Welcome to the Club of Amsterdam Journal.
Club of Amsterdam 2002-2012
The Club of Amsterdam would like to thank you for 10 years inspiring activities! We would like to thank the members, speakers, moderators, helpers, writers, supporters, knowledge partners – in short: everybody that contributed to this continous exploration of preferred futures. The diversity and quality of the dialogues proves that there is a need – a need that is always also connected to the now. Starting our visions and strategies with ourselves, our environment, our society is essential when creating our future in a smart fashion and the future of generations to come – or simply a sustainable future for this planet!
Join us at our Special Birthday event 10 Years Club of Amsterdam – Thursday, December 6, 18:30 – …!
Felix F Bopp, Founder & Chairman
One Minute before 12: Understanding The Global Model
By Hardy F. Schloer, Owner, Schloer Consulting Group – SCG, Advisory Board of the Club of Amsterdam
The following article is a very abbreviated extract of a much more comprehensive and complex model study – Effects of Political and Social Conditions; Demographics; Global Finance and Economy; Energy, Food and Fresh Water Production and Consumption; Environmental Effects (pollution, farmland erosion, weather pattern changes, and nuclear waste impacts). The study model was built by SCG in about 4 years of extensive research, extracted from tens of thousand of pages of published research materials, extensive real-time data sources, and hundreds of terabytes of global legacy computer data, provided by governments, global organizations (UN, World-Bank, IMF, etc.) and various free data sources through universities in the US, UK and Germany.
Because of the space constraints of this publication, it is not possible to present the underlying data and correlated findings, much less to support them through extensive arguments, as we do normally in our reports. Nevertheless, this article was not built on opinions, but on well-tested probability models, sound mathematics and carefully selected data, verified and responsibly used. Furthermore, our research has focused on the future in order to better understand how the various problem areas cited in the previous paragraph would affect each other over time. This is rarely done with two or three problem fields, and almost never with the of this underlying report by SCG.
One Minute before 12: The Consequence Era
Human civilization has reached the most critical watershed period in its entire history so far. We refer to this period, 2010 – 2050, as the Consequence Era. It is the era in which we must deal with the consequences of unresolved inter-societal relations, misguided technological development, hyper-militarization of the world, and a dangerous neglect to manage environment and vital resources in a long-term perspective. Given that money and monetary instruments have become an artificial resource, especially in the past 300 years, this consequence also includes the results of our ill-designed global monetary system. Money all by itself, and how it is used in society, has created a severe scarcity that actually prevents us from solving all natural problems and promotes global conflict in an almost fully globalized world. It is therefore especially important to look at the economic conditions and transitions in order to understand the prospect of solving any other hard problems in the future, arising from the management of resources and production of vital supplies.
Although this period actually began a few decades ago, we are only now being forced to deal with the harsh consequences of a phenomenon known as exponential change (unsustainable growth and decline patterns in human behavior, finance, economics, environmental impacts and global resources) – the core dynamics of the Consequence Era which together build a real and actual reality that either can be dealt with successfully now, or destroy us, or set us back severely in the short term (the next two to four decades).
This is the critical and defining era where globalization has been nearly achieved and where the perfect storm of an outdated and crashing financial and economic system, an exponentially growing human population, greatly magnified by dangerous human consumption and other adverse behavior patterns, passes now the saturation point of environmental, economical and social sustainability. Earth’s inability to remain stable under the present pollution and abuse levels, or renew its natural resources in adequate abundance to allow a growth formula that we have come to expect, will force social and economic development backwards in ways not previously experienced by society. We are approaching the absolute limits for the first time in human history in nearly all vital dimensions.
For the first time in our planet’s history, consumption has vastly outpaced supply of many vital resources to the point where we cannot replace certain critical resources for others who will come after us, or, in many cases even for ourselves. For example, for the first time in our planet’s history, we will likely have, in the very foreseeable future, full-scale wars for fresh water and food security (possibly as early as in this decade in some regions), in addition to the ongoing conflicts that are inspired by the exponentially growing need for energy and farming resources. In a former time where only mostly defenseless and voiceless nations in Africa or other less developed regions in the world would run out of food and water, this was only a matter of a News TV program filler or some article in a weekly magazine. But when more developed, militarized nations will run out of food, water or energy, it will become a violent global conflict. This will occur soon.
Additionally, religious-dogmatic tensions between whole blocks of nations seem to further complicate the already problematic dialogue. Real needs and dogmatic agendas become confused to the point that coherent action amongst these nations is now seemingly impossible.
Nevertheless, the global community must now begin to look at the statistical and mathematical models that show clearly that the world, as we know it, is in line for a period of potentially dramatic socioeconomic upheavals, based on the laws of supply and demand and diminishing returns. We have entered the Consequence Era on earth and we will break entirely new ground as a result of the need to change or, if we cannot manage these problems, we will become greatly reduced or even extinct as a human race.
This is not some futuristic horror scenario; this is with us today now, and must be dealt with now, and not in some distant future. Now is the moment when we must carefully look at the mathematical evaluation of how all these factors will affect each other over time. We must set aside complacency as well as political or dogmatic belief, analyze the empirical evidence, and connect those critical dots. There is no more time for opinions, only for science and hard mathematical models, to understand the true reality. We must act accordingly.
The solutions to these problems are in some cases unsettling, because they require drastic changes in our behavior and consumption patterns and drastic changes in how we define technological progress in the future. It also requires drastic change in how we organize the world in terms of finance and economic systems. The current systems will prevent us from solutions, not promote them.
This realization must also constitute an invitation to world leaders, responsible decision makers, corporate heads and global thinkers to come together now, and to work on urgent solutions immediately, to preserve the continuation of human civilization in a sustainable, dignified and peaceful way. We must do this now, because we are out of time!
The Dimensions of Irrational and Single-Minded Finance, Economy, Socio-Psychology, Environment, Geopolitics, Energy and Irresponsible Resource Exploitation
The world continues its historic irresponsible economic behavior, dogmatic conflicts, the exponential consumption of the world’s inexpensive energy supply, and its shortsighted depletion of key environmental resources. These factors are all interconnected and dependent upon one another for overall sustainability – something that is now well beyond the failure point. Many of these problems will remain unresolved into the 2025-2030 time frame; however, humanity will have likely suffered so much internal and global conflict by then that a global renaissance of cooperation will potentially bring about a condition in which solutions will become possible.
