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Peak Oil: “Show-Stoppers” – Peak Oil Matters

Peak Oil: “Show-Stoppers” – Peak Oil Matters.

IMGP1122_Watermarked

Freshly fracked wells sent U.S. oil production soaring 39 percent since 2011. That’s the steepest climb in history, and if production continues apace, the U.S. would become the world’s biggest source of oil by 2015, according to the U.S. Energy Information  Administration.

Rapid well declines threaten to spoil that promise. The average flow from a shale gas well drops by about 50 percent to 75 percent in the first year, and up to 78 percent for oil, said Pete Stark, senior research director at IHS Inc.
‘The decline rate is a potential show stopper after a while,’ said Stark, a geologist with almost six decades in the oil patch. ‘You just can’t keep up with it.’ [1]

That’s an interesting comment, given that the company Mr. Stark works for is more commonly known for its sunny optimism about our future fossil fuel supply.

FRACKING ISN’T FREE OR EASY

The reality is that rapid decline rates are a common feature of fracked wells. Drilling faster, more, and at higher costs just to keep pace with current production is not exactly a winning strategy. Higher costs for them are supported by the higher costs we pay. At some point, consumers balk, and when they do, there goes a lot of investable funds for more production. Then what?

The article from which that quote was sourced describes some of the admittedly-fascinating overview of the artificial intelligence systems now being considered—and it some cases already deployed—to improve the drill results from fracking (the hydraulic fracturing of shale in order to facilitate the flow of “tight” oil trapped in those rocks.) The article notes that “four out of every 10 clusters of fractures in an average horizontal well are duds.” Given that each well can cost millions of dollars, much more than wells drilled in conventional crude oil fields, that can be a problem.

AN UNSPOKEN CHALLENGE OR TWO

The use of fiber-optics and 3D seismic imaging are among the technological advances now being used to aid scientists “scientists see and hear what’s going on two miles underground.”

An executive of Schlumberger Ltd is quoted in this same article announcing that the combination of their own scientists’ expertise with the “U-ROC” software program “has led to an almost 30 percent increase in production in some wells in the Eagle Ford [TX].”

An official from another petroleum company that after collaborating with Halliburton and using a “science-based approach,” his company’s “shares doubled in the five months after” a conference call with investors.

If that’s not enough good news, by last summer the company enjoyed its “best-ever results” in the shale formations of western Texas’ Permian Basis, “and that it was‘among the best’ among its competitors at that location. The improvements were attributed in part, as a spokesman noted, to the company’s “own internal efforts to pump more time and money into the science of drilling and production.”

A LOOK AT THE UNSPOKEN

Improved performance is improved performance. But for those of us interested in how depleting and finite fossil fuel resources—with a healthy concern that technology and economics will continue to make extraction and production feasible to begin with—will keep up with demand in the years ahead, the doubling of a company’s shares, “an almost 30 percent increase in production in some wells,” being “among the best,” and pumping “more time and money into the science of drilling and production” suggests that all is not well in Oil Production Land.

That’s precisely what those of us concerned about peak oil continue to stress to listeners and readers.

It’s probably safe to assume that none of those efforts or the technologies employed are inexpensive. It’s also a certainty that whatever costs are associated with developing, testing, supplying, and using those impressive advances get passed on to consumers.

The impressive technologies now in play, with their higher costs, to locate and produce a product harder-to-come-by and not of the same quality as the conventional crude oil we’ve used to power our civilization for more than a century all point to the fact that we clearly can no longer rely on Business As Usual in oil production itself and fossil fuel usage by all of us.

Taking a bit of a detour in the headlong pursuit of ever more expensive technologies in order to plan for what happens in years to come when that resource just doesn’t do what we all need it to do; or devote more resources to the alternatives which will be needed when it makes little sense to continue the fossil fuel chase; or even provide more information to the public now so that they can get into the game doesn’t seem all that unreasonable, does it?

~ My Photo: Corona del Mar, CA – 02.16.18

The Creation of Society’s Shared Hallucinations | Humanity’s Test

The Creation of Society’s Shared Hallucinations | Humanity’s Test.

Posted on February 28, 2014 by rboyd

 This is another of my draft chapters from the book, “Schizophrenic Society”, that I am working on. Please feel free to provide editorial feedback.

Since the advent of the printing press and general literacy, media organizations have constructed parallel realities for the general populace. Radio and silent films, followed by “talking pictures” and television went further by creating artificial worlds that can be seen and heard in the same way that the real world is perceived. The human mind  evolved in an environment with no access to such artificial worlds and thus even though a person may know that these worlds are not real their brain will in many ways treat such worlds as if they were. For example, a 1938 radio program in the United States depicting an alien invasion lead many to believe that there really was such an invasion taking place1.

Many psychologists have noticed the similarities between the mental state of dreaming and that of watching television or a movie2. Such a mental state bypasses some of the conscious mechanisms that people utilize to judge between reality and artificial representations, thus making them more susceptible to internalizing media output as if it were real. There have been many documented cases where the media has been shown to affect social reality, from the media emphasis on below-average sized women3 to the extensive usage of violence4 and the objectification of women5. Gerrig6 proposes that there is in fact no clean delineation in a person’s mind between the real and the artificial, with social reality being a combined construct of real world and media experiences.

Thus, media output acts in the same way as the images created by the mind of a hallucinating individual. Not being able to distinguish between the real and the imagined, the individual integrates the two into his conception of reality. The advent of computer games, with the individual transformed into an active participant within the game, only intensifies the challenges to the brain’s ability to assess what is truly real and what is only an artificial illusion. In many cases gamers even prefer their artificial existence to their real one. The same has been noted of participants in the Second Life artificial world.

As societies have grown in size and complexity, and the “local” has become highly integrated with other geographical areas, the individual has become more and more reliant upon the media to provide the information and conceptual structures with which to make sense of the larger world. This reality was captured vividly by Walter Lippman, “Inevitably our opinions cover a bigger space, a longer reach of time, a greater number of things, than we can directly observe. They have, therefore, to be pieced together out of what others have reported and what we can imagine.”7 Thus individuals rely upon the predominant media sources, such as television and film, to both inform them of events and general cultural trends, and help them construct the conceptual frameworks required to understand their meaning and importance. As Lippman noted, “The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he does not experience is the feeling aroused by his mental image of that event”7, and that mental image is heavily dependent upon the medias depiction of it.

With the power to directly affect the social reality through which individuals make sense of the world, and to decide what events and issues individuals should be made aware of, the media is a central force in the creation of the ruling societal discourse. In a fully working democracy one would expect extensive regulations and oversight to make sure that a great diversity of groups have fair access to media outlets and that such outlets represent a diversity of opinions. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the media industry has become dominated by large private corporations funded by advertising revenue, together with government-funded organizations. Thus, unlike an individual’s hallucinations, the media-created hallucinations are consciously produced predominantly for material gain, or under political constraints.

As Herman and Chomsky have pointed out8, with the advertising revenue model media groups become vehicles to sell things to consumers, rather than the independent purveyors of information about the wider world. Anything that gets in the way of ongoing consumption, and thus the success of advertisements focused on increasing that consumption, will reduce the attractiveness of individual media organizations to the corporations paying for the advertisements. The issues of Climate Change, Peak Resources, and Ecological Degradation are certainly not ones that serve to increase an  individual’s consumption habits. In addition, a greater awareness and understanding of such things could lead to political action to force changes directly upon corporations. If media organizations started to focus heavily on such matters they would be “biting the hand that feeds them”, and thus a high degree of self-censorship would be expected. In many cases advertisers are also directly involved in the process of selecting and developing programs (hence the term “soap operas” which were at first funded by soap companies), allowing them to filter out any “problematic” subjects and themes.

