Growth is Obsolete

31 10 2013

Society needs to realize growth does not equal prosperity.

James Howard Kunstler

The word that sticks in the craw of many who cogitate over economics is growth. The condition that the word refers to has proven disturbingly problematic in recent years, especially as the world’s population continues to expand exponentially and the global ecology suffers in response. In fact, Thomas Carlyle (1795 – 1881) called economics “the dismal science” in direct reference to the work of the Rev. Thomas Malthus, because the Malthusian conclusions were so unappetizing — that sooner or later rising human populations would outstrip the world’s capacity to provide for them.

 

Now it happened that the Reverend Malthus’s notorious Essay on the Principle of Population was first published in 1798, which was about exactly the take-off moment for the industrial revolution. That extravagant melodrama was about marshaling mechanical invention with fossil fuel. The first act ran on coal and allowed populations to expand because it extended the extractive reach for resources by colonialist nations. The second act featured exploitation of oil, which was more powerful and versatile than coal. It also lent itself much more directly than coal to being converted into food for people. The use of oil powered farming machines, oil and gas (an oil byproduct) based herbicides, insecticides, and fertilizers, and oil based long distance food transport, has allowed us to convert oil into food pretty directly. This has led to the “hockey-stick” swerve of population growth that took human numbers worldwide from under 2 billion in the year 1900 to more than 7 billion today.

We are in the third act of the industrial melodrama now where the dire sub-plot of peak oil has taken stage. Despite the wishful thinking and happy-talk propaganda lighting up the media-space, we have arrived at the problematic point of the story: the end of cheap oil. This is poorly understood by the public and, apparently, by leaders in business, politics, and the media, too. They misunderstand because they insist on thinking that peak oil was simply about running out of oil. It’s not. It’s about running out of the ability to extract it from the earth in a way that makes economic sense — that is, at a price we can afford in terms of available capital and energy invested (and also ecological destruction). That dynamic is now exerting a powerful influence on modern civilizations. We ignore it — even at the highest levels of intellectual endeavor — because we have made no alternate plans for running the complex operations of everyday life, and because the early manifestations of the dynamic present themselves in the realm of finance, which is dominated by academic viziers and money-grubbing opportunists who benefit from obfuscating reality.

The sad, stark fact is that oil is now too expensive to permit further expansion of economies and populations. Expensive oil upsets the cost structure of virtually every system we need to run modern life: transportation, commerce, food production, governance, to name a few. In particular expensive oil destroys the cost structures of banking and finance because not enough new wealth can be generated to repay previously accumulated debt, and new credit cannot be extended without a reasonable expectation that more new wealth will be generated to repay it. Through the industrial age, our money has become an increasingly abstract and complex product of debt creation. As Chris Martenson has put it so succinctly in The Crash Course, money is loaned into existence. Thus, the growth of debt (allowing the growth of money) has played a crucial role at the heart of our banking operations, and the very word “growth” has become shorthand for this process in the lingo of current economic discourse.

It is quite clear that the banking system has been thrown into great disarray as the price of oil levitated from $11-a-barrel in 1999 to the great spike of $140 in 2008, and then settled into a range between $75 and $110 since 2010. Most of this disarray is a result of attempts to offset the failure to create new real wealth with fake wealth generated by accounting fraud, “innovative” swindling, insider chicanery, high frequency front-running, naked shorting of securities, and the construction of a vast untested network of derivative counterparty wagers that give every sign of being booby-trapped. All this private monkey business has been abetted by public mischief in central bank interventions and market manipulations, fiscal irresponsibility, political payoffs for favorable legislation, statistical misreporting, and the failure to apply the rule of law in cases of blatant misconduct (e.g., the MF Global confiscation of segregated client accounts; the Goldman Sachs “Timberwolf” CDO scam… the list is very long).

In short, a society with deeply impaired capital formation has turned to crime, corruption, fakery, and subterfuge in order to pretend that “growth” — i.e. expansion of capital — is still happening. The consequences are many and profound. The chief one is that the manufacture of fake wealth is such an alluring activity that some of the smartest people in society have devoted their waking hours to making a profit off it. It absorbs all their energies and they are simply not available for other work, such as figuring out a sane and practical way to run civilization in the absence of cheap energy. Added to this is the administrative effort and the work-arounds needed to support all this corruption and dishonesty, which occupy the hours of another class of smart people who work in government, academia, public relations, and the media. The sustenance of these parasitical cohorts more and more continues at the expense of everybody else in society, who cannot find work, or cannot make enough money to pay their living expenses, and who have become deeply discouraged, disappointed, demoralized, and disengaged in their losing struggle to thrive. Hence there is little public vigor to even mount a discussion of these vexing problems and the final result is the greater wholesale failure to construct a coherent consensus about what is happening to us and what we might do about it.

Another consequence to these disorders of capital is the massive malinvestment directed into things with no future in themselves or, much worse, things that actively undermine the future of everything needed to support any civilized future. For instance, the “innovation” in securitizing and repackaging mortgages — which continues to be a boon for the giant banks in concert with the thoroughly dishonest and technically bankrupt “government sponsored enterprises” Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — expresses itself in the activity we call “housing starts.” Economists overwhelmingly agree that a higher number of housing starts is a good thing for the economy and hence for society. But what do housing starts actually represent? These days they mostly take the form of new suburban housing subdivisions, which are inevitably joined by the kit of the strip mall, the big box store, and all the other furnishings of the highway strip. In short, all that glorious “innovation” by the banks produces more suburban sprawl and destruction of rural land, which is about the last thing this society needs when faced with the realities of peak cheap oil, since it is absolutely certain to make these things obsolete, and very soon. It is not any better, either, if the nominal capital — nominal because it is sure to someday represent a loss for some bond-holder or stockholder — gets invested in a 30-story high rise apartment because, contrary to a lot of current delusional thinking, skyscrapers also have no practical future for reasons I have explained in other essays here.

Similarly, the public investments going into “shovel-ready” highway projects, although the fiscal outlays are more transparently based on money that doesn’t really exist. The public, as well as leaders all across society, serenely believe that the Happy Motoring matrix will find a way to go on forever, and that therefore we must make provision for it, not to mention the beneficial side of effect of “job creation” for all the additional workers. Yet the dynamic at work must be obvious: oil will never be cheap again; it will impair future capital formation; there will be far fewer car loans; there will dwindling public funds to maintain the roads; and there is no practical substitute for gasoline that scales to the existing system, nor any prospect of one within a time frame that makes sense — not to mention the gigantic background problem of pouring ever more carbon into the sky.

If these things I mention — highways, tract houses, condo towers, strip malls — represent our current idea of “growth,” and if they are self-evidently bad investments, then we can infer that our current concept of “growth” no longer applies to a reality-based model of our economic prospects. We ought to junk the term and what it implies about the daily business of mankind, and come up with a new way of understanding the place we’re at.

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The counterintuitive facts about population growth

30 10 2013

A guest post by Michael Lardelli,

October 2013

This year my 8-year-old daughter’s school class has been studying “sustainability”. Last term she was all over me like a rash about not wasting water. Unfortunately, I had to explain to her that saving every last drop of water was actually a waste of time, ‘The water you save will just let the government bring in more people because it wants to grow the population. It actually makes more sense for you to use as much water as possible because that may slow the government down’. Adelaide’s population has now grown to a size where coping with the growth has outpaced our capacity to pay. SA’s $2 billion desalination plant (costing $130 million per year to run) was built explicitly to cope with population growth and would be unnecessary without it. Then there are the costs of extra hospital beds, congested roads, crowded schools etc. Counterintuitively, these dyseconomies of scale are counted as positives when GDP figures are calculated!As a scientist I am used to reality sometimes appearing counterintuitive. The most famous example is Galileo dropping two metal balls of different weights from the leaning tower of Pisa to demonstrate that they would both hit the ground simultaneously. Demography – the study of the structure of human populations – is another area where the obvious answer is not necessarily the correct one. An interesting example of this was Senator Nick Xenophon’s insistence before the recent election that he wanted to promote faster population growth in South Australia.

Apparently Nick believes that, with SA’s population growing at 1% per year, “We’re sitting on a demographic time bomb. There’ll be fewer taxpayers compared to the rest of the population.” Nick appears envious of WA’s population growth of more than 3.4% even though this will double WA’s population in only two decades! Imagine trying to double a state’s infrastructure – hospitals, roads, sewerage, power etc. – in 20 years when the current estimate is that each additional person requires about $200,000 of infrastructure. From where will that money come?

Unfortunately, Nick has been deceived by the notion that it is possible to significantly “youngify” our population through migration. But even pro-migration demographers reject this idea.

As demographers McDonald and Kippen stated in a report for the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs in 1999, “Levels of annual net migration [into Australia] above 80,000 become increasingly ineffective and inefficient in the retardation of ageing. Those who wish to argue for a higher level of immigration need to base their argument on the benefits of a larger population, not upon the illusory ‘younging power’ of high immigration.” At the moment annual net migration is about three times higher than the 80,000 recommended! A 2008 paper by demographer Katherine Betts shows how Australia’s current sky-high rate of population growth could more than double our population by the end of the century (and our water, food and fuel consumption etc.) but make little difference to our population’s median age. In fact, if we encourage immigration rather than supporting women to have children we could end up with an older population structure than otherwise!With ideas this counterintuitive it is no wonder that our normally intelligent Senator Nick is confused. Australia’s current rate of population growth is truly exceptional – or ‘third world’ – depending on your viewpoint. At the moment we are growing at three times the rate of the rest of the OECD. But despite the yawning infrastructure shortfalls that rate is not fast enough for Labor’s Bill Shorten who wants to see still higher levels of immigration. The next arrival could “be the next Albert Einstein or a good taxpayer”. But it could just as well be the next crime boss or a welfare recipient. And while the current SA Labor government starts to talk about dismantling our current planning approval system (to make it easier to realise its urban expansion and densification dreams) the leader of the alternative Liberal government wants more incentives to boost our population growth. It’s enough to make you bury your head in your hands in despair – or join Stop Population Growth Now.

Michael Lardelli is senior lecturer in genetics at the University of Adelaide, translator of Prof. Kjell Aleklett’s book “Peeking at Peak Oil”, a committee member of Sustainable Population Australia and a member of the management committee of the political party Stop Population Growth Now.





