Truth Against the World

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Post Petroleum Human

Our species has entered into a new paradigm. There are very fundamental changes that have already happened and in complete silence. To be fair, these changes have been standing by for a couple of hundreds of years because these changes are really just a return back to normal. A return to human life before the industrial revolution changed the face of the earth to what it is now. Nothing is changing about the truth of human existence and what that existence requires of us. What is changing is that we are going to be required , once again, to tend to those basic human needs that our windfall of fossil fuel energy has made available to us. The reason why this is a paradigm shift is because these particular requirements are not in living memory. There is nothing, at least nothing in the "first world", to compare this to. Yet this shift has happened already, and what's left is for the human race to awaken to these new changes. I'm going to outline the major changes that have occurred in this essay to assist in this shift of consciousness.

What the world is experiencing is not a recession, nor is it a depression. Although it will eventually resemble a depression, it is different because the reasons for it are not the same as the reasons that cause depressions that eventually break to return to business as usual. There is no quick fix for Western Society at this point. We are told that the recession brought on by the real estate bubble collapsing has ended. It did not end. The United States government simple conjured up trillions of digital ones and zeros to distribute to the "too big to fail" financial institutions that created the mess to begin with. It's important to understand that "money" is simply a claim on wealth. So that begs the question, what is wealth? This is very important to understand because without understanding this fact, it is impossible to understand the new requirements of this new paradigm I'm trying to disclose to you.

Wealth is really just an economist's word for natural resources. When people think of wealth in this country they think of a big house, new high end vehicles, an R.V. or camper to vacation in that has all of the amenities of home, a large boat to fish or perhaps ski behind, a vacation home at the beach or in the mountains or perhaps both, and all of that stuffed to the gill with the latest and greatest electronic gizmos. After all, you haven't made it until you have a 110" 3D television hangin' on your wall. And most important is a large bank account with enough money in it so that you and yours never have to work. Success in America is being part of the free money club. The club where the "prosperity machine" just gives you money for free because you have so much of it already. What is behind all of this? In who's world is it fair to expect that the above outlined life style is acceptable with no ethical or moral dilemma's? While you are busy working 80 hours a week chasing down this dream, peasants in third world countries are literally slaving away for just enough money to pay for a subsistence that they provided for themselves before our American Dream showed up and took it from them. Never mind the brutality and cruel inhumanity involved with the production of your tube socks and 3D televisions. What about the destruction of the only thing that keeps us alive?

The Earth is a living organism in which you are just an atom. However our unique importance is that we compose the brains of this organism. We are each an atom with a place in the mind of the planet. We are the Earth's conscious ability and that responsibility needs to be realized before we commit genocide and then suicide. It is time to grow out of the two year old's mentality of "mine" without any understanding beyond that selfishness. The Earth's biosphere is a very complicated living organism. Part of the new paradigm requires us to define wealth differently than we do now. The rules on how to gain wealth need to change to be sustainable for all life on earth.

Real Wealth

So what is wealth in the old paradigm? Wealth comes from the extraction of the Earth's resources. Wealth is fossil fuels, trees, soil, fresh water, sea life, rare earth metals, ores, grains, vegetables, livestock and all of the other substances that nourish our lives that come from the physical world. There is nothing wrong with using these things, but there is something wrong with the way that we use them. The problem, as I see it, is that we use these things to gain something known as profit. We all seek to personally profit by the exploitation of the Earth's resources. 

 Let's look at something as simple as a wooden table to illustrate how this works. Before we can even make the wooden table we have to have the wood to make it, and we get that wood by cutting down a tree. Seems fair enough, we have a need, the tree fills that need, we cut the tree down. But what else was that tree doing before we cut it down? The most important job that the tree was doing was to take carbon dioxide, which we exhale, and turn it into oxygen, which we need to stay alive. What is that worth as a source of wealth? You can't have wealth without sustained life. Another important function of that tree is the amount of rain water that the tree captures and then releases through transpiration. The tree may also be called home by many different species of animals. My point is that a tree is not just a tree, and it's not just a commodity to be exploited, it serves many very important functions for life on Earth. Yet we have needs as a species so there is no inherent problem with cutting down a tree to fill a human need. We are as much a part of the biosphere as the birds are. However that tree represents value which represents wealth. At some point in this chain profit emerges. Unrestrained capitalism simply views that tree as a commodity to be turned into profit. It does not see all of the other necessary functions that the tree performs for life on Earth. This has to change or we will commodify everything and end up on a planet which is inhospitable to human life.

So we cut down the tree to make a table. Once the tree is on the ground it no longer has value as a living being. However it still has value which can be turned into a profit via human ingenuity and labor. This is the stage where value is added. We use tools (made from other natural resources) and energy to craft the tree into a table. The tree has had value added to it through man's labor and ingenuity. In other words the now dead tree is worth more than it was laying on the ground as a dead tree. It has become a useful table. The carpenter is now free to sale this table for money, which is a claim on both the tree and the effort that went into making the tree into a table. The point is that without the tree money becomes nothing more than dead trees. The tree represents the primary economy and man's labor represents the secondary economy. The world of money is the tertiary economy and this is where we arrive at the complicated economical terms that are beyond the scope of this essay. The tertiary economy is also where vast amounts of wealth are stolen.

