Sep 022012
 September 2, 2012  Posted by at 1:34 pm Finance
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We're proud to present a great little animation video by our friend Theo Kitchener from Australia. It's safe to say that Theo's vision and ideas have been substantially influenced by The Automatic Earth, not in the least when we spent quite a bit of quality time together in Melbourne earlier this year (with both Theo and many more new-found friends of TAE) and had a number of great discussions in between Nicole's lectures in the city.

There are certainly things we would see somewhat differently, like for instance we don't necessarily share all of Theo's optimism, however contagious it may be – as is evident in the animation -, for a better society built more or less seamlessly on the ruins of our present one. But frankly, those differences pale in comparison with the broad extent to which our respective views do meet, and certainly with the sheer quality and artistic skillset that oozes from this wonderful little jewel.

I'd go as far as to say that even if you disagree with every single point made here, you should still find plenty to enjoy and admire. Hats off to Theo!


We were told that the global financial crisis of 2008 happened because irresponsible borrowers couldn’t afford to pay back their loans. This is true, but it was also part of a much deeper problem. The issue is that our economic system is based on the need for continuous, perpetual growth. It's highly likely that we're already in the beginnings of something much worse than a depression, even if bankers and governments won't admit it yet.

Fortunately, we don't need to hear it from them. We can tell that something is going on, we have the internet and we can share information amongst ourselves. And thankfully, if we try hard enough, we could just end up with something much much better than what we have now. I'm no expert, however I am someone who's done several years of reading on these topics and I really want everyone else to know what's going on, and understand the risks and the opportunities. It’s only fair.

So let’s look at how our banking system really works. It’s commonly believed that banks lend out money that they already have from invested savings. That would’ve encouraged a fairly stable system of banking. Instead, we have what’s called a fractional reserve banking system. This means that banks can loan out almost all the money that gets deposited with them. For example, when you put $100 in one bank, they lend $90 of it to someone else, who then puts that $90 in their bank.

Now there’s $190 where there used to be $100. That $90 lent out will also be deposited and $81 lent again. In this way, money ends up being multiplied between ten and a hundred times. Sounds crazy right? Less than 1% of the money in the economy is actual notes and coins, the rest are just numbers on computers, created as debt. This system rapidly increases the amount of money in the economy, which fuels economic growth, allowing most of us the ability to pay back our debts with interest. But only so long as the economy keeps on growing.

One reason it won't is that ever since the Industrial Revolution, economic growth has been largely dependent on cheap fossil fuel supplies, which are now dwindling. When we first started drilling for oil, it was easy to find. It just spurted up out of the ground. We've only been drilling intensively for about 150 years, and oil is no longer easy to find. Now, we drill down crazy deep through earth and ocean using expensive and risky technology. It used to cost one barrel of oil to get about 100 barrels of oil out of the ground. These days one barrel only gets us 10 barrels back, and declining. And that means it's not cheap anymore.

The truth is, we're living on a planet that has finite resources. We’ve always opted to extract the easiest resources first, while using more and more each year. Eventually the use of these finite resources has to peak and then decline as their extraction gets harder and more expensive. And according to the Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas, the global peak happened in 2008. Now, this doesn’t mean we’re running out of oil, it just means we're running out of cheap oil.

When I first heard about this I thought, at least oil is mainly just used to drive around. But no, beyond personal transportation, there's transportation of the food supply and all our other consumer goods, we run all our farm machinery on oil and make our pesticides out of oil. Oil is also a critical ingredient in plastics, pharmaceuticals, asphalt, paints, tyres and even toothpaste. In fact, oil is involved in pretty much all of the goods that we use in our everyday life.

Plus it's not only oil that’s peaked. Natural gas, high grade uranium, many rare earth minerals, phosphorus and many other important resources have peaked as well. We're trying to grow beyond the planet's resource limits. So not only have we damaged the environment so much that we now get hit more frequently by more intense natural disasters, we've also used up most of the non-renewable resources that have been allowing us to live in this high-tech world. It's as if we're burning the walls of our house to keep ourselves warm. It can't continue forever.

Anyway, quite apart from peak oil, we seem to be due for a global depression just because of the debt buildup. If you add up all the debts in the world it's roughly a hundred and fifty trillion dollars. You'd think it has to balance out somehow, that surely some countries are lending to other countries. But no, it's money everyone owes to the banks and their investors. The problem is, this is the world, we're not about to get bailed out by aliens.

