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Earth Policy Institute Video Asks “How Many Failing States Will It Take?”

Watch the full episode.

In this PBS-produced video, with actor and philanthropist Matt Damon narrating, Lester Brown gives a good overview of some of the current issues we face as a race. He connects the dots between the world’s rapidly melting glaciers, extreme weather events, and resource depletion, etc., and what it will mean to world food harvests, and the economic and social implications of wealthier countries outbidding poorer nation states for a share of these diminishing harvests, and water and energy supplies. Two of the key words he uses are ‘failing states’, a relatively new term that is quickly gaining in ‘popularity’ as we watch the present chain reaction of events occurring today.

Lester asks the question "How many failing states will it take before we see civilization itself fail?"

We won’t all agree with Lester’s proposed solutions. I personally see some of his proposals still clinging to the same kind of thinking that got us into this mess. There’s no talk of steady state economics, but rather, just different kinds of economic growth with a ‘magic of the market’ mindset. This kind of thinking could, as it’s done before, see all kinds of free market mayhem — like seeing human flesh available in the marketplace to capitalise on tragedy ("People did not just expire gently: children were sold or abandoned, human flesh was consumed and even sold in markets…" – page 2070, World Development Vol.33, No.12, pp.2067–2083, 2005 (PDF)). In the same vein, when the documentary talks of Haiti’s present crisis, for example, and its connection with Haiti’s deforestation and soil erosion, the video neglects the underlying market mechanisms (see historical background also) that caused this degradation of the island state’s natural ecosystems in the first place, and which has rendered Haitians wholly unable to invest in any kind of future for themselves, let alone a sustainable one.

Still, I must endorse and echo Lester Brown’s call for a WWII, all-hands-on-deck type mobilisation to address our present trajectory. What form that mobilisation will take is the question of the millenium….


  1. I just foun a new consept in Nikos A. Salingaros new book, Twelve Lectures On Architecture:

    According to Nikos all sustainable geometry must consist of fractals, for example a window that doesnt has fractals is not life enhanching.

    But Nikos takes this further and claims that all sustainable systems as well must be built up from fractals, wether we talk about agriculture or economics.

    Why? Because all natural geometry and all natural systems are consisting of fractals. We simply don’t find any natural system which is not built up from fractals. And hence all human systems have to consist of fractals as well, to be sustainable!

  2. I’m just about to put this on Facebook.
    Everyone needs to read this.
    And then there is the geometry to consider.
    Thank you.


  3. What Lester doesn’t get is that for many people fairness is often as important as life and that they would rathe die than suffer an injustice.

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