FARMING’S GROWING PROBLEM

Fertilizers are contaminating and warming the planet. Regulators haven’t acted on decades-old warnings.

Image result for publicintegrity: Fertilizers are contaminating and warming the planet. Regulators haven’t acted on decades-old warnings.

ROCKWELL CITY, Iowa — Everywhere Randy Souder looked, he saw mud. On his soggy fields. In the mechanized crannies of his planter. Along the rural road to his house, where he’d left a trail of clumps. It was late June, and record-breaking rain had pushed the state’s corn-planting rate to its lowest level in nearly four decades. Souder hoped the summer sun would dry the soil quickly.

Once it did, Souder could finally start the critical next step: Bring in a rig with tires tall enough to clear shoulder-high corn stalks and cast a 100-foot swath of fertilizer over his crop. That blast of nitrogen — the farming equivalent of pixie dust — would make the ears grow large and dense with kernels if applied at the right time.

“When I started 40 years ago, my fertilizer pounds per acre [were] less than half of what they are now,” Souder said. “I started out with a 110-bushel yield, and I’m thinking, ‘It’ll never get any better than this.’ Now we’re pushing 300-bushel on the corn.”

But this agricultural alchemy comes with a toll. In America’s Corn Belt and around the world, some of the fertilizer applied to fields escapes the soil in new forms that contaminate and warm the planet.

Some of these compounds enter the atmosphere as a potent greenhouse gas that’s now at its highest concentration in the last 800,000 years, helping fuel climate problems like the flooding that upended farmers’ lives last spring.

Other fertilizer byproducts contaminate water wells, especially in agricultural areas, where the U.S. Geological Survey says one in five has levels exceeding federal health limits. These contaminants also wash into streams, rivers and lakes, where they become what the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency calls “one of America’s most widespread, costly and challenging environmental problems.”

This pollution stream feeds the kind of algae bloom that was so toxic in Lake Erie in 2014 that officials in Toledo, Ohio, warned roughly 500,000 customers not to drink or come in contact with the city’s tap water for three days. The nutrients flow more than a thousand miles from agricultural states to the Gulf of Mexico, where they nourish an aquatic dead zone that in summer 2017 grew as large as New Jersey.

 

Deep cuts to nitrogen runoff and emissions are critical, researchers say, both to curb mounting hazards from water pollution and to stave off the most cataclysmic consequences of rising global temperatures.

And while it’s a smaller environmental danger than carbon, scientists say fertilizer is an underrated and growing threat — one that’s more complicated to solve. MORE

 

‘Bill Gates is continuing the work of Monsanto’, Vandana Shiva tells FRANCE 24

“Our guest is Vandana Shiva, a world-famous environmental activist from India. Her latest book is entitled “One Earth, One Humanity vs. the 1%”.

She tell us about more her opposition to big multinationals such as Monsanto for their nefarious influence on agriculture. But Shiva also singles out billionaires like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg for criticism.

“When Bill Gates pours money into Africa for feeding the poor in Africa and preventing famine, he’s pushing the failed Green Revolution, he’s pushing chemicals, pushing GMOs, pushing patterns”, she tells FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman SOURCE

George Monbiot: Lab-grown food will soon destroy farming – and save the planet

Scientists are replacing crops and livestock with food made from microbes and water. It may save humanity’s bacon

Illustration: Matt Kenyon

It sounds like a miracle, but no great technological leaps were required. In a commercial lab on the outskirts of Helsinki, I watched scientists turn water into food. Through a porthole in a metal tank, I could see a yellow froth churning. It’s a primordial soup of bacteria, taken from the soil and multiplied in the laboratory, using hydrogen extracted from water as its energy source. When the froth was siphoned through a tangle of pipes and squirted on to heated rollers, it turned into a rich yellow flour.

This flour is not yet licensed for sale. But the scientists, working for a company called Solar Foods, were allowed to give me some while filming our documentary Apocalypse Cow. I asked them to make me a pancake: I would be the first person on Earth, beyond the lab staff, to eat such a thing. They set up a frying pan in the lab, mixed the flour with oat milk, and I took my small step for man. It tasted … just like a pancake.

But pancakes are not the intended product. Such flours are likely soon to become the feedstock for almost everything. In their raw state, they can replace the fillers now used in thousands of food products. When the bacteria are modified they will create the specific proteins needed for lab-grown meat, milk and eggs. Other tweaks will produce lauric acid – goodbye palm oil – and long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – hello lab-grown fish. The carbohydrates that remain when proteins and fats have been extracted could replace everything from pasta flour to potato crisps. The first commercial factory built by Solar Foods should be running next year.

The hydrogen pathway used by Solar Foods is about 10 times as efficient as photosynthesis. But because only part of a plant can be eaten, while the bacterial flour is mangetout, you can multiply that efficiency several times. And because it will be brewed in giant vats the land efficiency, the company estimates, is roughly 20,000 times greater. Everyone on Earth could be handsomely fed, and using a tiny fraction of its surface. If, as the company intends, the water used in the process (which is much less than required by farming) is electrolysed with solar power, the best places to build these plants will be deserts.

We are on the cusp of the biggest economic transformation, of any kind, for 200 years. While arguments rage about plant- versus meat-based diets, new technologies will soon make them irrelevant. Before long, most of our food will come neither from animals nor plants, but from unicellular life. After 12,000 years of feeding humankind, all farming except fruit and veg production is likely to be replaced by ferming: brewing microbes through precision fermentation. This means multiplying particular micro-organisms, to produce particular products, in factories.I know some people will be horrified by this prospect. I can see some drawbacks. But I believe it comes in the nick of time.

Several impending disasters are converging on our food supply, any of which could be catastrophic. Climate breakdown threatens to cause what scientists call “multiple breadbasket failures”, through synchronous heatwaves and other impacts. The UN forecasts that by 2050 feeding the world will require a 20% expansion in agriculture’s global water use. But water use is already maxed out in many places: aquifers are vanishing, rivers are failing to reach the sea. The glaciers that supply half the population of Asia are rapidly retreating. Inevitable global heating – due to greenhouse gases already released – is likely to reduce dry season rainfall in critical areas, turning fertile plains into dustbowls.

global soil crisis threatens the very basis of our subsistence, as great tracts of arable land lose their fertility through erosion, compaction and contamination. Phosphate supplies, crucial for agriculture, are dwindling fast. Insectageddon threatens catastrophic pollination failures. It is hard to see how farming can feed us all even until 2050, let alone to the end of the century and beyond.