What I have learned, What we should be thankful for, What remains to be done

30 10 2013

This is the third instalment of a three part essay by Dr Geoffrey Chia whose other essay If we can’t save Society, we must save ourselves I posted here last year…

PART 1 is HERE
PART 2 is HERE
PART 3: WHAT REMAINS TO BE DONE

I had a particularly memorable patient a couple of years ago. We managed to save his life despite his best efforts to deny his problems. Contrary to popular opinion, denial does not make problems go away. I saw him in hospital for the first time after he was admitted for heart failure. Our tests showed he had sustained a small heart attack at the time, but we also identified other problems of rapid atrial fibrillation, severe aortic stenosis and severe left ventricular impairment (look up those terms, no space to explain everything here). He felt better after initial diuretic
therapy and refused to acknowledge the multiple severe heart problems I explained to him we had discovered. He wanted to be discharged against medical advice. He took a taxi to his GP’s surgery for a chat. His GP phoned me to discuss things, then sternly told the patient to get right back into hospital immediately.

I then performed his coronary angiogram which showed severe left main stem disease and triple vessel disease. Any single one of his problems could cause sudden death. With the multiple whammy combination of those problems, he was, in my opinion, barely a month away from dying. I referred him immediately to a heart surgeon for aortic valve replacement and coronary bypass surgery. The surgeon later informed me he found a huge clot within the left atrial appendage which was threatening to detach and cause a fatal stroke at any time. The surgeon reckoned the patient was just days away from dropping dead. He recuperated well and at last clinic review he has been compliant with his medications, has changed his adverse lifestyle, has recovered normal heart function, has a controlled heart rate and his artificial valve is working well. All other things being equal he can now expect at least another ten years of good quality life. He initially regarded me as being “alarmist”. If he had persisted in his denial he would have died. He now appreciates that he not only dodged a bullet, he dodged a whole volley of machinegun fire.

That case study is not an example of any brilliance on my part and was in fact a team effort anyway. I merely did what any average Cardiologist would do. It is an illustration of the power of the principles and practice of judicious modern medicine to save lives. This is what I have been trying to do for more than eight years – to apply medical decision making principles to policy in wider society to avert disaster and enhance the common good. I have failed miserably. It is my observation that most people will listen intently to save their own skin, but they don’t give a rat’s arse if you ask them to even slightly alter their wasteful lifestyle to save the lives of others, let alone other species1.

Hence my miserable failure to lobby our previous State Minister of Sustainability Kate Jones to ban non biodegradable plastic bags. Kate had spoken at one of our previous D3SJ meetings and came across as being strongly pro-environment then. After her appointment as Minister, I sent her information about the “plastic gyres” in the oceans and videos of turtles and seabirds killed by plastic detritus. I gathered signatures on a petition to ban nonbiodegradable plastic bags and pointed out to her that such legislation had just been passed in South Australia. Her assistant wrote back admonishing me to stop pestering them as they were simply not going to do it – no explanation.

Rachel Nolan spoke to our D3SJ group when she was an MP before she became State Transport Minister and she even co-wrote a paper on Peak Oil Vulnerability with Andrew McNamara (who was Sustainability Minister before Kate Jones). Nothing significant to date has been done in Queensland to wean us off petroleum dependency.

At a Federal level, despite repeated written submissions to Kevin Rudd (my local MP) before and while he was Prime Minister, I was unable to convince him of the importance of Peak Oil. I instead received a thoroughly nonsensical letter in reply from Resource Minister at the time, Martin Ferguson. My failures are well documented on the D3SJ website http://www.d3sj.org (not updated for a while due to lack of motivation and preoccupation with other projects, however meetings have continued regularly till this month).

Andrew McNamara lost his seat of Hervey Bay because of Premier Anna Bligh’s Traveston Dam debacle. Andrew spoke to our D3SJ group subsequently, giving us an insider view of how the political process works. It became clear to us that the system ensures it is impossible to change the Government’s unsustainable policies by making representations to Ministers or by going through the “usual channels” which are a sham. Bligh was beholden to the fossil fuel industrialists. I know Andrew himself wanted to do the right thing but his hands were tied and he was muzzled.

Andrew, Rachel and Kate were all Labor Ministers. If nothing could be done through them or by them, we can expect even less than nothing from current Premier Cannibal Newman’s right wingnut environmental vandals who are wantonly going about cutting “green tape” (their euphemism for destroying environmental protection legislation) and demonising householders who have installed photovoltaic panels. How dare they not pay their “fair share” for coal-fired electricity! Cannibal Newman has been quoted as saying that Peak Oil does not exist and they will burn carpets and tyres if necessary to keep the cars running. How can one discuss sane policy with such a blinkered imbecile? He is very good at constructing money losing road tunnels, which my friend Professor David Hood described as future stormwater storage tanks.

I now know that the vast majority of humanity, indeed probably all of humanity, will die off this century. I cling to the (probably forlorn) hope that some stragglers may survive extinction, to preserve an archive of some worthwhile human achievements. Even extending the lives of a few good people for perhaps an extra ten years beyond the general dieoff, so long as their lives remain comfortable, is in my opinion worth doing. It is what I have been doing all my professional life, so why stop now? So I would like to try. I acknowledge that I may fail miserably, but not to try at all will turn that failure into a self fulfilling prophecy.

It may be useful to view the National Geographic video clip of global average temperature rises from 1 to 6 degrees Celsius (above modern pre-industrial times – and bear in mind that average land temperature rises will be significantly higher). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfBMUd-Es0M That clip is probably over optimistic. The narrator’s final statement, that at 6 degrees rise, “life will never be the same” is completely absurd because there will be no (complex) life on Earth at 6 degrees and beyond. The scientist just before that mentioned that at 6 degrees there will be a total global wipeout.

Given our present dire situation, my non-expert opinion is that only two outcomes can befall humanity now. One is human extinction which I suspect is very likely, let’s give it a probability of >99.9% and the other is near extinction leaving just a handful of survivors, which I rate as <0.1% likely. That 0.1% chance is only possible if there is complete termination of all human GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions right now or very soon (but still a 99.9% chance that even with immediate complete termination it is already too late). James Lovelock seems to think several
million people may survive, however I am not sure how up to date he is with the positive feedback loops we have triggered.

To the indifferent Universe, one outcome is much the same as the other. To humanity, however, there is a HUGE difference between complete extinction and near extinction. Modern humans first emerged in Africa about 200,000 years ago. Studies in genetic diversity indicate that total human numbers were down to just a few thousand people around 75,000 years ago. It is thought that a severe disaster, possibly a massive volcanic eruption in Lake Toba, Sumatra was the cause of this near human extinction. Others postulate some other cause but the exact cause is irrelevant for our purposes. The point is that humans have been through a genetic bottleneck before. Furthermore, other genetic studies indicate that all non-Africans today are descended from just a few hundred people who were thought to have crossed the Red Sea from Africa to Arabia about 70,000 years ago. Hence all it takes is for a few survivors to get through the most difficult times, to survive the next five hundred years or so till our climate stabilises,2 for our species to eventually recover and become re-established in the future.

There are numerous complex unpredictable non-linear factors which will determine our fate, but for simplicity let us consider just one thing: what is the single main determinant as to whether humanity will experience complete extinction or near extinction? It will be the maximum global average temperature this planet finally reaches. According to Professor David Hood, an eminent engineer, sustainability activist and climate educator, most researchers agree that at 5 degrees, human existence is inconceivable. Even at 4 degrees our extinction is very likely, however a number of scientists believe that a few pockets of survivors in geographically favourable parts of
the planet could persist. I thank my friend Dr Graeme Taylor for this link:

Four Degrees of Global Warming: Australia in a hot world. This book outlines the expected impacts of
global average warming of four degrees or more for Australia and its region. It provides detailed recent
research on the likely impacts of a Four Degree World on Australia’s social, economic and ecological
systems, and possible policy responses. Its authors include many of Australia’s most eminent and
internationally recognized climate scientists, climate policy makers and policy analysts.
http://www.amazon.com/Four-Degrees-Global-Warming-Australia/dp/0415824583/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1378944618&sr=1-1&keywords=christoff+four+degrees+of+global+warming

Notwithstanding the impeccable qualifications of those authors, I cannot buy into any scenarios that we may have any semblance of organised society at 4 degrees, a world in which severe weather events will be magnitudes worse than they are now and large scale agriculture will be impossible. Perhaps a few scattered humans may survive at 4 degrees, but only if 4 degrees is the end point stable state. However if there are ongoing feedback loop GHG emissions still occurring then, 4 degrees will merely be a transition temperature to 6 or 10 degrees.

What will determine the maximum global average temperature this planet finally stabilises at? It will be the total amount of GHGs ultimately liberated by humans plus the total amount of GHGs ultimately liberated by the positive (bad) feedback loops3. The latter is potentially many times more than human liberated GHGs. At this time there do not seem to be significant negative (good) feedback loops4. If industry continues at, say, just half the emissions of today for perhaps the next ten years and considering current and further feedback loop GHGs, a maximum final
temperature of more than 5 degrees is guaranteed. You can disregard the views of the dishonestly downplayed IPCC projections (which have always seriously underestimated true warming effects) and Bill McKibben’s “carbon budget” campaign to “keep within 2 degrees”, because they disregard feedback loop GHGs.

In the rather unlikely scenario that all industry completely collapses tomorrow or in the next few months5, what will the final maximum global average temperature be? Considering atmospheric CO2 alone, which is now at 400ppm, approximately 3.5 degrees rise is already locked in, going by the paleorecord (estimated range is 2 to 5 degrees C, hence let’s take the middle of that range http://instaar.colorado.edu/news-events/instaar-news/ice-free-arcticocean-may-have-amped-up-temperatures-during-the-pliocene/ ). That 3.5 degree rise will probably not be reached till after 2100, but 2100 is an arbitrary cutoff date. Later term human extinction after 2100 is just as important a consideration to us as NTHE. It is, after all, extinction.

