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Wine or beer?

by cagatacos Sat Aug 27th, 2011 at 07:55:56 AM EST

Starters

As I write this, I am pouring a glass of Casal Garcia, a Green (Green-White) wine from Northern Portugal. A bottle costs 659 Escudos (3.29 Frank-Marks if you are so interested) at Continente (a chain of big supermarkets around here). Much better than any plonk you can buy at Tesco's by the way.

The CEO of the company owning Continente (one of the two richest Portuguese) went for a meal in the Douro Valey a few months ago, he was entertaining some foreigners. He asked for a few bottles of Barca Velha (google for it). The meal had a cost in the 4-5 digit range (In Frank-Marks, mind you), lets say 5000 Euros (I do not know the precise value).

While I like Portuguese Green wine a lot, I have a distaste for Portuguese Beer. I can drink German beer, but mostly I have a soft spot for American beer (Having spent quite some time in the micro-brewery state of Montana). My favourite is actually a pretty common beer (in the US, at least): Blue Moon (sometimes called a "Belgian" White type of beer by gringos).

Mains

You might consider the discussion above quite boring. Self-centred maybe. Surely useless.

It is actually useless, but for another reason: it talks about money. It is quite interesting if you redo the paragraphs above in energy terms.

from the diaries, with minor edit - Nomad


 A bottle of Casal Garcia is only slightly cheaper than a bottle of Barca Velha in energy terms. A bottle of Barca Velha is cheaper compared with a couple of bottles of Blue Moon.

What money buys is status and pedigree, mostly. In energy terms, money is actually a bad proxy of value - especially in terms of human consumption where symbolic value tends to be the factor. But back to energy: For the Brit readership think for a second about M&S "Fresh orange juice flown from Valencia TODAY" or "Fresh fruit from KENYA overnight".

While these examples over-exaggerates things, I would suggest that there is a grain of truth to it: Wealth inequity is lower when measured in energy than in money. Especially in the Western world. Especially if you measure consumption. I am aware that are many examples to counter this, but I am not looking for perfect correlation, just a rough rule that makes some sense. And I think this one does.

Desert

Now for the sweet part.

I will suggest that the current crisis is a way to make the vast majority (i.e. you and me and most people in the Western world) to consume less in energy terms (and other natural resources). The planet is approaching a few limits, part of humanity (aka the Southern hemisphere) is raising its standards, this creates competition for scarce resources.

There are many ways for a dynamic, highly-complex system to adjust. We need to downscale (I am assuming here that some natural resources are becoming scarce - you might disagree). This is a away. Like many others possible. I am not saying that it is my favourite. I am not saying that it will end well. Just that, in one way or the other, we need to de-growth in real terms. The current (obnoxious) way, actually does it. Money might stay stable or increase (especially the concentration in the hands of a few) but resource consumption goes DOWN (which has to happen).

Inequality as a way to lower consumption of natural resources.

Display:
Limited natural resources are surely part of the current crisis paradigm (which was not apparent in the '30s Depression, for example). But for us, what matters is how to face those limits in the most equitable fashion possible. Not that the people-who-matter want to listen to whatever we could say about that.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 12:59:06 PM EST
The cost of the natural resources required to make a product is dwarfed by the labor costs.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 01:18:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The transport (by plane) of fresh orange juice on a daily basis seems to me a unsustainable luxury.

Labour costs only seem expensive with cheap energy and plenty existing resources (metal, land, water).

I would imagine that having 3.5 billion cars (1 for every 2 people) as you have in some Western countries is impossible simply due to resource constraints. Not labour.

by cagatacos on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 02:37:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ATinNM:
The cost of the natural resources required to make a product is dwarfed by the labor costs.  

boy is that ever reversing fast...

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Aug 28th, 2011 at 11:15:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I do not disagree on the politics at all.

My point is that some down-sizing is mandatory. The current way is a way. You do not like it, I do not like it, but it is a way to lower resource consumption.