Money used to be measured by gold, which is a natural and limited resource. That's why gold works as a measure of currency. There is a finite amount of it and so there can only be so much money based on the amount of gold. If you take the gold out of the equation you are left with fiat currency which is unbridled and can theoretically continue exponentially increasing ad infinum. Millions of ones and zeros becomes billions, becomes trillions, becomes gigagagillions, becomes ridiculous, exponential, digital, projectile vomiting. We are in the process of moving into the nausea stage just before the projectile vomiting. Now, add to this idea of unbridled ones and zeroes a method of banking known as fractional reserve banking, and you have a whimsical hallucination. Somebody deposits one hundred dollars of paper money into a bank, and now the bank loans out that money nine more times, or a gigagagillion more times depending on the proximity to the bull shit black hole that the particular bank inhabits. The money is fiat to begin with. It is created from nothing and is multiplied by nothing to finally arrive at, you guessed it, nothing. The only thing that keeps our currency real at this point is our collective agreement that it's worth what we think it should be, and more importantly, our military is forcing everybody to take our money seriously. The irony is that in so doing we are keeping ourselves imprisoned behind placebo bars of our own making. Bars that keep the rich richer and the poor poorer. So our money is fake and that allows the talking heads suspended by strings to spew forth whatever machinations they deem necessary to explain the Dow Jones Industrial Average's nonsensical average of the day. The reality behind these mischievous media poltergeist is something else entirely. Unlike this conjured up digital vomitus, the reality deals with...well, reality. Reality being cut and dried laws such as the laws of physics (of the Newtonian variety that is, not the Einsteinian Quantum "we don't know shit about physics" type).

Growth cares about the laws of thermodynamics, namely the law of entropy. Entropy can be summed up quaintly by the saying "energy follows it's bliss," that is to say that it goes from concentrated to diffuse always. The fossil fuels we have been drunkenly using for the last 200 years are just using us to follow their own bliss. They want to be burned up. We have gladly served their wish, and we have profited by way of increasing our numbers from a billion to nearly 7 billion in approximately fifty years. How do you suppose we did that? We increased our numbers by seven times in just over 50 years. We did that by transforming a dead prehistoric Earth kingdom into various manifestations of corn. By that I mean that we alchemically transformed inedible petroleum into food. There is a law that is helpful in understanding why we have reached, as Richard Heinberg has said, the "End of Growth." That law is one that comes from ecology and it's known as Liebigs Law of the Minimum.

Liebig's law is very simple. It states that the least abundant and necessary element that is required for an organisms growth will be the limiting factor in that organisms growth. In other words, if we don't eat vitamin C we will get scurvy and eventually die. Think of it like this. Say there is only one source of vitamin C and it's an orange tree. Now say that there is only one orange tree in existence. This orange tree would be the limiting factor for human growth. If we want to live long and prosper than we would have to figure out a way to keep our numbers in harmony with the amount of vitamin C this one tree will produce for us. If we grow beyond whatever sustainable number of humans that is, then we will put ourselves in a position where some will get scurvy and die. Naturally this will result in fighting over whatever oil, I mean oranges, are available. Civilization has reached this point. The fictional orange tree, no matter how many chemicals we apply to it, can only physically produce so many oranges and it will limit our growth. Petroleum is our orange tree.

Achilles's Slippery Heal 

This is where an understanding of a concept known as "Peak Oil" needs to be understood for what it is and is not. Unfortunately the concept of peak oil (PO) has been treated as if it is debatable when it is treated at all by MSM. It is not debatable. The United States peaked in 1971, and the world peaked in 2006 according to the International Energy Agency. The U.S. military has already published a report dealing with this and you can be sure that they have already begun making arrangements to deal with the fact of PO. I understand that this is an issue that people will either let in as truth, or not let in as truth. As far as I can tell this is where the rubber meets the road where living in denial or truth is concerned. Those who believe that we will return to business as usual (at least for the past two hundred years) think PO is hogwash if they are even aware of it at all, and those who know the reality of PO are greatly concerned. Those who have studied PO even for a day reside somewhere between freakin' out and gloomily depressed for the future. A growing number seem to have gone through most of the stages of grief and are left wondering what they're going to do about it. Many books have been written about PO ***, and so I'm not going to devote too much space to it here, but I will look at what I believe to be some of the most persuasive stories pertaining to the PO narrative.

First is the fact that the U.S. tapped into the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) in late June of 2011. The reasons given were because they needed to make up for supply loses due to all of the unrest in the middle east. Obama ordered 30 million barrels to be released from the total of 726.5 million barrels held in the reserve. To give you a way to measure these numbers just consider that the U.S. uses 20 million barrels a day and the world uses around 85 million barrels a day (yes, the U.S. uses around 25% of the worlds petroleum production....naw on that for a bit). The last time the SPR was tapped into was in 2005 because of hurricane Katrina and even then only 11 million barrels were released. So that means that events in the world have effected supply in the U.S. worst then hurricane Katrina, which knocked out 95% of the gulf oil production capacity. What is the emergency? Libya? Okay, before Operation Take Over Libya's Oil started Libya was supplying the world with around 1.8 million barrels per day. The world uses 85 million barrels per day. No other OPEC countries could cough up enough production to carry this shortfall. That means that the world is barely keeping up with global demand for petroleum. I'll let you draw your own conclusion from the above presented data.

