"The advantage that oil distillates have is that the energy density (energy content/unit volume) of oil distillates is much greater than electric batteries and that advantage still exists. To reduce that disadvantage, auto makers now put as many battery cells in series as they can. Modern electric vehicles have the whole bottom of the vehicle covered with electric battery cells. Many electric vehicles now have a rated range of +300 miles.
Unstated fuel costs of shale oil extraction undermine real gains
It is very important that all people understand that Shale Oil, like tar sands, demands far more energy (fuel) to extract than the old crude oil, as well as incurring appalling new democratic and environmental costs, notably to property rights and water conservation. The US and Australia have to be desperate to pursue this avenue, which has been banned in France (but US influenced forces in the EU are pushing to overthrow that ban). What you have is a situation where the US and other frackers are not giving out the increasing costs of oil recovery - in fuels, exploration, technology, and wars over hegemony in the Caspian and other regions. If they did, no-one would invest in shale-oil projects, or tollways. International energy agency reports are a public relations exercise on an issue too apparently specialised for most people to examine, but the principle is simple and it means that EastWest link business case is fundamentally flawed. Furthermore, so is the far more fundamental case for economic and population growth in Australia or elsewhere.
Hillbilly Economics unreliable in the 21st century
Anyone who watched the Beverly Hillbillies where the Clampett family danced around a gushing black oil geyser will know that crude oil used to be known as “Black Gold.” Unfortunately the days of crude oil gushing out of the earth are long gone. Now, much of what we assume is crude oil is no such thing. And that means that we also should not assume that frequent car use will continue indefinitely and that freeways and tollways are good investments or affordable.
Since the 1960s, and increasingly, crude oil has been supplemented by other fuels. Initially with lease condensates, lately with everything from vegetable oil to coal oil, shale oil and tarsands and grandma's old socks. This was predicted to happen by Walter Youngquist in Geodestinies and by many, many others from the early 1990s, but their message tends to date quickly due to it being very difficult to pinpoint the moment of 'oil peak' objectively.
Real Trend: Every new drop of oil costs more than the last
The thing that most people - economists and even engineers - cannot get their heads around is that graphs of world oil production, which provide the figures for the one featured here, do not publish a fuel cost for fuel recovered report (or, in thermodynamic terms which you may have heard, Energy Return On Energy Invested (EROEI).) This is like stating your profits before doing your costs. [Here is an article I wrote specifically re shale oil in the US about correspondence on this with an EIA energy specialist spokesman here EIA should provide data on cost of North American shale gas exploitation to make balanced reports. This article contains his revealing response.]
If the graphs did show costs, they would show that the number of equivalent barrels of oil used to get more oil has been climbing for ages and if you subtracted that increasing fuel expenditure you would show a decreasing fuel output. Part of the evidence for this lies in the changes to the definition of crude oil and petroleum, which show that world oil production statistics are made up of many new and costly oil sources. The attached graph is updated from Sheila Newman, Ed., The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Ed, Pluto Books, UK, 2008 in Demography, Territory, Law, Rules of Animal and Human Populations, Countershock Press, 2013.
The attached graph, “World total oil per capita 1960-2011” shows the changes to the definition of crude oil and petroleum. I've also cut and pasted some paras from underneath. The source of this cited passage is Sheila Newman, Demography, Territory, Law, Rules of Animal and Human Populations, Countershock Press, 2013, p.43.
“Figure 3, ‘World total oil per capita 1960-2011’ suggests that, where once oil came from oil wells, now, to keep up with human population growth we supplement well-oil with all kinds of other stuff, whilst still presenting it as the same old stuff. If we still relied just on crude and lease condensates from oil fields, where trends are shown by the lowest and oldest line in the graph, we would be considerably poorer in total oil supply than we seem to be. Early definitions for total world oil (see EIA Crude and lease condensate from 1960-2011) only counted crude oil and lease condensate. Coinciding with the decline in easy oil availability as it became necessary to look harder and deeper for oil, the definition of oil started to include other sources obtained away from petroleum fields. The BP definition above counts crude oil, shale oil, oil sands and NGLs (the liquid content of natural gas where this is recovered separately). The EIA definition for Crude, condensate and most other liquids from 1970-2009 comprises natural gas plant liquids, and ‘other liquids’, defined as, “Biodiesel, ethanol, liquids produced from coal and oil shale, non-oil inputs to methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), Orimulsion, and other hydrocarbons.” That’s a lot of new sources, all of them requiring more energy to extract than that required to harness the traditional ‘gusher’ close to the surface, now a rare phenomenon.
