Is Occupy Wall Street a Sign of “The Great Disruption”?

GildingYou may remember Paul Gilding, former executive director of Greenpeace International.  Tom Friedman has been writing columns about him since his 2009 piece on how the global economy is a Ponzi scheme.  I was quoted in that column, too, and as a result, have gotten to know him (see video, “Paul Gilding on The Great Disruption:  “You can’t just have an adaptation strategy. There’s no chance of that working”).

Well, Friedman has a new column today, “Something’s Happening Here,” which asks:

When you see spontaneous social protests erupting from Tunisia to Tel Aviv to Wall Street, it’s clear that something is happening globally that needs defining. There are two unified theories out there that intrigue me. One says this is the start of “The Great Disruption.” The other says that this is all part of “The Big Shift.” You decide.

The Big Shift is “the merging of globalization and the Information Technology Revolution” to create a “huge global flow of ideas, innovations, new collaborative possibilities and new market opportunities.”  It basically means anyone, anywhere can make a contribution, get noticed, and rise to the top.

The Great Disruption ain’t so pretty:

Paul Gilding, the Australian environmentalist and author of the book “The Great Disruption,” argues that these demonstrations are a sign that the current growth-obsessed capitalist system is reaching its financial and ecological limits. “I look at the world as an integrated system, so I don’t see these protests, or the debt crisis, or inequality, or the economy, or the climate going weird, in isolation — I see our system in the painful process of breaking down,” which is what he means by the Great Disruption, said Gilding. “Our system of economic growth, of ineffective democracy, of overloading planet earth — our system — is eating itself alive. Occupy Wall Street is like the kid in the fairy story saying what everyone knows but is afraid to say: the emperor has no clothes. The system is broken. Think about the promise of global market capitalism. If we let the system work, if we let the rich get richer, if we let corporations focus on profit, if we let pollution go unpriced and unchecked, then we will all be better off. It may not be equally distributed, but the poor will get less poor, those who work hard will get jobs, those who study hard will get better jobs and we’ll have enough wealth to fix the environment.

“What we now have — most extremely in the U.S. but pretty much everywhere — is the mother of all broken promises,” Gilding adds. “Yes, the rich are getting richer and the corporations are making profits — with their executives richly rewarded. But, meanwhile, the people are getting worse off — drowning in housing debt and/or tuition debt — many who worked hard are unemployed; many who studied hard are unable to get good work; the environment is getting more and more damaged; and people are realizing their kids will be even worse off than they are. This particular round of protests may build or may not, but what will not go away is the broad coalition of those to whom the system lied and who have now woken up. It’s not just the environmentalists, or the poor, or the unemployed. It’s most people, including the highly educated middle class, who are feeling the results of a system that saw all the growth of the last three decades go to the top 1 percent.”

The Big Shift is good news for those who can leverage “the flow” and for those people its offers the prospect of fame and wealth.  Globally, it might mean faster innovation.  But it does nothing by itself to stop the inexorable march towards catastrophic global warming.  That requires a serious — and rising — carbon price (or  very tough government standards that amount to the same thing).

Indeed, the Big Shift certainly means the rich get richer, since the top 1% can most easily access the flow (see “The Other 99% of Us Can’t Buy Our Way Out of the Impending Global Ponzi Scheme Collapse“).

So there you have it: Two master narratives — one threat-based, one opportunity-based, but both involving seismic changes. Gilding is actually an optimist at heart. He believes that while the Great Disruption is inevitable, humanity is best in a crisis, and, once it all hits, we will rise to the occasion and produce transformational economic and social change (using tools of the Big Shift). Hagel is also an optimist. He knows the Great Disruption may be barreling down on us, but he believes that the Big Shift has also created a world where more people than ever have the tools, talents and potential to head it off. My heart is with Hagel, but my head says that you ignore Gilding at your peril.

You decide.

Gilding is a “relative” optimist, as he explained to me (video here).  Failure to remake the economy is just not an option.  Fortunately, the solution, though not easy, is eminently doable, and that should be “reassuring”:

When I say reassuring, this is against the scale of the collapse of civilization.  Not reassuring as in “all will be okay” but reassuring as in if we get this wrong, we are talking about global economic collapse and the potential for breakdown in a very serious way of civilization.  That’s what I think we can still prevent.

Even if we take action, we will see serious consequences, but avoid collapse.

