The Electrical Trades Union is calling for an independent review of the entire National Electricity Market (NEM) following the Australian Energy Market Operator’s (AEMO) unprecedented decision to take over national energy supplies. AEMO has announced it will set administered prices for wholesale power in all regions of the market and take control of all generation plants to ensure the lights don’t go out for businesses and households.
Global economic turbulence and the prospect of deep recession as we move towards an energy crisis, presents huge challenge. There has been little forewarning and planning. Every local and national authority needs to start now to address these challenges seriously, yet still we carry on with our head in the sands, wasting resources on an epic scale.
According to a little noticed report in 2009 by the respected (US) Energy Information Administration, the supply of the world's most essential energy source is going off a cliff. Not in the distant future, but within two years. It says Production of all liquid fuels, including oil, will drop within 20 years to half what it is today, when energy demand is rising rapidly. And the difference needs to be made up with "unidentified projects".
If the EIA is right – and it has been endorsed by the US joint military command, we stand on the edge of a precipice, with no prior warning from either the industry or governments, which ostensibly protect the public interest.
A huge problem is nearly all alternative energy sources are poor energy performers because they need a high-energy input to provide a given energy return.
Already there is a crisis in ‘business as usual’ capitalism, with little sign of recovery, warns Robert Peston in his December 11 BBC programme, ‘The Party’s Over’.
Many world leaders are spending billions they haven’t got in a panic “to restore growth,” whatever it takes, in a world of rapidly depleting resources. Maybe we should be welcoming this warning for the endless "growth is good" mindset that will devour our planet. Do we plan for a secure and better life or do we carry on blindly toward a minefield of lethal limits?
The perpetual growth myth knows no ecological bounds. Damage to ‘the environment’ is considered to be a mere externality. Resource shortages can be relieved just through expanding trade and technology will find a substitute for any depleting resource. Perpetual growthists regard any critics as imposing a dangerous drag on the world’s growth-based pursuit of progress.
The crisis has revealed the fragile interdependence of the globalised economy, where many countries can be involved in the supply chain to produce a component manufactured in one of them. In a few years, the markets will face another major trauma when they realise that once plentiful oil supplies are running down rapidly and the 'globalised' economy this has supported will have to rethink completely.
A clear opportunity now exists to transform our economy and our society for the better. The current global recession should be an opportunity to forge a new economic system able to avoid the shocks and negative impacts associated with our reliance on endless growth. Where is the strategic thinking to build a dynamic, steady state economy in a sustainable environment?
The UK-based New Economics Foundation publishes a "Happy Planet Index," which shows that it is possible for a nation to have a strong sense of well-being with a lower consumption and ecological footprint.
Some Inconvenient Facts for Growthists
If prosperity depended on growing populations to feed economic growth, the Philippines and many countries in Africa would be rich, not poor.
According to the World Bank, the top ten wealthiest countries, as measured by per capita GDP, were, in order of wealth: 1. Luxembourg: 491,000 people. 2. Norway: 4.8 million people. 3. Singapore: 4.8 million people 4. USA: 306 million people 5. Ireland: 4.5 million people 6. Switzerland: 7.7 million people 7. Austria: 8.3 million people 8. Netherlands: 16 million 9. Iceland: 319,000 people 10. Sweden: 9.1 million.
Many countries have small populations and are quite prosperous and successful - New Zealand and Botswana are examples. Of the ten countries listed, all but one, the United States, have small total populations and The United States, with runaway population growth in the past two decades, has not been doing well of late.
Japan is often seen as a forerunner of all that is doomed in the economies of the euro zone and the United States because of its ‘ageing population’ and what is seen as a static economy. But look at Japan's economic performance over the past ten years and "the second lost decade", if not the first, is a misnomer. More than half its population is over 45, but most Japanese have grown richer. In part, because its population has shrunk whereas America's population has increased rapidly.
In aggregate, Japan's economy grew at half the pace of America's between 2001 and 2010. Yet if judged by growth in GDP wealth per person over the same period, then Japan has outperformed America and the euro zone.
Relationship between Growth and Prosperity in 100 Largest U.S. Metropolitan Areas (Eben Fodor, December 2010. www.FodorandAssociates.com)
Most cities operate on the assumption that growth is inherently beneficial and that more and faster growth will benefit local residents economically. The report examined the 100 largest metro areas, representing 66% of the total U.S. population, finding those that did best have the lowest growth rates.
The annual population growth rate of each metro area from 2000 to 2009 was used to compare economic well-being in terms of per capita income, unemployment rate, and poverty rate. The report found:
- Faster growth rates are associated with lower incomes, greater income declines, and higher poverty rates.
- The 25 slowest-growing metro areas outperformed the 25 fastest growing in every category and averaged $8,455 more in per capita personal income in 2009.
- The policy of pursuing growth is enormously expensive, costing local taxpayers more than a hundred billion dollars every year for the new infrastructure alone.
Australia’s GDP per person for the December 2008 quarter fell in every state – linked to population growth, says Dr John Coulter, former President of Sustainable Population Australia. Tasmania, with the lowest population growth, showed only a 0.1% fall per capita. Western Australia, with the highest rate of population growth, showed the second largest fall in per capita GDP at almost 2%. South Australia with a high rate of population growth relative to the economy had the largest decline in per capita GDP at 2.5%.
For centuries, before the industrial revolution humans have lived in a relatively steady state economy. There was virtually no interest in economic growth as a policy objective anywhere before 1950. Yet, by the 1960’s, rapid economic growth had bubbled to the top as the overriding objective of policy to remedy all the ailments of western economies.
