In the 1987 movie “Wall Street” Gordon Gecko (played by Michael Douglas) utters the line “greed is good”. It was a time of supreme greediness, indeed: buyouts, LBOs, junk bonds, Drexel, Milken… and it was all followed by the Crash of October 1987. It was the largest one day drop in stock prices, bigger even than 1929 and, despite what you may read, it was NOT technical in nature but very much the result of extreme overvaluation driven by… yup, you guessed it, greed. Just like today, may I say.. But today’s post is not about that. Instead, I’m borrowing Gecko’s infamous line not for its message but in order to paraphrase it. So, Recession Is Good.
Yesterday I had a discussion with my niece who is a brilliant university student in Geography. We quickly came to the subject of climate change and she astonished me by saying that every time she has to look at data for her research she starts crying! She is horrified by the destruction of our Earth by humanity and the immense danger to our biosphere.
How bad is it? It’s really, really bad.
From melting ice caps to methane emissions the destruction of our ecosystem is fast and accelerating. As a chemical engineer I used the example of a reaction which proceeds hundreds of times faster when a catalyst is added.
Her summation was simpler: We are approaching the Tipping Point.
We then discussed ways to solve the problem. She suggested involving industry, ie make the necessary changes attractive, or at least palatable, to big economic players. My suggestion was that you cannot cure gangrene with aspirin, and proposed a complete upheaval of our global economic Permagrowth model.
My solution: We need Permarecession.
Is it realistic? Definitely not, right now. We cannot turn centuries of ingrained economic dogma on its head, not without some astonishing event(s) which will stun people and force them into the necessary changes in their daily habits. Sadly, it may be too late by then…
Anyway here are the 5 necessary R’s to get us started. Obviously, they are anathema to 99% of industry and 100% of mainstream politicians…in order of importance and effect:
Recycle (this is a sop, thus acceptable. Notice, it’s last)
A last thought: Man’s hubris against Nature is currently at an all time high. Instead of seeing COVID as Nature’s warning we are already declaring us winners, what with vaccines and trillion$$. We may indeed win this battle, but the war is raging and we are losing - badly.