Book

The Seneca Effect: Why Growth is Slow but Collapse is Rapid

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Abstract

The essence of this book can be found in a line written by the ancient Roman Stoic Philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca: "Fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid". This sentence summarizes the features of the phenomenon that we call "collapse," which is typically sudden and often unexpected, like the proverbial "house of cards." But why are such collapses so common, and what generates them? Several books have been published on the subject, including the well-known "Collapse" by Jared Diamond (2005), "The collapse of complex societies" by Joseph Tainter (1998) and "The Tipping Point," by Malcom Gladwell (2000). Why The Seneca Effect? This book is an ambitious attempt to pull these various strands together by describing collapse from a multi-disciplinary viewpoint. The reader will discover how collapse is a collective phenomenon that occurs in what we call today "complex systems," with a special emphasis on system dynamics and t he concept of "feedback." From this foundation, Bardi applies the theory to real-world systems, from the mechanics of fracture and the collapse of large structures to financial collapses, famines and population collapses, the fall of entire civilizations, and the most dreadful collapse we can imagine: that of the planetary ecosystem generated by overexploitation and climate change. The final objective of the book is to describe a conclusion that the ancient stoic philosophers had already discovered long ago, but that modern system science has rediscovered today. If you want to avoid collapse you need to embrace change, not fight it. Neither a book about doom and gloom nor a cornucopianist's dream, The Seneca Effect goes to the heart of the challenges that we are facing today, helping us to manage our future rather than be managed by it. "The Seneca Effect" is probably the most important contribution to our understanding of societal collapse since Jo seph Ta inter's 1988 masterpiece, "The Collapse of Complex Societies." Since we live in a society that is just in the process of rounding the curve from growth to decline, this is information that should be of keen interest to every intelligent person. Richard Heinberg, Senior Fellow, Post Carbon Institute, Author, The End of Growth Why do human societies collapse? With today's environmental, social and political challenges it is a question that is more than academic. What can we learn from history? How can we avoid the pitfalls? In this fascinating, well written book, Ugo Bardi provides many of the answers. Here is a book to feast on, to devour and be stimulated by, a book packed full of insights and ideas which will leave the reader satisfied, curious and stimulated. Simply wonderful. Graeme Maxton, Secretary General of the Club of Rome

Chapters (5)

“Esset aliquod inbecillitatis nostrae solacium rerumque nostrarum si tam tarde perirent cuncta quam fiunt: nunc incrementa lente exeunt, festinatur in damnum.” Lucius Anneaus Seneca (4 BCE-65 CE), Epistolarum Moralium ad Lucilius, n. 91, 6
Considering that this book takes its title from a statement by the ancient Roman philosopher Seneca, it seems proper that it should start with a discussion of the fall of the Roman Empire, something that we could define as “the mother of all collapses.” Here, I am not pretending to say anything definitive about such a complex issue, but just to see how it can be approached in systemic terms, that is taking into account the internal feedbacks that control the operation of the system.
This section of the book examines some fields where collapses often occur, listed in a very approximate order of complexity and lethality, with the idea of building up the understanding of what causes collapses by means of a series of practical examples. We start with the simplest case: that of the breakdown of everyday things, to arrive at what we may consider as the ultimate collapse: the death of Gaia, the Earth’s ecosystem. Each case examined offers the occasion for a discussion of the theory behind the collapse of complex systems. There doesn’t seem to exist a single theoretical framework that explains Seneca’s concept that “ruin is rapid,” but we may see a unifying factor in the “Maximum Entropy Production” principle. Whenever a system can find a way to go to its ruin, it will do so rapidly, as Seneca had already understood two thousand years ago.
In this section, we’ll see what's known about how to manage complex systems, in particular about how to avoid collapses, a concept known as “resilience.” We may also be interested in how to accept collapse and make the most of it. So, we discuss ecosystems, the art of war, and Stoicism as a philosophy
“homo, sacra res homini,” (man is sacred to man)
... Instability, climatic variability, rapid, and abrupt transitions can lead to more frequent and intense extreme weather events and to dangerous consequences [4] and even changes in our biosphere, of which the effects are still unclear [5]. Climate change hits rigid systems [6] or very specialized species as well as everything that has been already weakened by other factors (e.g., genetics, demography, food). During transitions, species that were fit may become vulnerable, other species may adopt changes appropriate for resilience, while other species may initially succeed and weaken later on [7,8], including humans. ...
... Tipping points are self-reinforcing and interact with other systems triggering other tipping points, thus leading to a large shift that might be difficult to reverse [21]. Critical situations induced by climate change can be considered a tipping point especially in rigid or already weakened systems [6]. Several tipping points are currently active (such as deforestation, Arctic ice retreating, loss of biodiversity) and other potential ones have already been identified [22]. ...
... It is not known exactly to what extent human activities will influence the climate; however, the predictions are based on accurate data and modelling. The increase in atmospheric CO₂ concentrations, from a relatively stable value of 280 ppm (parts per million) to the actual 414 ppm in the last two centuries [6,27], has never been so high in 800,000 years [3]. Paleoclimate researchers are stressing that new simulation would indicate that CO₂ levels could reach levels comparable to those more than 50 million years ago of the Eocene epoch (1000 ppm by the year 2100) [28]. ...
Preprint
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times. Its impact on human populations is not yet completely understood. Many studies have focused on single aspects with contradictory observations. However, climate change is a complex phoenomenon that cannot be adequately addressed from a single discipline's perspective. Hence, we propose a comprehensive conceptual framework on the relationships between climate change and human responses. This framework includes biological, psychological and behavioural aspects, and provides a multidisciplinary overview and critical information for focused interventions. The role of tipping points and regime shifts is explored, and a historical perspective is presented to describe the relationship between climate evolution and socio-cultural crisis. Vulnerability, resilience and adaptation are analyzed from an individual and a community point of view. Finally, emergent behaviours and mass effect phenomena are examined that account for mental maladjustment and conflicts.
... A recent calibration of the 'Limits to Growth' World3 model with real-world data (from 1995 to 2012) [10] identified some departures between the model and reality, although the broad findings held true. Despite the differing interpretation, the findings remain highly compelling and have inspired more recent work [11][12][13], which reapplied system dynamics models to the economy-environment system and identified the 'Seneca Effect', in which collapses might occur over short timescales. ...
... Seneca cliff [12,13] Decease in measures (see above) that are characterised as occurring on a significantly more rapid timescale than their increase or build-up. A slow build-up of complexity followed by a very rapid 'de-complexification' (hence the 'cliff'). ...
