Ugo Bardi on the end of cars…..

25 05 2017

The Coming Seneca Cliff of the Automotive Industry: the Converging Effect of Disruptive Technologies and Social Factors

This graph shows the projected demise of individual car ownership in the US, according to “RethinkX”. That will lead to the demise of the automotive industry as we know it since a much smaller number of cars will be needed. If this is not a Seneca collapse, what is? 



Decades of work in research and development taught me this:

Innovation does not solve problems, it creates them. 

Which I could call “the Golden Rule of Technological Innovation.” There are so many cases of this law at work that it is hard for me to decide where I should start from. Just think of nuclear energy; do you understand what I mean? So, I am always amazed at the naive faith of some people who think that more technology will save us from the trouble created by technology (the most common mistake people make is not to learn from mistakes).

That doesn’t mean that technological research is useless; not at all. R&D can normally generate small but useful improvements to existing processes, which is what it is meant to do. But when you deal with breakthroughs, well, it is another kettle of dynamite sticks; so to say. Most claimed breakthroughs turn out to be scams (cold fusion is a good example) but not all of them. And that leads to the second rule of technological innovation:

Successful innovations are always highly disruptive

You probably know the story of the Polish cavalry charging against the German tanks during WWII. It never happened, but the phrase “fighting tanks with horses” is a good metaphor for what technological breakthroughs can do. Some innovations impose themselves, literally, by marching over the dead bodies of their opponents. Even without such extremes, when an innovation becomes a marker of social success, it can diffuse extremely fast. Do you remember the role of status symbol that cell phones played in the 1990s?

Cars are an especially good example of how social factors can affect and amplify the effects of innovation. I discussed in a previous post on Cassandra’s Legacy how cars became the prime marker of social status in the West in the 1950s, becoming the bloated and inefficient objects we know today. They had a remarkable effect on society, creating the gigantic suburbs of today’s cities where life without a personal car is nearly impossible.

But the great wheel of technological innovation keeps turning and it is soon going to make individual cars as obsolete as would be wearing coats made of home-tanned bear skins. It is, again, the combination of technological innovation and socioeconomic factors creating a disruptive effect. For one thing, private car ownership is rapidly becoming too expensive for the poor. At the same time, the combination of global position systems (GPS), smartphones, and autonomous driving technologies makes possible a kind of “transportation on demand” or “transportation as a service” (TAAS) that was unthinkable just a decade ago. Electric cars are especially suitable (although not critically necessary) for this kind of transportation. In this scheme, all you need to do to get a transportation service is to push a button on your smartphone and the vehicle you requested will silently glide in front of you to take you wherever you want. (*)

The combination of these factors is likely to generate an unstoppable and disruptive social phenomenon. Owning a car will be increasingly seen as passé, whereas using the latest TAAS gadgetry will be seen as cool. People will scramble to get rid of their obsolete, clumsy, and unfashionable cars and move to TAAS. Then, TAAS can also play the role of social filter: with the ongoing trends of increasing social inequality, the poor will be able to use it only occasionally or not at all. The rich, instead, will use it to show that they can and that they have access to credit. Some TAAS services will be exclusive, just as some hotels and resorts are. Some rich people may still own cars as a hobby, but that wouldn’t change the trend.

To have some idea of what a TAAS-based world can be, you might read Hemingway’s “Movable Feast”, a story set in Paris in the 1920s. There, Hemingway describes how the rich Americans in Paris wouldn’t normally even dream of owning a car (**). Why should they have, while when they could simply ride the local taxis at a price that, for them, was a trifle? It was an early form of TAAS. Most of the Frenchmen living in Paris couldn’t afford that kind of easygoing life and that established an effective social barrier between the haves and the have-nots.

As usual, of course, the future is difficult to predict. But something that we can say about the future is that when changes occur, they occur fast. In this case, the end result of the development of individual TAAS will be the rapid collapse of the automotive industry as we know it: a much smaller number of vehicles will be needed and they won’t need to be of the kind that the present automotive industry can produce. This phenomenon has been correctly described by “RethinkX,” even though still within a paradigm of growth. In practice, the transition is likely to be even more rapid and brutal than what the RethinkX team propose. For the automotive industry, there applies the metaphor of “fighting tanks with horses.”

The demise of the automotive industry is an example of what I called the “Seneca Effect.” When some technology or way of life becomes obsolete and unsustainable, it tends to collapse very fast. Look at the data for the world production of motor vehicles, below (image from Wikipedia). We are getting close to producing a hundred million of them per year. If the trend continues, during the next ten years we’ll have produced a further billion of them. Can you really imagine that it would be possible? There is a Seneca Cliff waiting for the automotive industry.

(*) If the trend of increasing inequality continues, autonomous driven cars are not necessary. Human drivers would be inexpensive enough for the minority of rich people who can afford to hire them.

(**) Scott Fitzgerald, the author of “The Great Gatsby” is reported to have owned a car while living in France, but that was mainly an eccentricity.

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Harquebus at it again…..

29 11 2016

I am going to keep this one short today.

It has come down to this; Either we stop this economic and population growth madness or we face the nightmarish consequences of accelerating environmental destruction and climate disruption. That’s it. The politicians and journalists who advocate growth are dangerous idiots as has been proved over and over already.

“We can ignore reality, but we cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.” — Ayn Rand

Cheers

Here is my usual list of links for those who I know that do read them. Apologies for the increasing number of links but, things are getting worse faster.

————

“In the same way it will be the end of -almost- all traditional political parties, which have ruled their countries for decades and are already today at or near record low support levels (if you’re not clear on what’s going on, look there, look at Europe!)”

“From Bill Clinton and Tony Blair onwards, the center-left embraced the project of a global free market with an enthusiasm as ardent as any on the right. If globalisation was at odds with social cohesion, society had to be re-engineered to become an adjunct of the market. The result was that large sections of the population were left to moulder in stagnation or poverty, some without any prospect of finding a productive place in society.”
https://consortiumnews.com/2016/10/14/end-of-growth-sparks-wide-discontent/
“In a globalization controlled by Wall Street’s puppeteer sociopaths, who believe they are the masters of the universe, ordinary people everywhere have become canon fodder and slave labor.”
http://newsjunkiepost.com/2016/10/30/globalization-expressway-to-universal-slavery/

“exploitation of 3rd World people by international capitalists has been ongoing for a long time in many industries”
“What is not grasped or talked about in public discussion for the most part is that the Techno-Cornucopian dream is just that, a DREAM.”
“In 1900 the amount of energy required to keep the average Amerikan alive was a fraction of that required to do the same thing today, and there are many more Amerikans now than in 1900.”
“The question now is just how we will manage this spin down and move our way back to a lower per capita energy future, and a lower population of Homo Saps running around the planet?”
http://www.doomsteaddiner.net/blog/2016/11/27/modern-slavery/

“atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations of 450 parts per million (which the world will reach in 2025) would bring about the demise of the reef.”
http://www.outsideonline.com/2112086/obituary-great-barrier-reef-25-million-bc-2016

“Renewable energy sources are often advocated for their low CO2 emissions at point of use, but the overall product lifecycle is often forgotten about completely. In addition, many chemical products are needed in mining operations, leading to severe long-term pollution.”
http://climateandcapitalism.com/2016/09/30/are-renewables-really-environmentally-friendly/

“However, in the Krebs attack, we saw something new: it wasn’t executed by conventional computers, but rather by Internet of Things (IoT) devices – including innocuous things like digital video recorders and security cameras.”
https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/10/hacked-by-a-fridge-the-internet-of-things-and-cyberattacks

“Alan Greenspan’s reign was truly the dumbing-down of economics because during it these economists really believed simple, common sense ideas were immaterial.”
http://www.alhambrapartners.com/2016/10/17/yellen-maybe-we-dont-know-what-we-are-doing/

“World’s mammals being eaten into extinction, report warns”
“The researchers said solving the problem of over-hunting will require greater legal protection for the species, empowering local communities to benefit from wildlife conservation, providing alternative foods and better education and family planning to curb population growth.”
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/oct/19/worlds-mammals-being-eaten-into-extinction-report-warns

“As president, Obama not only funneled trillions of dollars to the banks, he saw to it that not a single leading Wall Street executive faced prosecution for the orgy of speculation and swindling that led to the financial collapse and Great Recession, and he personally intervened to block legislation capping executive pay at bailed-out firms.”
https://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/10/15/wiki-o15.html

“An investigation by Malaysian online news channel The Star has uncovered a “beggar gang” run by Chinese gangsters that specializes in kidnapping children, disfiguring them and forcing them to beg on the streets of Kuala Lumpur.”
http://shanghaiist.com/2016/10/21/malaysia_begging.php

“Most of our estimates for future carbon dioxide levels and climate do not fully take into consideration the various feedbacks involving forests, so current projections likely underestimate the magnitude of carbon dioxide flux to the atmosphere.”
http://phys.org/news/2016-10-ancient-co2-future-climate.html

This article is a heavy read and if you are not seriously into agriculture, systems analysis or big words then, this might not be for you.

