Thursday, November 15, 2012

US, EU and China: Prospects for growth.

            November, 2012 has been very important for the United States and China, because both had very important government shifts or not as was the case of the US, where after spending $6 billion on campaigning, they produced the exact same government they had before the election.  So now we have a good idea what direction we can expect the world’s two largest economies to go in more or less for the rest of this decade.  There were no major elections in the EU member countries, but we have to include this entity in our discussion as well, because as of 2011, together with the US and China they accounted for 57% of the world’s nominal GDP according to IMF stats for that year.  Given the large share of the world’s economy that these three entities command, it is fair to say that the direction these three economies are headed is where the whole world is headed.  It is therefore wise in my view to look at each one individually in today’s global context, because we need to get away from US election rhetoric and promises, which dominated the media for the past few months and get back to reality.

The European Union:

            It is no longer a secret that the EU is likely to see a continuation of the current slump for the rest of the decade.  There are few reasons to believe things will improve any time soon.  The unending rounds of government budget deficit reduction through spending cuts and tax hikes in many individual member countries are having a larger negative effect on economic growth than most believed would be the case.  In short, it seems most European economists under-estimated the multiplier value of government spending.  As the economy continues to drag, new corrective measures are needed to adjust year after year, so in effect, Europe is caught in a vicious cycle, which they better find a way to break out of, before the union itself breaks up if and when the masses will lose their patience.  They need to find growth even as they continue to tighten the budgets.  It is not an easy task, nor are the European elites up to the task.  This year’s move to tax foreign airlines for their greenhouse gas emissions is the perfect example of just how out of touch European leaders are with the realities they face.  That move caused billions of dollars worth of economic losses, and tens of thousands of jobs, due to retaliatory measures, such as China’s move to cancel Airbus purchase agreements.

            It is sad to admit to the fact that there are currently more risks to the downside for Europe’s economy than there are upsides.  Given the large debt load of some of the members, it is a real possibility that we can see a few sovereign defaults, especially in the Euro area, where devaluation is not a viable alternative to actual default by individual members, because it is hard to devalue as long as the union contains global exports powerhouse Germany and a few other members which have a sound economy and a fiscal house in good order.  Greece’s debt/GDP ratio is expected to go to 190% next year, up from 175% this year, and that is despite many fiscal tightening measures already implemented.  When the crisis first hit them in 2008, their debt to GDP ratio was about 120%  Some optimistic projections assume that Greece’s ratio will decline to 120% of GDP by 2020, which is still very high and overly optimistic in my view.  Greece can only solve this through outright default.  It cannot cut its way out, because every cut leads to further recessionary pressures, and a shrinking economy with a still rising debt  They most certainly cannot grow out of it, because there are currently no engines of growth available to them.  For four years now, we keep getting the same forecast for Greece.  A return to growth is always two years away.  This year they project that it will happen in 2014, and in 2014, no doubt they will claim it is just two years away again.

Italy’s debt to GDP ratio is about 120%, and its economy is stagnated, so they cannot grow out of it.  Spain will have to take a bailout soon, in order to deal with the broken banks.  France may become the victim of excessive deficit procedures over their many years of running deficits higher than 3%.  As a result, they could lose EU budget funds, deepening the hole they are in even further  These are just a few of the potential imminent default candidates.  These problems can actually lead to a much bigger problem, which is a breakup of the union.  Such an event would cause a global recession of unparalleled magnitude in depth and duration.  It is a very real danger, and it is likely to happen this decade, if it is to happen at all.

As long as growth is absent from the region, the likelihood of a breakup happening will rise as people will become more bitter.  It may only take one member to start the avalanche of exits.  Currently, we should watch non-Euro zone members of the union such as Britain, which may decide to jump ship early on.  The Euro skeptic Czechs may also surprise by possibly being the first.  There is even a small chance that a country like Hungary may head for the exits if some factions of the EU power and decision-making apparatus cannot help themselves but continue to attack them, for either political reasons to avenge the defeat and demise of Hungary’s socialists, or by those looking to punish Hungary for the way it dealt with the current crisis, by forcing multinational banks to share in the pain.  It is much harder for Euro currency members to jump ship, but not impossible either, so it is of paramount importance that EU politicians get their act together.