I actually have a third video interview of Gilding I hadn’t posted yet, in which he explains that “the feedbacks are happening faster than they were supposed to, they are worse than they were supposed to” be.  Therefore he thinks this is the decade in which the shit hits the fan and that consumption patterns start to change — for the better:

47 Responses to Is Occupy Wall Street a Sign of “The Great Disruption”?

  1. I am completely in agreement with Gilding’s goals, but I think he is twisting his analysis of the current economic situation to suit those goals.

    The current recession is the result of a financial bubble that burst. It is similar to the financial crises of the nineeteenth century, and like them, it is the result of an under-regulated financial system.

    Growing inequality and the stagnation of middle-class incomes during the last decade are the result of globalization. Cheaper labor in other countries has eliminated many of the decently paid American jobs that existed decades ago.

    The world’s biggest problems of the coming decades are global warming and shortages of natural resources, as Gilding says.

    But it muddies the waters to say that these big long-term problems are the cause of all of our immediate economic problems, from the collapse of Lehman Brothers (actually caused by a financial system that encourages risky speculation) to the loss of manufacturing jobs to China (actually caused by low wages and high levels of investment in China).

  2. Tim says:

    I have to say, I’m much less of a fan of Friedman than you, Joe. I found “The Earth is Flat” to have way too many glittering generalities and I feel much the same about [at least the parts he quotes] from “the Big Shift”. We’re running up against physical and biological limits to which we may be able to adapt, but against which information technology advances don’t really stack up. Our problems with dealing with the limits to growth are political, and Gilding seems clearer on that – he is more explicit in implying that the advantage conferred by information technology is in educating the populace and in helping to marshall the forces of political reform. But even Gilding seems too optimistic to me – so far, the internet hasn’t done much to shake the top of our political system, and those in power are already learning how to subvert IT so that it can be as neutered and propagandistic as, say, network television news. I do think Gilding knows that, but he wisely avoids language that seems “liberal preachy” and “alarmist” so as to make the message go down easier (I like Gilding).

  3. Max says:


    The Australian carbon tax is the best news I have heard in years. If Australia, which is has a strong conservative tradition and exports so much coal, can put a direct tax on carbon, then it gives me hope that we Americans can also pass a carbon tax. Do you know Gilding’s opinion of the significance of the Australian carbon tax?

  4. Jeff Huggins says:

    The answer to the question in the headline is YES!

    Yet these things are matters of degree: OWS is like a canary in an increasingly uncomfortable and unsound coal mine that will get more and more uncomfortable and unsound if we don’t find wisdom. But the walls haven’t caved in yet, so we’re still in that period where the signs can be ignored, at our peril, by those who insist on ignoring them.

    But here is one of the CONCRETE IMPLICATIONS of all this: Small, superficial, incremental improvements that are made instead of genuinely facing and addressing the underlying causes will typically do more harm than good. This isn’t because improvements aren’t improvements, in a narrow sense. Instead, it’s because small superficial improvements distract us from the larger necessary improvements, and they also cause us (and others) to think that we’re on the right track. Time is precious. There are such things as opportunity costs. And people DO fool themselves.

    So for example, should OWS folks vote for the Democrats just because “the Republicans would be even worse”? If they do, the movement will defeat itself before it even gets going. A movement needs to begin — and NOW — that will lead us to reform some rather fundamental things, that will “jar” us, intellectually and socially, to begin to adopt new paradigms that can genuinely lead to sustainability and justice and etc.

    I can see it now: Obama will approve Keystone XL. Then he’ll say lots of good things that will, nevertheless, fall far, far, far short of the sorts of paradigm shifts and reforms necessary to put us on the sort of path necessary to avoid the problems Gilding, Jared Diamond, and others correctly talk about. So we’ll all have to face a choice: Vote for Obama again, or vote vigorously for a third party, even if that third party may not have a hope of winning this time around. You gotta start somewhere, and send REAL and STRONG signals.

    Thus I can imagine many people (e.g., Bill McKibben, and perhaps many at CAP?) who, at least according to what they’re saying today, will likely vote for Obama again, because “the Republicans would be much worse”. This seems to be the case even if Obama approves Keystone XL. But if the OWS folks do the same, their cause will be defeated, and the whole exercise will have done very, very little to actually prompt us to being adopting a path that will actually address the large problems.

