Olduvaiblog: Musings on the coming collapse

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April 9, 2013 ‘Signs’

Signs of collapse?

013I came across the pictured ‘sign’ on the way to dropping one of my daughter’s off at a friend’s house this past weekend and while it may not be an obvious indication of the coming societal collapse it portends to the poor planning that often accompanies complex (and not so complex) projects.

Some twenty-five years ago I witnessed a similar planning fiasco in my native London, Ontario, where a bike path was placed beside a busy east-west corridor; the only problem for cyclists was that there were posts located in the middle of the path every so often.

More recently, I wrote about a related incident in which a number of young trees were planted along a major north-south route in York Region, Ninth Line (see this) only to be removed and discarded a number of months later to lay a gas pipeline in the ground.

A conspiratorial view would be that such ‘miscalculations’ are actually planned to extend the work required and, thereby, increase the costs/profits. Others might contend that such events are an unintended consequence of positive changes; some things need to be ‘destroyed’ in order to ‘create’, similar to the ‘broken window’ fallacy that suggests an economy can be lifted through ‘creative destruction’ (this is the unfortunate view some warmongers also hold).

A major concern, however, should be the amount of energy wasted through such incidents. It’s bad enough that we are rapidly depleting precious, nonrenewable resources through major construction projects that ignore many of the long-term conundrums we are rapidly rushing towards. We are seeing massive infrastructure projects that continue to be based upon a belief that our current transportation systems are also the way of the future. Nothing is likely to be further from the truth (see this and this).


I often believe we are ‘pushing in the wrong direction’ as Donella Meadows laments in Thinking in Systems: A Primer: “…a clear leverage point:  growth. Not only population growth, but economic growth. Growth has costs as well as benefits and we typically don’t count the costs—among which are poverty and hunger, environmental destruction and so on—the whole list of problems we are trying to solve with growth! What is needed is much slower growth, very different kinds of growth and in some cases no growth or negative growth.The world leaders are correctly fixated on growth as the answer to all problems, but they’re pushing with all their might in the wrong direction,…leverage points are frequently not intuitive. Or if they are, we too often use them backward, systematically worsening whatever problems we are trying to solve” (emphasis added).

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