Although there are no solutions to our predicament, I wrote a list of things a wise society would do here. I concluded the essay by acknowledging that our inherited denial of reality would probably prevent us from doing any of them.
Today Dr. Geoffrey Chia wrote a list of things a wise society would do and ended with a similar conclusion.
I am due to speak at the Griffith Ecocentre on 9 March and will run through the usual gamut of why things are fiendishly rotten in the state of Denmark and what to expect in the near future. “Denmark” is of course the metaphor for our besieged planetary ecosphere. It is a commentary familiar to Diners: why global warming will have consequences far worse than the mainstream population have been led to believe (but will NOT cause NTHE by 2026) and why the depletion of “easy” oil guarantees that the collapse of industrial civilisation will be complete within 20 years (a conservative estimate, based on falling EROEI and the ELM). However the fraud pervading our banks and sharemarkets will cause financial and economic collapse and the demise of our global industrial system much sooner. Not to mention all the other fun stuff ahead like mass human die-off, mass extinctions of other species, the rise of fascist extremists around the world, increasing conflicts between nations, increasing risk of global nuclear war, the possibility of pandemics etc. This is all old hat to Diners, but not to the general public. My purpose will not be misery mongering and nihilism however, but to encourage members of the audience to set up their own remote, climate resilient, off-grid homesteads to weather the coming storms. They must not look for salvation from without, but from within. Not everyone will succeed but some will.
I expect the majority will find my commentary repugnant and reject it. I expect the Q&A session will throw up the usual predictable questions such as “how can we fix these problems?” or “surely technofix A can solve problem B?” The standard answer, which Diners are familiar with, is that the issues we face are not problems for which there are solutions, but are predicaments (or conundrums) for which there are no solutions. The correct question at this late stage is not “how can we fix these problems?“, but “what can we do in anticipation of these events?“. Given the more than century long build up to these events, the sapients realise that global industrial collapse is unavoidable, as has been amply demonstrated by even the most optimistic scenarios modelled by the updated Limits to Growth analyses. We have fallen off the cliff and even though we may feel “fine” now, we will not feel so good when we inevitably and excruciatingly smash into the ground. Gravity is a bitch and there is no prospect we can invent an anti-gravity device before impact, or indeed ever.
Not satisfied with such an answer, there is usually the odd tenacious audience member who attempts to pose the same question in a different manner, such as “if you were King of the world and had unlimited policy power, what would you do to tackle these predicaments?” The unstated expectation behind such a question is that a benevolent “philosopher king / ecosystems guru” can find ways to keep 7.5 billion people alive, solve climate change, find a replacement for petroleum etc, etc. Well I ain’t no King and I ain’t no Guru, but for the sake of argument, let us play along with such fantasy based wishful thinking and imagine we can enforce the following:
- Abolish all nation states. Demobilise all military forces everywhere and re-employ all ex-military personnel for the refurbishment and maintenance of essential domestic infrastructure, for civil defence and for disaster relief. All nuclear weapons to be dismantled, all weapons manufacturers to be eliminated.
- Equitable redistribution of resources, which will require that people in the rich parts of the world give up their luxuries to allow poorer people to survive. This will also require that refugees from climate ravaged and war torn parts of the world be allowed to emigrate to more climate favoured areas.
- Impose a moratorium on all human reproduction for the next 30 years, following which we allow only one child per couple until the global population falls to perhaps 100 million and thereafter allow only for replacement reproduction rates. Draconian? Yes, but far preferable to chaotic die-off which could trigger nuclear war.
- Transform the existing predatory rapacious capitalist system to a steady state ecology based economic system which penalises polluters and “closes the loop” – to treat and use all waste as a resource.
- Stop all unnecessary “economic” activity which will include the cessation of all fossil fuel based tourism and the entire process of globalisation. Limit activities to essential ones such as the production and distribution of food and clean fresh water and the construction and maintenance of dwellings. Localise all economic activities, although international trade in non perishable goods can still occur by use of sailing vessels.
- Educate everyone that the main “solution” to our looming energy shortfall must be energy efficiency and conservation, not new whizbang technowizardry such as fusion energy. Cease all fossil fuel electricity generation and change electricity provision to decentralised renewable energy systems such as solar PV for individual dwellings or microgrids. Let the central grid rot or better still, cannibalise it for materials. Pursue research to determine whether we can manufacture and maintain renewable energy generators and batteries using only renewable energy sources.
- Phase out all industrial scale monocrop agriculture (which is doomed anyway as fossil fuel based fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides and the petroleum to run mass agriculture will eventually become unavailable). Reduce meat and seafood consumption by more than 90%. Food security to be achieved by the establishment of hundreds of millions of local permaculture smallholdings providing a plant based diet with abundant protein from peas, beans and nuts and supplementary protein from eggs, dairy products, aquaponics and even farmed insects.
What is the likelihood of achieving even one of the above? We are, on the whole, moving in directions away from each and every one of the measures indicated above. So get real. Even if they could all be done, the following issues will remain:
- Additional global warming from existing GHGs in the atmosphere is already locked in place but is yet to fully manifest and will render most of the planet uninhabitable. All existing coastal cities will eventually (perhaps in 200 years) be submerged under at least 23 metres of seawater.
- We have no liquid transport fuel to replace “easy” oil at scale, which means that industrial civilisation as we know it is still doomed.
- Enforcement of the policies outlined above can only be carried out through edict and coercion. External imposition of policies on an ignorant and resistant populace will fail to address the primary underlying reason for all our planetary travails: the possession of advanced, destructive technology in the hands of a “trumped up” (pun intended) species of ape governed by their reptile brain. Cleverness without wisdom. This means that even if all the predicaments above could magically be made to vanish and we could magically reset human society and our planetary ecosphere back to, say 1950 before overshoot began in earnest, we will merely repeat the same patterns over and over again, in the absence of restraint and wisdom. Groundhog day with no hope of redemption, no matter how many times the scenario is replayed.
Semi-sapient people must abandon childish fantasy notions of what we would like happen, grow up and accept the reality of what is going to happen.
The bottom line is this, and I have said it before: the only hope for the continuation of our benighted species is that the survivors who emerge at the other end of this genetic bottleneck are truly sapient and adopt the principles of restraint (in resource consumption and reproduction) and vigorously protect any viable ecohabitats remaining (and cultivate new ones as icebound areas of the planet melt). It is possible, although by no means certain, that the impending cull of the global population may result in just such an outcome, especially if the sapient 0.01% of the population can be encouraged to save themselves NOW. The sapients should be advised not to grieve as future events unfold and they observe, from a safe distance, the morbid spectacle of billions of clueless sheeple killing each other, egged on by the 0.1% psychopathic sheeple herders who had promised to make them great again. Such is the nature of a cull.
13-Mar-2017 addition: Here is Geoffrey Chia’s talk…