... It is not possible to be more specific about the cause(s) that could potentially result in this occurring, but some possible modes of behaviour for its occurrence can be described in more general terms. 'De-complexification' could feasibly occur as a discrete, short duration event [12,13]; as a more prolonged, gradual and long-term process [63]; or potentially as a hybrid of both these types of events. These are described in more detail below: ...
Article
Full-text available
Human civilisation has undergone a continuous trajectory of rising sociopolitical complexity since its inception; a trend which has undergone a dramatic recent acceleration. This phenomenon has resulted in increasingly severe perturbation of the Earth System, manifesting recently as global-scale effects such as climate change. These effects create an increased risk of a global ‘de-complexification’ (collapse) event in which complexity could undergo widespread reversal. ‘Nodes of persisting complexity’ are geographical locations which may experience lesser effects from ‘de-complexification’ due to having ‘favourable starting conditions’ that may allow the retention of a degree of complexity. A shortlist of nations (New Zealand, Iceland, the United Kingdom, Australia and Ireland) were identified and qualitatively analysed in detail to ascertain their potential to form ‘nodes of persisting complexity’ (New Zealand is identified as having the greatest potential). The analysis outputs are applied to identify insights for enhancing resilience to ‘de-complexification’.
... There is no need to repeat the fixed point and stability calculations for system (12) since we can always find parameter values for which the functions A(r) and B(r) conform to the conditions [C1] or [C2] of section 2 and the properties of the system can therefore be deduced from the general results in that section. However, because of the additional parametric freedom in (12) it is interesting to look at some special limits. Taking λ ≫ 1 and δ = 0 we obtain precisely (7) (after a renormalisation of the remaining constants). ...
... Note that it is possible to choose the parameters such that the oscillations one observes here are washed out and the approach to the steady-state becomes monotonic. We move on to a more realistic model, system (12), where both functions A and B saturate thanks to the parametrisation in terms of Holling's disc-equation. Figure 6 shows a collapse situation. Notice that now the population growth has initially a positive curvature, as expected. ...
... What is interesting in the present case, is that one can fine-tune the stiffness of the functions A and B and thus study what is known as the 'Seneca cliff' or 'Seneca effect' [12] . This is a reference to the Roman stoic philosopher's writings in which he pointed out that "increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid". ...
Preprint
Full-text available
We present a simple model for describing the dynamics of the interaction between a homogeneous population or society, and the natural resources and reserves that the society needs for its survival. The model is formulated in terms of ordinary differential equations, which are subsequently discretised, the discrete system providing a natural integrator for the continuous one. An ultradiscrete, generalised cellular automaton-like, model is also derived. The dynamics of our simple, three-component, model are particularly rich exhibiting either a route to a steady state or an oscillating, limit cycle-type regime or to a collapse. While these dynamical behaviours depend strongly on the choice of the details of the model, the important conclusion is that a collapse or near collapse, leading to the disappearance of the population or to a complete transfiguration of its societal model, is indeed possible.
... The simple two-stock model is the basis of more complex models where we consider further trophic levels. The next step involves adding a third stock, labeled as "pollution"this model has been described in a previous paper (Bardi 2013) where it was termed the "Seneca Model" because it produces asymmetric bell-shaped curves where decline is faster than growth, corresponding to an observation put forward long ago by the Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca (Bardi 2017). ...
... However, the 4-stock model produces a more abrupt collapse than the 2-stock model. This behavior often takes the form of the "Seneca Collapse" (Bardi 2017). It is the result of a stock being subjected to a feedback-dominated drawdown by another stock, while at the same time being unable to maintain a replenishing flow from a depleted stock (this can be termed the "candle burning at both ends" effect). ...
... This phenomenon generates "bell-shaped" curves for the filling/emptying of the stocks. These curves can also take the "Seneca shape" (Bardi 2017) when the decline is faster than the growth. As this phenomenon goes on, the stocks interact with each other. ...
Article
Full-text available
The collapse of large social systems, often referred to as “civilizations” or “empires,” is a well-known historical phenomenon, but its origins are the object of an unresolved debate. In this paper, we present a simple biophysical model which we link to the concept that societies collapse because of the “diminishing returns of complexity” proposed by Tainter (The collapse of complex societies, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1988). Our model is based on the description of a socio-economic system as a trophic chain of energy stocks which dissipate the energy potential of the available resources. The model is based on the idea that we observe that the exploitation of a non-renewable resource stock (“production”) has a strongly nonlinear relation with the complexity of the system, assumed to be proportional to the size of the stock termed “The Economy” (or “capital”), producing various trajectories of decline of the economy, in some cases rapid enough that they can be defined as “collapses.” The evolution of the relation of production and the economy produces a curve similar to the one proposed by Tainter, for the decline of a complex society.
... Instability, climatic variability, rapid, and abrupt transitions can lead to more frequent and intense extreme weather events and to dangerous consequences [4] and even changes in our biosphere, of which the effects are still unclear [5]. Climate change hits rigid systems [6] or very specialized species as well as everything that has been already weakened by other factors (e.g., genetics, demography, food). During transitions, species that were fit may become vulnerable, other species may adopt changes appropriate for resilience, while other species may initially succeed and weaken later on [7,8], including humans. ...
... Tipping points are self-reinforcing and interact with other systems triggering other tipping points, thus leading to a large shift that might be difficult to reverse [21]. Critical situations induced by climate change can be considered a tipping point especially in rigid or already weakened systems [6]. Several tipping points are currently active (such as deforestation, Arctic ice retreating, loss of biodiversity) and other potential ones have already been identified [22]. ...
... It is not known exactly to what extent human activities will influence the climate; however, the predictions are based on accurate data and modelling. The increase in atmospheric CO₂ concentrations, from a relatively stable value of 280 ppm (parts per million) to the actual 414 ppm in the last two centuries [6,27], has never been so high in 800,000 years [3]. Paleoclimate researchers are stressing that new simulation would indicate that CO₂ levels could reach levels comparable to those more than 50 million years ago of the Eocene epoch (1000 ppm by the year 2100) [28]. ...