Some of the things they could do in order to promote a return to growth include a relaxation of environmental standards, including their unilateral war on greenhouse gas emissions, which is also a war on growth and jobs.  Easing of worker protection rights is not a bad idea either, because joining the race to the bottom is the only way to remain competitive.  Identifying the millions of workers who work under the table across the EU might be a better way to raise revenues than raising taxes, with less resulting drag on the economy.  There are probably many other things they could do, which I overlooked.  I fear however that they will fail to do much at all.  It seems all our elected politicians are stuck in the same old ideological debates over spending and taxation.  The result of inaction will most likely lead to EU economic growth in the 0-1% per year rate for the 2010-2020 period.  The data released today on Q3 GDP, shows that the Eurozone is now in a double-dip.  I will dedicate my December 1’st article to the subject of what a prolonged period of such a slow pace of growth will mean for western society.

The United States:

            With the elections over and done with, it is important to leave the electoral rhetoric behind and admit that neither side could have delivered 12 million net jobs in the next four years, even though both sides would have sworn that it would be a piece of cake as long as their recipe of ideology-chip cookies would be followed.  There are a few factors that give the US a chance at the very least to fare better than the EU.  None of these factors have anything to do with government policy however.  Cutting taxes, and other gimmicks sold to the electorate would have no impact whatsoever on the current economic trend.

            Energy is probably the top factor that is likely to positively affect the US economy.  Many people worried that Obama will prevent private companies from realizing the full economic potential of the new trends in hydrocarbon exploitation, but there is no actual reason to worry about it, because it is a little bit like the worries expressed four years ago that Obama was coming to take people's guns away.

            The shale oil and gas developments are more than a tool to improve US energy independence.  It is more than improving the economy through helping cut US reliance on oil and gas imports.  Hydraulic fracturing requires a high rate of drilling activity to keep production growing, or even to keep it flat.  Well decline rates are very high.  A natural gas well can decline from the initial flow rate by as much as 60% in the first year.  This means that six new wells are required the following year just to replace production losses from ten such high decline rate wells drilled the previous year.  The need to keep this high rate of drilling may be bad news for the long-term viability of the industry, and for the country’s domestic energy production prospects, but it is good news for those looking for work and willing to move to find it.  It is also good news for suppliers of equipment to the exploitation companies and those looking for a job in manufacturing those products.

            It is also good news that the government is able to continue to sell its debt at a very low interest rate.  Ten year bonds currently pay about 1.65% interest per year.  Inflation rates are higher than that, so the interest on debt is not becoming a high burden for the government just yet.  It will once interest rates go up, and the bonds sold in the last few years will mature and the government will have to roll over the debt at a higher rate.  For now however, they can continue to support growth through government spending.  If the US federal government will continue to accumulate debt at current rates till 2020, its total debt will be about $25 trillion.  At a rate of 2% interest, that will be manageable at around $500 billion.  If for any reason, we will see signs that rates are on a sustained rising path, such a high debt load will be dangerous.  To put it into perspective, at a 5% interest rate, the government will have to pay $1.25 trillion per year in interest.  The federal government’s total budget for this year is about $3.8 trillion, and revenues are about $2.6 trillion.  Even if revenues were to double by then, to $5 trillion, interest on debt will eat up a quarter of those revenues.

            Given these considerations it is wise to assume that the US government will cut its deficits substantially by then.  They will probably start addressing this problem at the end of this year already as they deal with the potential “fiscal cliff”.  Cuts in spending and increases in tax intake will slow the economy however, as we already saw with the EU.  For reasons I already articulated in other articles as well as in my book, it is unlikely that maximum potential growth rates in a country like the US will be more than 2% per year on average.  That average will be further reduced by measures meant to reduce the deficit.  That in turn will guarantee that the government’s revenue intake will not double as I assumed earlier.  Adding up the assumed rate of inflation at 2% and growth at 1.5% on average for the 2010-2020 period, revenues will grow to $3.5 trillion.  Remember that assuming the interest rate will grow to 5% by 2020 would mean that interest on debt will be $1.25 trillion, or a third of revenues collected.  Cutting the debt load by a trillion dollars, or even two or three trillions, will not have much of an impact.  There are just no easy answers, to this problem, except for two possibilities.  Do whatever it takes to keep interest rates low.  Alternatively inflation can be ramped up, changing the nominal revenue growth trajectory.  Increasing annual inflation rates from the 2% target to about 8-9%, and assuming economic growth will average 1-2% per year, would lead to government revenues doubling every seven years.

