web analytics

Sunday reading

Written By: - Date published: 12:48 pm, May 27th, 2012 - 8 comments
Categories: economy, equality, International, interweb, radio, sustainability, water - Tags: , ,

Just a couple of intriguing articles on the BBC for you to read to while away your Sunday afternoon:

Firstly a view looking at Britain, struggling at a time of unrest across Europe, with rising unemployment and inflation leading to riots.  The populist right-wing is on the rise, and secessionists are pushing for a break-up of the long-prevailing order across the continent.  Cuts in public services, and the rich retreating to their mansions and avoiding their responsibilities, is leading to the poor becoming disengaged from society and opting out.

Only the view is of 400AD, and the collapse of the Roman Empire, much as it parallels today.

As the inequality grows and rich and poor retreat from each other – and under climate pressure – society collapses, the population drops from 4 million to 1 million, and takes centuries to rebuild.

An historian from the 5th century Gildas

talks about right-wing politicians advocating glibly attractive solutions that appealed to the populace while “any leader who seemed more soft, or who was more inclined to actually tell things as they are, was painted as ruinous to the country and everyone directed their contempt towards him”.

Gildas also singles out his leaders’ sheer ineptitude and bad judgement, recalling some governments and financiers in today’s banking crisis.

“Everything our leaders did to try to save the situation ended up having the opposite effect. Society became prey to corrosive quarrels and dissensions, anger towards the rich, and political opportunism was rife that made no distinction between right and wrong.”

A second BBC article looks again at Rio+20 and whether we could have sustainable consumption goals.

“We’ve been living a big fat lie,” [Leo Johnson, brother of London mayor Boris] said. “We know that consumption doesn’t make happy lives.”

Sustainable consumption is the little-mentioned corollary to sustainable development.  As a briefing document for Rio puts it:

“Increased consumption by those whose basic needs are not met would be considered progress by most.

“On the other hand, increasing the competitive consumption of luxury goods among the rich would only be considered progress by a few.”

Leo Johnson puts it as avoiding

“the American dream where you serve the same billion people nine times… rather, you serve the nine billion once or twice.”

This will of course be massively resisted, as at the original Rio conference, where George Bush Snr told the world that the American way of life was non-negotiable.

In a time of recession, the need for growth contrasts with the need to limit consumption.  There are few comments from John Key or Bill English about making growth ecologically sustainable, or more equal across society – they’d be happy with any growth…

But really the question we need to ask is:

“Could we devise a model of society that did not depend on us becoming ill with our fatness?” [Claire Foster-Gilbert, founder of the Ethics Academy]

[If you’re looking for some thought-provoking listening I’d go for Steve Keen on Kim Hill from yesterday morning]

8 comments on “Sunday reading ”

  1. Shaz 1

    and if you have still got time after all that this short review is thought provoking and also captures the “plus ca change” meme ;-)! What chance a more robust democracy?

  2. Lanthanide 2

    Steve Keen mentioned that he thinks Britain might have a rather catastrophic debt collapse sometime in the next 12 months.

  3. Excellent comment Bunji and so brave.

    The approaches of the major parties rely on growth to get us out of our current bind.  Stopping growth and dealing with debt is beyond the comprehension of all current politicians except IMHO David Cunliffe and some of the Greens.

    To get us out of this mess we need to cut consumption really fast, start living better quality lives, set up alternatives, such as education to soak up unemployment and keep people engaged, share the wealth around so that we can do this, and avoid revolution.

    This will not be easy.  Cool heads and persuading people that the last few decades of brainwashing of the benefits of consumption will be required. 

  4. SHG 5

    Reality check: more time elapsed between Rome’s withdrawal from Britain and the eventual end of the Empire than has elapsed SINCE the end of the Empire. The Empire kept on doing its thing in one form or another for more than a thousand years after the last Roman bureaucrat got on a boat back to Europe.

    This is a common aspect of British historical commentary by British academics: the withdrawal of Rome from Britain WAS OBVIOUSLY THE BIGGEST MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER AND MARKED THE END OF TEH EMPIRE!!!1

    • Colonial Viper 5.1

      You’ve simply pointed out something that Greer has consistently pointed out. Civilisations in decline often decline gradually. And during each stage of decline, they put up a story that the set back is merely temporary before the expected return to ‘growth’ or ‘expansion’.

