GRANTHAM: I can't stop thinking about these 10 threats that could potentially ruin the world

Red blood polluted water chinaREUTERS/StringerA man looks at a contaminated river in Cangnan county of Wenzhou, Zhejiang province.

Yes, Jeremy Grantham is worried about things.

In his latest quarterly letter to clients, GMO’s Jeremy Grantham has a concise list of 10 things that, he writes, “can all be viewed as problems: potential threats to our well-being.”

This is typically uplifting stuff from Grantham, who most recently warned that the Fed is determined to inflate a bubble and had previously said, simply, the world can’t be as great as some people might think.

Grantham’s list, he concedes, “is lopsidedly negative.” However, the legendary investor defends his choice writing that the good news, “will usually look out for itself.”

And so it is with something like the common good in mind that Grantham increasingly finds himself, “free to obsess about anything that seems both relevant and interesting,” however grim these things may be.

As for Grantham’s list, his 10 topics of doom are:

  1. Pressure on GDP growth in the US and the balance of the developed world: count on 1.5% US growth, not the old 3%.
  2. The age of plentiful, cheap resources is gone forever.
  3. Oil.
  4. Climate problems.
  5. Global food shortages.
  6. Income inequality.
  7. Trying to understand deficiencies in democracy and capitalism.
  8. Deficiencies in the Fed.
  9. Investment bubbles in a world that is, this time, interestingly different.
  10. Limitations of homo sapiens

And so to sum up the list’s fears, Grantham is basically looking at a world that can’t grow as fast as it needs; is governed improperly; is full of leaders deluding themselves about the effectiveness of accepted political and economic wisdom; is running out of food; is running out of oil; is running out of resources; and, is controlled by flawed, limited animals: homo sapiens.

But again, none of this is particularly new for Grantham, who has long been considered a ‘Malthusian’ (which basically is the view that the number of people will overrun the amount of resources available on Earth). This is not a positive view.

And so while Grantham’s grim outlook does, in some way, begin to border on self-parody, his letter is hoping to take something closer to a 30,000-foot view of what’s going on in the world.

And it’s not all bad, as Grantham writes in his conclusion.

“In the interest of full disclosure, I do obsess also about the remarkable acceleration in helpful technologies — mainly in alternative energy but also in agriculture — that may just save our bacon. It would be a shame, however, to spoil the uniform tone of this quarter’s discussion, so I will wait a quarter to update the many positive developments.

“Have a good summer.”

Read the full GMO letter here »

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