    The OWS folks will have to decide whether they’ll be pawns in the political games occurring between the Dems and the Repubs, as presently constituted, or be game-changers. Superficial pawns, or genuine game-changers? THAT is the question. And each one of us, as voters, will have to decide whether to vote for band-aids, and by doing so enable things to remain largely on the wrong track, or whether to take the sort of stance that will be necessary (and the sooner the better) to prompt the paradigm shifts necessary to point us in a much better direction.

    It will be interesting to see what CAP and other organizations like them do. It will be increasingly hard to reconcile the strategy of “sticking with the (status quo) Dems” as it becomes increasingly clear that Gilding, Jared Diamond, and others are right, and that fundamental changes in the ways we do things are called for. And when I say ‘increasingly hard to reconcile’, I don’t mean over the next several years, or the next decade. Instead, I mean over the next several months.

    So that leads me to suggest a great post for ClimateProgress: If OWS is a sign of ‘the great disruption’, and if fundamental changes will be necessary to put us on a genuinely sustainable, just, and healthy pathway (as is the case), what will CAP do? That is, will the default assumption — the implied stance — be to stick with the Dems because “the Republicans would be worse”? Or instead, will CAP play a role — helping to support and educate, if you will, the OWS movement — to inform us all of the types of deep changes, deep reforms, that will be necessary if we’re to “make it out of here alive”?

    Decision-time is approaching.

    Be Well,


  5. fj says:

    let’s hope that #OccupyWallStreet chooses its leaders and paths of action wisely.

    Bill McKibben’s presence is encouraging.

  6. Raul M. says:

    I think it’s a dust storm on the cover of Gilding’s book. That the dust storms already happen would mean that the OWS movement will be a sign as far as the co2 goes unfortunately.

  7. otter17 says:

    In some respects I thought that Gilding’s optimism in his book was a bit too certain. At some points I was left a bit confused how a belief in humanity’s capability to pull together in a crisis could lead to that optimism. Maybe those details were intentionally left out, or maybe I missed them. I would say that we can certainly make it through this problem, but there are no guarantees if we wait until a huge crisis. I mean, there are so many complicating non-linear factors in that scenario, from how nature reacts to how human populations and economies react. How could anybody guarantee optimism that we can pull through an unprecedented crisis like that?

    Nevertheless, “The Great Disruption” was quite well done in the way it laid out broad ranging solutions and a mindset that will allow us to live in a happy future.

  8. Tim says:

    Growing inequality and the stagnation of middle-class incomes during the last decade are the result of globalization. Cheaper labor in other countries has eliminated many of the decently paid American jobs that existed decades ago.

    This is the conventional and oft-repeated wisdom, but I don’t think it cuts it. It lets the few who have benefitted from inequality off the hook. I simply don’t believe that if the total payroll of an American company were left exactly unchanged, but the top salaries were, say, 40 times those at the bottom instead of 250 times those at the bottom, that the company’s productivity would suffer one iota (and, in fact, might increase).

  9. Tim says:

    To finish the thought, the inequality results from those who did the outsourcing taking for themselves all the benefit (from cost cutting) instead of spreading that benefit among the other people who still do work at the company.

  10. Max says:

    There is a clear link between the current debt crisis in Europe and the expected slowdown of GDP growth there for the foreseeable future. History clearly shows that the only way a country like Italy with debt/GDP well above 100% will pay off its sovereign debt is through GDP growth. Without GDP growth, Italy will default. Markets anticipated this and raised the interest rate on Italian debt, speeding up the whole sad process crisis and default.

    It is not hard to believe that some part of the prognosis for zero GDP growth is based on global envirinmental constraints. I think this may be beginning of Gilding’s Great Disruption.

  11. Ernest says:

    I like Gilding also. His style is kind of “laid back”. He’s not moralistic. (Yeah, I consume too much stuff also.) He appeals to rational self interest.

    As for the internet, I think it’s an enabler, an alternative to centralized media for those who can take advantage of it. It accelerates everything. It can be a tool for transparency, now that videos are ubiquitous. It is also can be fragmented, reflecting the fragmentation of the population. By itself, it cannot change the political system. Only people can do this. The internet did not cause the Arab Spring. But the Arab Spring certainly used it at the time it was available, then continued on even when it was “turned off” by the government.

  12. Fire Mountain says:

    Recalling when Friedman dismissed the Seattle 1999 protests against WTO out of hand, his non-dismissal of Occupy Wall Street says something about how things have shifted.

  13. The problem is that well-paying manufacturing jobs have disappeared to foreign competition, and well-paying computer programming, tech support, and call center jobs are disappearing.