China:

            One might not know this by following the mainstream media, but there is a shift of leadership underway in China.  This shift did not cause $6 billion to be spent on campaigning, nor did the big issues get debated, with varying views being pitted against each other.  One might argue that there is little need for debate even though China is about to enter an era of slower growth decelerating from about 10% per year to about 6.5% according to most mainstream economic forecasts coming from the IMF, World Bank and other entities.  I have taken a different approach to forecasting long-term growth for the world as well as for different countries and regions ( read here ), which I have to say that since I did publish them seem to be better aligned with reality thus far than what the mainstream has been pushing.  I think for instance that China will have to fight hard to achieve 5% average yearly growth in the next two decades, which is significantly less than the assumed and expected 6.5% average.

            China has to fight many factors indeed, because the model they used to get here is no longer viable.  Take for instance their per capita GDP.  They are now closing in on the EU’s poorest members Romania and Bulgaria, which means that their wages are not as competitive anymore.  Even with my assumption that they will only get 5% yearly growth on average, they will overtake even the relatively stronger countries such as Poland and Hungary in per capita GDP by around 2020.  That is good news on one hand for the average Chinese citizen, because this will surely translate in an elevated living standard for many, but it will also result in a loss of wage competitiveness.  Eastern and Central Europe should be expected to start pushing aside Chinese exports from Europe gradually.  The European Union is currently China’s largest export partner, and it is now in danger of losing that market, even though it seems most including many investors do not realize this just yet.

            The example of China’s future in Europe’s consumer market is what generally becomes the dilemma of fast-growing economies, which were at some point overly reliant on their wage competitiveness as a way to gain the right to manufacture.  As growth leads to a lessening of the wage advantage gap, the economy hits a wall, and in the absence of competent leadership ready to manage the hard task of continuing to compete in the absence of the wage advantage, the impact can be fatal.  In the case of the Chinese, they have much work to do in order to find improvements in efficiency meant to counterbalance the loss of the wage advantage.  They have rampant corruption they need to deal with, which is not an easy task.  They need to find a way to increase domestic consumer spending, including through the all important measure of providing a basic social safety net that is currently lacking.  They need to start paying attention to the damage they are inflicting on their environment, because at some point it will lead to a decline in their population’s collective health, and it will be costly for both the individuals and the government.  These are all things they have to deal with in the current decade if they want to have a chance to avoid complete disaster.  The main key to solving most of these problems is what will make it problematic to do so.  They will have to break the current relationship they have with the US.  They have to start spending the proceeds of their exports on the people, which means they will no longer be able to support the American consumer through lending the US money.  The effect of such a policy will be larger than the actual size of the sum of money that China has been lending.  Remember the calculation we made of US interest on federal debt, and the effect that raising interest rates to about 5% from the current rate which is less than 2% will have on government finances.  Once again it is becoming more and more evident that there are no easy answers left.

Conclusion:

            As we continue to rely on classical moves meant to resolve our problems, it is becoming more and more obvious with every year that passes that we are failing to resolve these issues and with every failure we are getting closer and closer to the point of no return.  Solutions such as the one I proposed in my book in the form of a standardized global trade tariff meant to rebalance the world’s economy, can only work for as long as there is still a world economy left to save.  In the absence of bold new ideas, and bold leadership, we have nothing left to hope for.  The only thing left for us to do as individuals is prepare for hard and unforgiving times, because even though it might not yet be obvious to most, the hard times are comming and there will be many victims.

             

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sustainability & Environmental movements R.I.P.


            The year 2012 held great hope and much false promise for some who wished to bring environmental and sustainability issues back into the mainstream.  A number of events, some pre-planned, and expected, others that happened by chance, or were unexpected, gave reason for many to hope and believe that we can turn the tables on the anti-environmental protection movement, which has been gaining more and more momentum in the past few years.  Now that we are close to the end of the year, we have a clear picture of the outcome and the overall situation.  After assessing the results, I believe I have enough reason to allow myself to be bold enough to declare the environmental movement dead and completely ineffective.

I suspected this to be the case a while ago already, which is why I wrote “Sustainable Trade”, published almost a year ago.  I also tried to warn since February of this year that the June, Earth Summit, which was what many idealists pinned their hopes on, would be a disaster.  I tried to warn as many as possible by writing a monthly article, warning of the ideological flaws that guaranteed, it will be a flop.  By writing those monthly articles dedicated to the run-up to the summit, and one last article to sum up the results, I learned more than I could have imagined about the sorry state of the environmental movement, and its ineffectiveness in appealing to the masses. 

