The Age of Scarcity

The Economist, never a magazine to focus too much on reality, has stumbled over itself in the January 30th edition.  In a small story buried on page 71, the editors acknowledge the central issue of our time:  scarcity. 

 “The 2010s, it is sometimes said, will be an age of scarcity. The warning signs of change are said to be the food-price spike of 2007-08, the bid by China and others to grab access to oil, iron ore and farmland and the global recession. The main problems of scarcity are water and food shortages, demographic change and state failure. How will that change politics? (MY NOTE:  Energy?  The Economist still cant think in terms of  Peak Oil, despite running acknowledgments in their very magazine…)

 …..Now, a report for the Brookings Institution, a think-tank in Washington, DC, and the Centre on International Co-operation at New York University looks at international politics in an age of want.

The sort of problems governments increasingly face, they say, will be much less predictable than those associated with old great-power rivalries. Pressure from demography, climate change and shifts in economic power builds up quietly for a long time—and then triggers abrupt shifts.

They claim that the current global system is ill-designed for such a world.

….The authors say that what is needed is not merely institutional tinkering but a different frame of mind. Governments, they say, should think more in terms of reducing risk and increasing resilience to shocks than about boosting sovereign power….”

Increasing “resilience to shocks” simply means adapting, rather than trying to find “solutions.”  Scarcity, by definition limits the range of available actions.  Instead, adaptation is key.  And the key to adaptation is acceptance.  We must not waste time and energy struggling to keep the status quo.  For us in Lex, that means getting comfortable using less energy and water, eating less food, and getting by with less “stuff.”  I know, I know, this sounds un-American.  But the only “solution” to scarcity could be waging war.  I don’t want my lifestyle to lead to any more wars.  Do you?



Filed under Economy

2 responses to “The Age of Scarcity

  1. Sherry Maddock

    How much should this impending reality influence conversations and proposals coming out of the Creative Cities Summit in April – is this even on the periphery of that radar?

    • steveaustinlex

      I personally dont think this is on the creative cities radar at all – it sounds too negative, when the whole purpose of the conference is how “creativity” and “innovation” can lead cities to economic glory – and pity those poor cities that don’t get on the train, why they’ll just miss out on the coming economic golden age – maybe I’m wrong though – certainly bill strickland has a good, real message -maybe the important thing with our scholarship recipients is that when we do the pre and post conference sessions, we inject this into the mix

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