How Does the World Work?


  • See the About page for a description of the subjects of interest covered in this blog.

Series Indexes

Global Issues Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad

Comment Policy

  • Comments
    Comments are open and welcome as long as they are not offensive or hateful. Also this site is commercial free so any comments that are offensive or promotional will be removed. Good questions are always welcome!

« What is the Really Big Picture? | Main | The Possibility of a Third Party? »

October 09, 2011

TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.typepad.com/services/trackback/6a00e54f9ea2e588340153922f77c0970b

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Occupy Home Street:

Comments

Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Bruce

Excellent points as usual, George.

Most local and regional Transition folks I know are too busy with getting on with adapting to the post-growth epoch to allow the OWS episode to distract from the urgent work to be done.

Moreover, most self-satisfied urban/suburban bourgeois "Progressives" are more interested in keeping the big-gov't programs funded, including Boomer Progressives staring down end of life and being reliant upon the insolvent state at various levels to keep their high-entropy lifestyles intact until death.

BTW, I would not presume uneconomic growth to continue in China and India much longer. The Chinese and Indians are building out high-entropy, high-rise, net energy-intensive profiles for many of their major population centers that are reminiscent of growth in the West with oil at $6-$10/bbl. This development is utterly unsustainable, even laughable, especially in per capita terms after price effects. China and India are 40-80 years too late to the auto- and oil-based techno-economic model of growth; but they apparently don't yet know it.

China's fixed investment is nearly 50% of GDP, with exports contributing 20-25% (down from 30-35%). Total debt to GDP is now $7 to $1, with debt-induced fixed investment growing 15-25%/yr. (a doubling time of 33-55 months)!!!

China's fixed investment and debt to GDP constitutes the largest such bubble in world history as a share of GDP (not counting human ape population growth being "the" largest bubble in history going back to the onset of the Industrial Revolution and accelerating since the Green Revolution).

The Great China Crash is a global event few are expecting.

porge

George,
As Max Planke famously quiped:
" Science advances on funeral at a time."
This could also be applied to the social paradigm.
At least give the young people a little credit for waking up and trying to do something, anything.
Up until now they have been glued to their IPOD (or pick your hand held electronic entertainment device).
Maybe the death of Steve Jobs was by divine design of an aware universe and symbolic as a wake up call to the young to at least stop going down the wrong road and prepare for something else.
Things will change as the numbers of the old order dwindle through death and the numbers of the new order increase as they come of legal age or more importantly come to the "age of reason".
You can never convince the status quo to change. You either have to force them (never happen in this age of high technology weaponry, this is not 1776 when my gun was as good as your gun etc.)
So each day the balance of power shifts ever so slowly to the new ways of thinking through the inexorable process of life and death.

How have you been?

I e-mailed you seperately on your Gmail account. I hope it is still functional.


porge

Bruce,
Your point about Chindia being way too late vis-a-vis net energy is spot on.
The debt to GDP comparisons that you draw mean nothing.
Money and debt are both contrivances of the human mind and thus illusions.
The only things that really matter are resources chief among them energy.

porge

correction to my first comment drop "either" from line 15.
I am a anal retentive mood!

Iaato

The current system is going to have to be dismantled before a sustainable system can self-organizae out of the rubble. And Adbusters, a very savvy, eco- and systems literate organization, is the original organizer of the OWS movement. So the OWS movement is far from incoherent. It is good to see the American public finally develop a little backbone, because we're going to need it.

http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/85/open-letter-ecological-economics-movement.html

Steve Jobs death could represent the death of our subconscious hopes that technology will save us from our quandary. I have wondered at the strong response to his death, and whether his death is a proxy for the death of our hope for a renewed expansion of our iFuture, instead of a great transition?

Georgi Marinov
At least give the young people a little credit for waking up and trying to do something, anything.

Posted by: porge October 09, 2011 at 06:20 PM

But that's not very useful if they have no clue what to do or what the situation really is.

Historically, when civilizations have collapsed, it has typically been some fundamental cause, usually ecological overshoot, that triggered their collapse. But the immediate events that did it almost invariably involved mass uprising of people unhappy with declining living standards, people who were totally clueless (just as their leaders were) of the real reasons for why their standard of living was declining, but who were naturally unhappy about it.