Private media organizations may also be constrained by the need to maintain government licenses, and access for their staff to government officials. In addition, such groups may also want to keep good relationships with the government as they work to reduce regulatory restrictions and grow through mergers and acquisitions that require government approval. Government departments may also offer beneficial support through access to knowledgeable staff and expensive resources for media productions that further their aims. For example, the military have given significant support to television program, film, and even computer game productions that show them in a positive light9,10,11. They can also severely constrain what they see as “bad” reporting, as shown by the embedded journalist program during the Iraqi war, which was designed to eradicate the extensive negative journalism (from the U.S. government’s point of view) seen during the Vietnam war.

With the purchase of media organizations by non-media companies, such as General Electric, and Sony, there is also the increasing problem of not wanting to negatively effect other parts of the conglomerate. In the case of G.E., that may include staying away from contentious stories on nuclear power, the efficacy of mammogram machines, military spending, and foreign arms sales. As media organizations have been allowed to consolidate into massive global corporations focused on growing revenue and profits they also become part of the wealthy and powerful elites. Too much focus on the shortcomings of the economic and social system within which they have flourished, and too heavy a positive coverage of alternatives, would be threatening to their own future prospects.

Overall, the media groups that create our shared hallucinations will tend to be very conservative, protecting the economic and social environment within which they have thrived. This will be reinforced by both the corporations who pay for advertising space and governmental organizations. As humanity’s destruction of the environment continues apace, and becomes more and more visible, these media groups could be expected to work harder to protect the status quo and ignore or downplay inconvenient facts and occurrences. In this light, reductions in staffing and coverage of climate change by media organizations, while the impacts and science become more irrefutable, could be seen as quite logical actions.

In 2013 the TV evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC in the United States covered climate change for a joint one hour and forty two minutes, an improvement over 2012 but still below the 2009 level12. Media groups have also tended to report on weather events as stand-alone occurrences without mentioning climate change13,14. A number of media groups have also significantly reduced the number of journalists covering environmental issues in recent years15,16,17. In addition, a false sense of balance has been used to give climate deniers much more airtime than their representation with the scientific community, less than 5%, would warrant18,19,20, and one news agency has even appointed a “climate skeptic” as its managing editor21. Coverage of climate issues has also predominantly relied upon the use of politicians and social scientists, rather than providing an avenue for scientists to communicate their concerns and findings directly to the public.

The fundamental problem with issues such as Climate Change and Ecological Degradation is that they stem from a core problem, the exponential growth of human demands upon the earth, and thus the only solution is an end to that growth. With the industrialized human societies having spent the past two centuries developing a tight fit to the exponential growth facilitated by fossil fuels, an end to that growth will require wrenching changes to how those societies are structured and operate. Such changes, while producing great concern to the general populace, will be extremely threatening to those that have succeeded under the current societal arrangements. These are the rich and powerful that have most control over media organizations, as well as other determinants of social reality such as the school system and the workplace. To help affect the creation of social reality in their favor, they have created many so-called “independent” think-tanks, and hired public relations groups, to help create a perception of uncertainty on subjects such as climate change and to gain more access for skeptics to the media22,23.

Just as it may have made sense for the Mayan elites to call for more sacrifices to forestall their societies downfall, rather than accept the reality in front of them, it may make sense for the current elites to call for the magic of the “invisible hand” of economics and the wonders of human technology, rather than accept the current reality that so threatens their own wealth and privileges. The longer they practice such conscious ignorance, the more they stand to be accused and attacked, the more such ignorance will be seen as beneficial. Once the media spell is broken, and the duplicity of the elites understood, the wrath of the general populace may be truly horrific. The search for others to “pin the blame on”, and ongoing extensions to the means to monitor and control society, are completely rational actions in this context. If even the members of the police and armed forces come to blame the elites for not taking the actions required to stave off calamity though, nothing may save the rich and powerful from a brutal denouement.

Hence the desperate need to keep control of the construction of social reality, and have the general population live in a mental world made up more of misleading hallucinations than actual reality. Such a state can be maintained for lengthy periods of time, as has been the case with the North Korean population who have for decades existed in a social reality more made up of fantasy than reality. Many commentators also give significant weighting to the inability of the East German authorities to block the television signals from the much more prosperous West Germany in undermining the basis of the communist state. Those that consider the internet to be a democratizing antidote to media concentration and control both misunderstand the ongoing concentration within media 24,25,26 on the internet, and the ability of authorities to block sources they find threatening. Also, as has been shown by the details provided by such whistle-blowers as Snowdon27, our new connected age may make the tracking of dissident opinion-formers much easier for the authorities.

References

  1. Lovgren, Stefan (2005), War of the Worlds: Behind the 1938 Radio Show Panic.Accessed athttp://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_warworlds.html

2.     Rieber, Robert & Kelly, Robert (2014), Film, television and the psychology of thesocial dream, Springer.

3.     Stice, Eric & Shaw, Heather (1994), Adverse Effects of the Media Portrayed ThinIdeal on Women and Linkages to Bulimic Symtomatology, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 1994 13.3.288.

4.     Dill, Karen (2009), How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence,Oxford University Press

5.     Berberick, Stephanie Nicholl (2010), The Objectification of Women in Mass Media:Female Self Image in Misogynyst Society, Volume 5 2010.

6.     Shanahan, James (1999), Television and its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research, Cambridge University Press.

7.    Lippman, Walter (2012), Public Opinion, Dover Publications

8.   Herman, Edward & Chomsky, Noam (1988), Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books

9.   n/a (2006), U.S. Military Helps Create Hollywood Films On War and Warriors,PBSNewshour. Accessed at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment-july-dec06-hollywood_10-06/

10.   Rose, Steve (2009), The US military storm hollywood, The Guardian. Accessed athttp://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/jul/06/us-military-hollywood

11.  Zakarin, Jordan (2012), ‘Act of Valor’ And The Military’s Long Hollywood Mission,Huffington Post. Accessed at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/act-of-valor-military-hollywood_n_1284338.html

12.   Santhanam, Laura (2014), STUDY: How Broadcast News Covered Climate ChangeIn The Last Five Years, Media Matters. Accessed athttp://mediamatters.org/research/2014/01/16/study-how-broadcast-news-covered-climate-change/197612

13.  Fitzsimmons, Jill & Theel, Shauna (2013), STUDY: Media Ignore Climate ChangeContext of Midwest Floods, Accessed athttp://mediamatters.org/research/2013/05/07/study-media-ignore-climate-context-of-midwest-f/193936

14.  n/a (2013), TV News and Extreme Weather, Don’t Mention Climate Change, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. Accessed at http://fair.org/press-release/tv-news-and-extreme-weather-dont-mention-climate-change/

15.  Bagley, Katherine (2013), New York Times Dismantles Its Environment Desk,InsideClimate News. Accessed at http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130111/new-york-   times-dismantles-environmental-desk-journalism-fracking-climate-change-science-global-warming-economy

16.  Ward, Bill (2013), New York Times Cuts Back Again: Farewell to Green Blog,TheYale Forum on Climate Change and the Media. Accessed athttp://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2013/03/new-york-times-cuts-back-again-farewell-to-green-blog/