Building and Calculating Global Problem Models
Global development is influenced by a multitude of external factors. For example, economic development is part of a global ecology that includes many factors, typically not considered by economists, such as the vital internal and external resource management, national and geopolitical stability, potential food and water shortages or other issues of basic sustainability.
What must be considered in a complete model, and why the answers to these questions are vital to make proper decisions and, more importantly, accurate planning projections is illustrated in the following example:
Let us look at local fresh water supplies at a given location in the energy-environmental problem context (known effects from observed environmental input-factors), and evaluate them under the constraints of economic cost and activity; then inject them as some of the input factors that affect the ‘Fresh-Water-Model’, and then map the results, how they affect our complete global model. Here we can now find just a very small sample of the many elements of our input components, relating to the above constraints:
- What will be the impact of forecasted 1) spikes in extreme seasonal temperatures and 2) the increased frequency of long, intense heat waves on water consumption rates and the availability of freshwater drinking supplies? How do these factors relate to water delivery cost?
- How will natural gas drilling and the rapid expansion of shale gas fracking (hydraulic fracturing drilling operations) impact local aquifers, groundwater, rivers, lakes and the quality of freshwater resources used as drinking water supplies? When will they run out, and what is the expense, at what timeframe, to replace them?
- How much water will be diverted from already critical drinking water supplies for shale gas fracking operations?
- What is the likelihood of a conflict (similar to the ‘food vs. fuel’ confrontation that occurred with ethanol) between those who wish to safeguard water supplies for food production and safe drinking-water purposes vs. those who propose to draw off large volumes of water for hydraulic fracturing to produce shale gas? Who is going to make the rules, and with what consequence? What will be the economic consequences, and when?
- How will exceptionally long heat waves coinciding with scientifically predicted water shortages, impact the availability of water supplies for suppression of predicted wildfires? How will these growing patterns of wildfires impact the environment further, and therefore cause economic consequences?
- What will be the impact of prolonged heat waves on water supplies for crop irrigation? What will be the economic cost of these counter measures, and how will they affect food prices?
- How will predicted water shortages, combined with predicted intense heat waves, impact agricultural productivity, food supplies and food prices? Who will go hungry, and what will they do to change this? Will more terrorism be the answer? Wars? What will become the true cost of food and water, when we include these security and economic issues? How will all of this affect the geopolitics of energy?
- Will hurricanes and other extreme weather events (like Hurricane Sandy in 10/2012) jeopardize the security and quality of safe drinking water supplies and add further to water shortage pressures? How will this affect the cost of water and the cost of energy to provide it?
- How will prolonged high intensity heat waves impact the availability of water for hydroelectric power production? Will some of these hydropower facilities be retired? (Example Hoover Dam Power Plant in Nevada)
- How will prolonged high intensity heat waves affect the availability of secure supplies of water used to cool nuclear powerplant reactors and prevent meltdowns? Is Fukushima only a warning of much more to come, given that there are more than 500 Nuclear Power plants operating with the same outdated and deeply flawed design (Fukushima) in seismic active areas of the world? What will be the cost to replace them, and when?
- Will water shortages affecting nuclear and hydroelectric power plants result in accelerated emissions of greenhouse gases as coal-fired and other fossil-fuel-fired power plants are brought online to replace the loss of power supplied from water-short nuclear and hydroelectric power generation units? (A negative chain reaction of more flawed decisions to answer the short-term problem with the price of medium and long-term negative consequences)
- How will forecasted water supply shortages affect electric power supplies, power plant reserve margins, outage rates, grid reliability and electricity prices?
- Will water scarcity cause economic disruption and a surge of refugees migrating into already populated areas unprepared for population spikes?
- How will forecast underestimates affect the magnitude of water shortage impacts?
The short list above illustrates just one of many starting points in the discussion of a holistic model, and demonstrates the many input factors that are necessary to build proper models that hold up for the range of planning and forecasting inclusive periods.
To manage the world properly in the short and medium term, we must be looking into the future with hard data by at least three to four decades, and therefore incorporate all observed or identified medium-term complexities. However, long-term sustainability models should look into the future by at least 100 to 300 years, to force us to think in terms of preservation of this planet for our children, and generations to come. We need to develop global ethics and global responsibility.Let us return to the mapping of sustainability models. The initial list of 8 critical input dimensions to a Global Master Model is as follows:
1. Monetary and economic systems and their critical debt sustainability issues
2. Governmental/Political trends, conflicts, dogmatic and religious dynamics
3. Corporations and their behavior impacts under missing global regulations
4. Energy production, global energy economics, and critical conflicts
5. Interconnected Farmland, Food and Water factors and their sustainability
6. Environmental Impacts, pollution, weather and habitation consequences
7. Human overpopulation and its interconnected demographic behavior effects
8. Security; cyber-terror; terrorism as the emerging form of ‘political discourse’
Each of these 8 sub-models has cause and effect on every other sub-model in the list. When we evaluate one factor against another, we often cannot determine the outcome; either not precisely, or in many cases not at all. In such case we must record all potential outcomes, and rank them by probability. Our central or most likely model (Prime-Model) is composed of all the factors with the highest probability rating. Nevertheless, each junction of evaluation must be reevaluated each time when new data becomes available. Every time we update any outcome to be likely different from the last calculation requires recalculating the entire Master-Model (The Prime Model and all Sub-Models).
It is useful to track many potential Prime-Models in parallel and observe them concurrently. It is also absolutely critical that each model “lives” in a real-time world, where data is continuously added in real-time and the model is recalculated continuously, as data changes. This must be done for the most likely Prime-Model, and all concurrent models. It is therefore also important to track all data sources continuously as a time-series. As a consequence, we elevate the result-density and enable stochastic analysis that can alert us to potentially false results, erroneous data, but also alert-trigger-points and value changes of concern.