Almost every single mass protest you are going to see from now on will be of that variety and that's not a good thing. The majority of OWS protesters do not at all understand how exactly Wall Street control the government (which people should be definitely protesting against), but they are out there protesting because there are no jobs and the economy is in shambles. Wall Street has been controlling the government for decades - why weren't they protesting against that back then? Because they didn't understand it and they weren't hurting financially at the time. They still don't quite understand it and they understand our global ecological overshoot even less.

The current system is going to have to be dismantled before a sustainable system can self-organizae out of the rubble. Posted by: Iaato October 09, 2011 at 06:49 PM

That's not going to happen. When they system gets dismantled to rubble, with it goes all the knowledge of cosmology, physics, biology, ecology and everything else that is absolutely required for a sustainable system to be constructed. People like George exist only because there was a complex societal system that could afford to have them around doing research, teaching and thinking about things. Once the system is gone, they will be gone too and with them most of the knowledge. Again, history provides plenty of examples - Rome collapsed and we only have fragments of the intellectual legacy of the time preserved, the rest was lost.

You can not build a sustainable society based on ignorance and illiteracy, all you have left in such a case is the biological nature of humans and human nature is inherently unsustainable.

porge

Georgi,

Every major social change in history is characterized by the disenfrnachised masses being led by disaffected intellectuals...........The leaders aren't invovled yet.
They will eventually get more organized.

As to losing all our accumulated knowledge......no way... this is not the ancient times when the burning of the Library at Alexandria represented the loss of all knowledge.
In our time there are many redundacies and the knowledge has been diffused over the entire planet.
Now, I agree that it needs to be in some hard form and not just stored as bits and bytes but think about it... there is literally information written everywhere.
Whether we will be able to use it or apply it is another matter of course.

Your last statement I think gives too much weight to the lower and mid brain and discounts the thinking brain.
Too many people know too much and your example of Rome doesn't take into account that back then everyone believe in superstition and magic and science wasn't even a mainstream discipline.
The mind of the average person 2k years ago would be unrecognizable to any of us today.
My 2 cents.
You are free to pick at it.

Iaato

You bet, Georgi, I'm worried about maintenance of information too. But a sustainable society does not necessarily mean advanced, unfortunately. We will end up either sustainable in whatever form that takes, or extinct. That is thermodynamic certainty. The problem with our information system is that it is too digital, vulnerable to electricity problems. Ditch the Kindle and start saving books.

We'll see if this OWS movement gets hijacked too? The Adbusters leader group is probably small. The original Teabaggers movement started on Wall Street in the same way, out of Denninger's Ticker Forum. It got hijacked almost immediately by corporate interests for corporate manipulation. I'm really afraid we're headed for bad form of fascism. Did anyone catch the Immelt interview on 60 minutes last night? Worth a look.

Speaking of research, a good conference is coming up, George. Warm and sunny in january.

http://www.emergysystems.org/conference7.php

Siddharth Soni

Great discussion this!

I am rattled with our collective insouciance.

I am also wondering if there are energy conferences happening which really and truly show the energy scenario as it is. What are the guys at the big corporations thinking? They would know every bit of what this discussion is about... What are they sitting silent for? Are these management folks so self-delusional? It isn't rocket science to do the calculations...

I am thinking about the Petroleum Minister of India... I don't have words right now...

Good nite.

Bruce

NW Permaculture Convergence, Oct. 13-16 in Portland, OR:

http://nwpermaculture.com/

Requirement: Restraint for the aversion to body piercings, "body art", dreadlocks, and people with names like Brush, Oz, Stone, and Tree.

The neo-primative/neo-tribal future is emerging, and it's, well, "interesting". It is said that one must embrace the future; but, if you do, be careful about encountering sharp instruments. ;-)

Georgi Marinov
As to losing all our accumulated knowledge......no way... this is not the ancient times when the burning of the Library at Alexandria represented the loss of all knowledge. In our time there are many redundacies and the knowledge has been diffused over the entire planet. Now, I agree that it needs to be in some hard form and not just stored as bits and bytes but think about it... there is literally information written everywhere. Whether we will be able to use it or apply it is another matter of course.

Actually, we are in much worse shape when it comes to preserving knowledge today than they were in the past

1. We have been moving lots of from paper from into electronic form, and in electronic from it will almost no chance to survive the collapse

2. We have developed such level of specialization that there are practically no people who have even a superficial grasp of all important areas.