Food production is ripping the living world apart. Fishing and farming are, by a long way, the greatest cause of extinction and loss of the diversity and abundance of wildlife. Farming is a major cause of climate breakdown, the biggest cause of river pollution and a hefty source of air pollution. Across vast tracts of the world’s surface, it has replaced complex wild ecosystems with simplified human food chains. Industrial fishing is driving cascading ecological collapse in seas around the world. Eating is now a moral minefield, as almost everything we put in our mouths – from beef to avocados, cheese to chocolate, almonds to tortilla chips, salmon to peanut butter – has an insupportable environmental cost.

But just as hope appeared to be evaporating, the new technologies I call farmfree food create astonishing possibilities to save both people and planet. Farmfree food will allow us to hand back vast areas of land and sea to nature, permitting rewilding and carbon drawdown on a massive scale. It means an end to the exploitation of animals, an end to most deforestation, a massive reduction in the use of pesticides and fertiliser, the end of trawlers and longliners. It’s our best hope of stopping what some have called the “sixth great extinction”, but I prefer to call the great extermination. And, if it’s done right, it means cheap and abundant food for everyone.

Research by the thinktank RethinkX suggests that proteins from precision fermentation will be around 10 times cheaper than animal protein by 2035. The result, it says, will be the near-complete collapse of the livestock industry. The new food economy will “replace an extravagantly inefficient system that requires enormous quantities of inputs and produces huge amounts of waste with one that is precise, targeted, and tractable”. Using tiny areas of land, with a massively reduced requirement for water and nutrients, it “presents the greatest opportunity for environmental restoration in human history”.

Not only will food be cheaper, it will also be healthier. Because farmfree foods will be built up from simple ingredients, rather than broken down from complex ones, allergens, hard fats and other unhealthy components can be screened out. Meat will still be meat, though it will be grown in factories on collagen scaffolds, rather than in the bodies of animals. Starch will still be starch, fats will still be fats. But food is likely to be better, cheaper and much less damaging to the living planet.

It might seem odd for someone who has spent his life calling for political change to enthuse about a technological shift. But nowhere on Earth can I see sensible farm policies developing. Governments provide an astonishing £560bn a year in farm subsidies, and almost all of them are perverse and destructive, driving deforestation, pollution and the killing of wildlife. Research by the Food and Land Use Coalition found that only 1% of the money is used to protect the living world. It failed to find “any examples of governments using their fiscal instruments to directly support the expansion of supply of healthier and more nutritious food.”

Nor is the mainstream debate about farming taking us anywhere, except towards further catastrophe. There’s a widespread belief that the problem is intensive farming, and the answer is extensification (producing less food per hectare). It’s true that intensive farming is highly damaging, but extensive farming is even worse. Many people are rightly concerned about urban sprawl. But agricultural sprawl – which covers a much wider area – is a far greater threat to the natural world. Every hectare of land used by farming is a hectare not used for wildlife and complex living systems.

paper in Nature suggests that, per kilo of food produced, extensive farming causes greater greenhouse gas emissions, soil loss, water use and nitrogen and phosphate pollution than intensive farming. If everyone ate pasture-fed meat, we would need several new planets on which to produce it.

Farmfree production promises a far more stable and reliable food supply that can be grown anywhere, even in countries without farmland. It could be crucial to ending world hunger. But there is a hitch: a clash between consumer and producer interests. Many millions of people, working in farming and food processing, will eventually lose their jobs. Because the new processes are so efficient, the employment they create won’t match the employment they destroy.

RethinkX envisages an extremely rapid “death spiral” in the livestock industry. Only a few components, such as the milk proteins casein and whey, need to be produced through fermentation for profit margins across an entire sector to collapse. Dairy farming in the United States, it claims, will be “all but bankrupt by 2030”. It believes that the American beef industry’s revenues will fall by 90% by 2035.

While I doubt the collapse will be quite that fast, in one respect the thinktank underestimates the scale of the transformation. It fails to mention the extraordinary shift taking place in feedstock production to produce alternatives to plant products, of the kind pioneered in Helsinki. This is likely to hit arable farming as hard as cultured milk and meat production will hit livestock farming. Solar Foods thinks its products could reach cost parity with the world’s cheapest form of protein (soya from South America) within five years. Instead of pumping ever more subsidies into a dying industry, governments should be investing in helping farmers into other forms of employment, while providing relief funds for those who will suddenly lose their livelihoods.

Another hazard is the potential concentration of the farmfree food industry. We should strongly oppose the patenting of key technologies, to ensure the widest possible distribution of ownership. If governments regulate this properly, they could break the hegemony of the massive companies that now control global food commodities. If they don’t, they could reinforce it. In this sector, as in all others, we need strong anti-trust laws. We must also ensure that the new foods always have lower carbon footprints than the old ones: farmfree producers should power their operations entirely from low-carbon sources. This is a time of momentous choices, and we should make them together.

We can’t afford to wait passively for technology to save us. Over the next few years we could lose almost everything, as magnificent habitats such as the rainforests of Madagascar, West Papua and Brazil are felled to produce cattle, soya or palm oil. By temporarily shifting towards a plant-based diet with the lowest possible impacts (no avocados or out-of-season asparagus), we can help buy the necessary time to save magnificent species and places while these new technologies mature. But farmfree food offers hope where hope was missing. We will soon be able to feed the world without devouring it.

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Global warming could be boon for prairie crops

Canada is one of the few regions of the world where crop yields will benefit from global warming, according to a recently published Agriculture Canada research paper.

The benefits will be particularly pronounced for prairie crops like canola and wheat versus Ontario corn.

Yields were simulated by three crop modelling systems using 20 global climate models under different warming scenarios. It is the first study of its kind for Canada.

The four warming scenarios were increases of 1.5 C, 2.0 C, 2.5 C and 3.0 C over the baseline climate of 2006-2015.

“The findings indicate that climate at the global warming levels up to 3 C above the (baseline) could be beneficial for crop production of small grains in Canada,” stated the study published in the July 1, 2019, edition of Environmental Research Letters.