In 2010 the United States population reached 308 million and is (conservatively) predicted to grow to 430 million in the next 40 years – an increase of 122 million people. Taking a (modest) average household size of 4 people and a modest 1.5 jobs per household, this means an extra 95,000 jobs need to be created every month for the next 40 years just to meet minimum demand for new jobs. US unemployment is currently around 9% (officially) and unofficially significantly higher.
Globally - present population around 7 billion, at a conservative estimate population in 2050 will be 9.3 billion - increase 2.3 billion, Assume five people in family unit instead of the four in the US calculation, and assume only one job per family unit. Based on those estimates we need to provide over one million new jobs per month for the next 480 months.
Can we really meet such relentless demand in a world of diminishing resources?
The world’s largest economy created 64,000 private sector jobs in September 2010 and lost 95,000 jobs overall. (US Labor Department). Over the last decade net job creation in the United States was zero.
UK data extrapolated from Summary of National Labour Force Survey Data Table 1.
United Kingdom Age 16+ (Thousands) seasonally adjusted
Total in Employment
Quarter January-March 1971 24,613,00m
Quarter February-April 2011 29,239,000m
Change in 40 years + 4.6 million
Of the total 29,239m, 7,953m worked part-time. 15.6% wanted but could not find full-time work. (Table 3)
The world was completely transformed by oil for the duration of the twentieth century, but if the EIA graph is right, within 20 years it will be vastly depleted as we face rising demand and trying to support over 4 billion more people in just 40 years. Here are just some of the issues:
- planning for the replacement of oil in its essential role in EVERY industry;
- planning how to replace cars and transport in our daily lives, and distribute agricultural produce and manufactured goods;
- manufacturing and installing millions of home energy installations to replace fossil fuel-sourced heating;
- planning how to replace and fuel the largest military establishment in history, almost completely dependent upon oil;
- supporting a global population that, at currently fertility rates, is heading for over 11 billion people by 2050 (UNPD) - without the "green agricultural revolution," made possible by the age of oil and where over two billion are already suffering from malnutrition;
- re-powering tractors essential to producing food on a large scale;
- securing imperilled water pumping and sewage plants, dependent on fossil fuel energy to work.
There will be few oil-burning ships transporting grain and other goods to the billions now dependent on them, or oil-burning airlines serving the world's major cities and the vital global tourist economy. Yet in September 2011 the Airbus Company predicted that the global passenger plane fleet will more than double by 2030. They are in dreamland.
– not least greater national food security, not more speculative office blocks on prime agricultural land. There is a vast amount that could be done without impacting on our quality of life. Some reductions many people would welcome. To name just a few:
- reducing unnecessary road lighting in the country and reduced but better lighting optics in our towns, along with cutting office lighting at night;
- cutting TV advertising screens in supermarkets and multiple TVs in bars;
- controlling the mass of unsolicited mail-shots falling out of papers and through our doors;
- cutting multiple daily flights on short-haul routes, by expanding high-speed train networks;
- cutting production of gas-guzzling performance vehicles.
Every local and national authority needs to start now to address these challenges seriously and examine services considered most vulnerable to long-term reduction in available fuel supplies. Still we carry on with our head in the sands, wasting resources on an epic scale. There has been little forewarning and planning. Our children won’t thank us for inheriting a world taken to an abyss.
Abstract (Part of the original paper; useful, so I'll leave it here.)
This paper attempts to map out a definitive route to human “happiness” based on the notion of a human reconnection with nature through an appropriate heart-brain balance. The consequences of this for human society, especially agriculture, are explored. The content focuses specifically on Japan, but is thought to be adaptable to any society in the world.
Fully referenced PDF file of this article (Depending on your computer, you may also be able to see the Japanese 'kanji' used in the section on Shinto.)
Current Japanese society cannot be said to be very “happy,” nor does it appear that “happiness” will be achieved in this society, or in other advanced industrial nations, simply by continuing along the lines of the present economic and social policies. The GDH (Greater Domestic Happiness) and Food Problem Research Group was set up by the Mottainai Society chairman, Professor Yoshinori Ishii to look into the future of Japanese society in the context of ‘Peak Oil’ and to address the possibilities for the achievement of “happiness” in Japan. The research group held its first meeting in Tokyo on 17 November 2009. Prior to the meeting, the secretary of the group, Mr Yasuo Tamura, circulated the following memo.
1 Nov. 2009
Reason for the Establishment of the “GDH and Food Problem Research Group”
The oil peak has already come and gone and the natural gas and coal peaks are expected within the next 15 years. Nuclear power cannot do everything. It is high time to begin putting together a plan for a transition from an oil-dependent “high-energy society” to a “low-energy society.”
The basics of civilization – transportation, fuel, chemical raw materials, etc. – are about to undergo a fundamental change. Globalization will also recede. It will be necessary to plan for regional decentralization, local production for local consumption, environmental coexistence, and localization.
That means not making GDP the target for the state and society. That is because growthism and the society based on the competitive principle have not made people happy.
We wish to outline a concept for a society that values the concepts of mottainai (‘waste not, want not’) and sufficiency, that values the bonds between people, and that cares for life and the diversity of nature. For this, we think in terms not of GDP, but GDH – Gross Domestic Happiness – and will also undertake a transformation of the way in which we think about the food issue. That is the “GDH and Food Problem Research Group.” We hope that you (the prospective members of the research group) will approve of these ideas.
The necessity to replace GDP/GNP, symbolizing growthism and a society based on the principle of competition, with a more human society oriented towards caring for life and nature was at the time, and still is, becoming clearer by the day. This group took as its starting point “Gross Domestic Happiness” (GDH or Gross National Happiness, GNH) as proposed by the King of Bhutan and implemented in that country.