Highlighting the increasing cooption of non-crude oils and other processed and biological materials to ‘total oil’ makes the decline in crude and lease condensate more obvious, but the strange wavy plateau in the graph still gives the impression that we remain in control of our destinies. Some economists even believe  that we are still getting richer by producing more for less, that economic growth has become ‘dematerialised’ from fuels due to scientific efficiency. There was some truth to this shortly after the oil crash, but those gains are not as great as they are touted.
Another explanation is that, as prices for oil and other fossil fuels have risen, our efficiencies lie more in carefully choosing the kinds of fuels we use for different purposes, keeping oil only for the tasks that cannot be done well without it. For instance, where people once used oil to heat their homes, they now use coal-fired electricity or gas.
We are told by politicians that flow energies like hydro, wave, solar and wind are contributing more and more to energy supply, but their contribution is small so far and can never match the vast reserves of fossil fuel that modern civilization is based on, because they cannot be stored in significant reserves and they tend to change on a daily basis and to be unpredictable. (That is not to say that these 'alternative' sources are not valuable. They just cannot support the vast populations and activities that fossil fuel supports. Most of these alternative sources are tried and true. Sun, water, tides and wind (along with beast) were solid bases for civilisation in Europe before coal and oil technologies. See Chapter 19: "France and Australia after oil" in S. Newman, Ed., The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto Press, 2008.)
The major alternative oil sources, however, that are really supplementing crude production are mostly pretty nasty, with a major symptom being clashes over democracy, even in the ‘developed’ world now. Farmers and communities are losing battles against corporations and their own governments over gas-fracking that threatens water supplies. Farmers and climate change activists are outraged by coal-seam gas projects.
Mountaintops are being blown up to extract coal.  Tar-sand and shale-oil mining are last resorts that devastate land, use more fuel to extract, give less energy, and pollute atmosphere and water more than conventional sources. The world’s diminishing forests and their rare animal inhabitants are bulldozed to grow soybeans and other food crops to replace conventional crude and gas. Not really signs of increased ‘efficiency’.
Maybe this is really a bootstrap operation after all.
Although nuclear energy is important in electricity production in many countries, those countries got into nuclear at a time when there was plenty of capital. With some exceptions, like Iran (which encounters international political resistance) countries that do not already have it will have difficulty financing such massive new operations in global economies that keep faltering along with our crude oil supply. 
According to Figure 3, even with the addition of oil from these new, expensive, polluting and environmentally destructive sources, total global production of ‘oil’ is only just keeping up with population growth, if we take .012 barrels or so as the norm since 1982. Except – everyone doesn’t get their .012 barrels.
The cost of oil is increasingly unaffordable."
 And, of course, earlier and famously by King Hubbert of “Hubbert’s Peak”.
 See Maddison, A., “Evidence submitted to Select Committee on Economic Affairs,” House of Lords, London, for the Inquiry into “Aspects of the Economics of Climate Change,” http://www.ggdc.net/Maddison/, 20 Feb 2005, p.2. “Past Relation between World Economic Growth and Energy Consumption: (3) Tables 4a and 4b compare the growth of world population and GDP with energy use (in terms of both fossil fuels and biomass) from 1820 to 2001. The energy intensity of GDP rose until 1900 (to 0.42 tons of oil equivalent per $1000) and fell in the course of the twentieth century (to 0.27 tons per $1000 in 2001). Per capita energy use at the world level rose about eightfold from 1820 to 2001.” My comment on this is that, although the economist Angus Maddison saw that GDP growth was decreasing, he nonetheless anticipated a long period of rapid growth through the 21st century, if not so rapid as in the last century. But he based this on his perception of trends of ‘dematerialization’ of the economy, which he inferred from trends in quantities of calories of oil-equivalent used, and failed to account for differences in the nature of fuels and their suitability for different uses.