“Europeans may not be as food secure as they perceive themselves to be.”
“In the face of already observed changing climate, deteriorating natural resources, growing population largely driven by migration as well as many other emerging challenges and uncertainties, there are growing concerns that the European food system is vulnerable and thus unable to withstand disturbances without undesirable outcomes”
“food producers fall into a reinforcing spiral of compensating for the degraded natural resources with the application of external inputs rather than implementation of regenerative practices, which, in turn, further worsens the condition of natural resources. The reinforcing feedback loop driving substitution of natural resources with external inputs to produce food is a vicious circle that locks farmers into dependence on the use of external inputs.”
“As a result, the strong reinforcing feedback loops underlying food production growth have generated numerous unintended negative impacts on human (e.g., reduction of rural employment, loss of knowledge) and natural resources (e.g., loss of biodiversity, soil degradation, pollution of water and air) which themselves are preconditions for food production.”
“However, we now know that the natural resources are finite (or take a lot of time to regenerate) and once they are depleted, food production is not possible anymore, while there will be few (or even no) options for adaptation to this and other disturbances.”
“The result is that food production is based on a continuous reinvestments in engineered stabilizers rather than tacit knowledge and ecosystems resilience (condition of natural resources). Therefore, if for some reasons (e.g., fossil fuels scarcity, geopolitical tensions, economic crisis) external inputs were not available for food producers: first, it will take a long time for an alternative food production paradigm to become effective (because of, for instance, the need to rebuild the stocks of tacit knowledge and natural resources condition) and second, the outcomes could potentially be far more undesirable than that of a system which never used those stabilizers.”
http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/8/10/971/htm

“genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.”
http://www.nrtoday.com/doubts-about-promised-bounty-of-genetically-modified-crops/article_e18842d1-2f5b-5619-8368-85f4e62d9427.html

“The AngloZionst Empire’s propaganda machine, otherwise known as the corporate media, has had great difficulties deciding what it should say about the Russian naval task force which has been sent to Syria.”
http://thesaker.is/making-sense-of-the-russian-naval-task-force-off-the-coast-of-syria/

“Since the [water] crisis started in June, the municipality has been able to supply water for only one hour twice a week”
http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/10/palestinian-villages-hours-water-week-161023105150024.html

“Whales achieve this by transporting essential sources of iron across layers of water that don’t otherwise mix, by feeding at depth and defecating at the surface. This allows iron and other nutrients to come to the surface waters where phytoplankton live – and more phytoplankton means less carbon dioxide. And so by reducing whale populations, we risk increasing carbon dioxide levels, too.”
https://theconversation.com/how-overfishing-and-shark-finning-could-increase-the-pace-of-climate-change-67664

“Persian pigeon towers are one of the more elegant solutions to the nitrogen-phosphorus problem.”
“no wheels, electricity, or tractor needed: just bricks and a shovel to harvest the droppings, and some maintenance work every couple hundred years.”
http://www.notechmagazine.com/2016/10/pigeon-towers-a-low-tech-alternative-to-synthetic-fertilizers.html

“Most of the crimes committed by migrants are being downplayed by German authorities, apparently to avoid fueling anti-immigration sentiments.”
“The evidence points to a nationwide surge in migrant crime: cities and towns in all 16 of Germany’s federal states are affected. In fact, local police in many parts of the country admit that they are stretched to the limit and are unable to maintain law and order.”
https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9229/germany-lawlessness

“We learn from Easter Island or we repeat Easter Island.”
“Those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. We are mindlessly repeating Easter Island. Archeologists of the future, if any are left after our self made apocalypse, will wonder how we could be both so smart and so dumb.”
https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/saving-normal/201610/mans-fate

“On October 18, human rights defenders José Ángel Flores and Silmer Dionisio were murdered after they left a meeting of peasant farmers in the Bajo Aguán region of Honduras.”
http://www.alternet.org/world/there-epidemic-assassinations-targeting-human-rights-defenders-latin-america

“But not all Caraquenians have enough land to cultivate produce, and water is also in short supply due to a drought.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/01/venezuela-is-telling-hungry-city-dwellers-to-grow-their-own-food/

“A United Nations body is investigating controversial methods to avert runaway climate change by giving humans the go-ahead to re-engineer the Earth’s oceans and atmosphere.”
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-10-31/geoengineering-to-alter-climate-change-moves-closer-to-reality

“Low salaries combined with stagnant wages, jobs going to illegal immigrants and part-time work rising as Obamacare forces fewer companies to retain full-time employees, mean that food is increasingly seen as a luxury. And of those who can still afford food, many have to settle for cheap, nutrition-poor junk foods and foods high in starches, carbohydrates and calories.”
http://banksterbubble.com/food-poverty-49-million-americans-struggle-to-put-food-on-the-table-as-obamas-economic-schemes-collapse/

“Climate sceptics widen their net to claim all science – from medicine to physics to computing – is ‘in deep trouble'”
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/global-warming-sceptics-science-in-deep-trouble-fraudulent-climate-change-deniers-medicine-physics-a7389381.html

“Hundreds of millions will die. Horrific meteorological events will bring nations to their knees and catalyze the displacement of nearly a billion lives. Rising temperatures will implode global food security, exacerbating the coming water shortage and leading to substantial violence and unrest.”
“The capitalist world order perpetuates a competitive system wherein there is little incentive to slow the rate of growth or ever impede resource markets.”
“The CEOs, CFOs and big decision makers of less than a hundred companies have collectively put an expiration date on human civilization.”
“We have been rushed into the next mass extinction by a handful of people who wanted more than they ever needed.”
http://psuvanguard.com/an-autopsy-of-planet-earth/

“Indeed, the state has recently attracted much attention – and derision – for the way its policy making elite squandered the wealth generated by the resources boom.”
https://theconversation.com/western-australia-provides-a-masterclass-in-what-not-to-do-with-a-resources-boom-67942

“The world’s oceans, coastal seas, estuaries, and many rivers and lakes are experiencing declines in dissolved oxygen. Long known as an issue associated with sewage discharges and fertilizer runoff, the problem now is exacerbated by climate change, often independent of nutrient loads, and is global in scale.”
“The effects of deoxygenation, which depend on complex sets of interactions in the ocean, will not be evenly spread: the north Atlantic, north Pacific, and Antarctic waters will be particularly affected.”
http://www.salon.com/2016/11/03/the-oceans-are-suffocating-climate-change-is-causing-low-oxygen-levels_partner/

“Heavy-duty diesel-engine trucks (agricultural, cargo, mining, logging, construction, garbage, cement, 18-wheelers) are the main engines of civilization. Without them, no goods would be delivered, no food planted or harvested, no garbage picked up, no minerals mined, no concrete made, or oil and gas drilled to keep them all rolling. If trucks stopped running, gas stations, grocery stores, factories, pharmacies, and manufacturers would shut down within a week.”
http://energyskeptic.com/2016/diesel-finite-where-are-electric-trucks/

“At that point, the oil industry, and all the other industries that depend on it (and if you think about it, they all do: how do we get raw materials, spare parts, food, or even solar panels without oil-burning trucks and container ships?) are toast.”
http://www.postcarbon.org/the-case-of-the-vanishing-oil-reserves/