At this stage, the central emphasis of the work of the group was less on defining what “happiness” might be than on examining Japan’s food issues. The feeling was that most of this work on the social realization of “happiness” had already been carried out by the King of Bhutan and his advisers in devising the Bhutan GDH and that once society took on the GDH approach and the food issue was resolved, then Japan’s society would realize happiness as a matter of course. However, while work and discussions on the issues of food, energy, employment, social change and Japan’s future progressed, it proved more and more difficult to get a firm grasp on the concept of “happiness.” As this was happening, I was beginning to read around the subject of human happiness a little more and increasingly came to feel that “happiness” relied on an appropriate human relationship with nature as much as it did on appropriate human social and economic relationships. If that were so, then however much we ‘adjusted’ human relationships in the attempt to bring about human happiness in society, unless the human-nature relationship was also ‘adjusted’ so that all people lived in harmony (more or less) with nature, then “happiness” would be an illusion, and therefore unattainable. The development of these ideas in the context of Japan’s food and energy issues is the content of the remainder of this paper.
Part 1: Japan’s Food and Energy Problem
Japan’s food issue is inseparable from the world food and energy situation. Japan imports roughly 60% of its food calories. The population of Japan, roughly 127,700,000 and falling very slowly, lives on a land area of 377,944 km2, of which around 65% is forested mountain land, and has roughly 4.5 million ha (45,000 km2) of farmland. That calculates to 0.035 hectares per person (ha/cap) or about 28.4 cap/ha. Good Japanese farming will support about 11 cap/ha, thus showing why it is that Japan can feed only about 40% of its people. This need to import food is likely to become critical as fossil energy resources become more expensive and less easily available in the second and third decades of the 21st century. The reason for this is that a great proportion of agriculture around the world today, especially that in industrialized countries and the countries that are exporting large amounts of food to Japan (the USA, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and to a certain extent Thailand) relies heavily on fossil resources to produce food. The international transportation of food is also heavily reliant on fossil energy resources.
The main uses of fossil resources in agriculture are in chemical fertilizers and other agrichemicals, fuel for machines and transportation (and the energy required to manufacture machines), and the generation of electricity for pumps, dryers and so on. Higher prices or reduced availability for fossil fuels means a reduced ability to fertilize cropland, protect crops from weeds or pests, to use machinery to cultivate the land or process crops, and to move materials from one place to another. The ability of current food exporting countries to export will also be diminished, it will become difficult to transport large amounts of food over long distances, and at the same time it will also become more difficult for Japan to maintain its current level of food production. A simple simulation devised by the author shows that with all current conditions except for energy use remaining the same as they were in 2009, but with fossil energy use in Japanese agriculture declining suddenly to zero, the current food self-sufficiency of Japan, 39-40%, would decline to 15-16%. Thus, in a generalized world fossil energy shortage Japan is likely to face simultaneous drastic reductions in both food imports and its ability to produce food. It was generally recognized in the research group that this situation is likely to occur before 2030, and could happen at anytime from around the middle of the second decade of the 21st century.
If a situation of a sudden cessation of all food and energy imports into Japan were to occur, this would bring about a human catastrophe on a massive scale. However, the food and energy import problems are unlikely to happen both simultaneously and suddenly, and since there is perhaps at least five years (as time of writing, October 2011) before any serious crisis occurs, there are a number of measures that the Japanese people and government can start to enforce now to avoid, as far as possible, this deep human catastrophe from becoming a reality. In brief, the following measures can be taken:
1. Reduce reliance on chemical fertilizers and other chemicals and move slowly towards sustainable farming systems based on organic materials (organic farming, permaculture, natural farming, mixed farming, LISA [low input sustainable farming], and so on).
2. Increase farmland area up to 5.3 million ha and improve the cropping ratio up to 140%, while at the same time providing greater (financial, government support) incentives to farmers to produce food by making it possible for them to make a decent living from farming, obtain expert help in the transition to organic forms of agriculture, and increased security in the form of, for example, crop insurance.
3. Increase the number of people working in farming (especially young people) from the approximately 2.5 million now up to 10 million, again by making it worth people’s time to farm in financial terms.
4. Begin to provide farm draft animals to replace machinery for the time when fuel becomes unavailable. Introduce a target of breeding two to three million farm animals (horses, oxen, etc.) by 2040.
5. Ensure the sustainable management of all forests for the sustainable harvesting of wood for construction and energy, and the harvesting of other forest products, such as leaf humus for fertilization of farmland.
6. Produce biofuels (without competing with the production of food for humans) for running farm and transport machinery over the next 20 to 30 years.
7. Reduce the need for the transportation of food and enforce, as far as possible, local production for local consumption.
8. Reduce food processing and packaging to the minimum necessary.
9. Rethink food retailing and preparation (including restaurants) in order to use less energy.
These are all worthwhile policies that can be introduced locally and gradually. However, as of time of writing (October 2011), not only are no such policies being implemented, they are not even being considered. Since it takes at least several years for farming practices to change, agricultural policy needs to be thought out ahead of time, not when the crisis is beginning to happen.
Further, the events following the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 11 March 2011 have made the situation considerably worse. Substantial areas of Fukushima Prefecture have become uncultivable due to radiation pollution of the land. The fear of radiation pollution of food will also drive some consumers away from domestic food produce to imported foods. These two factors will tend to exert a downward pressure on Japan’s food self-sufficiency.
Japan is now also preparing to join the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free-trade economic partnership that will likely include many countries in the Asia-Pacific region, such as the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Chile, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam and others. The abolition of import tariffs on agricultural products will mean an influx of cheap food from exporting countries and a loss of domestic markets for Japan’s farmers. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) has estimated that Japan’s food self-sufficiency will fall to 13% if Japan joins the TPP. This is tantamount to a destruction of Japan’s agriculture and rural economy at precisely the time when Japan should be devising policies to protect and bolster these against future worldwide food and energy shortages.