 Cleveland, C.J., Kaufmann, R.K. & Stern, D.I., “Aggregation and the Role of Energy in the Economy,” Ecological Economics, vol.32, issue 2, pp 301-17, also at http://www.bu.edu/cees/people/faculty/cutler/articles/Aggregation_role_of_energy.pdf., cited in Sheila Newman, 2008. Ed., The Final Energy Crisis, Pluto Press, UK, pp13-14. “[The authors ]test the ‘dematerialisation’ explanation of conventional economists for claims that economic growth is proceeding well with reduced growth in global oil-production.
Looking at the causal relationship between energy use and GDP from 1947 to 1996, they find, instead, that people and business have not used less fuel, but that they have been more careful about the fuels they choose to do different tasks, choosing cheaper fuels to do low production work and more expensive ones for high returns. Cleveland et al’s main indicator of quality is financial price and it seems to be an indicator which performs well in this case. The authors find that the financial cost of fuels is an accurate reflexion of their versatility or adaptability to specific tasks more than is measuring the total calories they embody. (Neither was any relationship found between the quality of ‘transformity’ (Odum) and the versatility of fuels for human social needs in industrial societies over the period examined. The authors illustrate this with the example of coal: “Users value coal based on its heat content, sulphur content, cost of transportation and other factors that form the complex set of attributes that determine its usefulness relative to other fuels.”)
Logistical or engineering factors affect the return on calories. Humans have adapted their social systems and technology to the limitations of fuels and fuel supply. If a fuel must be transported a long way, it makes less sense to use gas, since the cost rises over distance. To keep expensive pipe diameters low, natural gas, for example, needs to be compressed or cooled to LNG for transport through insulated pipes. (This is also a major reason why using hydrogen as an electricity carrier is so awkward.) You would do better by using a solid (like coal) or a liquid (like petroleum) in this circumstance. Whereas petroleum was once more widely used in North America for domestic heating, because it has a higher calorie content than coal, it now tends to be used for more economically productive work. Coal-fired electricity became a heating option, but now the price of coal is rising due to demand and the cost of transporting it to sprawling populations. Cleveland et al found that the more expensive the fuel in dollar terms, the more carefully it was used. The authors also found that, even where fuel was cheap to start with, its cost would increase in line with the financial return it provided to the users, so that their financial measure showed reliability over time.”
 Newman, Sheila, 2011, April 11, “Fracking democracy,”http://candobetter.net/node/2348. Comments on this article document evolution of laws in France to totally ban gas-fracking as environmentally and socially untenable.
 McQuaid, John, 2009, January. Mining the Mountains. Smithsonian Magazine, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Mining-the-Mountain.html#ixzz275C3YDUt
“Explosives and giant machines are destroying Appalachian peaks to obtain coal. In a tiny West Virginia town, residents and the industry fight over a mountain's fate.” “Demand for mountaintop coal has been rising quickly, driven by high oil prices, energy-intensive lifestyles in the United States and elsewhere and hungry economies in China and India. The price of central Appalachian coal has nearly tripled since 2006 (the long-term effect on coal pricing of the latest global economic downturn isn't yet known). U.S. coal exports increased by 19 percent in 2007 and were expected to go up by 43 percent in 2008. Virginia-based Massey Energy, responsible for many of Appalachia's mountaintop projects, recently announced plans to sell more coal to China. As demand increases, so does mountaintop removal, the most efficient and most profitable form of coal mining. In West Virginia, mountaintop removal and other kinds of surface mining (including highwall mining, in which machines demolish mountainsides but leave peaks intact) accounted for about 42 percent of all coal extracted in 2007, up from 31 percent a decade earlier. ”
 For a discussion about costs of building nuclear power supply in Australia from scratch see Newman, Sheila, 2008. “France and Australia,” in Sheila Newman (Ed.) The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd edition, pp251-252.
(All emphases and headings have been inserted by Candobetter.net's editors.)