“When you control the currency and interest rates; rig the financial markets; buy the politicians; write the laws and regulations; own the corporate propaganda machines known as the mainstream media; operate a high tech surveillance state; create a dumbed down populace through government school indoctrination; and distract the masses with iGadgets, reality TV, hero worship, professional sports, social media, irrelevant cultural issues, and literally thousands of other modern day bread and circuses; you become arrogant and careless.”
http://www.theburningplatform.com/2016/11/03/civil-war-ii-fourth-turning-intensifying-part-i/

“The demonstrators, who frequently refer to themselves as “water protectors,” have for weeks accused the Obama administration of standing by while local police and private security intimidate and attack them.”
http://inthesetimes.com/article/19586/police-are-still-getting-surplus-military-gearand-theyre-using-it-to-crack

“Since 1970, a staggering 58 per cent of vertebrae populations have died, and by 2020, experts believe that two thirds of fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals will have disappeared.”
http://www.express.co.uk/news/science/727648/MASS-EXTINCTION-dinosaurs-earth-wwf

“The Prince of Wales, who is president of WWF-UK said: “As a father and  grandfather I worry deeply about the world we are leaving behind for our successors. We are rapidly destroying our means of survival.”
“We are pushing ourselves out of the Holocene, putting our own future on Earth at risk. What we, in this generation, do in the coming 50 years, will probably determine the outcome for humanity on Earth over the coming 10,000 years.”
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/11/04/prince-charles-i-worry-deeply-that-the-planet-is-facing-mass-ext/

“Notoriously liberal figures from the UK media queued up to berate him for getting drunk or for even thinking of taking part in any mockery of religion. This in a country in which Monty Python’s Life of Brian is regularly voted the nation’s favourite comic movie.”
“This is the re-entry of blasphemy laws through the back door, where newspapers, daytime chat-shows and sports authorities decide between them that one religion is worthy of particular protection.”
https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9253/europe-blasphemy-courts

“”The overpopulation of the world and carelessness of its inhabitants have caused environmental issues that can’t be ignored.”
http://dailyutahchronicle.com/2016/11/08/earth-angry-reason/

“clearing rainforests doesn’t pay. Yet that message is not getting through.”
“the industry now claims that monitoring suppliers would be ‘Orwellian’ and excluding those clearing rainforest would be playing ‘supply chain cop.’”
https://news.mongabay.com/2016/11/for-the-palm-oil-industry-engagement-means-turning-a-blind-eye-to-deforestation/

“This data from British Columbia, which shows the carbon tax has failed the reduce carbon emissions in the ten years since it was implemented, gives little reason to believe a carbon tax would curb emissions in the U.S. or elsewhere. Meanwhile the oil and gas industry is throwing its support behind carbon taxes, rather than strong regulations to limit emissions, arguing that market solutions are the best way to address climate change.”
http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/insight/british-columbia-carbon-tax-failed-experiment-market-based-solutions-climate-change

“West Antarctic ice loss in some places shows signs of becoming “unstoppable.” There’s enough water locked up in West Antarctica’s Amundsen Sea region alone to raise the global average sea level by four feet, and it’s the fastest-melting spot on the continent.”
http://www.desdemonadespair.net/2016/11/west-antarctica-begins-to-destabilize.html

“This report confirms that the average temperature in 2015 had already reached the 1 degree C mark. We just had the hottest five-year period on record, with 2015 claiming the title of hottest individual year. Even that record is likely to be beaten in 2016.”
http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-37900400

“That means the record hot summer of 2013 in Australia – when we saw temperatures approaching 50°C in parts of Australia, bushfires striking the Blue Mountains in October, major impacts to our health and infrastructure and a summer that was so hot it became known as the “angry summer” – could be just another average summer season by 2035.”
http://phys.org/news/2016-11-hot-year.html

“”both Brexit and Trumpism are the very, very wrong answers to legitimate questions that urban elites have refused to ask for 30 years.” Bevins went on: “Since the 1980s the elites in rich countries have overplayed their hand, taking all the gains for themselves and just covering their ears when anyone else talks, and now they are watching in horror as voters revolt.””
https://theintercept.com/2016/11/09/democrats-trump-and-the-ongoing-dangerous-refusal-to-learn-the-lesson-of-brexit/

This article advocates nuclear power which I do not. It will suffer from resource depletion just as fossil fuels are. Population reduction is the only viable solution.
“For some reason wind and solar fans never mention that both have huge carbon footprints — a measure of the amount of the CO2 produced from shovel in the ground to power in your outlet — and the harmful effects on the environment created by mining the rare minerals that both require.”
http://www.thespec.com/opinion-story/6956267-when-going-green-damages-the-environment/

“Climate change does not care about the law of the land in the U.S. It cares about the laws of physics. Trump can change laws in the U.S. He can’t change them in the atmosphere.”
http://www.climatecentral.org/news/physics-climate-election-2016-20862

“No matter how you measure it, a mass extinctions has arrived.”
“Humans cannot keep growing in numbers and consuming ever more land, water and natural resources and expect all to be well.”
“We also have to move urgently to slow human population growth, reduce overconsumption and overhunting, save remaining wilderness areas, expand and better protect our nature reserves, invest in conserving critically endangered species, and vote for leaders who make these issues a priority.”
https://theconversation.com/radical-overhaul-needed-to-halt-earths-sixth-great-extinction-event-68221

“So, when we consider that Exxon had to triple its capex spending to maintain production as well as increase dividend payouts to keep shareholders happy, the falling oil price is totally gutting the company from within.”
“For those who continue to be skeptics of the peak oil theory, YOU NEED TO WAKE UP AND LOOK AT THE DATA.”
“the Hills Group and Louis Arnoux forecast that within ten years, 75% of U.S. gas stations will be closed, and the oil industry as we know it, will have disintegrated.”
http://peakoilbarrel.com/big-trouble-at-exxonmobil/

“While the UN report is talking about the effects of robots in the workplace, what’s really at issue is the profit-seeking behaviour of corporations. And in a globalized economy, shifts in labour power aren’t just felt in wealthy nations, but all over the world. In China, for example, factory owners have already used robots and automation as a tool to do away with rabble-rousing workers.”
http://motherboard.vice.com/read/robots-will-take-two-thirds-of-all-jobs-in-the-developing-world-un-says

“Globalization continues to create more discontents than it does billionaires, and this election was very much about the corrosive impact of globalization.”
“Trump promised to return America greatness but hasn’t a hope of doing so, because the era of growth has died.”
thetyee.ca/Opinion/2016/11/10/End-of-Growth-Rise-of-Trump/

“A Texas investor group is planning for a doomsday scenario by building a $300 million luxury community replete with underground homes and air-lock blast doors designed for people worried about a dirty bomb or other disaster.”
http://www.denverpost.com/2016/11/11/texas-investors-build-community-doomsday-scenario/

“Producing food, whether it be through growing crops or raising cattle for slaughter, is only part of the equation. How the food makes it to your plate also factors into agriculture’s dependence on fossil fuel.”
“However, if we have massive amounts of food production, we will need equal amounts of fertilizer.”
“If we are willing to rethink the way we produce and consume food, reducing greenhouse gas emissions will come naturally.”
http://www.theenergycollective.com/mnichols/2392638/how-agriculture-uses-energy

“But in brief, I think that the business as usual world is headed straight for a collision with the material limits of the finite planet we are living on.”
“The trouble with this is that the old computer programming adage —garbage in, garbage out —applies to politics. If political decisions are based on convenient lies, then the results will not be good.”
http://theeasiestpersontofool.blogspot.com.au/2016/11/politics-and-science.html

“We celebrate ignorance. We have replaced political discourse, news, culture and intellectual inquiry with celebrity worship and spectacle.”
“Once societies unplug themselves from reality, those who speak truth become pariahs and enemies of the state.”
http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/its_worse_than_you_think_20161111