That is counter to what is expected to happen throughout much of the rest of the world, especially tropical climates.

Climate change has already caused an estimated 40 million-tonne reduction in world corn, wheat and barley production between 1981 and 2008. That represents a two-to-three percent hit to global production of those three crops.

Global warming is projected to be far more intense in Canada than the rest of the world. Canada’s mean air surface temperature has warmed by 1.8 C between 1950 and 2016, which is about double the global mean temperature increase.

Canada’s warming rate is projected to continue at a faster pace than the global rate due to polar amplification. That is important since heat stress can reduce crop yields.

However, there is another factor at work that is expected to more than offset the yield losses associated with heat stress in the years to come.

“Due to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, C3 crops like canola and wheat can have more effective carbon dioxide responses to carbon assimilation than C4 crops such as corn,” study lead author Budong Qian said in an email.

Research has shown the doubling of carbon dioxide concentration increases yields in C3 crops by about 30 percent, while there was effectively no response in C4 crops.

Agriculture Canada’s findings are consistent with previous studies that have shown the largest yield gains will occur in water-stressed regions such as the Canadian Prairies due to improved water-use efficiency with elevated carbon dioxide levels.

Global warming is also expected to boost growing season precipitation levels by about five percent on the Prairies at warming levels of 2 C and 2.5 C, while a slight decrease in precipitation is forecast for Eastern Canada.

“Since the Prairie region is relatively cooler than Eastern Canada and water stress is the major factor limiting the canola and wheat yields, a bigger yield percent change was projected (for the Prairies),” said Qian.

The Agriculture Canada study shows an increase in canola and wheat yields for all four global warming scenarios under all three models.

The highest canola yield increase is 13.4 percent under the 3 C warming level. The biggest wheat yield bump is 22.8 percent under the same warming scenario.

Corn yields vary widely from yield reductions under every warming level for one model to a 19 percent increase under the 3 C scenario for another model.

The projections are based on current crop cultivars. The introduction of extended growing season corn varieties could vastly improve the outlook for corn yields.

Qian said weed and pest pressure might increase with global warming but that wasn’t factored into the crop models. It also didn’t take into account yield damage caused by increased drought, hail and flood events. SOURCE

An Opportunity for Farmers In a Green New Deal

A Green New Deal could incentivize farming practices that help remove carbon pollution from the atmosphere.

A farm. Source: Pexels

This month, a group of Democratic lawmakers called for an ambitious plan for the United States to reach net-zero carbon pollution. While experts debate whether the proposal is technologically or politically feasible, the so-called Green New Deal is about more than shifting to cleaner, more advanced forms of energy sources. It’s also about shifting to more traditional forms of agriculture.

While farming generally takes a back seat to energy in discussions of climate, it accounts for up to a third of carbon pollution, by one account. Tractors and trucks that harvest and transport our food burn gasoline and diesel, generating pollution. Synthetic fertilizers derived from fossil fuels spur the release of heat-trapping gas from the soil, and cows and sheep emit large volumes of planet-warming pollution. Then there is the matter of agricultural giants burning forests to clear land for farming and grazing, thereby releasing carbon stored in trees into the atmosphere and reducing the capacity of the land to store CO2.

And yet, while agriculture is a big part of the problem, it can also be part of the solution. Smart growing practices can help soak up pollution and store it in the ground — what’s known as carbon farming.

Plants scrub carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and store it in their leaves and branches. When those plants shed their leaves and die, that carbon enriches the soil, where it’s gobbled up by insects, fungi and microbes, and then exhaled back into the atmosphere. If more carbon goes into the soil than comes out, the process helps to eliminate atmospheric carbon dioxide, cooling the planet. Carbon farming also helps guard against climate change, as soil that is rich with microbes and fungi holds more water, which protects it from drought and mitigates the impact of floods.

The carbon cycle. Source: The Better Tomorrow Fund 

There are steps farmers can take to make sure the soil retains as much carbon as possible, namely disturb the soil as little as possible. Till the earth only where necessary. Keep the soil covered in a diverse array of deep-rooted crops. Rotate between cash crops, like wheat, and cover crops, like ryegrass, which nurture the soil and can be fed to livestock. Avoid the use of pesticides, herbicides and chemical fertilizers. Protect areas that are rich in plant-life — and therefore carbon — such as forests, wetlands and peat bogs.

“What we’re learning is that the soil is a living organism. It’s full of life,” said Betsy Taylor, the president of Breakthrough Strategies, a consulting firm focused on carbon farming. Farmers can keep soil healthy by nurturing the growth of fungi and microbes. Healthy soil will store more carbon, which is good for the climate and good for crops. Unfortunately, the widespread use of chemical fertilizers is killing the soil.

Cotton planted among pecan trees in Milton, Florida. 2003. One way to improve soil health is to lay down crops among deep-rooted trees. Source: USDA 

“It’s possible to grow crops and plants of all kinds in soil that is biologically dead, in soil that — through the use of chemical fertilizers, through the use of herbicides and pesticides and fungicides, and through compaction and erosion and other loss of living topsoil — has become just a mineral medium,” said Connor Stedman, an agricultural consultant at AppleSeed Permaculture. “That’s what a lot of industrial agriculture practices are based on. They treat farms and crop growing almost like a factory.”

Taylor compared the use of reliance on chemical fertilizers to a bad diet. “I can eat my doughnuts and chocolate and beer and take a vitamin and pretend like I’m going to be okay, but under the surface, things are really getting damaged,” she said. “If we eat a healthy diet and try to eat an organic diet — that’s the latest science — then we’re more likely to be healthy. And it’s the same with the soil.”

Source: Nexus Media 

Adopting sustainable farming practices will improve soil health. However, Stedman said, “There are costs and risks to transitioning to new practices. So that’s where the private sector, the NGO sector and the public sector all have a really big role to play in helping farmers to diversify and intensify and perenniallize their production.”

Taylor said philanthropists can help by bankrolling programs that educate growers about carbon farming. Policymakers can help by funding conservation efforts and by ending subsidies that incentivize monoculture, meaning the planting of one of just a few crops, like corn and soybeans, robbing the soil of essential nutrients.

“There is a real desire among, I think, all farmers to have healthy soils but they have been in a system that has actually subsidized them to do the opposite,” she said. “You have got to shift the way you farm to build healthy soil, and I would say, right now, that’s becoming a growing consensus across the political spectrum, which is exciting,” she said.