17.  Brainard, Curtis (2008), CNN Cuts Entire Science, Tech Team, ColumbiaJournalism Review. Accessed athttp://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/cnn_cuts_entire_science_tech_t.php?page=all

18.  Nucitelli, Dana (2013), Conservative media outlets found guilty of biased globalwarming coverage, The Guardian. Accessed athttp://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/oct/11/climate-change-political-media-ipcc-coverage

19.  Valentine, Katie (2013), Britain Cuts Environment Staff As BBC Comes Under FireFor Giving Airtime to Climate Deniers, Climate Progress. Accessed athttp://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/28/2847831/britain-environment-staff-bbc/#

20.  Hartman, Thom (2014), The Mainstream Medias Criminal Climate Coverage,TruthOut. Accessed at http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22123-the-mainstream-medias-criminal-climate-coverage

21.  Robbins, Denise (2014), Report: Reuters Climate Change Coverage Continues ToDecline Under Skeptic Editor, Media Matters for America. Accessed athttp://mediamatters.org/research/2014/02/26/report-reuters-climate-coverage-continues-to-de/198220

22.  Bagley, Katherine (2013), Climate Skeptic Groups Launch Global Anti-ScienceCampaign, Bloomberg. Accessed at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-19/climate-skeptic-groups-launch-global-anti-science-campaign.html

23.  Goldenberg, Suzanne (2013), Secret funding helped fund vast network of climatedenial thinktank, The Guardian. Accessed at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/14/funding-climate-change-denial-thinktanks-network

24.     n/a (2010), Media Concentration Around the World: Empirical Studies, Columbia University. Accessed at http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/citi/events/mediacon2010

25.     Noam, Eli M. (2013), Who Owns the World Media?, Columbia Business School. Accessed at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2242670

26.  Hindman, Matthew (2008), The Myth of Digital Democracy, Princeton University  Press

27.     n/a (2014), Snowden: Missions already accomplishedAl Jazeera. Accessed at http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/24/snowden-mission-salreadyaccomplished.html

The Creation of Society’s Shared Hallucinations | Humanity's Test

The Creation of Society’s Shared Hallucinations | Humanity’s Test.

Posted on February 28, 2014 by rboyd

 This is another of my draft chapters from the book, “Schizophrenic Society”, that I am working on. Please feel free to provide editorial feedback.

Since the advent of the printing press and general literacy, media organizations have constructed parallel realities for the general populace. Radio and silent films, followed by “talking pictures” and television went further by creating artificial worlds that can be seen and heard in the same way that the real world is perceived. The human mind  evolved in an environment with no access to such artificial worlds and thus even though a person may know that these worlds are not real their brain will in many ways treat such worlds as if they were. For example, a 1938 radio program in the United States depicting an alien invasion lead many to believe that there really was such an invasion taking place1.

Many psychologists have noticed the similarities between the mental state of dreaming and that of watching television or a movie2. Such a mental state bypasses some of the conscious mechanisms that people utilize to judge between reality and artificial representations, thus making them more susceptible to internalizing media output as if it were real. There have been many documented cases where the media has been shown to affect social reality, from the media emphasis on below-average sized women3 to the extensive usage of violence4 and the objectification of women5. Gerrig6 proposes that there is in fact no clean delineation in a person’s mind between the real and the artificial, with social reality being a combined construct of real world and media experiences.

Thus, media output acts in the same way as the images created by the mind of a hallucinating individual. Not being able to distinguish between the real and the imagined, the individual integrates the two into his conception of reality. The advent of computer games, with the individual transformed into an active participant within the game, only intensifies the challenges to the brain’s ability to assess what is truly real and what is only an artificial illusion. In many cases gamers even prefer their artificial existence to their real one. The same has been noted of participants in the Second Life artificial world.

As societies have grown in size and complexity, and the “local” has become highly integrated with other geographical areas, the individual has become more and more reliant upon the media to provide the information and conceptual structures with which to make sense of the larger world. This reality was captured vividly by Walter Lippman, “Inevitably our opinions cover a bigger space, a longer reach of time, a greater number of things, than we can directly observe. They have, therefore, to be pieced together out of what others have reported and what we can imagine.”7 Thus individuals rely upon the predominant media sources, such as television and film, to both inform them of events and general cultural trends, and help them construct the conceptual frameworks required to understand their meaning and importance. As Lippman noted, “The only feeling that anyone can have about an event he does not experience is the feeling aroused by his mental image of that event”7, and that mental image is heavily dependent upon the medias depiction of it.

With the power to directly affect the social reality through which individuals make sense of the world, and to decide what events and issues individuals should be made aware of, the media is a central force in the creation of the ruling societal discourse. In a fully working democracy one would expect extensive regulations and oversight to make sure that a great diversity of groups have fair access to media outlets and that such outlets represent a diversity of opinions. Unfortunately, this is not the case as the media industry has become dominated by large private corporations funded by advertising revenue, together with government-funded organizations. Thus, unlike an individual’s hallucinations, the media-created hallucinations are consciously produced predominantly for material gain, or under political constraints.

As Herman and Chomsky have pointed out8, with the advertising revenue model media groups become vehicles to sell things to consumers, rather than the independent purveyors of information about the wider world. Anything that gets in the way of ongoing consumption, and thus the success of advertisements focused on increasing that consumption, will reduce the attractiveness of individual media organizations to the corporations paying for the advertisements. The issues of Climate Change, Peak Resources, and Ecological Degradation are certainly not ones that serve to increase an  individual’s consumption habits. In addition, a greater awareness and understanding of such things could lead to political action to force changes directly upon corporations. If media organizations started to focus heavily on such matters they would be “biting the hand that feeds them”, and thus a high degree of self-censorship would be expected. In many cases advertisers are also directly involved in the process of selecting and developing programs (hence the term “soap operas” which were at first funded by soap companies), allowing them to filter out any “problematic” subjects and themes.

Private media organizations may also be constrained by the need to maintain government licenses, and access for their staff to government officials. In addition, such groups may also want to keep good relationships with the government as they work to reduce regulatory restrictions and grow through mergers and acquisitions that require government approval. Government departments may also offer beneficial support through access to knowledgeable staff and expensive resources for media productions that further their aims. For example, the military have given significant support to television program, film, and even computer game productions that show them in a positive light9,10,11. They can also severely constrain what they see as “bad” reporting, as shown by the embedded journalist program during the Iraqi war, which was designed to eradicate the extensive negative journalism (from the U.S. government’s point of view) seen during the Vietnam war.

With the purchase of media organizations by non-media companies, such as General Electric, and Sony, there is also the increasing problem of not wanting to negatively effect other parts of the conglomerate. In the case of G.E., that may include staying away from contentious stories on nuclear power, the efficacy of mammogram machines, military spending, and foreign arms sales. As media organizations have been allowed to consolidate into massive global corporations focused on growing revenue and profits they also become part of the wealthy and powerful elites. Too much focus on the shortcomings of the economic and social system within which they have flourished, and too heavy a positive coverage of alternatives, would be threatening to their own future prospects.

Overall, the media groups that create our shared hallucinations will tend to be very conservative, protecting the economic and social environment within which they have thrived. This will be reinforced by both the corporations who pay for advertising space and governmental organizations. As humanity’s destruction of the environment continues apace, and becomes more and more visible, these media groups could be expected to work harder to protect the status quo and ignore or downplay inconvenient facts and occurrences. In this light, reductions in staffing and coverage of climate change by media organizations, while the impacts and science become more irrefutable, could be seen as quite logical actions.