If the worst does come to the worst and Japan’s food (and energy) imports cease, how far can Japan go in providing food for its population? A useful study by Toshiki Mashimo estimates that if producers do their very best to expand production and consumers do their very best to adjust consumption to lower levels and to traditional foods, Japan might be able to raise its food self-sufficiency to 80% under current agricultural methods, or to 75% if organic farming was the main method of production. This will not be easily achieved, but if it is, and food and energy imports can be maintained at a certain level, this kind of effort would be a great relief to the Japanese people. At the same time, it suggests that the Japanese population needs to decline to 80% or 75% of its current level, or about 95 to 100 million people rather than the current 127.7 million. At the current slow decline of the Japanese population, this situation is not likely to be achieved until 2050 or later.
A food shortage, perhaps triggered by a fossil energy crisis, is not going to contribute to the “happiness” of Japanese people. I will explain below that “happiness” is not something that is going to be easily or quickly achieved in Japan (or in any industrial country). I hope it will become clear how this “happiness” is related to agriculture as the argument is developed.
Part 2: What is “Happiness” and how can it be achieved?
2.1 Introduction to “Happiness”
Since I believe that nearly all previous attempts at defining “happiness” have been wide of the mark, I do not intend to review past literature on the subject. The reader may enter the phrase “definition of happiness” into the search box in Google to find sufficient examples of this definition and other related information. I currently use the following definition:
A long-lasting sense of inner contentment and security.
I think this covers the main aspects of what is generally thought of as “happiness.” One problem with this definition is that it gives us no clue as to how “happiness” is to be achieved.
So how can this “happiness” be achieved? Let us try to list up a number of factors that might help lead to the achievement of “happiness” in a society.
1. At least sufficient material conditions for a “decent” level of daily existence (food, water, clothing, shelter, and so on).
2. An even distribution of the materials in 1., or at least a sufficiently “fair” distribution that does not cause a part of the population to feel that it is being treated unfairly.
3. 2. infers that human relations within the society will be “good,” i.e. that people are “fair” with each other and that no one is being mistreated. This would also imply the absence of wars and other forms of violence.
Human security is sometimes said to be composed of the two human freedoms of “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear”. Human security might thus nicely sum up the factors 1. to 3.
However, for our “happy” society, we might also want to include fair access to “decent work,” good quality health and education, as well as a number of freedoms (freedom of movement, freedom of choice of occupation, freedom of expression, freedom of association, etc.) that are now supposed to be guaranteed under UN covenants. A similar list of factors can be seen in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which also includes love and belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
Thus the factors that might aid in the creation of a “happy” society are well-known. The assumption then is that the “happy” society may be approached by implementing social policies that lead to the realization of these factors in society; a social engineering approach to “happiness.” Unfortunately, although the material conditions of the 20th century might have enabled this to happen, it is most definitely what did not happen in almost all societies. In fact, as we are noting recently, the more materially affluent societies become the more difficult it appears to be for those societies to be “happy” - to be inhabited by people who consider themselves to be “happy.”
So what is the problem? Firstly, I think that if we wish to discover what human “happiness” might be, although material (and psychological) conditions are necessary they are not sufficient, and that instead of looking for factors external to the human being we have to look at internal factors. That is, we have to look at what human beings are, what we have evolved to be, in order to find where our “real happiness” lies. Secondly, as I have already mentioned in the Introduction, I have become convinced that “happiness” depends on having an appropriate relationship with nature. Despite the over-simplicity of the idea, the more tenuous the human relationship with nature becomes, the less likely we are to achieve “happiness.” (I suppose it’s necessary to define “nature” here, but basically I mean non-urbanized areas where people can come into contact with wild or domesticated animals and plants, including most agricultural settings, coastal areas, wilderness areas, forests, and some desert areas.) I hope it will become clear later why these two factors (what we are and our relationship with ‘nature’) are, in fact, so deeply connected as to be virtually one and the same thing.
2.2 Carlos Castaneda - his contribution and his failure
A surprising number of people have never heard of Carlos Castaneda (abbreviated hereafter to “CC”), but if you were an English-speaking young adult in the 1970s it may have been hard not to have heard of him. CC’s first book, The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge, was first published in 1968, when CC was a student of anthropology at UCLA. The book describes how CC met and became an apprentice to a Yaqui indian shaman, don Juan Matus. ‘Teachings’ reads as a diary of the apprenticeship CC underwent with don Juan and was considered at the time to be a masterpiece of anthropological research. (CCs third book, Journey to Ixtlan, is almost identical to the Ph.D. dissertation that CC submitted to UCLA in 1973.)
Through don Juan, CC comes to see that there is “a separate reality” (the title of CC’s second book), a separate awareness or a separate consciousness from the one that we usually experience in our daily lives. This offers the possibility of, if not the realization of “happiness,” a totally different way of life based on the cognitive structure of the shamanistic world of don Juan. To the American youth of the early 70s, who were in the midst of experiencing or who had recent memories of the assassination of President Kennedy, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the hippie movement, Watergate, and the deaths of Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin, the notion of a way out into a different way of life and a different world was appealing indeed, and CC’s books sold extremely well.
So if this is not a path to “happiness” (a different way of life, but not necessarily to “happiness,” as can be seen from the books themselves), then why are we mentioning this here? The interesting thing about don Juan’s different perceptual mode is that the skill that must be mastered in order to gain the new perceptual ability is stopping the internal dialog. It is necessary to stop the internal chatter in your brain, the endless conversation that we have with ourselves nearly all our waking hours. Everything in don Juan’s shamanistic perceptual mode begins with emptying the brain of this internal conversation.
