Forum Replies Created
The other day I enjoyed an idle sunny afternoon on a local beach. As I sat lost in thought I sifted dry sand through my finders. Absent minded, and without any real malice, I buried a bug in the sand. No reason. It was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Somewhere between the horror and utter indifference I realized that our fate has no more and no less meaning than the fate of that bug.
Strange, isn’t it? Without the least bit of irony they draw pictures of agrarian utopia’s springing up magically out of wrecked dystopian wastelands. How in the world? Not to mention the precious bits like “can’t we all just get along” ala the late Rodney King.
Perhaps it was meant as a choice, either wasteland or utopia. If so then I think there are certainly more realistic ways of framing it. Either way I’m guessing, and this is just a guess, that we won’t be seeing much of the “3D printer” technological bliss.
Think about it. What are we actually talking about? To my mind it boils down to one very simple metric: a dramatic reduction in available goods and services. In short, impoverishment. Some of those soon to be vanished goods and services are critical, such as food, fresh water, and security. Many people will simply be unable to survive without them, permaculture or not.
Those that do survive will be tasked with adapting in place. Places that have been built out with industrial infrastructure for the last 200 years. Much of that infrastructure will be abandoned as it will no longer be useful to people without running cars or reliable electricity. Think Detroit.
Now, add to that the observed tendency of many states towards extreme income disparity and fascist police tactics to keep the impoverished majority in check. This is simply the natural tendency of humans to organize into hierarchies that enrich the imperial few at the expense of a wide periphery, ala the “Fortune 500”.
What does it all add up to? Picture this: Large numbers of desperately poor people scratching a living in vast crowded slums built on abandoned parking lots that surround a handful of high security condo towers. People who’s daily lives are ruled by corrupt police, drug gangs, and warlords.
Sound familiar? Gosh, only about 2 or 3 billion people (or more!) currently live in a world that already meets that description, or had you not noticed that?
No, not back to the stone age. We are descending ever deeper into the slum age.
Hmmm…, no HTML in comments?
Not sure what folks here think of Michael Hudson, but I found this article quite illuminating:
The Weaponization of Economic Theory
“The result is a doctrine of financial war not only against labor but also against industry and government. Gaining the financial power to indebt economies at increasing speed, the banking and financial sector is siphoning resources away from the real economy. Its business plan is not based on employing labor to expand output, but simply to transfer as much of the existing flow of revenue as possible into its own hands, by capitalizing all such revenue into interest payments, on loans collateralized and pledged to creditors.”
Ash is right, of course, the converging ecological and economic crises are already changing the world in profound ways. People will cling to expectations of technological miracles, and we will continue to see heroic efforts made to “keep up appearances”, but the math of depleted resources and overflowing planetary sinks is relentless and unswerving.
We may have been able to pull out of this nose-dive, just barely, if we had started pulling back HARD on the yoke a few decades ago, but now the ground is rushing at us at full speed even as they cry goes out “Damn the doomers! More gas! Faster!”
That said, and not to be an apologist for the status quo, but it is precisely because of reading about places like China and India, and especially Africa, that I temper my expectations of catastrophic collapse.
People have a remarkable ability to survive, and yes sometimes thrive, in situations and environments that to the wealthy industrialized world must seem horrific and abjectly inhumane.
I am not suggesting that the Earth can support all seven-going-on-nine billion humans, we will certainly see the return of famine, plague, and war in a big way. Poorer countries that are currently dependent on international aid and food imports to support marginal populations will be hit the hardest.
But for those in more fortunate countries I think a clear picture of the future can be seen in the teeming slums of the so-called “third world”. Hungry and desperately poor crowds of people cram into ramshackle streets, decrepit buildings, and if they are lucky onto broken down but still barely maintained train systems. Otherwise it is foot, bicycle and maybe scooters or motorcycles on dangerous, crowded and smog choked streets. Day to day life is ruled by a strict hierarchy of corrupt police and vicious crime gangs, yet people still manage to run shops and markets as best they can, and a lucky few hold down government jobs in a bloated crony capitalist bureaucracy, or serve in the military.
Yes, it will be bad for people who have been accustomed to having so much more, many will fail to adapt, but just as many will find a way to muddle through. Just as humans always have.
Excellent article, there are exceedingly few people who seem to get the “if we don’t use it someone else will” dilemma. Tom Murphy is an otherwise smart guy, but unfortunately I can’t help but notice that, like others in the doesn’t-get-it crowd, he is deliriously entranced by so-called “renewables”. The non-solution of the century.
“And then whoever’s left will start all over again. At ground level. But perhaps with big dreams.”
Actually, ground level might be a bit optimistic. One of the more insidious aspects of global ecological overshoot is that it not only depletes resources but it also degrades the productive capacity of the Earth; pollution, loss of biodiversity, deforestation, desertification…, you name it.
The greater the extent of our overshoot, then so too the lower the long term carrying capacity will be. Sadly, our overshoot has been going into overdrive for at least the last three decades.
The breeding pairs of humans who make it through this bottleneck will find themselves living at a level far below what may have otherwise been possible had we been even just a little bit smarter than the aforementioned yeast.
First, thanks to Ash for having the courage to post this.
That said, look no further than the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation for a prime example of the White Savior Industrial Complex as described in the article.
Very large, expensive, and technocratic “solutions” to intractable problems faced by the multitudes not privileged to live in wealthy industrialized countries. The best philanthropy that billions of dollars in American corporate profits can buy. Or is it?
At any point do they bother to ask those same people what they need the most? Do they make any effort to enable or empower homegrown solutions, by the people and for the people who actually live there and know better than anyone what the problems are?
No, of course not. Why would they? Look at how rich and powerful they are, obviously they must be smarter than the people they feel so self-righteously obliged to “help”.
I dunno, maybe it’s in our genes:
Thermo/Gene Collision – On Human Nature, Energy, and Collapse
Thanks all, for the kind comments.
My apologies, I should have qualified the “barely made a ripple” comment with “compared to the Arab Spring”. Yes, you are absolutely right we have seen a widespread movement, but AFAIK little has actually changed, yet.
That’s a very interesting question. Probably more than I can chew in a simple comment, except to say that hierarchies also self organize in complex systems. The late ecologist H.T. Odum observed that this pattern can be seen in many systems, both living and non-living, and at many different scales. He went on to speculate that it is related to the universal hierarchy in energy and other resources, where large quantities at lower grades are increasingly concentrated in smaller quantities but at much higher “quality” (not to be confused with “better” or “worse”, quality in this context is not a moral judgement). Much like the trophic levels seen in ecosystems.
So I guess I would answer that globalization and the attendant propaganda is another in a long line of historical examples of empires self organizing into a system where energy and resources are concentrated from a wide but relatively weak periphery into a powerful center.
The addition of large quantities of extremely high quality concentrated fossil sunlight has just enabled us to do it on a much, MUCH grander scale than ever before, at least for a brief but shining moment.
Thanks for your comment. I did consider using a Canadian maple leaf, in honor of I&S homebase, but it just didn’t have the same flair, and in the image I found the lighting was way too flat.
Perhaps you didn’t notice the version of the logo with the image of Europe front and center on the image of the globe, both of which evoke, um, “global”. Besides, wouldn’t it be rather difficult to find a coin that is not “country specific”?
Anyway, I’m glad you liked it. Thanks!