A sum-up of the main events:

Strike One:

The Earth Summit, also known as Rio + 20, since it was a follow-up to the 1992 Rio summit, which produced many pledges and agreements, the most famous of which was the Kyoto fiasco, failed to produce anything of substance this time around.  It is not as if the 1992 summit actually produced many notable results either, but at least some did attempt to make a significant difference.  Unfortunately, the only notable result was substantial economic self-mutilation as was the case of the Europeans who took up this crusade to save the planet wholeheartedly, fueled with belief and enthusiasm for the cause by childish idealism. 

There were of course a few who could not bare to admit defeat, so they indulged in denial and tried to get many to follow them by claiming that the summit was really a great success, because it energized the movement and they received many corporate pledges to take “important” action.  Truth is however that there was nothing stopping individuals and companies from taking action in the past, but in the absence of a mechanism meant to get everyone on board, whether they like it or not, voluntary goodwill did not and will not produce anything worth mentioning.  I often like to compare this situation to a city deciding to leave the paving and maintaining of the sidewalks to voluntary goodwill, as opposed to the current practice of tax levies to fund the work.  If you can imagine what those sidewalks would look like (if there was something still to look at, or walk on), then surely you can imagine what the result of voluntary goodwill can bring to climate change, ocean and fresh water management, soil pollution, and degradation and other important aspects of sustainability.  So there was nothing to stop people and organizations from doing their part and make a difference, except for the fact that global sustainability is a public good, just as a sidewalk, and its path to realization needs to be treated as such.

I think by far the worst aspect of this summit was the lack of interest displayed by the media, politicians and the general public.  I can personally testify to the observed lack of interest by relating to my own six articles published on this site, of which only one is currently in my top ten out of a total of forty articles in terms of viewership.  In the mainstream media, the only newspapers that took up the subject with enthusiasm were “The Guardian”, and “Huffington Post”.  I can say with much certainty that the vast majority of the world’s population never even heard that the “Earth Summit” was being held, technically in their name.  Influential world leaders such as Obama and Angela Merkel did not bother to show up.  Developing nations leaders did show up, but their attitude was anything but constructive.  Most of them were looking for more handouts, as if it was the developed world that was booming economically, not them.  Any calls for collective efforts to be made to tackle environmental issues were met by hostile opposition on the part of leaders, such as Bolivia’s president Evo Morales, or India’s delegation.  Given that China alone now contributes almost as large a volume of greenhouse gasses as the US and EU combined ( EIA data ), it should be clear to all that it is no longer enough for only the developed world to make an effort.  Nor can we expect countries currently preoccupied with avoiding financial meltdown, such as is the case with most developed nations since 2008, to shoulder all of  the financial cost of protecting the environment.  Yet this was exactly what was being expected to be offered at the summit, not only by the developing world, but also by many representatives of the developed world, who clearly lack a minimal grasp of reality.

For more information and insight on the failure of the Rio + 20 Summit, I recommend people take a look at the six part series I wrote.   (Rio + 20 part 1, Rio + 20 part 2, Rio + 20 part 3, Rio + 20 part 4Rio + 20 part 5 , Rio + 20 part 6)

Strike Two:

            This summer a powerful blow was given to the interests committed to denying climate change was real.  A study funded by the Koch brothers, which they hoped would go their way, given that they hired someone who was regarded as a skeptic blew up in their face as the results came in, confirming the long term average growth in global temperatures, and it furthermore showed that the trend cannot be attributed to other causes that were previously pointed to as alternative non-human activity related triggers of climate change.  The results of the study conducted by Richard Muller, formerly a climate skeptic, was a hard one for the political right to swallow.  In conjunction with this, we had the severe drought this year in the US and large parts of Europe and the former Soviet Union, which greatly affected this year’s crop outputs, putting global food security in jeopardy for the third time in half a decade.  Climate change was often quoted as a causing factor by the media, politicians and scientists.  Yet, these two significant events failed to increase the clout of the environmental movement.  The Story died down, and gradually disappeared from its brief moment of prominence in the mainstream.  The ones screaming for more environmental deregulation in the US and increasingly in other places as well are still on the offensive, while the environmentalists are beating a retreat.  One may have noticed that in the current US election cycle, the only time environmental good intentions are mentioned is when the political right is looking to score points by pointing out how damaging good environmental stewardship is to the economy.