Article
Full-text available
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges of our times. Its impact on human populations is not yet completely understood. Many studies have focused on single aspects with contradictory observations. However, climate change is a complex phenomenon that cannot be adequately addressed from a single discipline’s perspective. Hence, we propose a comprehensive conceptual framework on the relationships between climate change and human responses. This framework includes biological, psychological, and behavioural aspects and provides a multidisciplinary overview and critical information for focused interventions
... Some studies assume that population will keep growing all the way to the end of the current century, others that it will stabilize at some value higher than the present one, others still that it will start declining. Few, if any, studies have taken into account the phenomenon of rapid decline that I have termed "Seneca Effect" (or "Seneca Collapse") (Bardi 2017), based on the observation of the 1st century Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca that "fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid". Seneca Collapse is a phenomenon affecting complex, networked systems where strong feedback relationships link the elements of the system to each other. ...
... Year 2000 1980 1960 1940 1920 1900 by Ugo Bardi -2017 www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/hsp/soaiv_07_ch10.pdf We see how the horse population went down rapidly and abruptly, from a maximum of more than 26 million in 1915, to about 3 million in 1960. ...
Article
Full-text available
Journal of Population and Sustainability Journal Vol.2 No.2. Papers by: DAVID SAMWAYS - Anthropocentrism – The Origin of Environmental Degradation? UGO BARDI - A Seneca Collapse for the World’s Human Population? DOUGLAS E. BOOTH - Postmaterial Experience Economics, Population, and Environmental Sustainability. WILLIAM N. RYERSON - The Hidden Gem of the Cairo Consensus: Helping to End Population Growth with Entertainment Media. PAUL R. EHRLICH - Book Review: Anthrozoology: Embracing Co-Existence in the Anthropocene by Michael Tobias and Jane Morrison. JOHN P. HOLDREN - A Brief History of “IPAT”.
... Some studies assume that population will keep growing all the way to the end of the current century, others that it will stabilize at some value higher than the present one, others still that it will start declining. Few, if any, studies have taken into account the phenomenon of rapid decline that I have termed "Seneca Effect" (or "Seneca Collapse") (Bardi 2017), based on the observation of the 1st century Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca that "fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid". Seneca Collapse is a phenomenon affecting complex, networked systems where strong feedback relationships link the elements of the system to each other. ...
... Year 2000 1980 1960 1940 1920 1900 by Ugo Bardi -2017 www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/hsp/soaiv_07_ch10.pdf We see how the horse population went down rapidly and abruptly, from a maximum of more than 26 million in 1915, to about 3 million in 1960. ...
Article
Full-text available
Most scenarios for the world’s human population predict continued growth into the 22nd century, while some indicate that it could stabilize or begin to fall before 2100. Almost always, decline is seen as not being faster than the preceding growth. Different scenarios are obtained if we consider the human population as a complex system, subject to the general rules that govern complex systems, in particular their tendency to show rapid changes which – in the case of populations – may take the shape of true collapses (defined here as “Seneca Collapses”). The present survey examines a small number of examples of rapid population collapses in the human and in the animal domains. While not pretending to be exhaustive, the data presented here show that biological populations do show rapid “Seneca-style” collapses. So, it is possible that the same phenomenon could occur for the world’s human population.
... Brandt [17] found that in most historical cases production follows the curve, although the decline is slower than growth. It has been argued that the opposite could be true in the global case [18] or in cases of isolated systems [19]. However, in many cases, it was found that a single bell-shaped curve is not sufficient to describe the production cycle of a certain region. ...
Article
Full-text available
20 years ago, in 1998, Scientific American published a paper by Colin J. Campbell and Jean H. Laherrère titled “The End of Cheap Oil” [1], starting a debate on oil depletion continuing to the present day. It was the return of a viewpoint on oil depletion which had been proposed more than 40 years before by Marion King Hubbert [2]⁠ and, in later years, largely forgotten. In their paper, Campbell and Laherrère updated Hubbert’s model with new reserve estimates and proposed that the world’s crude oil production would peak around 2004–2005, and then start an irreversible decline. Shortly afterward, Colin Campbell proposed the term “peak oil” for the highest global oil production level. The term was to become popular over the following decade, generating a true movement of ideas sometimes called the “peak oil movement.” Today, these predictions turn out to have been only partially correct, mainly because the role of “non-conventional” oil was underestimated. The peak oil movement seems to have faded away, while the concept seems to have disappeared from the debate and to be commonly described has having been “wrong.” The present paper reviews the cycle of the peak oil movement, examining how the peak oil concept was understood with the public and the decision makers and what caused its diffusion and its demise, at least up to the present time.
... "Mälu pole enam ajas avatud ja lahtirulluv protsess, kus ühed sündmused ja tähendused teistest tulenevad, vaid üksnes kettaruumi- tükike, millel on hetkeline (kustutatav, ülekirjutatav, ajutiselt talle- tuv) väärtus" (Tart 2001: 129). Identiteediloome on küll pikem protsess, identiteet ei muutu üleöö, kuid see on just see valdkond, kus võib aset leida Ugo Bardi kirjeldatud "Seneca efekt": mingi protsessi pikaajaline kujune- mine ja selle lõppemine ootamatu ja väga kiire krahhiga (Bardi 2017). ...
Book
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In Estonian language. Proceedings consists of the articles from 20+ authors, giving reflection of the topics from the 2018 report of the Club of Rome Come On!. The sections are as follows: - Environment - Culture - State and people - Voices of today (a satiric poem, translation about Come On! etc) See more: https://roomaklubi.com/aasta-2017-2018/erkar-2018/
... These are all good suggestions, albeit perhaps temporary ones, but none of them mention factors related to delivering food where it is needed. One problem here is that we are still at an early stage in understanding what makes complex networks resistant to external perturbations, and we are unable to predict how and when a complex system will crash, even though crashing is a typical property of these systems (Bardi, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Journal of Population and Sustainability Vol 2 No 1. Papers by: KERRYN HIGGS - Limits to Growth: Human Economy and Planetary Boundaries. JOEL E. COHEN - How Many People Can the Earth Support? JONATHON PORRITT AND COLIN HINES - Reflections on the Current Immigration Debate in the UK. JULIAN ROCHEBeyond the One-child Policy: A Response to Conly. UGO BARDI - Book Review: Food Scarcity by Raoul Weiler and Kris Demuynck
... Alternatively, for example, in England in 1500, about half of all economic activity was dedicated to obtaining the energy (food, fodder, wood) necessary to run society, with much less left over for amenities [73]. A similar phenomenon may have taken place for the decline of the Roman Empire, generated by the progressive depletion of the mineral resources it was dependent upon [74]. ...