A field of corn. Monoculture deprives the soil of essential nutrients. Source: Pexels 

The resolution on a Green New Deal calls for the federal government to work with farmers to cut pollution and invest in sustainable farming, which could “really bring jobs into communities that are losing people to opioids and to collapsing farms,” Taylor said. She suggested that, as part of a Green New Deal, the federal government might also resurrect the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was created as part of the original New Deal. During the Depression, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees and worked to slow soil erosion. A modern-day incarnation could do the same, in addition to promoting carbon farming.

“I think we would be making a huge mistake if we thought of the Green New Deal strictly in terms of the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy,” Taylor said. “That’s essential, but it’s no longer enough.” A recent UN report on climate change finds that to prevent catastrophic warming, countries will need to remove huge sums of carbon pollution from the atmosphere, and currently, planting forests and farming carbon are the cheapest ways to do that.

This graph shows carbon pollution cuts necessary keep warming under 1.5 degrees C, the most ambitious target of the Paris Climate Agreement. Countries must cut emissions in half by 2030 and reach zero net emissions by 2050, at which point much of the remaining carbon dioxide must be removed from the atmosphere through techniques like carbon farming. Source: IPCC

“The only way to get [carbon dioxide] out of the atmosphere in great quantities and into the soil is by changing our farming and ranching practices. And a large part of that is we have to grow more things,” said Gabe Brown, 58, who deploys carbon farming techniques at his farm in Bismark, North Dakota. “We have to get away from monoculture production.”

Brown believes the government should curtail incentives for industrial farming and educate growers about carbon farming. “The more carbon a farmer or rancher can take out of the atmosphere and put in his or her soil, the greater the potential for profitability of their operation,” he said. “I am way more profitable than the average conventional producer… And I’m doing it without any government subsidies of any kind.”

John Norman, a retired University of Wisconsin soil scientist, studied Brown’s farm, which he said is storing around 80 tons of carbon per acre. He noted that a typical farm stores around 10 to 20 tons of carbon per acre. “We scientists must humbly go to the farming community and seek their guidance for what we can do to help them grow deep, healthy topsoil,” he said. “We need to stop catering to the big-agriculture-big-government money machine and put our hearts into healing our environment, like many — if not most — farmers truly want to do, but can’t because they are indentured to a brutal economic system.”

For Brown, the embrace of sustainable farming represents a return to more traditional practices. “I don’t care what you call it. It’s just farming and ranching in nature’s image. We have to get back to the basics,” Brown said. “We just follow the template nature provided, because it was a wonderful template. It’s only when man tries to impose his or her will on nature that we run into these issues.”  SOURCE

The next generation of the internet is almost here—and it could even transform our farms

The 5G farm of the future will have real-time soil monitoring, connected tractors, remote veterinarian care, and more.

[Photo: Mauricio Alejo]

While the buzz around 5G is often focused on smartphones (and the technology’s promise of lag-free gaming and streaming), the cellular technology stands to hypercharge industries far beyond entertainment. With its high bandwidth, low latency (i.e., the ability to transfer lots of data with minimal delay), and high reliability, 5G is faster and more dependable than 4G, and so robust that it can replace wired connections—bringing everything from factory robots to fleets of autonomous vehicles online.

Also poised for big change is agriculture. Sensors and artificial intelligence could take some of the guesswork out of nature’s cycles, allowing farmers to remotely monitor weather patterns, livestock wellness, and soil nutrients, while autonomous driving and cloud computing could make equipment more efficient.

“Our ability to have machines sending data in both directions is really important,” says Lane Arthur, John Deere’s director of digital solutions. Add to it the fact that the U.S. farming industry has lost roughly 7 million workers since the 1950s, and you have a new frontier for Silicon Valley’s problem solvers: the farm of the future.

5G BY THE NUMBERS

5x: How much faster 5G’s initial peak speeds will be, compared to 4G (aka LTE)

2035: The year 5G’s “full economic effect” will be realized globally, according to Qualcomm

33: The number of U.S. cities that currently have 5G connectivity*

Sources:What You Need to Know About 5G,” Consumer Reports (5G speed); Qualcomm 5G Economy Study (2035); “Here Are the Cities Where You Can Access 5G From Major U.S. Carriers Right Now,” Digital Trends, *as of 10/18/2019 (5G cities)

SOURCE

Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse.

Instead of never-ending progress, today’s kids face a world on the edge of collapse. What next?

Image result for MIT technology review: Keynes was wrong. Gen Z will have it worse.NICOLÁS ORTEGA

The founder of macroeconomics predicted that capitalism would last for approximately 450 years. That’s the length of time between 1580, when Queen Elizabeth invested Spanish gold stolen by Francis Drake, and 2030, the year by which John Maynard Keynes assumed humanity would have solved the problem of our needs and moved on to higher concerns.

It’s true that today the system seems on the edge of transformation, but not in the way Keynes hoped. Gen Z’s fate was supposed to be to relax into a life of leisure and creativity. Instead it is bracing for stagnant wages and ecological crisis.

In a famous essay from the early 1930s called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” Keynes imagined the world 100 years in the future. He spotted phenomena like job automation (which he called “technological unemployment”) coming, but those changes, he believed, augured progress: progress toward a better society, progress toward collective liberation from work. He was worried that the transition to this world without toil might be psychologically difficult, and so he suggested that three-hour workdays could serve as a transitional program, allowing us to put off the profound question of what to do when there’s nothing left to do.

Well, we know the grandchildren in the title of Keynes’s essay: they’re the kids and younger adults of today. The prime-age workforce of 2030 was born between 1976 and 2005. And though the precise predictions he made about the rate of economic growth and accumulation were strikingly accurate, what they mean for this generation is very different from what he imagined.

Instead of progress toward a labor-free utopia, America has experienced disappearing jobs as a kind of economic climate change. Apocalyptic forecasts loom while poor and working-class communities take the brunt of the early impacts: wage stagnation, deregulated and unsafe workplaces, an epidemic of opioid addiction. The increasingly profligate wealth on the other end of society is no less disturbing.