Preferably, we operate as many parallel models as possible to understand the full range of potential outcomes. These ranges in our Master-Model are the expected ‘corridor of projected behavior’. When we begin to carefully prune the underlying models of most factors of improbable results by use of trained AI tools, we begin to slowly unmask the expected future reality. What this future reality likely holds in store for us is outlined now below:
Exponential Changes: The Primary Cause For Critical Societal Crisis
Overpopulation, Farmland, Water and Food
It took millions of years for the world population to reach 1 billion – having done so in about 1804. It then took only another 123 years to reach two billion, due to the industrialization of the planet – and since 1960 it is growing by one billion almost every 12 years; a staggering, exponential rate of increase in human population and devastating global resource drawdown. The US Census Bureau estimates a global population of 8 billion by 2027 – a 14.3% increase over the current figure, and we are already operating in a zone of unsustainability.
Beginning in the 1950’s, an unsustainable exponential consumption trend on earth began and has not stopped, but has further accelerated ever since. The net result of this rise in human numbers has lead to exponential growth in demand for our planet’s finite resources, namely the supply of energy, the stress on the environment and the knock-on effect to the world’s economies.
At the same time, these consumption trends are causing a depletion of those resources – a simple fact of math that is indisputable. We know that we cannot preserve, indefinitely, exponential growth of anything for which there is a finite supply. It is also this fact, that all global problems have local effects and vice-versa. Globalization is irreversible, and therefore any regional governmental and industrial decision maker must understand the global implications to understand what the local challenges may be.
We have reached the tipping point where the ballooning population has met the peak of developed energy supplies and a declining supply of arable land for farming. This is now an empirical fact, and has very hard and definite consequences. As everything we do on earth requires energy to fulfill our existence, energy is becoming more scarce and soon, within the next two or three years (by 2015); at least carbon-based energy will be unaffordable to many on the planet, including small and medium farmers, who will be unable to harvest crops from their fields at a price that the market will bear on their scale of market accessibility, and who will therefore soon be forced to yield to large farming corporations that have the ability to compensate these effects and manipulate markets more effectively. But even then, food prices will increase dramatically over the next decades, becoming a scarce lead-commodity and a new element of global conflict (wars for oilfields will soon move on to wars for farmland or fresh water resources).
In developed nations, each citizen is responsible on average for the consumption of a staggering 30+ tons of food, water, minerals and energy resources from the environment per year. The UN estimates that 25% of the world’s farmland is heavily degraded by now. China and India are modernizing at a rapid rate, thus placing an even greater strain on the global environment. In fact, both China and India are buying farmland at a record pace in nations where corrupt government leaders gamble away national resources for personal gains. In the upcoming farmland scarcity, these behaviors will intensify conflict hotspots in these nations in the future (Africa, South America, Eastern Europe, etc.).
We estimate that the world will need to double its food production by 2046 to feed the projected population (assuming that no substantial destruction of human life occurs before). Even with the advance of technology at near exponential rates, we will not see science provide the solution to these problems. War for food and a new wave of terrorism will be the outcome. The argument by some that we can feed comfortably 7 billion to 10 billion on this planet, because we throw so much food away in the most fertile regions of the world, is, under current and near-future technologies, a myth, because we do not have the means of economical distribution (energy price constraints through conserving, and transport or perishability constraints).
With only 9.6% of the land on earth suitable for farming and another 37.4% for farm animals/grazing, about half of earth land mass is currently unsuitable for any type of agricultural activity. But the model is continuously shifting negatively. In the last 25 years, the US alone has converted more than 41 million acres of farmland into residential and commercial property – a trend that is consistent with all other developed economies in the world: exponentially expanding demand, while shrinking the available resource to satisfy it. In addition, dust erosion of farmland due to the accelerating effects of global warming will further curtail the available farmland in many regions of the world. Just in the past three years, the world lost 2.2% farmland, and the loss is accelerating. But we need more farmland, not less.
Water is an important context to farming. Here are just some contextual facts to illustrate our points:
- In the last 10 years, global demand for fresh water has spiked 58%; demand for residential, agricultural and industrial purposes are all exponentially increasing.
- Almost half of India’s energy is spent pumping water from deep in aquifers to the surface for its eventual uses, mostly farming. The price of energy is therefore paramount for India’s food production.
- Over 713 gallons of water go into the production of one cotton T-shirt
- 1,000 gallons of water are required to produce 1 gallon of milk.
- Global water use: Agriculture 70%, Industry 20%, Domestic use 10%.
It is easy for any person with an average education to understand that we have an untenable existence at the current pace of consumption multiplied by the rate of population expansion. This is an empirical fact. It is a near certainty that we are now entering a new era of resource dependence where the probability within this decade, we will likely see armed conflict over fresh water supply. This will become a trend for which the frequency and scale will become greater and outpace those of oil or democracy.
Under these conditions, the overpopulation problem will produce many extreme views and behavior amongst individuals, societies, organizations and governments. Debt will expand; available resources will become more scarce; life necessities will become extremely expansive, and all, because of overpopulation problems. We will actively think about how population can be reduced, and fast. Population-reducing events will become less unpopular. Human ethics will suffer dramatically in the next two decades, as human existence will be viewed as a burden to the planet. Many will look the other way when genocide occurs in the future. Being alive on this planet will become soon a privilege, not necessarily a right. Unthinkable today, but reality tomorrow. This transformation of mindset has already started.
Economy and Finance
In reports we published in April of 2010 we repeatedly stated that the economic crisis of 2008-2009 was simply a mild and early marker of what is to come now and beyond at a much larger, more sustained scale and of greater consequence. Over the past decades, Western governance has committed serious errors in its economic planning and fiscal policies. The results are a dependency on accelerated deficit spending and an enormous accumulation of external debt – neither of which is sustainable. These ill policies have been exported throughout the world over the past decades, and has become the “state of the art” everywhere. All central banks of countries around the world have adopted the western methods of money creation and debt.
To understand the severity of the global economic condition, we must look at the world’s lead economy, that of the United States, and understand that the negative trigger effect will overshadow the world, including, for some time, even China, as it is busy to unwind its financial dependency on the west.