Unpopular, unwanted, unwise
The Liberal government's biggest piece of land transport infrastructure is the proposed freeway through Royal Park in Melbourne, which it calls the East West Link. In fact, it does not link the east and west at all. Nor does it have the support of most Victorians, who know perfectly well that if it proceeds it will come with a massive opportunity cost and put paid to their hopes for a rail line to Doncaster, a rail line to Melbourne Airport, rail to Mernda or public transport to Monash University. In particular, it does not have the support of local residents, who are appalled by its impact on Royal Park, the Moonee Ponds Creek and the Melbourne Zoo. I commend Julianne Bell, the tireless secretary of Protectors of Public Lands Victoria and committee member of Royal Park Protection Group, and all the community groups who are working incredibly hard to stop this project happening: David Muir and theKensington Association, Kaye Oddie and the Friends of Moonee Ponds Creek, the Carlton Association and many others.
Costly, profligate, secretive, ill-informed
For a Liberal government that grandstands about fiscal rectitude, this $8 billion project is being put forward without passing any serious cost-benefit analysis. The government claims that the benefits of the $6 billion to $8 billion freeway outweigh the cost but refuses to provide details, claiming that this would compromise commercial negotiations.
Misunderstands Glaeser's Triumph of the City theory
The government's business case relies totally on the assumption of what economists call an 'agglomeration effect', in which population and economic clusters in cities lead to efficiencies and add to business productivity. The Linking Melbourne Authority, which provides information on road infrastructure projects conducted on behalf of the Victorian government, has referred to a book by the American writer, Edward L Glaeser, called Triumph of the City. Its main thesis is the agglomeration benefits that create cities. But the Linking Melbourne Authority does not appear to have read the book, because the book does not argue that freeways are the path to these benefits, in fact it argues quite the opposite. Mr Glaeser argues that 'driving creates negative externalities that hamper urban economies'. He warns against highway building, calling it 'antiurban'.
“For decades we have tried to solve the problem of too many cars on too few lanes by building more roads, but each new highway or bridge then attracts more traffic.”
The Age commentator, Kenneth Davidson, has accurately pointed out in relation to the Royal Park freeway:
“It will cripple the state's fiscal position for many years through massive payments to the public-private partnership consortium that will finance it. The financial burden on the Victorian taxpayer will be so big that it will ''crowd out'' the state's core responsibilities for funding schools, hospitals, rail transport and even other roads for at least a generation.”
Contorted and ridiculous economic estimates
An email recently obtained through FOI illustrates that the Victorian government's own economic consultant, Chris Tehan of Evans & Peck, told the government that the business case had dramatically overestimated the wider economic benefits to get an artificial figure of a $1.40 return. According to The Age:
“… the methodology ‘has not been used in any of [the Transport Department's] other public transport projects or program modelling to date’”.
The financial case for the east-west link hinges on a prediction that toll road use will jump over the next 30 years because of rising wealth and shrinking petrol and CBD parking price rises.
The business case for the link makes the controversial assumption that: firstly, a driver's willingness to use toll roads will increase by 1.4 per cent per annum due to rising incomes; secondly, the rate of increase in the cost of running a car will fall from the current two per cent per annum in real terms to half a per cent per annum by 2041; and, thirdly, that the rate of increase in the cost of inner-city parking, which is currently increasing at four per cent per annum in real terms, will fall to 0.5 per cent by 2041.
Victorian government caught out manufacturing and manipulating benefits
The Victorian government has been caught out manipulating modelling to produce a favourable result.
As the minister at the table well knows, this is the Land Transport Infrastructure Amendment Bill 2014. The East West Link is this government's prime piece of proposed land transport infrastructure, and I am detailing to the House why I am opposed to this piece of land transport infrastructure.
Increasingly dodgy business case models being passed by Victorian Government
The former Infrastructure Australia head, Michael Deegan, told a Senate committee that the government's unpublished business case provided an alternative estimate showing a benefit-cost ratio of just 0.8. Under this scenario, the project would return just 80 cents for every one dollar spent, suggesting an economic loss if the stock-standard analysis preferred by Infrastructure Australia is used.