To preserve the knowledge, you have to not only preserve the books but also the people, for books without people who know what's between the lines is better than no people but is ultimately not enough. However, when knowledge has been partitioned into hundreds and thousands of subfields and sub-subfields, it will be very difficult to do so.

You bet, Georgi, I'm worried about maintenance of information too. But a sustainable society does not necessarily mean advanced, unfortunately. We will end up either sustainable in whatever form that takes, or extinct. That is thermodynamic certainty. The problem with our information system is that it is too digital, vulnerable to electricity problems. Ditch the Kindle and start saving books.

I second what you say about books. But, a sustainable society that is not advanced is an extinct one in the long run.

The big picture is the following:

Here we are no this planet and we know that even if live in a perfectly sustainable way, sooner or later some major cataclysm will occur and we will be wiped out. Or if it doesn't, 500 million years from now, the planet will be dead because the Sun will become too hot. This means we need to get out of here somehow if we want to survive longer. As far as we can tell based on our current knowledge of the laws of physics, it is physically impossible to do so, but the fact that it is unlikely that we will be ever able to do so does not change the fact that we have to try (otherwise we're extinct with 100% certainty). But civilization is one-shot affair on a planetary level - if we fail there won't be another one rising from the ashes because we will have exhausted all the resources necessary for it to develop.

So the only rational thing would have been to downscale accordingly so that we preserve an advance technological society for as long as we can and invest everything into research so that we can at least attempt to colonize space, or make sure it is really impossible. Even if it was possible to transition to a low-tech future not reliant on fossil fuels, we will have lost the evolutionary game at that point.

Bruce

Georgi, I suspect that the colonization of space is impossible, if nothing else given the sheer scale of net energy required for vast the distances vs. human scale.

Consider the notion that extraterrestrials have visited the Earth. Were a civilization to have harnessed the necessary equivalent energy of a star to travel between solar systems and galaxies, the size of craft would likely be so immense that our planet would not even register as existing on their instruments. It would be akin to our walking on a sidewalk and never noticing the microscopic organisms as we trample them by the millions. An extraterrestrial craft would likely vaporize us in its wake.

As to downscaling to preserve a sufficiently technologically advanced and sustainable remnant of humans, I agree that this is the only rational objective, and I suspect that many similarly disposed thinkers would agree. But how do we get there?

If we allow the natural processes of entropy, famine, disease, infant mortality, war, genocide, and other forces to take their toll, it could take decades or even centuries to reduce the population to sustainable remnant. How would the technologically advanced, and presumably sapient, remnant persist at the necessary level of complexity, net energy and density, and so forth?

Are we not forced to consider that one or more select groups of techno-sapients (to coin a term) would be compelled, if not obligated for the sake of the survival of the sub-species, to take actions heretofore considered unacceptable, if not unspeakable?

Is there a scientific rationale to justify the necessary means to accomplish the mass culling of the "unselected" members of the species? Who decides who dies, how, and when?

Further, is there an obligation by those who will not be selected to voluntarily submit to being childless and to a premature, albeit preferably humane, demise?

Thus, rather than colonization of space beyond our finite, spherical planet, a better objective might be to reconstitute Spaceship Earth with a more fit crew and sustainable course to continue the space flight for as long as as possible, knowing that the inevitable destination is extinction.

What might the cultural zeitgeist consist of for a species that consciously and humanely acts to cull the vast majority of its excess population within a generation or two? Death cults? Glamorization of dying young? Stigmatizing the aged or glorifying their dying? Recreational drugs designed to result in painless death? End of life as an extended holiday ending in drug-induced oblivion?

George Girod

When water supplies are privatized and sold to the highest bidder, when local food production is regulated in favor of the corporate giants, when the City, State, and Federal commons are sold off to fund the dying gasp of the government, we will wish we had done just that little additional bit to take back control from the Plutocrats. If you truly believe you can keep your sapient little community out of the clutches of Corporate Greed, more power to you. I am skeptical.

Bruce

George Girod, allow me to follow up with your implication that we face a privatization of vital resources.

With 40-85% of US financial wealth and 25-50% of US income concentrated to the top 1-10% of US households (avg. household incomes of $140,000 to $350,000 and up and net wealth of ~$1M to $3.5M and up), and disproportionate proportion concentrated still further by Pareto to the top 0.1-0.4% of US households, firms, households, and gov'ts owe primarily the top 1-10% of households and more so by assets to income of the top 0.1-0.4% of US households.

