AN OVERVIEW By Murph
In some previous posts I have made some generalized overviews of what appears to be happening in our world. I think it is easy for us to become immersed in details and focusing on single issues and not see how it all fits together or to become submerged in the enormity of what we consider the negative events swirling around us. So I attempt to step back once in a while and take a snapshot of all the information that I take in and put it together to make some sense.
Right at the top of the list is the oil problem. Unless one wants to have a heartfelt belief in the validity of anaerobic oil, we have to realize that oil is a finite resource. The probability of it ever becoming available in the huge amounts we had originally on this planet is zero. Even if the anaerobic oil concept proves true, it contains a whole list of problems that aren’t addressed, namely, rate of replenishment. So from my perspective, it makes no difference. We are going to/ are running out of oil. In simple fact, the rate of production is not keeping up with rate of increase in demand, and is thus going up in price. Obviously, prices will increase until there is that thing called demand destruction that takes hold. If you can’t afford to buy it, you aren’t going to use it. There are already some poor countries that are out of the bidding for oil, although I cannot again find that article to give specifics. (My main computer with all the bookmarks and articles stored were lost when the mother board went down and I haven’t had the time to try and rebuild the hard drive to extract the data) Regardless, if the price continues to rise, the poorer parts of the worlds population will be priced out of the market, including people in the United States. Despite the reassurances of the CERTA report and the economic gurus, we will run out of the stuff at our present and escalating usage worldwide. Currently the U.S is using 20+ million barrels of oil per day and usage is going up, not down, and no indication that will change in the near future. When it is realized how much modern life is dependent on oil, it becomes obvious that a really big social change is on the way.
The greening of the economy and reducing or eliminating fossil fuel usage is big in the news today. All sorts of ideas, inventions and public policy suggestions are sprouting up. Not only does all of this have impractical to impossible usage, but, some of it has outright damaging effects. Most of my research into these ideas shows there is little interest in computing the final costs for implementing such ideas.
- Ethanol has the most obvious of the detrimental effects. It is an impossible substitute for oil. It costs ultimately more in energy to produce than can be used, and is dependent on fossil fuels for its production. We were warned about this when it was suggested years ago, but the warnings were ignored and the government subsidies were put in place to implement large-scale production. It is proving to be a disaster. New ethanol plants have been shut down and cost of food has dramatically risen as a direct result of these policies.
- Electrical generation without direct fossil fuel usage is being heavily promoted. Wind energy is one of the biggies today. Few if any studies have been implemented concerning the trade offs in its wholesale use for producing electricity. If electrical usage were to be cut back drastically world wide, wind energy could conceivably have a value. At our present rate of electrical usage, trying to substitute wind for fossil fuel generation at just 25% is not possible due to the tremendous use of fossil fuels to create the production infrastructure. This does not even start to address the centralized power grids that are in decay and need updating for increased carrying capacity in that change over. And, as I have mentioned previously in posts, the ecological cost has not even been addressed, much less thoroughly investigated.
3. Wave energy is being looked at to a far lesser extent. Again, little is being addressed concerning maintenance, fossil fuel usage to implement it and its environmental impact.
4. Hydroelectric generation has reached its zenith. We have dammed up about as much as can be dammed for generation, and with tremendous ecological damage to boot.
5. Free energy concepts are prolific. None of them are addressing the cost in resources, fossil fuels and infrastructure needed to implement them if they prove to be workable.
6. The hydrogen economy has been shown to be not possible. In the first place, the
Infrastructure is not going to happen and its energy in ratio to energy out is unacceptable.
It isn’t going to happen.
7. None of this address how we are going to keep modern transportation going on electricity alone, nor produce plastics, nor electronics. Haven’t heard of a means to fly a plane on it yet. Face it, we have nothing and there is not on the near time horizon, any substitute for fossil fuels and we have built an empire and western civilization on having cheap plentiful fossil fuels. If we had started looking into these kinds of issues 30-50 years ago, we might just have been able to come up with some alternatives. We were warned back then and the warnings were ignored by all but a few of the tin foil hats among us.
Food production for the world is another biggie. The farming developments of last 100 years are very heavily dependent on fossil fuels. This has directly spurred huge population growths worldwide with the expanding food production. There is a limit of how many bushels of anything can be grown on an acre of land. With increasing costs of oil, we are going to experience from that alone increased food costs, worldwide. Throw in diverted food production to ethanol and bio fuel production and it will get worse. The squeeze is on as evidenced by food riots taking place in many areas now. As oil prices go up, there is going to be a lot more riots. Ever wonder when riots over food will begin in this country? Put into these observations the continuous degradation of crop land, the near disappearance of some critical elements in the food, (selenium is the first to come to mind), the ever expanding usage of farm land for housing and highways and we have some severe problems with food coming at us.
The world economics is currently a mess. There is a high probability of a big melt down of world wide economic systems and institutions. Over all, nations and most of their populations are poorer than they were 15 years ago. We can’t claim national or personal wealth when 80% of the worlds wealth is held by individuals that are only 20% of the worlds population.