This should come as no surprise to South and East Asian Buddhists, who are all familiar with Zen Buddhism. The main practice of Zen is Zen meditation (zazen, sitting meditation), the purpose of which is to quieten the mind and stop the inner dialog. In the Flower Sermon, the Buddha is said to have uttered the following words to explain what he was doing while looking at a flower:
I possess the true Dharma eye, the marvellous mind of Nirvana, the true form of the formless, the subtle Dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures.
I think this is exactly what don Juan was trying to teach CC. The separate reality that was reachable if one was successful in stopping the internal dialog was termed by don Juan the “nagual.” By contrast, our ordinary, everyday perceptual mode was termed the “tonal.” (The term “nagual” is originally from the Nahuatl word meaning a shaman, but in CC’s books is used in the sense of a tonal/nagual dichotomy.)
Don Juan explains that “A warrior is aware that the world will change as soon as he stops talking to himself,” but just exactly what is involved in this change? CC’s fourth book, Tales of Power, consists almost entirely of an explanation of the tonal/nagual contrast and the notion that, if one can attain the nagual, this will make it possible for a person to see things differently, as opposed to the ordinary ‘seeing’ of objects that we do in our normal mode of perception, the tonal. On pages 125-126 of Tales of Power, in a chapter entitled “The Island of the Tonal,” don Juan explains to CC, while out eating a meal, that the tonal is like the tops of the tables in the restaurant. Everything that we can talk and think about in our normal mode of perception is on the tables (representing the minds of different people). Even ‘God’ is on the table, as it is something we have a word for and can refer to. Don Juan likens God to the tablecloth that can wrap up everything else on the table inside itself. The nagual, then, is the space between the tables; the area where we do not use words to comprehend or communicate what we see there. (So if we have a word for ‘nagual,’ isn’t it part of the tonal? No, don Juan says, because the tonal/nagual are a true pair.)
The above describes for us a door into ‘a separate reality,’ but this seems to lead neither to nature nor to happiness. Moreover, in the mid-70s a number of people denounced CC’s work as a hoax and cast doubts as to whether don Juan actually existed as a real person. Primary among the detractors was Richard De Mille (son of the well-known film director Cecil B. De Mille), who showed that it was more likely that CC got his ideas by spending his days in the UCLA library than out in the desert of northern Mexico with a Yaqui shaman named don Juan. (His 1980 book, The don Juan Papers includes a 47-page glossary of quotations from don Juan and their sources, which include Wittenstein, C.S. Lewis and Yogi Ramacharaka, a pseudonym of William Walker Atkinson).
This would suggest that CC himself was never actually able to stop his inner dialog, find the nagual and see. However, he had spent at least ten years reading about and discussing transcendentalism and the occult. He knew enough about these subjects and had sufficient talent as a writer (in English despite the fact that he was a native Spanish speaker) to concoct a ‘story’ that was convincing enough to satisfy even UCLA professors. Today, his books, which are now thought to have sold over 10 million copies, are generally considered to be novels (though they are still marketed as ‘nonfiction’). Even if they are novels and CC himself had no direct experience of the nagual, his sources appear to have been largely valid. His enormous influence has, therefore, opened the eyes of a generation of English-speakers to the idea of reaching ‘a separate reality’ by shutting off the inner dialog. That has been CC’s lasting contribution.
We may now imagine millions of mostly young people attempting to stop their inner dialogs and reach a different mode of perception, with varying degrees of success. Some may have been successful, but the general feeling is that although CCs books were fascinating to read, they were an incomplete ‘manual’ for reaching the nagual. There are clearly still elements missing here, and I think these are the link with nature and one further factor that is the main subject of the remainder of this paper.
2.3 How do humans connect with nature?
How does stopping the internal dialog have a relation to the human being’s ability to form a relationship with “nature”? The answer is: by perceiving “nature” with the human heart.
Most people are aware that the heart is an organ that pumps blood around the body. Far fewer people, however, know that the heart also has other functions and abilities. These include:
1. High sensitivity to electric charges, electromagnetic radiation and magnetic fields,
2. An ability to transmit electromagnetic radiation. The heart also has its own magnetic field,
3. Being a ‘brain’ in its own right, since 15% to 20% of its cells are neural cells.
Many of the electromagnetic signals living organisms receive contain large amounts of information. Living organisms are able to decode the information embedded in those signals and respond, since we are all transmitters as well as receivers and communication always goes both ways. Groups of cells in the heart, as in other organs, beat together at a single frequency. This synchronization of cells in proximity with each other is termed entrainment.
A heart is, in fact, a large self-organized grouping of cells.
This aggregating of cells, as with electrical detection arrays in fish, makes it possible for the organ to sense extremely weak electric fields. Furthermore, the role of magnetic fields in cells and living organisms should also not be overlooked.
Cells and living organisms not only perceive, decode, and respond to extremely weak electric signals, they perceive, decode, and respond to magnetic signals, which contain information, just as electric signals do. The organ of the human body that is very sensitive to magnetic fields is the hippocampus, an organ that works closely with the heart and “works closely with the amygdala … to modify body physiology in response to emotions.” The hippocampus is also involved in “the extraction of meaning from the vast sea of signals in which we live,” just as salmon, bees and birds “orient themselves within directional meaning.” The hippocampus can also form new neurons in response to demands to process nonlinear information from the environment, if you live in a rich and stimulating environment where you are continually receiving such electrical or magnetic signals.
We are made to be in the wild nonlinearity of the world, and this immersion is needed for the hippocampus and our central nervous system to be healthy.
Since all living organisms both receive, decode, and respond to electrical and magnetic signals, this means they are capable of communicating with each other. This is automatic; we have evolved with it, just with all the other bodily functions, and with the five senses. Furthermore,
… the human heart is vastly more than a muscular pump – it is one of the most powerful electromagnetic generators and receivers known. It is, in fact, a highly evolved organ of perception and communication.
