The World Is Running Out of Time

The Zambian Economist at the Crossroads of Global Business and Politics


New Zealand’s economic challenge is less in economic terms than it is in environmental terms. We are struggling to find a sustainable use for all the food and energy on the planet.

The world has a global economic crisis and a global ecological crisis. Our domestic problems are less in economic terms than in environmental terms.

We have global food production problems. Global economic problems are less in economic terms than in environmental terms.

By looking in detail at these problems and their relation to each other, we can see which are more fundamental or which are more symptoms of an underlying underlying economic and ecological problem.

The first problem of our times is that the world is running out of time.

Time is finite. The time horizon for all of our problems is finite. This means that a solution is only found by looking at and thinking about the consequences of our current problems. These consequences are neither here nor there. They are fundamental and we have to think about them. We can’t just ‘buy time’ with more resources or technological fixes. We have to be absolutely clear on what this means.

We have time for no more than three things:

To develop the economic and technological means for converting energy and materials into non-fossil energy and materials, creating a better quality of life for everyone, and creating jobs.

To stop causing global warming and stop causing climate change. We’re running out of time.

This does not mean that a crisis of some sort is inevitable. It means that if we work on fixing these problems, we may not be able to meet them in a particular time frame but we will have the means to achieve them. We’re not in a crisis of an underlying economy and environmental crisis either. This underlying cause is not yet established. There is much we don’t know about the causes but at least we do have a number of options in the interim.

The second problem is that we are creating a global ecological crisis. Over the past thirty years, the world population has exploded and the total human fossil fuel consumption has increased by an order of magnitude.

In 1970 we were consuming 20 kilotons of coal annually. In 2005 we were consuming more than 500 kilotons of coal annually.

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