      After all, it would have been considered disloyal, politically untenable and unthinkable to say out loud that the Empire was in permanent decline.

      There is something else inherent in what you have written. Yes, the Roman Empire did continue in some form for very many centuries after being forced to leave Britain and Germania.

      But the lives of the very many people left behind altered irrevocably as imperial influence and wealth declined then disappeared. And the politicians and elite based in Rome only felt real changes very late in the piece. They were far away from the front lines and well insulated from the harshest edges of ongoing collapse.

      We’re undergoing similar changes, and our elite will be able to pretend and extend for a while more, but for us the transformation is going to happen over a few decades, not a few centuries.

    • Sanctuary 5.2

      “…This is a common aspect of British historical commentary by British academics: the withdrawal of Rome from Britain WAS OBVIOUSLY THE BIGGEST MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER AND MARKED THE END OF TEH EMPIRE!!!1…”

      You know, in the age of Wikipedia I think that being this stupid and ignorant actually requires almost as much work as acquainting oneself with the facts and the current sate of scholarship on the matter being discussed. Almost is, unfortunately, the operative word here, much too all our regret.

      Firstly, to claim that somehow the survival of Byzantium to 1453 constitutes a continuation of the Roman Empire is complete rubbish. The empire had been divided into western and eastern halves since Diocletian. The division was formalised as permanent on the death Theodosius in 395AD. The last Latin speaking emperor was Justinian who died in 565AD. Between 565AD and 641AD the new political entity of Byzantine Empire evolved in the east. For the purposes of the inhabitants of Britain, all the leading experts still find the deposition of the last Western emperor in 476 as a handy date to mark the end of the western empire as a political entity and the beginning of the dark ages. The late Roman army was divided into mobile or field formations which originally had been detachments made up of the best troops from the now largely immobile legions on their permanent frontier bases. These were called vexillations, after the Latin word for “banner”. The best Vexillations of Roman troops left Britain around 382-384AD, and the very last Roman troops (the rump of the by now second line cohorts of the legions) left Britain around 406-410AD. You might say the last useful vexillations of the Roman army left seventy or so years before the rescript to Honorius, which only really tells us the Britons were by then ruling themselves but had not yet succumbed to barbarian invasions.

      Secondly, to claim that British historians are somehow skewed in their view of the important dates in the fall of the Roman empire is at complete variance with the state of current scholarship; I suggest you trouble yourself with at least a good popular history in English by an British historian (I found Peter Heather’s 2005 book The Fall of the Roman Empire a jolly good read) before commenting again on this subject.