However, we must also consider the feedback loop GHGs liberated from the vicious cycles we have already triggered. We do not know the total amount that will be liberated before they tail off. We could still be headed for 5 degrees rise anyway. If that is the case, there is no scenario whatsoever where humans can escape extinction. However we simply don’t know if this “best case” scenario of immediate industrial collapse will or will not ultimately reach 5 degrees, all we can consider are probabilities which cannot be calculated with precision. Could geoengineering (eg injecting sulphates into the atmosphere) buy time? It could temporarily stabilise temperatures, prompting some hubristic media bufoons to declare that the problem of climate change is “solved”. Such idiocy will then encourage countries to burn more fossil fuels, which then will absolutely, definitely, beyond any shadow of a doubt seal our fate and guarantee our extinction. Geoengineering is sure to cause side effects, many of which we cannot even predict. Perhaps acid rain could render the tundra soils completely infertile, the tundra that we would depend on for future forest growth and biologic carbon sequestration.

One thing we know for sure is that continuation of human GHG emissions will cause feedback loop GHGs to increase exponentially. The GIMME establishment is hellbent on business as usual and we are powerless to alter that, which is why I believe Professor Guy McPherson is correct in his judgement regarding the prospect of NTHE. It is a well reasoned and logical opinion to hold. However even if the most experienced cancer specialist in the world diagnoses that a particular patient, who is thoroughly riddled with extensive metastases, will die very soon, there is
sometimes the one-in-a-million patient whose immune system unexpectedly rallies and who experiences dramatic recovery and defies the odds, dumbfounding the experts. An unexpected “black swan” event occurs. Am I clutching at straws? Perhaps. Nevertheless I prefer to regard Guy as being 99.9% likely to be correct. I may be deluded and I do have a proven track record of being a miserable failure, but I cling to the foolish notion there may be a 0.1% chance of a few survivors in our uncertain future (if and only if there is near immediate termination of all human GHG emissions). I don’t think I am in denial because I know the problem will not go away and am also aware that I am probably wrong. But what else is there to do?

Here is one indisputable fact: as individuals, even though we may not know exactly when we will die, we know that we have limited time and energy to expend from today until that final day of reckoning. Accordingly I believe we need to direct our precious limited remaining time and energy toward the actions we think will be most constructive and worthwhile. Choose your battles well and engage in activities which you personally regard as effective, valuable and meaningful. For me, it is pointless to expend energy trying to influence government any more, especially rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth, right wing government. Can we use public media to change public opinion? I spoke out on ABC Radio National in 2005, using indisputable evidence to prove that the invasion of Iraq was based on lies http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/science-versus-pseudoscience-truthversus-lies–/3451208
http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/ockhamsrazor/theres-no-fuel-like-an-old-fuel—parttwo/3452646

I received a flurry of hate emails for my trouble, which I regard as my badge of pride. I have been banned from ABC RN ever since. Robyn Williams has been too afraid to let me back on air. Even the public media have been cowed and emasculated by the corporate political agendas.

The influence of public media is tiny anyway compared with the massively funded lies of the corporate media who have completely brainwashed the stupid sheeple.

My friend Rolf Kuelsen, known to us as a Transition Towns warrior and bicycle advocate (his professional background is that of a mathematician) asked a question at a meeting on Economics a couple of months ago. He asked why, given the great costs of modern illnesses to society, we do not spend our money more effectively on prevention and health education rather than expensive treatments after the diseases have taken hold. I personally may be a peddler of expensive treatments myself, however I fully agree that prevention would be far more cost effective. When no answer was forthcoming from the centre stage economists, I blurted out from the audience in my usual Tourette’s manner, “It is because the pathway to disease is protected by vested interests: tobacco, the salt industry, the fast food industry, high fructose corn syrup6“.  Of course those vested interests are vigorously promoted by the corporate media. How can we battle the corporate media with their bottomless funding, universal pervasiveness and slickly produced seductive messages peddling addictive substances? We can’t. And the most addictive substances of all? Fossil fuels.

Even if some major disaster occurs (as if we haven’t already had enough disasters) which suddenly wakes up the masses to the fact we are in a planetary emergency and we start mobilising rapidly on an urgent international scale, the fact is that we have already fallen off the cliff of unsustainability and the die-off of billions is already built in. Every updated Limits to Growth simulation model results in massive die-off using contemporary data from today’s situation, even using the most favourable inputs. As my friend and Peak Oil expert Wallace Wight says, it is difficult to grow feathers once you have fallen off the cliff.

Below are my personal views of what we as individuals may choose to do and should not do. It is not a list of recommendations to anyone because I don’t know what to do any better than the next guy (although Guy may know better than the next guy). It is just a list of my opinions. You must decide for yourself.

Let us again use the analogy of a terminal cancer patient. Arguably the most important measure is to psychologically and emotionally come to terms with the probable fate we face. Even though the Kubler-Ross stages (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance) are not always invariably followed, they are a useful model of what psychological phases we may go through and can offer ways for us to cope. Secondly, being realistic about our likely fate motivates us to put our personal affairs in order. Thirdly, palliation can be of great value: therapies which will keep us comfortable and free of distress, and if possible extend whatever precious remaining time we may have. It is important to know the difference between prolonging a comfortable life and delaying an agonising death and to avoid the latter. If however we can achieve perhaps nine months of pleasant life by palliation, instead of suffering for three months in excruciating pain, it would be silly not to proceed with palliation.

There is one important difference between the death of an individual and the extinction of humanity as a species. For an individual facing a 99.9% chance of death, resignation to their fate is an entirely reasonable choice, indeed probably the most reasonable one. The struggle, exhaustion and pain they may be going through and side effects of medications may be just too much to endure. Most importantly, they can depart this mortal coil knowing that others can continue their legacy – life will go on for the rest.

For the extinction of our species however, it will mean the complete loss of all the hard won enlightenment and cultural achievements our species has ever gained, which I personally think is worth preserving. Furthermore I believe (on the basis of statistical likelihood) that conscious, self aware, intelligent life, which can be used to describe some (but not most) human beings, is exceedingly rare in the universe and is therefore precious.

As part of the grieving process, it is natural for us to direct much of our anger against the right wing psychopathic lying politicians who are presently wrecking the joint. However in a democracy such as Australia, those politicians reached their positions of power because they were voted in by the majority of the populace, a majority consisting of stupid, foolish and greedy primates who believe the corporate and media lies that they can have it all and have it now, with no consequences whatsoever. Tony Abbott wants to repeal the carbon tax legislated by the Labor
government. This is the exact mentality of a spoilt four year old brat completely lacking in self restraint and any thought of saving for the future. When the majority of the population are stupid and infantile, true democracy means we end up with “leaders” who are stupid and infantile, a mirror reflection of the majority.

The inmates have indeed taken control of the asylum. It is much harder to direct our frustrations diffusely against the unwashed brainless masses. However it is those masses who are in fact the problem, not specifically Tony Abbott, who would personally be relegated to a position no higher than that of toilet cleaner if the electorate had any sense whatsoever. The harsh reality is that even if Abbott did not exist, another knuckledragging coal company stooge of similar ilk would have been voted into office by the profoundly stupid electorate anyway. But who are
behind the manipulation of the dumb sheeple? Who have convinced the brainless masses to vote against their own interests?

By all means go ahead and rail against the despicable puppet masters (the corporate-military-industrial complex, their high priest economists and the commercial media) if you find it cathartic. I personally find ridicule and mockery to be a therapeutic and effective way to cast them in their true light, as you will have already noted.
Anger is natural part of the mourning phase. I think it is healthier to express your anger than to internalise your emotions. Woody Allen said, “I don’t get angry, I just grow a tumour” which to me is inadvisable. I agree with Richard Heinberg however, that discussing NTHE with ordinary people is pointless. Such a topic would certainly be a conversation stopper at a cocktail party (although I would love to be a fly on the wall in that situation). Seek out likeminded people with whom you can have your therapeutic conversations. Let the rage out, it is important to vent your spleen, but also important to eventually get past this phase so you can then direct your energies toward more
constructive activities. Don’t get bogged down in the anger phase. You may revisit it from time to time but don’t get stuck there. Here’s one thing we should NOT do: we should not resort to violence, no matter how tempting.

Apart from the context of legitimate self defence, the sapient among us know that violence tends to be counterproductive. This is true whether the violence is directed externally in the form of sabotaging coal installations, or internally in the form of starving oneself for a publicity campaign. For example, you may feel you have the “right” to torture and kill a coal company magnate for funding global warming denialism and for driving humanity (not to mention most other species) to extinction in order to feed his/her short term obscene profits. I am not arguing that such a person does not deserve to be viciously torn apart, fat limb from fat limb, but think of the consequences that will ensue following such an assassination. It will certainly be big news and any assassin will be portrayed by the MSM as a “lunatic ecoterrorist, the new Osama bin Laden” with hints of a larger conspiratorial “greenie terrorist plot” directed against wider society. MSM hacks will have a field day instilling fear in the hearts of the population against such “ecoterrorists”, resulting in reprisals against innocent “greenies” by the GIMME establishment and by the unwashed mob. Imagine SUVs running down innocent cyclists (as was advocated by the execrable Jeremy Clarkson, infamous global warming denialist, in one of his moronic “shows”) and you get the picture. There will be a lockdown of society, with increased electronic surveillance. There will be draconian oppressive laws passed by the government and curtailment of civil liberties, which the sheeple will willingly relinquish in order to feel “safe”.

“Terrorists” are the greatest gift to Fascist governments and if they did not exist, it would be necessary to invent

them. You will be aware that US government agencies already list left leaning environmentalists in their official criteria of what constitutes a terrorist. Furthermore, both the Pentagon and the German military, in their Peak Oil and Climate Change analysis, have made plans to institute martial law when the inevitable chaos ensues. They just need the flimsiest excuse. Do not give the GIMME establishment a scapegoat group (environmentalists) to blame and demonise. So we should not resort to violence – it will merely accelerate our transformation into a police state. Violence is not in the nature of the sapient, it is not in your nature dear reader anyway, unless you are forced to defend yourself.

I have been using the terms “sapient” and “sapience” (the capacity to achieve wisdom) profusely and would like to acknowledge the ideas of Dr George Mobus on this topic. http://faculty.washington.edu/gmobus/TheoryOfSapience/SapienceExplained/1.sapienceintroduction/sapienceIntroduction.html He is based in the University of Washington, Tacoma and his PhD was in computer science. However he is also a systems analyst and energy expert and as his website implies, http://questioneverything.typepad.com/question_everything/ he questions everything and has particularly worthwhile thoughts on how we should consider energy flows in reality based economic systems. He has been interviewed several times at the “doomstead diner” http://www.doomsteaddiner.net and I highly recommend the podcasts.

