Mark Cochrane on Age of Limits….

17 06 2014
Mark Cochrane

Mark Cochrane

Sorry for the long absence but after Aol I had some long overdue vacation and then came back to another bout of ‘could be’ climate change. Yet more flooding….sigh.

AoL was a great experience again this year. Orren Whiddon and the group at Four Quarters do an excellent job of bringing together a collection of speakers with different view points on the various challenges that we face and an audience that is much more aware than your typical collection of conference goers. From all reports, this is a unique experience. The venue allows for deeper discussions both in the presentations and in the intervening times since everyone is immersed together for the whole event. Dennis Meadows said that it was the first presentation he’d ever been able to give where he didn’t have to first defend Limits to Growth. Similarly, I didn’t feel any need to assume much of the audience was unfamiliar with climate change.

Although several of the speakers were also present last year the talks themselves were new. Albert Bates gave an interesting overview of ecovillages through time, combined with his extensive insights from all of his years participating in ‘The Farm’. Offline, my talks with him about biochar were fascinating. I thought I knew something about the subject but he gently disabused me of that idea! I haven’t received it yet, but I look forward to reading his book “The Biochar Solution” link. Dmitri Orlov provided his insights on the parameters that define ‘communities that abide’ which really provided a wide ranging look at the ways in which human communities have found to persist. It can be disturbing to our sheltered sensibilities in the current age to consider such things. John Michael Greer, an ever eloquent speaker, gave his interpretation of what could be “Dark Age America” and provided an amazing depth of historical comparison and interpretation. Gail Tverberg laid out her belief that “Converging Crises” would basically send us on the fast road to a low energy future as EROEI limits bite hard when the resource limits and the financial shenanigans combine to make the back side of Hubberts curve a cliff. Since I know there is interest I will comment further here on her contention that the inevitable energy collapse means we will be at or below RCP 2.6 so there is no point in worrying much about climate change. Though it would be horrific, we may well hope that she is right since it would limit the climatic damage. Alas, she apparently does not realize that aerosols are currently shielding us from roughly 0.8C of warming that is in the so-called ‘pipeline’ so that even her ‘rosy’ climate scenario is less than benign. Few seem to realize that 2C is not a pleasant outcome and has no scientific basis as safe goal for international efforts. The star attraction, and rightly so, was Dr. Dennis Meadows’ presentation about “The Dynamics of Societal Collapse”. It was a low key but powerful presentation about the progression of ‘Limits to Growth’ from possible to inevitable. We have squandered the decades of forewarning we were given and now will have to pay a painful price to try to adapt at a time when resources are increasingly limited. Never was a presentation of such dire gloom received with such sustained applause.

As for my own talk, it was well received, despite coming at the end of a 7 hour nonstop marathon by Tverberg, Greer and myself on day 3 of the conference. I was literally amazed at the stamina and attention of the audience. It was truly a special collection of people who not only put up with another 1.5 hour presentation but were clamouring for more even after another 1.5 hours of questions. It was a pleasure to meet several of you who frequent this thread in addition to many others who do not.

If there was one common thread amongst the talks that I would point out it was the lack of ‘catastrophist’ visions. No one was under any illusions that the troubles we face are trivial but neither was anyone foreseeing an apocalypse or ‘near-term human extinction’. There is no easy out from this predicament.

Mark

P.S. I am told that all of the talks will be made available on a DVD in the coming months.

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