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25 July 2015

Press review 25-07-2015 - Undue optimism?

Commodities took another deep tumble across the board this week. Staple metals like copper ended the week at decade lows, with fossil fuels dragged down along. China is back to 7% growth, signs of economic recovery are re-appearing in Europe, as for the moment no one dares to question the neo-liberal economic recipe.

The financial world is buoyed by optimism as commodities appear to no longer be the drag on OECD economies as they were the decade heretofore. Reading the news and following financial indexes one gets the sense of an imminent return to the exuberance of the decades that followed the Plaza Accord.

But is at all that good? Has the planet suddenly grow bigger and multiplied its resources? Have all the planetary geo-political issues gone away with the accord on Iran?

22 July 2015

Impressions from FOSS4G-Europe 2015

Last week I was at the beautiful city of Como in Italy to attend the European FOSS4G conference. In case you do not know FOSS4G stands for Free and Open Source Software For Geo-Spatial. These days my career pretty much revolves around developing and applying this sort of software in research. I presented a poster promoting the upcoming version 4 of PyWPS.

The conference can only be called a success, fully booked with 400 attendants. This even created some logistic challenges with long food/coffee queues and packed conference rooms. And of course it was great to meet or re-meet the faces behind many useful tools and learn about new software coming down the pipeline.

Here I leave an account of some emerging trends in this field, that may show were FOSS4G is headed.

18 July 2015

Press review 18-07-2015 - An historical Accord

Celebrations on the streets of Tehran.
Photo by Vahid Salemi.
At long last, Iran is set to become a full right player in the international stage again. The historical relevance of this moment is possibly unfathomable right now, a major focus of tension between East and West has been diffused and an important regional power is definitely consolidated. This agreement may well be a turning point for the Near and Middle East.

Wednesday the second quarter GDP figures for China came out, and are surprisingly high. A wave of optimism swayed the financial world. Another leg down in the Brent index certainly contributed to that.

Only Europe drags its feet, ever more swirled in problems of its own creation. For most Europeans none of this changes much to what remains a bleak outlook.

11 July 2015

Press review 11-07-2015 - China in decline

This was a week of great volatility and uncertainty with Greece and China sending shock waves throughout the world. Commodities in general were beaten up heavily, with Brent trading at prices not seen in many months.

Greece started the week apparently on the verge of precipice, but events rapidly swerved late Thursday. Politically much has changed, but financially things remain pretty much where they were two weeks ago. There is still no comprehensive solution for Greece and the country remains condemned to economic recession.

If Greece fills up front pages in Europe, developments in China can be more important in the long run. The Chinese economy is clearly cooling down with two digit growth figures now definitely behind. In the process the co-habitation of the two economic systems is coming under strain. The media is largely focused on the stock market, but more relevant information is about, with more details pointing to a terminal peak in petroleum extraction.

04 July 2015

Press review 04-07-2015 - Nai i Ochi

Within hours of the last press review events in Greece developed precipitously with the call for a referendum on the Eurogroup proposals. This Sunday Greeks will be apparently opting between hard labour for life and the cicuta cup. But there is certainly more here than meets the eye, with perhaps more surprises along the road.

At this crucial juncture it is important to look past the debate between those that consider Greeks a chronically lazy folk and those that point the finger to the delusional policies enforced by the creditors. Five years have past since I created the graph below and so far little stock has been taken from it. Growth remains the absolute goal of economic science and practice; ultimately, all policies based on this predicate will fail.

28 June 2015

Ready for tomorrow?

After all, things in Greece precipitated to an ending within hours of the last press review. Greece was left between the sword and the wall and the Greeks opted for the former. Portugal is next in the line of fire, but an eerie serenity reigns in the country. The mercury is up and most folk are at the beach this weekend; the media speak of football and hockey.

In reality much has changed since yesterday, and Portugal, even if not yet aware, is today a much more fragile country. Events will go sour, and possibly much faster than most expect. Hereby a short list of the gravest developments that are to take place from tomorrow onwards.

27 June 2015

Press review 27-06-2015 - Stepping back for the bigger picture

Once in a while it is good to step back from the daily precession of events and reflect on the bigger picture. Why are energy and other resources important today? Why are they the main motivation for this weblog?

This time this reflection can be made through the pen of Herman Daly, with whom the publication of an essay is an event in itself. Daly elaborates on the steady-state economy that will impose itself throughout this century and asks once more for a revision to the goals of Economics. Not only Neo-Classical economics, but also its Keynesian nemesis, were developed with the underlying assumption of infinite growth.

Economic growth is not a physical measurement and as such can grow indefinitely. But in a scenario where the flows of matter and energy through the economic system cease to expand the economic policies used heretofore cease to function as expected. What Herman Daly lays down is a real challenge in this transition, in a dimension that is rarely contemplated.