What the hell happened? To figure out why Generation Z isn’t going to be Generation EZ, we have to ask some fundamental questions about economics, technology, and progress. After we assumed for a century that a better world would appear on top of our accumulated stuff, the assumptions appear unfounded. Things are getting worse.

As recently as the first web boom two decades ago, it was still possible to talk about technological development and economic expansion as being good for everybody. Take Webvan, the early (and subsequently much derided) grocery delivery startup. The company planned to combine the efficiencies of the internet and other advances in information and logistics to provide better-quality products at lower prices, delivered directly to consumers by higher-paid and better-trained workers. It’s a univocal, Keynesian vision of development: not only do all involved benefit individually as consumers, employees, or capitalists, but society itself steps together up the mountain toward the elimination of necessity and a higher plane of being.

When Webvan went belly-up, analysts assumed it meant the core idea was hopelessly wrong: it just doesn’t make sense to use human capacity to bring individual people their supermarket orders. Harvard Business School professor John Deighton, when asked about the future of the industry in 2001, said, “Home-delivered groceries? Never.” Yet less than 20 years later I can have one of the world’s few trillion-dollar companies (Amazon) deliver my order via its grocery brand (Whole Foods) in an hour. And if that’s not fast enough, there are various platform services (Instacart, Postmates, and others) through which I can hire someone to go pick my order up and bring it to me immediately. Buzzing clouds of freelance servants, always in motion.

For consumers, these services have made life more convenient. For owners, stock prices and corporate profits have been cruising higher and higher for decades. But as workers, we have suffered. Gone is the Webvan vision of highly trained, highly paid, upwardly mobile, stock-holding delivery drivers. Amazon’s treatment of its workers at all levels is so intensely exploitative that former employees have created their own form of writing: the “report-back,” an essay that exposes the particular, common hardships of working at the firm. It’s one part worker’s inquiry, one part trauma diary.

Rather than relieving workers from toil, improvements in technology grind out their efficiencies by molding laborers into unreasonable shapes. Across departments, Amazon workers report being forced by the circumstances of their jobs to urinate in bottles and trash cans. Using layers of subcontracting agreements, the largest firms insulate themselves from responsibility to and for their lowest-wage workers. Recent investigations into Amazon’s last-mile shipping reveal exhausted drivers whose required carelessness has, predictably, been known to kill people. The company remains, as far as the business community is concerned, exemplary.

Everywhere, the idea of liberation from work seems like a dream. Workers making parts for iPhones have been exposed to toxic chemicals; Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn is regularly under the microscope for poor labor conditions. Instacart delivery workers went on strike to complain about changes that led to fewer tips; two days later the company cut their bonuses (Instacart says the two events are unrelated). Gig workers on the audio platform Rev.com recently discovered an overnight pay cut that meant Rev now takes 70 cents of every dollar a customer spends on getting audio transcribed, and they get a mere 30.

Young Americans are reaching prime working age in the Amazon economy, not the Webvan one. According to the Economic Policy Institute, while worker productivity increased 69.6% between 1979 and 2019, hourly pay has risen a measly 11.6%. “The income, wages, and wealth generated over the last four decades have failed to ‘trickle down’ to the vast majority largely because policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and power have exacerbated inequality,” the EPI says. The difference between productivity and pay is an increase in exploitation: workers doing more and getting less. That was not the plan.

Keynes and his policy vision fell out of fashion when the laissez-faire fundamentalism championed by Milton Friedman carried Reagan and Thatcher into global power. The old view of the future yielded to an era of deregulation and privatization. This was the “End of History,” with the free market as the proper—perhaps even inevitable—vehicle for human nature.

Here all pursue their individual interests, and together that adds up to the best of all possible worlds—at least as long as the government stays out of the way. We were taught as fact, for example, that rent–control policies counterintuitively increase rents, that minimum-wage laws counterintuitively hurt wages, that wealth from tax cuts trickles down to workers. (Attitudes on rent control are more nuanced today, while minimum-wage increases have raised incomes at the lowest end. The trickle–down theory has fared worst of all; the rich pocket, rather than reinvest, their tax cuts.) Most people bought the libertarian hype, and when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, many were surprised to find out markets weren’t actually self–regulating the way they had been told.

The subsequent bailouts, however, made it difficult to argue that governments could only ever get in the way of the economy’s proper functioning. And so economists dusted off Keynes. Countries that enthusiastically followed his advice and used public funds to stimulate demand came out of the recession much better off than those that hesitated. China’s decision in 2008 to inject stimulus spending worth more than 12% of GDP looks smart in retrospect. In America, Democrats and Republicans alike run for office on the promise of trillion–dollar spending proposals, not the bipartisan calls for a balanced budget and a shrinking government that we used to hear. The pendulum swung, and Keynes came back.

Switching from Friedman to Keynes means more than tinkering with the economy’s operating system, however. The two men had different ideas not just about how capitalism functions, but about what it’s for. Friedman and his ilk saw the market as maximizing individual man’s freedom to pursue his self-interest and thus, since the pursuit of self-interest is simply human nature, maximizing collective well-being. Capitalism was the means and the end.

Keynes, on the other hand, outstanding example of the English gentry that he was, couldn’t countenance money-grubbing as the highest example of virtue. There had to be something more. For Keynes the most dangerous kind of avarice was not trying to make money, but holding it in your pockets for too long. The only way to keep popular well-being high and employment up was to produce and consume more and more—not because it’s in our nature, but because that’s how the system works: it must grow to survive. But someday soon, he predicted, the race will be over, and we can all stop pretending capitalism isn’t a psychotic, Earth-destroying way to live.

In “Grandchildren,” Keynes looked forward to the day when “we shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value.” He continued:

“The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.”

Capitalism, to Keynes, does not justify itself. “There will be,” he wrote, “ever larger and larger classes and groups of people from whom problems of economic necessity have been practically removed.” But he never identified the mechanism that would end the capitalist accumulation game. Even if we did produce enough stuff to pass the finish line, how would we know? And who’s going to make the rich share, or even just stop taking more? He knew that we could keep growing along these lines for only so long, but he ruled out revolution. Instead, he thought the owners would do the right thing.

Not being Milton Friedman isn’t the same as being right about how the world works. Keynes can be right about growth predictions and business cycles and fiscal policy, but if he is wrong that capitalism will simply end of its own accord, the foundational justification for his entire program crumbles. In that case, all of society is strapped in riding shotgun on the semi-criminal, semi-pathological drive to consume the future in advance, with no virtuous end on the horizon.