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Celebrating the Entry Into Force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons
    [Opening comments, welcome and thank you to Auckland University etc] It is a great pleasure to be here this afternoon to celebrate such an historic occasion - the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is a moment many feared would never come, but ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Supporting disabled people to stay connected
    The Government is providing $3 million in one-off seed funding to help disabled people around New Zealand stay connected and access support in their communities, Minister for Disability Issues, Carmel Sepuloni announced today. The funding will allow disability service providers to develop digital and community-based solutions over the next two ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 days ago
  • Voluntary saliva testing offered to quarantine workers from Monday
    Border workers in quarantine facilities will be offered voluntary daily COVID-19 saliva tests in addition to their regular weekly testing, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. This additional option will be rolled out at the Jet Park Quarantine facility in Auckland starting on Monday 25 January, and then to ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Next steps in firearms buy-back
    The next steps in the Government’s ambitious firearms reform programme to include a three-month buy-back have been announced by Police Minister Poto Williams today.  “The last buy-back and amnesty was unprecedented for New Zealand and was successful in collecting 60,297 firearms, modifying a further 5,630 firearms, and collecting 299,837 prohibited ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature projects target iconic ecosystems
    Upscaling work already underway to restore two iconic ecosystems will deliver jobs and a lasting legacy, Conservation Minister Kiri Allan says.  “The Jobs for Nature programme provides $1.25 billion over four years to offer employment opportunities for people whose livelihoods have been impacted by the COVID-19 recession. “Two new projects ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    3 days ago
  • New Public Housing Plan announced
    The Government has released its Public Housing Plan 2021-2024 which outlines the intention of where 8,000 additional public and transitional housing places announced in Budget 2020, will go. “The Government is committed to continuing its public house build programme at pace and scale. The extra 8,000 homes – 6000 public ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Prime Minister congratulates President Joe Biden on his inauguration
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has congratulated President Joe Biden on his inauguration as the 46th President of the United States of America. “I look forward to building a close relationship with President Biden and working with him on issues that matter to both our countries,” Jacinda Ardern said. “New Zealand ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    4 days ago
  • Jobs for Nature funding will create training and employment opportunities
    A major investment to tackle wilding pines in Mt Richmond will create jobs and help protect the area’s unique ecosystems, Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor says. The Mt Richmond Forest Park has unique ecosystems developed on mineral-rich geology, including taonga plant species found nowhere else in the country. “These special plant ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    5 days ago
  • Pre-departure testing extended to all passengers to New Zealand
    To further protect New Zealand from COVID-19, the Government is extending pre-departure testing to all passengers to New Zealand except from Australia, Antarctica and most Pacific Islands, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “The change will come into force for all flights arriving in New Zealand after 11:59pm (NZT) on Monday ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Bay Cadets learn skills to protect environment
    Bay Conservation Cadets launched with first intake Supported with $3.5 million grant Part of $1.245b Jobs for Nature programme to accelerate recover from Covid Cadets will learn skills to protect and enhance environment Environment Minister David Parker today welcomed the first intake of cadets at the launch of the Bay ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    6 days ago
  • Cook Islanders to resume travel to New Zealand
    The Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern and the Prime Minister of the Cook Islands Mark Brown have announced passengers from the Cook Islands can resume quarantine-free travel into New Zealand from 21 January, enabling access to essential services such as health. “Following confirmation of the Cook Islands’ COVID ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Supporting communities and landowners to grow employment opportunities
    Jobs for Nature funding is being made available to conservation groups and landowners to employ staff and contractors in a move aimed at boosting local biodiversity-focused projects, Conservation Minister Kiritapu Allan has announced. It is estimated some 400-plus jobs will be created with employment opportunities in ecology, restoration, trapping, ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    1 week ago
  • Border exception for some returning international tertiary students
    The Government has approved an exception class for 1000 international tertiary students, degree level and above, who began their study in New Zealand but were caught offshore when border restrictions began. The exception will allow students to return to New Zealand in stages from April 2021. “Our top priority continues ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Tiwai deal gives time for managed transition
    Today’s deal between Meridian and Rio Tinto for the Tiwai smelter to remain open another four years provides time for a managed transition for Southland. “The deal provides welcome certainty to the Southland community by protecting jobs and incomes as the region plans for the future. The Government is committed ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New member for APEC Business Advisory Council
    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has appointed Anna Curzon to the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). The leader of each APEC economy appoints three private sector representatives to ABAC. ABAC provides advice to leaders annually on business priorities. “ABAC helps ensure that APEC’s work programme is informed by business community perspectives ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Govt’s careful economic management recognised
    The Government’s prudent fiscal management and strong policy programme in the face of the COVID-19 global pandemic have been acknowledged by the credit rating agency Fitch. Fitch has today affirmed New Zealand’s local currency rating at AA+ with a stable outlook and foreign currency rating at AA with a positive ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • Additional actions to keep COVID-19 out of NZ
    The Government is putting in place a suite of additional actions to protect New Zealand from COVID-19, including new emerging variants, COVID-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said today. “Given the high rates of infection in many countries and evidence of the global spread of more transmissible variants, it’s clear that ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • 19 projects will clean up and protect waterways
    $36 million of Government funding alongside councils and others for 19 projects Investment will clean up and protect waterways and create local jobs Boots on the ground expected in Q2 of 2021 Funding part of the Jobs for Nature policy package A package of 19 projects will help clean up ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago
  • New Zealand Government acknowledges 175th anniversary of Battle of Ruapekapeka
    The commemoration of the 175th anniversary of the Battle of Ruapekapeka represents an opportunity for all New Zealanders to reflect on the role these conflicts have had in creating our modern nation, says Associate Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage Kiri Allan. “The Battle at Te Ruapekapeka Pā, which took ...
    BeehiveBy beehive.govt.nz
    2 weeks ago