Any long term solution will require more (material) poverty for the Western world middle classes. Either that or we nuke out of existence the Southern hemisphere :(

by cagatacos on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 02:40:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I have the hope enough people will get it through their heads buying a shirt, say, that actually fits is better then buying 5 shirts of "one size fits nobody."  Buying a washing machine that will last the rest of one's life rather than buying 5 is the better way to go.  Eating nutritious foods are better than cheap crap that is only going to end up costing you more in doctor's bills in the last third of your life.

And so on and so forth.

Viewed in this way there's a gain in material well-being.

I concede most people think "he who dies with the most worthless junk piled-up in the largest heap ... Wins!"  For them moving to a sustainable global system will be "material poverty."

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 03:06:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is mostly a narrative problem. Unfortunately your narrative is in minority.

As I see it there are 2 possibilities: people shift towards your narrative (or similar ones) OR there will be massive unhappiness, resentment, bickering and suffering.

Is is obviously possible to be very happy with much less. We did that as a species since... ever. It is just that people do not see it that way.

by cagatacos on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 03:14:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
cagatacos:

As I see it there are 2 possibilities: people shift towards your narrative (or similar ones) OR there will be massive unhappiness, resentment, bickering and suffering.

totally agree... this is where cluing in early can help one psychologically prepare, both to take the first of your suggestions, and try to influence those who are left jonesing from the latter.

the people without power on the E coast will be getting to know their neighbours in ways they probably never would have otherwise, in a good way hopefully, as they wait around for their power to return. not much else to do than help your fellow stricken.

cagatacos:

It is obviously possible to be very happy with much less.

yes it may be only possible to be very happy with much less!

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Sun Aug 28th, 2011 at 11:21:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The greatest scourge of individualism is in creating a disconnect between the effect of one person's actions and the effect of a million people doing the same actions.  

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 04:41:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This silly story wanted to highlight two points:

  1. Irrespective of euro-problems, debt, finance, etc... There is still the biophysical economy to take care off. And the biophysical economy is a bit like gravity: you can ignore it, but it is there. To point, I think most discussions (e.g. here) see to have (temporarily) forgotten about it.

  2. Any successful political project will have to take into account less material wealth in the medium-term future. One way or the other.
by cagatacos on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 03:17:39 PM EST
And I would reiterate what I wrote in response to another diarist who advanced a similar contention:

  1. The Serious People have no clue that we're about to hit a raw materials brick wall. They're still living in their Oil E. Coyote bubble.

  2. The policies being pushed at the moment have nothing to do with addressing raw materials scarcity.

  3. The way the contemporary crisis is playing out is starkly reminiscent of the 1930s - a time when there was no pressing raw materials scarcity.

So my conclusions are that:

  1. The two crises - the raw materials crisis and the feckless neoliberal brain rot crisis - simply happened to coincide.

  2. At the level of policy proposals, the solutions to the two crises have next to nothing to do with each other. The neoliberal brain rot can be solved by a thorough application of Ye Olde Keynesian Fiscal Policy. The raw materials crisis is less well charted waters (and also out of my pay grade).

  3. At the level of politics, the crises are connected, because one is caused and the other exacerbated by neoliberal brain rot. So putting the neoliberal zombie economics out of our misery is a necessary prerequisite for solving both crises.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.
by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 03:37:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually neo-liberal policies might "solve" the resources issue: If you send vast swathes of the population to misery, starvation, unemployment then you "solve" the resources problem. Unfortunately I am only half-joking: It seems that that is the current way.

I agree with your view save one thing:


The raw materials crisis is less well charted waters (and also out of my pay grade).

It cannot be above your pay-grade. I think that there is a relative analytical agreement on the situation, therefore we need to start charting the waters (even if with rough maps). We need to discuss the politics of scarcity, the economics of scarcity, the community organizing, the individual responses. How to deal with family, neighbours, communities that are in denial. How to tie the financial crisis with the resource crisis... And start acting.

The way things are going none of us will be able to avoid these issues: they will knock on your door.

by cagatacos on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 03:55:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually neo-liberal policies might "solve" the resources issue: If you send vast swathes of the population to misery, starvation, unemployment then you "solve" the resources problem. Unfortunately I am only half-joking: It seems that that is the current way.

Indeed.