Mobus’ view is that the best hope for humanity is for sapient people to establish self sufficient offgrid communities remote from the cities (it is the urban centres where the major die-off will occur and people will be killing each other). Not all homesteads will succeed, however if enough of them are set up in various locations around the world and climate change is not too drastic, a few will be able to survive. Just one or two
groups of survivors may be sufficient to save humanity from extinction. Subsequent generations who emerge out of this “genetic bottleneck” will hopefully be selected for sapience and be more thoughtful, more cooperative, more generous, more benevolent, less violent, less greedy and less impulsive than the vast majority of humanity today and hence better custodians for a future planet. The Earth will have rid itself of its worst parasites (that last sentence is mine).

If you can gather together a group of sapient people and establish a permaculture homestead in a remote area with your own supply of water and food in a location relatively less affected by climate change than the rest of the world, you should be able to live a decent life and be in control of your own fate for longer than the rest. I won’t go into the issue of “marauding hordes” apart from saying your best protection may be remoteness and obscurity. Even if no communities survive in the long run, even if we ultimately all go extinct, your homestead will represent a form of palliative therapy to lengthen the duration of your comfortable life, minimise the amount of suffering you
endure and enable you to be in charge of the time and manner by which you depart this mortal coil.

If the actions we need to take for palliation and the actions we need to take to avoid extinction are exactly the same, then embarking on those actions is a no-brainer. Hence in conclusion: seek out the company of likeminded people who you can enlist for mutual help in the tough times ahead. The most important commodity of the future will not be gold or silver but will be the bond of trust between sapient people, honourable people whose word is their pledge and who can be relied on in difficult times. I bid you all good luck and good spirits as you face the challenges ahead posed by the inevitable disintegration of this irredeemably corrupt, economically delusional so-called civilisation. And so, in drawing D3SJ to a close, I have one last question to ask of everyone in general and no one in particular, “Is our quest to find sanity in the human race, itself an insane quest?”

I thank those of you who have supported the D3SJ meetings over the years.
Geoffrey Chia, October 2013
“I dreamed an impossible dream – then awoke to the hellish nightmare of Reality” – GC

FOOTNOTES

1. But guess what? We depend on other species for our own survival! And those species can only survive if the habitats they live in are preserved. And climate change is destroying all habitats.

2. My non-expert understanding is that if all emissions were to cease tomorrow and we eventually stabilise at 4 deg C rise, natural biosequestration of the excess CO2 may take perhaps a thousand years to occur. However we are now also moving into a cooler Milankovitch phase (reduced solar insolation) which may take a thousand years or so to transition the planet into another ice age. Thus hopefully we could return to “normal” temperatures in a few hundred years rather than a thousand years from now.

3. One of the worst feedback loop GHG releases will be when the hot oceans no longer act as a carbon sink and start to release CO2, however we will probably be well on our way to extinction by then, if not already extinct. Of course the situation is much more complicated than just adding feedback loop GHGs to human GHGs, because there may be many other positive feedbacks such as loss of albedo due to loss of ice etc. However even though you and I may not be able to construct more precise complex computer models, our simplistic napkin-scribble reckoning is still far better than the IPCC “projections” which refuse to acknowledge feedbacks at all. Talk about denial.

4. Perhaps radiative heat loss being a little more than expected.

5. Not impossible though, as the Tea Party / GOP brinkmanship games threatening to collapse the USA financially on 17 October showed. Our best hope is for those lunatics to shoot themselves in the foot. If they carry out their threat to bomb Iran, it will provoke Iran to blockade the Persian Gulf using mines and missiles, which will paralyse oil exports and precipitate global financial and industrial collapse. We can only hope.

6. Of course high fructose corn syrup is more applicable to the US rather than Australia, who have the sugar cane lobby, but I think the audience got my drift





What I have learned, What we should be thankful for, What remains to be done, part 2

29 10 2013

This is the second instalment of a three part essay by Dr Geoffrey Chia whose other essay If we can’t save Society, we must save ourselves I posted here last year…..
PART 2: WHAT WE SHOULD BE THANKFUL FOR
Each individual who reads this will have different aspects of their life they treasure. You should write down your own personal list. I will not discuss the obvious topic of love (or “lurve”) which has been endlessly covered by countless novels, songs and poems much better than I ever could. Suffice to say that those who have found one or more soulmate confidantes in life and have a strong supportive social network can consider themselves extremely lucky. You are a wealthy person indeed. On the other hand, if your social network is tightly bound to a rigid delusional mindset which prevents reflection and adaptation, and if you are unable to escape their grip, you could be in trouble.

I cannot speculate on everyone’s individual circumstances but will focus on those things I believe the potential readers of this piece will probably have in common, aspects of our lives today for which we should all be thankful.
We have been the beneficiaries of a relatively long continuous period of peace and prosperity since World War II from our (Western Industrial) perspective. We should be thankful for this. However we do not comprise the majority of the world’s population, ours is a minority perspective. Most of our (Western Industrial) wealth has been obtained by plunder (from native indigenous people or from other countries), particularly oil.  We need to put our good “fortune” in perspective. Much of Africa has remained a basketcase, especially those locations with the oil we covet such as Nigeria and Angola. Libya has now transitioned from a Gaddafi dictatorship to a foreign corporate dictatorship and remains unstable. Let’s not even mention Iraq. The victims of Imperialistic legacies in Vietnam, Afghanistan and many former colonies such as Rwanda will beg to differ they have enjoyed much peace since 1945. Latin American politics and policy have been severely corrupted to their detriment by the US in order to serve US corporate interests (read John Perkins “Confessions of an Economic Hitman”).

Other countries have experienced internal strife. Stalin and Mao killed millions of their own people after WW II and life had been miserable for many in those countries till fairly recently. The Indian subcontinent has experienced civil war (Sri Lanka), cross border conflicts and has been rife with poverty and power struggles which are ongoing even now – with the Naxalites who are fighting against corporate exploitation – which could erupt into civil war.

The situation in developed countries such as ours at present is that of low infant and low maternal mortality, low incidence of infectious diseases and the longest average healthy lifespans ever – more than 80 years in Japan and Australia. Compare that with the average lifespan of 28 years during the Roman empire (a statistic which included their high infant mortality). These advances were largely due to public health measures such as clean water, sanitation, vaccination and good nutrition. We have also seen marked reductions in cardiovascular mortality and remarkable advances in cancer therapy. All made possible by the discoveries of science.

Ordinary Australians enjoy a material quality of life far superior to even the kings and emperors of old, thanks to our fossil fuel powered slaves – technology once again derived from scientific discovery. For example, Suleiman the Magnificent, the Ottoman Caliph, loved sherbet desserts and commissioned regular deliveries of snow from Mount Olympus, carried by donkey and boat to his palace – which would have mostly melted by the time it reached him. Nowadays we think nothing of grabbing an icecream from our home freezer, purchased from among the dizzying
array of consumer items in the supermarket.

Ancient Kings were just as susceptible to death from pneumonia or appendicitis as their lowliest subjects. However ordinary people these days have access to lifesaving antibiotics and emergency surgery. And Suleiman could never have imagined flying in comfort at jet speed between cities. Then there are computers, smart phones and the Internet which when used wisely can be a tremendous boon, but are also creating a generation of timewasting fantasist thinkers who cannot tell the difference between cyberspace and reality. We need to reflect on these remarkable privileges and thank our simple dumb luck that we were born in these modern times in our particular location, into a tremendously fortunate situation never before enjoyed by previous generations.

Unfortunately it is the very science and technology delivering the benefits above, which have now led us to climate chaos, ecosystem destruction and our likely extinction. Are science and technology the culprits then? Was the only other alternative a repudiation of scientific advances and to remain with lives that were nasty, brutish and short? Is this a Faustian pact we have entered into, that we could briefly sample all these enticing luxuries, however the price to pay would be the collapse of global civilisation and human extinction?

As a matter of fact, science is neutral. Science is utterly indifferent, it just tells us how the Universe works. It is we who determine whether we use such knowledge for good or ill. Unfortunately most of the decision making in society as to how we apply our scientific knowledge has been hijacked by the rapacious psychopaths and fools:

foolishness + impulsive greed + clever science and technology = self inflicted extinction wisdom + judicious restraint + clever science and technology = paradise on earth

It goes back to the principles of medical decision making. The wise practitioner looks at the various treatment options and chooses the one with the greatest benefits and least disadvantages, taking into account the short, medium and long term consequences to the patient. “Free market” decisions in our freakonomy however just thoughtlessly grab the quickest short term profits to benefit a privileged few, leaving the toxic legacy of harm to those in the exploited areas and to future generations. Externalities which the bean counters simply ignore in their balance sheets. A greedy and dishonest system, established by the greedy and dishonest to serve the greedy and
dishonest. The material benefits described above are obvious to all of you. However living a gormless unquestioning life for 80 or 100 years before dropping dead is, I would argue, a completely meaningless existence, a waste of space. You would be just one blob of pointless protoplasm among many other billions whose existence (or not) simply did not matter one way or another. You may as well be a cow being fattened for the kill before being led to the slaughterhouse. The unexamined life not being worth living and all that. Dmitry Orlov calls the teeming mindless debt slaves of our GIMME establishment “office plankton”.

In my view perhaps the greatest gift we have, being born into this modern era, is the gift of true awareness, of genuine enlightenment regarding the situation we find ourselves in. What a gift it is to be truly oriented in person, time and place for the first time ever in the vastly ignorant history of humankind. To know we are a semi evolved species of ape, descended from earlier mammals and ultimately from microorganisms. To know that all other creatures utilise the same DNA instructional codes, demonstrating our common evolutionary origin. To know we live on a planet 4.5 billion years old in a universe 13 billion years old which exploded into existence from a
singularity. To know that this planet is one of eight in our solar system and our sun is one of billions in our galaxy which is one of billions in the known universe (Queue in Monty Python’s Galaxy song here https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=vIy76M-4txo#t=43 ).

