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Off the keyboard of RE Discuss this article at the Geopolitics Table inside the Diner Discussions in the Panarchy & One-t0-the-Many thread inside the Diner brought up an old topic, Categories of Doom which paint various different pictures for the Future of Homo Sapiens on Earth, if the species has one at all that lasts past Mid-Century or so. Just about every Doomer out there has carved out for themselves the Projected Future they either th...
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| Economic Undertow
…Largely left out of the peak oil- and energy discussions is the consumer side of the process. Generally, petroleum analysis focuses on how much we have left; extraction and the rate of extraction. We love talking about how much we have left, it makes our private parts seem that much larger, it reinforces our sense of how clever we are, it also distracts us from how much treasure we’ve already squandered along with what little we have to show for it. As with other critical areas of our society, we set out to get rich first so that we could afford to solve wealth-related problems later. To pursue the highest level of growth we put hundreds of millions of drivers onto the roads circling between gas stations like flying Dutchmen
This is where the self-driving cars enter the picture, billions of them can motor aimlessly around the clock whether they carry passengers or not and make more growth all by themselves = singularity.
It’s a great pretty stupid plan, I didn’t come up with it.
Recently, there is a little bit more discussion about fuel industry costs as drillers confront the near-certain prospect of bankruptcy as their only product runs out. Customers cannot earn by driving in circles so the fuel industry is funded by the same customers reaching for the plastic…
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| Our Finite World
At the Age of Limits Conference, I gave a talk called Converging Crises (PDF), talking about the crises facing us as we reach energy limits. In this post, I discuss some highlights from a fairly long talk.
A related topic is how our current situation is different from past collapses. John Michael Greer talked about prior collapses, but because both of our talks were late in the conference and because I was leaving to catch a plane, we never had a chance to discuss how “this time is different.” To fill this gap, I have included some comments on this subject at the end of this post.
The first three crises are the basic ones: population growth, resource depletion, and environmental degradation. The other crises are not as basic, but still may act to bring the system down.
Humans have found a series of ways to keep deaths down, each adding more control of external energy.
As humans’ control of energy improved, human population grew and the population of other species fell. . .
Humans are not doing anything “wrong.” Humans are reacting to the same instinct that all species have, namely to make use of available energy to allow more of the species to live to maturity.
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| The Archdruid Report
Myths, according to the philosopher Sallust, are things that never happened but always are. With a few modifications, the same rule applies to the enduring narratives of every culture, the stories that find a new audience in every generation as long as their parent cultures last. Stories of that stature don’t need to chronicle events that actually took place to have something profoundly relevant to say, and the heroic quest I used last week to frame a satire on the embarrassingly unheroic behavior of many of industrial civilization’s more privileged inmates is no exception to that rule.
That’s true of hero tales generally, of course. The thegns and ceorls who sat spellbound in an Anglo-Saxon meadhall while a scop chanted the deeds of Beowulf to the sound of a six-stringed lyre didn’t have to face the prospect of wrestling with cannibalistic ogres or battling fire-breathing dragons, and were doubtless well aware of that fact. If they believed that terrible creatures of a kind no longer found once existed in the legendary past, why, so do we—the difference in our case is merely that we call our monsters “dinosaurs,” and insist that our paleontologist-storytellers be prepared to show us the bones.
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This is a society in deep danger that doesn’t want to know it. The nostrum of an expanding GDP is just statistical legerdemain performed to satisfy stupid news editors, gull loose money into reckless positions, and bamboozle the voters. If we knew how to act we would bend every effort to prepare for the end of mass motoring, but instead we indulge in fairy tales about the “shale oil miracle” because it offers the comforting false promise that we can drive to WalMart forever (in self-driving cars!). Has it occurred to anyone that we no longer have the capital to repair the vast network of roads, streets, highways, and bridges that all these cars are supposed to run on? Or that the capital will not be there for the installment loans Americans are accustomed to buy their cars with?
The global economy is withering quickly because it was just a manifestation of late-stage cheap oil. Now we’re in early-stage of expensive oil and a lot of things that seemed to work wonderfully well before, don’t work so well now. The conveyer belt of cheap manufactured goods from China to the WalMarts and Target stores doesn’t work so well when the American customers lose their incomes, and have to spend their government stipends on gasoline because they were born into a world where driving everywhere for everything is mandatory, and because central bank meddling adds to the horrendous inflation of food prices.
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| Nature Bats Last
Recently, I’ve noticed some longtime activist voices verbalizing a new perspective and one that some would label as “defeatist.” Writing in his “How To Save The World Blog,” Dave Pollard recently offered a piece entitled “In Defense Of Inaction,” in which he states:
“No one is in control. The enemy, if there is one, is not a cabal of elites, but a set of co-dependent collapsing systems that every one of us has a vested interest in trying (insanely) to perpetuate. Systems we have all helped co-create and are almost all dependent on…The question we must each ask ourselves, I think, is this: If we acknowledge that our systems and hence our civilization cannot be reformed or ‘saved’, what can we do now that will make a real difference, for the future, in our communities and for those we love?…The insanely rational answer to this question, I think, is (a) probably nothing, and (b) it’s too early to know.”
Isn’t this just giving up, or giving in? The pathetic whining of defeatists? How can any respectable activist utter these words?
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I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)
Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.
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