This concentration of wealth by definition implies that the collateral backing the loans extended by the top 0.1-1% to 10% is by now virtually everything of economic value, including structures, land, water, waterways, ports, rails and roadways, and other mineral resources should the top 0.1-1% to 10% (who combined pay 75% of all federal income taxes) decide someday to foreclose on "the public" for inability to make good on debt service to the top 1-10%.

Thus, given that private uneconomic growth is no longer possible and gov't insolvency is assured, it is not at all inconceivable that the top 0.1-1% could eventually make claim on virtually everything of economic value, seizing everything and having the action affirmed by the Supreme Court and enforced by military force.

The rentier plutocrats would have every rational justification needed for doing so under the provisions of commercial law ("private property" of persons) and Supreme Court precedents, leaving the overwhelming majority of the rest of us without recourse owing to our inability to own capital and the legal standing it provides under commercial code.

porge

Bruce,
The military is comprised of the have nots.
Do you really think they are going to point guns at their own family and friends?

George Girod

Bruce - then I guess that the only hope is to own personally all the resources you need for survival and then hope that the people at the top don't exercise eminent domain.

I guess my DVD with Gutenberg books is a good investment in a future without commons, at least until the ebook readers die. Open Source Ecology will preserve some of our mechanization to our benefit.

I am aware of the impact of peak everything on the economy and the constraints it involves. Adding in the true (not whitewashed) impact of abrupt Global Warming and the future is grim indeed. Of course, if the economy collapses thoroughly and soon then the worst of climate change can be avoided and at least some portions of the planet may be habitable for the roughly .5 Billion people then extant.

I have been struggling to understand exactly what zero economic growth really means other than the economy as a fixed (or gradually declining) sum game in which a given form of productivity is apportioned by demand to a fraction of the GDP. Growth of one area demands contraction of another. With the current wealth inequity carried forward survival of more than a few percent of the US population is unlikely.

George Girod

Porge - According to the Heritage Foundation the military is not comprised primarily of have-nots.

Instead "Members of the all-volunteer military are significantly more likely to come from high-income neighborhoods than from low-income neighborhoods. Only 11 percent of enlisted recruits in 2007 came from the poorest one-fifth (quintile) of neighborhoods, while 25 percent came from the wealthiest quintile. These trends are even more pronounced in the Army Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program, in which 40 percent of enrollees come from the wealthiest neighborhoods-a number that has increased substantially over the past four years. "

Now, that said, the survivalists (usually right wing) have encouraged the military to become "Oath Keepers" and take a pledge not to turn their armaments on their neighbors. How well that works when instigators incite violence and civilians start taking pot shots at troops is anybody's call.

porge

So you are trying to tell me that the military isn't mostly from the bottom 90%???

This isn't about "quintiles" anymore.
It is about 10% at the top verses 90% at the bottom.
And on top of that I don't beleive any of the published statistics.
I was in the military for 8 years and I am telling you straight that most of the enlisted were from families of modest means or just plain poor.
Isn't the Heritage Foundation a right wing think tank???
Can you say "propaganda"??
I believe 1/2 of what I see and none of what I hear.

I am well familiar with The Oath Keepers

porge

by the way I wouldn't even call it a volunteer military. I would call it a poverty draft military.

Bruce

"The military is comprised of the have nots.
Do you really think they are going to point guns at their own family and friends?"

Not only will they point their guns, they will fire, rape, plunder, and justify it by way of survival and self-superiority of force of will and arms during a time of crisis.

It is not difficult during a time of crisis and durable privation to condition and reward a strong sense of martial superiority by way of numbers and force among young males. Demand of them loyalty, courage, and results, and reward them with food, drink, warm, dry shelter, females, and the admiration of their peers, and you have a force that will walk into and on fire for you.

Execute a few here and there for insubordination, endangering others, and disloyalty to make examples of them to reinforce the discipline for good measure.

Select an undesirable social group or groups to be singled out for derision and to blame for difficult times and let the boys take out their frustrations on the out-group, for example, banksters, intellectual apologists, immigrants, and the like today.

Mind you, I am not advocating such a system but describing some of the more common characteristics of the martial/warrior mentality one finds in the the world today and throughout history.

The comments to this entry are closed.