tv Discussion Focuses on Climate Change and the U.S. Economy CSPAN August 20, 2016 3:45pm-5:01pm EDT
unfair to them as i want to get on to hearing them and not having you hear me. so lewis simon is associate professor of history and as of this fall, director of the institute for workplace studies, industrial and labor relations, cornell university which moves him from ithaca to new york city. he went to columbia where he got his b.a., a harvard p.h.d. and a fellow baltimorean by birth. he is the author of the well reviewed and popular book, the american way of debt and debtor nation, the history of america in red ink, a certain theme there. he is now completing temp, the deep history of the gig economy and co-authoring a book with me titled supply sided. he is one of the leaders among a group who are revising and
revisiting the history of u.s. capitolism with a nuance perspective of the particularities of how business and finance have developed in this country and with what impacts on the social structure and inequality. natasha squander is associate professor of public policy at the wagner school at n.y.u. he has a stanford b.a. and m.i.t. p.h.d. e spent part of her youth in cairo where her aunt leila, winner of the prestigious goldman environmental prize involved her in helping garbage workers learn recycling techniques. she had a very amazing youth some very d to
amazing work and perspectives on work. natasha is an expert on migration and its relationships to some very amazing work and perspectives j work, not just the work and contracts, but the dignity of work. her first book, 48 years of migration and environment policy in morocco and the one on immigrant ng workers not only deepen her understanding of the role of immigrants and international labor and development, they also make us rethink the common conception of what it means to be skilled. a lot of people who we look at and think they're unskilled actually encompass, embody very important skills that deserve our respect and natasha is helping us to see this. both have been actively engaged in the project on the future of work and workers. there are several others here who are also engaged. i see katherine and margaret, you're here and maureen, are
you here? i saw you earlier and phyllis, i thought i saw you. have you forgotten somebody? probably, good. oh, tino, you're here who helped us start the project. and both contributed fantastic essays as did several others in the room for the series on that subject in specific standard. maria who is here who is now at mother jones helped us get that started. so i'm pleased to welcome all of you to this what promises to be a great talk. [applause] >> well, first of all, thank you for coming out tonight to join us in this conversation about what are probably the two happiest subjects, you can probably imagine, the future of work and climate catastrophe just to keep it on an up note. when we think about the future of work, it struck natasha and
me that many of us are worried about the uber economy. this is what we see dominating the pages and dominating the conversations especially outside of silicon valley. we think perhaps that the future might be just a little bit narrow. that, in fact, taxi drivers are important, it's important conversation, but it's not the whole conversation. in fact, it's a small part of a broader conversation about robots and how robots are all supposedly going to take our jobs. we like talking about technology. it's fun, maybe like talking about technology and work. climate change is harder. it strikes us as something more difficult to get a grasp on. when we've think about the future and the rise of robots, we should also be thinking about the rise of the
ocean. we will argue that you can't think about one without thinking about the other. to think about climate change without considering the future of the economy and the possibilities and importance of both. it can be daunting to consider climate change, automation, and migrant population all at the same time, but this is what we will face in the 21st century. natasha and i began a conversation, a thought experiment on -- she is a sociologist among many things and we started talking about what can we do and what is a good analogy for -- to think through these different issues of climate change, automation, and migrant populations. we began to think about the 1930's wearied we began to think about the crises, the multiple crises of the 1930's especially the dustbowl and the great depression.
climate change today is not as visible as the dustbowl but we still need to act and though words -- in the words of fdr, we must act, we must act quickly. what are the similarities? the 1930's experience this great depression in the ustbowl. naively if you think back to the high school history, you will remember the dust bowl had a lot of dust. it was an ecological crisis am a ecological catastrophe and the great depression had something to do with money. hey both had roots in the same thing, and the stock market speculation. in the urban market speculation, and the far mortgage speculation of the 1920's. they converged into an economic and ecological crisis stemming from this relationship with the land that was primarily financial in practice.