Buhner says that “the magnetic field produced by the heart … extends around the body in a torus, a fractal, sort-of-spherical shape that continually flows through space,” and that “Measured with magnetic field meters, the electromagnetic field that the heart produces is some five thousand times more powerful than that created by the brain.” This might explain how, if some people are actually capable of seeing electromagnetic fields, people report seeing the ‘aura’ of the human body shaped like a luminous egg. This is how CC reports that don Juan sees humans, but it is suggested by Richard De Mille that CC obtained this idea from William Walker Atkinson while reading in the UCLA library.
Nevertheless, if we live in an environment that is filled with electrical and magnetic ‘pollution’ and in a culture that de-emphasizes the nonlinear sensitivity of the heart to the benefit of the linear and analytical brain, this ability to perceive and communicate may atrophy. Nature is, in fact, a “web of communications that is so complex and detailed that there is no way to understand it with the linear, analytical mind,” which is a very similar situation to the tonal/nagual contrast of Carlos Castaneda. If we have lost the ability to connect with nature through the heart, perhaps we should think about trying to reconnect ourselves.
2.4 Is it possible to ‘reconnect with nature’?
The quick answer to this question is ‘yes, of course,’ but it depends on your past history (the degree to which the linear/verbal/analytic mode of cognition has colonized your ‘mind’) and your age (the older you are, the more difficulty you will tend to experience when attempting to ‘reconnect’).
Just as heart cells in proximity to one another ‘entrain’ (their oscillations synchronize), so when the electromagnetic fields of two hearts are in proximity with each other they will also entrain. Not only two human hearts, but this will occur when the electromagnetic field of the heart is in contact with that of any other organism. At that point, “there is an extremely rapid and complex interchange of information.” This incoming information perceived by the heart may be experienced as ‘emotion,’ and the meanings embedded in the information can be extracted from the emotional flow just as meanings are extracted from the sounds we hear. However, we are trained to ignore these sensory cues; most people are unable to consciously use the heart as an organ of perception and the information perceived by the heart is processed below conscious levels of cognition.
There is nothing strange about this. It is well-known that humans are affected by olfactory, visual and auditory signals that are not processed consciously and that different people are capable of different levels of olfactory, visual and auditory perception. What may be strange is that our society (the modern, industrialized lifestyle) actually trains people to ignore these sensory cues and, through education, attempts to colonize the mind with linear/verbal/analytic/reductionist styles of cognition. Overcoming this bias is not easy, but because it is the evolutionary birthright of every human to have and use these abilities, it can be done. It is especially easy to train children to use both their brains and their hearts in tandem. (I am not suggesting that people ‘turn off’ their brains and perceive solely with the heart!)
Let me offer two further pieces of ‘evidence’ that hint at the heart being an organ of human perception. The first is what we call “love” or “falling in love.” Human language is full of the connection between the emotions, especially “love,” and the heart. A “sweetheart,” a “broken heart,” “heartstrings,” “heartache,” and so on are simple examples. The almost ubiquitous use and recognition of the ‘heart mark’ are also symbolic of this. “Love” has also been described as a kind of “madness” by Shakespeare and others. However, if we were to see “falling in love” as the entrainment of two hearts that took a liking to one another (as well as the two people involved being aware of other sensory cues), we might not be quite so inclined to see “love” as a kind of madness. To the calculating, analytical brain, “love” surely is madness; it literally drives the brain mad not to be able to make sense of what the heart is doing perfectly “naturally”!
One further clue is from the Greek word aisthesis, which Buhner states is the “heart’s ability to perceive meaning from the world.” Definitions of this word are generally not clear about the function of the heart. A definition easily available on the Internet states that aisthesis is a “sensation, perception, as an opposite of intellection (noesis), understanding and pure thought; more loosely – any awareness.” Hillman, however, says that, “In Aristotelian psychology, the organ of aesthesis is the heart; passages from all the sense organs run to it; there the soul is ‘set on fire.’ Its thought is innately aesthetic and sensately linked with the world.” It seems to be clear that the Greeks had no problem about perceiving with the heart.
So, all we have to do is practice perceiving with the heart. Yes, but if you have never actually been aware of doing it before, just exactly how are you going to go about doing that? In his book, The Secret Teachings of Plants, Buhner gives ten “exercises for refining the heart as an organ of perception,” and I would recommend anyone interested to try doing these exercises. However, I think the basic thing that anyone can do is to find good natural areas, such as woods or forests or mountain areas that they like and spend time there. Not everyone can do this, especially if they are living in a large metropolis, so there is an immediate ‘lifestyle’ barrier to ‘reconnection.’ But assuming you are able to spend time in a natural environment, what then?
Buhner, being interested in plants, asks us, “… if you truly want to communicate with plants, just what is the status of the plant? Just how do you really feel about it?” Plants have been on the planet longer than we have, but do you see them as your equal, or even superior to you, as if they were our elders or teachers? Buhner suggests that if you do not, the plants will not ‘talk’ to you. Knowing the name of a flower or tree will not help you. These anthropocentric words are part of the linear world, not part of the nonlinear world of heart perception. The tonal/nagual dichotomy again, if you like. First you must try to stop the internal dialog, halt the flow of words and be prepared to abandon your accumulated linear mode knowledge – to know nothing. That may be as simple as just breathing a little more deeply than usual and then standing or sitting in a relaxed way, taking in your surroundings by ‘feeling’ them rather than thinking about (appraising, explaining) what you feel in terms of verbal thought.
Preconceptions must be abandoned. There is nothing in the linear/verbal/analytical/reductionist world that has prepared you for this mode of communication. There are no neat formulaic rules for this – you will be outside of human culture and must be prepared to allow anything to happen and be prepared to surrender yourself to it. Otherwise you will probably experience nothing and get nowhere with it. Only those who are not afraid to step outside of our current culture of linear cognition will be able to, gradually, step into the nonlinear perceptual mode of nature.