            This is not at all how the environmentalists imagined this would play out.  They always believed foolishly that all they had to do was win the scientific debate, as well as have negative side-effects such as this summer’s drought to point out as consequences, to get the “global village” on board for action.  In reality, it seems, we will watch the planet gradually get trashed as long as the expected driver of change continues to be voluntary goodwill.

Strike Three:

            There were two somewhat significant victories that the environmental movement celebrated this year.  The Keystone pipeline project was postponed, due to concerns in regards to its proposed route through Nebraska, where it would have potentially endangered the important Ogallala underground water reservoir.  The EU also imposed emissions tariffs on all airlines, which was hoped would generate some positive results.  These two victorious battles however may both end up being another nail in the coffin for environmental issues.

            The reaction to the EU tariffs has been quite ferocious on the part of its main trading partners.  China apparently cancelled some Airbus orders, costing an already strugling Europe thousands of jobs.  Russia and the US also retaliated both politically and economically.  As a result, the Europeans seem to at last be waking up from their idealism and it seems are now ready to abandon their self-destructive quest to unilaterally save the world.  The one actor, which environmentalists always felt they can rely on to pursue their idealistic vision of unselfish action to save the world is now suffering a great deal of economic pain as a result. There is the danger that as Europe will look to improve its global competitiveness in order to exit its current economic crisis; it will look at reversing many of its previous actions, to the detriment of the environmental cause worldwide.

            In the US, we shall see very soon now, whether a more environmental friendly minded president will be replaced by one that wants to do away with many constraints on economic growth and competitiveness as a consequence of the environmental regulations currently in place.  I also believe the Keystone pipeline portion meant to bring Canadian tar sands oil to Nebraska will go ahead soon, regardless who will be the next president.  One thing that we can be certain of is that the attacks on Obama based on the claim that he prefers to protect the environment rather than worry about creating economic growth and jobs seem to resonate with the electorate, and the Keystone decisions plays a prominent role in the propaganda.  So in both cases the battle won actually leads to the war being lost, even if Obama will not lose as a result.

Strike Four:

            Switching the conversation from the environment to sustainability, in recent years, the conversation in regards to the need for increased efficiency took a turn towards complacency.  It mainly revolves around oil supplies and the reason for this new sense of complacency is the rise to prominence of unconventional oil production as well as increased recovery rates due to the rise in prices in the past decade.  All the talk about abundant natural gas serving as a substitute for oil has added to the sense of us being right to stop worrying.  This is in part the result of many peak oil thinkers who made some rather dire predictions based on very conservative estimates of global energy production capacities, as well as a lack of either desire or ability to factor in price as a determinant of production volumes.

            As I stated many times before, I disagree with both those who still believe that we are facing imminent catastrophe, and those who believe that we are still living in the era of business as usual.  The global economy changed forever with the plateau in conventional oil production in 2006, as confirmed by the IEA.  We will never again go back to the era of sustained global growth rates of 4-5% per year.  We are in the 3% range since 2008, and there is no evidence that we should expect anything better looking foreword.  In fact, we should expect things to get worse sometimes in the next two or three decades.  We will probably see a move towards a global economy decelerating to 2% average annual GDP growth at the point where conventional oil production will go into significant decline.  We will see a further and perhaps final worsening of the situation at the point when unconventional oil production will stagnate.  This process will all take decades, which is not to say that we do not need a path towards sustainability.

            We need a global mechanism meant to encourage product durability and efficiency more than ever, given the fact that we reached the point where there is a cap on maximum potential economic growth in place for half a decade now, courtesy of the plateau in conventional oil production, as I mentioned.  We also need it in order to prevent us from poisoning ourselves in the process of figuring out more and more ways to increase consumer demand, which is the current driver of economic growth.  Complacency is therefore the wrong approach to our future.  Unfortunately, we may end up being stuck in this phase of complacent collective mindset until the point when we will reach the next phase down, which will be when conventional crude will start declining globally.  By that time, it may be too late to reverse course, because at 2% average yearly growth rates, all our energy will be focused on trying to maintain a minimum living standard needed to prevent social implosion.  By then the world will most likely be dominated by authoritarian regimes, since the promise of future prosperity will no longer pacify the increasingly skeptical electorate.  The unfortunate premature headline grabbing prophecies of peak oil induced collapse that many people engaged in played in the hand of those on the opposite side of the spectrum, who preach complacency.  I have to mention however that we cannot fault the peak oil crowd for wanting to grab the headlines even at the price of being proven partially wrong later on.  It is hard indeed to grab the short attention span of the public by telling them that a slight worsening of average living standards is a few years ahead, and life will get much worse in a few decades, even though that may be the more accurate picture.  I can testify to this from my own experience.