Oops.

NICOLÁS ORTEGA

If the spectrum of traditional economics goes from Friedman to Keynes—from capitalism as an end in itself to capitalism as a means to something beyond it—then what we need now is a critique of what the two of them share, a critique of economics itself. Most such critiques were locked in a trunk and shoved under the bed in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but they are not gone.

The most famous and influential critic of economics remains Marx. Keynes didn’t think highly of the man; in the British economist’s reflections on visiting Soviet Russia in 1925 he declined to name him, instead making pointed references to “avaricious” Jews. But the commie who is not to be named had a different vision for the future of economic development.

Marx’s “immiseration thesis” is an idea that’s pretty easy to summarize: Since capitalists make money from every hour of workers’ labor, they will get increasingly rich over time, while workers won’t because they’re too busy making money for capitalists. A rising tide lifts only big boats; everyone else has to swim for it.

If technology reduced the need for work, Marx figured, workers would simply be made to work longer, harder, more efficiently, or on other things. Technology would create a population of the desperate unemployed who could be put to work making luxury goods, for which there would be an ever growing market—though growing only in terms of money, not in terms of the number of people wealthy enough to buy. Instead of the common good increasing, it’s inequality, exploitation, and misery that accumulate. What workers have been building this whole time is their own subordination, and they’ve been doing a good job.

After decades on the outs even among self-described Marxists, the immiseration thesis is looking empirically strong—especially when compared with Keynes’s vision of increasingly large groups of people graduating from the burden of economic need into the paradise of full-time leisure, or with Friedman’s belief that greater wealth at the top turns into greater wealth for everyone.

And workers weren’t the only thing Marx saw getting used up: “All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil,” he wrote. “All progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility.” Environmentalism was not a basic tenet of Marx’s thought, but unlike the economists, he understood intuitively that extractive production had natural limits. The only answer for this species on this planet is to scrap the whole form of production, with its workers and capitalists, its cities and rural areas, its big piles of stuff and hollowed-out globe.

As we near 2030the year that capitalism was meant to be over, the time when we were meant to have advanced and elevated ourselves—the predictions are not rosy. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that global warming is likely to reach 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052 if temperatures continue to increase at the current rate. In the event we do hit that mark, experts predict a rise of between 26 and 77 centimeters (10 and 30 inches) in sea level, a rapid increase in species extinctions, hundreds of millions more people experiencing water and food shortages, and sustained extreme weather the likes of which the modern human species has never encountered. We have been stockpiling not just wealth, but disasters.

One protest sign at the youth climate strike put it succinctly: “You’ll die of old age. We’ll die of climate change.” Today’s kids never had the chance to believe in a simple progress narrative. The young movement leader Greta Thunberg took the eco–generational message to the United Nations Climate Action Summit: “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she chided. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

The younger cohort, the people around the world whom Thunberg represents, have no choice but to establish new standards for social well-being—standards beyond GDP growth. We need to get the carbon out of the atmosphere and the plastics out of the ocean, keep the oil in the ground and the undomesticated species we have left alive. Anything else is a catastrophic failure. Young people seem up to the challenge, and even if the press has occasionally overstated it, the affinity of millennials and Gen Z for socialism is real. It’s more than a decade after the 2008 crash, and in the United States we are in the longest economic expansion in history, yet poll after poll shows left-wing politics enduring within the younger cohort. A YouGov poll found that support for capitalism among Americans under 30 fell from 39% to 30% between 2015 and 2018—14 percentage points below the average and 26 points below the figure for seniors.

The kids recognize that capitalism has been using up human and natural resources rather than building a better society. Rather than a mere reaction to the housing crash and global warming, we can see a deep, emergent understanding. Much to everyone’s surprise, Keynes’s grandchildren have become Marxists.

When Keynes wrote that he looked forward to “the greatest change which has ever occurred in the material environment of life for human beings in the aggregate,” he meant us, now. And it looks as if he was right at least in one sense. The fate of our species—and many other species, for that matter—hangs in the balance.

Though Keynes’ bottom line now seems fanciful, there are ways in which his 1930 prediction wasn’t totally off. Besides getting the growth rate more or less right, Keynes thought we would be the generational cohort to end capitalism. The system was not supposed to be sustainable for even 500 years. At a certain level of technological development and capital accumulation, capitalism becomes not merely exploitative or even genocidal (achievements long registered); it becomes difficult to reconcile with humanity itself.

Like football, where the increasing size and strength of the players has made brain damage almost certain at the highest levels of the game, capitalist production has become an objective hazard for the entirety of human society.

One way or another, it’s a good bet that the workforce of 2030 is the last true cohort that market capitalism gets. It’s hard to say what comes next, but it has to happen pretty soon. The grandchildren he spoke of have been here for a while now. Whether or not we manage to understand what it means in advance, the new is here.

Malcolm Harris is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia, and the author of Kids These Days and the forthcoming Shit Is Fucked Up and Bullshit.

The founder of macroeconomics predicted that capitalism would last for approximately 450 years. That’s the length of time between 1580, when Queen Elizabeth invested Spanish gold stolen by Francis Drake, and 2030, the year by which John Maynard Keynes assumed humanity would have solved the problem of our needs and moved on to higher concerns.

It’s true that today the system seems on the edge of transformation, but not in the way Keynes hoped. Gen Z’s fate was supposed to be to relax into a life of leisure and creativity. Instead it is bracing for stagnant wages and ecological crisis.

In a famous essay from the early 1930s called “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren,” Keynes imagined the world 100 years in the future. He spotted phenomena like job automation (which he called “technological unemployment”) coming, but those changes, he believed, augured progress: progress toward a better society, progress toward collective liberation from work. He was worried that the transition to this world without toil might be psychologically difficult, and so he suggested that three-hour workdays could serve as a transitional program, allowing us to put off the profound question of what to do when there’s nothing left to do.

Well, we know the grandchildren in the title of Keynes’s essay: they’re the kids and younger adults of today. The prime-age workforce of 2030 was born between 1976 and 2005. And though the precise predictions he made about the rate of economic growth and accumulation were strikingly accurate, what they mean for this generation is very different from what he imagined.

