Truth Against the World

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Steady State Economies?

The above is a very well written article. It addresses the inevitable future that will not be stopped by any amount of Xanax and alcohol. Our society has become hyper-complex and so I think it's easy to fall into the trap of overly complicated solutions to our problem. The answer really is very simple yet it's not good news for those of us alive just now. Well that, and it's not really an answer so much as it is an inevitable situation that's happening to us. Doing something meaningful in an attempt to fix our state as a civilization at this point is as likely as a meth binge is to fix the failing enamel on your front teeth.

Ecology trumps man's creative cleverness and problem solving abilities every time. Ecology is ruled by physical laws which all revolve around the laws of energy. In order for an organism to thrive it has to have access to a sustainable amount of energy. Energy comes predominately from the sun with some geothermal tossed in for good measure. There is a very good reason why primitive civilizations all worshiped the sun. They were right. The sun is the true power that giveth and taketh away. The sun provides the energy necessary for life on this planet to exist.

It appears that understanding the situation our species is in is akin to kicking water uphill. Why nobody is willing to take this issue into their mind is beyond me. OUR WORLD IS OVERPOPULATED DUE TO PETROLEUM (I'm going to beat this dead horse until I'm left beating a hallucination of a horse because somebody has to at least attempt to warn people...even though they predominately don't care or want to care or want to know). This is not up for debate. Whether you chose to believe it or not does not matter. However, pending we can move forward as if the majority of humanity understands this very pressing issue, what is the solution if any? Is there a way for mankind to persist on this planet in a sustainable way?

I don't think there is. Not unless the majority of the human race can raise their level of consciousness up five or six clicks. That, and we're all going to exit soul into a perfect society of enlightened, New Age, hippie douche's in a rapturous orgasm of kum-by-ya on Dec 21, 2012. The only way to maintain sustainability is to work with the natural world. That is to live by the dictates of energy flows. This means being cognizant about using natural resources at a rate that nature can keep up with. Not just what nature can regenerate but also what it can detoxify. The author of the linked blog above uses the example of yeasts eating sugar. It's the same story for any organism and it's main source of energy. In the case of yeasts that energy is sugar. The yeasts end up killing themselves by overpopulation leading to a poisonous environment. Yeasts can only tolerate so much alcohol (CO2 and alcohol being yeasts waste products) before they die. This same drama is playing out for the human race. The only unknown at this point in time is which element of the trifecta is going to put an end to our nonsense. Will the economy collapse and cause a massive die off, or will climate change cause massive natural disasters which cause massive die off, or will us running out of petroleum sugar cause a massive die off? The only question is which one of these things is going to cause a massive die off first?

The reasons for this are terrifyingly clear. We ate too much petroleum sugar. We designed, or muddled up to, a way of life that depends on regular increases of petroleum sugar doses. That's what caused this unfortunate situation to occur. Now there is nothing we can do about the fact that natural laws are going to require a major sacrifice of the human race by way of massive die off. So the debate in the Trifecta informed crowd, at this point, is what will a "steady state" economy look like on the ground? A steady state economy is a sustainable economy. Is that possible for mankind to achieve? I think that it is possible given the right set of circumstances. You can't give a heroine addict a seemingly unlimited supply of heroine and then ask him to use the junk sustainably. The best that hypothetical junky is going to be able to do is stay smacked up for a long time. The worst is an overdose. We have managed to stay jacked up on petroleum sugar until now. What you are feeling now is that little bit of left over rock that you found in the couch and on the floor board of your car that you were able to stuff into your soda pop crack pipe for one last half ass hooray. To me, theorizing about a steady state economy is an exercise in scholastic futility. Sometimes we can't help ourselves.

The fact of the matter is that humans are greedy and tend towards hubris. We are naturally self serving and I venture to guess that the reason for this is millions of years of evolution. Natural selection means the law of the jungle. The strongest, fastest, most clever monkey gets to reproduce. Altruism and selflessness is predominately a human idea similar to math and time. There may be rare cases of altruism in the animal kingdom, but those are extremely rare. Even a dog's loyalty derives from the fact that you feed him. To help somebody that has never helped you, or that you don't like, requires mental discipline and faith in spiritual wisdom. The overwhelming majority of mankind is not altruistic. The majority of people serve their small tribe and that is it. Family and friends are all that matter. We tend to serve that before and beyond anything else. In other words, I'm going to do what ever I have to to ensure that my home is heated in the winter. We largely vie for energy. As long as there is enough energy to go around we can pretty much all get along.

What we are seeing now is the onset of energy depletion. I firmly believe that the economy disruptions we have been dealing with are reflecting the beginning of a shortage of energy. The abundance of energy has allowed this to occur via too many people. What has happened is as inevitable as the sun rise. Any species would have done the exact same thing given the option. Further proof that we are just clever monkeys, but monkeys nonetheless. The difference between us and the rest of the animal kingdom is that we can conceive of a different reality. We have conceptual free will. We could have prevented this conceptually but not in reality. Because the reality is that we are mostly ruled by our monkey nature.

None of this is stopping movements like the Transition Movement from happening. I think the Transition Movement is necessary and good, however I also think that the majority of them are deluded about what is possible. Keep in mind that my opinion has been informed by blogosphere/internetosphere sources and nothing more. It seems that those in the TM camp think they are going to somehow erect a new way of life that is sustainable. Indeed that is what they are attempting to do. If there was anything like the TM around my local biosphere I would join in the efforts if for no other reason than to be around informed people. A lot can be said about the TM and while they may be deluded they are certainly informed about the reality of the trifecta. Community is going to be more and more necessary in the future. Together we can accomplish much more than we can alone. The only sane approach to our demise is cultivating sustainability in all areas of our lives. This is what the TM is trying to do via permaculture coupled with intentional community and accentuated by renewability. The TM is a case where conceptually it seems necessary and possible and sane but in reality probably won't get very far. But it's a response to the Trifecta and that's at least something.

Personally I've subscribed entirely to John Michael Greer's "Green Wizardry" as my approach to our depressive future. Dimitri Orlov also presents a very informed approach to our future. My approach to our future will be the subject of my next blog.

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