the new deal had lots of ways to handle the economic. there is a long list of long words that you do not need to read, i promise you. for the ecological solutions, they planted kudzu. they planted some trees that rapidly died. their economic imagination was stronger, more vital, more reative than anything we did with the ecology. as we think through these issues we want to ask the deep questions, why have we forgotten so much about the conomic solutions of the new deal which put our economy on a brand-new footing and wise it's much harder to imagine ecological solutions in tandem ith the economy? one of the things we learned as we wrote this talk together is we disagreed. which we think is at the essence of how we need to approach these problems. e need collaborative disagreement which is also part
of the new deal. also part of policy solutions of the 1930's. e will frame our talk around these two issues of mitigation and adaptation. where adaptation is the idea that we need to adapt our political economy to climate hange. we do not need to alter its underlying logic. in mitigation we need to fundamentally alter the relationship under which our capitalism operates. this was also in the new deal, personified by these two men, these two white men, these two white men with power in the 1930's so things are a little different now, hopefully. jesse jones on the top there is the guy hanging over the shoulders of the two other guys, the reconstruction finance corporation. he was a banker from texas. he was an investor, a publisher. he was a quintessential capitalist. he believes in the power of capital to alter the world around him in a way that texans
believe the world can be remade according to their well as long as you find enough loans. and the secretary of the interior, a politician. he believed that capitalism itself had failed and we need to find a new way. the high school history you emember is probably more about the dickey variety. civilian conservation corps, the building of beautiful national parks. this is from the jesse jones perspective. that is what the results were, whereas jones felt capitalism just needed a little love, needed a little help in reconnecting the dynamic investment to the economy. n his first inaugural address, roosevelt told the americans, a plague of locusts sent by an
angry god for the results of incompetence and stubbornness." what is nice about this is that since it is man made we can adapt to it. perhaps we can mitigate it to my perhaps we can engage with it through the very mechanisms through which we caused this crisis to occur or, hopefully, invent new solutions. but these conditions which roosevelt warned had come very close to destroying modern civilization are once again upon us. we hope to use this as an nalogy to begin to think hrough how to talk about these two very scary, very important, very pressing issues that are facing us today. >> as we think about this analogy, we thought it would be helpful to review what happened to the dustbowl and how it came to enter the political
conversations about what to do during the new deal. so on may 9, 1934, a few wins started rolling in the north dakota's and within two days a uge wall of our earth 2000 miles wide barreled toward new york and washington. the cities on the eastern seaboard were completely eclipsed. the statue of liberty was not visible. the storm had dropped 350 million tons of topsoil as it moved across the country. but most importantly, the storm brought the dustbowl, the ecological disaster in america's heartland to washington and new york among the centers of power and finance. today, climate change is not always most felt in the centers f power and finance.
as we go through this, we will bring up some of the analogies that might be helpful. the dustbowl and the storms that accompanied it was truly apocalyptic. the storms were catastrophic, the drought that afflicted the region was equally catastrophic. reporters who visited the egion wrote of dead crops, starving livestock, plagues of jackrabbits and grasshoppers and the new york times wrote "the cold hand of death has dissented on the bread basket of the nation. it has become a lost people living in a lost land." by the time this dust storm, a year after it hit, 850 million tons of topsoil had been lifted off the earth and transported around the country. the storms would continue for four more years.
unlike today where climate change is something theoretical off in the future, this was truly catastrophic created felt ike the end of days. but the dustbowl was geographically separate from washington, so here you can see where the dustbowl was concentrated, in this southern heartland of the united states and policymakers filled it intermittently. essentially, the dustbowl was the product of a speculative bubble. the government had begun parceling out the land in 1909 and people did not take them up on the offer right away. when wheat prices shot up to two dollars a bushel during world war i, when the turks locked the shipment of wheat
the u.s., and wheat prices shot p dramatically, people moved west. t was the new gold rush caused by these high wheat prices but it was also made possible by a series of financial structures that allowed for this massive and energetic movement of people to take advantage of it. asy credit for mortgages and tractors and also the notion it
did not matter that this area had no rivers, the rain would follow the plow. if you disrupted the earth it would cause atmospheric imbalances which would cause the rain to fall so the movement was massive and people came who were speculative farmers, and the wheat prices started to fall. it did not fall dramatically at first, they fell a little bit from two dollars a bushel to half that. pretty dramatic, but not catastrophic. they planted more wheat and shipped the wheat to the ities. in much the same way, we are also facing a situation where the financial structures that we have set up, the speculative structures we have set up may be affecting our planet in ways we have not yet fully nderstood.
drought came to this region in 1930 and belied the claim that rain would follow the plows. the price of wheat dropped dramatically. farmers left. people did not plant. when the winds started to blow as they did in 1933 33 million, acres were vulnerable to the ind. of plains land lost their topsoil, a loss equivalent to 7% decline in g.d.p. or the land in oklahoma. the poor as they always are were hit the hardest. one third of farms faced foreclosure. the poor were getting sick on dust pneumonia. so much livestock was starving that the government launched
programs to purchase starving cattle. by 1930, the mid-1930's, a quarter of the families in the great plains relied on aid for their basic subsistence. this is not a surprise for they are always hit the hardest but the issue here that this example raises our weather the poor an indicator of when our social and economic systems are not working, are they an indication of broader system failure? the poor left, 2.5 million people. those who were poorest and without resources. these are the famous pictures that dorothy lange took. they became our first climate hange refugees in the u.s. so, these drought refugees as they were called at the time became a huge cultural phenomenon.
think steinbeck, much cultural production around this but most people did not leave. most people moved within the ustbowl to places they had not been as much erosion and to the city, but the total decline was actually 5%. there is also a narrative about how everyone moved to california. this was the great migration of the okies to california. many did migrate to california, but it turns out not that many more than had migrated in the previous decade. but in 1930 and 1940, only 80,000 more people that had migrated in the previous decade migrated during the dust owl. that is 8000 a year, not a huge amount, but they migrated at a time of economic crisis. they displaced people from soup lines and jobs, and this is why there was such strong
eaction. our economic systems may be much more fragile in times of economic crisis than otherwise. the federal government came up with a series of ideas about how to deal with this. most of them were national in scope, but the one they did ome up with for dealing with ecological disaster in particular was very modest. to deal with this cataclysmic, pocalyptical disaster, there was much debate about whether this was necessary. hugh bennett became the leader of the conservation service and asked should we even bother? it turned out that day there was it dust storm that had flown in from the dustbowl and he said look outside your indow. the rehabilitation of the land was very standard, not very
imaginative. things like drainage, planting of trees, saplings would die within a year, and grasses. and making the rehabilitation of soil contention on not receiving state aid. and this program was modestly successful, at achieving its goal which was to make sure that people could stay where they were and continue to plant wheat. by exploiting the soil in a way that the soil could not handle. so fast-forward. it turns out that we are actually following that same trajectory. the dustbowl is an area where the technical engineering of agriculture has expanded and deepened through gribusiness.
