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Headed for a Post-Carbon World

November 21, 2011 - Here in Loveland, Ohio, birds are singing up a storm, and snapdragons are going to seed in record numbers. In just the seven years I've lived here, I've seen the date of the last leaves falling off the trees - usually a big thunderstorm with lots of wind carries them away - change by as much as two weeks. The forecast high for tomorrow? Sixty-five degrees!!

Anyone who keeps abreast of climate change news knows that it's pretty much all bad these days. I'd say the same about the economic news, but for one thing: the more our carboniferous economy slows, the likelier the environment is to recover. Production of everything from energy to processed foods creates greenhouse gas emissions. Less production, less pollution. As much as I'm confounded by the Republicans' economic strategy (it is my contention they are intent upon bringing down world governments by means of unrepayable debt), I firmly believe they don't understand what's coming any more than most. They've convinced themselves they possess certain G-dlike qualities, not the least among them omniscience and total control, and oh, what a comeuppance they're in for. If it weren't so sad, it would be funny, and if it weren't so funny ...

Am I an economist? Hardly. The good news is you really don't need to be. When someone tells you the global economy is worth 64 trillion dollars, but the value of all the derivatives in the world is 600 trillion dollars, you ought to perceive a disconnect. When banks issue worthless pieces of paper that everyone pretends have value, your gut should tell you that a house of cards is being erected. When our government bails out these same banks with your savings, know that you've been an unwitting participant in giving yourself the shaft.

When no one in our government utters a word while said banks refuse to make loans, there's a word for it: collusion. When corporations ship jobs overseas for the express purpose of robbing Americans of the opportunity to compete for those jobs, there's a name for it, and it's not globalization. It's treason. When companies the size of GE pay no taxes, let's call it what it is: the overthrow of the American government. Where, we should all be asking, will the goverment's income originate, when tax-dodging companies are permitted to do just that by the politicians they've bought-and-paid-for? There, there, it's all right: corporate fascism is the new game in town. After all, they've got the money - them and the banks. You and I gave it to them. Remember?

As our economy continues to unravel, this could be the direction we're headed. In the end, I just don't think Americans will allow it. How will that play out? My guess would be violently. Thomas Jefferson was right when he considered two hundred years the proper age of a democratic republic badly in need of another revolution. The good news, and there is lots of it concealed within this Trojan horse of an economy, is that economic activity of the carboniferous sort will collapse, and localized, post-carbon economies will spring up overnight. It'll be messy, in a two-steps-forward-one-step-back kind of way, but that's ok. So is democracy.

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