The other big story is one that looks at recent oil discovery. This is where the PO story is most telling in my opinion. Exxon has recently found the largest gulf oil find in decades. It's an estimated 700 million barrels of oil. At 20 million barrels per day (bpd) that is 35 days of oil supply for the U.S. Now that 700 million figure is an estimate and that means that in the best case there is no way we would retrieve that much oil, we never do. But suffice it to say that this represents a month of supply for the U.S. One month! And this is the best we can do? It get's worse. Remember BP's latest disaster in the gulf? They were drilling in 5000 feet of water and it was at such a depth that humans could not even get to the blowout to fix it, we had to use robots. It was a desperate disaster that wrecked unknown amounts of damage to the ecology of the gulf and was likely the most expensive oil disaster ever. What this should have taught the world is that it's not worth drilling in water that's so deep we can't even get to the well in the event there is a problem. This deep sea oil is simply beyond our responsible reach. This new find, Exxon's baby, it's in 7000 feet of water 250 miles south of New Orleans! This is insanity! Why are we even considering drilling further out than Macondo? If we are not already dealing with the reality of PO then why are we considering drilling 2000 feet deeper than the BP disaster? This well is 1.5 miles under the ocean. If there was a problem at that depth then there would be nothing we could do about it and whatever amount of oil is in that well would end up in the ocean. So we are considering destroying the gulf for a month's worth of oil. Yet PO is nonsense?

In my opinion the fact that the U.S. Army has already validated PO, we've taped into the SPR, and Exxon is trying to drill in 1.5 miles of water 250 miles out to sea barely a year after the BP disaster, all coalesce to create a picture that simply proves that PO is a reality now. Not a conspiracy theory perpetrated by Big Oil as some talking head puppets would have you believe. So what is keeping the population from accepting the fact of PO? It would seem that the U.S. government would have been sounding the alarms about this if it were true. Or would they? Well Carter sounded the alarm about this in 1971 when the U.S. peaked domestically. He put solar hot water heaters on the roof of the white house and told America to turn down the thermostat, put on sweaters, and begin learning how to live without the free energy orgasm of the past. 40 years ago a president attempted to address this issue, and look how time and history has treated president Carter. He's seen as the largest failure as a president the U.S. has ever had. That's a little ironic if you consider the reality of PO now. Back when Carter addressed this issue the world was still rich in petroleum. The middle east was largely an untapped reserve. Now look at it! The middle east can't even make up 1.8 million barrels that disappeared from Libya.

We've been occupying the Middle East for the last 10 years because that's where the lion's share of the worlds oil is located. This is no secret to anybody. This is the case because our government knows that without cheap petroleum our country is doomed. If you don't already know how dependent we are on oil as a nation than there is nothing I can do to convince you how important this is. Petroleum has literally entered into the molecules that compose our bodies. We have turned our world into a petroleum world. Our civilization requires oil as our bodies requires blood. Oil was king in the 20th century. Oil is the story of the 21st century.

Don't Panic and Grow some Taters
What are we to do about this? What type of meaningful action is there for anybody to begin addressing the implications of the decline of oil? The most important thing for anybody to do is to accept that all of this is true and that our leaders and the MSM has been lying through their teeth. Accept that petroleum is on it's way out and begin realizing what this will mean for the future of our race. The party is over and when we wake up we're going to be hung over. The ability to prepare society for the realities of petroleum scarcity has passed already. It's too late to save civilization from the onslaught that will be the next one hundred years. The best you can hope for is to prepare yourself psychologically for the hard reality of the near future. If you are aware of the reality than when the facts turn you into an economic non-person you won't be blind sided by it. Have this conversation with your family to prepare them. There isn't much time to accept what is happening because it's already happening. All of the unrest in the world, below the surface, is caused by our collective knowledge that we're about to drink the last ounce of fresh water that's available in this expansive desert of civilization. Simply put, global panic is starting to set in. Our politicians are not going to inform you about this because it would be political suicide to do so. MSM is not going to inform you because they are controlled by the corporatocracy. America has collectively decided to remain delusional about this. The only way you're going to know the truth is to seek it out on your own.  

To sum up this essay, consider this analogy that Michael Ruppert is so fond of: When you are camping, and a bear decides to raid your camp, you just have to not be the slowest camper. Any edge that you have because you are aware of this reality already makes you not the slowest camper. That's really the most hope I can offer to anybody. The best we can hope for is to internalize all of this and accept it so that we will be psychologically prepared for it when it happens to us.

*** For further reading these are my recommendations:

The Long Emergency, by James Howard Kunstler
Reinventing Collapse, by Dimitri Orlov
Confronting Collapse, by Michael Ruppert
Peak Everything, by Richard Heinberg
The Long Descent, by John Michael Greer
Deer Hunting With Jesus, by the late Joe Bageant 

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