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One of the live oaks that bless my home

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Quo vadis, Britannia?

Where are you going, Great Britain?

The ongoing vigorous discussion of Brexit seems to be vacuous on both sides of the argument, because it misses the most important physical realities of staying alive in Great Britain, not merely of who gets to stay there. The British Isles consist of some 6000 specs of land with the total area of 315,000 square kilometers (the area of Poland or Arizona). They are inhabited by over 70 million people (roughly twice the population of Poland and over ten times the population of Arizona).

My own calculations of Great Britain’s carrying capacity pointed more towards 3 million people, who could be sustained by the local environment. This means that to stay alive the Brits must be a part of a global community; otherwise they will perish. And that’s that.

Let me rephrase now: The United Kingdom is a small, overpopulated and rather insignificant country, which thought otherwise and consequently made a rather suicidal choice that would expose its terrible existential weaknesses. The European Union seems to hold almost all cards in this hunger game, but does not quite realize it yet.

After a temporary upward hick up, Great Britain’s oil production will continue to decline precipitously. And she has produced almost all of her available natural gas and coal. Therefore, to keep lights on and stay warm, the Brits must be a part of a global community. And how about the all-imported raw materials for industrial production to create those good domestic jobs? Foreign trade and treaties anyone?

So how did the world’s oldest democracy get so thoroughly confused and followed the irresponsible advice of its local Trumps? It is all about economics, stupid.

Economics is a pseudo-science of intermediate asymptotics, which describes the human systems that are much bigger than their smallest elements, but much, much smaller than the environment that contains them. It is a pseudo-science because the key phrase, “intermediate asymptotics,” has been forgotten.

The global economy and - in particular - the British economy violate the “much, much smaller” part with deadly consequences. If most of the world leaders and population are inside of a wrong narrative, the results can be catastrophic. The current narrative is that of a seamlessly integrated, smoothly operating global economy that provides for all and lifts the poorest nations out of poverty.

But what if there is not enough of the Earth to support this global economy of 7.3 billion people? What if the human economy (our household) is interfering with the Earth’s support systems: air, water, soil, and her households, forests, savannahs, lakes, rivers, estuaries, seas and oceans? In short, what if the entire global support system for the human economy is breaking down? What if we already need four Earths to deliver on the promises of today's global economy?

At this point the accomplished economists will shrug me off, because I must be talking nonsense. Look at all of the phenomenal growth in money supply around the world. Look at all of the things this money can do! Yes, says I, this electronic imaginary money will only hasten the demise of the still functioning real ecosystems that protect us from demise.

But I digressed.

Let’s go back to the hapless Great Britain. In my mind, she is like that Yale economist, Irving Fisher, who shortly before the October 29, 1929, market crash, famously proclaimed, "Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” Perfect timing! The rest will be a very painful journey of changing the narrative for everyone.

Perhaps it will take someone like  Mr. Trump to modify the narrative in the U.S.?

P.S. 07.03.2016. The estimated population of England between the years 1800 BC and 1700 CE,  averaged 3 million people, but was less than 2 million for 3000 years. At the time of William the Conqueror's Census, this population was 1.7 million people.  Add 1 million people for Ireland and Scotland, each, and one may obtain an estimate of about 5-6 million people, who could be sustained by the U.K.  If people in the near future will want to live on more resources than a 1000 years ago, the number of supported individuals will drop proportionally.
Source: References 3-5 in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demography_of_England
P.S.P.S. 08/04/2016. It seems that the economic situation of U.K. is far worse than even I thought: Read here.