In Defence of Inaction

21 04 2014

Dave Pollard

Dave Pollard

To say I love Dave Pollard’s writings is an understatement.  As is, that we think as one……  so here is another guest post by Dave for your enjoyment.  Is that inappropriate wording perhaps?  Does anyone enjoy admitting we’re shafted…?  Is this “giving up” a new movement maybe..?  Hot on the heels of Mike Ruppert doing himself in – the ultimate “I give up” action – to the admission of defeat from Paul Kingnorth, David Suzuki now saying it’s too late, let alone all the Near Term Extinctionists like Guy McPherson predicting the ultimate apocalypse, a growing number of activists are calling it a day, deciding that we have to shift from global activism to local.  And I agree too.  But you probably knew that already…..  it’s time to hunker down.

In Defence of Inaction

Filed under: Preparing for Civilization’s End — Dave Pollard

I have, of late, had a falling out with many of my fellow ‘progressives’, similar I suppose to that of Paul Kingsnorth, who is being savaged by Naomi Klein and others for giving up on the environmental movement and non-local activism, and by humanists for losing faith in our species’ capacity for innovation and change.

I should say at the outset that I agree that our political and economic and legal and educational and social systems are dreadful, unfair, teetering, and totally inadequate to our needs. I agree that this is a world of horrific inequality, inequitable and unjust privilege, massive suffering, and outrageous patriarchy. I agree that corporatism and corruption and propagandist media are rampant and destructive and destabilizing. I agree that militarized police and torture prisons and drone killing and massive global surveillance are repugnant and a fundamental threat to our personal safety and security and the very principles upon which our nations are founded.

And I fully acknowledge that the fact I’m white, male, boomer generation and relatively wealthy provides me with enormous privilege compared to others, including relative freedom of movement, freedom from fear of harassment and assault, and greater social, political and economic opportunity.

But when I hear arguments that “we need” to stand up for our ‘inherent’ rights and freedoms, and wrest ‘control’ of the levers of power from the obscenely wealthy elite, and denounce and protest injustice and inequality, and acknowledge and renounce our role as privileged oppressors, as the first steps to a true social revolution and political and economic reform, leading, somehow, to a radical redistribution of wealth and power, and a more just society, I am reduced to despair.

I used to believe people, and perhaps some other creatures, had ‘rights’ and ‘freedoms’. I believed that someone was in control. I believed there were answers to the predicaments we face.

But now I realize that there are no rights or freedoms. The concept of rights and freedoms is a sop that the rich and powerful of this world use to appease the fury and frustration of the poor and disenfranchised. The ‘granting’ of rights and freedoms means nothing, because they can be and are taken away whenever those in power choose to do so, and are simply ignored when they interfere with the exercise of power or accumulation of wealth by those who allowed them to be granted.

We don’t have freedom of expression, or speech, or assembly: under the current surveillance state I can be stopped, arrested, held indefinitely and incommunicado, tortured, ‘disappeared’ or simply killed, by a drone or in a secret gulag, whenever someone in power decides I’m a threat to that power.

Likewise, there is no ‘upward mobility’ for just about any demographic segment of our human population worldwide; most people are trapped, socially and economically, right where they are, no matter what may happen to the place where they live.

There is no true democracy, anywhere: the real decisions are made in secret meetings between bought politicians (many of them in power fraudulently or due to gerrymandering and other corruptions of the ‘democratic’ process), who represent only their rich and powerful donors, and the bankers, lawyers and corporate executives. The ‘laws’ and ‘regulations’ are just smokescreens to make it look as if the people’s interests are being considered.

There are no rights of recourse against corporate abuses: most industries are oligopolies, and corporate law is designed to protect them and their wealthy shareholders and executives from the wrath of outraged citizens, while enabling these corporations to sue citizens who pose any threat to their profits or ‘leadership’.

All that’s happened over the past three decades is that the illusion of rights and freedoms has largely disappeared, as those with wealth and power ratchet up the rhetoric that militarized police, torture prisons, ubiquitous surveillance and the oppression of dissent are ‘necessary’ for public safety and security (especially the safety and security of the rich and powerful).

