TED Conversations

This conversation is closed.

Clean technology, while a huge opportunity, will not go to scale in time to prevent a global economic and social crisis.

Considering all the comments on my talk, The Earth is Full, I would sum up by saying that everyone pretty much agrees we face some serious ecological and resource limits. The debate is will these naturally be dealt with in the normal course of technological and market processes, or will they result in a serious global economic crisis. My view is strongly that a crisis is inevitable and that it will be an economic crisis - but that will then trigger a war level of mobilisation that will drive massive technological change. So relying on technology to prevent the crisis is wrong.

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Mar 6 2012: A very large contributing factor to economic inefficiency, economic un-sustainability, the largest incentive for every sort of environmental abuse and the historical root cause of the disparity of wealth on the planet is private ownership of land and natural resources which has resulted over the centuries in a virtual monopoly of the most valuable land and natural resources in the hands of a relative few of our kind. It is estimated that 3-5% of people and their corporations own 85% of the most valuable land and resources. A little appreciated fact of economics is that the value of land is created 100% by the community of all people and therefore the income from land and natural resources which amounts to anywhere from 20 to 40% of GNP incomes everywhere is wholly unearned. This simple underlying fact of economics mostly unappreciated today obscures the fact that the effect of all human progress including the increase of population and the increase of productive capacity enabled by our technology is to increase land and resources values and most of it goes into the pockets of private owners of the earth thus giving the impression that progress does not benefit everyone. Which it does not. This is why mere technological progress will most likely be a disappointment because it will not benefit enough of our kind to alleviate poverty which it otherwise could easily and already would have done. In addition the massive increase in human productivity will further increase land and resources values further enriching the already wealthy.

    One of the technical advances that could be adopted is a political advance in turning the mechanism just described to the benefit of all people. It is called "land value taxation" whereby taxation is shifted off of earned earned incomes from labor and real capital investment onto community created land values and the unearned incomes derived thereform. In this way the earth will be shared while not disturbing "ownership" of land.
    • thumb
      Mar 7 2012: The territorial drive is there in us somewhere.
      It is my beleif that, in a social animal (such as humans), the natural progression for territory is outward from the individual to the family to the tribe to the geographical district(typically a valley) to the nation .. .and then to the globe (where we are now).
      The boundaries of these territories is governed by the ambient scarcity/abundance of essential resources. As abundance increases, we are able to defer our territorality to the larger boundary of the social group - whilever there is no threat to personal benefit. As scarcity cuts-in, territories shrink to what can be defended on behalf of smaller groups.
      To be true to our own nature, ownership should be dynamic.
      Unfortunately, the agricultural revolution gave rise to the concept of farming - the exploitation of a captured species. The captured species usually requires confinement on some land. Hence the farmer becomes an owner on a static "plot".
      I think farming should be re-designed to conform to dynamic boundaries dictated by scarcity/abundance. The concept of ownership is the greatest impediment.
      A farm without boundaries might look like setting the food species loose, but tended by all for the benefit of all. It would require some light regulation .. some kind of empowered stewards .. so long as abundance was maintained, the territorial drive would be limited.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.