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Are we Future Ready?

mike's picture

In the early 1970's, a book titled "The Limits to Growth" was published, a report by the Club of Rome on the predicaments of mankind. Ultimately translated in 30 languages, it caused a furore, predicting that should civilisation continue on its present path, it would run out of every resource under the sun, causing a collapse of society and a major dieoff of human population.

Over the past few years, many, no, almost all economists have lambasted this report, usually misquoting it completely and erroneously saying civilisation would, for example, disintegrate by the year 2000. In fact, the computer models described in "The Limits to Growth" predicted that within a period of 100 years from its writing, there would be famines, shortages of resources, and world population would greatly reduce. Because 'nothing has yet happened', the report is lampooned as the literal poster child of misinformed "Malthusian" type thinking that misled many people into believing the end of the world was nigh.

So then, thirty five percent of the way into this Century of Doom, how are we faring?

Not well is how I perceive it. Everything the Club of Rome predicted is bang on target. Already, economic growth world wide has caused the supply of many essential resources to fall short of demand. The three that concern me most are water, food, and energy. The immediate result of this in a free market is to cause the price of these resources to go up, sometimes dramatically such as oil.

We live in an increasingly complex societal system in which everything is interconnected, and as a result the failure of any one single component can cause the failure of the entire system. A major failure of the electricity grid, for instance, would cause the failure of the sewerage system, not to mention water supply to your taps.

As a rule, when it comes to resources exploitation, we always go for the easiest ones first, what I call the low hanging fruit syndrome. It's like picking mangoes. You always start at the bottom of the tree, then you have to start climbing the tree to get more, only to discover that the bats and the birds have got at them, and by the time you reach the top they're all rotten. Well, all the low hanging fruit has now been picked. Politicians are now clutching at straws in their insistence we must keep growing at all cost, even if it means, as an example, building a dam on the Mary River. So, what should we do?

  1. Education. Everyone ought to get educated about where their food and energy comes from. 90% of all store bought food calories are sourced from fossil fuels, and when these become scarce and expensive over the next five years, we have to find new ways of feeding ourselves, organically.
  2. The big switch. Cars are dinosaurs. It doesn't look like it now as governments encourage freeways to airports, but public transport must be increased dramatically whilst we still have enough oil to build the infrastructure with.
  3. The other big switch. We must switch to renewable energy, as soon as possible and as much as remaining energy sources will allow. Our house runs 100% off solar power, if we can do it, anyone can do it.
  4. Relocalise. Believe it or not, a lot of bananas grown in Qld (even those grown in Tully) go to Melbourne to be sorted and sent out all over the country, including back to here on the Sunny Coast. Our hinterland has the capacity to feed us all if properly managed, much land is wasted for housing development.
  5. Farmers' Markets. Centralised markets, such as the one in Brisbane, are only doable when we have ample supplies of cheap fuel. With Peak Oil now almost certainly behind us, this must cease, we have to source our food, the water used to irrigate it, and the fuel for distributing it, locally. Sugar cane could again be grown locally to fuel the trucks needed to move the hinterland crops to our coastal strip's Farmers' Markets.
  6. Use energy much more efficiently. I estimate that 80% of all the energy used by household is squandered. No one likes the idea of austerity, but austerity is what we need to aim for in a world constrained with ever diminishing energy supplies. Our household uses a mere 20% of the average electricity consumption, and we certainly do not do without. We are aiming to reduce this further!
  7. Work less. You all work too hard (I don't work at all, at least for wages!). It is my opinion society works to borrow money, so as to consume stuff it doesn't need, to impress people we don't even know. And most of the stuff we consume ends up in landfill. Families today are half the size they were 50 years ago, yet our houses are twice as big. Why do we do it?
  8. Downsize. Look around you and ask yourself, "do I need all this stuff?" When we moved from Brisbane, we threw out two and a half
    tonnes of junk....
  9. Forgive debts. This economic system is doomed to fail. Capitalism relies on economic growth so that interest on debts can be repaid. Growth is finished. Maybe not today, nor tomorrow, but soon, because all the growth we have experienced over the last 75 years is entirely due to a supply of cheap and abundant fossil energy, and that energy is already waning.
  10. Permaculture. Google it. Permaculture is a design system which integrates all the things around you so as to satisfy all your needs, food, housing, water, energy. This is done so as to waste nothing, whether that be land, water, energy, or even your precious time. Permaculture fosters happiness and an immense sense of satisfaction that what you are doing for your survival is totally sustainable, and totally within your control. It's freedom from the slavery and drudgery of modern life. No driving in traffic, no ingesting food that slowly kills you, more time for family ties.