Article
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The energy return on energy invested, EROI or EROEI, is the ratio of the energy produced by a system to the energy expended to build, maintain, and finally dismantle the system. It is an important parameter for evaluating the efficiency of energy-producing technologies. In this paper, we examine the concept of EROEI from the general viewpoint of dynamic dissipative systems, providing insights on a wider range of applications. In general, natural resources can be assimilated to energy stocks characterized by a potential that can be exploited by creating intermediate stocks. This transformation is typical of dissipative systems and for the first time, we report that the Lotka–Volterra model, usually confined to the study of the biology of populations, can represent a powerful tool to estimate the EROEI of dissipative systems and, in particular, those systems subjected to depletion. This assessment is important to evaluate the ongoing energy transition since it provides us with a model for the decline of the EROEI in the exploitation of fossil fuels.
... Although of late their research has not received as much public attention as its pioneering publications, the organization is steadily supporting and carrying out new projects. For example, a recent Club of Rome publication introduces a phenomenon called the Seneca effect (Bardi 2017). Quoting an insight ascribed to Roman Stoic philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca, "fortune is of sluggish growth, but ruin is rapid," it explains why and how the ecological crisis forms slowly, but will eventually lead to sudden and unexpected collapse like the proverbial "house of cards." 3 These stakeholders' engagements were crucial to the inauguration of the global Earth summits, the first of which was conducted in Rio de Janeiro (1992 The Chinese term shengtai yishi 生态意识, which is equivalent to "ecological awareness", is a neologism that first appeared in book titles in the early 1990s. ...
Article
This paper introduces the concept of material ecology and explains the pedagogical approach that is embedded in the notion of environmental awareness by applying these methods to examples from contemporary art production and Yu Jian‘s thing poetry. Material ecology is a method of cultural analysis that opens up new perspectives on the relationship between human and nonhuman agents, ecosystems in particular, and on a planetary level. This new outlook is meant to engender a consensual set of environmental values that can transcend national borders. As a concept, environmental awareness applies to efforts by official or unofficial agents to change behavioral patterns that can harm the environment. This is done by demonstrating the consequences of said actions. The two approaches are at the core of the quest for a global polity that can support and integrate different communities in their various endeavors to implement rules and incentives for sustainable ways of living based on environmental justice. These must be widely agreed upon in order to commit all social levels, be it individuals, local communities, or transnational stakeholders. Since cultural representations fulfill a seminal role in changing world-views, I will discuss a selection of Chinese literary and art-works which serve as examples of this new perspective on things in material ecology. Highlighting the transformation of landscapes through globalized, unsustainable patterns of urbanization, agri-industrial production, electric power generation, resource extraction and waste disposal, the paper will first explore how nonhuman agency needs to be reimagined, perceived, researched and taught as well as aesthetically represented and narrated in the wake of this transition. In a second step, it will introduce Kunming poet Yu Jian’s thing poetry. I will argue that the poet aims at the cultivation of an aesthetic sensibility that can overcome the modern world’s obsession with façades, masks, and surfaces in general—be they composed of words or images. Subverting the regimes of data and information acquisition by means of a kind of haptic epistemology, Yu Jian’s creative bricolage of Anglo-American nature writing, European modernist realism, Chinese Taoist animism, and traditional shanshui, or landscape art does not only promote environmental awareness, but moreover transcends linguistic and visual modes of communication. Hence, his poetry brings to the fore humanity’s material embeddedness and protests against the materialist annihilation of nonhuman worlds and things.
... and mailing list management (Energy Transition). Recently he reorganized his work in a new book(Bardi 2017). 6 A way to have an idea of this ecological devastation is sufficient a brief search: with Google images look at "tar sands Canada". ...
Article
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The aim of this paper is to show how the studies in Energy field are intrinsically cross-disciplinary. Energy undergoes to the general Physics laws and, in particular, to the Thermodynamics ones, but often we think it like a separate field, regard, for example, to the Ecology. We show some example useful to see the analogy between those fields of study and how these analogies could enlighten the scientific explanation in both fields.
... And both have failed so far to sufficiently include emerging new analytical concepts such as, for example, the concept (and deriving conclusions and practices) of 'scale' 53 or the 'Seneca effect'. 54 Yet their common biggest fallacy to date is that different approaches both from and within different fields remain insufficiently interconnected. They don't 'communicate' enough with each other since there is no overarching system of integration, due to the new global power competitions in the framework of the rising new 'multipolar order', but also because they are not using the new digital interfaces sufficiently, including AIdriven data integration and interactive information content analysis. ...
Article
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In recent years, the number of suicidal terror attacks in advanced societies has decreased, inducing the public to widely remove the issue from public post-modern debate. Yet as, among many other examples, the attacks on a church in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo in April 2019 with more than 250 dead and 500 wounded have shown, the age of suicide terrorism is far from over. On the contrary, the archetype remains one of the most present influences in the unconscious imaginary of globalisation, including that of open societies. We shouldn’t forget that we still have a lot of work to do in order to better understand and solve the problem, writes Roland Benedikter.
... In the Limits to Growth, the curves for food production and industrial production show a rapid decline compared to the gradualness with which instead they grow. The asymmetric behaviour of those curves has been recently examined and studied by Bardi (2017), who points out the steeper decline is due to an increase of the socio-economic organisational complexity that just gives side effects and any further benefit. For instance, pollution, which degrades the quality of life and more industrial capital is absorbed in finding solutions to remove the pollution itself. ...
Article
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In recent months, we are witnessing a global demonstration of people, predominantly young, spreading a clear message: “we must do something against climate change and do it immediately, the way we live is no longer sustainable”. Despite the urgency of the actions most of the people are not expert in sustainability, thus it is not always trivial to identify the effectiveness of any action, promoted by the collective or individuals, in changing our lifestyle. In the present work, a set of simple system dynamics models are proposed with the aim of helping help the understanding and the teaching of Sustainability and sustainable dynamics to young people and non-specialist. In particular, the study, inspired by the “World Dynamics” work of Jay Forrester, will focus on modelling the dynamics of energy transition from fossil fuels to renewables energy, which is recognised as a priority in fighting climate change and in granting the future society with a clean and long-lasting energy supply.
... Complexity science has investigated processes of dynamic structure formation by means of simulations which have been empirically validated (Renn et al. 2017). Physics and chemistry have established theories and methods that can be extended by analogy towards social, socio-economic, and socio-ecological phenomena (Bardi 2017). Various scientific disciplines, notwithstanding heterogeneous approaches towards theory and methodology, share a common interest in analysing the complex interdependencies of molecules, biological cells and organisms, technical devices and infrastructures, as well as social structures. ...
