Sustainable Systems (Donella Meadows)

Lecture from Donella Meadows on sustainable systems, which integrates ecological and equity concerns. In this talk, she refers to the Daly Laws (see also Sustainability and the scale of the economy (Herman Daly). Here is another one of her lectures: Down to Earth (Donella Meadows). Meadows draws on systems thinking; an approach with historical roots explained in Cybernetics, self-organisation and power (Adam Curtis).

Diagrams and dollars (Devin Smith)

A helpful visual representation of money flows between government and private sector. The actual explanation of the thought process can be found here: part 1 and part 2. It is obviously a conceptualisation that simplifies much of what is going on. I therefore recommend also having a look at Money is created out of nowhere (Dominic Frisby)Money as debt (Paul Grignon) and Money as Debt II – Promises Unleashed (Paul Grignon).

Unreliable GDP stats lead to misguided ‘evidence-based’ policies (Morten Jerven)

There has been a lot of discussion about the viability of GDP as a measure of development (see The Genuine Progress Indicator, an alternative to GDP (Ron Colman)). Here, Morten Jerven discusses another issue with GDP, namely its unreliability (with a focus on Africa). Estimates of economic growth rates and per-capita income are basic to the operation of governments in developing countries and to nongovernmental organizations and other entities that provide financial aid. As Jerven notes, the current catchphrase in the development community is “evidence-based policy,” and scholars are applying increasingly sophisticated econometric methods—but no statistical techniques can substitute for partial and unreliable data. Similar arguments have been put forward  regarding extreme poverty calculations (see What is happening to poverty? (Rammelt and Surace)).

Will Work For Free (Maveric Media)

The documentary is lengthy and repetitive, but it presents interesting recent examples of technologically-driven unemployment. These could be used as updates to New Technology: Whose Progress? (Frank Morrow), an older (but in my view clearer) documentary on the effects of automation and new technology on workers and the workplace. An even older documentary, Valley Town (Educational Film Institute of New York University), shows us that this process has been going on for a very long time.

The $250,000 Synthetic Hamburger (CBS News)

Global meat production rose from less than 50t in 1950 to about 275t in 2010. This growth has caused unaccounted environmental and social damage (see the $200 Hamburger (Raj Patel)). Recently, the most expensive hamburger in the world was produced by extracting stem cells from cows. Muscle tissue was grown in laboratories with the hope that this will someday solve the problems of growing meat consumption. The total cost of the project: €250,000. In the $200 Hamburger (Raj Patel), we saw that the environmental costs of a 50-cent fast food hamburger was 400 times its price at the register. It makes you wonder about the true price of the new synthetic hamburger. Are we solving problems or just trying to dig ourselves out of the hole that we created?