The tragic events of 22 October in Ottawa

 

Having listened fairly closely to media coverage of the shootings at the National War Memorial and Centre Block of Parliament in Ottawa yesterday, this is what I think we know:

1) A lone gunman, later identified as Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, shot and killed an unarmed reserve soldier at the National War Memorial; by all appearances, this was a despicably cowardly act.

2) The same lone gunman somehow managed to enter the Center Block and proceed down the corridor or Hall of Honour toward the caucus rooms of various parties in the house, some of which were meeting at the time.  This reveals serious weaknesses in routine security protocols on Parliament Hill and particularly the House of Commons.

3) Significantly, according to various reports, the gunman was armed with a “double-barrelled shotgun” (highly unlikely), a “long hunting rifle” or a “two shot rifle”. (Surely hours after the event a modicum of investigative reporting should be able to specify the weapon.) Continue reading

What Ails Higher Education (and Everything)

Here’s a link to a lovely, lucid, literate, pointedly accurate and, ultimately, sadly introspective essay by William Major about what ails higher education (in fact, what ails society at large):
http://www.insidehighered.com/views/2014/07/28/essay-calling-new-perspective-business-schools-and-humanities

A quote to lead you in:
“Our investment bankers and their ilk will have to take the fall because, well, they should have known better. If only because, at bottom, they are responsible — with their easy cash and credit, their drive-through mortgages, and, worst of all, their betting against the very system they knew was hopelessly constructed. And they were trained at our universities, many of them, probably at our best universities, the Harvards and Princetons and Dartmouths, where — it is increasingly apparent — the brightest students go to learn how to destroy the world (emphasis added).

I am not arguing that students shouldn’t take classes in accounting, marketing, and economics. An understanding of these subjects holds value. They are honorable subjects often horribly applied. In the wrong hands they become tools less of enlightenment and liberation than ruthless self-interest.
Continue reading

New Paper on the Worsening Human Predicament

Brown, James H.,  Joseph R. Burger, William R. Burnside, Michael Chang, Ana D. Davidson, Trevor S. Fristoe, Marcus J. Hamilton, Sean T. Hammond, Astrid Kodric-Brown, Norman Mercado-Silva, Jeffrey C. Nekola, Jordan G. Okie. 2014.
‘Macroecology meets macroeconomics: Resource scarcity and global Sustainability.’  Ecological Engineering 65 (2014) 24–32

Abstract:
The current economic paradigm, which is based on increasing human population, economic development, and standard of living, is no longer compatible with the biophysical limits of the finite Earth. Failure to recover from the economic crash of 2008 is not due just to inadequate fiscal and monetary policies. The continuing global crisis is also due to scarcity of critical resources. Our macroecological studies highlight the role in the economy of energy and natural resources: oil, gas, water, arable land, metals, rare earths, fertilizers, fisheries, and wood. As the modern industrial-technological-informational economy expanded in recent decades, it grew by consuming the Earth’s natural resources at unsustainable rates.

Correlations between per capita GDP and per capita consumption of energy and other resources across nations and over time demonstrate how economic growth and development depend on “nature’s capital”. Decades-long trends of decreasing per capita consumption of multiple important commodities indicate that overexploitation has created an unsustainable bubble of population and economy.
© 2013 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

 

Comment by William Rees
This is a good summary paper drawing together previous analyses and new data on humanity’s determined march to the brink of the abyss. That said, there is little new in the document in terms of trends, interpretation or prognosis.  Indeed, the basic story has been retold many times in the past several decades each time with the same effect on subsequent societal directions or prospects for global civilization—namely, none of any consequence. Continue reading