In 2013 the TV evening news broadcasts of ABC, CBS, and NBC in the United States covered climate change for a joint one hour and forty two minutes, an improvement over 2012 but still below the 2009 level12. Media groups have also tended to report on weather events as stand-alone occurrences without mentioning climate change13,14. A number of media groups have also significantly reduced the number of journalists covering environmental issues in recent years15,16,17. In addition, a false sense of balance has been used to give climate deniers much more airtime than their representation with the scientific community, less than 5%, would warrant18,19,20, and one news agency has even appointed a “climate skeptic” as its managing editor21. Coverage of climate issues has also predominantly relied upon the use of politicians and social scientists, rather than providing an avenue for scientists to communicate their concerns and findings directly to the public.

The fundamental problem with issues such as Climate Change and Ecological Degradation is that they stem from a core problem, the exponential growth of human demands upon the earth, and thus the only solution is an end to that growth. With the industrialized human societies having spent the past two centuries developing a tight fit to the exponential growth facilitated by fossil fuels, an end to that growth will require wrenching changes to how those societies are structured and operate. Such changes, while producing great concern to the general populace, will be extremely threatening to those that have succeeded under the current societal arrangements. These are the rich and powerful that have most control over media organizations, as well as other determinants of social reality such as the school system and the workplace. To help affect the creation of social reality in their favor, they have created many so-called “independent” think-tanks, and hired public relations groups, to help create a perception of uncertainty on subjects such as climate change and to gain more access for skeptics to the media22,23.

Just as it may have made sense for the Mayan elites to call for more sacrifices to forestall their societies downfall, rather than accept the reality in front of them, it may make sense for the current elites to call for the magic of the “invisible hand” of economics and the wonders of human technology, rather than accept the current reality that so threatens their own wealth and privileges. The longer they practice such conscious ignorance, the more they stand to be accused and attacked, the more such ignorance will be seen as beneficial. Once the media spell is broken, and the duplicity of the elites understood, the wrath of the general populace may be truly horrific. The search for others to “pin the blame on”, and ongoing extensions to the means to monitor and control society, are completely rational actions in this context. If even the members of the police and armed forces come to blame the elites for not taking the actions required to stave off calamity though, nothing may save the rich and powerful from a brutal denouement.

Hence the desperate need to keep control of the construction of social reality, and have the general population live in a mental world made up more of misleading hallucinations than actual reality. Such a state can be maintained for lengthy periods of time, as has been the case with the North Korean population who have for decades existed in a social reality more made up of fantasy than reality. Many commentators also give significant weighting to the inability of the East German authorities to block the television signals from the much more prosperous West Germany in undermining the basis of the communist state. Those that consider the internet to be a democratizing antidote to media concentration and control both misunderstand the ongoing concentration within media 24,25,26 on the internet, and the ability of authorities to block sources they find threatening. Also, as has been shown by the details provided by such whistle-blowers as Snowdon27, our new connected age may make the tracking of dissident opinion-formers much easier for the authorities.

References

  1. Lovgren, Stefan (2005), War of the Worlds: Behind the 1938 Radio Show Panic.Accessed athttp://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/06/0617_050617_warworlds.html

2.     Rieber, Robert & Kelly, Robert (2014), Film, television and the psychology of thesocial dream, Springer.

3.     Stice, Eric & Shaw, Heather (1994), Adverse Effects of the Media Portrayed ThinIdeal on Women and Linkages to Bulimic Symtomatology, Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology 1994 13.3.288.

4.     Dill, Karen (2009), How Fantasy Becomes Reality: Seeing Through Media Influence,Oxford University Press

5.     Berberick, Stephanie Nicholl (2010), The Objectification of Women in Mass Media:Female Self Image in Misogynyst Society, Volume 5 2010.

6.     Shanahan, James (1999), Television and its Viewers: Cultivation Theory and Research, Cambridge University Press.

7.    Lippman, Walter (2012), Public Opinion, Dover Publications

8.   Herman, Edward & Chomsky, Noam (1988), Manufacturing Consent, Pantheon Books

9.   n/a (2006), U.S. Military Helps Create Hollywood Films On War and Warriors,PBSNewshour. Accessed at http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/entertainment-july-dec06-hollywood_10-06/

10.   Rose, Steve (2009), The US military storm hollywood, The Guardian. Accessed athttp://www.theguardian.com/film/2009/jul/06/us-military-hollywood

11.  Zakarin, Jordan (2012), ‘Act of Valor’ And The Military’s Long Hollywood Mission,Huffington Post. Accessed at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/17/act-of-valor-military-hollywood_n_1284338.html

12.   Santhanam, Laura (2014), STUDY: How Broadcast News Covered Climate ChangeIn The Last Five Years, Media Matters. Accessed athttp://mediamatters.org/research/2014/01/16/study-how-broadcast-news-covered-climate-change/197612

13.  Fitzsimmons, Jill & Theel, Shauna (2013), STUDY: Media Ignore Climate ChangeContext of Midwest Floods, Accessed athttp://mediamatters.org/research/2013/05/07/study-media-ignore-climate-context-of-midwest-f/193936

14.  n/a (2013), TV News and Extreme Weather, Don’t Mention Climate Change, Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting. Accessed at http://fair.org/press-release/tv-news-and-extreme-weather-dont-mention-climate-change/

15.  Bagley, Katherine (2013), New York Times Dismantles Its Environment Desk,InsideClimate News. Accessed at http://insideclimatenews.org/news/20130111/new-york-   times-dismantles-environmental-desk-journalism-fracking-climate-change-science-global-warming-economy

16.  Ward, Bill (2013), New York Times Cuts Back Again: Farewell to Green Blog,TheYale Forum on Climate Change and the Media. Accessed athttp://www.yaleclimatemediaforum.org/2013/03/new-york-times-cuts-back-again-farewell-to-green-blog/

17.  Brainard, Curtis (2008), CNN Cuts Entire Science, Tech Team, ColumbiaJournalism Review. Accessed athttp://www.cjr.org/the_observatory/cnn_cuts_entire_science_tech_t.php?page=all

18.  Nucitelli, Dana (2013), Conservative media outlets found guilty of biased globalwarming coverage, The Guardian. Accessed athttp://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2013/oct/11/climate-change-political-media-ipcc-coverage

19.  Valentine, Katie (2013), Britain Cuts Environment Staff As BBC Comes Under FireFor Giving Airtime to Climate Deniers, Climate Progress. Accessed athttp://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/10/28/2847831/britain-environment-staff-bbc/#

20.  Hartman, Thom (2014), The Mainstream Medias Criminal Climate Coverage,TruthOut. Accessed at http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/22123-the-mainstream-medias-criminal-climate-coverage

21.  Robbins, Denise (2014), Report: Reuters Climate Change Coverage Continues ToDecline Under Skeptic Editor, Media Matters for America. Accessed athttp://mediamatters.org/research/2014/02/26/report-reuters-climate-coverage-continues-to-de/198220

22.  Bagley, Katherine (2013), Climate Skeptic Groups Launch Global Anti-ScienceCampaign, Bloomberg. Accessed at http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-19/climate-skeptic-groups-launch-global-anti-science-campaign.html

23.  Goldenberg, Suzanne (2013), Secret funding helped fund vast network of climatedenial thinktank, The Guardian. Accessed at http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/feb/14/funding-climate-change-denial-thinktanks-network