  14. Ernest says:

    One of the more dis-spiriting aspects of the Republican debates is that some in the audience (boos, cheers) are even more conservative than even where the candidates want to be. We only have to look at our brothers and sisters (esp. in the red states) to know that others also want “game changers”, but not in the direction we would like.

  15. You might be right factually that slower growth caused by resource constraints will bankrupt countries with debt levels like Italy’s.

    But that is not what the markets are thinking about now. They are thinking about the uncertainty caused by a financial bubble bursting. They were perfectly willing to lend a couple of years ago, before the bubble burst, and they assumed growth would continue even though you and I already knew back then that resource constraints would slow growth.

    As I said initially, global warming and resource constraints are the fundamental, long-term problems. But the markets focus on short-term problems. It would be a better world if the markets did look at the long term.

  16. Mark says:

    To optimistically believe it is “The Big Shift”, one has to buy into the idea that clean tech alone can save us. However, even if our economy were to produce zero greenhouse emissions, zero toxic anything, and recycled everything, capitalism still demands nonstop economic growth.

    Since steady-state capitalism does not exist, it’s obvious the ultimate solution is not just clean tech, but switching to a non-growth addicted economic model… something other than capitalism.

    But of course, we need to be alive in order to do that, so I’m happy for now advocating for the temporary stop gaps afforded by clean tech under capitalism…. just remember that unless growth itself is tamed, all the solar you can dream of is still a stopgap.

  17. Ken says:

    I read Friedman this morning and was left feeling in disagreement as usual: Friedman analyses are too often a mile wide and an inch deep. But then it’s only an op-ed piece and Friedman has a deadline to meet. Occasionally he goes deeper on an issue where he has expertise, but conflating the big shift with the great disruption brings nothing of value. Only by taking Gilder’s approach, a sort-of-stiff-upper-lip, aren’t we bearing up well as we get through the crisis proposition, can we even fool ourselves into pseudo optimism. Who knows if Gilder’s hoped for self corrections will appear? We cannot escape the reality of our situation. So far, any sober assessment of the future brings no cause for real optimism on any level.

  18. Paul Magnus says:

    Here is something that that seems like a small item but in fact is highly disruptive…. landslides.

    Climate Change is projected to increase landslides of all kinds including under water ones…. many highways are just not going to be feasible to maintain especially along coast ways. It will also disrupt water supplies.

    Cost are not going to be manageable in the next few decades for this sort of infrastructure.

    The world grows smaller…

    Utah Landslide Buries Road Under 100 Feet Of Dirt

    cost of repairs was not immediately known, but Kitchen said a similar slide in the area during the 1990s cost nearly $4 million to repair, Kitchen said.

  19. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Jeff, the Western democratic capitalist system is designed to be immutable in service to the rich. The people are pawns to be manipulated. Two escape routes for humanity exist. One is by ending the system and creating a new, rational and humane one. Needless to say, that will be resisted with every means available. Or, alternatively, we can keep petitioning, (begging actually)our plutocratic masters to wake up and think of their own grandchildren, if nobody else, and, pretty please, change your omnicidal ways. That will at least give them a good belly laugh.

  20. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    For a second I imagined that you were talking of Milton, and felt that I had missed the ‘Second Coming’. The extant Friedman is a weather-vane, the other a dedicated unwavering, ideologue.

  21. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    You have it, Mark, precisely. Capitalism = Mass Death. It’s gotta go!

  22. Jeff Green says:

    saving oil for growing food. I don’t know if anything will supplant oil out in the fields.

  23. Rabid Doomsayer says:

    It is unwinding rather rapidly. The stuff I used to buy is now made overseas, many of the services are now done from overseas.

    Does not really make any difference I cannot afford them any more. So much effort to convince me to buy stuff: waisted.

    When will the companies realise that collectively their staff are also their customers. The money I don’t earn cannot buy the stuff.

    I still have a job; so I am way better off than many. But all those telemarketing calls, spam mails to take holidays and calls about updating the car all are really quite pointless.

    The slowing of purchasing by the likes of me will affect company profits. Sure there was a window where a rundown of savings offsett the reduced income.

    Worse for the companies I realize that so much of it is just stuff. So even if I get offered good money, I may not take it.

    As much as I like good wine, a two year supply is more than enough.

  24. The recession is irrelevant to the problem. It exacerbates them, but the problems were there before it came on scene.