agribusiness not only grows weed, but many other crops and does so by drawing on an underground aquifer called the gallala aquifer. the prediction is within 50 additional years, we are likely not have any water at all. the equivalent of lake mead is drawn up every year and in some places the water is already gone. it would take 6000 years to replenish this aquifer. more energy in the form of soil in fact, fertilizer goes in to the ground and comes out through food. there is a system through federal subsidies and the organizational agribusiness that supports this kind of agriculture. and as the aquifer declines, we are beginning to see some of the same kind of desperate intensification strategies that we saw by farmers during the dust bowl, trying to figure out how to draw up more water.
but the dustbowl has reemerged as a dustbowl. the great plains has reemerged as a dustbowl. they have been hit by drought since 2012. many old-timers who lived to the first series of drought and storms claim that it looks just like the beginnings of the dustbowl that they lived through. >> that is the story of intensification. what is the story of innovation in the new deal? what is the story of not just misallocation of capital, but proactive allocation of capital? the economic policies new deal did not directly address the dustbowl, but it helped the eople who work set in motion the migrants, the displaced,, begin to adapt to their new lives. you see pictures of the so-called hoovervilles. these were the shantytowns. this one is flooded out in california.
these were not unique. about 300,000 migrants came to california. that was not substantially more than would have come in the previous decade as well. but this issue of all these people like today was framed as an excess of people, an excess of labor. there is too many people, not nough jobs but it was not just in the early 1930's the question of too many people or excess labor, but a question of excess capital. today, if you look at our own banks, how much capital is there above what is required by law? the answer is $2.3 trillion in excess of what is required to meet reserve requirements, two thirds of the federal udget. we will come back to this number in a little while. we should recognize that if there is $2.3 trillion just sitting in a bank, probably it s not being well used.
that probably this capital ought to be invested somewhere else. and this right here is where capitalism failed. this is not a question of uber or robots but the failure of capital to be invested to innovative new industries that provide millions of jobs. it was not just a problem today. it was also a problem in the great depression. you can look at this letter which is a letter between the ead of citibank, then national city and the head of bank of america where they talked about how it was "impossible to find any use of money." they did not know where to invest their capital. the smartest bankers in the country were unable to find a place to invest their capital productively. the new deal was not just the tory of harold hickey. it was also a moment of a reinvention of how capital
could be stimulated to move through the economy, to restart the economy. how do you get the private capital -- and i'm now making the film guys nervous -- how do you get the private capital that's over here onto the gardens to foster recovery. this is an image from the 1930s. i want you to notice how nervous uncle sam looked. how uncle sam is in fact standing on the hose, but only uncle sam has the nozzle. and this is just a basic question of the 1930s. how do you get private capital back in circulation so that there is a widespread ecovery? the way they did it then, and we can get wonkish in on the q&a if you want, but basically, how this private capital at bank of america, city bank and other insurance companies that filter through market making mechanisms, like the housing administration, which provide houses, the r.e.a.
hich provided electricity to all rural america and the defense corporation which we'll come back to in a second. what's interesting about this is that what's the one single silver bullet? there's a multiplicity of approaches for capital banks, finance companies, local electricity cooperatives and capital went to business. and featherest, you can see a variety of sectors of the economy that received stimulation. so aerospace, what i'll talk about now, one of many different areas through which this idle capital put in motion again through the activities of men and women like jesse jones. why are we talking about this? why are we talking about this? how do you get someone to invest in something that seems impossible? in retrospect, the aerospace industry seems like an obvious
thing to put money into. of course, it's really bad for oil consumption, but it's really great to get around. of course, how do you do this? how do you get money into something that seems cutting edge and impossible. green energy. the 1930s, airplanes seemed an oddity and the impression seems closer lindberg's famous flight over the atlantic today than the x prize seems to us. lindberg flew the atlantic in 1927, so you should think about the relationship between the new deal and the aerospace industry like we think about pace planes today. maybe in silicon valley, hey're like oh, yeah, that's fine. everyone else, that's crazy. nobody thinks they're going to ride a space plane anywhere, ever. this is how aerospace was conceived. to put it in perspective, in 1939 -- you might think aerospace was big in the 1930's like indiana jones. he rode in the planes. it was more like a garage ndustry.