24.     n/a (2010), Media Concentration Around the World: Empirical Studies, Columbia University. Accessed at http://www8.gsb.columbia.edu/citi/events/mediacon2010

25.     Noam, Eli M. (2013), Who Owns the World Media?, Columbia Business School. Accessed at http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2242670

26.  Hindman, Matthew (2008), The Myth of Digital Democracy, Princeton University  Press

27.     n/a (2014), Snowden: Missions already accomplishedAl Jazeera. Accessed at http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2013/12/24/snowden-mission-salreadyaccomplished.html

Hell in a Hand Basket and Why We’re Going There, Guaranteed (sort of)

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

[My love of music has me suggesting that a song be played in the background while you’re reading this. There are a couple I’d like to suggest: Talking Heads-Nothing but Flowers; Blue Rodeo-Lost Together (must have some Canadian content); or, given the Ukraine/Syria/Iran/North Korea/Venezuela/Congo African Republic/Senkaku-Daiyou Islands/etc. situations, Frankie Goes to Hollywood-Two Tribes. Enjoy:)]

The ebb and flow of societies is well documented by historians and archaeologists. It seems every society rises in complexity to a zenith of some kind and then falls. There are an increasing number of people who contend that this sociopolitical transformation is fast-approaching for our globalised, industrial civilization, and of those some believe that this shift will be a long drawn out affair of slow decline[i], while others suggest it may be more of a sudden shift[ii], or collapse[iii].

Whether this change takes generations or is much more sudden and dramatic matters not (unless you’re living through the latter one, I suppose); one’s perception of this depends upon the temporal perspective taken. For example, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the oil-dependent, industrialized society of humans lasts 400 years, 200 years up and 200 years down (I think I’m being overly generous here on the demise side).

A 200-year decline may, given normalcy bias, not be perceived as a significant shift at all by those experiencing it. However, if we can step back and view this rise and fall in larger historical terms, say on a 10,000-year basis, this ascent/descent scenario may be perceived as quick and calamitous. I think perspective is everything here. (Note that I’ll continue to refer to the impending change as ‘collapse’ because I tend to believe the change will come quickly, especially once the power grid fails.)

That being said, the antecedents of such collapse are varied and complex. They range from declining marginal returns[iv] to environmental collapse[v] to psychological shifts[vi] to overshooting local carrying capacity[vii] to Peak Oil[viii] to population growth[ix]. Humans don’t require artificial intelligence that perceives us as a threat, a viral pandemic leading to a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion for our resources to push us over the cliff; we don’t even need a nuclear war. We have our own non-military, sociocultural peculiarities to accomplish it.

As with any complex, dynamical system, the variables that lead to collapse interact in ways both knowable and surprising (such are the emergent phenomenon that arise from complex systems). Feedback that might provide clues to the coming demise tends to be ignored, delayed, or misinterpreted, resulting in dismissal of clear signals. In fact, oftentimes, the actions taken by players can expedite the process of collapse. To this end, I believe that our economic system, with globalisation efforts and its underlying foundation of infinite growth, may be the catalyst that pushes our industrial civilisation over the impending cliff of collapse. But, who really knows? My guess is about as good as anybody else’s[x].

What are some of the components contributing to this collapse endgame? I offer a few: exponential growth of population; dependency on fossil fuels; human hubris; economic credit/debt obligations; climate change; peak resources (especially oil and water); delayed feedback; corrupt political/economic systems; misperceptions; accumulation of toxins/pollutants; misleading information; and just plain, old ignorance (some purposeful I believe). And, don’t forget the black swans.

To me, population growth seems to be the factor that we have pushed in the wrong direction but the underlying variable to this is energy. Populations do not grow if there is not enough energy to support such growth. This energy may take the form of domesticated animal and plant life, or long-stored, concentrated energy (i.e. fossil fuels), but at its base is solar energy and how it is exploited. For tens of thousands of years human population was held in check by limited energy exploitation. The ‘Agricultural Revolution’ certainly gave a boost to human population, especially within new villages, towns, and cities erupting all over the globe. However, once fossil fuels began to be exploited our population took off in a global, exponential explosion. It is this exponential growth of human population that has put us in this bind we are in.

To better understand what is happening, I believe one of the fundamental pieces of information to get a grip on is, in fact, exponential growth. Exponential growth is a concept well-known (think compound interest) but whose consequence has been lost on many. The late Dr. Albert Bartlett was perhaps one of the leading authorities on the implications of such growth and spent much of his professional career attempting to educate people about it. In a presentation he gave thousands of times and was viewed many more times on youtube (viewed more than 1/4 million times; not bad for an old guy lecturing about mathemtics) he outlines the importance of it and its consequences.

Entitled ‘Arithmetic, Population, and Energy’[xi], Bartlett argues, among other things, that zero population growth will happen whether we wish it to or not, it is a mathematical certainty. In the words of others, if something cannot grow forever, it won’t. However, as Bartlett points out, we hold near and dear to our hearts many things that are contributing to overpopulation: education, healthcare, immigration, sanitation, law and order. On the other side of the ledger, however, are forces that counter these: war, famine, disease, accidents, murder, abortion, and infanticide. His point is that we can either deal with the issue of overpopulation by changing our behaviours (and attitudes) or nature will do it for us; the choice is ours (or is it?).

_______________________

…here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.
Dr. Albert Bartlett

_______________________

A burgeoning population and its implications for human sustainability on a finite planet has been around for some time. Thomas Malthus’s treatise on the subject in 1798 being perhaps one of the most well known. Had Malthus known of the incredible boost to global carrying capacity that was about to be unleashed by the exploitation of a one-time windfall of concentrated and easily-transportable energy, petroleum, he may not have been so adamant in his conclusion that the end of growth was near-at-hand. But such are the chances when one attempts to foretell the future.

My own biases, prejudices, predilections, observations, and experiences, suggest this human experiment we are a part of will not end well[xii]. I believe that there is too much momentum, too many people with a sense of entitlement, too many sociocultural myths, too many elite protecting the status quo, and far too much ignorance for us to avoid a global collapse. Unless, of course, Zemphram Cochrane’s trans-warp engine test on April 4, 2063 at 11:15 am, after the Third World War (aka Eugenics Wars), is seen by a Vulcan survey expedition and makes First Contact, saving us from ourselves[xiii].

What typically follows social, political, economic collapse is a ‘dark age’ of some kind and is perhaps best known (at least within Western history) by the years that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. But more on this in another post.

Despite all of the above, there are a variety of other variables that could push a teetering globe into a collapse scenario, particularly geopolitics or a natural disaster. No one knows. Prediction of the future is for meteorologists and economists, neither of which is very good beyond a couple of days for the former, and much less for the latter. I must admit, however, that Marion King Hubbert’s prediction of the coming demise of industrial civilization[xiv], along with the seminal text, The Limits to Growth[xv], are pretty good guesses in my books.