Article
Modern societies are confronted with ‘systemic risks’ which challenge conventional risk analysis and management. The phrase ‘systemic risks’ denotes risk phenomena which are exceedingly complex and interdependent. Systemic risks originate in tightly coupled systems. They are characterised by cascading effects, tipping points and non-linear developments. Furthermore, compared to their potential impacts, they often lack proportional public awareness and adequate policies. Conventional risk management struggles with these challenges. Yet many threats to modern society, such as financial crises and the impacts of anthropogenic climate change, match these attributes. This article investigates the concept of systemic risks and raises questions for governance. The concept of inclusive risk governance serves as a guiding principle. In particular, the article draws on the Risk Governance Framework by the International Risk Governance Council to address the challenges of systemic risks.
... However, the 4-stock model produces a more abrupt collapse than the 2-stock model. This behaviour often takes the form of the "Seneca Collapse" 32 . It is the result of a stock being subjected to a feedback-dominated drawdown by another stock, while at the same time being unable to maintain a replenishing flow from a depleted stock (this can be termed the "candle burning at both ends" effect). ...
Preprint
Full-text available
The collapse of large social systems, often referred to as civilizations or empires, is a well known historical phenomenon, but its origins are the object of an unresolved debate. In this paper, we present a simple biophysical model which we link to the concept that societies collapse because of the diminishing returns of complexity proposed by Joseph Tainter. Our model is based on the description of a socioeconomic system as a trophic chain of energy stocks which dissipate the energy potential of the available resources. The model produces various trajectories of decline, in some cases rapid enough that they can be defined as collapses. At the same time, we observe that the exploitation of the resource stock (production) has a strongly nonlinear relationship with the complexity of the system, assumed to be proportional to the size of the stock termed bureaucracy. These results provide support for Tainter s hypothesis.
... The problem and possible consequences of irrational exploitation of natural resources is best presented through the Seneca effect, which creates a correlation between resources and economic development. Specifically, the economic growth based on the exploitation of resources is slow and gradual, but it causes increasing pollution and waste pileup, which ultimately implies a fast and plummeting economy collapse [1]. One of the causes of inefficient use of resources is the low price, as well as the absence of a suitable legal framework in the context of decreasing negative environmental externalities and transaction costs [13]. ...
Article
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In the past two decades, continuous changes caused by environmental degradation and global warming have contributed to the emergence and actualization of the green economy concept. Applying green principles enables economic growth and development while respecting all aspects of the environment. Green economy is a function of sustainable development as a dominant trend in the global framework, but it is also a sort of a challenge and opportunity for improving national economic competitiveness as the main indicator of success in the world market. The focus of the paper's analysis are four indicators that are relevant to different segments of applying the green economy concept, which are grouped by the DEA method into the composite index GEDI (Green Economy Development Index). Bearing in mind that innovations are very important for the adoption and implementation of the green economy, the emphasis of the research was on examining the relationship between GEDI and the third subindex of the Global Competitiveness Index, which focuses on innovations in the European Union countries. The aim of this comparative analysis is to define future guidelines and recommendations for more efficient implementation of environmental standards and to achieve a sustainable competitive advantage in the long run.
... The presence of climate change, resource scarcity and environmental devastation have further emphasized the importance of implementing sustainable development principles. The resource problem is best described through the Seneca effect that implies that economic growth based on resource exploitation is slow and achievable but generates pollution and waste which ultimately leads to decline and economic collapse (Bardi, 2017). On the other hand, the consequences of global warming represent one of the priority problems to be addressed in the coming period. ...
... The presence of climate change, resource scarcity and environmental devastation have further emphasized the importance of implementing sustainable development principles. The resource problem is best described through the Seneca effect that implies that economic growth based on resource exploitation is slow and achievable but generates pollution and waste which ultimately leads to decline and economic collapse (Bardi, 2017). On the other hand, the consequences of global warming represent one of the priority problems to be addressed in the coming period. ...
Article
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The objective of this brief general market analysis is to determine with the VRIO framework how the Posadas group has managed to maintain itself in the Mexican lodging market. The aim is to understand how in the current panorama of tourism are the main challenges of the Posadas group. The main question that generated this analysis was: Is Grupo Posadas the current leader in the hospitality sector in Mexico? The hypothesis is that the strategies implemented by Grupo Posadas have allowed it to remain in the lodging sector; however, the current elements are not strong enough to be the market leader. So, combining the analysis elements of the market and the VRIO, results were obtained that pointed to Posadas shares, the leadership with IHG Hotels which begins to generate a more marked oligopolistic competition in the field of tourism
... Erharda, w którym dobrobyt dla wszystkich miał być źródłem wolności dla wszystkich. W gospodarce postpandemicznej ograniczenia wolności nie wynikają już tylko z niesprawności systemu społeczno -ekonomicznego, ale z napotkania w skali ogólnocywilizacyjnej barier o obiektywnym, fizycznym charakterze [Bardi, 2018;Bendyk, 2020, s. 41]. Zdążając w tym samym co Erhard kierunku, musimy zmienić hierarchię właściwości gospodarki. ...
... While we accept that problem solving generally implies an increase in social complexity of the nature Tainter describes, the position we present below is that there comes a point when such complexity itself becomes a problem, at which point voluntary simplification, not further complexity, is the most appropriate response. Not only does industrial civilization seem to be at such a point today [56][57][58], or well beyond it, we hope to show, albeit in a preliminary way, that voluntary simplification presents a viable and desirable option for responding to today's converging social, economic and ecological problems. This goes against Tainter's primary conception of sustainability, while accepting much of his background theoretical framework. ...
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This paper reviews and analyses a decarbonization policy called the Tradable Energy Quotas (TEQs) system developed by David Fleming. The TEQs system involves rationing fossil fuel energy use for a nation on the basis of either a contracting carbon emission budget or scarce fuel availability, or both simultaneously, distributing budgets equitably amongst energy-users. Entitlements can be traded to incentivize demand reduction and to maximize efficient use of the limited entitlements. We situate this analysis in the context of Joseph Tainter’s theory about the development and collapse of complex societies. Tainter argues that societies become more socio-politically and technologically ‘complex’ as they solve the problems they face and that such complexification drives increased energy use. For a society to sustain itself, therefore, it must secure the energy needed to solve the range of societal problems that emerge. However, what if, as a result of deep decarbonization, there is less energy available in the future not more? We argue that TEQs offers a practical means of managing energy descent futures. The policy can facilitate controlled reduction of socio-political complexity via processes of ‘voluntary simplification’ (the result being ‘degrowth’ or controlled contraction at the scale of the physical economy).