There are no rights or freedoms. There is only power, and its exercised in the interest of further enriching the rich and further concentrating power.

I used to be outraged and angry about all this, but now I’m just letting it go. It’s just too easy to see this as a moral struggle, as a fight against pathology, greed, and tyranny. I don’t think it’s that simple. I think everyone’s really trying to do what they believe is best, not only for their loved ones but for everyone. I know some of these people, and their stubborn, destructive wrong-headedness is completely understandable to me (from their strange but deeply-held worldview).

Increasing concentration of power doesn’t mean that there is an ‘elite’ in control of everything in our society. Vast wealth and power does not translate to control, especially in a world where all our systems are collapsing simultaneously: our economic systems, running on the fumes of belief in perpetual industrial growth; our nearly-exhausted energy and resource systems, utterly dependent on ample and cheap oil (one barrel of oil replaces 12 person-years of labour, and we currently use 100 million barrels per day); and our climate systems, which have long passed the tipping point to catastrophic change comparable to that of the ‘ice ages’ (though in the opposite temperature direction).

The rich and powerful are as much prisoners of these massive, complex, crumbling systems, as much cogs in the machine, as the rest of us: they just get better wages and benefits than the rest of the inmates, and will until the systems fall apart, at which time they’ll be no better off than anyone else.

No one is in control. The enemy, if there is one, is not a cabal of elites, but a set of co-dependent collapsing systems that every one of us has a vested interest in trying (insanely) to perpetuate. Systems we have all helped co-create and are almost all dependent on.

David Korowicz, in his study On the Cusp of Collapse, explains how our massively complex global human systems are far beyond the control of any coordinated group of people:

Our daily lives are dependent upon the coherence of thousands of direct interactions, which are themselves dependent upon trillions more interactions between things, businesses, institutions and individuals across the world. Following just one track; each morning I have coffee near where I work. The woman who serves me need not know who picked the berries, who moulded the polymer for the coffee maker, how the municipal system delivered the water to the café, how the beans made their journey or who designed the mug. The captain of the ship that transported the beans would have had no knowledge of who provided the export credit insurance for the shipment, who made the steel for the hull, or the steps in the complex processes that allow him the use of satellite navigation. And the steel-maker need not have known who built the pumps for the iron-ore mine, or how the oxygen for the furnace was refined.

We cannot hope to ‘fix’ these systems through political or economic or legal or educational reform, or putting some more democratically-minded group ‘in control’ of them. Fighting for possession of the steering wheel of a car careering over a cliff cannot produce useful change. Even trying to bring down our economic systems before they do even more damage is probably futile: It’s unlikely to significantly accelerate, mitigate or delay the inevitable collapse, and I’m not sure its effect on catastrophic climate change would be substantial either. There is simply no point trying to change any of these systems; it’s a waste of time, and, as Buddha said “Our problem is we think we have time.” But some would insist we try anyway, so at least “we can say we tried”. I think that’s a pathetic argument.

So here we sit, all of us, rich and poor, powerful and powerless, with no real ‘rights’ or ‘freedoms’, no hope of ‘reforming’ massive, self-reinforcing and entrenched systems utterly out of our control, coming apart because they are totally unsustainable, and no credible knowledge of what might work to even mitigate the imminent and catastrophic end of the industrial ‘growth’ economy, the end of the all-too-brief age of abundant cheap energy, and the end of a short few millennia of astonishingly stable climate.

The question we must each ask ourselves, I think, is this:  If we acknowledge that our systems and hence our civilization cannot be reformed or ‘saved’, what can we do now that will make a real difference, for the future, in our communities and for those we love?

The insanely rational answer to this question, I think, is (a) probably nothing, and (b) it’s too early to know.

So if I seem impatient or annoyed when you ask me to be outraged or supportive in your movement to reform civilization, I’m sorry. I think it’s too late.