The one thing I am sure of, the more I learn, the more I am finding that I am ignorant of. Although I spent a career as an educator[xvi], I continue to be a student…and perhaps this diatribe is all just an elongated justification of my belief system, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”[xvii]

Olduvai (aka Steve Bull)


[i] Greer, J.M.. The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age. New Society Publishers, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-86571-609-4)
Kunstler, J. H.. The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Grove Press, 2009/2006/2005. (ISBN 978-0-8021-4249-8)
[ii] Diamond, J.. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books, 2005/2011. (ISBN 978-0-14-311700-1)
Orlov, D.. The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit. New Society Publishers, 2013. (ISBN 978-0-86571-736-7)
Ruppert, M.. Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Oil World. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.  (ISBN 978-1-60358-164-3)
[iii] I use the following definition of collapse, as proposed by Joseph Tainter (see footnote below): “[It] is fundamentally a matter of the sociopolitical sphere. A society has collapsed when it displays a rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity….To qualify as an instance of collapse a society must  have been at, or developing toward, a level of complexity for more than one or two generations…The collapse in turn must be rapid—taking no more than a few decades—and must entail a substantial loss of sociopolitical structure. Losses that are less severe, or take longer to occur, are to be considered cases of weakness and decline.” (p. 4)
[iv] Tainter, J.A.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9)
[v] Diamond, J.. Ibid.
[vi] Orlov, D.. Ibid.
[vii] Catton, Jr., W.R.. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1982. (ISBN 978-0-252-09988-4)
[viii] Ruppert, M.. Ibid.
[ix] Malthus, T.. An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. J. Johnson, 1798.
[x] Take a good, long critical look at the world and its leaders. Do you have faith, enough faith that you would risk your own life and that of your family, in the leaders of this world to be capable of circumnavigating successfully the various crises that are erupting with greater magnitude and frequency, from climate change to geopolitical stresses to resource depletion to economic collapse? If you have that much faith in them, well good luck to you. Quite simply, I don’t. I believe they are incapable of managing these dilemmas and cascading failures of the various systems of industrialised civilisation will occur some time in our future. NO, I have no idea when.
[xi] Bartlett, A.. Arithmetic, Energy, and Population. (Transcript: http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_transcript_english.html).
[xii] I must admit that my particular pessimistic perspective makes for an interesting dynamic between my spouse and I, for she is the eternal optimist who, as a practising educator, believes in the successful implementation of social engineering to prevent many of the negative consequences (I’ve just retired from the profession but have always been a ‘little’ critical of it, and authority; the latter, in no small part, likely the result of being the child of a police officer).
[xiii] Star Trek, First Contact. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_First_Contact
[xiv] Hubbert, M.K.. Energy from fossil fuels. Science, Feburary 4, 1949. v.109, pp. 103-109.
[xv] Meadows, D., J. Randers, & D. Meadows. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004. (ISBN 978-1-931498-58-6)
[xvi] 9 years as a classroom teacher (grades 6-8), 13 as an administrator (K-8 school).
[xvii] Shakespeare. Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 26-28)

 

Hell in a Hand Basket and Why We're Going There, Guaranteed (sort of)

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

Tulum, Mexico. 1986.

[My love of music has me suggesting that a song be played in the background while you’re reading this. There are a couple I’d like to suggest: Talking Heads-Nothing but Flowers; Blue Rodeo-Lost Together (must have some Canadian content); or, given the Ukraine/Syria/Iran/North Korea/Venezuela/Congo African Republic/Senkaku-Daiyou Islands/etc. situations, Frankie Goes to Hollywood-Two Tribes. Enjoy:)]

The ebb and flow of societies is well documented by historians and archaeologists. It seems every society rises in complexity to a zenith of some kind and then falls. There are an increasing number of people who contend that this sociopolitical transformation is fast-approaching for our globalised, industrial civilization, and of those some believe that this shift will be a long drawn out affair of slow decline[i], while others suggest it may be more of a sudden shift[ii], or collapse[iii].

Whether this change takes generations or is much more sudden and dramatic matters not (unless you’re living through the latter one, I suppose); one’s perception of this depends upon the temporal perspective taken. For example, let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the oil-dependent, industrialized society of humans lasts 400 years, 200 years up and 200 years down (I think I’m being overly generous here on the demise side).

A 200-year decline may, given normalcy bias, not be perceived as a significant shift at all by those experiencing it. However, if we can step back and view this rise and fall in larger historical terms, say on a 10,000-year basis, this ascent/descent scenario may be perceived as quick and calamitous. I think perspective is everything here. (Note that I’ll continue to refer to the impending change as ‘collapse’ because I tend to believe the change will come quickly, especially once the power grid fails.)

That being said, the antecedents of such collapse are varied and complex. They range from declining marginal returns[iv] to environmental collapse[v] to psychological shifts[vi] to overshooting local carrying capacity[vii] to Peak Oil[viii] to population growth[ix]. Humans don’t require artificial intelligence that perceives us as a threat, a viral pandemic leading to a zombie apocalypse, or an alien invasion for our resources to push us over the cliff; we don’t even need a nuclear war. We have our own non-military, sociocultural peculiarities to accomplish it.

As with any complex, dynamical system, the variables that lead to collapse interact in ways both knowable and surprising (such are the emergent phenomenon that arise from complex systems). Feedback that might provide clues to the coming demise tends to be ignored, delayed, or misinterpreted, resulting in dismissal of clear signals. In fact, oftentimes, the actions taken by players can expedite the process of collapse. To this end, I believe that our economic system, with globalisation efforts and its underlying foundation of infinite growth, may be the catalyst that pushes our industrial civilisation over the impending cliff of collapse. But, who really knows? My guess is about as good as anybody else’s[x].

What are some of the components contributing to this collapse endgame? I offer a few: exponential growth of population; dependency on fossil fuels; human hubris; economic credit/debt obligations; climate change; peak resources (especially oil and water); delayed feedback; corrupt political/economic systems; misperceptions; accumulation of toxins/pollutants; misleading information; and just plain, old ignorance (some purposeful I believe). And, don’t forget the black swans.

To me, population growth seems to be the factor that we have pushed in the wrong direction but the underlying variable to this is energy. Populations do not grow if there is not enough energy to support such growth. This energy may take the form of domesticated animal and plant life, or long-stored, concentrated energy (i.e. fossil fuels), but at its base is solar energy and how it is exploited. For tens of thousands of years human population was held in check by limited energy exploitation. The ‘Agricultural Revolution’ certainly gave a boost to human population, especially within new villages, towns, and cities erupting all over the globe. However, once fossil fuels began to be exploited our population took off in a global, exponential explosion. It is this exponential growth of human population that has put us in this bind we are in.

To better understand what is happening, I believe one of the fundamental pieces of information to get a grip on is, in fact, exponential growth. Exponential growth is a concept well-known (think compound interest) but whose consequence has been lost on many. The late Dr. Albert Bartlett was perhaps one of the leading authorities on the implications of such growth and spent much of his professional career attempting to educate people about it. In a presentation he gave thousands of times and was viewed many more times on youtube (viewed more than 1/4 million times; not bad for an old guy lecturing about mathemtics) he outlines the importance of it and its consequences.

Entitled ‘Arithmetic, Population, and Energy’[xi], Bartlett argues, among other things, that zero population growth will happen whether we wish it to or not, it is a mathematical certainty. In the words of others, if something cannot grow forever, it won’t. However, as Bartlett points out, we hold near and dear to our hearts many things that are contributing to overpopulation: education, healthcare, immigration, sanitation, law and order. On the other side of the ledger, however, are forces that counter these: war, famine, disease, accidents, murder, abortion, and infanticide. His point is that we can either deal with the issue of overpopulation by changing our behaviours (and attitudes) or nature will do it for us; the choice is ours (or is it?).