... However, there is the potential for the primary energy sources available globally to undergo a future reduction in EROI value [9,25]. Such a reduction in overall EROI could jeopardise not only the continuation of the 'Great Acceleration', but also the continued operation of fundamental societal functions (the "energy crunch" described in [29], and potentially the "Seneca effect" described in [30]). The energy system as a component of the networked, interconnected globalised economy is key [16], and the continued provision of high-quality, affordable energy to the global economic system is fundamental to maintaining stability and reducing the risk of cascading failures in its tightly coupled sub-components. ...
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Nuclear fission is a primary energy source that may be important to future efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The energy return on investment (EROI) of any energy source is important because aggregate global EROI must be maintained at a minimum level to support complex global systems. Previous studies considering nuclear EROI have emphasised energy investments linked to ‘enabling’ factors (upstream activities that enable the operation of nuclear technology such as fuel enrichment), have attracted controversy, and challenges also persist regarding system boundary definition. This study advocates that improved consideration of ‘amelioration’ factors (downstream activities that remediate nuclear externalities such as decommissioning), is an important task for calculating a realistic nuclear EROI. Components of the ‘nuclear system’ were analysed and energy investment for five representative ‘amelioration’ factors calculated. These ‘first approximation’ calculations made numerous assumptions, exclusions, and simplifications, but accounted for a greater level of detail than had previously been attempted. The amelioration energy costs were found to be approximately 1.5–2 orders of magnitude lower than representative ‘enabling’ costs. Future refinement of the ‘amelioration’ factors may indicate that they are of greater significance, and may also have characteristics making them systemically significant, notably in terms of timing in relation to future global EROI declines.
... Alternatively, for example, in England in 1500, about half of all economic activity was dedicated to obtaining the energy (food, fodder, wood) necessary to run society, with much less left over for amenities [73]. A similar phenomenon may have taken place for the decline of the Roman Empire, generated by the progressive depletion of the mineral resources it was dependent upon [74]. ...
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The Energy Return on Energy Invested, EROEI, is known as an important parameter for evaluating the efficiency of energy-producing technologies. In this paper we examine the concept of EROEI from a general viewpoint, giving insights on a wider range of applications. In general, natural resources can be seen as energy stocks characterized by a “potential” that can be exploited by creating intermediate stocks. This transformation is typical of dissipative systems and for the first time we found that Lotka-Volterra model, usually confined to the study of biology of populations, can represent a powerful tool to estimate EROEI for some such systems, providing an understanding of the reason for the overexploitation phenomenon and, in some cases, the collapse of the exploiting system.
... These are all good suggestions, albeit perhaps temporary ones, but none of them mention factors related to delivering food where it is needed. One problem here is that we are still at an early stage in understanding what makes complex networks resistant to external perturbations, and we are unable to predict how and when a complex system will crash, even though crashing is a typical property of these systems (Bardi, 2017). ...
... The group will quickly reintegrate with the rest of the population, once the mechanisms that protected the group vanish. The phenomenon has become known recently as Seneca effect, i.e., mechanisms entailing slow emergence but rapid collapse (Bardi 2017) and can conveniently be modeled within a catastrophe theory model (Heinrich 2018). Empirical social networks are highly clustered and subject to dynamic modifications that favor clustering. ...
Article
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Decline and break-up of institutionalized cooperation, at all levels, has occurred frequently. Some of its concomitants, such as international migration, have become topical in the globalized world. Aspects of the phenomenon have also become known as failing states. However, the focus in most social sciences has been on institutional emergence and persistence, not collapse. We develop an endogenous explanation of collapsing institutions. Collapse may be an implication of the very economic success of institutionalized cooperation and of increasing system complexity, when cognitive conditions for effective collective decision-making do not proportionately evolve. Moreover, we show that collapse is not a simple logical reverse of emergence. Rather, institutions break up at different factor constellations than the ones prevailing at emergence. We approach endogenous institutional break-up and its asymmetry from various paradigmatic and disciplinary perspectives, employing psychology, anthropology, network analysis, and institutional economics. These perspectives cover individuals, groups, interaction-arenas, populations, and social networks.
... And financial market liquidity can dry up quickly when too many counter-parties disappear from the market, a major problem during the Global Financial Crisis in 2007-08. Depending on the critical threshold value necessary for each individual node to remain in a network, sudden shocks can disrupt the entire network, leading to a quick and fatal collapse of the entire structure (Bardi, 2017;Li et al., 2019). Such "Green Swan" events are notoriously difficult to anticipate as they involve the entire network structure -certain network types being more sensitive to collapse than others -and critical thresholds that might be unknown and difficult to measure. ...
Chapter
The current pandemic has exposed the paradox of efficiency: Highly optimised economic systems become fragile in the context of large, unanticipated or uninsurable shocks. In such an uncertain environment, effectiveness in responding to shocks requires forgoing efficiency gains. In the past, however, policies to foster productivity growth have focused on maximizing such gains, whether in manufacturing, financial services, utilities or health care. In particular, policy makers concentrated on opening markets to competition, reducing state interventions and public monopolies and strengthening incentives for cost-efficient service provisions in an attempt to strengthen growth and job creation. Instead, the crisis demonstrated the need for the provision of public goods, such as in health care and through the provision of other, notably digital, infrastructure. Those countries equipped with relatively abundant public services managed to fare significantly better in containing and mitigating the pandemic. In contrast, those that focused on lean and efficient provision of such public goods often faced severe constraints in acting quickly and effectively. The chapter makes the case that in the presence of interdependent risks, traditional risk management models and efficiency-oriented policy frameworks need to be replaced by alternative approaches. Rather than optimal policies, robust ones are needed, focusing less on stimulate short-term sectoral efficiency gains but on system-wide productivity gains through better and more resilient network management and the provision of new public goods and services. The chapter discusses some examples of how current policies need to be reoriented in order to guarantee both resilience to shocks and economic growth.
... The main one I called the "Seneca model," starting from a sentence of the ancient Roman philosopher Lucius Annaeus Seneca: "Growth is Sluggish, but Ruin is Rapid." I wrote two entire books centered on that subject, one, The Seneca Effect [53], was published in 2017. The other, Before Collapse [54], was published in 2019. ...