According to The Age, in a submission to a federal infrastructure inquiry, Infrastructure Australia outed Victoria for failing to submit a robust business case for the East West Link, singling out:
“….the controversial $6 billion to $8 billion road as a key example of why the public are cynical about ‘big ticket’ infrastructure announcements.”
Infrastructure Australia's 11-member council, which includes the transport experts, Sir Rod Eddington, and the federal Treasury secretary, Martin Parkinson, is understood to broadly recommend only those projects with benefit-cost ratios of more than 1.5. And Michael Deegan warns that big-spending promises are being made without proper scrutiny. The Age quotes him as saying:
“This is a particular problem during election periods where commitments are often made although robust business cases have not been prepared, let alone independently reviewed.”
Fed Gov changes afoot to ring-fence projects from independent scrutiny
The Age continues, saying that Infrastructure Australia:
““… is particularly concerned about changes proposed by the Deputy Prime Minister, Warren Truss, which will give the federal government discretion to ring-fence some projects from independent scrutiny.”"
Mr Deegan warned that any such change would ‘exacerbate’ the problem of projects being presented to Infrastructure Australia ''with limited or questionable business cases.”
The freeway through Royal Park is a classic example of economic 'mutton dressed up as lamb'.
The article continues:
“Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who is opposed to Commonwealth funding for public transport projects, has pledged $1.5 billion for the east-west project, with the rest coming from the state government, which will collect toll revenue, and the private sector.”
Costly 'solution' doomed to fail on its own terms 12 years after construction
According to the traffic expert, Stephen Pelosi, the traffic on the East-West Link in the morning peak is expected to have slowed to 20 to 30 kilometres per hour by 2031 as worsening congestion pushes the road close to capacity just 12 years after it is due to open. The East West Link is forecast to carry 80,000 vehicles a day on opening in 2019, increasing to between 100,000 and 120,000 a day by 2031 according to his modelling. He is quoted in The Age:
''If it's reaching 120,000 we're at a position where we're reaching capacity,'' Mr Pelosi said. ''Unless you intervene in some manner and manage the toll rate to influence demand, you get a situation where you're near capacity."
It is not much use to commuters.
457 Visas mean no guarantee Australian workers will get jobs from EastWest link
When the Prime Minister is challenged about all the manufacturing jobs that are being lost in Melbourne with the impending closure of Ford, Holden and Toyota, and the job cuts at Qantas, he says, 'It will be alright, we are going to build the EastWest Link'. But will those construction jobs actually go to Australian workers – to Victorian workers, to Melbourne workers? In fact there are no guarantees – there are no guarantees! – that Australian workers will get the jobs created on the project from design through to actual construction work. This is because government policies at the federal and state level favour foreign companies and foreign workers over Australian workers and companies.
At the end of September 2013 there were 13,440 temporary foreign workers on 457 visas in the Australian construction industry, an increase of five per cent in just 12 months. At the end of January 2014 a total of 110,000 457 visa workers were in Australia, four per cent more than at the end of January 2013. The nature of the construction industry is such that any number of these 457 visa workers could be deployed to work on the Royal Park freeway, from engineering to trades like carpentry and other blue-collar jobs. The slowdown in resource sector construction means that many firms employing 457 construction workers are desperately looking for infrastructure projects to fill the gap in their orders.
Government reducing worker protection and encouraging 457 workers
On top of that, the Liberal government has shown that its agenda is to reduce protections for Australian workers and young people in the 457 visa program in the name of deregulation and removing what it calls 'unnecessary red tape'.
Let us consider exactly what the Liberal government considers unnecessary red tape. First, it has removed or watered down the key protections for Australian workers that Labor introduced in its June 2013 legislation, the Migration Amendment (Temporary Sponsored Visas) Act 2013, specifically, the labour market testing provisions. In November last year the coalition issued regulations under that legislation which make it much easier for employers to hire temporary foreign workers on 457 visas even when qualified Australian workers are readily available and willing to do the work. The figures from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection say that, for 65 per cent of all of the 457 visa nominations.