Today, the US is basically bankrupt; its finances are beyond the point of no return. This is an empirical fact under any accounting scenario, even the most sympathetic one. The debates in the past years over the debt ceiling only serves to obscure this painful fact. The first downgrade of American debt in history by Standard & Poor’s to AA+ over a year ago (August, 2011) is seeping into the general consciousness of an intractable budgetary predicament. The only scenario from here on is default by the U.S. government, and / or significant devaluation of the dollar – this will happen regardless of further modifications to the debt ceiling. As a strong-armed global policy maker and military superpower, the US is getting away with its reckless financial policies a little longer than others might. Most global financial manipulators and players are US based firms, and most financial media is also based or at least rooted there. Therefore, a more sympathetic view of its situation is prevailing in the overall assessment of the current situation. Nevertheless, one must understand that the debt of the US is neither repayable, under today’s dollar value, nor is it much more extendable. The absolute saturation and tipping point is reached within the next 36 months, but more likely within the next 6 to 10 months from the time this article is published.
The US is bankrupt as a country, and bankrupt as a people collectively, as the following numbers will clearly illustrate:
By early 2012, the total public debt equates to about US$47,000 per US citizen, or US$130,000 per taxpayer. It’s also obvious just why the US debt keeps increasing. So far this year the government has spent over US$3.6 trillion, but only taken in US$2.2 trillion in taxes. The fact to note here is that less than a tenth of that tax income derives from business revenue, and this has further social implications in the future, as we will discuss later in this section.
The US is spending over US$700 billion annually on its military and over US$213 billion on interest. It now owes foreign countries over US$5 trillion, equivalent to about four-fifths of the total public debt when George W Bush came to power in 2000. Then, the US public debt was actually coming down.
President Bush initially forecast further surpluses of around US$300 billion a year until 2004, before the September 11 attacks, and two rounds of tax cuts changed everything. By the end of 2012, the US government estimates that public debt will surpass GDP for the first time in the country’s history. It is currently at about 98 percent. Countries whose debt outstrips GDP include Italy, Ireland and Japan, the last one having a debt to GDP ratio of 195 percent.
In 2004, at the height of the Iraq War, the US public debt was increasing by around $12,000 a second. In 2008, as the international financial crisis was just kicking in, this had rocketed to around $25,000 a second and now it is much beyond even that figure.
The debt situation of the US is similar or worse in several statistical categories than that of Greece, Spain or Ireland. The only difference is that the US is a military superpower that is manipulating its view about itself through heavy “perception engineering” and extensive marketing through US media conglomerates.
Americans’ personal debt situation is no better than the government’s, owing a staggering US$16 trillion on things like mortgages and credit cards. All sources combined, Americans owe on average about US$176,066 for every man, woman and child living in America. That is a staggering US$668,413 per family, compared to an average of US$6,898 in savings per family.
This enormous debt will eventually have real social and geopolitical consequences. The greatest nightmare to the fragile and ultimately hopeless US situation, however, is not so much its internal crisis, but the export of its unsustainable policies to the entire world, especially Europe, which has since the early 1970s followed the US lead and sank its economies and individual citizens into a similar situation. Due to the more vulnerable construct of the EU, and the ill constructed and flawed Euro currency, this system is now set to fail first, at least officially, and cause a deadly domino effect for the entire global monetary system.
In the midst of the debt crisis, the U.S. will undergo the greatest strain to its cohesion as a single country since the civil war two centuries ago. It will not only lose its global status and leading model of governance and lifestyle, it will internationally become more and more ignored. Social tensions will test the breaking-point of the American union. And, even as this sounds very dramatic from the perspective of today’s world picture, the outcome of these social tensions have a number of possible consequences that include international isolationism similar to the pre-World War I era, and a potential break-up into as many as 3 or 4 separate entities.
We project China will overtake the U.S. economy in 2016. A good share of the U.S. economy has become devoted to a high level of military spending and maintaining the country’s government debt. In contrast, China has relatively little debt, relatively low military spending (2.2% of GDP versus 4.7% in the USA) and is investing in the country’s prosperity. This disparity will accelerate the passing of power between these two countries.
Unlike Europe, the U.S. will be faced with the added transition of an ethnic and consequently cultural shift towards a Hispanic society. Hispanics tend to prefer working in small companies as opposed to big corporations, and prefer working in small manufacturing and trade. The U.S. will start acting like a Hispanic society, and will have stronger ties with Latin America than with the East or West.
Trends in Europe
The end of the Western financial model extends from New York to Frankfurt. Europe also suffers from U.S. fractional reserve-style banking and high debt levels. In the U.S. bankruptcy is being revealed by the debt ceiling limit; in the Eurozone, it is revealed by the discrepancy between the currency area and the political integration that has been a hallmark of the European project in the last few decades. Although there is a single currency for most of its geographic area, debt is issued by governments, not by the European Union. By now, the debt crisis we predicted has already severely affected Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland, France and Portugal. At this point downgrades of banking and governmental debt has begun, and economic downturns have affected nearly every European nation, either as debtor or as creditor, but equally negatively. Europe further suffers from the costs of a demographic transition towards a higher average age and a diminishing young population in several countries. There are not fewer people, but the age groups are shifting towards retirement and less productivity.
The final outcome of this transition is that both Asian and European interests will fade in the next two decades to the point that US military installations will be abandoned in these regions, and erected in countries to the south, if there is even a coherent US foreign policy in place at that point, and funds available to support it.
Unclear at this point, however, is how US corporate power players will maneuver their interests under these transitions. Given that corporations are highly mobile, efficient in reinventing themselves, and innovative in infiltrating any society on any level, it is to be expected that many US corporate super powers will leave the burned-out US markets and reappear as Brazilian, Indian, Turkish, Chinese, Malaysian or Singaporean powers, using the high mobility of assets, money and global nations’ resource controls as tools to maintain super power indefinitely. Most major multinational corporations have already prepared for a resource based value system that can survive even when currencies collapse due to their own volatilities.