Chapter
The concept of “Blue Economy” is popular nowadays, with its promise of an abundance of resources that could be harvested from the sea not just in terms of food, but also as energy and minerals. This chapter describes these concepts and discusses their feasibility. It turns out that, in many cases, we are seeing a good deal of unjustified optimism. The main element of the blue economy, nowadays, is fish farming, or “aquaculture,” an industry that has been growing and raising many expectation. It is true that the sea could be exploited for food more than it is now, but we seriously risk to cause a global collapse of the whole marine ecosystem. Similar problems exist for other schemes: the sea can produce energy and minerals, but it is not going to be the bonanza that some people describe.
... This relates to some everyday experiences of relatively quick and radical collapse of things. The phenomenon has become known recently as the "Seneca effect," assuming mechanisms that entail rapid decline and collapse, as analyzed and popularized mainly by Ugo Bardi (2017). For a simple illustration, see Figure 1. ...
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Collapse is considered a breakup of institutions and entire socio-economies. Collapse has accompanied socio-economic history, but seems to have become more topical again in recent decades. We even face the danger of extinction of the human species, due to anthropocenic climate change, not the least based on failure of institutional arrangements. Uprooting migration and “failing states” have become topical as well. Mainstream economics seems to have no clue about all that, advising ever more good old “market-economy institutions.” Evolutionary and institutional economics has focused on institutional emergence, evolution, and persistent structures, but still not so much on decline and collapse. I develop an endogenous explanation of institutional decline and collapse implied by the previous success of institutionalized cooperation and increasing (over-)complexity, which exceeds individual cognitive capacities. Institutional adaptability and problem-solving capacity then decline. Uneven distribution of cooperation gains will further cause social conflict and institutional ceremonialization, decline, and collapse. Collapse will not just be a symmetric reverse of emergence. Being subject to sunk costs during emergence, to habituation and normativation, institutions tend to display some hysteresis. The article adopts an evolutionary-institutional perspective, in order to conceptualize future modeling.
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Angesichts der wachsenden Sensibilisierung für die vielfältigen globalen Risiken und Herausforderungen heutiger Gesellschaften, wird in den letzten Jahren zunehmend die Frage nach vorbeugenden „Schutzfaktoren“ aufgeworfen, welche das gesellschaftliche System befähigen, mit mannigfaltiger Unvorhersehbarkeit umzugehen und unterschiedlichen Krisen zu widerstehen. Als Gegenbegriff zum jahrzehntelang vorherrschenden Begriff der Verwundbarkeit (Vulnerabilität) wird derzeit vor allem der durchaus unterschiedlich verwendete Resilienzbegriff diskutiert. Woher kommt der Resilienzbegriff und wie wird er verwendet? Welchen potenziellen Mehrwert bietet das Resilienzkonzept als „Ein-Wort-Antwort“ auf unterschiedliche Krisenarten (psychologische, politische, ökonomische, ökologische, soziale und andere Krisen) und über die Systemebenen (Individuen, Organisationen, Gesellschaften) hinaus?
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The global fossil fuel industry has played a pivotal role in the quadrupling of population since World War II and in the commensurate exponential increase in economic growth with its associated wealth creation. The foundation stone was massive expansion in the production and consumption of fossil fuels, globally and in Australia, which led to a corresponding accrual of power and influence on the part of fossil fuel industry players. The implications of increasing fossil fuel use, in terms of global warming as a result of increased atmospheric carbon concentrations, have been understood scientifically for decades. Yet the fossil fuel industry chose to ignore the science, and in its own perceived self-interest, deliberately prevented the development of serious policy to avoid the potentially catastrophic outcomes of this warming. The result is that the world must now take emergency action to rapidly reduce atmospheric carbon concentrations, in large part due to the intransigence of the industry itself in facing up to this reality, and its refusal to constructively manage its own decline. This is particularly the case in Australia. The industry should either proactively co-operate in handling the emergency, or it will be rapidly phased out.
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Since a link has been made between physical growth and the collapse of early empires, this chapter examines the issue of growth and its link with collapse through increasing complexity. Definitions of growth are examined noting that in the natural world, unchecked growth is problematic. There is a focus on economic growth and the need to rethink modern economic growth to take account of the physical and biological limits of the planet. How and why growth occurs in the built environment is discussed and the urban patterns that are caused by growth are introduced. The inextricable link between growth in human population, growth in economies and growth of the built environment is explained, suggesting that although design can produce zero energy buildings and low energy suburbs, it cannot tackle change without a fundamental change in attitudes to growth in other spheres. The chapter ends by discussing diversity as a key to making a resilient future built environment.
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Imagine a mechanism, a thought process, a collective behavior or a social invention with the potential to overcome absolute poverty within 18 months. One that leads to the protection of biodiversity, halts global warming, reduces water depletion, and mitigates fraud and illicit financial transactions, while simultaneously expanding school education, increasing access to health care and fostering global peace—all in one. Imagine this process being expedited through democratic channels more quickly and easily than through a lengthy global governance approval process; imagine it starting in less than six months with fewer than 250 staff. Imagine a mechanism that enables billions and billions of human beings on this planet to sustain themselves and their neighborhoods and take better care of the environment—all at once and all the time.
Book
Was macht moderne Gesellschaften widerstandsfähig gegenüber völlig unterschiedlichen Herausforderungen von heute und morgen? Worin ähneln, widersprechen und ergänzen sich die vieldiskutierten Konzepte der resilienten, nachhaltigen und entwickelten Gesellschaft im Kontext gesellschaftlicher Zukunftssicherung im 21. Jahrhundert? Dieses Buch zeichnet eine disziplinübergreifende Perspektive und skizziert Orientierungsprinzipien für die weiterführende Forschung und politische Gestaltungspraxis. Der Inhalt • Rahmenbedingungen: Wahrscheinlichste und bedrohlichste Krisen im 21. Jahrhundert • Resilienz: Eine Universalantwort auf die Krisen unserer Zeit? • Zwei Zugänge zu einem universellen Resilienzmodell • Fünf systemische Prinzipien einer multiresilienten Gesellschaft • Die entwickelte Gesellschaft • Die nachhaltige Gesellschaft • Entwicklung vs. Nachhaltigkeit vs. Resilienz: Gemeinsamkeiten, Schnittpunkte und Widersprüche • Gesellschaftliche Zukunftssicherung im 21. Jahrhundert: Konturen eines integrativen Konzepts • Ausblick: Fünf Hebelpunkte zum Anstoßen nötiger Veränderungen Die Zielgruppen Forschende aller geisteswissenschaftlichen Strömungen, die sich mit gesellschaftlicher Zukunftssicherung, sozialem Wandel oder/und Krisenmanagement befassen. Expertinnen und Experten aus der Politikberatung (Stiftungen, Parteien, Think Tanks etc.) Aktivist/innen zivilgesellschaftlicher Initiativen, die sich mit gesellschaftlicher Zukunftssicherung, sozialem Wandel oder/und Krisenmanagement befassen. Der Autor Dr. Karim Fathi ist in Berlin forschend, beratend und lehrend zu den Themengebieten Multidisziplinarität, Resilienz, Konflikttransformation und Agilität tätig. Aktuell forscht er als wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter an der Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) zu den Themen „Transdisziplinäre Komplexitätsbewältigung“ und „Systemischer Wandel“ und berät den Zukunftskreis des BMBF.