I am not the one who made the claim that the East West Link is a solution for the unemployed manufacturing workers in Melbourne; it was the Prime Minister who made that claim. I am pointing out why that claim is flawed.
Figures from the Department of Immigration and Border Protection indicate that, for 65 per cent of all 457 visa nominations, they have exempted employers from any legal obligation to labour market test – that is, to even look for Australian workers, let alone show that none were available, before 457 visas could be approved for temporary foreign workers. The Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union, the CFMEU, pointed out in a recent submission to the Productivity Commission that, even in the minority of cases where 457 labour market testing is required, the protections for Australian workers looking for jobs on projects like the East West Tunnel are 'virtually non-existent'. They state:
“Employers have no obligation even to advertise jobs for which they nominate foreign nationals for 457 visas – ‘other recruitment efforts’ (unspecified) will suffice, according to FAQs on the Department’s website.
Job ads can be put on Facebook or buried on obscure company websites, for only a few minutes, then taken down. There is no minimum advertising time …”
The CFMEU propose there be a 28-day advertising period, and I agree with them. They also state:
“The so-called ‘job ads’ can be ‘placed’ any time in the last 12 months. This means employers can use job ads placed in February 2013 to justify their bid for 457 visa workers in February 2014 – regardless of the number of Australian workers who become available or unemployed in that time.”
Employers have no obligation to keep any records of the number of Australian applicants, the number who got jobs and those who didn’t, and the reasons why the Australian candidates missed out while temporary foreign workers did not.
Employers simply have to ‘declare’ this information to the Immigration Department and that’s the end of it. They have no obligation to prove they made good faith efforts to employ Australians first or keep records of any job interviews.
The government regards requirements like this as red tape holding back employers. I say that, without such requirements, a project like the East West Link, if it proceeds, will not employ many Victorian workers at all.
The East West Link is a white elephant that risks undermining Melbourne's productive capacity and living standards. The tunnel is not a solution. It does not provide value for money. Generations of Victorians will be burdened by an $8 billion debt for a tunnel that will have long passed its use-by date. It is regrettable that this government is seeking to amend the Infrastructure Australia legislation to give the minister heightened discretion rather than going through the proper independent, transparent processes that Australians expect when it comes to large spending on infrastructure projects.
Thursday 20th March 2014
The Hon Kelvin Thomson MP
Federal Labor Member for Wills
"Michael Crichton spoke of environmentalists requiring a belief in an unspoiled 'Eden' that existed before we corrupted it and will again exist once we have had our comeuppance. My thought is that the belief that Aboriginals were noble eco-savages falls into this same category. The Platonic need to believe in perfection." Tim Murray
Whilst I am a great fan of Tim Murray's, I feel the topic and the opinions expressed need further investigation.
Tim Murray's article, The Record of Indigenous North Americans raises the issue of whether non-capitalistic or less complex cultures were as unethical or worse than modern industrial societies. Since the initiator of the debate, Tim Murray, hails from Anglo-Canada and talks about North American Indians, I will proceed as if we are mainly talking here about Anglo-capitalism. I don't want to be accused of cultural-cringing because of my own precision of 'Anglo' capitalism, so I will precise here that the system of capitalism and industrial society originated in England and colonised itself most typically in the English-speaking settler societies like the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and, I think, South Africa. Other capitalisms have different relationships with fossil fuels, democracy, and land-inheritance systems. They incorporate other organisational, economic, social and political blends, although industrialisation is heavily affected everywhere by Anglo-capitalism.
I think that the imbalance of romanticism almost entirely favours fossil-fuel based Anglo-capitalism. I agree with Michael Creighton about environmentalism as a religion in that, clearly, some environmentalism is religious. Corporations, spin-doctors, the mainstream media and advertising (the latter three being parts of the same thing) rely on this uncritical faith by the public in symbols and banners. Religious environmentalism ritualises and promotes 'environmental values' in the same way religions push various other ethical values, without the rituals having much if any practical application to Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) and preserving biodiversity, any more than a politician's or Corporate CEO's swallowing wine-soaked bread from a priest (taking of the Eucharist) necessarily affects their real-life conduct of business.