All these realities have been determined definitively beyond any shadow of a doubt by the scientific method. To have gained such profound insights into the nature of Nature is an achievement to be celebrated. We also know this: our mind, our consciousness, our personalities, our cognitive processes, our very sense of self are emergent properties which arise from the complex firing of neurons. When that neuronal activity eventually ceases, we as an entity will cease to be. We know that when we die we will merely return to the same situation as before we were born (nothingness) which is true for all animals, and yes, we are animals. This realisation is not nihilistic at all because it means we no longer have to fear Death! To be liberated from the fear of Death is no small thing. We know that Hell is just an imaginary threat made up by cult leaders to keep their simple minded flock in line for not following their edicts. We have been freed from the shackles of scary superstition by scientific discoveries and must be exceedingly thankful for that. Unfortunately the saddest fact is that so many idiots in the modern world (particularly America) choose to remain in willful ignorance despite our indisputably validated scientific
understandings, to the detriment of us all.

The questions of what we are, where we are and how we came to be could only be wildly guessed at by the Ancients, who fabricated all sorts of fanciful legends: harmless and entertaining if  taken as metaphor, but dangerous and deadly if taken literally and co-opted by power mad clerics to be used as brain viruses to instigate holy wars or suicide bombings. One of the most corrosive lies is this: that a cosmic Jewish zombie, who was his own father, was born by parthenogenesis 2000 years ago and was subsequently tortured to death so that humans could be forgiven the sin of the first woman, who ate a magical apple at the behest of a talking snake. The Father of this zombie, so we are told, has instructed us to go forth and multiply and exercise dominion over everything and smite our enemies.

Politicians cannot be elected to office in America without publicly proclaiming their deep adherence to such blithering insanity. And in Australia we have the mad Abbott (a former wannabe Catholic priest) and his lunatic sidekick Bishop dismantling the science ministry and railroading us all into hell. Global warming is NOT crap Mr Abbott, it is your brain that is full of crap. Unfortunately scientific enlightenment is also a double edged sword. Those of us who have a reasonable understanding of the science of our situation now realise how dire it is, as we peer into the abyss of despair. On the other hand, this very angst itself forces us to appreciate how precious our remaining life may be, on this, the eve of our destruction.

Next to reflect on are the artistic accomplishments of humanity. We have all experienced the joys of uplifting music, entrancing dance, exhilarating art and inspiring literature. Whereas it is true the Universe is a meaningless place, indifferent to humanity, it is also true that humans create their own meaning. I hereby declare the achievements of the creative geniuses of humanity to be substantial, worthwhile and meaningful and we should be tremendously thankful for having had the opportunity to enjoy them. With such gratitude also comes the sad mourning of their passing, of the demise of all human achievement.

Should we, as humans, regard such scientific and artistic legacies as worthy of preservation? I now put this to you: if there was a mere 0.1% or 0.001% chance that just a few sapient humans, along with a concentrated archive of our best achievements, could survive and muddle through the next 500 years until the climate stabilised, should we not take that chance? Not to try at all, to assume we will fail, will become its own self fulfilling prophecy. Hence my view is that we should try, even if the outlook seems hopeless. More about that in part 3.

Here is a sideways take on why we should be thankful for our new perspective of probable NTHE. A basic Buddhist tenet is this: suffering is caused by unfulfilled desires. Hence the way to avoid suffering is to abandon all desires. If you want nothing, you won’t be unhappy if you get nothing. Simple in theory but difficult in practice. Put another way, disappointment arises from unfulfilled expectations. Our expectations in the past were those of limitless future wealth, lives of unimaginable luxury facilitated by whizbang technology and ultimately travel to the stars and
colonisation of other planets. Having since learned the evidence-based reality of our situation, our new expectation is that of near term human extinction. NTHE is the rock bottom of low expectations, humans cannot have expectations any worse than that. Accordingly no matter what the future holds, we will not be disappointed. We can be thankful for this new Buddhist perspective. Being born into this particular time at the twilight of human existence we have the unprecedented opportunity to witness the most collosal events which will ever take place in the sad story of our species. That alone in a perverse sort of way is a unique privilege some might be thankful for. The problem is, if you have a front row seat to this carnival of carnage, you yourself will be rapidly caught up in the mayhem and perish quickly and thus will not be able to discover the next exciting installment of the unfolding saga. Morbid curiosity may be one motive for some of us to linger on for as long as possible. What bizarre, unusual and unexpected event will happen next?

Certainly all the front and middle row and most likely all the back row seats will be consumed by the conflagration in the grand finale. If however you can retreat to the highest rear seat of the arena and wear a flameproof suit and somehow survive events while watching it all through a pair of longrange binoculars, it will be the most fascinating spectacle ever observed in the history of our species. We certainly live in interesting times.
Geoffrey Chia, October 2013





What I have learned, what we should be thankful for, what remains to be done

28 10 2013

This is a three part essay by Dr Geoffrey Chia whose other essay If we can’t save Society, we must save ourselves I posted here last year…..

I got this as a pdf file, so editing it here is time consuming and somewhat difficult. Some of this appeared on Guy McPherson’s blog as jpg files, which made it almost unfathomable…! I’ll endeavour to make this more readable, fingers crossed… It’s a long piece, so I appeal to your attention span, because it’s a darn good read. Go make yourself a cuppa your favourite poison, and enjoy……
Mike
What I have learned, what we should be thankful for, what remains to be done
PART 1: WHAT I HAVE LEARNED (parts 2 and 3 to follow later)
I have been convening D3SJ (Doctors and Scientists for Sustainability and Social Justice) meetings for eight years now, the main purpose being to promote the idea that policy should be determined by evidence, reason and fairness, to achieve the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people on a long term basis. A medical model for rational and humane decision making in society. A personal goal of mine was to learn as much as I could about what is truly happening in the world, particularly regarding sustainability and social justice issues, from those deemed to be experts in their fields. I believe these meetings have now run their natural course and we have failed miserably in our primary goal which in retrospect, was probably always doomed to failure.
Nevertheless you never know unless you try. Not to try because you believe beforehand you will fail, will turn that failure into a self fulfilling prophecy. We have learned a great deal from our discussions and established great contacts and relationships within the sustainability network. It is now time to draw our meetings to a close and focus our limited remaining time and energy on the vital urgent actions we need to take.

What have I learned? The ultimate conclusions I have reached, particularly since the election of the extreme right wing knuckledraggers to government in Australia last month, is that civilisation is irretrievably doomed, that the horrific and chaotic dieoff of billions of people this century is guaranteed and we have no hope in hell of averting these events. These outcomes are entirely consistent with mainstream scientific thinking, which may be surprising to the casual reader of this essay who will not have encountered such information in the mainstream media (MSM)1. The MSM tell half truths and outright lies to keep the sheeple passive and compliant: yes problems exist, but one should not be “alarmist” and furthermore whizbang technofixes are just around the corner which will make things just fine and dandy! Flying cars for everybody! I myself have extensively researched the scientific publications for potential technological solutions to our problems for more than 15 years (especially biofuels from algae and also the ultimate holy grail of artificial photosynthesis) and have concluded that they are either dead ends or are too little, too late. The awful truth we now face is just too horrible to contemplate for most people, who live in utter denial.

The proximate factors, elaborated in detail in the peer reviewed scientific publications, leading to the demise of human civilisation are: climate chaos, resource scarcity (particularly petroleum2) and ecosystem destruction, which have now converged to crisis point. These problems have been accelerated by the exponential increase of human numbers to plague proportions, coordinated by a rapacious, indiscriminately polluting, de-humanising, fossil fuel driven Government-Industrial-Military-Media-Economic cabal which I hereby abbreviate to “GIMME”. Indeed the motto of this establishment and all who participate in it could well be “GIMME, GIMME, GIMME”, reflecting the unrestrained pursuit of self indulgent over-consumption and immediate gratification without regard for any future consequences.

Our internationally interdependent economic/banking system in particular is based on confidence trickery and fraudulent accounting3and it seems most likely that some unforseen event will be the proverbial straw breaking the back of this bogus financial system (vis a vis Lehmann Brothers and subprime mortgages) which will trigger the cascading events leading to the collapse of civilisation. Rome did not collapse primarily because of external invasions. It collapsed because of Imperial overreach and corruption, leading to bankruptcy and hence failure to fund their infrastructure and pay their soldiers. The collapse of our modern world will play out in different ways at different rates in different parts of the world. Those nations most dependent on petroleum which face abrupt curtailment will fare the worst. We now see early symptoms of collapse in the form of internal conflicts because ordinary people have no jobs and cannot afford basic necessities, as exemplified by the uprisings in the Middle East (Syria being the worst case) and the unrest in Greece. We will in due course see more international conflicts (AKA resource wars), including the possibility of global nuclear war.

The various interacting mechanisms leading to our collapse may be complex, but there is just one single underlying cause for all the problems mentioned above. It is the pathologically dysfunctional nature of one particular species of hairless ape, arrogant and delusional enough to call itself “homo sapiens”. The fact of the matter is the majority of humanity are not “good”, whatever that means, and certainly not sapient, but are basically greedy selfish primates with an underlying streak of nasty brutality ready to surface given the slightest excuse. Primates which may be quite clever in rationalising and justifying their despicable behaviour and quite clever in devising technodevices to kill each other (and all other species) more effectively, but utterly lacking in wisdom. If this were not the case, the invasion of Iraq would not have happened. If this were not the case, Tony Abbott would not have been elected Prime Monster of this country and be monstrously pursuing his perfidious agenda of environmental vandalism, demagogic non-science (AKA nonsense) and refugee abuse. If this were not the case we would not be in our present collective predicament.

The way we are destroying the Living Planet is irrefutable proof of our nature. Am I personally any different? I must accept that my underlying nature must be the same, being a reluctant member of homo stupidus myself. One difference however is that I acknowledge this fact and at least try to restrain it and attempt to use my neocortex to pursue more constructive strategies. Could this woeful state of affairs ever have been avoided? In theory yes, but in practice, in retrospect, probably not. The remedies were available and were entirely feasible once upon a time, but were viciously opposed and corrosively sabotaged by the GIMME establishment. It is too late now, we are past the point of no return. Foremost among those remedies would have been the reduction of population numbers, reduction of individual consumption and more efficient use of resources. Restructuring from an endless growth delusional economy to a steady state reality-based economy. Technological innovations such as biofuels from algae could have played a role, but only secondarily. Without primarily adopting the fundamentally important measures of restraint, ie. population reduction, reduced consumption and greater efficiency, no number of technofixes would help. This was clearly demonstrated by the updated analysis by the Limits to Growth scientists.