_______________________

…here we can see the human dilemma—everything we regard as good makes the population problem worse, everything we regard as bad helps solve the problem. There is a dilemma if ever there was one.
Dr. Albert Bartlett

_______________________

A burgeoning population and its implications for human sustainability on a finite planet has been around for some time. Thomas Malthus’s treatise on the subject in 1798 being perhaps one of the most well known. Had Malthus known of the incredible boost to global carrying capacity that was about to be unleashed by the exploitation of a one-time windfall of concentrated and easily-transportable energy, petroleum, he may not have been so adamant in his conclusion that the end of growth was near-at-hand. But such are the chances when one attempts to foretell the future.

My own biases, prejudices, predilections, observations, and experiences, suggest this human experiment we are a part of will not end well[xii]. I believe that there is too much momentum, too many people with a sense of entitlement, too many sociocultural myths, too many elite protecting the status quo, and far too much ignorance for us to avoid a global collapse. Unless, of course, Zemphram Cochrane’s trans-warp engine test on April 4, 2063 at 11:15 am, after the Third World War (aka Eugenics Wars), is seen by a Vulcan survey expedition and makes First Contact, saving us from ourselves[xiii].

What typically follows social, political, economic collapse is a ‘dark age’ of some kind and is perhaps best known (at least within Western history) by the years that followed the collapse of the Roman Empire. But more on this in another post.

Despite all of the above, there are a variety of other variables that could push a teetering globe into a collapse scenario, particularly geopolitics or a natural disaster. No one knows. Prediction of the future is for meteorologists and economists, neither of which is very good beyond a couple of days for the former, and much less for the latter. I must admit, however, that Marion King Hubbert’s prediction of the coming demise of industrial civilization[xiv], along with the seminal text, The Limits to Growth[xv], are pretty good guesses in my books.

The one thing I am sure of, the more I learn, the more I am finding that I am ignorant of. Although I spent a career as an educator[xvi], I continue to be a student…and perhaps this diatribe is all just an elongated justification of my belief system, “a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”[xvii]

Olduvai (aka Steve Bull)


[i] Greer, J.M.. The Long Descent: A User’s Guide to the End of the Industrial Age. New Society Publishers, 2008. (ISBN 978-0-86571-609-4)
Kunstler, J. H.. The Long Emergency: Surviving the End of Oil, Climate Change, and Other Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century. Grove Press, 2009/2006/2005. (ISBN 978-0-8021-4249-8)
[ii] Diamond, J.. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Penguin Books, 2005/2011. (ISBN 978-0-14-311700-1)
Orlov, D.. The Five Stages of Collapse: Survivor’s Toolkit. New Society Publishers, 2013. (ISBN 978-0-86571-736-7)
Ruppert, M.. Confronting Collapse: The Crisis of Energy and Money in a Post Oil World. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2009.  (ISBN 978-1-60358-164-3)
[iii] I use the following definition of collapse, as proposed by Joseph Tainter (see footnote below): “[It] is fundamentally a matter of the sociopolitical sphere. A society has collapsed when it displays a rapid, significant loss of an established level of sociopolitical complexity….To qualify as an instance of collapse a society must  have been at, or developing toward, a level of complexity for more than one or two generations…The collapse in turn must be rapid—taking no more than a few decades—and must entail a substantial loss of sociopolitical structure. Losses that are less severe, or take longer to occur, are to be considered cases of weakness and decline.” (p. 4)
[iv] Tainter, J.A.. The Collapse of Complex Societies. Cambridge University Press, 1988. (ISBN 978-0-521-38673-9)
[v] Diamond, J.. Ibid.
[vi] Orlov, D.. Ibid.
[vii] Catton, Jr., W.R.. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. University of Illinois Press, 1982. (ISBN 978-0-252-09988-4)
[viii] Ruppert, M.. Ibid.
[ix] Malthus, T.. An Essay on the Principle of Population as it Affects the Future Improvement of Society. J. Johnson, 1798.
[x] Take a good, long critical look at the world and its leaders. Do you have faith, enough faith that you would risk your own life and that of your family, in the leaders of this world to be capable of circumnavigating successfully the various crises that are erupting with greater magnitude and frequency, from climate change to geopolitical stresses to resource depletion to economic collapse? If you have that much faith in them, well good luck to you. Quite simply, I don’t. I believe they are incapable of managing these dilemmas and cascading failures of the various systems of industrialised civilisation will occur some time in our future. NO, I have no idea when.
[xi] Bartlett, A.. Arithmetic, Energy, and Population. (Transcript: http://www.albartlett.org/presentations/arithmetic_population_energy_transcript_english.html).
[xii] I must admit that my particular pessimistic perspective makes for an interesting dynamic between my spouse and I, for she is the eternal optimist who, as a practising educator, believes in the successful implementation of social engineering to prevent many of the negative consequences (I’ve just retired from the profession but have always been a ‘little’ critical of it, and authority; the latter, in no small part, likely the result of being the child of a police officer).
[xiii] Star Trek, First Contact. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_Trek:_First_Contact
[xiv] Hubbert, M.K.. Energy from fossil fuels. Science, Feburary 4, 1949. v.109, pp. 103-109.
[xv] Meadows, D., J. Randers, & D. Meadows. Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update. Chelsea Green Publishing Company, 2004. (ISBN 978-1-931498-58-6)
[xvi] 9 years as a classroom teacher (grades 6-8), 13 as an administrator (K-8 school).
[xvii] Shakespeare. Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 26-28)

 

MIT Research on Global Water Stress by 2050 | Peak Resources

MIT Research on Global Water Stress by 2050 | Peak Resources.

Peak Resources investigates the growing concern of global water stress. It is no big secret that the world population of humans is growing at an exponential rate. The growth of the human population has caused almost every nation around the globe to focus its attention on the available of freshwater for the future while some nations must focus on having fresh water today. Add into the mix the continual pressure from global climate change, and you have a lot of trouble. Hotter temperatures mean less ground water, shallower lakes, and rivers, and less water for crops, drinking, and bathing. To set this into motion, MIT researchers developed a new tool that models the ability of the hydrologic cycle to meet the growing needs of the world population through the year 2050.

Water Stress
Water resources are tied to populations of people. By 2050, the world population, is expected to rise to 9.7 Billion. Of those 9.7 billion people, 5 billion are expected to be living in water-stressed communities or regions. Of those 5 billion people, 1 billion are expected to live where there is not enough water to meet daily needs of people, environment, and agriculture. For some nations, this is not news, India, and Middle Eastern countries are already facing water stress issues.

MIT Model
What the MIT model does is it allows researchers to look at the two variables that are going to have the most impact on freshwater over time. Those being socioeconomics, and global climate change. What they find when they look into how the socioeconomic data changes over time, they discovered that the rate at which populations grow and the changes to economic growth lead to situations of water-stress. What they are talking about are emerging markets, where water is already limited. The impact of the situation is made worse by adding in global climate change.

Results of the MIT Model
As populations of villages and cities grow more food is needed, more drinking water is needed, and more water is needed for industry, but water is finite and the amount of available water is decreased as temperatures rise. But emerging markets and developing countries are not the only people hit by water issues and global warming. The study shows that developed nations are also going to feel increased water-stress as time passes and global warming increases. Overall, global warming is expected to impact how, when, and where rain falls. Changing patterns of precipitation will impact most countries around the globe.

While this model shows a good picture of what the future will look like, it shows something even more valuable. It shows that studies and modeling of this nature are deeply important to humanity. Peak Resources sees clearly that those who have the knowledge to forecast accurately, will be the ones who have the power to make changes. Those changes represent resource investment opportunities. Knowledge is the tool that will shape the future. Water demand is getting worse, and as time goes by the question is how do we deal with it today.