more americans in 1939 worked in candy manufacturing than worked in aerospace. so how do you do this? how do you go from something less important than candy to being the main driver of the entire economy in about five years? the answer, it was done to the defense plant corporation. defense plant corporation using the legitimation but really it of war, was about allocating capital, take all this money from the banks and insurance companies and put it into the aerospace industry. in just the course of a few years, the aircraft capacity ad expanded by 4,000%. by the end of the war, it was four times larger than the prewar -- the largest industry in the prewar, which was the car industry. it also transformed the manufacturing that's happening. so it's prewar manufacturing enters for new york city and detroit, during the war, manufacturing moved into exactly those regions like fort worth, kansas city, tulsa,
omaha omaha, that were hardest hit by the dust bowl. it was in those places at that new factories were built and new jobs were created. so what does this mean? it means that this is a mechanism by which entirely new nnovative cutting edge crazy technologies can provide jobs to millions of people throughout the country. by the end of the war, 40% of the los angeles workforce, about 2.1 million people, ended up working for airplane companies. where did the okies go to work? they went to go work for curtis right. his was made possible by capital, capital that was not being provided by private means, but was instead filtered through the defense plant corporation. these are different companies, all well known companies now. you can see the varieties of different amounts of financing that came through the defense plant corporation, which was a part of the reconstruction finance corporation.
now, we talk about aerospace. let's talk about aluminum. aluminum today is considered a commodity, a really cheap commodity, something so cheap we can line our streets with it. et in the late 19th century, it was more expensive than gold. and part of what the dpc did was transform the aluminum ndustry into expensive, hard o get metal, into something so cheap we use it every day in all of our products. and we think about how to move from expensive dirty dangerous oil towards green energy, this is the model we should be considering. do we have the money for it though? it seems like that would cost a lot. if you convert all the money rom this exact moment, the reconstruction from the dpc, you add up everything it provided from the aerospace industry to aluminum industry to synthetic rubber, all these other things, it's $95 billion. that sounds like a lot of money
until you compare it with the $2.3 trillion that is sitting right there in the banks right now. this is an example of how you could to these changes, adapt to the models in the past and reate innovative ways of investing capital to the climate change challenge of today, to the challenge of the future of work today, where jobs and tasks are being replaced because it is easy to replace them with technologies we have. humans are best suited for jobs hat don't exist yet. roosevelt had a portfolio mindset. he knew that some things will fail and other things would succeed. instead of having a consistent ideology about where to put money when and hoping that one particular thing would work out, you have to unleash a variety of different approaches, and this is something we need to do as we move forward trying to handle climate change. lynn: now, we just want to fast forward to the present and look at climate change as it's
manifesting today. we won't go into a whole prognosis of what's going to happen. our scope and would take many ays. what we want to flag here is if you just take one prediction, the sea level rise, and you map that onto economic change and economic production, it turns out to raise alarm bells that cause you to think about exploring adaptation mitigation. these are the areas of the u.s. that are very vulnerable to sea level rise and to the extreme climactic events that accompany that, major storms, storm surges, flooding, sea water intruding, etc. and so forth. these are the areas of our country where the economy is most productive. you'll notice that there's a that they map perfectly on one correlation here, another.
this is the place where we're betting on our future. this is where venture capital is invested. this is where we see our future emerging. if you'll notice, there seems o be an overlap. unlike during the dust bowl, in some way, the catastrophic very ainful cataclysmic climate event that happened, the ecological disaster that happened in the the dust bowl with the climate event of the drought was a godsend. it moved labor from small-scale agriculture to the industries hat needed them. and so this act of god protected the federal government from having to do it basically by force or through other policy means. it was fortuitous. but if you look at where our uture lies or at least where we think it lies, any kind of climactic event that affects those areas is not likely to
have the same kind of salutatory effect. if we just look at two centers that we think of as places of innovation, financial innovation, technological innovation, we can see that centers with a one-meter rise are likely to be highly ffected. the thing to note here, this one-meter rise, the projection for when it is likely to occur oves closer and closer as each scientific study emerges. a year ago, we thought this would happen in a century. now, we are worried that it may happen within 30 to 40 years, the life of a mortgage. if you are in new york, you might think that does not look terrible, no more people from new jersey, they can't cross the bridge, maybe that's not so bad. [laughter] >> but if you are google, you should be asking yourself why
you're building your headquarters where in 30 years it will be flooded. if you're facebook, you should be asking yourself why you are investing in locating your offices here. we are likely to be fine. we are all fine. [laughter] louis: so what does this mean? what does this mean thinking about the new deal, thinking about the 1930's? these are analogies. these are not a play book. they are experiences, warnings, beginning of a conversation and encouragement to help us think about the future, to help us think about what has worked and what hasn't worked, but doesn't define the entire space of what we can do or what we definitely shouldn't do. we know we should avoid doing more of the same, that investment is easier than abolition of wheat farming, for instance, and we know that the poorest will be hit hardest, especially those in the u.s. nd abroad.
you at the same time know where it's been successful, the collaborative disagreement, multiplicity, inconsistent experiments, and the portfolio mind-set have enabled us to think through and succeed in solving some of the most crushing economic challenges of the day. the world is not the same as it was. there are new things in the 21st century. the biggest advantage we have, of course, is that, one, we know what's coming. we know this is going to happen. we know that climate change is ow inevitable. and two, we have the lessons of the past to help steer us through these shoals. between the two of us, we have a slight disagreement. we agree in our values and we agree on what's going to happen, but how to respond to this? and this is not something to be avoided. this is something to be acknowledged, encouraged and fostered, because it's only through this collaborative disagreement that we can really et through these crises.