Their 40 year anniversary conference was held in the Smithsonian Institute in March 2012 and the news was all bad. The LtG scientists no longer perform any more projections, because all credible inputs (using our present situation as baseline), even using the most optimistic scenarios such as limitless energy or markedly reduced pollution ALL result in industrial collapse and the dieoff of billions, euphemistically described by them as “overshoot”. Right now we are dead on track, following nearly exactly, the trajectory of their standard model of Peak Everything followed by collapse, a track they predicted we would follow 40 years ago if we did not change our ways.
As a Physician I have likened our situation to that of an obese sedentary patient addicted to cigarettes and fatty, sugary foods who develops hypertension, diabetes and heart disease4.Yes, it is possible to diagnose and treat many cases of advanced heart disease. However even after successful expensive lifesaving heart surgery, it is merely a futile temporary technofix unless we address the underlying causes of his problem: sloth and addictive behaviours driven by the wish for immediate self gratification. Thankfully most of the patients we bring back from the brink of disaster who are given this new lease on life realise they need to change their habits if they want to live much longer.

Of course, the patients we are able to save represent just the tip of the iceberg and there are many more out there in the community in complete denial of their problems who simply drop dead. If a person dies from self inflicted disease there may be some natural justice in that outcome. There is no natural justice however in the Poor of the world suffering most from the environmental devastation and climate chaos caused by the rapacious over-consumption of the Rich. Game theory however suggests that perhaps there was never any way out. Many concepts in game theory are useful when pondering our present situation such as the tragedy of the commons
and the parable of the tribes5.

As the great unravelling proceeds, I take little comfort in the fact that I did my best to play my part to try to avert or mitigate these events, efforts which proved hopelessly futile and feeble in retrospect. As late as December 2011, I considered engaging in greater activism and particularly of promoting the feasibility of large scale renewable energy initiatives to the public by personally funding sustainability programs on local community TV. However my watershed epiphany year was 2012. A New Scientist article in January 2012, relegated to just a brief report, casually mentioned the catastrophic projections of the updated LtG analyses. This prompted deeper research into the
implications of that article (in particular, viewing all the proceedings of the LtG Smithsonian conference mentioned above), which utterly horrified me. Unfortunately New Scientist magazine has since gone the way of the MSM and this year, in 2013, was even promoting the completely insane idea of harvesting undersea clathrates to burn. Just as well I cancelled my subscription. I had previously intellectually “accepted” the idea that the death of billions was likely this century, but now had to emotionally grapple with the realisation that the death of billions was certain, it was guaranteed, it was now impossible to prevent this runaway train from crashing and exploding, there was just too much momentum behind it.

Just as I thought humanity’s outlook was as bad as it could possibly be, in September 2012 my eyes were opened to another realisation which horrified me even more. We were privileged to have Richard Heinberg, the American Peak Oil and Energy expert, visit us in Brisbane. He was highly respected by us because of his cogent, wise and accurate analysis of what was truly happening in the world and where we were headed, particularly with regard to the end of economic growth. Being a polymath big picture thinker, he had of course extensively researched the climate change science as well. A shocking slide he fleetingly displayed during his University of Queensland presentation described a projection by some climate scientists that the global average temperature could reach or exceed 10 degrees C by the end of this century if we were to continue with business as usual. Such a number was unthinkable to me as we were already seeing unprecedented extreme events at “below” 1 degree C rise6. In a private meeting subsequently, we asked him if he thought human extinction was a possibility. He then admitted it was very much a real possibility, but he felt there was no point in talking about it in public. Ordinary people had to be given hope, no matter what the data indicated. Obviously by his honest answer to us, he was willing to discuss the topic of human extinction with a select group of people in private, just as this essay of mine is going out to a select group of people. People mature enough to base their judgements on objective data and rational analysis. People who accept that human beings are biological organisms who depend on the ecosystem in which we evolved for our survival, that we are not some spooky product of supernatural creation but are subject to the laws of Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Two other major findings in the science media contributed to my epiphany of 2012. One was the unprecedented summer melt of the arctic ice cap, which according to the IPCC was supposed to remain intact till the end of this century. The denialists are quick to point to the slight “recovery” of arctic ice this year – but that does not mean we are “saved” – because arctic ice levels remain around historic lows – and we continue on this relentless bumpy ride downhill to perdition. British scientist Professor Peter Wadhams is of the view there could be complete collapse of the arctic ice by September 2015. The other dismaying report last year related to the summer release of methane from the arctic coast. Methane bubbles had been observed in huge plumes, over 1 km across in shallow sea, when only a couple of years before the methane vents were just about a metre wide. That represented a more than thousand fold liberation of methane from the arctic coast alone, not even considering other sources such as permafrost in the tundra or peat from tropical soils.

Methane has a 105 times greater GHG potency than carbon dioxide over a 20 year period and when it is broken down it oxidises to carbon dioxide and water vapour – both greenhouse gases. My ongoing research last September 2012 led me to the website of Professor Guy McPherson, a US conservation biologist who is convinced that we face near term human extinction (which now goes by the abbreviation NTHE in the blogosphere) before the middle of this century. One of his most comprehensive video presentations was “The twin sides of the fossil fuel coin”. He put forward a well researched and logically argued case which was difficult to refute. Faced with this horrific disclosure, the most memorable response by one blog reader was, “…er…yikes?” Why do I think that McPherson is more likely to be correct than wrong? Why should his lone voice, albeit the voice of a bone fide scientist with nothing to gain from his assertions (indeed he has suffered substantially because of his opinions) be more valid than, say, the “consensus” views of all the scientists of the IPCC?

Firstly let us be clear that IPCC have a hopeless track record of consistently underestimating the severity of the effects of climate change time and time again. Real world observations (eg melting of the Greenland iceshield) so far have been far worse than the worst case scenarios outlined by each iteration of their reports. We can understand the reason for this by looking at the process by which the IPCC publications are produced – government officials pore over every single sentence and water down the narrative to the most palatable, politically acceptable lowest common denominator. Hence the true seriousness of our situation becomes severely downplayed. It is after all an intergovernmental panel, with a message controlled by and contaminated by governments and is not a true peer reviewed scientific document. Knowing this, any sane person must conclude
that things will be worse than the worst case scenarios of the latest IPCC AR5, which stated that “Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3C to 4.8C by the end of the century depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.” http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/27/ipcc-climate-report-un-secretary-general

A rise of 4.8C on top of the existing “less than” 1 degree C rise means human extinction is guaranteed before the end of this century. The plants and animals on which we depend will not be able to adapt in time to such rapid temperature changes and the accompanying severe weather events.

Secondly and most importantly, the IPCC only looks at human greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, ignoring the numerous (more than 20 now) positive (ie self reinforcing) feedback loops which we have triggered so far which have irreversibly spiralled out of control, carrying the potential to exponentially release many times more GHG than humans have ever done. Business as usual will trigger more positive feedback loops and more firmly guarantees our extinction.

Thirdly we must ask what type of scientist is best able to advise us regarding the possibility of human extinction. Is it a climate scientist, who is the best person to tell us about temperature projections and possible extreme weather events (but who knows nothing about the mechanisms by which species go extinct) or is it a conservation biologist who uses the information about those temperatures and extreme weather events to look at their effects on biological organisms, habitats and food supply? A biologist who has spent a lifetime documenting species extinctions and learning about the mechanisms of those extinctions?

Fourthly we must be aware that McPherson’s view has been arrived at by painstaking analysis of proper peer reviewed scientific sources undistorted by government interference. Furthermore, having resigned from fulltime work and being no longer tenured (=tethered) and constrained by the purse strings of his university, he is at liberty to say what others within the establishment fear to say. It is impossible to get a person to admit what they believe if their paycheck depends on them not admitting it.

I would say that those who dismiss McPherson as a crackpot are themselves crackpots. He is not perfect however and has been wrong before, as he admits. The biggest problem is not predicting what may happen but predicting when events may happen, which is virtually impossible to do and is always prone to error. I view McPherson as analogous to an experienced cancer specialist who after careful consideration has made the diagnosis that we face terminal cancer with a 99.9% likelihood of death fairly soon. I may hate the message he conveys but that does not mean the message is wrong or that he is a bad person.

What does near term human extinction mean? It means that human beings will never colonise outer space. It means we will never download the human mind into self replicating machines to enable human consciousness to persist indefinitely, even as our biocorporeal encapsulation becomes extinct. Such science fiction fantasies might have become technologically feasible given another thousand years, but now we know they will never ever come to pass. We don’t have another thousand years. We don’t even have another hundred years. NTHE means that
the sum total of all human achievements since the dawn of civilisation will amount to….nothing at all, very soon. A meaningless blip, the blink of an eye in the immensity of time. The only value this failed human experiment could possibly provide would be if an alien intelligence were to visit our toxic radioactive ruins and archeologically piece together the ludicrous, almost unbelievably idiotic story of our self inflicted demise. Our only value to the universe will be to serve as a cautionary tale to others, a tale of outrageous hubris accompanied by infinite stupidity and unrestrained greed.