I’m in the process of writing a book of stories of how all of this might play out, just one scenario, the story of, in the short term, a Great Migration of billions of people towards the poles in search of livable habitat (what an amazing, terrifying and liberating journey that could be!), and, in the longer term, the blossoming of thousands of local communities, new and unimaginably diverse, self-sufficient, joyful and utterly alive human cultures, whose total impact on the planet will be, due to our much smaller numbers and minimal energy and technology resources, pretty insignificant. I need to write such a new story to be able to begin to let go of the old, civilized one.

Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe there’s more I could (I’ve stopped saying “should”) be doing: learning new essential skills and capacities, helping in the process of rediscovering how to build and live in community together, healing myself and helping others heal from the ravages of civilization’s innumerable, constant and monstrous stresses, and just trying to live a joyful, exemplary, modest and graceful life. I may get around to these things. But for now I’m just writing, watching, reflecting, trying to figure it all out.

It’s too early and too late, I think, to do anything more.





Can our democracy be saved?

18 04 2014

Originally posted on The Australian Independent Media Network:

bananaWhen you see Tony Abbott as Prime Minister, Joe Bullock elected in front of Louise Pratt, Bronwyn Bishop as Speaker, Tim Wilson given a job as a Human Rights Commissioner, Sophie Mirabella building submarines, and Alexander Downer showered with gifts from every direction, you know democracy is ailing if not already dead. It’s time for change.

As things stand politics in Australia is now the province of a political class that now offers a lifetime career path in federal and state parliaments, the public services and quangos. Entrance to this world often involves nepotism and cronyism. There can be few other legitimate jobs with salary packages over $300,000 that can often be obtained with virtually no experience and qualifications and little restrictions on second jobs or holidays.

Equating integrity with paying more money, flies in the face of history. By paying politicians starting salary packages of over $300,000, more people are…

View original 1,262 more words





Climate Change: The 40 Year Delay Between Cause and Effect

18 04 2014

Climate Change: The 40 Year Delay Between Cause and Effect (via Skeptical Science)

Posted on 22 September 2010 by Alan Marshall

Guest post by Alan Marshall from climatechangeanswers.org

Following the failure to reach a strong agreement at the Copenhagen conference, climate skeptics have had a good run in the Australian media, continuing their campaigns of disinformation. In such an atmosphere it is vital that we articulate the basic science of climate change, the principles of physics and chemistry which the skeptics ignore.

alanmarshall

Alan Marshall

The purpose of this article is to clearly explain, in everyday language, the two key principles which together determine the rate at which temperatures rise. The first principle is the greenhouse effect of carbon dioxide and other gases. The second principle is the thermal inertia of the oceans, sometimes referred to as climate lag. Few people have any feel for the numbers involved with the latter, so I will deal with it in more depth.
The Greenhouse Effect

The greenhouse effect takes its name from the glass greenhouse, which farmers have used for centuries, trapping heat to grow tomatoes and other plants that could not otherwise be grown in the colder regions of the world. Like glass greenhouses, greenhouse gases allow sunlight to pass through unhindered, but trap heat radiation on its way out. The molecular structure of CO2 is such that it is “tuned” to the wavelengths of infrared (heat) radiation emitted by the Earth’s surface back into space, in particular to the 15 micrometer band. The molecules resonate, their vibrations absorbing the energy of the infra-red radiation. It is vibrating molecules that give us the sensation of heat, and it is by this mechanism that heat energy is trapped by the atmosphere and re-radiated to the surface. The extent to which temperatures will rise due to a given change in the concentration of greenhouse gases is known as the “climate sensitivity,” and you may find it useful to search for this term when doing your own research.

Most principles of physics are beyond question because both cause and effect are well understood. A relationship between cause and effect is proved by repeatable experiments. This is the essence of the scientific method, and the source of knowledge on which we have built our technological civilization. We do not question Newton’s laws of motion because we can demonstrate them in the laboratory. We no longer question that light and infrared radiation are electromagnetic waves because we can measure their wavelengths and other properties in the laboratory. Likewise, there should be no dissent that CO2 absorbs infrared radiation, because that too has been demonstrated in the laboratory. In fact, it was first measured 150 years ago by John Tyndall [i] using a spectrophotometer. In line with the scientific method, his results have been confirmed and more precisely quantified by Herzberg in 1953, Burch in 1962 and 1970, and others since then.