i for instance think it's very important to creatively finance new technology, new work practices that will help us mitigate climate change. i think we can remake capitalism to be greener, to be more profitable, and more ethical. i think that we can move from oil to artificial photo synthesis. i think we can move from consolidated centralized work places to distributed work places. and i think this because i know that it has happened efore. i think that to be practical we confine our solution space within the rule set of capitalism. but at the same time, i think that rule set of capitalism can be widely altered. i think back to the 19th century, where we radically reconfigured capitalism towards more more moral and profitable ends. 'm thinking slavery. in the late 19th century about half our gdp was related to the production of, consumption of r the distribution of slaves
and slave related commodities, including the mortgaging of enslaved people. did we end slavery? we did. did it destroy capitalism? no. in fact, it did the opposite. we took something half of our economy and reoriented towards a new kind of capitalism that was more profitable, more innovative than anything that had happened before. this is how we should be reframing our thinking about the challenges to our economy. this isn't about cost. this is about opportunity. natasha: so in thinking about climate change, there's a lot of discussion about technological innovation and opportunity, and while i think this kind of adaptation is important and necessary, i don't think it's sufficient. google cars have become kind of an avatar for the future. they're very exciting. they're self-driving. but actually what will matter more for climate change is a fundamental rethinking of how we move through space.
google cars use the same highways, the same infrastructure, and the same concept about moving through space. what we may need to start thinking about are things like zoning, redesigning our transport systems, rethinking our relationship to space and how we move through it and, in fact, since i'm picking on google here a little bit, but google is actually thinking about that a lot through their alphabet outfit. they have a lab called sidewalk lab. the trouble with zoning is it's not sexy. why is zoning not sexy? e have certain ideas about where the fields of possible action are during the new deal. they were very heavily focused on finance and agriculture -- well, less so on agriculture as we've shown and another way of thinking about these are institutions and land use. so institutions are essentially how we interact with each other, how we deal with each other and land use is how we deal with the land, how we use the land for our productive
purposes. but as we conceptualize these, we always view the earth as nchanging. it is a constant. it is a background. it does not change unless we change it by plowing up the earth and hoping that the rain will follow or today's analogy by seeding the clouds to hope that the rain will fall on california. zoning though becomes very sexy if you imagine the earth constantly changing under your eet. if you imagine that we understand to be stable is no longer so, that these are new problems, new challenges, and we have to build new systems of flexibility. and thinking about planning in that way forces us to rethink how we might think about how we interact with each other through institutions, if we were worried about the earth changing in unpredictable unknowable ways and how we interact with the earth if it is also changing and evolving in unpredictable and often ery, very fast ways.
the trouble is -- and the big challenge for making fundamental change is that the people who worry about climate change don't talk to the people who worry about changing production systems and the uture of work. in both spheres, there's an understanding that we're at an inflection point, that things going forward are likely to look very different from the way they have looked in the past. but these discussions have remained separate and our intention at this talk was to bring them together. what we'd like to see -- which i think is extremely important -- is that climate scientists help inform discussion about how will it be affected by climate change. how well our transport routes be affected. how will our supply routes change? how will manufacturing
hange if you can't bring steel . how will you build the planes? and what we'd like to have is people who worry about changing production systems have conversations with climate scientists so they can roductively think about how to adapt and mitigate even as they produce. and bringing these areas together raises a whole series of new unasked questions and experiments, some of which may seem kind of fantastical, like how do we move silicon valley? it's not a trivial question. if silicon valley gets flooded, ow do we move the network, the capital, the knowledge economy that has been so imbedded and that we have been unable to replicate even though cities and countries around the world have tried to replicate it. how do we move it when it is flooded. that is 30 years down the road. and the whole series of questions and some of these questions are questions that we are asking here through the future of work and workers projects, and we are worried about how do we treat each other as the climate and the
economy change, what is the new moral economy for our changing world? ok. so louis and i highlighted our differences, and actually it ay be just a difference in focus or approach. if you're worried about adaptation, it seems that the solutions may be easier to come by. there is data that there are clear price signals, and there are institutional pathways and historic examples of reform that make it seem possible and doable, and lessons that we can draw on. if you're worried about mitigation, it's a whole different ball game because we don't understand the systems that are changing. our understanding of them is profoundly incomplete, changes by the day. and so we have to ask in a setting that is highly incohate, and yet, we have to act now, or our actions are likely to have no effect at all, and we have to ask in ways hat are profound, in ways that
would actually look like the evolution in the institutional structures that we rely on, the revolution and our relationship to land. here, i'm not using revolution in a bernie kind of way. what i'm saying is that we need to reconceptualize our notion that the earth and the resources that it generates are here for our productive uses nly. although these are different approaches, we think that they offer possibilities, and here i will just mention the possibilities. do you want to say anything about this? louis: no, i think the important thing is we have to act and act quickly and in multiple ways and realize that the future will not be stable. the future will be a rewriting of the world in a constantly changing way. and as we move forward, the future of work must help us address these issues. the conversations we have have have to be brought together if we're going to mitigate and
adapt, we're going to survive as a species and as a planet. we hope it's the starting point for beginning to think through what are the policies we can do to invent industries of the future, to invent a way of handling this ongoing and almost inevitable change. >> and to face the unknowable. thank you so much for coming in tonight. [applause] >> sorry. >> we went longer than we were supposed to. will we have time for q&a? host: we'll have about 15 minute for q&a. louis: all the questions and all the answers, we'll solve it all in 15 minutes. i think you're in the middle, right.