It is important to see, hear and smell what is there in front of you, in nature, and pay attention to that rather than what your brain is trying to tell you about it. This does not simply mean “shutting off the inner dialog.” Buhner tells us that we cannot stop the linear mind and leave nothing in its place. The answer is to do something else instead; sense what is actually there in your surroundings. If you find yourself being drawn to a plant, go up to it and spend some time with it. Touch it and taste it. Try to be aware of its scents. You may feel embarrassed about doing this. If you try to taste a small part of a leaf, you may hear voices in your mind (your parents, former teachers and so on) telling you not to do so. It may take you some time to get used to overriding these voices. Buhner quotes Henry David Thoreau, who said, “Nature is a prairie for outlaws,” and tells us that “the green is poisonous to civilization.” Civilization’s rules are not enforced in nature, and we should understand that a “reconnection” with nature will change us, and make us more “natural” and “wild.” But humankind really (from the point of view of October 2011) needs to change in this way now if we are to step back from the catastrophes an over-emphasis on linear/verbal/analytical/reductionist cognition has caused us to wreak upon ourselves. This is one way to return to what evolution has intended us to be – to reclaim our birthright.
Once you have a relationship with a certain plant, and while this may happen quite quickly, it may also take weeks or months, as your heart’s electromagnetic field begins to entrain with that of the plant, you may notice a certain ‘emotional tone’ arising within you. In the same way as you suddenly become aware of the picture embedded in an ‘optical illusion’ puzzle, you may then receive a sudden communicative burst from the plant, termed by Goethe “the pregnant point,” that can be routed from the heart to the brain and become accessible to linear/verbal/intellectual/analytical cognition. This is the first real communication with the plant. Buhner describes in great detail how this relationship with this and other plants can be developed in order to receive direct knowledge from plants about their medicinal properties for humans. However, I shall stop here, since the aim of this short paper is not to help you to become a shaman herbalist but simply to show how human “happiness” can be achieved through a ‘reconnection to nature.’
3. Further comments on aspects of “happiness” and ‘reconnecting with nature’
Having read this far, many may perhaps feel that what the arguments I have presented here are somehow not ‘real,’ belong in the realm of ‘religion,’ the ‘supernatural’ or the ‘occult.’ Here, I would like to present further evidence to show that the idea of the human connection with nature (in a wide sense, to include not just individual plants or animals, but also a wider ‘natural consciousness’ from the ‘interacting web of life’ or even the cosmos) through perception using the human heart is a ‘real’ phenomenon close to our daily lives. I will also end the paper with comments on what the consequences and benefits may be for a human society or civilization that aims for an appropriate heart-brain balance, and how this implies the achievement of human “happiness.” Finally, I will make a few comments on the consequences of this on agriculture and the production of food, and how, concretely, the society of the future is likely to be shaped by putting these ideas into practice.
3.1 Do we know anyone who is doing this? Who are they and what kind of people are they?
Everyone, including lifelong city-dwellers are perceiving with the heart. It is part of who we are. Regardless of how conscious we are of doing it, it is said that experience of the world is perceived by the heart first and then flows to the brain for further processing. It is very likely that we all know people who are adept at communicating with plants or animals through the heart, but these people are more likely to be conspicuous in the countryside than in the city, and even then the person involved may not be exactly aware of what they are feeling or doing. Some may even hide their ability, since there are parts of society who do not appreciate the abilities of people to perceive nature directly with their hearts.
There are also well-known people who have been known to have the capacity to receive direct knowledge from ‘nature.’ Buhner mentions Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Luther Burbank, George Washington Carver, Masanobu Fukuoka, Henry David Thoreau, Buckminster Fuller, Barbara McClintock, and although not mentioned by Buhner, I feel sure that Rudolf Steiner must also have had a great ability to perceive the world directly through the heart. Steiner’s works are not based on linear/analytic/intellectual ‘scientific’ logic. For example, in his lectures on agriculture, which now form the basis of the biodynamic farming movement, Steiner states:
Now let us take the manure, in whatever form is available, stuff it into a cow horn and bury it in the ground at a certain depth – I would say between ¾ and 1½ meters, provided the soil beneath is neither too clayey nor too sandy. We should select a good soil that’s not too sandy. You see, by burying the cow horn with the manure in it, we preserve in the horn the etheric and astral forces that the horn was accustomed to reflect when it was on the cow. Because the cow is now outwardly surrounded by the Earth, all the Earth’s etherizing and astralizing rays stream into its inner cavity. The manure inside the horn attracts these forces and is inwardly enlivened by them. If the horn is buried for the entire winter – the season when the Earth is most inwardly alive – all this life will be preserved in the manure, turning the contents of the horn into an extremely concentrated, enlivening and fertilizing force.
These ideas were not reached through scientific experimentation, as we know that “He [Steiner] encouraged his listeners to verify his suggestions empirically, as he had not yet done.” Biodynamic farming practitioners are still doing this, as I have personally witnessed on a biodynamic farm in Kyushu. How Steiner could have ‘known’ all this is a complete mystery until we understand that he could have received the ‘information’ through the heart’s direct perception and communication with nature.
I’m not saying that we will all be geniuses of the stature of Goethe and Steiner or farmers with the unique insights of Luther Burbank or Masanobu Fukuoka if only we will learn to perceive nature with our hearts, but we will never even begin to understand what they did or how they did it unless we try to re-balance the linear/verbal/analytic mode of thinking of the brain with the nonlinear/nonverbal/intuitive mode of perception of the heart.
