[permaculture] Toby- Re. "Apocalypse Not" - How do you see it presently?

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Fri Nov 16 12:34:36 EST 2007

Paul has nicely summed up why I'm not a doomer. I think we can forestall 
truly confronting our energy gluttony for quite some time, 
unfortunately, resulting in just the slow drift into tyranny and poverty 
that Paul describes. Not only are we "horrifically inventive," we are 
squishily adaptable, too. We've adjusted to a change in EROEI from 100:1 
to about 20:1 or worse, and we can adjust to oil shale's 4:1, and then 
ethanol's 1.3:1 in a long decline with the occasional nasty bump on the 
way down. Unless somebody offers a blatantly better way to live.

One more factoid as to why we are still not feeling much pain around 
energy costs: in 1980, gasoline made up 6% of the discretionary income 
of US households. In early 2007, it was 4%. (I understand these numbers 
are slightly higher in the rest of the overdeveloped world, but the 
proportions are about the same.) This suggests we won't change habits 
significantly until gasoline prices reach roughly 50% higher than they 
were when this survey was done (the difference between 4% and 6%), or 
somewhere around $4 USD.

It really shows the utter poverty of market economics to effectively 
distinguish between the value of renewable and non-renewable resources. 
Economics treats all resources as infinite or infinitely substitutable, 
and does not permit the needs of future people to affect price. Imagine 
if someone from 2015 got to bid on today's oil futures.


Paul Cereghino wrote:
> ##we're all so impatient for this collapse to get on with itself, aren't we?
> [warning... soapbox hereafter]
> I grew up in counter-culture living the 'promise of collapse and 
> revolution', and I suspect my daughter will move past that.  Don't 
> forget tar sands and oil shale, which may allow another generation of 
> procrastination with a staggering cost in carbon emissions.   We are a 
> horrifically inventive species when it comes to our wants.  I suspect if 
> times get rough we will rediscover less savory political systems that 
> satisfy peoples hunger for security while continuing to sacrifice 
> health.  If we fail to INITIATE the shift in culture, and in effect 
> bringing the rest of our damned society with us, I suspect we will 
> stagger onward for quite some time, gradually forgetting what we have 
> lost.  No exciting 'collapse' to goad us awake, just a gentle mindless 
> decent into increasingly more cockroach-like behavior.  Look at the 
> living conditions in early industrial times... we have a long way to go 
> down before 'we' let things get 'out of control'.  And if we allow this 
> hungry ghost to live on, don't think it will leave us alone to develop 
> our tribal utopia.  Pace yourself, broaden your base, this is a long 
> term all or nothing game, and we will have to DESIGN the cultural shift 
> carefully based on systematic and honest cultural assessments of the 
> terrain and the countervailing forces, and not build castles of sand on 
> a foundation subcultural apocalypse theory (like our apocalyptic 
> Christian brethren.)
> -Paul Cereghino
> ----------------
> another global warming update...
> "By burning fossil fuel and clearing forests human beings have 
> significantly altered the global carbon cycle," says Chris Field of the 
> Carnegie Institution'
> s Department of Global Ecology, one of the report's lead authors. A 
> result has been the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, but so 
> far this has been partially offset by carbon uptake by the oceans and by 
> plants and soils on land. "In effect, we have been getting a huge 
> subsidy from these unmanaged parts of the carbon cycle," notes Field. 
> Overall, this subsidy has sequestered, or hidden from the atmosphere, 
> approximately 200 billion tons of carbon. In North America much of it 
> has come from the regrowth of forests on former farmland and the uptake 
> of carbon by agricultural soils. But these carbon sinks may be reaching 
> their limit as forests mature and climate conditions change. And some 
> may literally go up in smoke if wildfires become more frequent, as some 
> climate simulations predict. Planting forests and adopting 
> carbon-conserving practices such as no-till agriculture may increase 
> carbon sinks somewhat, but this would not come close to compensating for 
> carbon emissions, which continue to accelerate. "There are a lot of good 
> reasons for replenishing our forests and encouraging better agricultural 
> practices," says Ken Caldeira, another author of the report, also at 
> Carnegie's Department of Global Ecology. "But if we want to mitigate our 
> impact on the carbon cycle, there's no escaping the fact that we need to 
> drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions." 
> http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071114111141.htm 
> <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/11/071114111141.htm>
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