Thank you Tony Abbott and your ilk for serving as examples of the worst of the worst. We should embrace the recent election of the lunatic right-wing nuts to government, who are already exposing themselves for the vile, smarmy and incompetent charlatans they are, completely lacking in any substance or worth, who if anything will hasten the haphazard implosion of industrial civilisation and failure of large scale agriculture7.Because of them, our collapse is more likely to be sudden and dramatic rather than gradual and stuttering. Rapid demise may actually be more desirable if any parts of the natural ecosystem we are now destroying are to be saved. Most people will be taken completely by surprise by events and will default to their reptile brained mentality of laying blame on vulnerable scapegoat subgroups eg refugees, asylum seekers, immigrants, minority religious or ethnic groups. We are seeing this in Greece with the popular rise of right wing extremists as their economy disintegrates. Democracy at work in the homeland of Democracy8. The psychopathic politicians (with their corporate and media cronies) will enthusiastically fan the flames of such internecine hatred, being an effective strategy to divert attention away from themselves, the true culprits. It worked for Hitler, up to a point.
Geoffrey Chia, 10 October 2013
FOOTNOTES:
1. There is a huge difference between the mainstream scientists and the mainstream media who only share the adjective “mainstream” in common and nothing else. Who are the mainstream scientists? They are those who have conducted painstaking research, measurements and analysis over many years and have published their findings in the peer reviewed scientific literature. They are those with a good track record of well validated discoveries and inventions. Their conclusions are honestly derived from evidence and reason. The occasional fraudulent studies by black sheep who are then appropriately weeded out does not invalidate the overall integrity of the mainstream
scientists.
Who are the mainstream media? They are journalistic hacks and cash for comment muckrakers who spout the propaganda dictated by their editors who themselves are driven by commercial and political agendas. The occasional truthful piece by a courageous and honest investigative journalist does not change the overall fact that the MSM are fundamentally misleading and disingenuous. Dmitry Orlov said that the MSM are 100% bogus and they function only to sell product and to prop up the existing structures of power. I largely concur. I would personally say the MSM are 99% bogus and add that their other major function is to keep the brainless masses distracted with meaningless trivial drivel, such as sports, reality shows and celebrity scandals. Hence for those of
you who are dismayed, as I previously was, that the MSM have utterly failed in their role to inform the public of important issues using reliable information, please dispel any more illusions you may have. The MSM are actually functioning precisely as designed according to their appointed role, which is NOT to inform.
2. You may recall the Peak Oil deniers crowing loudly in “victory” after George Monbiot’s article in 2012 “admitting” that the “theory” of Peak Oil was “wrong” http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/jul/02/peak-oil-we-we-wrongMost of Monbiot’s research and articles have been written to educate the public about the serious effects of climate change and he has made valuable contributions in that respect. However he is not an expert on Peak Oil. Monbiot based his article on a Harvard paper published by the oil executive and economist Leonardo Maugeri who is not a scientist, he is an embedded propagandist for the GIMME establishment who has weaseled his way into academia. Peak Oil is not wrong, Peak Oil is not a “theory”, it is an observation. It has always been an indisputable observation ever since the very first oil well was drilled, that every well goes through an initial phase of exponential rise in production leading to a peak or plateau, followed by an exponential decay in output. Saying the “theory” of Peak Oil is wrong is like saying that the “theory” of the Round Earth is wrong. What happened in recent years is that after the plateauing of output of the majority of conventional giant oil fields in the world, the bean counters added other hydrocarbon liquids such as biofuels and natural gas condensates to their accounting tallies which had not been included before. More importantly, oil companies have shifted towards extracting unconventional oils such as oil shale and tar sands to maintain the appearance of static or slightly higher total liquid hydrocarbon output, even as conventional oilfields continue to deplete. We have moved from the cheaper, easier, cleaner oil to the dearer, harder-to-get and dirtier oil, entirely in keeping with the predictions by the Peak Oil experts. This shift is a fool’s errand, not least because of the poor EROEI which will be unable to support industrial civilisation in the long run. We will see the inevitable failure of unconventional oil output to match the depletion of conventional oil in the next few years. Probably the best dialogue with Monbiot on this issue was by Nicole Foss, one of the most wise, thoughtful and qualified experts in sustainability matters who I have great respect for: http://theautomaticearth.com/Energy/peak-oil-a-dialogue-with-george-monbiot.html
The sad implication of this desperate shift to unconventional oils and the major point of Monbiot’s article, is that rather than carbon emissions declining as a result of the depletion of conventional oil (remember that oil drives other carbon emitting activities such as land clearing and the mining and transport of coal), instead we are seeing a further rise of carbon emissions due to the harvesting of unconventional oils. It was the hope, the idea, that we could be saved from climate chaos by Peak Oil which was wrong. Indeed our goose is now well and truly cooked, and at a much faster pace than expected, because of the shift to unconventional oils. Trying next to harvest arctic oil and clathrates will be suicidal madness. We can only hope the global financial system collapses, thus removing funding from such utterly insane schemes, before they can commence.
3. The high priests of endless growth economics, a delusional religion which continues to be preached in institutions of “higher learning”, have based their edifice on false assumptions (eg human beings are rational players) and have refused to take into account the realities of Nature, particularly the fundamental requirement of adequate net energy inputs (EROEI) for economic activities to occur. They disregard the laws of thermodynamics. Furthermore they also fail to consider the harms caused by economic activities which are “externalised” because, of course, the death of sweatshop workers in Bangladesh or the poisoning of Nigerian villagers by toxic
hydrocarbons is of no interest to us. Dishonest accounting. To the economists’ credit, they have managed to create the most highly effective greed driven incentive scheme in the history of Mankind to facilitate rapid extraction of resources from Nature to turn them into either military hardware or consumer crap destined for landfill. In this respect American Capitalism was able to outcompete the Soviet Empire in the Arms Race, rendering the latter bankrupt (once again, we see bankruptcy as the trigger for Imperial collapse). The end of the Cold War has resulted in unopposed American hegemonism and US Imperial overreach which is now bankrupting America itself and the
emulation by China of this deeply dysfunctional system, which will be the final nail in our coffin.
4. See my slides regarding Mr F.B. and “the Gaia hypothesis of the ecosphere” compared with “the
Homer hypothesis of the econosphere” at the end of my peak oil presentation http://www.d3sj.org/PDF/Chia%20Peak%20Oil%20Red%20Pill%202010.pdf
5. The paradigm of the “tragedy of the commons” works in two ways. First in terms of grabbing natural resources – first in best dressed / the early bird gets the worm and stragglers lose out. Second in terms of refusing to repair environmental damage (or refusing to take the time/effort to prevent such damage), hence the burden of harm is borne disproportionately by other parties, particularly those not benefiting from the economic activity.
An example of the first type of tragedy was the total deforestation of Rapa-Nui by its Polynesian settlers. Many have pondered what was going through the mind of the person who was cutting down the last tree on Easter island, even as he was cutting it down. My suggestion is this, “I’d better cut down this last tree and use it for myself before the other guy does”. The second type of tragedy is exemplified by the smallminded selfish short term greed of the
Australian right-wing nuts, particularly John Howard’s previous coalition government – now continued as policy by the current Prime Monster. Their argument was they would not put a price on carbon pollution “until other countries do so” (they did not specify which other countries and how many other countries). Many other countries and states have long since imposed a price on carbon including China, but Abbott still wants to go backwards and repeal the carbon tax.

What is the solution to the problem of the tragedy of the commons? It is the vigorous defence of our common resources (eg forests, icecaps, coral reefs) by the power of a central authority, with severe penalties enforced against defectors. The problem is that no such powerful central authority exists nor is ever likely to be created. Even if such an authority can be created, it will be easily corrupted by the flawed nature of Man anyway. There is no solution unless the psychopaths currently perverting policy can be extirpated from all proceedings – which is
unfortunately not going to happen.

The other paradigm which explains why the culture of violence and domination was bound to become universal is Andrew Bard Schmookler’s “The parable of the tribes”, nicely summarised by Ran Prieur http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNDgXJR7DsY (skip to 01:16:20). We have seen this played out time and again in real world history. Take for example a peaceful tribe which discovers a better method of killing but chooses not to use it. Given sufficient passage of time, that method can be stolen from them and used against them, ultimately subsuming the peaceful tribe in the paradigm of violence and domination. This was briefly alluded to in Kurt Vonnegut’s bittersweet essay “Cold Turkey” which so profoundly struck a chord in me that I felt compelled to share it aloud with some selected people. Most of them did not appreciate Kurt’s irony when he wrote “The (ancient) Chinese also gave us, via Marco Polo, pasta and the formula for gunpowder. The Chinese were so dumb, they only used gunpowder for fireworks”. Only one of my friends responded with the witty and equally ironic retort, “of course, we know the only intelligent way to use gunpowder is to kill other people with it”.

6. In 2010 the Russian drought destroyed a quarter of its wheat harvest and the heat waves killed more than 50,000 people. The floods in Pakistan destroyed half a million tons of their harvest, killed around 2000 people and displaced millions. We remember the Brisbane floods of January 2011, relatively unimportant by international standards. In February 2011 a single event, cyclone Yasi, destroyed the entire banana crop in Queensland. In May this year atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration hit 400ppm, which in the paleo record was associated with about a 3.5 degree C temperature level higher than preindustrial modern times. http://instaar.colorado.edu/newsevents/instaar-news/ice-free-arctic-ocean-may-have-amped-up-temperatures-during-the-pliocene/
According to the IPPC, this late into 2013 we are still supposed to be under a 1 degree C rise compared with our preindustrial temperatures. Correcting for factors such as aircraft contrails and sulphate and particulate pollution however, we are already past 1 degree C rise right now, according to Clive Hamilton’s study of the peer reviewed science. In the last calendar year, more unprecedented and extreme weather events have been occurring around the world. We all recall Superstorm Sandy steamrolled its way across the Eastern seaboard of the US in early November 2012. Estimate of damage to date? 68 billion dollars. Few people know or care it wreaked havoc in the Caribbean islands before reaching America. The news cycle has little interest in the unimportant Caribbeans. According to meteorologists, Sandy was extraordinary in several ways.