“In this tiny feeding frenzy, the algal cells burst and release a distinct-smelling sulfurous compound. The algae use this chemical as a kind of distress call, signaling their bird allies to come eat their predators.”
“Seabird species that followed the scent of the chemical to find food wound up ingesting plastic five times more often than species that did not, the study found.”
http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-seabirds-plastic-20161111-story.html

“In this gentleman’s world view, it was not black versus white, rich versus poor, feminism versus patriarchy, illegal versus citizen; rather, it was those who produce nothing believing themselves entitled, without appreciation, to the goods produced by others versus those who actually produce.”
https://therivardreport.com/a-visit-to-trumps-america/

“Food production has multiple impacts both on and off the farm. These can often be negative, such as the pollution of rivers, the emission of greenhouse gases, the spread of antibiotic resistance, the degradation of soil, the rise of obesity and the spread of disease. Yet none of this damage has featured in the balance sheet of farmers using chemical methods.”
“True Cost Accounting has its challenges. Being an issue of immense complexity, spanning the worlds of economics, public health, ecosystems, environment and society, it requires an integrated approach.”
http://sustainablefoodtrust.org/articles/true-cost-food/

“Experts believe there is between three trillion and 23 trillion tonnes of coal buried in the seabed starting from the northeast coast and stretching far out under the sea.”
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2593032/Coal-fuel-UK-centuries-Vast-deposits-totalling-23trillion-tonnes-North-Sea.html

“Multiply that by countless millions of locales and hundreds of millions of other individuals and organizations doing the same, dependent on that same finite and ever-depleting resource.”
“the facts they and we must accept is that we are now on the downside of conventional crude oil supply”
http://peakoilmatters.com/2016/11/15/peak-oil-system-justification-denial-will-costly/

“Since last 40 years, 20 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cut down for commercial purposes and it has been estimated that if it goes on with the same pace, by 2060, the whole rainforest will be destroyed.”
http://askchange.com/deforestation-in-amazon-rainforest.html

 

Harry aka Harquebus
Salisbury North.
South Australia.
harrycebex@hotmail.com




More on Renewables fantasy

10 10 2014

As debate continues to rage over at The Conversation I have now mentioned several times regarding future Carbon emissions, I continually come across people who misunderstand our energy conundrums.  It gives me satisfaction to be able to rattle their collective cages, and introduce them to notions like the energy cliff, and the utterly essential continuation of oil production for mining the resources we need to keep business as usual operating.

Interestingly, some of the commentators there introduce me to things I knew nothing about.  Which is good; because it makes me think further about why their solutions will not save the day, and forces me to do some more research and keep the old brain cells alive and ticking.  For instance, when I pointed the conversation towards Simon Michaux’s Peak Mining presentation available on this blog, and that I thought mining without diesel would be impossible, along comes this person who points me to mining trucks powered by overhead electricity, much like an electric train.  This is readily feasible of course, because all those big Tonka Trucks are already running on electric motors, powered by a huge diesel enegine that spins an equally huge generator to produce the electricity for the motors….. very much like a diesel electric locomotive.  My first reaction, however, was ‘how can they move the overhead lines constantly as the bottom of the mine expands and keeps changing shape’?

Here is a video of how they operate……

Now, this video makes claims such as ‘saving energy’, which I suggest it clearly does not.  While running in ‘trolley mode’, diesel consumption may fall from 360L/hr to 45L/hr, but now it’s burning electricity instead, and it’s STILL burning diesel!  On top of that, this video claims that by using electric lines, they can increase the speed of the truck from 8km/hr to 24km/hr….  hello, don’t they realise there is no free lunch?  Going faster requires more energy, especially uphill!  Instead of reducing energy consumption, I think this would actually increase it.  I would like to see total energy consumption in MJ/km rather than merely saying the trucks use less diesel.  You’ll notice that the overhead lines are only used in the uphill sections.

This then got me thinking about why they would go to this trouble.  After all, spending capital to electrify the lifting of ores from the bottom of a mine pit just as the price of these commodities is falling, seems counter intuitive to me.  Until that is, you put two and two together and realise that as the ore concentrations fall off a cliff, more and more ore has to be brought up for processing, and faster and faster to boot, just to keep up with production of the final resource, in this case Copper.  But wait, there’s more…  research shows Zambia produces 200 barrels of oil a day.  NOT 200,000……  two hundred!  On top of that, Zambia gets 100% of its electricity from hydro.  So of course, what else would they do?

Further down The Conversation, someone else makes the comment “Solar thermal is a very new technology, do you think ERoEI values estimated now will apply for all time? ”  Well no…….  thermodynamics dictates that ERoEI will always fall!

“”To maintain a society like ours requires an overall ERoEI of about 12:1″. Perhaps, but perhaps not, that’s a fairly bold assertion, I’m not sure of the weight of evidence behind it. One would also assume that as the easily accessible fossil fuels are increasingly depleted, the ERoEI of fossil fuels would be decreasing (unlike that of renewables which is increasing).”

This is classic.  People who want to believe in a renewables powered future apparently also believe that renewables’ ERoEI can magically rise, just as the fossil fuels’ ERoEI, the very energy sources used to make the renewables, falls.  Talk about white man’s magic….

IF we require to build more and more robots, just build more and more robots, to make more and more PVs to power the robots, and make more robots to build more Tonka Tucks, to dig more and more mineral ores, just so we can build more factories to house more robots to….  well, you get the message.  We are sinking alarmingly increasing amounts of energy and non renewable resources into a black hole, and for what…?

Making someone already rich even richer.  Game over.

By the way, an alarmingly high number of people are predicting a looming financial correction of epic proportion, maybe even this month (October 2014).  I’m not qualified to comment on this, except as just another passenger, but I found this quite concerning.  A bit long at 34 minutes, and the interviewer keeps interrupting annoyingly, but what does everyone else think?





We cannot shop our way out of environmental crisis, ‘green’ or not

20 08 2014

1Guest post by Pete Dolack.  Pete is an activist, writer, poet and photographer. He wishes he could keep all those balls in the air but keeps dropping some of them. He has worked with a variety of groups as an activist, and currently works with Trade Justice New York Metro as part of the effort to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership. He writes about the economic crisis, and ideas for a better world in his blog Systemic Disorder. He is also the author of the upcoming book, It’s Not Over: Lessons from the Socialist Experiment.

Originally published at Generation Alpha

 

 

There is no alternative to a dramatic change in the organization of the global economy. We cannot make ‘green’ what cannot be green. A powerful 33-page paper by Dr. Richard Smith, Green capitalism: the god that failed, demonstrates this as effectively as anything I have read. Richard, from the Institute for Policy Research & Development in London, argues that:

  • “Green capitalism” is “doomed from the start” because maximizing profit and ecological sustainability are broadly in conflict; the occasional time when they might be in harmony are temporary and rare exceptions. This is because corporations are answerable to private owners and shareholders, not to society. Profit maximization trumps all else under capitalism and thereby sets limits to ecological reform.
  • No capitalist government can impose “green taxes” effective enough to end the coal or other destructive industries because the result would be recession and mass unemployment.
  • Green-capitalism proponents vastly underestimate the speed with which environmental collapse is coming. No amount of tinkering can alter the course of environmental destruction under the present system. Humanity, therefore, must replace capitalism with a post-capitalist ecologically sustainable economy.
  • Resource extraction is inherently polluting but can’t be shut down without chaos. It is not possible to “dematerialize” much of the economy, as green-capitalism proponents believe possible. The only way to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions is to “enforce a drastic contraction of production in the industrialized countries.” This is not possible under capitalism because the affected industries would be committing suicide. It could only be carried out through a socialization of industry and a redeployment of labour to sectors that need to be developed for social good.
  • Consumerism and over-consumption are not “cultural” or the result of personal characteristics — they are a natural consequence of capitalism and built into the system. Problems like climate change and other aspects of the world environmental crisis can only be solved on a global level through democratic control of the economy, not by individual consumer choices or national governments.