Up until now the way banks have been lending more and more money has pushed up prices of assets like houses and stocks. This was possible because in a growing economy, debts could be paid back. But when debts finally build to an unmanageable point, as they did before the great depression, asset prices can and do go down. Because banks are overextended, they lend less, and because individuals, businesses and countries are also overextended, defaults become more frequent. Both defaults and reduced lending decrease the amount of money in the economy, which means less money chasing the same goods and assets. This leads to a fall in asset prices, called deflation and means that house prices will eventually go back down to what’s reasonable and affordable. So if you have a mortgage, beware that you could end up with more debt than your house is worth.

This deflationary spiral also means high unemployment, high prices for necessities and hard times. That's what happened during the great depression, and it's what's going on now. Only this time round the depression will be even more severe because we've never lived in such a globalised world before, and it will be a permanent decline because of peak oil. The global financial crisis was only the beginning. Since then much of the world’s middle class have been struggling just to keep up with their food, fuel, bills and mortgage or rent payments and things can only get worse.

So what can we do? In a deflationary scenario, the money from bailouts and money printing mostly goes straight into paying down debts, which is why our economies have only barely recovered since 2008. Mostly governments, big business and the media are avoiding these issues and trying to keep the status quo alive a little bit longer. Which will only end up making the crunch harder in the long run. As things get worse, governments are likely to prioritise saving themselves, for example by raising taxes and cutting spending rather than helping us out. There isn’t actually any positive strategy they could use to save us that’s also in keeping with their own interests and systems, otherwise they would have done it by now. This complex system has grown to its limit, and it’s now in decline, slowly dismantling itself, piece by piece, delayed only slightly along the way by government intervention.

Fortunately, I've learnt, it’s going to be somewhat ok that our systems just dismantle themselves, because there are millions of people around the world busy at work on much better systems we can replace them with. The modern industrial world hasn't really given us happiness. It hasn't even eliminated poverty. Most of us have been working way too hard, and for what? To finally exhaust the planet and suffer for it? Why not try having energy security through lower energy use, feeling proud of feeding ourselves and making the things we need, switching our priorities from independence to interdependence. These are changes we can make regardless of whether our governments want to help or not. A grassroots movement has already gotten started, and being a part of this has already made me way happier and better off than I ever was engaging with the system.

There are other alternatives beyond capitalism, and I'm not talking about communism either. Both presume an industrial system, which is no longer feasible or desirable. In a world with less resources and less money, year after year, if we do nothing we'll end up with terrible living conditions, constant conflict and potentially a new wave of fascism and no one wants that. The positive option is that we just learn to get along with each other and look after the earth again. We can work together to build new infrastructures that can support meaningful work and dignified lives. We can choose to work much shorter hours, eat much healthier food, growing most of it ourselves and spend a lot more of our time with our families and friends.

I’m not talking about going back to the stone age. People have been working on cool new ways to live without an industrial economy for well over 40 years now. For example, permaculture is a system of doing much more with much less energy, and in particular intensively and organically growing food. Appropriate technologies have been developed to meet human needs like heating and cooling in highly energy efficient ways. Local currencies that are more equitable and stable are being designed and tested around the world.

Transition Town groups are building community and leading preparatory efforts to relocalise. Distributed manufacturing is about producing what we need, close to home with nifty technologies like 3d printers. There are even groups working on peer to peer versions of the internet that we can get up quickly if the internet happens to go down. I just wanted to point out this small set of examples because every time I worry about some particular challenge, I look it up and there's a group of people who’ve set themselves to figuring out a positive and feasible way through it. Working together/ we can create a better world, here and now.

Really, my hope is that as the system continues to fall apart, those of us who find out what's going on, prepare ourselves and start whatever local projects and enterprises to prepare our communities that we can. So that as conditions worsen, we can build community and share ways of growing food and simple sustainable technologies and plenty more that people will be very interested in during a time of great financial hardship.

Major economic downturns throughout history have not been happy times, and this one is set to be bigger than ever before. There are real possibilities of austerity leading to exploitation, a rise of fascism, and world war three. The fact that this time round some of us are aware of what's going on and are preparing for the crash, as well as the degree of free communication the internet affords us are the main things we have going for us. Mostly I feel scared to death about it all. We all have basic human needs for security and safety, and if we're lucky for happiness and fulfillment as well.

This is happening to all of us, and we all have the ability to make choices as to how we handle the future. So I’m asking you, please, even if this seems outside the realm of possibility, at least do some research, check it out for yourself. You can decide what kind of future you want and start taking steps to make it happen. The more of us who start now, the more likely this transition is to be peaceful and just, and perhaps even exciting and promising. In the meantime, if you appreciate what you've seen and heard here, please send this animation on to your family and friends. The more people who know about this, the better off we will all be.