Instead of progress toward a labor-free utopia, America has experienced disappearing jobs as a kind of economic climate change. Apocalyptic forecasts loom while poor and working-class communities take the brunt of the early impacts: wage stagnation, deregulated and unsafe workplaces, an epidemic of opioid addiction. The increasingly profligate wealth on the other end of society is no less disturbing.

What the hell happened? To figure out why Generation Z isn’t going to be Generation EZ, we have to ask some fundamental questions about economics, technology, and progress. After we assumed for a century that a better world would appear on top of our accumulated stuff, the assumptions appear unfounded. Things are getting worse.

As recently as the first web boom two decades ago, it was still possible to talk about technological development and economic expansion as being good for everybody. Take Webvan, the early (and subsequently much derided) grocery delivery startup. The company planned to combine the efficiencies of the internet and other advances in information and logistics to provide better-quality products at lower prices, delivered directly to consumers by higher-paid and better-trained workers. It’s a univocal, Keynesian vision of development: not only do all involved benefit individually as consumers, employees, or capitalists, but society itself steps together up the mountain toward the elimination of necessity and a higher plane of being.

When Webvan went belly-up, analysts assumed it meant the core idea was hopelessly wrong: it just doesn’t make sense to use human capacity to bring individual people their supermarket orders. Harvard Business School professor John Deighton, when asked about the future of the industry in 2001, said, “Home-delivered groceries? Never.” Yet less than 20 years later I can have one of the world’s few trillion-dollar companies (Amazon) deliver my order via its grocery brand (Whole Foods) in an hour. And if that’s not fast enough, there are various platform services (Instacart, Postmates, and others) through which I can hire someone to go pick my order up and bring it to me immediately. Buzzing clouds of freelance servants, always in motion.

For consumers, these services have made life more convenient. For owners, stock prices and corporate profits have been cruising higher and higher for decades. But as workers, we have suffered. Gone is the Webvan vision of highly trained, highly paid, upwardly mobile, stock-holding delivery drivers. Amazon’s treatment of its workers at all levels is so intensely exploitative that former employees have created their own form of writing: the “report-back,” an essay that exposes the particular, common hardships of working at the firm. It’s one part worker’s inquiry, one part trauma diary.

Here’s how one warehouse employee described the workflow:

NICOLÁS ORTEGA

“The AI is your boss, your boss’s boss, and your boss’s boss’s boss: it sets the target productivity rates, the shift quotas, and the division of labor on the floor … Ultimately what this means to you is that you’ll rarely work with the same people twice, you’ll be isolated, put on random tasks from shift to shift, slog for stowing or sorting or picking or packing rates well exceeding your average—because your supervisor told you so, and the program told him before that.”

Rather than relieving workers from toil, improvements in technology grind out their efficiencies by molding laborers into unreasonable shapes. Across departments, Amazon workers report being forced by the circumstances of their jobs to urinate in bottles and trash cans. Using layers of subcontracting agreements, the largest firms insulate themselves from responsibility to and for their lowest-wage workers. Recent investigations into Amazon’s last-mile shipping reveal exhausted drivers whose required carelessness has, predictably, been known to kill people. The company remains, as far as the business community is concerned, exemplary.

Everywhere, the idea of liberation from work seems like a dream. Workers making parts for iPhones have been exposed to toxic chemicals; Taiwanese manufacturing giant Foxconn is regularly under the microscope for poor labor conditions. Instacart delivery workers went on strike to complain about changes that led to fewer tips; two days later the company cut their bonuses (Instacart says the two events are unrelated). Gig workers on the audio platform Rev.com recently discovered an overnight pay cut that meant Rev now takes 70 cents of every dollar a customer spends on getting audio transcribed, and they get a mere 30.

Young Americans are reaching prime working age in the Amazon economy, not the Webvan one. According to the Economic Policy Institute, while worker productivity increased 69.6% between 1979 and 2019, hourly pay has risen a measly 11.6%. “The income, wages, and wealth generated over the last four decades have failed to ‘trickle down’ to the vast majority largely because policy choices made on behalf of those with the most income, wealth, and power have exacerbated inequality,” the EPI says. The difference between productivity and pay is an increase in exploitation: workers doing more and getting less. That was not the plan.

Keynes and his policy vision fell out of fashion when the laissez-faire fundamentalism championed by Milton Friedman carried Reagan and Thatcher into global power. The old view of the future yielded to an era of deregulation and privatization. This was the “End of History,” with the free market as the proper—perhaps even inevitable—vehicle for human nature.

Here all pursue their individual interests, and together that adds up to the best of all possible worlds—at least as long as the government stays out of the way. We were taught as fact, for example, that rent–control policies counterintuitively increase rents, that minimum-wage laws counterintuitively hurt wages, that wealth from tax cuts trickles down to workers. (Attitudes on rent control are more nuanced today, while minimum-wage increases have raised incomes at the lowest end. The trickle–down theory has fared worst of all; the rich pocket, rather than reinvest, their tax cuts.) Most people bought the libertarian hype, and when the global financial crisis hit in 2008, many were surprised to find out markets weren’t actually self–regulating the way they had been told.

The subsequent bailouts, however, made it difficult to argue that governments could only ever get in the way of the economy’s proper functioning. And so economists dusted off Keynes. Countries that enthusiastically followed his advice and used public funds to stimulate demand came out of the recession much better off than those that hesitated. China’s decision in 2008 to inject stimulus spending worth more than 12% of GDP looks smart in retrospect. In America, Democrats and Republicans alike run for office on the promise of trillion–dollar spending proposals, not the bipartisan calls for a balanced budget and a shrinking government that we used to hear. The pendulum swung, and Keynes came back.

Switching from Friedman to Keynes means more than tinkering with the economy’s operating system, however. The two men had different ideas not just about how capitalism functions, but about what it’s for. Friedman and his ilk saw the market as maximizing individual man’s freedom to pursue his self-interest and thus, since the pursuit of self-interest is simply human nature, maximizing collective well-being. Capitalism was the means and the end.

Keynes, on the other hand, outstanding example of the English gentry that he was, couldn’t countenance money-grubbing as the highest example of virtue. There had to be something more. For Keynes the most dangerous kind of avarice was not trying to make money, but holding it in your pockets for too long. The only way to keep popular well-being high and employment up was to produce and consume more and more—not because it’s in our nature, but because that’s how the system works: it must grow to survive. But someday soon, he predicted, the race will be over, and we can all stop pretending capitalism isn’t a psychotic, Earth-destroying way to live.