 

Cap-and-trade equals profits by polluting

European attempts to implement “cap and trade” schemes to limit greenhouse-gas emissions were countered from the start by industry lobbyists asking for exceptions because, they argued, they would lose competitiveness. Some threatened to move elsewhere, taking jobs with them. Governments gave in. Polluters and traders took in windfall profits, with no real effect on emissions. Dr. Smith writes:

“German electricity companies were supposed to receive 3 per cent fewer permits than they needed to cover their total emissions between 2005 and 2007, which would have obliged them to cut emissions by that amount. Instead the companies got 3 percent more than they needed — a windfall worth about $374 billion at that time.”

A proposal to directly tax carbon in France, proposed by the administration of Nicolas Sarkozy, was ruled unconstitutional because most of France’s major polluters would have been let off the hook entirely while households would have assumed the burden. Dr. Smith put the farce of this failed proposal in perspective:

“The court said that more than 1,000 of France’s biggest polluters could have been exempted from the charges, and that 93 percent of industrial emissions would not have been taxed at all. But even if Sarkozy had successfully imposed his carbon tax, this tax would have raised the price of gasoline by just 25 US cents per gallon. Given that the French already pay nearly $9 per gallon for gasoline, it’s hard to see how an additional 25 cents would seriously discourage consumption let alone ‘save the human race.’ ”

Some advocates of cap-and-trade or carbon taxes in the United States try to get around industry pushback by advocating they become “revenue-neutral.” But if “carbon tax offsets are revenue neutral, then they are also ‘impact neutral,’ ” Dr. Smith writes. That brings us back to the reality that imposing drastic cuts would be the only way to effect the significant reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change in coming decades. That, in turn, can’t be done without massive dislocation.

Yet reductions are not only necessary, but will be required by physical limits — the world’s population is using the resources at the rate of 1.5 Earths and the United Nations predicts we’ll be using two Earths by 2030. Moreover, if all the world’s peoples used resources at the rate that the United States does, “we would need 5.3 planets to support all this.” Needless to say, we have only one Earth available.

 

More efficiency leads to more consumption

One of the pillars on which green capitalists rest their advocacy is increased efficiency of energy usage, achieved through technological innovation. But energy usage has been increasing, not decreasing, despite greater efficiencies gained out of a range of products. Gains in efficiency can, and frequently are, used to expand production; given that capitalist incentives reward expansion, that is what is done. Moreover, “green” industries are not necessarily green. The paper points out:

“Even when it’s theoretically possible to shift to greener production, given capitalism, as often as not, ‘green’ industries just replace old problems with new problems: So burning down tracts of the Amazon rainforest in order to plant sugarcane to produce organic sugar for Whole Foods or ethanol to feed cars instead of people, is not so green after all. Neither is burning down Indonesian and Malaysian rainforests to plant palm-oil plantations so Britons can tool around London in their obese Landrovers.”

Making motor vehicles more fuel-efficient, although a goal that should be pursued, nonetheless falls far short of a solution. Fuel usage from the increasing number of vehicles and longer distances travelled are greater than all the savings from fuel efficiency. And focusing on only when the vehicle is being driven leaves untouched most of the pollution caused by them. Dr. Smith writes:

“Most of the pollution any car will ever cause is generated in the production process before the car even arrives at the showroom — in the production of all the steel, aluminium, copper and other metals, glass, rubber, plastic, paint and other raw materials and inputs that go into every automobile, and in the manufacturing process itself. Cars produce 56 percent of all the pollution they will ever produce before they ever hit the road. … [S]o long as [automakers] are free to produce automobiles without limit more cars will just mean more pollution, even if the cars are hybrids or plug-in electric cars.”

Those electric vehicles are only as “clean” as the source of electricity used to power them. Many plug-in electric vehicles are coal-powered vehicles because coal is a common source of electricity. Looking at it holistically, such an electric vehicle would be more polluting than a gasoline-fuelled vehicle; and the majority of the pollution from the manufacturing (for the vehicle itself) would be there just the same. Then there is the pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions of the electric-car battery. Nickel is a primary input; the Russian city that is the site of the world’s largest source of nickel, Norilsk, is one of the world’s most polluted places.

“I would not be surprised if the most ecological cars on the planet today are not those Toyota Priuses or even the Chevy Volts with their estimated [seven- to 10-year] lifespan, but those ancient Fords, Chevrolets, and Oldsmobiles cruising round the streets of Havana. For even if their gas mileage is lower than auto-producer fleet averages today, they were still produced only once, whereas American ‘consumers’ have gone through an average of seven generations of cars since 1960 (when the U.S. embargo ended car imports to Cuba), with all the manufacturing and disposal pollution that entailed.”

 

Consumerism props up capitalist economies

Planned obsolescence is part of the problem, across the spectrum of manufactured products. Capitalist manufacturers don’t want products that last a long time; repeatedly selling new products is far more profitable. But it would be overly simplistic to lay full blame for this on greed, however much greed is rewarded by a capitalist economy. Household consumption — all the things that people buy for personal use from toothbrushes to automobiles — accounts for 60 to 70 percent of gross domestic product in almost all advanced capitalist countries. If people aren’t buying things, the economy struggles.

Proponents of green capitalism fail to grasp the structural causes of over-consumption. However much better for the environment, and the world’s future, drastic reductions in consumerism would be, moral exhortations can’t be effective. Trapped in an idealist mirage that capitalism can be “tamed” or “repurposed,” green capitalists, through seeking individual solutions to structural and systemic problems, not only miss the forest for the trees but leave the economic structure responsible untouched. People in the global North should consume less, but to place the blame on individual behaviour lets the manufacturers of useless products off the hook and is blind to the economic realities should the system be left in place intact.

Once again, we cannot shop our way out of economic and environmental problems. Even not shopping would bring its own set of problems, Dr. Smith writes:

“[H]ow can we ‘reject consumerism’ when we live in a capitalist economy where, in the case of the United States, more than two-thirds of market sales, and therefore most jobs, depend on direct sales to consumers while most of the rest of the economy, including the infrastructure and not least, the military, is dedicated to propping up this super consumerist ‘American way of life?’ Indeed, most jobs in industrialized countries critically depend not just on consumerism but on ever-increasing over-consumption. We ‘need’ this ever-increasing consumption and waste production because, without growth, capitalist economies collapse and unemployment soars. …

[I]t’s not the culture that drives the economy so much as, overwhelmingly, the economy that drives the culture: It’s the insatiable demands of shareholders that drive corporate producers to maximize sales, therefore to constantly seek out new sales and sources in every corner of the planet, to endlessly invent [new needs]. … ‘[C]onsumerism’ is not just a ‘cultural pattern,’ it’s not just ‘commercial brainwashing’ or an ‘infantile regression.’ … Insatiable consumerism is an everyday requirement of capitalist reproduction, and this drives capitalist invention and imperial expansion. No overconsumption, no growth, no jobs. And no voluntarist ‘cultural transformation’ is going to overcome this fundamental imperative so long as the economic system depends on over-consumption for its day-to-day survival.”

There is no way out other than replacing capitalism with a steady-state economy based on meeting human needs, and that could only be attained through bottom-up, democratic control. No one promises new jobs to those who would be displaced under capitalism; logically, then, those who jobs and ability to earn a living is dependent on polluting or wasteful industries resist environmental initiatives. The wholesale changes that are necessary to prevent a global environmental catastrophe can’t be accomplished under the present economic system; it would require a different system with the flexibility to re-deploy labor in large numbers when industries are reduced or eliminated, and one that would have no need to grow. Inequality would have to be eliminated for any kind of global democratic economy to be able to function.

Dr. Smith pronounces this “a tall order to be sure.” That it is. But with many world cities, and entire countries, at risk of becoming inhabitable due to rising sea levels, more erratic weather and an accelerated timetable to deplete the world’s resources, what choice do we have? Green capitalism is not only not green, it is worse than illusion because of the false hope it dangles in front of our eyes.





The 5 key elements of sustainable transport

13 04 2014

The 5 key elements of sustainable transport, or rather ‘so called’ sustainable transport makes for interesting reading.  Some of this info doesn’t really make much sense to me…. like the C intensity of different flights (business and economy, short and long) as a function of emissions per kilometre.