Given that the radiative properties of CO2 have been proven in the laboratory, you would expect them to be same in the atmosphere, given that they are dependent on CO2’s unchanging molecular structure. You would think that the onus would be on the climate skeptics to demonstrate that CO2 behaves differently in the atmosphere than it does in the laboratory. Of course they have not done so. In fact, since 1970 satellites have measured infrared spectra emitted by the Earth and confirmed not only that CO2 traps heat, but that it has trapped more heat as concentrations of CO2 have risen.

harries_radiation

The above graph clearly shows that at the major wavelength for absorption by CO2, and also at wavelength for absorption by methane, that less infrared was escaping in to space in 1996 compared to 1970.

After 150 years of scientific investigation, the impact of CO2 on the climate is well understood. Anyone who tells you different is selling snakeoil.

The Thermal Inertia of the Oceans

If we accept that greenhouse gases are warming the planet, the next concept that needs to be grasped is that it takes time, and we have not yet seen the full rise in temperature that will occur as a result of the CO2 we have already emitted. The Earth’s average surface temperature has already risen by 0.8 degrees C since 1900. The concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing at the rate of 2 ppm per year. Scientists tell us that even if CO2 was stabilized at its current level of 390 ppm, there is at least another 0.6 degrees “in the pipeline”. If findings from a recent study of Antarctic ice cores is confirmed, the last figure will prove to be conservative [ii]. The delayed response is known as climate lag.

The reason the planet takes several decades to respond to increased CO2 is the thermal inertia of the oceans. Consider a saucepan of water placed on a gas stove. Although the flame has a temperature measured in hundreds of degrees C, the water takes a few minutes to reach boiling point. This simple analogy explains climate lag. The mass of the oceans is around 500 times that of the atmosphere. The time that it takes to warm up is measured in decades. Because of the difficulty in quantifying the rate at which the warm upper layers of the ocean mix with the cooler deeper waters, there is significant variation in estimates of climate lag. A paper by James Hansen and others [iii] estimates the time required for 60% of global warming to take place in response to increased emissions to be in the range of 25 to 50 years. The mid-point of this is 37.5 which I have rounded to 40 years.

In recent times, climate skeptics have been peddling a lot of nonsense about average temperatures actually cooling over the last decade. There was a brief dip around the year 2000 following the extreme El Nino event of 1998, but with greenhouse emissions causing a planetary energy imbalance of 0.85 watts per square metre [iv], there is inevitably a continual rising trend in global temperatures. It should then be no surprise to anyone that the 12 month period June 2009 to May 2010 was the hottest on record [v].

The graph below from Australia’s CSIRO [vi] shows a clear rising trend in temperatures as well as a rising trend in sea-level.

OCH_700m

Implications of the 40 Year Delay

The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity. However, if governments can find the will to act, there are positive consequences as well.

With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s. This thought should send a chill down your spine!

Conservative elements in both politics and the media have been playing up uncertainties in some of the more difficult to model effects of climate change, while ignoring the solid scientific understanding of the cause. If past governments had troubled themselves to understand the cause, and acted in a timely way, climate change would have been contained with minimal disruption. By refusing to acknowledge the cause, and demanding to see the effects before action is taken, past governments have brought on the current crisis. By the time they see those effects, it will too late to deal with the cause.

The positive consequence of climate lag is the opportunity for remedial action before the ocean warms to its full extent. We need to not only work towards reducing our carbon emissions to near zero by 2050, but well before then to begin removing excess CO2 from the atmosphere on an industrial scale. Biochar is one promising technology that can have an impact here. Synthetic trees, with carbon capture and storage, is another. If an international agreement can be forged to provide a framework for not only limiting new emissions, but sequestering old emissions, then the full horror of the climate crisis may yet be averted.

