the commons. Allows private use but not private ownership of earth's resources. And limits the stratification of wellbeing to prevent the diversion of resources to conflict.

How to Implement Change

The hard task of creating a 3 billion person constituency to install the proposed social contract is addressed in two videos.

The first lays out a path based on a view of the human predicament in 5 short stories
       The Human Predicament and What to Do About It       10 min

The second proposes the development of a process that moves one individual to vote for a new social contract that reflects sustainability, then scales to achieve the 3 billion person constituency to put it in place.
       Change the Course invite video                                  12 minutes


Jack Alpert (Bio)     mail to:     (homepage)      position papers