This element of US corporation transitions will actually be the accelerating factor of the US decay, because a broad recognition of the financially collapsing US will force them to fully abandon the US and Euro zones and move all remaining activities to better pastures, as corporations do not have any constraints of national citizenship or loyalty to their citizens to provide jobs or sustainability. This factor will accelerate the jobless numbers especially in the US, and further depress their tax income. The corporations are in fact the new nations of the world, and as they accelerate in dominance, whereas the nations of the past (countries) will become very vulnerable to decay. Corporations can also selectively choose whom they will arm and to whom they will sell weapons, to support their imperialistic agendas.
This transition process will stay mostly undetected for the most part of the next 10 to 15 years, because the world is still very much focused on the nation and still maintains the belief that Presidents and Prime Ministers manage the world, and not corporations. By the time this “new world order” under corporate leadership becomes broadly recognized, the corporate culture will be so interwoven into the nations’ legal, commercial and even defense and security systems that it will become very complicated to separate and regain control of the world under a traditional system of governance.
By that time a broad trend of privatization will have weakened the nations around the world to a point, where they cannot regain power, except through revolution. Such privatization will include the justice system (example: American Prison Corporation, which owns and operates many State Prisons in the US) and the military (example: the Blackwater Corporation, which supplied a substantial force for the US war in Iraq and Afghanistan). We predict, that corporations will lobby governments to censor the internet and social media and filter the anti-corporate emerging messages, but that the continued and widening multinational corporate dominance will eventually trigger widespread revolutions, at latest by 2022 to 2025, and the pressure of the people, lead by some nations that are not easily manipulated by corporate power, will force a power-compromise that will perhaps create a tolerable balance at that point between corporate and human interests.
As we predicted often in years past (2007 and 2010), the conflicts of the future will be ones of social unrest revolving around the lack of the availability of the basic economic necessities for human existence: affordable food, water and fuels. This has now started not just across the Arab world, in Syria, Libya, Egypt, but also across England and Israel during August 2011. We believe that this wave of social unrest will continue to spread throughout the world in the years to come with increasing intensity, as more pressing problems develop. Again, this social unrest comes exactly as we predicted in 2010.
The wave of social unrest that will continue to sweep the world will affect China, but in a way that is somewhat disconnected from their economic process. The current police state will slowly fade away, as we have seen happen in Shanghai. The government is extremely active in staying on top of political and social developments in the world, in order not to lose the relative peacefulness in their own country. The Chinese government will, however, not hesitate in the future to make a point with a second ‘Tiananmen like event’, if deemed necessary.
From 2025-2030 onwards, the world will be sobered by ongoing waves of deep crisis, and ready for a global renaissance. Just as Europe built out of the ashes of the world wars a period of unprecedented peace, so Asia and the rest of the world will be ready to experience a new age of enlightenment.
The meaning of globalization will have gone from being what everyone can steal from himself throughout this planet, to discovering how we can live together, on a global scale, in peace. However, environmental devastating consequences, and a necessary new arrangement of complex resource patterns in unprecedented global cooperation will be the bitter pill of this renaissance.
The Big Picture and Likely Outcomes
What we end up with in the final analysis is best summarized with the following:
Even so the problems ahead are unique in type, scale and consequence, they still produce familiar responses in people and societies. They usually come in 10 very familiar and reoccurring stages:
1. First there is irresponsible exuberance and reckless behavior, mostly motivated by power and monetary gains that lead to major systemic problems and, ultimately, to crisis.
2. When the negative effects of these problems occur and become evident, society goes in denial about them, demonizes and even incarcerates those that bring these problems to attention and push for solutions.
3. Next is a phase of broad recognition by large portions of society that these problems are real and that it is potentially too late to solve them. There is a first ‘coming to terms with the consequences’ by the majority of leaders in society.
4. Now the blame-game of those in power begins, and potential solutions become part of endless political debate.
5. At this stage broad recognition gives away to fear. The reach for religion, which results in a paralyzed state of societies’ ‘middle management’ and, furthermore, leads to the inability to act responsibly, manage the crisis on hand, or try to prevent additional problems from escalating.
6. Fear turns into hyper fear, erases normal behavioral barriers, then promotes high levels of aggression and finally escalation into full conflict.
7. Conflict rages until the input factors for the state of fear are erased.
8. Society, or what is left of it, takes stock of where they are, what they have just done, and what they have lost.
9. Society is now ready to deal with the problem in a sober and analytical way, create visionary laws and regulations, and begins the long and hard road to recovery.
10. Society is now ready for renaissance and an era of great accomplishments, until stage 1 reoccurs again, usually at the peak of stage 10.
Currently, we are somewhere between stage 2 and 3. Stage 10 will fall into a time-window between 2025 and 2035, depending on how we get to it. There are two roads to get there: One is immediate commitment by all society to put politics aside and embrace advanced technology as a problem-solving strategy for all of society, and not as a strategy of monetary gain for a few. The other road is severe global conflict on many levels, until the problems or their input factors are removed, including the prime input factor, “overpopulation”.
The first road will lead to developing a technological solution of sustainable coexistence with many humans on the planet. The second road will lead to brutal reduction of the world’s population by a substantial margin. It is now time to choose which way we wish to go.
Hardy F. Schloer is a speaker at the 10 Years Club of Amsterdam event.
What is exponential growth?
“The greatest shortcoming of the human race is our inability to understand the exponential function.” – Prof. Al Bartlett
Albert A. Bartlett is Professor Emeritus in Nuclear Physics at University of Colorado at Boulder. He has been a member of the faculty of the University of Colorado since 1950. He was President of the American Association of Physics Teachers in 1978 and in 1981 he received their Robert A. Millikan Award for his outstanding scholarly contributions to physics education.
Dr. Bartlett has given his celebrated lecture, Arithmetic, Population and Energy over 1,600 times. His collected writings have been published in the book, “The Essential Exponential! For the Future of Our Planet”.
10 Years Club of Amsterdam
Our Season 2012/2013 starts with the 10th Anniversary event of the Club of Amsterdam.
