Thursday, May 10, 2018

Why achieving the Paris Agreement requires reduced overall consumption and production

The recent paper ​of Philip Vergragt is extremely timely and helpful, in my view.

2018-05-10 1:44 PM (2 hours ago) to SCORAI
We are proud to present a new paper, written by members of the KAN SSCP Working group on Political Economy, criticizing the dominant message that technology and renewable energy will be sufficient to resolve the climate crisis:

"Why achieving the Paris Agreement requires reduced overall consumption and production"


The need is pretty clear?

Global production =
224 kg of steel/capita/year,​
13 imp. cwt. (>650kg) of farm produce /capita/year (ex livestock)
580 kg of cement/capita/year

Friday, February 23, 2018

Suggestions and ideas for innovation launches with:
  • Novel UK #OilCrop
  • Car #Insurance Defectors

... Suggestions and ideas for innovations in Britain...

... a page curated by yours truly.

Monday, February 19, 2018

The most fundamental problem today?

The most fundamental problem today seems to be in making sure that everyone has a way to earn a living.

Which the poor of the world do not have. Mainly because they, by definition, command almost no resources (to work with, or that they can offer). And the economies of whole countries, like Spain, France or Italy, and the Maghreb, have not found a way to provide jobs for many of their youth and minority groups. In rich countries of the economic North, we engineer full employment only via massive over-consumption and gross wasting of resources.

Will the new leaders, of the Labour Party or in the second Tory government, find the radical ideas that are indeed needed? To address a world bedevilled with climate change, hollowing of jobs and inequality.

One such radical idea could be giving substantial unearned income, from trading what some like to call the "licences, that they can buy and sell" that are so disparaged.

Like permits, granted to every person for sustainable quantities. Of things such as transport congestion, overcrowded parking, CO2 and greenhouse gases, air pollution, airport capacity as well as flight and traffic noise - which disrupt people's lives, and in the case of cars kill tens of thousands and maim half a million yearly in Europe. Or even for social goods, like housing vouchers. And possibly, more contentiously, education vouchers.

The same incentives could also be made to work to dis-incentivise abuse of animals (via taxes - which are after all negative permits). Which would be a lot more effective, and humane, than today's free for all.

Unearned income, from the sale of permits, is in many ways like the "Basic Income". Which is a grant of income to everyone - with which people are experimenting in Utrecht, Finland and formerly in Canada. But permits will not worsen, as do basic incomes, existing inequalities in wealth. Because they recycle money from the wealthy to the poorly resourced.

And such granting of tradeable permits retain motivations to be frugal and productive. So, to flourish, skill and virtue would still be needed. And the market economy will continue to offer its great strengths - of opportunity, innovation and productivity.

Permit traders, it's my guess - along with sports and the arts - will be a big part of the next economy.

[383 words]


[GRAPHIC??: EU denizen and Kerala/Sri Lanka peasant, respectively next to their allotted: tonnes of oil equivalent; sacks of grain; small barrels of veg oil; and sides of meat, poultry and fish; fractions of a car (requires research)]


Mark Reader is an economist in Cambridge, and community worker.


Friday, February 16, 2018

What is going on with Electric Vehicles?

Could there be an, exceedingly unhealthy, distraction with batteries and electric vehicles? Sponsored perhaps by the Ford's, Pieche's and the GM / Toyota unions.

Current battery capacity compared to oil, is negligible (see below). And Lithium is not an especially abundant element. So cells are likely to remain a very scarce resource for a long time to come.

What path are we sinking huge costs into, and committing to for decades to come? Could cell capacity be allocated better? What is your view?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Plant Science Should Focus on ...

My interest is to see the "transition to a world that is Climate-Friendly, Waste-Free and Wilderness-Rich". That is to say "sustainable".

Current oil crops are limited, in yield, by the concentration of economic product in reproductive tissue. With the exception of oil palm. However there are genera where oils are secreted in vegetative tissue, and that fix nitrogen also (via Azotobacter and haem-O2-transporters). For example Myrica cerifera and Myrica pensylvannica are fatty-acid secreting temperate species, that fix nitrogen that might be bred to produce substantial quantities of oil. In the same way that oil palm was selected, in the 1940's-1950's, for high oil in vegetative tissue.

Like oil yields that are limited by concentration of product in reproductive tissue (seeds), starch yields are greatest in crops where the product is in vegetative tissue. Sugar beet, for example, yields an average of 12 tonnes of pure sugar per hectare, in some years across the whole of beet cropping in England. Which might be compared to average yields of wheat, that are at best 8-10 tonnes per hectare. There is thus huge scope to develop higher yielding staple crops - where the product is concentrated in vegetative tissue (turnips, swedes, temperate yams, beets, and many more).

Potato yields, it is perhaps worth noting, have been stagnant for almost 40 years, owing to perversities in research, and to cheating consumers with rotten quality products (so that they are rewarded for buying antique varieties - which are often from the old Maris Lane labs in Cambridge).