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Home Forums What the Economic Crisis Really Means (animation)

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  • #8442

    We're proud to present a great little animation video by our friend Theo Kitchener from Australia. It's safe to say that Theo's vision and
    [See the full post at: What the Economic Crisis Really Means (animation)]



    The part of the money creation story that is always forgotten is that banks do NOT create money out of thin air when they loan it into existence. That “printing” of money is based on the borrowers who are promising to use up the resources of their own future to pay back the loan with interest. This is why we not only enslave ourselves with debts, we also enslave our future selves and destroy their chances of escaping the paradigm because we lock them into the same routines.


    Ken Barrows

    Hey hey, ho ho, globalization has got to go! Unfortunately, for their own reasons, neither most liberals nor most conservatives can let that go.


    Strange, isn’t it? Without the least bit of irony they draw pictures of agrarian utopia’s springing up magically out of wrecked dystopian wastelands. How in the world? Not to mention the precious bits like “can’t we all just get along” ala the late Rodney King.

    Perhaps it was meant as a choice, either wasteland or utopia. If so then I think there are certainly more realistic ways of framing it. Either way I’m guessing, and this is just a guess, that we won’t be seeing much of the “3D printer” technological bliss.

    Think about it. What are we actually talking about? To my mind it boils down to one very simple metric: a dramatic reduction in available goods and services. In short, impoverishment. Some of those soon to be vanished goods and services are critical, such as food, fresh water, and security. Many people will simply be unable to survive without them, permaculture or not.

    Those that do survive will be tasked with adapting in place. Places that have been built out with industrial infrastructure for the last 200 years. Much of that infrastructure will be abandoned as it will no longer be useful to people without running cars or reliable electricity. Think Detroit.

    Now, add to that the observed tendency of many states towards extreme income disparity and fascist police tactics to keep the impoverished majority in check. This is simply the natural tendency of humans to organize into hierarchies that enrich the imperial few at the expense of a wide periphery, ala the “Fortune 500”.

    What does it all add up to? Picture this: Large numbers of desperately poor people scratching a living in vast crowded slums built on abandoned parking lots that surround a handful of high security condo towers. People who’s daily lives are ruled by corrupt police, drug gangs, and warlords.

    Sound familiar? Gosh, only about 2 or 3 billion people (or more!) currently live in a world that already meets that description, or had you not noticed that?

    No, not back to the stone age. We are descending ever deeper into the slum age.



    Here in Canada there is no sign of anyone with that sense of wanting to make any kind of change to their lives.

    There are those who are not effected by what is going on and they dont need to listen to this kind of talk.

    Then there are those directly effected by a loss of business and employment but they are helpless.

    As for the optimism in this video I think that is good but I cant see people applying it to their lives here in Canada.

    Permaculture is good but can people form groups for things like this.

    We have to keep on trying to have solutions or else there will be a sense of hopelessness and that is not good.


    John Day

    Fine Work, Theo!
    I, for one, do not fault you for tossing up some of the little hopeful tidbits, which do not form a unified prospective worldview. This future, these futures, are yet to be formed by the inspirations and actions of those of us who are paying attention, and everybody else, too. We’ve got the jump, for probably the only time in our lives, so let’s get to work. I propose building relationships and farms and, houses and machines which will be what we need in post-collapse. I also recommend pre-positioning in low population density, with temperate weather and local food and water security prospects. It’s possible. I’m engaged in the task. So are others. Your mileage may vary…



    The Economic Crisis Really Means war for some countries like Armenia.

    If you are following Armenian news on google there is always some tension over there with Azerbaijan(they are really Turks).

    It will not be long before a major war erupts over there and many innocent lives will be lost.
    Both countries are heavily armed with heavy duty weapons.

    Azerbaijan weapons come from Israel and Armenian weapons from Russia.

    As for historical rights for those lands Armenia was an Ancient empire and it had all those lands

    It gave them up because of many reasons and now Armenia is regaining strength and will try to reclaim all that back.

    Knowing the fighting nature of Armenian’s and the current geopolitical situation there will definitely be something that will happening there.

    @ John Day
    I am happy you are an optimist also Theo.
    How are people in Greece suppose to follow some of those ideas.
    How can they do permaculture when they live in down town Athens.


    Lucas Durand


    Here in Canada there is no sign of anyone with that sense of wanting to make any kind of change to their lives.

    In general I think you’re probably right, but there are a few…
    Here’s a great song by Dan Mangan – a Canadian guy who I think probably “gets it”:

    We have to keep on trying to have solutions or else there will be a sense of hopelessness and that is not good.