We are looking forward seeing you at
10 Years Club of Amsterdam
Thursday, December 6, 18:30
Location: India House Amsterdam, Spuistraat 239, 1012 VP Amsterdam
The Club of Amsterdam is going to promote and discuss ideas, statements, observations and solutions for five areas that are considered key challenges by Schloer Consulting Group. The main characteristics are exponential changes – the primary cause for critical societal and economic crisis: demography, energy, environment, food, water, overpopulation, …
With Aleksandra Parcinksa, Andreas van Engelen, Andrei Kotov, Arjen Kamphuis, Diana den Held, Felix B Bopp, Hardy F. Schloer, Hedda Pahlson-Moller, Huib Wursten, Humberto Schwab, Job Romijn, John Grüter, Kwela Sabine Hermanns, Maartje van Buuren, Oebele Bruinsma, Patrick Crehan, Peter van Gorsel, Raj Jagbandhan, Robert Shepherd and many more …
… and entertainment, drinks and food ….
The event is supported by India House Amsterdam.
We are in the middle of a fantastic brainstorm that leads to the anniversary event … and you are invited to contribute to our Public Brainstorm!
Club of Amsterdam blog
Club of Amsterdam blog
Public Brainstorm: Economic-Demographic Crisis
Public Brainstorm: Energy
Public Brainstorm: Environment
Public Brainstorm:Food and Water
Public Brainstorm: Human Overpopulation
News about the Future
HIV diagnosis for poor countries
Scientists have come up with a test for the virus that causes AIDS that is ten times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods, offering the promise of better diagnosis and treatment in the developing world.
The test uses nanotechnology to give a result that can be seen with the naked eye by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London.
Professor Molly Stevens, who led the research: “Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper.”
Mechanism found for destruction of key allergy-inducing complexes
Researchers have learned how a man-made molecule destroys complexes that induce allergic responses — a discovery that could lead to the development of highly potent, rapidly acting interventions for a host of acute allergic reactions.
The study, published online Oct. 28 in Nature, was led by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the University of Bern, Switzerland.
The new inhibitor disarms IgE antibodies, pivotal players in acute allergies, by detaching the antibody from its partner in crime, a molecule called FcR. (Other mechanisms lead to slower-developing allergic reactions.)
“It would be an incredible intervention if you could rapidly disconnect IgE antibodies in the midst of an acute allergic response,” said Ted Jardetzky, PhD, professor of structural biology and senior investigator for the study. It turns out the inhibitor used by the team does just that.
A myriad of allergens, ranging from ragweed pollen to bee venom to peanuts, can set off IgE antibodies, resulting in allergic reactions within seconds. The new inhibitor destroys the complex that tethers IgE to the cells responsible for the reaction, called mast cells. Severing this connection would be the holy grail of IgE-targeted allergy treatment.
Wageningen UR – Food Projects
‘To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life’. That is the mission of Wageningen UR (University & Research centre). A staff of 6,500 and 10,000 students from over 100 countries work everywhere around the world in the domain of healthy food and living environment for governments and the business community-at-large.The strength of Wageningen UR lies in its ability to join the forces of specialised research institutes, Wageningen University and Van Hall Larenstein University of Applied Sciences. It also lies in the combined efforts of the various fields of natural and social sciences. This union of expertise leads to scientific breakthroughs that can quickly be put into practice and be incorporated into education. This is the Wageningen Approach.
The domain of Wageningen UR consists of three related core areas:
- Food and food production
- Living environment
- Health, lifestyle and livelihood
Searching for evidence of nutritional fibres to combat flu
Food producers need hard evidence before they are allowed to make claims on their packaging about products improving people’s health. Jurriaan Mes from Wageningen UR (University & Research centre) is joining forces with eight companies, four research institutes and four universities to look into this. The EU is funding the research.We already know that the immune system reacts to polysaccharides. The body’s immune response to intruders is often aimed at the sugar chains on the outside of bacteria and fungi. The immune system recognises bacteria from a specific sugar chain and prepares itself for the attack.
sCore as an aid to innovation
Innovation without the Internet would be unthinkable these days. The Internet provides a wealth of essential sources! Choose any keyword you like, and you’ll generate million of hits with one click of your mouse. But this is also the weakness of most regular search engines: you get too much information, making it difficult to select and compare the relevant hits. sCore can help you compile a purpose-built overview of recent information sources to match your specific business profile
New market-oriented sustainable protein concepts
Proteins are important for our health. Meat and fish are an important source for these proteins, but they require a lot of raw materials and are therefore not sustainable. The aim of this project is to stimulate the development of new sustainable protein alternatives. Four sub-projects are described: ‘new market opportunities for meat substitutes’ which looks at opportunities, barriers and alternatives at the market level, 2) ‘revaluation of beans’ in which production and processing of beans is stimulated and in which is explored what new products can be make from beans, 3) ‘healthy fish-alternatives’ and finally 4) ‘the promotion of sustainable protein alternatives.
Working towards a 50 percent drop in food waste
More efficient use of resources and a considerable reduction of food waste in the food chain from field to fork. This is the aim of FUSIONS, a four-year European FP7 project involving universities, knowledge institutes, consumer organisations and businesses.Their ambition is to reduce food waste, by stimulating social innovations in feasibility studies, assessing monitoring methodologies, and developing policy guidelines for national and EU governments.
Cater with Care
Fortified tasty foods for improving health among the sick and the elderly
Malnourishment is a serious problem among patients and the elderly; one in every ten elderly people living at home is malnourished. On average, this figure is 17% for people in institutions, and a staggering 25% for hospital patients. The consequences of malnourishment of the elderly can be very serious: they are slower to recover from illness and operations, they have less resistance to disease and run an increased risk of complications. This can lead to a negative health spiral involving longer admissions, increased reliance on drugs and more complex care requirements.
PEF nearly triples fruit juice shelf life
According to WHO, consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables reduces the risk on chronic diseases. To support this healthy habit, Hoogesteger produces fresh juices and smoothies for the Dutch market.Food & Biobased Research transferred the PEF pilot set-up into a continuous Fresh Micro Pulse (FMP) process for (semi) fluids and supported the development and implementation of this method into Hoogesteger’s production process. Quality control and consumer tests were integrated in this project to maintain the products quality.
