From: "Wahome, Kimamo" <WAHOMEK@uwec.edu> Date: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 15:57:06 -0600 Subject: US Economy - Recession, Depression, or Collapse? Message-ID: <E3F0E607B3CF71418CE725F002B5F60440DE8E433C@CHERRYPEPSI.uwec.edu>
Published on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 by CommonDreams.org<http://www.co
US Economy-Recession, Depression, or Collapse?
by Shepherd Bliss
"For Consumers, the Hits Keep Coming" a recent banner headline in a New Yor
k Times-owned daily newspaper here in Northern California reports. The arti
cle misses the main points. If we continue to understand ourselves as prima
rily passive consumers, rather than as active citizens, the US economy will
enter at least a recession, probably a depression, and possibly a collapse
. Even our republic is at risk.
Rampant consumption, our addiction to growth, and our failure to accept lim
its to growth damage us. The headline beneath the banner-"Cleanup Response
Criticized"-reveals one of the saddest results. We are not adequately clean
ing up the San Francisco Bay after a recent oil spill. Many other aspects o
f our environment need cleaning up. Without a healthy natural environment a
nd climate conducive to humans, no economy can endure. Over-consumption dri
ves the increasingly extreme and chaotic climate.
We have contaminated our air and waterways, clear-cut our forests, and our
inner cities are dying. The pollution of such natural resources often prece
eds economic and societal collapses.
I appreciate the Press Democrat for recently reporting the emerging economi
c trends in numerous articles. What I miss is more analysis, connecting the
dots and providing context. The shrinking dollar, soaring gas prices, hous ing slump and stock market fall, though inconvenient, are not the biggest t hreats to the economy. These are symptoms caused by deeper systemic problem s. We need to learn from these events and discover how to build more sustai nable societies. Otherwise, these "hits" are likely to increase and spread.
We need to quickly evolve from our destructive individual consumption patte
rns that damage not only the economy but the Earth itself. We need to consi
der their many negative impacts and work together as active citizens concer
ned with the whole economy and the environment on which it is dependent.
Look around. Things are falling down and apart in the US, including cities
like New Orleans, the Minneapolis bridge, and the Twin Towers. An increasin
g number of high-level government officials-like Karl Rove and Alberto Gonz
ales-have been forced out of office. The cuts are likely to go deeper. One
can try to ignore, deny, or seek revenge for these events, all of which inv
ite more disasters. Prudent planning would be a better alternative. These a
re not isolated events but point to systemic causes.
These are more than the "economic cycle of advance and retreat" that the No
v. 10 article reports. It is not just "things (that) have come together in
the last 10 days." The US's false economy has been de-stabilizing for years
and is now reaching a more degraded stage. We have become vulnerable to a variety of "hits" and should expect even more. Our economy has been describ ed by some as a "house of cards," which is likely to fall. An unraveling is
occurring, creating a time of great uncertainty and fear.
Many major American institutions are in crisis, including healthcare, relig
ion, transportation, political systems, energy, and education.
The Iron Curtain came down and the Berlin Wall seemed to suddenly fall, as
did the Soviet Union. The US economy may suddenly fail.
Protecting markets and "consumers" from the truth of how bad our economic r
eality is will backfire. We do not need to "panic." But citizens do need ac
curate news and analysis to get ready for the potential of a radically dimi
nished economy. We are living in a time of unprecedented planetary crisis.
People need to prepare physically and psychologically for massive changes.
It is not enough to write about a "silver lining" and report the perilous o
ptimism of an economist wishing that "hopefully this week is not a microcos
m of where we will be a year from now." We need more than false hope to get
us through the coming hard times.
Most of the US population continues destructive, over-consuming behaviors t
hat harm all of us. We are not merely victims of the problems; we cause the
m. We cannot merely blame outside "terrorists."
Among the facts left out of recent articles in the mainstream press on the
declining US economy is the Iraq War. With so many resources dedicated to w
ar-making, dealing with events like Katrina and cleaning up oil spills are
"The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War" is a congressional report recently relea
sed. It states that the economic costs to the US of the wars in Iraq and Af
ghanistan are already around $1.5 trillion. For the average U.S. family of
four that is more than $20,000.