Interestingly, the difference between a ‘small car’ (a car that can only do 35MPG is NOT a small car!  But then, this is written in/for the USA….) and a grid charged electric car is only 15g CO2e/km, or just 9%.  By that measure, the Suzuki Alto I drove in Tasmania emits far less than an electric car, unless that car is 100% solar recharged.  And then I’m doubtful, because since we now know solar has a shockingly low ERoEI, it might be even closer than we think.  I’m also surprised cycling’s numbers are as high as they are shown here.  Does a cyclist really consume a whole lot more food than a motorist?

The article also states “People who live in cities have lower transport emissions.  Fuel economy may be lower in city traffic but that is more than made up for by the fact that city dwellers drive far less.”  Well that depends……  since moving from the city to the country, I’ve actually halved how much I drive!  Then it continues with “In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cites, by 2010 that figure was over 50%, and by 2030 it is expected to surpass 60%. This natural trend to urbanization is a huge opportunity to for lowering both distance travelled per person and the carbon intensity of that travel.”  Whoever wrote this has obviously no idea cities will eventually be abandoned for being too far from their food sources, and due to the fact that when grids go down, none of the lifts will work!  Nor the sewerage……..

Shrink That Footprint

sustainabletransport

Transport is responsible for around a seventh of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Of these emissions almost two thirds are the result of passenger travel while the rest is due to freight.

So passenger travel is a big deal for climate.

In the chart above, which comes from our new eBook Emit This, we compare carbon intensity of different types of passenger transport on a per passenger kilometre basis.  Using it we can explain some elements important to the development of a sustainable transport system.

1) Fuel Economy

Our chart today compares the carbon intensity of different transport modes, per passenger kilometre.  The better fuel economy gets the lower emissions go.  If you just look at the cars you’ll see the large car (15 MPG) has emissions almost three times that of the hybrid car (45 MPG).

By improving fuel economy we can get the same mileage while generating fewer emissions.  Something that is achieved by making engines more efficient, vehicles lighter and bodies more aerodynamic.  But even then combustion engines remain relatively inefficient and produce emissions at the tailpipe, so improving them is really just a stop-gap en-route to sustainable transport.

2) Occupancy

The cheapest and simplest way to lower the carbon intensity of a passenger kilometre is to stick more people in the vehicle.  In each of the figures above car occupancy is assumed to be an average of 1.6 passengers (including the driver).  But most cars are designed for 5 people.

If you take a look at the bus examples the importance of occupancy becomes even more stark.  The local bus example has emissions seven times higher than the school bus.  While there routes may vary a little they are both diesel buses.  The main difference is that the school bus has very high occupancy.

With notable exception of flying public transport tends to have quite low carbon emissions, due largely to having relatively high occupancy.

3) Electrification

In the absence of breakthroughs in second generation biofuels electrification is the most important pathway to low carbon transport.

Electric cars using low carbon power have footprints less than half that of the best hybrid, even after you account for their larger manufacturing footprint.  Right down the bottom of our chart is the high-speed EuroStar rail which used low carbon French electricity. Though not on our chart the lowest carbon transport on earth is probably electrified public transport in a place like Norway where electricity generation is almost carbon free.

While there is a natural tendency to obsess about the electrification of cars, there are lots of interesting innovations occurring in the electrification  of rail, motorbikes, scooters and bikes.

4) Pedal power

They may be a bit low tech for some, but when it comes to carbon emissions bicycles are pretty cutting edge.  Even when you account for the foodprint of excess energy used when cycling, the humble bike is incredibly low carbon.

Bikes have obvious limitations around speed and distance, but for short trips in places with good infrastructure they are hard to beat in terms of carbon. They also have a great synergy with public transport systems like intercity rail.

5) Urbanization

Each of the first four elements we have described above refers to improving the carbon intensity of transport.  But emissions are a function of both how we travel and how far we travel.  One thing that tackles both of these issues is the trend towards urbanization.

People who live in cities have lower transport emissions.  Fuel economy may be lower in city traffic but that is more than made up for by the fact that city dwellers drive far less.  Electrification of public transport is more economic and practical in cities.  Occupancy on public transport systems is much higher.  And access to infrastructure for both cycling and walking is often better.

In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cites, by 2010 that figure was over 50%, and by 2030 it is expected to surpass 60%. This natural trend to urbanization is a huge opportunity to for lowering both distance travelled per person and the carbon intensity of that travel.

Those are our five elements of sustainable transport: fuel economy, occupancy, electrification, pedal power and urbanization.

Check out our free new eBook Emit This for more ideas on getting more life out of less carbon.

Source: Shrink That Footprint. Reproduced with permission.





Carbon bubble toil and trouble

27 03 2014

There has been of late quite a few articles on the blogosphere about the potential for a Carbon bubble.  A bubble about to burst.  That this will occur is utterly undeniable, but the outcomes featured by different writers are a bit off the mark in my opinion……

First, let me start with Paul Gilding.  I have a lot of time for Paul.  I’ve even published some of his writings here; but his optimism often leaves me flabbergasted…….

In Carbon Crash Solar Dawn, published in Cockatoo Chronicles 

I think it’s time to call it. Renewables and associated storage, transport and digital technologies are so rapidly disrupting whole industries’ business models they are pushing the fossil fuel industry towards inevitable collapse.

Some of you will struggle with that statement. Most people accept the idea that fossil fuels are all powerful – that the industry controls governments and it will take many decades to force them out of our economy. Fortunately, the fossil fuel industry suffers the same delusion.

gilding

Paul Gilding

I don’t think the oil industry is under any such delusion.  Unable to make a profit with oil floundering around $100 a barrel, a price the market forces on them to accept, that industry is taking to selling its assets to prop up its bottom line, even borrowing money to pay shareholders’ dividends….

The only idea I struggle with Paul, is that “renewables, electric cars and associated technologies build the momentum needed to make their takeover unstoppable“.

Take here in Australia for instance; the coal fired power lobby has twisted the politicians’ arms (I don’t think much twisting was required either…) to thwart any further growth in the development of renewables.  In Queensland where I still live, the Newman government has indicated that the paltry 8c feed in tariff that the poor beggars who installed PVs on their roofs after the frankly overgenerous 44c feed in tariff was terminated, will become a zero FiT after July 1.  We who are on the overgenerous 44c FiT are ‘safe’ (until TSHTF that is – then all bets are off), because we are on a contract that lasts until 2028….. but everyone else misses out.  Why are they doing this?  It’s all explained very well here on The Conversation, but basically it’s to protect the dinosaur industries’ shareholders.  There’s no way they are borrowing to pay their shareholders like Shell had to do….  Money rules, and f*** you the consumer.

Paul also further writes:

I think it’s important to always start with a reminder of the underlying context. As I argued in my book The Great Disruption, dramatic economic change is not a choice we get to make it, but an inevitable result of physical science. This is because business as usual, with results like ever increasing resource constraint or a global temperature increase of 4 degrees or more, would trigger economic and social collapse. So the only realistic outcomes are such a collapse or an economic transformation that prevents it, with timing the only big unknown. I argued transformation was far more likely and, to my delight, that’s what we see emerging around us today – even faster than I expected.

In parallel, we are also seeing the physical impacts of climate change and resource constraint accelerating. This is triggering physical, economic and geopolitical responses – from melting arctic ice and spiking food prices to the Arab Spring and the war in Syria. (See here for further on that.) The goods news in this growing hard evidence is that the risk of collapse is being acknowledged by more mainstream analysts. Examples include this commentary by investment legend Jeremy Grantham and a recent NASA funded study explained here by Nafeez Ahmed. So the underlying driver – if we don’t change in a good way, we’ll change in a very bad way – is gathering acceptance.

Hang on……..  is he saying the Arab Spring is about people demanding “renewables, electric cars and associated technologies”?  Because collapse is exactly what is happening in Egypt and Syria.  Collapse does not begin in boardrooms, it begins in the streets when people run out of food, water, and petrol….

And where is the debt problem mentioned in this “dramatic economic change“?  How exactly will the “renewables, electric cars and associated technologies” be paid for?  More growth?  Has he never heard the saying “the best way to get out of a hole is by not digging any deeper”?