FOVEA – Food Valley Eating Advisor
Influencing human food choice in real life. The governments of the countries in the Western World are currently spending large amounts of money in campaigns promoting a healthier lifestyle.In spite of all this money, the effectiveness of these campaigns is rather low, and it is postulated that the effectiveness of the message will be larger when it is personalized. The incentive for the start of the FOVEA is to develop a system for personalized feedback to stimulate a healthier behavior.
One: The New Abundant Energy Revolution & The Power of You
By Ray Podder
This book is a mashup of breakthrough renewable energy technologies, networked socioeconomic trends emerging from the sharing economy and timeless spiritual philosophies to examine how we got here and where we may be headed. All articulated with real world stories from the perspective of someone who has spent a career lifetime studying network behavior and motivating positive actions through information design. Beyond addressing only the technical and political issues, the book also gets to the root behaviors that now drive our energy scarcity based economic activities. It proposes a new framework and vision that views our energy and economics from a systemic network perspective. Expressed through both researched and documented evidence and philosophical essays connecting them to the human motivations that matter.
The core concepts in the book looks at our use of energy from what is possible now, and it goes something like this:
1. Make renewable energy into a free platform, using nano, bio, info and other emerging technologies. Too cheap to meter renewable energy technologies are real and available now, they just need accelerated innovation networks to make them accessible to all of us.
2. Make it ubiquitously accessible to all without wires like how we transmit data signals. Unprecedented achievements in transfer efficiency are here. From induction charging to nano technology based wireless electricity solutions can transform the renewable energy landscape if only we could design a business model that rewards users for sharing rather than charging them for consuming.
3. Accelerate innovation so no one has to depend on a job they don’t like to make a living. Distributed and collaborative co-creation environments are transforming everything from crowdsourcing innovation to raising startup capital. The next iteration of global economic systems will be built from network constructs that redefine wealth, access and consumption.
Changes in demography
Changes in demography: and its impact on jobs, the economy, talent acquisition & retention.
By Huib Wursten, Tom Fadrhonc and Carel Jacobs
Recently two EU leaders were clear about the solution for the economic crisis in the EU. Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank: “Countries have to undergo significant structural reforms that would revamp growth,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti agreed and said: “Austerity is not enough, even for budgetary discipline, if economic activity does not pick up to a decent rate of growth” ( Economist, January 2012).
This sounds logical, i.e. Growth is key. The only issue is: for growth you need demand for your goods and services and a competitive edge to provide them better and more efficiently than other suppliers. Which in turn require ongoing productivity improvements, and a steady market for labour and talent. In the years ahead the declining labour supply will make it challenging to find, attract and retain any level of labour, skilled and unskilled.
The cause is that in the next 40 years the working polulation in the 27 member EU will decline by 25% or over 100 million workers.
The decline in working population will become most visible through the gradual disappearance of the middle class. Not only in Europe but in the US as well.
Thomas Friedman in his column in the New York Times of 20/10/2012 said: “The high wage, medium skilled jobs are over”. He quoted Stefanie Stanford, a senior education expert at the Gates foundation saying: “The only high wage jobs, whether in manufacturing or services, will be high skilled ones, requiring more and better education.
The same observation was made by the Dutch newspaper “De Volkskrant” in its research into the structure of employment in the Netherlands. Their conclusion: “the economy will recover from the crisis sooner or later, but one tendency seems permanent: the middle class is shrinking.”…The phenomenon will manifest itself “by an increasing polarization of the labor market”, I.e. a steadily growing division between high end and low end jobs. The victims are predicted to be blue and white collar workers: factory workers and skilled labor on one hand, and office workers on the other hand. This trend is visible in the Netherlands, the USA as well in other European countries. De “Volkskrant” quoted figures from Eurostat: from 1998 till 2010 the share of Dutch employees with an average middle income shrank with 4.5% in favor of “low” and “high” paying jobs. In Sweden this was 8%, in Germany 6 % in France 9% and in the UK more than 10%.
De Volkskrant: “Yet, the amount of jobs in the low pay echelon is growing”.i.e. Jobs that do not require a lot of education. Still, “while these jobs are simple for humans, they are not easily automated… “
On the other end professions like Doctors, lawyers, architects etc remain necessary and will continue to be in demand.
In summary, the number of vacancies for low end jobs are increasing and high end jobs will remain stable and thus available. Filling these vacancies, however, is becoming more difficult.
As an example, ASML in the Netherlands is looking for 1200 additional engineers. They are difficult to find in the Netherlands and so 50% of the applicants are from abroad. There are already 65 nationalities in the ASML HQ.”
The solutions widely debated are improvements in labour productivity through re-schooling, technological improvements or outsourcing and by
increasing the official retirement age. In some European countries this is already reality. No doubt they have a valuable impact but these improvements cannot compensate 100 million workers. And so
the debate turns to immigration.
Between the UN and the World Bank studies, it is estimated that the European Union would have to accept between 70 and 170 million new immigrants over the next 40 years in order to maintain its present levels of working and tax-paying population.
The problem is that this is against the populist “mood” of the general population in many European countries. This could lead to growing tensions between elites and the broader population. While on the one hand the elite sees immigration in terms of the value they bring to the economy and whose daily contact with the immigrant population will be minimal, on the other hand the broader population will be confronted with immigrants’ different lifestyles and values and whose presence competes for jobs and puts pressure on wages, i.e. they are an influence that could lower wages.
This development should not be underestimated as it could lead to tensions between the dominant ideas in the EU about economic growth and the issue of cultural stability.
Europe is already the culturally most diverse continent of the world. What most EU countries have in common is acceptance of the rule of law, including human rights. Especially non western immigrants might not share the same values. But the shape of democracy in the different EU countries varies. Comparing for instance the Westminster model of the UK (2 strong political parties and the winner takes all) with the French presidential model (completely centralized) and the Dutch 4 C model (Consensus, Coalitions, Collegial administration and Co-optation) reflects this diversity. It will need a strong effort to introduce immigrants to the, sometimes implicit, values behind these systems.
What is not helping is the claim by some that there is no such thing as, for instance, a Dutch culture. It is necessary to realize that cultures have characteristics that go back to the 17th century or before. These attributes are going beyond being offered a cookie with your tea, as Princess Maxima of the Netherlands stated. The research of Geert Hofstede can help in making everybody aware of the basic value dimensions per culture without being trapped in stereo types.