host: yes, i'm in the middle and i have the microphone for the front of the room, ok. so that was a fantastic talk, and it was very -- the work and workers group has been feeling these issues, but this brought together a whole new aspect to it, even though we've talked about climate change and environmental problems that could enhance both the kinds of economic complexities that we face, but also what the future of work and workers will be. we hadn't really laid out that agenda quite so clearly as the two of you did tonight and i'm very grateful for that because it really helps us and i think everybody in the room was part of our group and hopefully others of you will see this as a way in which we might begin to think as we go forward. are there some questions?
i'm sure there are comments you want to raise. christy, you send the first one. will you introduce yourself? audience: hi, thank you. i'm martha russell, media access at stanford university. i love the talk, bringing disciplines together in this way is so exciting. and i do have this question though. you talked about a lot of things that we know and it's important to, you know, put those stakes in the ground, but looking at the future that you paint, what would you say are the most important things that we need to know that we don't now know that would help us create this future that we want to live in? host: i was going to collect a couple of questions but that one is too hard to pass up. i think you have to take it right away. natasha: well, i think the challenge is that we don't really know what we need to know. this is like an impossible problem. it's a wicked problem.
we do know that things that we have considered stable are no longer such and that they are likely to present us with challenges that are unpredictable and unlike anything we've ever seen. so just to give you an example, basically much of our economy relies on shipping containers, moving products around the world, and one can imagine that storms, major climactic storm events, would make that difficult. so one piece of data we came across is that for a cup of coffee, that's 30,000 miles of transport. i think the answer to that question is what are our sensitivities? what are the places where we are most vulnerable as an economic system? we can't predict what the climate will do. we're trying very hard, but we're not there yet. where is our economic system most vulnerable, and who is most vulnerable? and where will we see the vulnerabilities emerge? who will be the canary in the coal mine?
what will be the canary in the coal mine? i think when we do our financial models we'll often like to run regressions and hold everything else constant. i like numbers too. numbers are very reassuring and numbers may or may not have anything to do with where we're going. wild discontinuities for the good and the bad. that's the essential truth about capitalism, that it's a discontinuity, with all of human history. it's only been around a few hundred years, has produced unimaginable amounts of wealth and unimaginable amounts of inequality. so what do we think about is how do we turn an engine into working for us rather than working us or and thinking about this in relation to climate change, you have to think about it simultaneously. you can't just hold everything else constant. host: there was a question. audience: my name is edward strickland. i'm a ceo of a business named gbiz incorporated and we're a member of the stanford center professional development.
in regards to the timing of the change, there's some systemic issues that are occurring today that didn't happen in the early 1900s, and that's the population growth. it is tenfold. and the demand on the industrialized capitalized model is that much greater now than it ever has been before, and the problems that we're facing today from that in regards to land grabs throughout the world, for the oceans, the food, the land sustainable to be used is even more great than it ever has been. how do we calculate the change? because if you say there's an inflection point that needs to make this change occur, it cannot be gradual. it has to be bifurcated and there has to be some radical revolution. otherwise, we won't change. can that be addressed? host: thank you. i did get them to not include demography as well and this already complicated -- natasha: we were supposed to have a half hour. as you can see, we were held to that. host: but that's a very
important point. louis: do you want to collect questions? host: yeah, why don't we collect a couple of questions. audience: i'm mark, chief technology of a tech company here, netapp. it strikes me that there is one difference here. maybe there isn't because i don't know the history. but we're in a situation where there's a lot of prediction of climate change and there are many people who don't believe the predictions. but photographs you showed from the 1930s, that's not a prediction. there's a wall of dirt coming across the country. and i don't know whether there was a precursor to that prediction of disaster that was ignored, bid in all our case there's a politically different challenge, and it is related to the earlier question, you almost
need to have an actual cataclysmic event, it appears, as we did in the 1930's to bring people to action. it's wonderful to think about this, i think, and this audience will get lots of people sympathetic, but to move the population, how do we bring that about rather than saying in five years, "we told you so." host: one more question, in the back? i'll come to you next, i promise. audience: thanks. my name is randy spock. i'm a student at the business school down the road and i can't speak on behalf of my fellow future cap less cronies, but i personally am very receptive to the arguments for adaptation and mitigation. my question is, how can we help? how can those of us who aren't scrutinizing these institutions from without but hope to be imbedded in them from within, how can we contribute to this ongoing process? host: so we've got three questions. one has to do with the importance of population shifts. the second has to do with how do we get the public to understand what's going on. and the third comes from the next generation, how can we help? louis: well, i'll try to pull a couple of things together here.