I normally file that "solution" under the heading "cures that are worse than the disease."

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Fri Aug 12th, 2011 at 04:00:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In energy terms fine wine is not much worse then ugly wine - storage takes a bit of energy but that is it. Though the decadently rich (or those aspiring to be) has started what in Sweden has been named vaskning, ordering two bottles and having one poured down the drain - vask - this merely doubles their energy consumption.

However there are far worse actions of status consumption, like sending your private plane to pick up a bottle of wine in another country. And as the hoi polloi consume less oil in their cars, there is more for the ultra-rich to make sure they never lack their favourite wine. Austerity as we all know is only for the masses, the rich are to big to fall.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Aug 15th, 2011 at 02:54:23 PM EST
Then lets stop calling austerity and calling what it is: massive wealth transfer from the poor/middle class to the rich.

I happen to think that austerity is unavoidable (resource constraints ...). Can we please not confuse it with something as obnoxious as wealth transfer (in the wrong direction)?

by cagatacos on Mon Aug 15th, 2011 at 04:51:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No problem with that. Austerity is the marketing term for the latest phase of class war, as globalisation was a marketing term for the former phase of the class war. And the rich are still winning.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Tue Aug 16th, 2011 at 03:44:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And the poor aren't even fighting since the demise of left wing parties in Europe and elsewhere...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sat Aug 27th, 2011 at 08:54:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Was just reading this:

Slavoj Žižek · Shoplifters of the World Unite · LRB 19 August 2011

We are told again and again that we are living through a debt crisis, and that we all have to share the burden and tighten our belts. All, that is, except the (very) rich. The idea of taxing them more is taboo: if we did, the argument runs, the rich would have no incentive to invest, fewer jobs would be created and we would all suffer. The only way to save ourselves from hard times is for the poor to get poorer and the rich to get richer. What should the poor do? What can they do?

...

Opposition to the system can no longer articulate itself in the form of a realistic alternative, or even as a utopian project, but can only take the shape of a meaningless outburst. What is the point of our celebrated freedom of choice when the only choice is between playing by the rules and (self-)destructive violence?



Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Sat Aug 27th, 2011 at 09:16:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The inconvenient truth is that both are true.  We are rapidly approaching any number of inevitable, unavoidable physical constraints that will affect all of us, even the very rich who still imagine themselves to be above all that.

At the same time, the current political buzzword austerity, which has nothing whatsoever to do with that physical reality, is, as a swedish kind of death says, nothing more than the latest marketing campaign in a class war that has been going on non-stop more or less forever.  

The very people who are actively campaigning in every developed or developing nation to gut and destroy every social program that offers any sort of aid or support to the less fortunate, are also actively spending more than those programs cost to aggressively market the last of the world's oil, the last of the worlds arable land, the last of nearly every other critically scarce resource on the planet.

We all bleed the same color.

by budr on Sat Aug 27th, 2011 at 01:36:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I read all the comments, and I recommend continuous directed riots.

Align culture with our nature. Ot else!
by ormondotvos (ormond.otvosnospamgmialcon) on Sun Aug 28th, 2011 at 03:37:05 AM EST
I read this comment, after reading all, and i wonder what continuous directed riots would produce. As i try to envision the end game, perhaps even a solution.

Directed by whom, and to what end?

What's the point of riots begetting more violence? The state is always stronger, unless you're talking about organized, weaponized, rebellion. But then the rebels become the next enslavers.

Unless they have vision, real vision, which is sorely lacking in all i see. Perhaps it's the province of the young to enjoy striking down the state's glass show windows. But i see no solution evolving, only more pain and violence.

Besides, the states themselves are proving to be powerless against the global corporate oligarchies. To stop them demands real vision.

I'm thinking a far more effective revolutionary act is to stop buying shit. but i can't yet see the almost upon us iPhone 5 generation understanding that, much less the Playstation socialists.

I can't see directed riots leading to anything but more pain. I can see visionary action leading to a chance to build a new future. Which starts with simply saying no, but then building what you want your yes to be.

Even Crazy Horse knew when he was outgunned.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Aug 28th, 2011 at 02:27:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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