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My Daughter
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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Peak Oil Solutions: Ideology versus Reality

We have come to that point in time where we must see the difference between finding ways of enlarging human carrying capacity and finding ways to exceed it. Even some “alarmists” or doomers have yet to fathom our present predicament. These conditions we are seeing are not of recent origin, and will not soon go away. Peak oil is more of a milestone, rather than an initiating event. We have been in overshoot for some time now, living precariously on a phantom carrying capacity through the advent of fossil fuels. We have disregarded a plethora of instances in which populations of organisms so changed their own environments that they undermined their ability to support them. Most of us didn’t know that this was what these examples were showing us—and we surely never thought the pattern would ever apply to us.

So, with the dawn of peak oil looming on the horizon, just what do we do? While there are many camps of thought and ideals, it seems that there are two that are dominating. Here are two quotes from William Catton, the author of Overshoot; the Ecological Basis of Evolutionary change to illustrate those two camps. If you have not read this book, I encourage you to do so. Some excerpts can be found here:

“… people continue to advocate further technological breakthroughs as the supposedly sure cure for carrying capacity deficits. The very idea that technology caused overshoot, and that it made us too colossal to endure, remains alien to too many minds for"de-colossalization" to be a really feasible alternative to literal die-off. There is a persistent drive to apply remedies that aggravate the problem.”

This is cargoism: A faith in technology will stave off institutional change. The mere idea of a “powerdown” and accepting finite limits runs counter grain to their way of thinking. This solution entails accelerating the drawdown. It remedies the near future problems by shortening our future.

”If any substantial fraction of the more colossal segments of humanity did conscientiously give up part of their resource-devouring extensions out of humane concern for their less colossal brethren, there is no guarantee that this would avert die-off. It might only postpone it, permitting human numbers to continue increasing a bit longer, or less colossal peoples to become a bit more colossal, before we crash all the more resoundingly. All this tends to be disregarded by advocates of a "return to the simple life" as a gentle way out of the human predicament.”]

While many might call this realism, feeling that major changes must take place, the advocacy by some of a “powerdown” also has its myopic components. We can’t continue to do the same thing, but just less so. And whatever we do, everyone must participate or it becomes a fool’s errand. Conservation and energy efficiency get you nowhere if Jevon’s Paradox gets a part in the play. There must be a paradigm shift in our view of the world about what is important and what is not. This entails learning to live within the carrying capacity without trying to enlarge it. We must rely on renewable resources consumed no faster than at sustained yields. We must be modest in our being.

So, just who is winning this “battle for a solution”? Neither camp. For now, it is an intellectual battle of ideals while another battle rages and dominates. We are reverting back to the time-honored and time-tested takeover method of enhancing human carrying capacity, albeit a rather focused one on who gets enhanced. That is the reality of the “solution” in progress.

“America, declared Paul Wolfowitz, must be ready to go to war, and many should be prepared to die.” “No threats to our “global dominance” will be tolerated - that will be the “dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources [oil] would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

From society’s point of view, geopolitics is a Darwinian collective struggle for increased carrying capacity; but from the individual geostrategist’s viewpoint, it is a game they are convinced they can win. And that, my friends, is the game that is afoot. For the moment, we can forget a techno-fix or a powerdown, what we get instead as an answer and solution to Peak Oil is a Resource War disguised as a War on Terror.

3 comments:

amorando said...

This is a very interesting listing of school killings. It would be interesting to see it charted to see if in maybe five year intervals if the number changes.

danbnimble said...

I believe we are overlooking another important aspect of oil consumption and that is the atmospheric and earthly environmental contamination that we can not, at this time, measure how long oil by-product contamination will be with us, ie, ozone layer loss, earth warming trends, etc. Nor do we know if certain really severe thresholds have been passed. I believe we need to silence the C- governmental scientist and allow the people to listen to scientist that are willing to error on the side of intelligence rather than economics.

J said...

You have it pegged about right - until the populace becomes unmanageable, government will continue down present course. Without crisis to force them to change, it will be "business as usual" for corporations and politicians accumulating paper money. With the Patriot Act, gov has big leverage and no need for due process in the event of disobedience. Your evidence of the current young americans proclivity towards violence alarms me further. This means it will get nasty when the people try to take back their government from the corporatists.

I never was a survival whacko until I realized what was coming about 10 years ago. That was when I got wind of Peak Oil, and followed it up with a lot of reading at the library. Which led me to population overshoot and all the rest...

All one can do is take care of family, of friends and try to educate others in a new way. And the new way will eventually include some really cool things...