Resource depletion is becoming very apparent now. Water has finally become forefront, right next to fossil fuel depletion.
The urban infrastructure is deteriorating fast. We have put so much capital into spreading out from urban centers that they are capital traps now, that is, their value is down and no way to recover the capital investment. Instead, inner city slums are now proving to be a good capital investment. Neat huh?
Governments around the world are becoming increasingly fascist, that is, under the control of corporations and big money interests. Corporations have become literally a government unto themselves with no restraints whatsoever.
That we are experiencing climate change is not a contention, but the raging debate over what is causing it goes on. Climate changes, no matter the source, are going to have huge implications on nations and societies.
This is a fairly good overview of what I see happening without going into a lot of specifics. You may be tired of seeing the down side of everything by now. I got to admit I do get tired of it also. This next section is by Freeacre and will have more of an optimistic outlook.
“Half Full” Perspective….by Freeacre
With certain notable exceptions, I am the designated “half full” person, while Murph takes the cake in the “half empty” category. So, it falls to me to present some positive news in this overview of the demise of “life as usual.” Here’s what I have come up with so far. Feel free to add to my list.
With the oil shortages and the resulting rise in the price of fuel, coupled with the devaluation of the dollar, imports of many goods will be curtailed. This will lead to the collapse of the Big Box Stores (yea!). To my mind, this is good in and of itself.
Once they are out of the picture, those people out of work due to recession/depression lay-offs, will be able to pick up the slack making useful things at home or close by to sell or trade to their neighbors. Everything from fence hardware, household supplies, clothing, toys, and on and on will be needed. Second hand stores will supply a lot of things for while, but innovative people will be busy filling in the gaps. Flea markets and farmer’s markets will thrive. This will lead to many more conversations among community members and add to a sense of neighborliness and connection, which will be emotionally satisfying.
The tax base for state and county governments will shrink, as the real estate is devalued and taxes fade from decreased incomes. There won’t be enough money to continue to incarcerate citizens for victimless or non-violent crimes, like smoking pot, or even selling it. This will be a good thing to reduce the suffering of a lot of people languishing in the prison cells now, and also lend itself to a wider distribution of herbal medicine available for people to relieve physical and/or emotional pains. From the sixties, after all, we hearken back to those words of wisdom, “Dope will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no dope.”
Once people begin to grow gardens in their yards, and replace their lawns with switch grass to feed their animals, they will be eating organic by necessity. This will lend itself to increased vitality and health. Since fewer people will have medical insurance, reliance on medications like anti-depressants, and behavioral modification drugs for children, like Ritalin and anti-psychotics for childhood “bi-polar disorder” and the like will be severely curtailed. “Hyper-active” kids can be put to work in the garden, or cutting grass with a scythe. They can ride their bikes to the grocery store to pick up things for mom and the neighbors, like a kid should be doing anyway. Once they get away from the tube and the Gameboy, they may find that their ADHD goes away…
As people start taking a closer look at their surroundings and stop thinking of a “season” as a new batch of television programming, rather than what is growing around them from year to year, interest in Permaculture will thrive. I don’t know anything about permaculture yet, so I can’t be real specific. But I know it will be big. Trees will be planted that produce nuts and good, useable wood, like walnuts and pecans and hazelnut trees, etc. Edible plants will be identified and cultivated. Poplars to take up nitrogen in the ground can be relied on to help keep the water clean. Berries and fruits will be harvested and made into jams and jellies and pies. Maybe we’ll inspire a bunch of neo-Johnny Apple Seeds to go around and plant random fruit and nut trees all over the place for the common good.
Self-expression and creativity will be encouraged and supported, as people rely less on Target Stores and Bed, Bath and Beyond to furnish their homes. People will make their own folk art, ceramics, quilts, gifts, furniture, etc. People will stop buying corporate sponsored brand name and sports paraphernalia, and regional differences will once again add to the wealth of diversity in our country. It will get a lot more colorful and interesting.
The same goes for music and entertainment. Local musicians, and artists of all sorts will have a broader audience. Community theaters and choirs, and music and dance groups of all sorts will thrive again.
The newly laid back and medically marijuanaed folk might be amused by watching the former yuppie (scum) who used to ply the most traveled roads to that they could be observed by the most neighbors in their neon jogging outfits and carrying outsized plastic water bottles, pulling rick-shaws or carts on regular routes to the grocery stores or Farmer’s Market to make a little extra cash. I know this would amuse the heck out of me… Their McMansions will also make pretty good communes, as we dense up our suburbs to make them survivable.
The good news is that as the corporate influence is curtailed, people will matter more. As we drive less, neighborhoods and towns will no longer be something to stare at from the windows of our cars. Things will get more real. We won’t just be all for public transportation – we’ll actually get on a bus or a train. We will get to know our neighbors and communities because we will really need each other again in ways that we have forgotten.
I admit that I look forward to the end of the soulless corporate culture that sickens, exploits and controls us today. As this abomination dies, I have hope that more freedom, ingenuity, and health will prevail. It won’t be easy, and a lot of us will not make it through the transition. But, in the end, there is the possibility that things will be good.