Friday, January 4, 2008


A Doomer view, but realistic over the long run. The question is one of collapse vs. chaos. In 1929, The Great Depression era, only 25% of people were out of work. The underlying structure of society still existed. Resources were plentiful. This was an economic emergency, not a geological one. Peak Oil is the inability to produce oil fast enough. It will become the inability to produce enough at all. Sure, there is half the oil left, but demand has begun to surpass production. Crude oil production is falling. US stocks of crude have been falling since summer, even when they typically should be rising. Why? We need between 2 and 6 million barrels a day in new production every year just to cover natural declines in existing oil fields. We are not finding it and haven't been for 25 years. (See image in side bar.) We are on borrowed time. In the 70's and 80's the oil reductions were paralleled by reductions in GDP. A five percent decline is a big recession. We are looking at 4-8% decline year after year. After year. With the world in Depression, how do we pay for the massive changes and problems caused by Global Warming? How do we pay for a new energy system globally? That goes doubly for the fact that we are entering a massive financial meltdown independent of either Peak Oil or Global Warming. Millions are losing their homes now, and we are just getting started. Where the hell is the money going to come from? If we don't do something about global warming NOW, it will be too late to bother.

We are now faced with resources disappearing across the board. Why? Population and consumption. By some estimates we need 1.2 Earths to satisfy our current living standards into the future. For everyone to live as Americans do, more than 6 Earths. This is obviously impossible. Keep in mind: societies and systems are not limited by the abundance of all resources, but by the lack of just one critical resource. Consider: if water were not available, civilization dies. Period. It doesn't matter what else is there. Or, if you have all else, but no fuel, what happens? Growth? Heat? Cooling? Of course not. Systems are limited by THE resource that is least available, yet necessary.

The following is some sound advice/observation in the worst case scenario. Read it. Please.

The payoff of a much longer speech. It's worth reading in its totality.

The End f Civilization and the Extinction of Humanity

by Guy McPherson

Transcript of a talk I delivered 17 August 2007. It was the keynote address for a conference organized by, and for, students in the University of Arizona's Master of Public Health (MPH) program.
The invitation to speak today is quite an honor, and I appreciate the opportunity...

Many experts who write about simply one of these issues -- Peak Oil -- predict complete economic collapse within a decade, followed shortly thereafter by utter chaos and the subsequent death of more than 80% of the world's population. After all, the exponential curve of human population growth matches perfectly the exponential growth of world energy supply, suggesting that the downturn of the energy curve will cause a large-scale die-off of human beings. And if you think chaos can't descend on this country, you weren't paying attention to New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Horrible as that event was, nearly everybody involved knew it was a temporary inconvenience; I'm concerned how people might act when they recognize Peak Oil as a long emergency.

Can we get from here to there?... To tackle Peak Oil and runaway greenhouse at the same time might require larger doses of courage, compassion, and creativity than we can find in ourselves.

...And in that hope, we find the agenda ahead, laid out in ten huge steps by James Howard Kunstler, author of The Long Emergency. This is a not a 10-step plan in the usual sense; rather, we will have to start all of these steps simultaneously, and now. These steps are ginormous. That's a new word, as of last month when Webster's

Step 1: Expand our horizons beyond the question of how we will run the cars by means other than gasoline.
The TechnoMessiah will not save us from ourselves, nor will she magically create a substitute for crude oil. The mainstream media would have you believe ethanol is the savior, when in fact the most likely outcome of the ethanol craze is that we'll use our gas tanks to burn through the last six inches of topsoil in America's breadbasket. Biodiesel represents the most viable of the alternative fuels, but it requires a choice: We can use our farmland to grow food, or we can use it to grow fuel for our cars.... It's time to abandon the car, time to make other arrangements for nearly all the common activities of daily life.

Step 2: We must produce food differently.
Industrial agriculture is destined for disaster, and will leave in its wake sterile soils and an agricultural model at a grossly inappropriate scale. Within the next decade or so, small-scale farming will return to the center of American life. Think of the Victory Gardens of Oil War II as a small-scale, temporary experiment...