    I’m not so sure there are any “solutions” in the sense that most people think of them…
    It seems likely that we have entered a stage of history where the events generated by our complex existence will have more and more to do with determining the future than our own decisions will.
    The best anyone can do for themselves is to “robustify” their life as much as possible – ie be ready for anything, be flexible, expect the unexpected.
    As annoying as it may seem, individual experiences whether positive or negative will probably have more to do with “luck” rather than any particular strategy.



    Hi Nicole,

    Now that this Century of Challenges link is dead…

    …is Century of Challenges located elsewhere so that I can re-view it?




    Today pays lip service to our fellows whose dependable labor, provided at a fair profit and no matter how simple with pride of craft, has improved the lives of other people. A great tragedy of our current state of social evolution is that such people are commonly regarded as dupes. Those who have achieved unimaginable wealth and power through nothing more than a pathological ability to connive, cheat and enslave their brothers and their planet are new role models for many, especially the multitude prone to inappropriate wishful fantasy and those willing to prostitute their services for a pittance relative to the damage to life caused by their lieutenancy.

    What will propel us to the other side of the approaching brick wall?

    “…Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.” Frederick Douglass (via C. Hedges)

    “When people lose everything and they have nothing left to lose, they lose it.” Gerald Celente

    Perhaps not too far in the future, the pushing on a string crowd will find themselves pulling on a string. Then we will have a good basis for happy talk.



    The “printing of money” by banks misses a critical point. Yes, loaning money does create new money but that loan does work and produces real GDP. A loan for a house produces a house. A loan for a business produces a business that produces products. A loan to a farmer produces food. As you can see, new money produces new goods, it is not thrown away as most believe. Debt is a problem but I don’t believe it is anywhere close to what is being stated. I do agree that societies need to get out of the unlimited growth paradigm but they also need to stop the overpopulation or earth as well.


    Adam Goodwin

    Babble said: “The “printing of money” by banks misses a critical point. Yes, loaning money does create new money but that loan does work and produces real GDP. A loan for a house produces a house. A loan for a business produces a business that produces products. A loan to a farmer produces food. As you can see, new money produces new goods, it is not thrown away as most believe. Debt is a problem but I don’t believe it is anywhere close to what is being stated. I do agree that societies need to get out of the unlimited growth paradigm but they also need to stop the overpopulation or earth as well.”

    This is exactly the thinking that got us here. Money ‘produces’ nothing. People produce things. Money is just a symbol of value and has no value by itself. It’s just paper (or more commonly and even worse now in this age, it’s mostly just ephemeral electrons–in quantum physics, where probabilities are the norm and reality appears to be spread out across vast distances, this medium for money probably more accurately represents the bankster’s mentality towards it). When money is loaned out, the ‘debtor’ is the only one that has possession of anything of any intrinsic value (be it a house, car, equipment etc.). The bank can offer nothing to the equation, other than it’s ‘services’ to ‘facilitate’ confidence in the current paradigm. Money has ‘objective value’ because the general population says it does through their confidence to continue participating in the game of musical chairs. That’s right….it’s a con game.

    As for overpopulation of the world, that’s not an issue anyone can solve. The population argument is just a scapegoat argument to support status quo capitalist notions of ownership and systemic dependence in a consumer culture. We are not yeast in a vat. Where every person is painted as a relentless consumer right now, there will be a time (soon) when that will have to give way to a producer mentality. Population of a species is not controllable by any single member of that species. You control your own life only, so if you have a problem with what others are doing, then you change it by changing yourself. Start producing!



    In the civilized world, 90%+ of the people don’t already own enough land to feed themselves. Do you think these masses are going to become slave sharecroppers?

    Even if the governments confiscated all the land and divided it up equally, almost the same 90% of the population would rather get a hand out or steal, rather than work the land. After all, they have college degrees, or they are just stubborn, or their entire family tree has been on welfare since the 1930’s.

    There will always be 90% that aren’t going do the work necessary because it is beneath their dignity.

    Yes, the community building thing is good, but I fear you’ll become the provider for your neighborhood, you’ll do all the work while they mooch (just like in society today, but it is not P.C. to ever mention it.) Don’t overlook that 90% of the population that will be looting zombies. You will never reach these people, no matter how many times you click your heels, they will refuse to break a sweat, unless it is for popping out another entitlement baby, or shopping with their EBT cards.

    I’m only being realistic here. If the industrialization of the planet is cut 50%, so must too the population. Since the collapse will occur, and the population will still be over 6.9 billion, one must make equal prep in farming, self reliance and DEFENSIVE MEASURES. Charity gets old after the 2nd day of feeding your neighborhood.



    Boris post=5204 wrote: but I fear

    Yes, you do.



    Clarke and Dawe again:

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