In “Grandchildren,” Keynes looked forward to the day when “we shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value.” He continued:

“The love of money as a possession—as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life—will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.”

Capitalism, to Keynes, does not justify itself. “There will be,” he wrote, “ever larger and larger classes and groups of people from whom problems of economic necessity have been practically removed.” But he never identified the mechanism that would end the capitalist accumulation game. Even if we did produce enough stuff to pass the finish line, how would we know? And who’s going to make the rich share, or even just stop taking more? He knew that we could keep growing along these lines for only so long, but he ruled out revolution. Instead, he thought the owners would do the right thing.

Not being Milton Friedman isn’t the same as being right about how the world works. Keynes can be right about growth predictions and business cycles and fiscal policy, but if he is wrong that capitalism will simply end of its own accord, the foundational justification for his entire program crumbles. In that case, all of society is strapped in riding shotgun on the semi-criminal, semi-pathological drive to consume the future in advance, with no virtuous end on the horizon.

Oops.

If the spectrum of traditional economics goes from Friedman to Keynes—from capitalism as an end in itself to capitalism as a means to something beyond it—then what we need now is a critique of what the two of them share, a critique of economics itself. Most such critiques were locked in a trunk and shoved under the bed in the late 1980s and early ’90s, but they are not gone.

The most famous and influential critic of economics remains Marx. Keynes didn’t think highly of the man; in the British economist’s reflections on visiting Soviet Russia in 1925 he declined to name him, instead making pointed references to “avaricious” Jews. But the commie who is not to be named had a different vision for the future of economic development.

Marx’s “immiseration thesis” is an idea that’s pretty easy to summarize: Since capitalists make money from every hour of workers’ labor, they will get increasingly rich over time, while workers won’t because they’re too busy making money for capitalists. A rising tide lifts only big boats; everyone else has to swim for it.

If technology reduced the need for work, Marx figured, workers would simply be made to work longer, harder, more efficiently, or on other things. Technology would create a population of the desperate unemployed who could be put to work making luxury goods, for which there would be an ever growing market—though growing only in terms of money, not in terms of the number of people wealthy enough to buy. Instead of the common good increasing, it’s inequality, exploitation, and misery that accumulate. What workers have been building this whole time is their own subordination, and they’ve been doing a good job.

After decades on the outs even among self-described Marxists, the immiseration thesis is looking empirically strong—especially when compared with Keynes’s vision of increasingly large groups of people graduating from the burden of economic need into the paradise of full-time leisure, or with Friedman’s belief that greater wealth at the top turns into greater wealth for everyone.

And workers weren’t the only thing Marx saw getting used up: “All progress in capitalistic agriculture is a progress in the art, not only of robbing the labourer, but of robbing the soil,” he wrote. “All progress in increasing the fertility of the soil for a given time, is a progress towards ruining the lasting sources of that fertility.”

Environmentalism was not a basic tenet of Marx’s thought, but unlike the economists, he understood intuitively that extractive production had natural limits. The only answer for this species on this planet is to scrap the whole form of production, with its workers and capitalists, its cities and rural areas, its big piles of stuff and hollowed-out globe.

As we near 2030the year that capitalism was meant to be over, the time when we were meant to have advanced and elevated ourselves—the predictions are not rosy. In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that global warming is likely to reach 1.5 °C between 2030 and 2052 if temperatures continue to increase at the current rate. In the event we do hit that mark, experts predict a rise of between 26 and 77 centimeters (10 and 30 inches) in sea level, a rapid increase in species extinctions, hundreds of millions more people experiencing water and food shortages, and sustained extreme weather the likes of which the modern human species has never encountered. We have been stockpiling not just wealth, but disasters.

One protest sign at the youth climate strike put it succinctly: “You’ll die of old age. We’ll die of climate change.” Today’s kids never had the chance to believe in a simple progress narrative. The young movement leader Greta Thunberg took the eco–generational message to the United Nations Climate Action Summit: “People are suffering, people are dying, entire ecosystems are collapsing,” she chided. “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!”

The younger cohort, the people around the world whom Thunberg represents, have no choice but to establish new standards for social well-being—standards beyond GDP growth. We need to get the carbon out of the atmosphere and the plastics out of the ocean, keep the oil in the ground and the undomesticated species we have left alive. Anything else is a catastrophic failure. Young people seem up to the challenge, and even if the press has occasionally overstated it, the affinity of millennials and Gen Z for socialism is real. It’s more than a decade after the 2008 crash, and in the United States we are in the longest economic expansion in history, yet poll after poll shows left-wing politics enduring within the younger cohort. A YouGov poll found that support for capitalism among Americans under 30 fell from 39% to 30% between 2015 and 2018—14 percentage points below the average and 26 points below the figure for seniors.

The kids recognize that capitalism has been using up human and natural resources rather than building a better society. Rather than a mere reaction to the housing crash and global warming, we can see a deep, emergent understanding. Much to everyone’s surprise, Keynes’s grandchildren have become Marxists.

When Keynes wrote that he looked forward to “the greatest change which has ever occurred in the material environment of life for human beings in the aggregate,” he meant us, now. And it looks as if he was right at least in one sense. The fate of our species—and many other species, for that matter—hangs in the balance.

Though Keynes’ bottom line now seems fanciful, there are ways in which his 1930 prediction wasn’t totally off. Besides getting the growth rate more or less right, Keynes thought we would be the generational cohort to end capitalism. The system was not supposed to be sustainable for even 500 years. At a certain level of technological development and capital accumulation, capitalism becomes not merely exploitative or even genocidal (achievements long registered); it becomes difficult to reconcile with humanity itself.

Like football, where the increasing size and strength of the players has made brain damage almost certain at the highest levels of the game, capitalist production has become an objective hazard for the entirety of human society.

One way or another, it’s a good bet that the workforce of 2030 is the last true cohort that market capitalism gets. It’s hard to say what comes next, but it has to happen pretty soon. The grandchildren he spoke of have been here for a while now. Whether or not we manage to understand what it means in advance, the new is here.  SOURCE