Over at Nature Climate Change, I found this too……

…major players in the financial markets are becoming increasingly uneasy about the extent of the impact of future climate policies on power companies. A supposition — fostered by the Carbon Tracker Initiative — is that fossil fuels may be nowhere near as profitable in the future as they have been so far. This is not simply because the costs of prospecting and drilling for oil, for example, are increasing, or that the fossil fuel resources that give the oil, coal and natural gas companies their value are about to run out — they are not. The problem is more that a large portion — perhaps as much as 80 per cent — of these reserves will have to be left untouched if society has any chance of limiting global temperature rise to 2 °C this century.

So, pray tell, what will we build the new energy system with…?  Let me remind you of just how many resources it takes to build wind turbines… or a solar thermal power plant

Paul ends his article with:

So, as I see it, the game is up for fossil fuels. Their decline is well underway and it won’t be a gentle one. Of course they won’t just be gone in few years but once the market and policy makers understand what’s happening, it will become self-reinforcing and accelerate rapidly. Markets come into their own in situations like this. They rarely initiate change, but once they’re racing down the hill, it’s time to jump on board or get out of the way. It’s an ugly and brutal process for those involved, but it gets the job done quickly.

When that occurs, we may find that those forecasts by myself and others like Tony Seba from Stanford University, that the oil, coal and gas companies will be all but obsolete by 2030, might turn out to be conservative after all. Interesting times indeed.

Yes, it is game over.  But not for the fossil fuel industries alone.  When they go down, everyone goes down.  Even the central bankers, to whom the global debt which has soared more than 40 percent to $100 trillion since the first signs of the financial crisis, will go down….. why do so few people see the big picture…….?  For someone who claims to understand the “inevitable result of physical science” as the driver of economic change, Paul truly puzzles me.





The Symbiosis Project

12 10 2013

I often go on and on about the need for revolution……  well, I’ve discovered this blog site that describes the most amazing revolution one could organise, and it all starts with a beer.  And I know how to make beer!

Reblogged from http://www.thesymbiosisproject.org/

Enjoy……

This is a true story. It all starts one week from today.

After reading about it on the internet, a single person in a neighborhood in Portland, OR, decided to start a community beer-brewing co-op. He gathered a group of eight neighbors, and together they bought the equipment to brew 30 gallons of beer for $500. They went up and down 3 blocks, and found 45 people who also wanted to drink and brew beer with them. Here’s how it worked. They asked for $30-100 a month, sliding scale, and in return, the members all got a “share” of one growler (4 pints) once a week at the weekly brew session. At $30 a month that was only $1.88 a pint for delicious home-brewed beer, brewing lessons, and access to expensive brewing equipment. But most importantly, it was an excuse to get together every week with neighbors over a few drinks. Folks who couldn’t make it to the brew sessions got their growlers delivered to their door the next day.

It turned out that everyone in the community was strapped for cash, so everyone just paid the minimum amount, $30 a month, and even still they collectively raised $1350! The ingredients cost $400 a month for 120 gallons, and the brew equipment cost $500 the first month, so in just the first month, the group had covered their expenses and created a surplus of $450, and still had 30 gallons of beer left over even after they gave all the members their growlers. So at the end of the month, they decided to throw a big block party, and invited all their neighbors, whether or not they were part of the coop, to have dinner in the middle of the street and discuss how they wanted to spend their surplus!

During the discussion, one thing that kept coming up is that everyone felt they were paying too much for internet. One member of the community happened to be interested in networks, and offered to use the $450 to buy routers and set them up as a free community WiFi network. For $350 a month, he proposed, they could buy a high speed business internet connection, which could provide fast internet service to everyone on the street! It turned out this would save all 45 households in the neighborhood $30 a month! So during the second month, the wifi network was installed, and another $1000 was raised from the beer brewing.

By the third month, they had raised $1000 from the second month, $1000 from the third, and were now collectively saving $1000 a month on internet. Now they had $3000 a month to work with as a community. Another neighbor had had solar panels installed by Solar City the previous year, and remembered that they offered solar panels for zero money upfront. They made their money by owning the panels and selling the electricity back to the grid, and offering slightly cheaper electricity to the customer, saving the customer $5-10 a month for 15 years. They also offered $400 for referrals. So the neighbor mentioned it to his neighborhood, and, since he didn’t want anyone to think he was trying to sell them something, he said that if anyone got panels and referred him, he’d pitch the referral to the neighborhood fund instead of keeping it for himself.

Panels don’t work on all houses, but out of 45 houses, five of the households did end up getting solar panels, and they all put their referral bonuses towards the community fund, adding an additional $2000!

With weekly brew sessions and monthly community gatherings in the street, the community began to get closer socially, building trust and mutual understanding. Not everyone was best friends, but people generally understood where their neighbors were coming from. At one of the community meetings, someone suggested that they all sign up for Getaround.com. Getaround.com is a car sharing program, that allows neighbors to share their cars. Getaround charges a fee, but it covers full insurance while the car is borrowed, so the owner is covered if anything happens. They tried it out, and found that it met their needs for transportation. A few folks who had cars no longer needed them, because was much cheaper to simply rent the cars from their neighbors at a low rate whenever they needed one. Owning and maintaining a car costs an average of $6000 a year. Every person who was able to get rid of their car on the block was now saving $500 a month!

Sharing food and cars and beer (not all at the same time) eventually brought the community close enough to start talking about hard topics. At a community dinner, one community member admitted that she had lost her job, and was facing foreclosure on her house because she was unable to make her mortgage payments. The community decided to work out an agreement to keep her in her house. The community agreed to rent the house from her, covering her mortgage payments, and in exchange she got to stay in the house and bake bread for everyone in the community, something she loved to do anyway, while she looked for another job. She also offered up an open room in her house as a bunk room, so people could come in live for free in exchange for doing community work, like WWOOFing. The community began accepting applications for people to live in the house for free in exchange for doing the work they were passionate about.

Some students from Concordia University and PCC Cascade, studying urban planning, permaculture, and engineering, heard about this opportunity and applied to their faculty sponsors to receive credit to work as interns, to apply their studies and ideas directly where they live.

One of the students was passionate about bikes and engineering, and offered to build the community a fleet of open-source hybrid electric tricycles, which are electric assist, able to carry groceries and other cargo, and can be weather enclosed so they are comfortable to ride in the Portland rain. They meet all legal standards of a bike. With $3000, one month’s surplus, he was able to build 4 of these, that the community can check out at any time. In addition, by then a few more neighbors had realized that they work near to each other, and had started carpooling to work. This, coupled with Getaround, made it so a few more folks could stop owning cars without compromising their transportation needs at all.

Now that there were significantly fewer cars on the block, the neighbors noticed that they had much more space to meet and play during their monthly community block parties. One of the students, studying city planning, proposed to the community the idea of a Street Vacation Permit- a legal permit that allows the residents of a neighborhood to close their shared street, and own it collectively in trust.

This permit costs $5000, but the community already had that money put away. It takes a lot of work, but the student volunteered to bottom-line the project for school credit. So they began the process, and began planning what they will do with their new communal space. One of their neighbors turned out to be an architect, and another turned out be a contractor, and so they work with the students to create a plan.

The plan closed the street to car traffic, and left 4 parking spaces on either side for community shared cars. It also left a single, 8 foot wide common area large enough for one car to drive down the middle, so that firetrucks and emergency vehicles could enter if necessary. A community kitchen was planned in the middle, with a bread/pizza oven, biogas stove, and beer brewing kettles. EPDM rubber was laid down over the pavement, since it was much cheaper than tearing up the concrete and allowed the neighborhood the option of changing their minds about closing the street. That left 400×32 feet, almost 13,000 square feet of community space, most of which was dedicated to growing food. The sides of the street were lined with gravel-filled beds that ebbed and flowed with water from aquaponics systems- symbiotic systems of plants and fish, which created a source of hyper local meat and fresh produce for the community. The edges of these beds served as community benches where people could gather and talk.