The same religious approach is often present in defenses of the superiority of industrial society and of what passes for democracy in Anglo-capitalist societies. I would also say that people believe naively in the value of their governments in the way that children believe that their parents are essentially good and loving even when they are cruel, dishonest, niggardly and abusive. To seriously challenge the idea that your country's leader ultimately has your country's welfare at heart, upon which your welfare utterly depends, is in practice as unlikely as a pre-schooler losing faith in his mother or a priest losing faith in the God the Father. Although it does happen, populations have to be pushed to the limit and to have little left to lose before they seriously challenge outrageous governments. The tendency is for the worshipper to seek in themselves the explanation for bad behaviour in a leader, a parent, or a deity. The first person the doubter approaches is the parent or the priest, who reinforce the dogma of course. In Australia the tendency is to write to one's member of parliament or to the editor of a mainstream newspaper - with predictable results. The last person we tend to rely on for verification is ourself.
Anglo-capitalism is a system born of dispossession and one which has industrialised cruelty to humans and animals on a massive, constantly worsening scale. (See Ellen Meiksins Wood, The Origin of Capitalism, a longer view, Verso, London and New York, 2002 and Christopher D. Cook, Diet for a dead planet
There is abundant evidence of steady-state hunter gatherer and herding cultures lasting many hundred and even thousands of years. They had to get along with the other species in their environment because they depended upon them for survival; they could not afford to to damage or scare them all away. Those cultures which did break their environments also broke, died back, and often did not survive. The societies which survived for long periods got it right.
A recent book which tests theory on the durability of such cultures is Fikret Berkes & Carl Folke (Eds.), Linking Social and Ecological Systems, Management Practices and Social Mechanisms for Building Resilience, Cambridge Univ Press, 2000.
Only if we equate material abundance - an accident of fossil-fuels permitting complex technology, starting in England and producing ghastly inequities and sufferings there which then were globalised and continue to burgeon - with some kind of evolutionary progress of the species (which I find an absurdity) - could we pretend that the amount of waste and destruction in our culture was justified. That is, however, a widely held belief, marketed as an excuse for grossly interfering with peoples' rights in non-industrialised countries.
My view is by no means some kind of cultural cringe about what was imposed on my ancestors; it is a political view I have formed through the experience of testing Anglo-capitalist associated democracy and trying to make the system live up to the values that Tim believes it embodies. The capitalist Western Culture simply doesn't actually follow through on the democratic and kindness values that it markets itself under. The only reason a shrinking proportion of those under its sway still believe that it does is because they have not tested those values and because they happen to remain a part of the shrinking circle of beneficiaries. There are many countries out there which are actively revolting at the cost they bear for provisioning Western capitalist culture Inc.
This comment is also not some kind of defense of communism or socialism, which, as far as I can see, had their roots in an opposition to capitalism and classically attempt to operate on the same dehumanising scale. It looks as if Western capitalism is now going the same way as Soviet communism, but now Russian capitalism is on the rise - and for one reason only - fossil fuel possessions. As Western fossil-fuel sources deplete, Russian and ex-Soviet sources are still comparatively well stocked.
I think there is a conflict in the anti-population movement between those who have not sufficiently explored the fossil-fuel connection between wealth, technology and mass propaganda and those who look at thermodynamic underpinnings of culture and social systems.
With regard to Michael Creighton (a favourite author of mine) and his comments about the Eden myth and popular romanticism of less complex cultures, my own opinion is that Creighton romanticises his own complex culture. I think he has bought the commercial myth that all our ancestors laboured in misery and cruelty until the industrial revolution brought them out of their torment. That's the myth of Industrial Eden. I look forward to Creighton writing a new science-based novel on the role of fossil-fuel reserves on capitalism and the relationship or non-relationship of capitalism with democracy.
By the way, Creighton's ideas for strengthening and depoliticising the funding of scientific research are very interesting. Take a look here.
I would be interested to see Tim Murray look into his Icelandic origins to find out more about the traditions of kindness, responsibility, altruism and friendships with animals there. As I have probably made clear, I think that capitalism simply stole kindly ethics from herding and other cultures and now wears those ethics like a false badge.