Chapter
Was zeichnet eine gegenüber vielfältigen Krisen gewappnete Gesellschaft aus – sei es einer Wirtschaftskrise, einer Naturkatastrophe, Cyberterrorismus oder der Flüchtlingskrise? In diesem Kapitel skizziere ich mehrere allgemein gefasste Prinzipien für eine „multiresiliente“ Gesellschaft.
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It is still common wisdom among economists, politicians, and lay people that economic growth is a necessity of our social systems, at least to avoid distributional conflicts. This paper challenges such belief moving from a purely physical theoretical perspective. It formally considers the constraints imposed by a finite environment on the prospect of continuous growth, including the dynamics of costs. As costs grow faster than production, it is easy to deduce a final unavoidable global collapse. Then, analyzing and discussing the evolution of the unequal share of wealth under the premises of growth and competition, it is shown that the increase of inequalities is a necessary consequence of the premises.
Chapter
Resilienz, Entwicklung und Nachhaltigkeit stellen im aktuellen Diskurs um gesellschaftliche Zukunftssicherung im 21. Jahrhundert die bestimmenden Leitkonzepte dar. Worin bestehen ihre Gemeinsamkeiten, aber auch wechselseitige Anknüpfungspunkte und Widersprüche?
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How and why collapses occur according to the science of complex systems. Includes a section on the networked structure of complex systems and a chapter featuring “Amelia the Amoeba,” Ugo Bardi’s unicellular assistant, whose descendants in a Petri dish experience all kinds of collapses.
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We cannot count the fish in the sea, but it is possible to evaluate their number by looking at the yields of fishing. Today, we have good mathematical models that can be used for a quantitative estimate of the fish stocks. The origin of these models is the well-known “prey-predator” model developed by Alfred Lotka and Vito Volterra in the 1920s. In this chapter, the authors explain how this model works, the important information we can get from it and how it might be used to avoid fisheries collapse. A brief excursus on Vito Volterra life is given, a fascinating figure that has been the first source of inspiration for completing the book.
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This chapter analyzes the men’s Football World Championship 2018 as a case of imaginal politics with the aim of supporting Chiara Bottici’s theory and demonstrating the increasing contextual political influence of international entertainment events. Indeed, in times of globalized media and universal real-time connectedness, such events consist of proto-ideological imaginaries—or “charged images”—as well as sports competition. In particular, various fans’ national cultures efficiently elucidate the resulting impact on the newly important global-local (or, “glocal”) interface. They also shed light on current key political developments, such as the return of symbolic and tribal politics in times of “peak globalization,” de-globalization, and re-nationalization. The chapter is divided into three distinct parts. Part 1 covers the political connotations of football events and their exploitation. Part 2 deals with fans’ culture as an example of the current re-connection between tribal elements, that is, the return of “Political Tribes” and resulting “tribal politics”—as defined for example by Amy Chua—de-globalization and national-regional-local identification patterns with sports teams. These three dimensions are connected owing to their clear joint focus on imaginal politics, and to the political attempts for their integration. Part 3 draws several conclusions.
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Climate shift and mental health adjustment - Paolo Cianconi, Sophia Betrò, Francesco Grillo, Batul Hanife, Luigi Janiri
Article
We present a simple model for describing the dynamics of the interaction between a homogeneous population or society, and the natural resources and reserves that the society needs for its survival. The model is formulated in terms of ordinary differential equations, which are subsequently discretised, the discrete system providing a natural integrator for the continuous one. An ultradiscrete, generalised cellular automaton-like, model is also derived. The dynamics of our simple, three-component, model are particularly rich exhibiting either a route to a steady state or an oscillating, limit cycle-type regime or to a collapse. While these dynamical behaviours depend strongly on the choice of the details of the model, the important conclusion is that a collapse or near collapse, leading to the disappearance of the population or to a complete transfiguration of its societal model, is indeed possible.
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In this work, we make the ansatz that economic production is reduced to the energy made available to the economy. In (Illig and Schindler, BioPhys Econ Resour Qual 2(1):1, 2017) the price of oil was expressed as a function of the size of the economy, the cost share of oil, and the quantity of oil extracted. We clarify assumptions needed to use this explicit price equation to study prices. Using the current extraction rate, the previous year’s extraction rate, and interest rates of the Federal Reserve we use linear regression to give a model for oil prices from 1966 to 2018. The model verifies that deductions made from the explicit price equation are consistent with empirical data over the given time period. Our analysis indicates that the contraction phase of world oil extraction began in 2020 and that it will be characterized by relatively low oil prices. We present some challenges and opportunities for building a future economy if our assumptions prove valid.
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This chapter is an extension of the preceding one. It examines some scenarios of accelerating climate change and sea level rise resulting from action by two fundamental mechanisms: climate feedbacks and tipping points. Both mechanisms explain, for example, the Hothouse Earth hypothesis (Stephen et al. 2018), which has become all the more likely given the combined influence of at least five closely interconnected positive climate feedback mechanisms on the magnitude and speed of warming. One aspect of these climate feedbacks deserves special attention: the ongoing processes that release carbon, especially methane, into the atmosphere at high latitudes. Some studies in recent years project melting of the permafrost (land and subsea) that will be faster, if not much faster, than previously supposed. Climate feedback loops and tipping points also accelerate sea level rise. Currently (2012–2017), we observe a global mean sea level (GMSL) rise of 5 mm per year. How much the GMSL rise will be by 2030, 2050, and 2100 is uncertain. In 2017, NOAA raised the upper limit of this rise to 24 cm, 63 cm, and 2.5 meters, respectively. Hansen et al. (2016) project a GMSL rise of “several meters over a timescale of 50–150 years,” based primarily on the amplifying feedbacks caused by ongoing thawing in Antarctica and Greenland. It is now estimated (CoastalDEM) that land currently home to 300 million people will fall below the elevation of an average annual coastal flood by 2050.
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