At 6 foot intervals along the street, guide poles were laid. Almost invisible during the summer, in the fall they allowed large bent metal poles to be installed easily, spanning the length of the street. These were covered with a reusable greenhouse sheeting. Installing the greenhouse every year took about a day, and so the community eventually made a festival out of it, celebrating the Fall Equinox on October 21st by raising the greenhouse during the day and eating underneath in the evening, celebrating the shelter and warmth it will provide during the rainy months. In the Spring, they had a festival for removing it in the spring, celebrating the return of the sun.

After having filed for multiple block party permits, the street vacation permit, and following all city and federal laws up to that point, the community was well known by the city government, and viewed as a model of urban sustainability. Now they had hit on something beyond they law, so, working with ReCode and the City of Portland, they installed the first communally owned neighborhood biodigester system, basing it on the new model of performance-based municipal code, as opposed to the outdated technology-based code model. This meant that as long as the system met and continued to meet the agreed upon standards for safety and performance, it could be based on any technology, quickening the pace off innovation and adoption.

The biodigester allowed for all of the neighborhood’s kitchen waste, food scraps, rotting fruit, and even food scraps from surrounding neighborhoods and restaurants to be converted by methanogenic bacteria into clean-burning methane fuel that could be substituted for natural gas. The effluent from the biodigester was simply water with dissolved nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous- a perfect liquid fertilizer! This allowed for the addition of even more aquaponic grow beds, and the production of more vegetables.

Once the biodigester was installed, one of the students hit on a novel approach to heating and lighting the greenhouse during the winter. A second hoop greenhouse was build over the first, with an air gap of 2 feet. The methane from the biodigester was piped through cheap gas lantern mantles, producing pure bright white light, clean CO2, and heat. As the sun went down during the winter, the light from the mantles extended the growing time for the plants by providing supplemental light. The CO2 coming out of the burning mantles passed through heat exchanging pipes within the greenhouse, cooling it down to room temperature while heating the greenhouse, and finally pumped through soapy water. This produced a fine, CO2-filled foam that filled the space between the two greenhouses. CO2 is a greenhouse gas that absorbs infrared light strongly. Water also absorbs IR very strongly, while the white foam reflects visible light. So the net effect was cheap artificial lighting that required no electricity and created an efficient insulation, all while processing the community’s solid waste into a useable fertilizer.


Since the students were working for credit, the community and their faculty advisors required them to show their work. The community required that all of the work the students did be made available for free to the whole world, using a decentralized system of information sharing called “Federated Wikis”- wiki’s that are hosted on servers that are decentralized all over the world, and automatically connect and reference each other when they are connected to the internet. So the project was extensively documented on a wiki page. The community installed a cheap, open-source Raspberry Pi microcontroller to monitor the inputs and outputs of the system- recording things like temperature, pressure, pH, flow volumes of influent and effluent, methane to carbon dioxide ratios, retention times etc. This micro-controller automatically updated data points to the wiki page in realtime, making it’s data available on the internet, along with specific designs, specifications, and materials lists so that anyone in the world could see the performance of the system and learn how to build it themselves and submit it to the same tests.

Due to the success of the project, several other groups from around the world decided to try and build the biodigester systems based on the community’s design. Naturally, each made adjustments based on new ideas, and make-shift adaptations due to the restraints of the materials they had around. It turned out that one of the groups, in India, made a novel design change that lowered the amount of electricity needed to pump water through the system, and another group, in Peru, happened to find that their culture of bacteria produced much more methane faster at the same temperature. They both linked their projects to the original project, so that people could now access not only the plans and performance data of the original biodigester, but the second iterations built by others, and compare their performance.

Back in Portland, the original neighborhood excitedly watched these developments. They could see the pictures and data from the other projects and compare them to their own, but the found that the team in India had written their documentation in Bengali, and the team in Peru had written their documentation in Spanish. Within 2 weeks, however, these projects had been automatically translated from their original languages into English, due to the use of an innovative platform called DuoLingo. DuoLingo is an online language-learning tool, that teaches language comprehension by giving students text to translate fro real-world sources. This harnessed the power of millions of language-learners around the world to translate these projects in every language, for free, while teaching people how to communicate better with other humans and keeping a diversity of languages alive in the face of an emerging global culture.

After the projects were translated, a fourth group was able to build on the new innovations and integrated the new culture of bacteria, and the new pump system, creating a new hybrid system that outperformed all the previous models.

This model of innovation was so successful, that communities around the world began using it to document their permaculture and sustainability projects, so that the entire world could easily find, replicate, share, modify, and improve them, all using standardized tests and measurements for performance, and rapidly being translated into every language. The federated wikis required to share this information, could be hosted and run on open-source Raspberry Pi’s- $30 micro computers that can be powered by solar or bicycle and connected to the internet at long range using shortwave radio.

In addition to federated wikis, the boxes also served as mesh-net routers, and hosted a federated social networking platform called *Diaspora. *Diaspora allows users to own their data, instead of selling it to Facebook, and it allows them to follow hashtags based on their specific interests. Using hashtags, users were then able to fill a social feed with projects from around then entire world, specifically tailored to their particular needs, interests, skills, and passions. It also allowed people with similar interests to find each other and collaborate on large projects by breaking up the R&D into small bits and each doing their part.

Projects could be replicated, and result compared. Improvements could be iterated, and claims could be confirmed. Like open source software, only techniques that had had their performance claims confirmed by independent groups were considered “Stable”. Techniques that had not been substantiated or replicated were considered “Experimental”.

The students leading these groups found that by documenting their work and making it open-source for the entire world to see, review, and replicate, they had recreated peer review in a form that was accessible to all people on earth, free of the for-profit University and Journal systems. The students found that since their work and achievements were immediately available on the internet, they could reference them as proof of mastery of skills and concepts, from engineering, to programming, to construction and design. They found that these documented projects reflected their applied knowledge and skills better than the outdated model of resumes and degrees, and they began pursuing projects as a form of education and reputation building, educating themselves and building careers outside of the debt-based education system.

The interns and students, since they had no other jobs, began engaging the children from the neighborhood in community problem solving as a form of education, using the challenges facing the community as projects and challenging them to apply their learned concepts critically. Children and teenagers, with unlimited access to the internet, were encourage to research problems on their own, and come up with their own solutions. The student mentors did not need to be experts, but simply guides to help the children find and utilize the information needed to problem-solve.

During one of these projects, one of the teenagers in the neighborhood, who was interested in programming, realized that once the data points from several technologies were established and confirmed, it was possible to model the performance of the systems in computer simulations. Just as she had observed in the aquaponics system that fed the neighborhood, the outflows of one system could always be made the inflows of another. By using maximization algorithms, she was able to find out the most efficient combinations of all the open-source technologies on the world-wide federated wiki network and discover new ways to fit them together in continuous cycles, creating plug and play, regenerating ecosystems designed to meet the specific human needs of any community and environment, entirely eliminating the concept of waste.

This led to a worldwide open-source innovation revolution, where the performance of all new micro-scale innovations were documented in a standardized format, and added to a database, with which users could simulate the performance of different combinations of techniques, that would utilize the flows of energy they had in abundance (solar energy, water, wind, decomposition, etc) and use them to drive ecosystems that met all of the needs of the community. Open-source laser sintering 3D printers that could print in metal, glass, ceramic, plastic, and graphene became widely available, allowing for specialized parts for systems could be fabricated immediately in every community, and new, improved parts, were constantly available for download, much like software updates are now.

Innovation on this scale allowed for the utilization of the vast resources of human ingenuity to tackle local problems and generate many different solutions. The computer simulations of the combinations of these solutions closed the gap of linear consumption, and ended the incentives to participate in linear consumption that did not feed resources back into the community. These naturally regenerating cycles created an abundance of food, clean water, energy, information, and technology, allowing the Earth to sustain a high standard of living for all 9 billion of it’s human inhabitants. The open-source model of innovation led to a global sense of brotherhood, since each community gifted it’s solutions in good faith, without forcing their ideologies or assumptions on any other community.

This innovation liberated 9 billion thinking, dancing, loving, exploring, laughing, striving human beings to spend their time exploring their connections with each other, the natural world, their own consciousness, and the things that sparked their passions, ending the age of competition and beginning the next chapter in the never-ending story of the evolution of consciousness.