Spreading the Word

The clock is ticking. All of us who understand clearly the science of climate change, and its implications for humanity, should do what we can to inform the public debate. I wrote the original version of this article in February 2010 to help inform the Parliament of Australia. The letter was sent to 40 MPs and senators, and has received positive feedback from both members of the three largest parties. To find out more about this information campaign, and for extensive coverage of the science of climate change and its technological, economic and political solutions, please visit my web site at www.climatechangeanswers.org.

References

i Gulf Times, “A Last Chance to Avert Disaster”, available at
http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp? cu_no=2&item_no=330396&version=1&template_id=46&parent_id=26

ii Institute of Science in Society, “350 ppm CO2 The Target”,
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/350ppm_CO2_the_Target.php, p.4

iii Science AAAS, ”Earth’s Energy Imbalance: Confirmation and Implications”, available (after free registration) at http://www.scienceonline.org/cgi/reprint/1110252v1.pdf, p.1

iv NASA, “The Ocean Heat Trap”, available at http://www.ocean.com, p.3

v NASA GISS temperature record (see http://climateprogress.org/2010/06/03/nasa-giss-james-hansen-study-global-warming-record-hottest-year/)

vi CSIRO, “Sea Level Rise”, available at http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_drives_longer.html





A Time of Seamless Black

18 04 2014

mikestasse:

This post from XRayMike is a great follow on from my own post about Michael Ruppert’s sad departure…. I believe, more than ever before, that when TSHTF millions will suicide, incapable of dealing with their new post collapse realities…..

Originally posted on Collapse of Industrial Civilization:

post-apocalyptic-world Humans live on hope and without it they fall into depression, oftentimes taking their own lives. In ‘ The Evolution and Psychology of Self-Deception ‘, optimism bias is said to be a defense or coping mechanism for survival. Most turn to religion for the ultimate hope of an afterlife nirvana. Voluntarily and unflinchingly holding one’s eyes open to the searing light of reality is an unnatural act for humans. For many, simply dealing with everyday life and the stress of surviving the concrete jungle is enough to drive them to despair, madness, and suicide. Whether they realize it or not, any normal person taking in the full scope of the multiple crises we face is surely prone to depression to some degree or another. I am now finding that I have to periodically distance myself from blogging on these subjects because it’s affecting my personal relationships as well as my…

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RIP Mike Ruppert

16 04 2014

rip-michael-ruppert-suicide-memeYesterday, on Facebook, an announcement that Mike Ruppert had shot himself dead was made.  When someone you ‘know’, even if it’s only over the interweb commits suicide, it always comes as a bit of a shock.  His attorney over at Collapse.net has pleaded with people to not spread speculations over Mike Ruppert’s death, but I think the internet will be full of speculations,  such is number of people whose lives he touched…..

I first came across Mike over ten years ago, back when I got most of my information at ‘From the Wilderness‘.  It was over at FTW that I discovered just how dependent the world is on fossil fuels with an article (which Ruppert did not write) I still recommend to anyone who doubts we are…  it may even have triggered my feelings towards realising we were stuffed…!  FTW went behind a paywall (and fair enough I suppose..) and I stopped going there, which doesn’t make it any less worthy.  I’d read enough.  Whilst Ruppert’s name appeared often in stuff I read about Peak Everything, I largely lost ‘contact’ with his work, which is now substantial. He’s written a book I haven’t read, Crossing the Rubicon and ‘stars’ in a video appropriately called Collapse….. well worth watching if you haven’t done so yet.

I always found Mike a bit over the top, seeing conspiracies everywhere (911 being the classic) and sometimes making claims that were hard to justify.  But he was just too likeable to ignore; and much of what he had to say was true, it was just that you needed a good BS filter.  And I say that as a compliment, trust me.  He was a very convincing person.

I’ve written a bit about suicide in this space.  People like Mike Ruppert and I and the many others who carry what Richard Heinberg recently called ‘toxic knowledge’ carry a heavy burden sometimes.  And because we are all different, we all cope differently.  I suspect Mike really overdid it.  He lived and breathed doom, it was an obsession, no doubt about it.  And even though he had an obviously large and close entourage supporting him, the doom obviously finally got to him.

