Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

The Stages of Denial – Adjusting to Peak Oil

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Does your head begin to whir? What about that vast pool of oil spreading at hundreds of square miles per day as I type in the Gulf of Mexico? As Dmitri Orlov reminds us, again, the phases of denial go like this:

1. denial—”We are not lost! The ski lodge is just over the next ridge, or the next, or the next…”
2. anger—”We are wasting time! Shut up and keep trotting!”
3. bargaining—”The map must be wrong; either that or someone has dynamited the giant boulder that should be right there…”
4. depression—”We’ll never get there! We’re all going to die out here!” and
5. acceptance—”We are not lost; we are right here, wherever it is. We better find some shelter and start a campfire before it gets dark and cold.”

If you need this made explicit:

1. We’re not running out of oil, we can get plenty from Deepwater, Oil Sands, and assorted other strange sources that are riskier to use than anything we’ve developed before, in one way or another. If those pesky environmentalists would just let us produce all the energy that American ingenuity is capable of, then we’d have no problems at all. Damned liberals.

2. Drill baby Drill, teach those bad Arabs that we don’t need them (ignore that we can only produce, at our currently depressed US consumption of about 19 or 20 million barrels per day (bpd), roughly 50% of our current requirements.) Open Arctic sources to drilling, anything, just so we don’t have to change. Sure, we can vote for change, but forget about actual change, that’s too difficult. Damned neo-cons, damned liberals (pick which, or both).

3. We’re in this now: once we apply the right technologies, and fix the broken oil thing in the Gulf, well then, it will all be OK, and we can commence drilling, driving, and consuming cheap plastic garbage shipped in from China.

Big Problem – How to Change?

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Sadly, both you and I know perfectly well that the US / Euro citizen is addicted to their lifestyle, considers it natural and normal, and won’t change it until they are forced to. And the corporations have taken on so much power that it’s terrifying to watch how scared politicians are of upsetting them. Since both the population as a whole, and the corporations that profit from consumption and growth behaviors, will resist change at every significant level, there’s just not much room to see real change happening, though I’m sure we’ll hear new candidates pop up, as Obama did, spouting the words, while of course failing totally to engage in the required deeds.

But as the article Barack Hoover Obama – By Ken Silverstein (Harper’s Magazine) put it so well, there’s no real option, since there is no real power promoting the change that we actually need.

And when individuals refuse to modify their own behaviors, and insist on driving, maintaining a car-centric life (and I admit, it’s not easy living without a car in much of the United States), it’s hard to see just where changes will come from. Especially given the massive power and entrenched corporate interests of the growth based economic system we are forced to see as our only option for the future.

It will be a while longer before you read a speech like Roosevelt gave about the banksters before he was elected:

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital – all undreamed of by the Fathers – the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small-businessmen and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.


The problems with energy transitions and the US system

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Sometimes someone puts things into nice, clear, simple terms, that are basically just.. .well, true. Here’s a good article from, Energy Transition: The Intractability of the Built Environment:

If the solution to a problem is unsufficiently scaled to the size of the problem, then at best we can say it’s a token solution. And token solutions are what the US has been trying out for 40 years, on the matter of energy. 8 billion for High Speed Rail? Sorry, but the restoration of rail in this country is an 800 billion dollar project and that would be just for the first wave. Adoption of electric vehicles, as part of some cultural need to maintain US car culture? Sure, at realistic adoption rates you might be running mostly on EVs in 150-200 years. Switch the powergrid to 100% renewable resources like Wind and Solar in ten years? Not likely. But maybe if you are willing to withdraw the entirety of US armed services from overseas, devote the entire military budget for 10 years, and match that workforce with highly skilled workers from the private sector, then maybe you can make a dent by 2020.

When a politician tells you they want to solve for climate change while investing heavily in automobiles and highways, rest assured that is decidedly unserious. When former politicians claim you can have an all renewable powergrid in ten years, that is not helping anyone. When academics tell you that we can be operating in an all renewable world by 2030, but have nothing in their model to account for the energy needed to build that new world, that is simply not good enough. Nota bene: nearly all energy transition plans and especially plans to transition to alternative energy depend on economic growth. All those models assume there will be a sufficient inventory of growth that can be redirected to a different energy architecture. As you contemplate this, also realize that to construct a lower carbon-emitting future poses a question: what is the energy source that will be used, to conduct energy transition?

“When a politician tells you they want to solve for climate change while investing heavily in automobiles and highways, rest assured that is decidedly unserious.” Yes, indeed. Decidedly not serious is exactly how I would put our current response to global warming, soon to be declining global oil supplies, coal extraction, etc.

Fela Anikulapo Kuti – Government Magic… Authority Stealing

Friday, May 14th, 2010

Since world governments are entering into some purely metaphysical states, that are essentially exposing our modern world for the illusion it is, I thought it would be refreshing to take a look back at how an outsider from the process saw all this, some decades ago, Fela Kuti.

Government magic indeed. Debt magic. Credit card magic. Bond magic. Corporate magic. Isn’t it time to start looking for the wizard behind the curtain, pull them back a bit, and expose him for who he really is?

This is (youtube version) the verse that made me think a bit:

Chorus: Government magic.
Fela: dem go da baru (borrow) everything;
Chorus: Government magic.
Fela: dem go turn green into white
Chorus: Government magic.

Indeed… dem dey baru everything… but who is lending?

Or this, from Authority Stealing:

Armed robber him need gun
Authority man him need pen
Authority man in charge of money
Him no need gun, him need pen
Pen got power gun no get
If gun steal eighty thousand naira
Pen go steal two billion naira

Are we actually different at this stage? Borrowing from our futures to pay off bankers who are receiving record bonuses almost yearly? Time to switch magics, there are better ways forward, a magic that benefits only the magician is not a good magic, go back as far as you want, the only worthwhile magics benefit the community.

Unknown Soldier

— Fela Anikulapo Kuti

Fela: Make you no go when you hear.
Just wait there, make I tell you something

Chorus: Fela you go come again

Fela: I never come again. I stay for far away.
Make you wait till I reach where I dey go

Orlov on Collapse – Thoughts

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Orlov wrote a nice article, The Five Stages of Collapse about what he sees as the general tendency of collapsing societies, based on what he saw when the USSR failed. Orlov is delightfully witty in a dark sort of way.

I think he may be making a slight mistake though in thinking that the US collapse is going to look like the USSR collapse, which is what he wrote about mainly, the countries are very different in terms of the cultures, politics, social systems.

But what is not different is the fundamental requirement of our system for raw materials and resources, and the serious lunacy of believing in debt fueled and funded ‘growth’, which was supposed to replace growth based on resource exploitation, ie, manufacturing . Sadly trying to restore debt fueled growth is the method Obama is trying to keep floating, like the Bush group before him (oh, if the banks would just lend again everything would be ok…).

When growth stops in a system based on Capital and debt, ie, a system requiring growth to survive, that system will not have a neat elegant wind-down, that much you can be absolutely certain about. But I think one major difference is found in the respective histories of the US and Russia.

Russia has always been fond of oligarchs, with basically unlimited power, whether czars, Putin, Stalin, or Lenin.

The US has at least some checks and balances, and people have a certain expectation that they won’t get totally screwed by the system. Not to idealize our political process in any way, but we do have a system that, although damaged severely by corporatism, can be altered, and we have political documents, which if we follow them, are actually all the tools we need. But the people need to be really pissed off before this happens, and ready to support a party that is willing to cut off corporatism and its perks.