The main factors of failure of environmentalists & the consequences:

            The few who are willing to admit that the environmental cause is in retreat, or as I have stated, completely defeated, are always eager to point at the special interests opposing them as the main cause of their failure.  As I stated before, in my book and on my blog, I cannot agree with that assessment.  The message being communicated, due to the nature of the proposals being pushed cannot ever succeed.  The fact that the message received considerable support from the European public in past decades should not be mistaken for proof that the message is viable.  As a person born in Europe, I can testify to the fact that Europeans have a false sense of their weight in the world, due to centuries of being the dominant region.  Thus, they believed that as long as they were willing to go ahead with many of the ideas pushed by the environmentalists, they can change the world.  The past few decades of failure and resulting self-inflicted economic damage due to the adoption of these ideas is starting to wake the people up.  The message is on the retreat in Europe as well.

            In the US, Canada, and Australia, the message never had a chance to rise to prominence.  Ideas that often seem reasonable to the average academic, who may enjoy the comfort of relative financial and career safety, does not go over well with the steel workers and goods manufacturers, or the people who directly depend on consumer activities as the providers of services, such as sales people, landscapers and many others.  Imagine someone going over to a factory in Ohio, explaining to the employees there the need for the United States to implement stringent curbs on greenhouse gas emissions in order to save the world.  Some have interpreted the reluctance of such people to embrace these ideas as spawned from ignorance, or even ill will.  The reality is the opposite.  These people may not be so bad, but the ideas presented to them are flawed, and they are not as ignorant as some high minded idealists may think.  They know that their jobs are already being pressured by competition from the developing world, where wages and basic worker protection rules are not as stringent; therefore they offer a much cheaper alternative to their own labor.  Now some people come along telling them they need to sacrifice voluntarily yet another competitive factor in the form of tightening environmental regulations, which are already more stringent than in places like China.  They know that if the United States does this in their name, it will neither make a great deal of difference, nor will the rest of the world follow suit.  So in effect, what is being proposed to them is a path that will not prevent any negative effects of climate change or any other environmental issue, but will endanger their jobs.  These people have families to support and they do not have the luxury of safety offered by the lack of responsibility, which is the case of many youthful idealists, or the safety of tenure as is the case of university professors.  That is the reason why the only time the environment is ever brought up during the current US election campaign is when the political right wants to score points by pointing out that the current administration wants to sacrifice their well-being in the name of voluntary and ineffective goodwill towards the global environmental situation.  It is important to recognize the fact that this failure to propose solutions that resonate is a barrier to implementing the idealistic version of sustainability, which is insurmountable.  The problem is most definitely not an issue of packaging but the content itself.  It is unfortunate that too many people do not understand, thus we cannot move away from current flawed positions.

            The price of failure to move away from unviable solutions to our environmental and sustainability problems is increasingly becoming more and more apparent.  It is evidenced in the increasing distancing of many political elites from the environmental agenda.  It is also evident in the failure to pass on the torch to the next generation.  Study after study shows that the next generation, which in fact is the generation that should now become more involved in the cause is increasingly keeping its distance.  The ones who do get involved, end up increasingly following radical movements such as the de-growth crowd, which basically advocates the self undermining of the western economy as a path towards sustainability.  That of course makes no sense, because it is hard to imagine what positive effect we should expect from handing over complete global hegemony to developing nations such as China and India, where the concept of environmental protection at the price of giving up some economic growth, which is what the west has been doing in the past decades is unthinkable at the moment.

            Many people will feel of course that I am wrong in declaring the environmental and sustainability movements dead and ineffective, given the millions of supporters.  It is important in my view for people to understand that those millions of supporters are an important asset, not to be squandered on unrealistic ideas and proposals.  The millions of supporters need to be given a chance to appeal to the rest of their peers by offering them a chance to call on the rest to join up for a cause supported by realistic proposals as solutions, which even the factory worker in Ohio can sign up to.  The alternative is to go on the same path, and watch the many millions become increasingly isolated and in many cases either move away, or turn to more radical movements as the years and decades of failure will make them increasingly bitter at the lack of apparent caring on the part of the rest of society.  In the absence of change, the environmental movement is dead, because it is completely irrelevant and unable to effect positive results.  I hope that It is not too late for change, but I fear the lack of enthusiasm for it.