We are experiencing more than what headlines describe as a "slowdown." It c
ould be a "meltdown." We might be approaching what James Howard Kunstler de
scribes in his book "The Long Emergency" as "catastrophe."
Santa Rosa author Richard Heinberg's "Peak Everything" describes our situat
ion well. "Waking Up to the Century of Decline" he sub-titles this new book
. This sounds like bad news, but when we face changes early enough, we have
more opportunities to cope with them and transform them into opportunities
Helpful responses include reducing our consumption, accepting that we are c
ontracting, and understanding ourselves as citizens able to take action, ra
ther than as merely passive consumers who can only react. Citizen activism
is what me most need at this point in history.
Humans can be far more than objects whose purpose is to buy, shop, spend, a
nd grow the economy. We are threatened more by our own behavior than by any
That which Heinberg and other Peak Oil theorists have been predicting for y
ears seems to be entering its next stage. With the supply of petroleum and
other fossil fuels diminishing and the demand for them increasing-especiall
y from rapidly industrializing China and India-we are moving toward a radic
ally worsened US economy.
When the mainstream press fails to report news and offer analyses that a la
rge number of people are aware of, we can turn to citizen journalists on th
e web. The mainstream press is loosing readers because it no longer adequat
ely investigates and reports some of the important stories. Fortunately, we
now have other places to go to be informed and educated.
"Closing the 'Collapse Gap': The USSR Was Better Prepared for Collapse than
the US" was published by the authoritative www.energybulletin.net. A Russi an, Dmitry Orlov, who now lives in the US, wrote, "The US economy is poised
to perform something like a disappearing act." Orlov compares the "two 20t h century superpowers." An extended version of his analysis will be publish ed as the book "Reinventing Collapse" in May by New Society Publishers.
Orlov examines the arms race, the space race, the jails race, and the "Hate
d Evil Empire Race." He concludes that "many of the problems that sunk the
Soviet Union are now endangering the US." So we should "expect shortages of
fuel, food, medicine, and countless consumer items, outages of electricity
, gas, and water." If we plan for such possibilities now, we will be better
able to deal with them.
Though Orlov details the threats to the US economy, he and his editors at E
nergyBulletin remain optimistic. Orlov writes about the possibilities for a
n expansion of "enlightenment, fulfillment, and freedom" during times of co
llapse. Russia, after all, did recover. It may be more difficult for the US
Helpful responses include strengthening local economies, being less depende
nt upon globalization, outside corporations and things distant, and knowing
and preserving the sources of the basics-such as food and water. "There ar e many things we can do to navigate down and around" our problems, Heinberg
writes, "so as to enhance human sanity and security and happiness."
Canada is one of the many countries whose citizens are ahead of the US in p
rudent planning for pending crises caused by extreme climate, Peak Oil, and
related matters. The Vancouver City Planning Commission has posted a repor t on a 2006 seminar on collapse at www.plancanada.com<http://www.plancanada
.com>. Videos of such ongoing seminars to get ready are available at www.pe akmoment.org<http://www.peakmoment.org>.
Too many Americans selfishly believe that they have a God-given right to co
nsume whatever their wealth can purchase, without regard to the consequence
s to other people and the Earth. They take, rather than give, even the natu
ral resources of other peoples. As a farmer, I know that you reap what you
sow and that chickens come home to roost.
Our economy is paying and will continue to pay the consequences of over-con
sumption and the over-purchasing of people reaching beyond their resources
that characterized the housing market. We have been greedy. There are limit
s to growth and those limits are crashing in on us.
Yet many piles of rubble have been rebuilt-often more beautiful than before
they fell. Phoenixes have risen from the ashes before. Yet our future is u ncertain, without guarantees.
It is time to think and write about more than the probability of a recessio
n and consider the real possibility of a depression or even collapse. Then
people can get ready, be active citizens, and prepare their personal, socia
l, and political responses. We must do this together.
Shepherd Bliss, email@example.com<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>, teaches at Son
oma State University and has run am organic farm for most of the last 15 ye
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