The Lifeboat

2007-Nov-16

I’m watching Titanic again… When disaster strikes, we head for the lifeboats. If we have no lifeboats everybody dies. If the lifeboat takes off with too few people in it, people die. If a lifeboat tries to carry more people than it can hold, it capsizes and everybody in it dies.

I’ve been suggesting that this country (and the entire world) might just collapse, whether soon or half a century from now. When the cheap oil runs out, our food (which is totally dependent upon cheap oil) runs out, and world population , currently six billion and soon to rise to nine billion, will die off, possibly down to one billion.

I have no problem with my hope that those I love, family and friends, will be among the one billion who live rather than the eight billion who die. But life will depend on lifeboats, whether those lifeboats be countries or small tribes. I see our country as one lifeboat, but the lifeboat is already overloaded, at least once the oil runs out. Before cheap oil our country was able to support one or two hundred million people. We have over three hundred million and soil sadly depleted by use of petroleum-based fertilizers instead of sustainable agricultural practices.

Gee, it would be wonderful if the capitalists were right, and we could support an infinite population, with everybody supporting their family with jobs at WalMart. But I doubt the future will come out that way.

What I see currently is the normal split between Conservatives and Liberals. The Conservatives want just a couple lifeboats (perhaps in Paraguay) to hold themselves and maybe their immediate family, and the Liberals eagerly inviting everybody in the world to jump on in.

Between them, I’m not feeling hopeful.

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Reinventing Collapse

2007-Nov-09

Ever the optimist, I am awaiting the collapse of the American empire which looks like it could come within decades rather than centuries, and we may get to watch. Dmitry Orlov got the opportunity to watch the fall of the Soviet Empire, and in his book Reinventing Collapse, due out next year, he discusses his view that Russia was much more resilient and able to survive the collapse of its empire than we will be.

For those who just can’t wait, he gives an outline of his views in Energy Bulletin, and I’ll just give a few of his thoughts. The article is worth reading in full, and I’m waiting for the book:

All empires collapse. No exceptions. Like Russia there will be widespread shortages of the basics, and no help in sight. Unlike Russia there is less secrecy here, so we will get to watch it all.

When faced with such developments, some people are quick to realize what it is they have to do to survive, and start doing these things, generally without anyone’s permission. A sort of economy emerges, completely informal, and often semi-criminal. It revolves around liquidating, and recycling, the remains of the old economy. It is based on direct access to resources, and the threat of force, rather than ownership or legal authority. People who have a problem with this way of doing things, quickly find themselves out of the game.

In the Soviet Union, government ownership meant that the collapse would be cushioned, because governments collapse more slowly than private companies. And the very incompetence and inefficiency of the soviet economy meant the people were better prepared than we are to make do for themselves. Our efficiencies will work against us as corporations efficiently cut us off.

And in our differences in family structure (multi-generation versus nuclear), food production (home gardens versus fast food), medicine socialized versus privatised, and even educational system (free for all versus crippling debts), we are much more vulnerable to a deeper, more devastating crash.

His suggestions: forget the government, forget corporate enterprise, rely on ourselves, and expect to make do with much less.


Dieoff and the Olduvai Gorge

2007-Jul-13

There are about six and a half billion people in the world. In the next few decades there will be about nine billion, far more than the earth can hold. Just about the time when the loss of cheap oil and water and global warming kick in to sharply reduce the amount of food in the world.

I do not expect to live long enough to see eight billion people in the world or one to two hundred million people in this country die of famine, pestilence, and war, but I expect to see quite a few go as we go back to where we came from.

So if I come across as a bit cynical…sure, I’m cynical. I believe we could stop the die-off, but I don’t think we will. Have a nice day.


Have a Merry July 4th

2007-Jul-04

As I watch the parades, the frantic waving of flags and cheering anyone who looks like a military type, I see people frantically denying what they see coming for them… looks like Joe Bageant sees it too

The power of population is so superior to the power of the earth to produce subsistence for man, that premature death must in some shape or other visit the human race. The vices of mankind are active and able ministers of depopulation. They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves. But should they fail in this war of extermination, sickly seasons, epidemics, pestilence, and plague advance in terrific array, and sweep off their thousands and tens of thousands. Should success be still incomplete, gigantic inevitable famine stalks in the rear, and with one mighty blow levels the population with the food of the world.
— Thomas Malthus, 1798

The Population Bomb…global warming… Homo sapiens hath shat, frolicked, killed and exceeded their MasterCard limits upon the earth, which is less than a second in geological time. Already we are on the way out because we did not have the common sense of lizards, which lasted tens of millions of years longer without so much as a calculator, much less computerized eco models.

If mankind were discovered on a dog’s hide the owner would give the dog a mange dip. Or if the earth were a Petri dish, we would be called pathology. Problem is though, mama earth tends to shed pathogens off her skin, which for us pathogens, is the ultimate catastrophe.

When forced to look at catastrophe on this order of magnitude, we either go numb in shock or look in delusion to something bigger, or at least something with more grandeur than Mother Nature flushing humanity down the toilet. Otherwise, one must accept the both ugly and the weirdly beautiful prospect of oblivion. Meanwhile, we begin too late to “make better choices.” Grim choices that do nothing but postpone the inevitable, which are called better ones and sold to us to make ourselves feel better about our toxicity. Burn corn in your gas tank. Go green, with the help of Monsanto. But not many can be concerned even with the matter of better choices. Few can truly grasp the fullness of the danger because there is no way they can get their minds around it, no way to see the world in its entirety. The tadpole cannot conceive of the banks of the pond, much less the wooded watershed that feeds it. But old frogs glimpse of it.

And wave our flags, and go to our political rallies and try to find something to like in the “first tier” candidates because the good candidates just can’t win because they can’t get enough corporate cash, and we buy our energe efficient florescent bulbs and try to ignore the mercury inside…and we pretend our feeble half-efforts will stave off what we have wrought. And pretend we have independence to celebrate.