After I discovered he had died, I decided to listen to his last Life Boat Hour podcast.  As they say, hindsight is a wonderful thing, but frankly I could see the sorts of red flags a trained psychologist would possibly recognise… right down to his choice of music.  But I’m no trained psychologist, so I’m not speculating, Mike’s attorney won’t allow it.

His death will leave a gaping hole in the collapsenik world, he will be missed, because people larger than life as Mike was always are.  He might finally rest in peace…. there are no demons in the afterlife.





Another White Elephant is born……..

15 04 2014

The Federal Government has announced a second airport for Sydney at Badgerys Creek will be built.  This has been met with enthusiasm by airlines and business groups.  But what a stupid idea it is……  Absolutely nothing I have read about this project so far even mentions Peak Oil, or where the fuel for all those extra planes will come from.  Or the money for that matter….

Obviously, the aviation industry hasn’t seen this:

One might even ask, “will QANTAS still exist by the time this airport is finished”, IF it even starts……..?

On CO2 emissions, the impacts from a 5% air traffic growth have been assumed to be lessened by a 2% growth in fuel efficiency.  Leaving a 3% growth in CO2 emissions.  If aviation emissions really grow by that much, the aviation industry should be called “Flight Path to a Stormy Future”.  This is because NASA climatologist James Hansen just published a book “Storms of my Grandchildren” predicting huge storms over the Atlantic in addition to the area of cyclones and hurricanes expanding. That will mean a lot of cancelled flights…… because surely we have reached the stage where Climate Change is starting to become very obvious.

This idea has been contentious for a very long time, but there is no doubt opposition will be real.  And likely stronger than ever before.  I don’t think we’ve seen the end of this in the media…….!

badgerryprotest

UPDATE:
The federal and New South Wales governments will today (16 April 2014) announce they are spending nearly $3.5 billion on roads to support the construction of Sydney’s second airport.  The money will flow over the next decade and the news has been welcomed by some nervous Federal Liberal MPs in Western Sydney, who hope it will dampen community opposition to the Badgerys Creek project.

So there you have it.  No rail or even light rail links…. just more roads that won’t be carrying cars to an airport with no planes.. now that’s what I call vision!





Susan Krumdieck on Transition Engineering

15 04 2014

dr_susan_krumdieckSome ten years ago, when I first discovered we were up against it, I read a great book titled “Factor 4″, written by Amory Lovins, his then wife Hunter, and Ernst von Weizsacker (isn’t that a great name?!)

In that book, Lovins proclaimed himself a lover of cars with “the Hypercar”, a hydrogen/fuel cell contraption built out of Carbon fibre, hyper aerodynamic, etc etc….. having just googled it looking for a link to give you reveals not much has happened.  But at the time I was mesmerised by all this technology, it all seemed so likely?  I lurked in forums full of fans of the Hydrogen Economy, and Lovins’ green car…. and there, I found one person who argued it was all BS.  Her name is Dr Susan Krumdieck, an American engineer from Colorado who now lives In New Zealand where she’s an  Associate Professor at Canterbury University and teaches sustainable systems around fuel cells, alternative energy technologies, energy conservation, energy systems engineering, and materials for energy systems.  You know, someone I can really get on with?

Susan is very approachable (if very busy) and replied to an email I sent her, fishing for info, all those years ago….  It turns out what she doesn’t know about fuel cells isn’t worth knowing!  She actually lectures about this stuff all over the world, and surprise surprise, has come to the same conclusions as me.  We will have to make do with a hell of a lot less in the future.

Find out how straight from her mouth…..

Susan Krumdieck

Originally aired on Saturday Morning, Saturday 12 April 2014

Susan Krumdieck: transition engineering Researcher in mechanical engineering at the University of Canterbury, and a founding member of the National Energy Research Institute.

Duration:  30′ 20″








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