Those same, vegetative, and high yielding staples could also be selected for nutritional quality - principally lysine and methionine levels (which are deficient in grains and potatoes). This has been done using GM by Monsanto with corn, and by Chakraborty with Amaranthus protein in potatoes, but the varieties are kept out of the market and there is virtually no awareness of the savings possible and benefits of 'nutritionally complete staples'. Which would quickly reduce the 25% figure - of the world's children (WHO) who are stunted?

This situation, where obvious and feasible technologies are disregarded, is ludicrous given the imperatives of rapid climate change - and of deprivation in many parts of the world. However many people feel that, as we have an economic model that depends on growth, overconsumption and waste (to mitigate deficit financing and an unsustainable redistribution/allocation model), this situation is desirable.

But, like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, UNEP, and a host of others, I think that this is ridiculous. We should grow up and stop using resources (that pollute the planet) just because we could not be bothered coming up with a better allocation system.

[FOOTNOTE: A more resource rich world would lead to much greater flourishing of care, justice, the arts, sports and leisure - with selection mainly determined by performance in these spheres. As seen in the flourishes and vivid displays of tropical species. This contrasts with the perverse incentives (for waste) and hugely distorted incentives (prices) that are in any case often meaningless (incommensurable in economic, social and environmental dimensions and metrics).]

Summary published in: The East Anglian Daily Times 8th August 2015 | plant-science-should-focus-on-stem-leaf-and-root-crops

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

You Cannot Do Anything? ... a query to

Stiftelsen för miljöstrategisk forskning
Kund-id : LKH1365
FE 108

From M.A. Reader

Dear Kontakt - Mistra,

Please could you be so kind as to suggest why nobody, from the Stockholm Resilience Centre, replied to my polite enquiries.

I emailed to an officer, followed up, and then emailed to her manager.

But I received no response whatsoever.

Are they all
- paranoid?
- just plain unhelpful?
- free riders?
- too overwhelmed with emails?

I do not think that my question was very difficult. So it seems strange to me that nobody from the SRC responded.

Best wishes

Rural Business Unit
Department of Land Economy
University of Cambridge

From: Mark A Reader
Subject: Fwd: [query] -- investment in communications

Dear xxxx

We share allied goals, and I respect the expertise of your institute, so I wrote to one of your colleagues, working on communications strategy. Asking for advice. However no response was received.

Perhaps you might like to comment, on how one person (with modest resources) can most effectively work for the public good? In communications and media.

Best wishes

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: "M.A. Reader"
Subject: [query] -- investment in communications

Dear yyyy

I have a sum to invest each month in communications - for resilience, or for accident prevention.

Buying Eikon, for awareness and alerts, is one possibility. Or a subscription to the Gorkana media database is another possibility, for contacts.

And finally, I could do a paid campaign on Adwords, Twitter or LinkedIn - but I wonder how much cut-through I can achieve there.

Would you like to suggest which you think will be best?

Best wishes

Rural Business Unit
Department of Land Economy
University of Cambridge

+44 1223 337 163

Affirmation and the Post-Truth-Politics

President Trump will rule America shortly, despite lies, errors, bigotry, and sexual misconduct. He won a resounding victory - against the odds of most media and huge funding behind Clinton.

Similarly the disillusioned of Britain voted, in BREXIT, against the elite EU project - even though it brought a long peace and other huge benefits - which were biggest to the very regions that voted most strongly to reject the EU.

The Brexiteers and Trump Republicans wanted another roll of the dice, with uncertain benefits, and reject the consensus. Which they feel has been an elite scam, in which they saw no benefit.

The trouble is that the consensus presents an awkward picture. Of a finite world, of limits to consumption, global pollution, as well as ageing populations. In other words the end of, seemingly, rightful and endlessly growing consumption.

Presenting the difficult answers to these, very concrete and real challenges, Hilary Clinton and the campaign to REMAIN in the EU were rejected. In favour of delusion. Promoted and diffused by politicians and business who affirm errors of fact, bigotry and an extremely short term perspective.

Without the "public goods" - of truth, transparency and respect - democracy fails. And in another vein of public goods - being intangible rules and institutions - all citizens need affirmation - of their own divine worth and inalienable rights.

For me the problem appears to be how to deal with that feeling - of great affront and injustice. That "we may be wrong, but we are entitled to our opinions." How do we spread justice and respect at the same time as acknowledging that "we cannot just go on consuming more" - and "have to compromise and respect others". Or, affirmingly communicate limits.

And, as is evident to anyone with half a brain, computing and IT does not work for the masses. So everyone can readily see that what they can access is but a tiny fraction of computer and info power, that is so exulted in the media.

I do not believe that that the answer is a matter of limited resources and consumption, but more of expectations and feelings. The Brexiteers and Trump Republicans were (in some way) "treated like ***t by the elite" - for holding the wrong opinions. And democracy offered politicians, and social media, who affirmed voters in the wrong opinions.