Sir Peter Gluckman – CSA – cognitively dissonant?

Sir Peter Gluckman was on National Radio last night, giving a speech/lecture, part of a Kim-Hill-hosted series.

I’ve mentioned his lack of ability to join the dots before, hereabouts, so it was interesting to hear him joining some – quite accurately – then dropping the ball in spades.

First, he – rightly – suggests that we need better coordination between science disciplines. I’ve yammered on at length about the lack of same, and I called the problem ‘interdisciplinary genuflection’. I note he was only talking of the sciences (perhaps limited by the topic-scope) and not the likes of ‘Business’, ‘Commerce’, and above all, ‘Economics’.

Yet he raved on about economics, and at length – totally unquestioningly. Does that prove my point? A Medico accepting what the Economists say?

He advocated Economic Growth, and Productivity, while nurturing our ‘Environment’. That, I charge him, is cognitive dissonance (something he should know more about than me!) All around – anywhere he looks – there is evidence that you can’t have wealth, unless it it underwritten by the planet. If we could all become ‘rich’ in a virtual manner, there would be no need to contemplate GE, fracking, deep-water oil, aquaculture, mining, housing sprawl. Ultimately, wealth is either underwritten by bits of the planet, or it was a chimera.

This was clearly defined by Frederick Soddy, Nobel Prizewinner in Chemistry (but writing on Economics – ignored by Gluckman-types because he was out-of-field-of-expertise?) back in 1926. Sir Peter would do well to contemplate the Soddy treatise on ‘Positive Pigs’ vs Negative Pigs.

Then Sir Peter addressed ‘Productivity’. He didn’t mention one part of that, which is the driving down of labour-costs. Fisher and Paykel relocating from the Taieri to the Mexico border, being a classic example. That doesn’t help the displaced workers to become good wee consumers, or at least, not unless they increase debt.

He did mention efficiencies – but appears to see these as unlimited. Sorry, Sir Pete, the most efficient you can be, in any field, is 100%. In practical terms, you’ll never get there, and the closer you approach the magic figure, the more effort it will need. At the point where the return is less than the effort (in energy terms, not money) then it will NEVER happen.

All the activity – the ‘Positive Pig’ activity – which underwrites ‘wealth’, requires work to be done, and that in turn requires energy to be expended. There are no exceptions. I can stare into your eyes for an hour, and charge you $10. You can then stare into mine, and charge me $10. So far, no call on the planet – but then we both go and spend the money, on ‘stuff’. Same goes for ALL interest charged, and ALL profit charged – all expect, eventually, to buy ‘bits of the planet’.

Gluckman has two problems with that – more people means less of the planet per head, so an average trend towards poverty. He also – once those limited efficiencies have been expended – has a real upper limit to real wealth – the energy available to do the work, to turn the bits of planet into goods/services.

Not mentioned.

  Apparently we can have economic growth (unquestioned) through being more competitive/productive. Apparently, those folk over there somewhere, are just expected to have had enough energy available, to do the real work, to underwrite the real wealth, to pay us.

Is it so hard? At Peak Energy (flow/time) minus ‘efficiencies’, you have ‘Peak Wealth Possible to Underwrite’. The rest is ‘Negative Pigs’.

If science – and indeed, Tertiary Education in general – is to contribute meaningfully, a blueprint for getting to a Steady-State Economy, and a Steady-State Ecology (sustainable, in other words) is the only way forward.

  Gluckman, while probably an intelligent and well-meaning gent, is wasting his tenure of such an important position, and his specific failure is to not ascertain the real nature of ‘wealth’. How can we expect political change, while someone like him can’t see the increasingly lower-quality of the wood, for the increasingly fewer-and-further-between trees?


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