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=how-to-protect-new-york-city-from-storm-surges
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/30/sandy-stacked-up-storm-statistics?newsfeed=true
Extraordinary for occurring that late in the year. Extraordinary for its gigantic size (about a quarter of the continental US). Extraordinary for reaching so far North yet not turning back to sea (as such Northerly storms that time of year usually did). Extraordinary, but nothing to do with global warming according to the denialist hacks of the Australian newspaper. In January 2013, Southern Queensland was beset by further “one in a hundred year” floods which had affected similar areas only two years before. This time more than a thousand people in Bundaberg had to be winched off the roofs of their submerged houses by helicopter. Any sane person now has to admit that North Bundaberg must be regarded as uninhabitable in perpetuity. January 2013 was memorable for heat records being shattered all around Australia and new colour coding for the maps was required for temperatures never seen before. Tasmanian bushfires started in November 2012 and only settled in April 2013, an unprecedented duration in Tasmanian history. Other extreme weather events around the world in 2013 since then have just been glossed over or simply ignored by our MSM:

– The horrific floods affecting central Europe in May/June which the insurer Munich RE declared as the most expensive non wartime disaster ever to affect Germany.
– The horrific floods affecting Northern India and Nepal in June in which more than a thousand people died.
– The horrific floods in Alberta, Canada, in June in which more than 100,000 people had to be evacuated from their homes, also estimated by insurers to the be costliest event in Canadian history. Furthermore toxic waste water from the tar sands projects of Athabasca were flushed by floodwaters into the pristine Arctic ocean.
– The horrific floods in Szechuan province, China, in July, among the worst in living memory and further horrific floods in the North and South of China in August disrupting
millions of lives
– The horrific floods affecting Colorado on 12 September in which 1500 homes were
destroyed and 1000 people had to be airlifted out

Any single one of the above events was a newsworthy major disaster. Why have we heard little or nothing of them in the Australian MSM? We will soon be looking upon the above as “the good old days” because there is far worse to come. Even as severe climate events have exponentially worsened, shrill global warming denialism propagated by the MSM has correspondingly increased in volume, like King Canute screaming louder in the face of the incoming tide. Canute was only pretending to behave like an idiot in order to make an ironic point to his people. Global warming denialists are in fact genuine idiots. They are liars and fools (or both) and should be regarded as the enemies of humanity. How else can you regard people who are willing to drive humanity headlong toward extinction for the sake of a few pieces of silver? These psychopaths are intent on briefly extending their reprehensibly self serving way of life at the expense of killing humanity and most other species. Such sickeningly egotistical people place their own short term convenience and personal luxury over the lives, wellbeing and survival of their own children and grandchildren.
7. I previously described former Resource Minister and global warming denialist Ian MacFarlane version 1.0 as an impenetrably stupid coal company stooge and sadly, I remain vindicated. Current Resource Minister Ian MacFarlane version 2.0 now states his aim is to unlock every molecule of coal seam gas in Australia because it is good for the economy. As such, we should recommend that MacFarlane, a treated former sufferer of throat cancer, should now smoke 100 cigarettes per day, because it is good for the economy – he should set an example by supporting the tobacco industry. Furthermore, the “scientists” of the George C. Marshall Institute, the centre of global warming
denialism of which he is a disciple, have also “proved” that cigarettes have nothing to do with cancer. As a former farmer who now wants to wreck Australia’s farmland, MacFarlane is a traitor to his own origins.
8. I won’t repeat Churchill’s overused quote regarding Democracy. I will however state that a better system, what I call Sophocracy, rule by wisdom, is possible. The main benefit of Democracy is to facilitate the peaceful transition of power from one party to another, at designated intervals, according to the prevailing mood of the people. This has reduced the incidence of violent revolution to a large extent. However true Democracy, rule by the majority at its most basic (and unconstrained by other more important principles such as transparency, accountability and laws based on social justice), is a recipe for disaster. If the majority of the population are stupid and nasty then true Democracy becomes rule by the stupid and nasty. It can and has led to tyranny, totalitarianism and genocide, after all Hitler was voted in democratically. Ben Franklin said that democracy was two wolves and a lamb voting for what to have for lunch. True democracy in Saudi Arabia will result in a Sunni/Wahabi/Salafist Muslim fundamentalist regime which will tyrannize minority groups, worsen the oppression of women and intensify their export of terrorism around the world. The USA no longer has a democracy, they have a “fraudocracy”, their democracy has been hijacked and perverted by corporate interests resulting in obscene disparities of income (the 99% are NOT being represented), banking fraud with none of the culprits brought to justice, foreign wars of exploitation and climate change spiraling out of control.

Even rabid advocates of “democracy” can and do willingly give up their “democratic rights” much of the time. In an aircraft, decisions are not made by the majority of the passengers who are invariably ignorant of aviation. Decisions are voluntarily entrusted by the passengers to the pilot, who autocratically goes about his/her job, to the benefit of everyone. We trust he/she will do a proper job because the checks and balances in our system ensure only a fit and proper person who has passed all medical checks and training criteria and who is utterly accountable for what he/she does will be flying the plane in the service of the common good (pilots are the ultimate in
accountability as they will pay for their incompetence with their own death). Sophocracy, rule by wisdom, should incorporate some aspects of democracy with certain caveats: only those who understand the issues should be allowed to vote. This may require potential voters to go through a test for minimum intelligence and knowledge before being allowed to vote.

Only competent individuals with a proven track record who have been deemed to be fit and proper people and who are capable of making sensible decisions in the service of the common good should be allowed to stand as candidates. Pilots go through an exhaustive process before being deemed fit to steer a plane. Our leaders should undergo no less stringent a process before being deemed fit to steer a country. The principles of transparency, accountability and rule of law according to social justice, must hold priority over democracy. If a democractically elected leader in active office is found to be a war criminal eg he has taken the country to war on the basis of lies causing the death of innocent people, he must be immediately removed and thrown in jail, along with his cronies.
Further elaboration of sophocracy will require another 12 page essay (at least) and is beyond thescope of this article.





All quiet on the Western Front with remembrance poppies

28 10 2013

Another guest post from Steve Harrison…….

Steve Harrison

Steve Harrison

It appears that it might be all over for the fires here for us for the time being.

Our bad fires come from the West, blown by strong, hot, westerly winds. There isn’t any threat out to the West of us at this stage.
Last week’s extreme fire day came and went without any new out-breaks here.

There was just one helicopter with water bucket intermittently working the gully behind us these last few days to make sure that all the stumps and other glowing embers were not driving showers of sparks into new un-burnt territory. As the fire started here in this village, it has been driven a long way to the East by the strong westerly winds, and so far there is no new fire to our Western side of us to cause us concern.
However it is very early in the spring/summer for bad fires. i wonder what it will be like in December/January, when it really gets hot and dry?

Water bomber behind the pottery

We were busy whipper snipping around the fire pumps and discovered a short length of poly-pipe that wasn’t buried. It had been dug-up  and damaged by the bob-cat when we had some work done a few years ago. I quickly repaired it with a new section of pipe, but never got around to reburying it. It wasn’t summer and there was no bushfire threat at that time. Grass had since grown over it and covered it in amongst the bushes.

Needless to say I was horrified when I started to clear around the pump house and discovered our vulnerability. By lunch time I had dug a new trench with a mattock and had it all buried again safely underground.
Since 1975 I have buried about one kilometre of poly-pipe underground around our block. Nearly all of it done with a mattock and spade. Just 6 to 10 metres per day, each morning, was my usual schedule, early in the morning before it got too hot. I did it all by hand to save money in those early days. I must have been crazy!
We now have a ring or 50mm dia. (2”), pipe that goes all around the perimeter of our block, with 25mm branches leading off from it to every useful point on the block. In front of, or to the sides of each building and to each orchard and every garden plot. There isn’t any point now that isn’t within a 20 metre hose length of a tap.
I spent the afternoon installing four more roof sprinklers. One on the western edge of the pottery roof and one on the Western wall of the kiln shed. Then two on the western edge of the barn. All these jobs have needed doing for a long time. It needs a severe jolt like this to get me moving. I’m just too lazy to do anything until it really needs to be done. There is always too much to do at any one time. We make lists and then new lists. The lists get longer and jobs just drop off the bottom of the list and never get done, replaced by new more pressing jobs. I’d like to claim that we are operating on the very modern and efficient ‘Just-in-time’ delivery system, invented by Toyota. But we’re not at all efficient. We just lurch from crisis to crisis.
Even with all this drama I have managed to find time to plant out a few more vegetables and water what is already planted out. With all the hot dry westerly winds, the garden dries out within a few hours, things are starting to wilt by the afternoon. We are so busy with all this fire protection, that sometimes the garden doesn’t get watered until it is dark and dinner is even later. We seem to be entering a Spanish dining timetable.


The hot dry weather suits the poppies. They are doing really well in amongst the vegetables.

Best wishes
Dr. Steve Harrison PhD. MA (Hons)

Potter, kiln surgeon, clay doctor, wood butcher





Want to see what Financial Collapse looks like…..?

28 10 2013

Sourced from zerohedge and

Citi’s Matt King’ report recently showed when it comes to stepwise, quantum leap repricings of widely held credits, the revelation is usually a very painful, sudden and very dramatic one.  This can be seen nowhere better than in the default of Lehman brothers, where, while the firm’s equity was slow to admit defeat, it was nothing in comparison to the abject case study in denial that the Lehman bonds put in.

However, as can be seen in the chart below, when it finally came, and when bondholders realized they were screwed the morning of Monday, Septembr 15 when the Lehman bankruptcy filing was fact, the move from 80 cents on the dollar to under 10 cents took place in a heartbeat.

Lehman Repricing

It is the same kind of violent and anguished repricing that all unsecured creditors in the coming wave of heretofore “denialled” municipal bankruptcy filings will have to undergo.  Starting with Detroit, where, as Reuters reports, the recovery to pensioners, retirees and all other unsecured creditors will be…. 16 cents on the dollar!…  or less than what Greek bondholders got in the country’s latest (and certainly not final) bankruptcy.

From Reuters:

On Friday, city financial consultant Kenneth Buckfire said he did not have to recommend to Orr that pensions for the city’s retirees be cut as a way to help Detroit navigate through debts and liabilities that total $18.5 billion.

Buckfire said it was clear that the city did not have the funds to pay the unsecured pension payouts without cutting them.

“It was a function of the mathematics,” said Buckfire, who said he did not think it was necessary for him or anyone else to recommend pension cuts to Orr.

“Are you saying it was so self-evident that no one had to say it?” asked Claude Montgomery, attorney for a committee of retirees that was created by Rhodes.

“Yes,” Buckfire answered. 

Buckfire (what an appropriate name for this…!), a Detroit native and investment banker with restructuring experience, later told the court the city plans to pay unsecured creditors, including the city’s pensioners, 16 cents on the dollar. There are about 23,500 city retirees.

Creditors across all products, aided and abetted by the greatest credit bubble of all time blown by Benny and the Inkjets, will find the kind of violent repricings that Lehman showed take place whenever hope (or more rightly, confidence…) dies, increasingly more prevalent.   And since retirees and pensioners are ultimately creditors, this is perhaps the fastest, if certainly most brutal way, to make sure that the United Welfare States of America is finally on a path of sustainability.The only question is how will those same retirees who have just undergone an 84 cent haircut take it. One hopes: peacefully.  Because among those whose incentive to work effectively has just been cut to zero, is also the local police force.  In which case if hope once again fails, it is perhaps better not to contemplate the consequences.