  25. There are high paying manufacturing jobs in places like Germany. Unions, too.

  26. Merrelyn Emery says:

    The last great global wave of activism was in the 1960-70s and its purpose was power to the people. It failed because economically, the times were good and many of the participants allowed themselves to be co-opted into the system dominated by the master-servant relationship.

    Now we see the current wave after the USA has taken the master-servant relationship to its logical extreme in all areas of life, including the economic, where it is almost literally the 99% and the 1%.

    The difference this time is that as the costs of climate catastrophes mount, it is going to be nearly impossible for many countries to get back on a sound economic footing, even if they did have equitable, sustainable economic theories and policies.

    We are witnessing the convergence of climate and economic collapses and people will have no option but to protest. Ultimately, it will end well (relatively well) only when people realize that the master-servant relationship must be replaced by relationships of equality and cooperation, relationships between people and the relationship between people and the planet, ME

  27. Paul magnus says:

    It’s absolutely going to be this decade. 

    The thing is starting and the next global temp peak, which is looking on before 2015, is going to be absolute global havoc.

    Even well developed societies are going to start collapsing from within, never mind immigration overruns.

    Then there is the nuclear card which no one seems to be taking seriously.
    Excellent talk last night…

    The nuclear threat has not gone away and in a climate of climate change it is amplified.

  28. David B. Benson says:

    Yes, the emperors have no clothes.

    Thomas Geoghegan in the latest issue of “The Nation” argues that the trick is to intice the plutocrats into actually investing in productive ways, building stuff, rather than fiddling in the stock+deriviatives markets.
    Investing here in the USA of course.

  29. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes-begging the kleptomaniacs to change their ways and invest with the certain prospect of a lower return on capital than can be obtained from speculation and market-rigging is certainly the way to go. We will cause no doubt not a few to die of laughter, at least. Forgive my cynicism, but it’s not going to work. Mr Geoghegan must think that they have consciences.

  30. Villabolo says:


    One years supply of nitrogen packed grains; water filters; basic non food supplies; etc. ad nauseum.

  31. Villabolo says:

    “Thomas Geoghegan in the latest issue of “The Nation” argues that the trick is to intice the plutocrats into actually…”

    Psychopathology a genetically predisposed, biological predisposition which can be spotted easily with an MRI brain scan.

    One to two percent of the population are psychopathic but they concentrate enormously in positions of power. Psychopaths rule the world.

    They’ll be happy with a shrunken economy, nation wide, so long as they have all the luxuries they’re used to. Just look at Argentina. Why should the elite want to grow the economy there?

    Don’t dance with psychopaths; don’t reason with psychotics.

  32. Peter Mizla says:

    Excellent interpretation. In the 1960s and 70s the economy was uniformly good. Today the economy has become so separated from those with, and those without, the ferment which failed in the 1960s now has much more fertile ground to spread and be successful. Add to this a rapidly deteriorating climate- and bingo! Disruption and chaos- right at our door step.

  33. Peter Mizla says:

    It would be interesting to hear Gilding’s reasoning that climate instability and feedback’s will begin the massive disruptions this decade.

  34. Raul M. says:

    Speaking of the nuclear threat, I’m guessing that the issues of high water a damn breaking upstream has been solved (through censorship?). Is that Nebraska?

  35. Raul M. says:

    If one of the inland reactors fails from flooding and the radiation does leak downstream in the huge quantities possible from a failure and goes into the Gulf of Pollution, doesn’t that become a international issue and certainly the coast guard couldn’t just wash down the ships and boats like they do for oil spill…

  36. Raul M. says:

    “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is a nice description for old ways but the ways of elders have changed over the years. Shouldn’t the adage be changed for sone things to an ounce of prevention is worth a gigaton of appeasement.

  37. Anne van der Bom says:

    Steady-state capitalism doesn’t exist and from that you conclude that capitalism needs growth. First of all, nothing ‘steady-state’ exists. Everything is continuously changing.

    Is constant growth fundamental to capitalism? In an economic crisis, there is negative growth. Do our economies then temporarily stop being capitalist?

    Striving for growth by individual persons and/or companies is fundamental to capitalism. Until now the collective effect of all these individuals has been growth. But as we bump into the limits of this planet, that collective growth will probably become 0 or negative. Will that end capitalism? I think not.

  38. Marie says:

    Mulga — I’m a big fan of your cogent remarks.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    No, as we can see all around the world, it will usher in neo-feudalism, as the ruling elites grab more of a shrinking pie, and use every means, overwhelmingly foul, to keep the rabble in line.