i think some people already know this is happening, especially people who live in coastal areas, especially in the developing world. climate change is already real. climate change is not as real to us, but in many parts of the world it already is and there's emerging economies where if you look to studies, we're counting on for the continued growth of capitalism, global capitalism in the 21st century. if you look to how we value all our stocks, it is through these are emerging markets. yet these emerging markets are the ones most vulnerable to new kinds of developments. one of the challenges is how do we think about this not just in the national context but a global context, where we come up against very real governance issues. and we'll have to think through how to deal with that. what can be done? i mean, if the answer is that these governance issues are such a barrier, how do we mitigate those governance issues in a libertarian way, or how do we move together and bring together different constituencies in a
more status way? i think that it would be lovely if capitalists of the future could figure out how to make money off of saving the world. that would be the ideal situation. but i suspect that people who have these ideas don't have the capital to get going, and that we through a series of policies have choked off access to innovators and small businesses that need that capital. it's hard if you're outside of very sexy short-term profits to get long term investments like we did in the 1930s to get these new kinds of industries going. natasha: so i think louis is actually right on the money with this. louis: we usually agree, by the way. we are drawing on artificial contrast. natasha: i think i would place the emphasis slightly differently, which is that the rigidity in terms of how we value successful investments, in many ways, we transplant those onto emerging economies. those rigidities are mirrored by policy rigidities. if we were going to think about what to do, one easy
prescription would be, do no harm. so, for example, in many of our trade agreements, we have stipulations that make it incredibly difficult for local and national governments to adjust and to respond quickly and effectively to climate change pressure. we may want to think about that as we draft trade agreements and maybe not include those stipulations, not only to allow countries to respond, but also because that knowledge of how to respond will provide us with guidance of how to move forward. the question about, did people know that the dust bowl was going to happen? some people did. and the trouble is that the people who did were not the people whose knowledge was valued. so there's a politics of knowledge even then, right.
so the native americans who were displaced from the great plains were famously expert in managing these huge bison herds and got, their livelihood from it, and warned even as they were chased off the land and as the last bison was killed, that this would destroy the earth. cattle ranchers who came in after them, gave the same warning, but they were not included in the speculative financial bubble that drove so many small farmers to the midwest. and finally, the question about population. pretty much everywhere you look in the world, we're on the other side of the population bubble. we're on the other side of the population hump. by that i mean our populations pretty much everywhere in the world are going to start declining. the challenge, the bigger challenge -- and we know how to manage that. the bigger challenge is that we don't know how to manage the movement of population. so in theory, for example, it's just a warm-up.
the syrian conflict was the product initially of a drought that caused people to move cities, that lit the match on a political conflict and now we have these large refugee movements, but they're actually much like in the dust bowl, subjectively not that large. we just don't have the political and policy capacity to deal with them. so the question is, how do we develop that capacity? because this will be a structural issue, and we will need to think about how to organize our production systems to accommodate the structural flow of people who have left in a rapid, not gradual, not planned way. host: i just want to add one thing to where the canary and the mine is and reinforce the point that often indigenous people have been moved to the absolute margins of viable land and water resources and are a very good way to know what's happening. they know when everything is
disappearing. louis: i also want to say there's never excess people. there's insufficient opportunities. people are amazing, and people are more creative than they are given credit for and we need to figure out ways to harness that and not people into roles where they can't be creative and be human. and part of the task of addressing these issues is really capturing the global creativity of the human race. host: i promised bob kaplan, who's not my husband, the next question though. was that you? no. introduce yourself. audience: i'm mike conrad. the last 10 years, chief economist for a small boutique. i think you've underestimated this analysis. although i love the integration of two very different fields so well and including some divisive
discussion about technology, solutions or revolutionary solutions. i think we're headed towards revolution, personally because i don't see it will evolve. the problems i see, particularly the financial ones and the political ones, which are closely intertwined with our bought and paid for government which means we'll likely have political revolution which will precede the biological and economical revolution which i consider happening fairly soon. my question is, how do you see that fourth third, i'm not sure, additional introductions because i consider both politics and economics very vulnerable in our country to revolution in the future, and i i certainly wouldn't use the name "mitigation" for that. i'd say revolution is its own name and maybe a third form for your stool. host: thank you, bud.
louis: as a guy who spends his days reading, i prefer it not to be a revolution. yeah, i think one of the reasons that the new deal policies were so expensive though, that there was this genuine fear of the organization of people in revolt. the russian revolution was what, a decade and-a-half earlier. it was still very real. i think maybe when this crisis comes together, we'll finally be able to push the political economy in a new way like we have in the past to be more equitable to produce -- natasha: this is where we disagree, right. because if we don't act now, we are done for. so any kind of natural resource that we're thinking about managing, any kind of hope for really survival on this earth, unless we actively engage with the processes of thinking about developing a new productive relationship to the earth at a time when the earth will no longer be constant. if you just take water, for example. we think about our water resources as being pretty stable, but they're not.
