Sunday, December 11, 2005

Sitting on our own sword

A friend forwarded me the Guardian article in which George Monbiot cites Jeffrey Dukes calculation that the economies [how poorly named!] of the civilized world [how very poorly named, what ironists we are!] consume in a year what an uncontaminated, unpaved global biota could only replenish in 400 years. The man could be off by two orders of magnitude and still have said the most damning thing about the pathetic way we turn to every substitute for the fuel we are runnng out of rather than turn down the thermostat. I had missed that one. Its good to have mathematical demonstration that current satisfaction of our wants isn't really possible. Without several breakthroughs in biofuel technology, most biodiesel schemes are barely at carbon-budget break even points.

There has been a thread in some of the blogs I read, maybe for a month or two now, that plowing under the rainforests, as is now underway in Brazil and Borneo, e.g., to make plantations that produce biodiesel [from palm oil] is not even going to be the short term success for which the sponsoring governments and corporations tout it. It is going to be a long term disaster for species diversity and environmental degradation.

What I lacked in appreciating the folly of these plantations was the numeric brick wall against which these plans are hurling themselves. The attempt at current satisfaction of our wants will strip us of the means to meet our barest future needs.

Once in a great while and with sober, dire deliberation, a group of us will fall on its own swords. But now all of trading humanity, being too addicted to comfort to stand and too seduced by speed to slow down, is about to absent mindedly sit on a sword.


Gerry said...
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Gerry said...

We are dead men walking.

If we continue our rate of consumption, we trash the planet and billions of us will die. "The economy" will crash into an abyss. The rest will struggle for survival in a crashed ecosystem.

If we don't continue our rate of consumption (and peak oil will help see to that), "the economy" will crash, millions (but not billions) will die, the planet won't be totally trashed yet, "the economy" will rebuild gradually, until we trash the planet and then billions of us will die. "The economy" will crash into an abyss. The rest will struggle for survival in a crashed decosystem.

Whichever way you cut it, the planet is stuffed and we're going down the chute.

We've lost the ability and indeed the will to live lives which nurture the planet which nurtures and feeds us.

We are in a cycle of destruction and we're killing our way to supremacy over a scortched earth. Greed and vanity rule supreme in this race to the bottom... Death and destruction is the only outcome of our "civilised" pursuits.

And America leads the way to hell... Armageddon? No. Americageddon...

Davo said...

We are trained from infantcy to suffer. Do you expect anything less?

GreenSmile said...

But the ironic thing here, Davo, is that a short sighted attempt to avoid the suffering of a little belt tightening is leading us to something much more traumatic down the road.

We have your latitude no less.

For years we have seen the abandoned stone heads on Easter Island as a mysterious legacy of what must have been, had to have been, a large and prosperous population. Last night I caught a History Channel show on Easter Island. A bit of digging to find the ecologoical history of the island tells the tale: The place was discoverd and settled around 500 AD by what could not have been more than a hundred polynesian settlers. They found an island carpeted with trees. Within a few hundred years there were 7000 people on an island of 117 square kilometers. The social collapse is hard to parse from the available evidence but the underlying cause is still clear: The island now has a bit of grass and few trees. By the time europeans found the place, it was already a struggling remnant of one or two thousand, barely making a living off the land.

Here's a link that presents slightly different numbers but tells pretty much the same exemplary story of humanity eating its own seed corn. Imagine a culture renowned for its seafaring skills in dugout canoes reduced to standing on the shore because it hadn't a tree left for canoe making.

[The only thing uglier than what the islanders of Rapa Nui did to themselves is what the "more advanced" countries with their guns, slave trade and smallpox did to finish off the stragglers.]

Gerry said...

Collapse by Jared Diamond

GreenSmile said...

Haven't read Either of Diamond's books, but they are on the must-read list.