Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Heinberg: A Beguiling Veneer of Normalcy

SHOOT: So we hear, through the contant noise of commercials and what not, news of a pandemic and today I read about Iraqi oil production falling precipitously. What does it all mean? Does any of this matter? Unfortunately these signals are lost in the noise of our time. They will become clearer and ring out in the crunch of contraction. Financial and otherwise. The sheer numbers of our species are about to contract also, although this may seem unlikely from the comfort of a living sofa with food in the refrigerator and the television's comforting drivel for company. Richard Heinberg addresses this issue below, which he calls the 'beguiling veneer of normalcy'.

Statements emanating from the White House, the Treasury, and the Fed are ambiguous but generally upbeat: president Obama says dark days still await us, but foresees a return to growth; and secretary Geithner and chairman Bernanke are careful not to talk the market down.

The indicators to which I pay attention lead me to a different conclusion. We are indeed seeing a let-up in the frighteningly rapid financial collapse that began to unfold late last summer. That’s to be expected: all the trillions that are being spent on bailouts and stimulus packages must have some effect—though ultimately it will only be to provide a brief interlude before the storm returns in far greater force.

In short, while surface appearances could lead one to think that not much has changed from the status quo ante, in fact the beams, rafters, and studs that hold up the façade of normal everyday existence in modern industrial society are rotting and crumbling. In essence, we are witnessing the shift from a century of unprecedented growth to a century of contraction.

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