  40. Greg Junell says:

    Debt is a big part of the problem. But blaming banks is blaming the pusher. People have to quit using (formal system) debt. Yes, that will be critically hard for some people.

    Cleverly, reducing demand for debt is a market signal that big institutions need to change their products.

    And with global level cash available for the big players at near 0%, that should (oh dear I said should) mean very low price products for customers if demand drops.

  41. Greg Junell says:

    The world grows bigger… because the cost or time of getting around is growing.

  42. John Tucker says:

    Good post – I was waiting for it to calm down to comment. I didnt want to be the depressing downer here.

    ¨The Big Shift¨ – The first thing I thought of when I read that was Anthony Watts. Crowd sourcing works really well in popular culture type endeavors. Its not compatible with the hard sciences unless very rigid rules are applied. As a matter of fact things could potentially go very wrong as logical decision making and examination of outcomes plays such a small part.

    ¨The Great Disruption¨ – I keep going back to the French wildcat strike of 68 here and the thing is, in the end the government collapsed the PM fled to Germany then – Nothing, it evaporated and everyone went back to work – oh great strides were made, blah blah blah but they really couldn’t visualize anything it seems beyond the collapse of capitalism besides a watered down European socialist mix.

    Market forces in terms of resources are inefficient, amoral and not sustainable. Market forces historically are the best motivators of individuals as a group.

    To compound the problems we are in a nth stage situation – abstract finance is driving growth and profits in areas that do not benefit individuals or economies. Total world over-the-counter derivatives outstanding reached $601 trillion by the end of December 2010. The US GNP is about US14.5 trillion and the entire value of all listed companies on the NY Stock exchange is about US$13.39 trillion.

  43. John Tucker says:

    Of course looking first for possible outcomes my be a flaw in reasoning here. We are not used to going to a rally to figure out what needs to happen.

  44. Mark says:

    Of course I conclude that. Don’t you?

    Since steady state capitalism does not exist, we are stuck with longterm trends of inflation (or deflation), and that means the sum value of our economy is eroded if it just sits still. Just to offset the inflationary (or worse deflationary) losses – that is to say, just to tread water in place – a capitalist economy MUST grow. Watch the candidates for this election. They will ALL tell us their ways to grow the economy. Even if we can grow it for the next 4 years, then the next crop of presidential candidates will again tell us how they plan to grow the even-bigger- economy. Four years later they have to grow the EVEN-BIGGER-even-bigger-economy. Four years later its how to grow the
    evenbigger economy.
    Quick…. 2×2…..=4;
    how far can you go? Forever?

    And thats my point. The economy can’t grow forever either, because nothing does. That’s the essential lesson of climate change and the Global Ponzi scheme, and it means that all the clean tech in the world can only buy us time to solve the REAL problem, and the REAL problem is our addiction to economic growth at the expense of the environment, diverse cultures, and each other.

  45. It has become crystal clear to me that the system can only be changed by somehow disrupting and/or bypassing money-driven election messaging, as the federal and many state governments are by now almost wholly owned by the 1% (actually 0.1%). Obama would be very different if he and all of congress were not dependent on:
    1. Huge campaign finance donations, especially from Wall Street and other huge corps.
    2. Even larger, and often misleading, ad purchased by PACs, many funded in secret.
    3. Avoiding greater such funding for one’s opponent.
    4. Lobbysts as a major source of information about the subjects under review.
    5. Undiscerning amplification by mainstream media dependent on advertising $$ from the same large corps.
    With a system actually responsive to the voters, we could sort out our differences, learn from the scientists, etc.
    There are ways that the system could be restructured to give the rest of us far more influence vs. big money, but it would take an already-reformed system to institute them.
    Perhaps the growing strength of the #occupyWallStreet movement will open the space for an antidote. The best I can think of is for voters to become so enraged at industry money in politics that they nearly automatically vote against whoever has received the most. Of course that still leaves room for manipulation of perceptions, but the popularization of such nonprofit services as, which maps contributions against voting records, could help cut through the noise.

  46. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Could not agree more. Complex systems collapse at accelerating rates, as various interconnected facets fail, pulling down the others. Nuclear is still there, as is biowarfare, in which field various powers have sought for years to reach the insidious goal of ethnically targeted diseases. We can predict many of the possibilities, probabilities and downright certainties of collapse, but there will be nasty surprises, too.

  47. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    And, after that year, what then?