and they are stressing our productive systems and our political systems in ways that are extreme. so california has had a mild expression of this. but other parts of the world have had much more extreme expressions of this and have seen significant political unrest as a result. and yet we don't tend to worry about it as being immediate. but when the crisis is here, the game is over. and as one colleague said in a talk he gave here, extinction is permanent. [laughter] host: we have time for just one or two more questions. so we'll take yours and glen's. audience: as a historian, i know you think in long cycles, but the rest of us aren't good at that. we think about what's for lunch tomorrow and concerned about next week. in fact, we know we apply huge discounts to the future, and it may be even worse for our policy makers, members of the house, we who are very concerned about
what's happening now and not concerned about what's happening two years from now. how do you take that into consideration? host: introduce yourself. audience: i'm glen. i teach at brown university. my question is we have an historian on capitalism and a student on migration. could you comment on where we see people moving on the planet and moving toward, not away from capitalism? audience: hi, i'm the ceo of a software infrastructure company and distributing company, so i was very interested in how our future will go. that's why i'm here. the three things you talked about that freed a lot of unused capital. one, you talked about slavery. the second you talked about was world war ii and aerospace. i went to a talk about the space
program being fueled by the cold war. so what i was wondering about is has there been an example where there's been tremendous capital infusions of that size that did not involve war, and then second, does that predict anything for you about how capital will move in the future of that scale? louis: thank you. i'll answer in reverse order. so one of the base we had -- i think it's an excellent question. i advocated that we frame this as war, war against the planet, that the planet wants to kill us, and we should frame it as war because people seem it like war, for whatever reason. rather than we are defending the
earth, we are attacking the earth. i think this is a way in which we need to think about how we frame this problem so that the enemy is upon us, right. i was thinking about how america got whipped into this war time frenzy in world war 1 against the huns. germany had no interest in attacking -- this was germans before they were nazis. they were just germans. it was a fear of imperial powers. this is one of the questions we should think about. how do we frame this question to get people as excited about saving the earth and ourselves as we are about killing other people and i think this is an important question. '
this is an important question. were there places where it wasn't wartime in history. you think of factories in the 19th century, the textile factories were at war with africans in some places. you think about railroads, that was about the wars against indians. these are things that are partially about war but partially about other issues. i think it would be nice if we could invest in things that were not about war so we could have nasa without having to think about how to fight the russians at the same time. there's a larger conversation we should have about how to get people motivated without trying to kill people. capitalism is where the job is. how do we create capitalism that can absorb obese people and remember it's only a little over a century old. how do we absorb all the migrations of people around the world and make capitalism more inclusive. unless alarmist perhaps than my colleagues -- i am less alarmist than my colleagues. we've seen all kinds of inequities before and they been
rebalanced. 1877 in the railroad and how there were widespread strikes against the inequities of capitalism that led to parts of ends when you being reconquered by gatling guns on the back of railroad cars. is that a possibility? i hope not. why the questions is, is this time different? is this second machine age going to not be able to absorb all these people? is this a climatic shift, is it more like an ice age than just a slight change, and how do we adapt to this question? >> this is a different scale than we're likely to see. we can look at the mayans or mesopotamia or the collapse of other civilizations that have not managed there resources well. the poor suffered most and were
hit first and hit hardest. i really do think this may be a paradigm shift in terms of understanding and all those historical moments that we take the earth as a constant, it's the ground beneath our feet literally shifting. i think it's great as someone who worries about economies, with the exception of one or two economists, basically there is a consensus that migration is helpful for economic growth. the trouble is not the people. he for a mention that, i would just say that they are a barometer just like we are arguing the poor or the rollerball, maybe. the fact that more mexicans are leaving then are arriving to
tell us something about the future that middle class and lower middle class workers hold. the prospects are not good in there's no point in coming or going. the trouble is the strain they put on the institutions that we have. our institutions are not designed to deal with massive influx of people. in the past they have been more flexible and they have grown in the u.s. and around the world, increasingly more rigid. i don't think it's accidental that we are also engaged in a system of labor arbitrage through our global supply chain,
in ways that are much more evasive and systemic than they may have been before. the point about war, lewis's campaign makes me deeply nervous and unsettled. but that experiment makes me deeply uneasy. it requires us to draw on the same paradigms that have created the damage to solve the problem. that paradigm is us against the earth. what i'm suggesting is we need a paradigm shift and the production of institution and practices that embodied that shift. how do we think about structuring our government, our international agreements, international trade and finance in ways that embody and ease of -- an ethos around working with this changing and stressed earth . and what does it mean for the future of work? >> i agree that would be lovely,
but i guess i'm just a little more pessimistic about the possibility for that kind of institutional change. what i'm trying to ink through is what the most powerful levers we have to create this new change. i think we both agree it would be lovely to do something else. if you have ideas about it do this, i'm just deeply afraid we won't be able to do that. more and capitalism seems like something people like. >> in california, there are lots of debates about water rationing , there's no way we can ration water. and then there is a massive drought and then water is rationed because you cannot invent water. these kind of constraints, we may not want to deal with them
>> coming up this weekend, as the national park service repairs -- prepares to celebrate its anniversary we take a look at the national and state parks. tonight on real america. the interior department film land of the giants documents the efforts of the conservation corps in the daily life in the work camps. >> the conservation makes everything from park signs to timber. >> and a panel of scholars examines hamilton. >> and road to the white house,
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