Step 3: We must inhabit the terrain differently.
The American suburbs and the interstate highway system are designed for a culture that has no future: the misguided car culture. The suburbs in particular represent perhaps the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world.... Our towns must be re-inhabited and the areas around them must be re-structured to accommodate small farms and the manufacture of goods to serve the towns. This entire process will require gihugic demographic shifts and is likely to be turbulent... when all this is happening and the thermometer reads 105 degrees and the calendar says summer's not here yet; you'd better get along with your neighbors, especially the heavily armed ones who take a strict interpretation of the Second Amendment. If you're looking for a job in the decades ahead, look no further than the brand-new fields of architecture, planning, and political leadership. The old versions of these enterprises are useless and must be abandoned...

Step 4: We must move people and things differently.
You've probably all seen the bumper sticker on about every fourth 18-wheeler on the interstate: "Without trucks, America stops." That's about right, at least with respect to economic growth. And the trucks are going to stop within the next half-decade or so...

We could start with our railroads... they can run on renewable energy. Then we could move to the waterways...

Step 5: We need to transform retail trade.
...Again, there are plenty of career opportunities for energetic individuals interested in small, local businesses. In the locally owned shops of the future, even the much maligned "middle man" will be making a comeback (so, too, will the lesser-known "middle woman").

Step 6: We have to start making things again.
We will have far fewer choices when we go to the store, but we still will need clothes and household goods...

Step 7: We need artists again.
....We're going to need playhouses and live performance halls... And we'll need musicians and actors and playwrights and stagehands and theater managers. We'll need storytellers, too, to keep history alive when the publishers stop printing books...

Step 8: We must reorganize the educational system.
Yellow fleets of school buses are on their way out. We have invested heavily in centralized systems of primary and secondary school -- most recently and disastrously in the form of "No Child Left Behind" -- and we will undoubtedly continue to invest in that centralization at the expense of true education. Such investment will slow the transition to a reasonable system of education that perhaps will grow, in fits and starts, from the home-schooling movement...

Step 9: Our medical system must be completely reorganized
Without power-hungry high-tech tools, we'll need real doctors again: people who understand how the body actually functions...

Step 10: Our entire socio-economic and political system will become much more local.
Every large system will fail. If you can find a way to do something practical and useful on a smaller scale than it is currently being done, you are likely to be well fed and even revered in your local community. Local politics will assume increasing importance as first the federal government, then the state government, simply fade from relevance. Neo-conservatism clings tenuously to life but, much to the dismay of Business Party I and Business Party II, [it?] will soon be dead.

The collapse of American Empire will bring many opportunities for local heroes...
There you have it: a thumbnail sketch of the agenda.

This, then, is the bottom line: This is not the time for wishful thinking. It's the time for doing. The way to feel hopeful about the future is to get off your butt and demonstrate to yourself, and perhaps to others, that you are a capable, competent individual determinedly able to face new circumstances...

During the time of Christ, in the Mediterranean region, the population of humans was viewed through the same lens as other populations. As such, human deaths often occurred in large numbers, as a result of war, conquest, famine, and pestilence...

Until very recently, large-scale die-offs were viewed as "normal"... The description and management of human populations back in the days of the Greek Cynics was oriented along population lines, with relatively little societal regard for individuals...

The years ahead will see a dramatic rise in deaths from starvation... At the population level, starvation is called famine... pestilence -- what we call disease, when it happens one person at a time... Famine and pestilence are two of the Four Horsemen; war and conquest are the other two. Already, resource wars have begun, and they are likely to ratchet up in the near future. The so-called bipartisan Iraqi study group concluded that Operation Iraqi Freedom was conducted in pursuit of black gold... I fear Oil War III is just getting started.

I'll finish where I started, which was the common good as the basis for friendship and hope. And, of course, with the ancients.

Without the common good, and the struggle on its behalf, there can be no Aristotelian friendship. There can be no justice. And there can be no virtue... And I further conclude that: As friends, we reveal our differences, we appreciate our differences, and then we set them aside ... for the common good.

With hope shining like a beacon, we struggle together ... for the common good... We have in our hands the destiny of our planet, including our own species and so many others... Walking a path that honors the planet and ourselves is a responsibility we share, you and I -- a responsibility unlike any other in human history. And it is not just a responsibility, but also something more: It is a joy, and a privilege.

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