Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Things are going Horribly Wrong [No they're not!]

Just for the record, I'd like to point out that things are going horribly wrong. Yes, I know it's a point that has been laboured again and again over the past few years but this time it seems that, erm, 'normal people' are starting to agree with our merry band of doomsters.

[Oh no, here we go again. Pass me the anti-depressants.]

We now live in a world pumped up with extreme debt, and yet people can't see it. There isn't a single major economy that isn't bankrupt many times over when you take unpaid liabilities into account, and day by day the debt levels climb even higher just in order to preserve a way of life that is considered ours as if by some divine law.

[Okay I agree with you there, our debts have become way too big, but they'll think of something. As a matter of fact that hairy economist guy was on TV the other day saying that economic growth is getting better and soon we'll grow our way out of debt, or something. You worry too much!]

And we've used all of this debt to build up infrastructure and institutions that require abundant and cheap energy to function. The bad news is that abundant and cheap energy is getting less abundant and less affordable with every passing week. Soon it simply won't be there at all. People, just like medieval peasants, are illiterate in this respect. Our corporate media whoops and swoons when it presents news of new oil finds, such as the 'new Saudi Arabia of the north' announced yesterday in the Arctic. Never mind that the oil is virtually inaccessible (the Kara Sea is not the friendliest place), the infrastructure is not there, and even if we could get at it we wouldn't be able to afford it. These limiting considerations are given scant, if any, consideration.

[But soon we'll have thorium reactors and nuclear fusion ... just got to pump some more money into research and keep the faith.]

In any case, aren't we supposed to be weaning ourselves off oil instead of desperately trying to burn more of it?

[We won't need oil soon as everyone will have electric cars. Don't you read the news?]

And then there's ebola. As soon as this gets out of control it will make practically every other consideration irrelevant. An exponentially growing disease, this will likely kill millions over the next year, probably taking down a quarter of the world's population in the next decade (and then some).

[But it's not easily transmittable and it will only affect people in the Third World, which is sad but at least it won't get to us.]

Meanwhile, as we await ebola, the knife-wielding psychopaths known as ISIS/ISIL rampage across swathes of Iraq and Syria, making a mockery of the US led efforts to control the region. All those trillions of dollars and thousands of lives expended add up to what, exactly?

[We brought them freedom and democracy but they're just too barbaric to understand it. Why can't people just be reasonable like us?]

And so now we have young men, and some women, heading from Britain, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and elsewhere to go and fight a holy war against, well, us. In Britain these people are not considered friends, but in Denmark they are being welcomed back and given state support to help them readjust to life, reports Channel 4 News. One of them, fresh from the killing fields of Syria, had just returned to Denmark to be with his newborn son whom, he said he "would not stop from fighting jihad when he grows up."

What a strange setup! Is this a merging of the welfare state and the doctrine of endless war?

[You're such a liberal - next you'll be quoting Orwell at us.]

And the world seems to have forgotten, in the main, about the other major crises in Ukraine, Libya, Palestine/Israel, Nigeria and a dozen other hotspots. Fukushima's disappeared down the memory hole, as has Boko Harem, the mysteriously-shot down airplane and all that melting ice. Even Vladimir 'Hitler' Putin has been temporarily forgotten about, but will no doubt be back in vogue as soon as winter starts to bite in Eastern Europe.

[Well, he is really a VERY bad man - you can see it in his eyes, he looks just like a Bond villain!]

Instead we are treated to column acres about an actor marrying a lawyer in Venice, and something about a new iPhone that is much like the other ones but a bit bigger and not bendy.

[Don't pretend that you're not worried about Bendgate.]

Those with any sense will realise that all of this is what the last act of the Age of No Consequences drawing to a close. History hadn't ended after all, it had merely fallen asleep on the sofa watching Strictly Come Dancing.

[Oh, you're such a cynic. Pass me the Kool Aid*.]

"Drinking the Kool-Aid" refers to the 1978 Jonestown Massacre; the phrase suggests that one has mindlessly adopted the dogma of a group or leader without fully understanding the ramifications or implications.


  1. There seems to be a general ignorance about how the physical world works and otherwise intelligent people seem to have no clue about why the economy can't expand forever. I mentioned declining petroleum on a forum and one of the members, a guy with a Phd who teaches evolution at a university chimed in with Thorium reactors and graphene capacitors. His conclusion for the reason we are not all driving electric cars already is a lack of political will. I am not sure how this political will creates energy, but I suppose that if politicians at the national level agree and all say we want thorium reactors and solar panels on every roof and cars with graphene capacitors then they will manifest by the power of political will. I guess so far they haven't been wishing or willing hard enough because as every school child knows, where there's a will, there's a way.
    I believe it was Jim Kunstler who talked to the young engineers at Google and told them about physical limits and they came back at him with talk about technology. Kunstler pointed out that technology is not the same as energy. You can create technology more or less by force of imagination, but not energy.
    I guess that as far as the average person can tell, the stuff that surrounds us, like cell phones and the internet appeared as if by magic and therefore, why can energy not appear in the same fashion. This is a difficult question to answer. Invoking the laws of thermodynamics is of no use since as anyone who has studied economics knows they don't apply to the economy. When economists say growth, I am told, it doesn't mean the same thing as it does in the physical world. I have heard this argument more than once, again, from otherwise intelligent and perceptive people.
    Perhaps to imagine a life other than the privileged one we have lived since the end of WWII is just too difficult.

    1. Hi Wolfgang. I don't really blame people in general for not having a firm grasp on thermodynamics, economics and the workings of much of the physical world. For most it is all just abstract stuff and of no direct relevance, and so they're happy to believe the claptrap coming out of other people's mouths who seem to know what they are talking about.

      In the age of material and energy abundance (which we are still hanging onto) you can ahead in the job world far easier if you're a bright-eyed techno delusionist. If you believe in hard limits and the fallibility of complex technology you probably won't be invited back to that second interview.

      But, as JMG points out this week, all that seems to be about to change thanks to some guy somewhere eating a fruit bat. It's all getting rather scary all of a sudden.

  2. Now UP on the Diner Blog!


    Hey Jason, WRITE MOAR! :)


    1. Thanks RE. Actually I am doing rather a lot of writing — 2,000 words a day. I should have the book finished by the end of this month, give or take a week. It'll probably be proffered online.

    2. 2000 Words/Day? Chump Change. Just a script for a Rant is 2000 words. LOL.

      If you want to offer your Book in Serialized form, I'm working on a system for this. A few delays here at the moment working out bugs though.


    3. Rant, like mine above, don't take long to hammer out ;) I'm normally finished before my coffee has gone cold.

      Thanks for the offer with the book. I'd like to get it finished first and then decide what to do with it. I have until all the leaves are off the trees, 'cos then I have to turn my attention to working in the forest. It's shaping up to be a somewhat unusual book.

  3. [You're such a liberal - next you'll be quoting Orwell at us.]

    "Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac."

    "All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting."

    "Nationalism is power hunger tempered by self-deception."

    "We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men."

    George Orwell

    1. He also said something along the lines of 'anyone with a modicum of intelligence had been able to see the war coming for years, but when it did it was as if it took them all by surprise."


      "The first thing you realise when war breaks out is that you are no longer an individual."

  4. Wolfgang.

    Wolfgang, what I recall Kunstler quoting was something like this:

    Yeah, but dude, like we've got T-E-C-H-N-O-L-O-G-Y.


I'll try to reply to comments as time permits.