Talent still key.
Everybody agrees that the working population in Europe is declining. Naturally we can debate about solutions like outsourcing and productivity increases and while all the alternatives no doubt will be pursued with vigor, lets prepare for the fact that in spite of the efforts, the working population will decline to a degree. And more importantly, lets focus on the implication:
When the working population declines……
Workers/talent will be harder to find and more expensive to recruit and retain. And the more unique the worker, the harder the talent is to recruit, the greater the damage to us as a company, a region, an industry, a country.
So, what strategies do we need to minimize the damage. Or better yet, what strategies should we pursue to gain a competitive advantage in this shrinking labour market.
When the focus is low end workers with a basic manual and clerical skill level, we could easily hide and say such skills are easy to find and replace. Maybe so when we face an isolated instance, but when the problem is constant, we have to find structural solutions. And structural solutions imply attracting labour through immigration to overcome the lack of labour within our own borders. And attracting labour from different cultures and countries requires more than a job and money because every employer waves a job and money in front of prospective employees. To have a competitive advantage over competitors, you have to go beyond to make your company the one where new immigrant laborers want to be and work. And when you imagine the issues, coming from a strange place to establish a new economic future for your family while leaving behind the comforts of home, the answers are not so difficult. You want to be with an employer that provides:
1. Help with the immigration paperwork.
2. Housing assistance.
3. Assistance for spouses to find jobs.
4. In company childcare.
5. Decent health care benefits.
For highly educated, talented employees who are hard to find even in a normal market, the search and retention challenges are even greater. It is harder to catch a fish when there are fewer fish in the pond and with more people fishing fewer fish, the fish become more expensive. And once you acquired them for a fat salary and signup bonus, they can still decide to move to your competitor for a better deal.
So what are the strategies to secure an ongoing stream of high end specialized Talent?
Again the answer is no so complicated. Following the fishing analogy, you want to be more visible in the ponds where you always fished, plus you want to start fishing in new ponds with ample fish. i.e. You want to strengthen relationships with the universities where you always recruited and have your management be more visible and make regular appearances.
In addition it pays to establish relationships with knowledge centers in places with a talent surplus, with different demographics than ours in the aging developed countries. The countries where you focus depends on the specific talent you seek. It could be the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Eastern Europe.
Building relationships with these target universities in different countries/markets is not complicated. Having key executives and managers visit the placement office, doing an occasional guest lecture, and making an appearance outside the times your company is invited to show up as part of some job fair, will have the effect that the universities recommend your company to their most talented graduates. Your company becomes a preferred brand/employer, which is the aim of the effort.
In essence you want to be recruiting in countries with different demographics and economic prospects, i.e. in countries where there are more young graduates entering a labour market with fewer opportunities.
Regardless what talent you need, it pays to build a strategy to secure a steady inflow. In a shrinking labour market that strategy is more essential than ever …..
…. whether you are a company, an industry, a region, or a country.
Futurist Portrait: Sundeep Waslekar
Sundeep Waslekar is President of Strategic Foresight Group, a think-tank based in India that advises governments and institutions around the world on managing future challenges. He has presented new policy concepts at committees of the Indian Parliament, the European Parliament, UK Houses of Commons and Lords, United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, League of Arab States, World Economic Forum (Davos meetings), among others. He has travelled to 50 countries for consultations with senior leaders.
Sundeep Waslekar was educated at Oxford University, obtaining Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics and Economics in 1983. He was conferred D. Litt. (Honoris Causa) of Symbiosis International University, at hands of President of India, in December 2011.
Sundeep has been involved in parallel diplomatic exercises to find common ground in times of crisis. Since the mid-1990s, he has facilitated dialogue between Indian and Pakistani decision makers and Kashmiri leaders, heads of Nepalese political parties, and post 9/11 between the leaders of Western and Islamic countries.
He authored three books on governance in the 1990s – The New World Order, South Asian Drama, and Dharma-Rajya: Path-breaking Reforms for India’s Governance. Since 2002, he has authored several research reports on global future under the auspices of the Strategic Foresight Group, including The Blue Peace, Cost of Conflict in the Middle East, and An Inclusive World. In 2011, he co-authored a book of essays on global governance, Big Questions of Our Time.
Sundeep Waslekar about Paradigm Shifts
” … Scientists such as Sir Martin Rees argue that the 21st century might prove to be the last century of this planet. Others give us a maximum of a thousand years. If compared to this track record of our surviving for 12-15,000 years, we encounter population on another planet that has survived and flourished for a few million years, it will only be because they have a different set of principles which eschew the notions based on self-aggrandisement. If indeed we encounter such an advanced civilization based on totally different values, it will be unfamiliar with the concept of attack and therefore we need not fear its invasion on the earth. But our ideas that have helped us achieve what we consider progress but which have already cost 400 million lives in the last 2000 years and which can annihilate all life in future will prove to be much inferior to theirs. Nothing will therefore change our basic thinking more than an encounter with advanced life forms from another planet, though we may live in our comfort zone since the possibility of such an encounter does not appear real.
The greatest paradigm shift will take place when villagers and urban dwellers, Easterners and Westerners, religious zealots and secular thinkers, children and adults across the world realise that it is possible to achieve progress without conquest, actualisation without invasion, and enrichment without aggrandisement. In the absence of this mental transformation, survival of humanity is threatened in this century or next or sometime soon. It will as much depend on a chance encounter with advanced beings as on our own deep introspection.”
|Season Events 2012/2013
| NEXT Event
December 6 , 2012
10 Years Club of Amsterdam
Location: India House Amsterdam, Spuistraat 239, 1012 VP Amsterdam
Supported by India House Amsterdam
January 31, 2013
the future of Space Travel
February 28, 2013
the future of Football
March 28, 2013
the future of Impact Investment
Supported by Evalueserve
April 25, 2013
the future of Digital Identity
May 30, 2013
the future of Europe
June 27, 2013
the future of Urban Gardening
Location: Geelvinck Museum, Keizersgracht 633, 1017 DS Amsterdam
Supported by Geelvinck Museum