Arandis: The uranium capital of the world – Features – Al Jazeera English

Arandis: The uranium capital of the world – Features – Al Jazeera English.

Windhoek, Namibia – Somewhere in the middle of the vast Namib desert is a settlement by the name of Arandis. It has been here since 1975, ever since the Anglo-Australian mining firm Rio Tinto came to set up its Rössing uranium mine.

It needed a place to house its black workforce.

Almost forty years later, the glamour of the olden days has passed, when uranium prices were high and competition low. Arandis is still the home of the workers, but has lost the financial support of the company. It looks like it is doomed to decay. The town lies like an island in the middle of endless rocks, sand and dust. The streets are dull and lifeless and the houses only distinguishable by the colours in which they’ve been painted.

There’s a saying here: “If you leave Arandis, you will die.” One of those who repeat the phrase is Hoseas Gaomab, who worked in the mine’s laboratory for 23 years. He knows many men who have died. But he doesn’t know why.

Gaomab, aged 73, is a fragile old man. He first came to Arandis in 1975, a year before the Rössing mine started operations. He was there when it became the largest open pit in the world. When it almost single handedly turned Namibia into one of the leading uranium producing countries – by supplying Europe, the US and Japan.

The question is, at what expense this has happened. Many men who worked here in the mine’s early days claim to suffer from severe illnesses including cancers, hypertension and anaemia. Gaomab is sick, too. He suffers from a disease that has made his legs and hands numb for the much of the past 20 years.

I had been feeling weak, but the mine doctors always said it’s okay… The doctors only ever tested us for flu. if I had known, I would have asked them to test me for radiation.Hoseas Gaomab, former mine laboratory worker

“I had been feeling weak, but the mine doctors always said it’s okay,” he told Al Jazeera. He can barely walk, or get up from the armchair in which he sits.

Discovering the risks, too late

For a long time it simply didn’t occur to Gaomab that his illness could be work-related. Then, in 1993, a medical student named Reinhard Zaire arrived, interviewing miners and taking blood samples. “He asked us how long we worked for Rössing and when we got sick. Then he called us together to tell us we were irradiated.”

This was the first time he heard about the existence of radiation in the uranium mine. “The doctors only ever tested us for flu,” he said. “If I had known, I would have asked them to test me for radiation.”

Aside from Zaire’s claims, there is no proof that Gaomab has been fatally irradiated. And chances are slim that he will ever find out. There are no records available from the company of what happens to workers once they leave Rössing. After their retirement, the men return to their homes in rural Namibia, where they rarely have access to proper healthcare facilities.

“To date, there have been no confirmed occupational illness related deaths,” said Rio Tinto spokesperson Penda Kiiyala.

However, there is great scepticism among people here in Arandis towards the company and their medical staff.

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“The mine is a big company, they can tell everyone what to do. They tell you what’s wrong with you and you have to believe them,” said Gaomab. Although scientists have previously linked diseases such as those reported in Arandis to the exposure of radiation, nobody – other than Reinhard Zaire – has investigated them in the context of the Rössing uranium mine.

Zaire studied the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of radiation believed to be found in the Rössing mine. He concluded that there was an increased risk for uranium miners to develop malignant diseases such as cancer. Shortly after the report was published, Zaire was dismissed by the Namibian Ministry of Health and Social Services, his research permission was revoked, and he was accused of practising as a medical doctor illegally.

Rio Tinto – facing a lawsuit in the UK at the time, in which it was accused of damaging an employee’s health – slammed Zaire’s report.

Regulations ‘inadequate’

Doug Brugge from the Tufts University in the United States has conducted research on the impacts of underground uranium mining on the Navajo tribe in North America. Brugge is sceptical to give the issue “the kind of framing” Zaire suggested. “For me, to just talk about low-dose ionizing radiation exposure is inadequate. Other things like the metal toxicity of uranium also plays a role and how the workers were exposed to radiation,” he said.

We had to smoothen out the yellowcake with our hands before we sampled it. There were no gloves, those things only came later.Hoseas Gaomab, former mine laboratory worker

Gaomab and a former lab colleague, Petrus Hoaeb, described the health and safety regulations at Rössing as inadequate in the early days. “For the sampling we used to suck up the yellowcake through a pipette,” said Hoaeb. “Whenever there was crushing, there was dust everywhere.”

Gaomab agreed: “We had to smoothen out the yellowcake with our hands before we sampled it. There were no gloves, those things only came later.”

Yellowcake is a solid form of concentrated uranium which is produced after the ore has been crushed and processed. It is usually stored in drums for transport and not hazardous if handled with appropriate precautions.

“During the lifetime of the mine, safety measures have been in place based on international best practice and applications at the time,” Rio Tinto’s Kiiyala told Al Jazeera. Monthly urine samples are also taken from each worker. This serves “as a check to ensure no internal contamination risk exists”.

Contrary to what the workers say, Rio Tinto emphasises that all workers have access to the results of tests made on their samples.

Rössing Uranium, the Namibian subsidiary of Rio Tinto, denied that workers were exposed to any kind of radiation in its open pit mine. “The biggest danger for the employees is the silica dust inside the pit,” said Alwyn Lubbe, an external relations officer for Rössing who spoke to Al Jazeera inside the mine’s premises. “The uranium levels are extremely low. The radiation is very low, it’s natural. Even when they process it in the final product recovery.”

Lubbe maintained there was also no toxicity leaking from the waste dumps next to the mine, which loom in the background. “There are no hazards here,” he says. From where he stands on the viewing platform, he looks at the huge hole stretching out below him and says: “Only depleted uranium is dangerous for the human body,” referring to the processed uranium that is used in nuclear power plants and in many weapons ammunitions.

Radiating risk

According to Tufts’ Doug Brugge, the biggest threat is not the uranium itself, but its decay products, like radon, a gas that is set free when uranium is mined. “The daughter products of radon are the ones that settle in the lungs,” Brugge said. Solids such as uranium and radium can enter the human system only when inhaled or ingested. “If someone touches the ore, it can get into the body through hand and mouth contact. Once they are in the system the radiation is very strong.

“That there is radiation here and that it can cause health effects is not in question. The question is whether the way the people are exposed to it are leading to those health problems,” he said. “It sounds like what really needs to be done is research on health conditions and exposure.”

Despite the slim chances of success, Gaomab’s former colleague Petrus Hoaeb has decided to take the company to court. Hoaeb met Al Jazeera in his home, sat next to his son. Hoaeb Junior is spearheading the case for his sick father. The lack of knowledge is the biggest hurdle to overcome, he said. “If a researcher comes to you and says: ‘This is what we found,’ then you know how to fight. But if you have limited knowledge, it is very difficult.”

Currently the two parties are negotiating outside of court for a possible compensation package for Hoaeb, who was booked off work sick for twelve years before he was eventually fired in 2012. He failed to provide proof that his sickness was due to radiation exposure.

Hoaeb Jr has a different plan, however. He is about to travel to Namibia’s capital, Windhoek, to discuss further proceedings and to decide what Rössing has to offer.

“We are fighting for a large number of people,” he concluded. “Those who have died and those who are sick.”

Follow Victoria Schneider on Twitter at the Dirty Profits Exposed project: @DirtyProfitsExp

This report was produced with the support of the  Facing Finance  campaign.

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