Indigenous people, naturally, have never lost the automatic ability to perceive directly with the heart. Buhner states, “All ancient and indigenous people said that they learned the uses of plants as medicines from the plants themselves. They insisted that they did not rely on the analytical capacities of the brain for this nor use the technique of trial and error. Instead, they said it was from the heart of the world, from the plants themselves, that this knowledge came.”
Among widely diverse nonindustrial cultures the members whose speciality was plant medicines, vegitalistas, described their experiences remarkably similarly irrespective of culture, continent or time. The vast majority (essentially all instances where I have found first-hand accounts) told interviewers that they did not obtain their knowledge of plant medicines from the exercise of reason or through trial and error. They were uniformly consistent in saying that their personal and cultural knowledge of the medicinal actions of plants came from “nonordinary” experiences, specifically: dreams, visions, direct communications from the plant, or sacred beings.
Communication with plants via the human heart also means that plants know something about the humans they are in contact with. The Pgaz K’Nyau (Karen), an indigenous people of Eastern Burma and Northern Thailand, have this to say:
Pgaz K’Nyau people have a very clear reason for honesty and purity in life and in dealings with other people. If you want to think we’re naïve, that’s up to you, but we believe that nature has a spirit. We rely on her for maintenance of our lives, and we must respect her, stand in awe of her, and obey her and act towards her with honesty and purity. It is this relationship with the natural world that has trained the spirit of the Pgaz K’Nyau people to use natural resources with great care. It also means, for example, that a man or woman who is a liar, or a thief, or is in some other way an immoral person will not be able to produce enough food. He or she cannot be a good farmer because nature will deny him or her the benefit of her miraculous power to keep us alive with food.
The Pgaz K’Nyau also say that if you want to learn from those who know about medicinal plants, you have to be apprenticed to such a person and be trained by them. In general, it is no good just following the person around and then mechanically copying what they do (unless the apprentice is extremely perceptive) because the medicines produced may not work, or may not be as effective as when the ‘knowledgeable person’ gathered and prepared them. Buhner also notes that an experienced herbalist can put out a call to a plant before he or she goes to gather it. The plant will then “begin altering the chemicals they produce in anticipation of your gathering them as medicines.” It is crucial, however, that this call has “emotional reality.” You cannot fake it.
I think you can see that this leads us into some very tricky territory. Buhner says that people who engage in perceiving nature with the heart find that a certain moral development occurs within them. This is a morality that comes out of aisthesis. “True morality begins to emerge of itself.”
Because nature does not lie, the direct perception of Nature means that each of us that does lie, each part of us that lies, even in our deep unconscious, must reorder, must restructure, if we truly want to perceive deeply into Nature.
Thus perceiving nature with the heart is associated with a certain morality. Plants (and animals) can perceive who you are and will not deal with you if they do not “like” you. As a sidelight, I will mention the story of a well-known lie-detector examiner, Cleve Backster, in 1966. A polygraph lie-detector usually consists of a galvanometer coupled with a Wheatstone bridge, and this can measure the human body’s electrical potential as it fluctuates under the stimulus of thought and emotion. One morning, Backster decided to attach the electrodes of a lie detector to a Dracaena massangeana plant in his office and see what would happen if he gave it some water. Instead of indicating a reduction in resistance, as you would expect if the moisture of the leaf increased, the opposite reading was seen as the pen on the graph paper indicated a reaction “very similar to that of a human being experiencing an emotional stimulus of short duration.” Backster figured that since the most effective way to get a quick emotional reaction from a human is to threaten his or her well-being, he would try to burn the leaf, but the instant he conjured up the image of the flame in his mind, and before he could even move, there was a dramatic movement of the pen on the graph paper. The plant had ‘read’ Backster’s mind!
Backster spent the next several years experimenting with plants. An interesting phenomenon that Backster noted was that when threatened with danger plants will go into a trance-like state, rather like a person fainting when faced with overpoweringly life-threatening situation. When a Canadian physiologist visited Backster in his lab one day, Backster was unable to get any reaction from the first five plants he tried. Backster asked the physiologist, “Does any part of your work involve harming plants?” “Yes,” the physiologist replied. “I terminate the plants I work with. I put them in an oven and roast them to obtain their dry weight for my analysis.” A short while after the physiologist left the lab, all of Backster’s plants began to respond as normal. Backster, however, was never able to discover that the key to the connection between humans and plants was the functioning of the human heart, as we have seen here.
If there is a moral dimension to the perception of nature by the heart, what of the linear/verbal/analytic brain?
Unlike the heart, with its connected empathetic connections the brain has no inherent moral nature. The continual training of children in a system of perception that is amoral leads to behaviours in adults that have no moral basis.
Buhner also quotes Masanobu Fukuoka as saying:
Nature is both the creator of man and his greatest teacher. Sensitivity, reason, and understanding true to man all can be manifested only through sympathy with nature. Judgement and criteria for right and wrong, virtue and evil, excellence and mediocrity, beauty and ugliness, love and hate do not hold if man steps off the Great Way pointed out by nature.
In other words, Fukuoka believed that if we are not connected to nature through the heart we have no basis for making value judgements. It does very much look as if the unbalance between the use of the linear/verbal/analytic mode of cognition and the nonlinear/nonverbal/intuitive perception of the heart has brought the modern world to where it is today. Is there really any option for mankind but to reappraise the contents of our civilization, the way society is run, and how we educate our children? I will have more to say about this later.
3.2 Is this ‘religion’? Where is ‘God’?
I am not going to write a treatise on religion, but simply repeat here what a few people have said because it makes sense to me. From the above, we see that the heart is capable of connecting with ‘nature,’ especially individual plants and animals, but there also seems to be some large spiritual ‘entity’ behind the relations with plants and so on. Buhner talks a lot about the use of medicinal plants to help cure people, but he also says:
For it is the meaning, the spirit of the plant, that heals the disease. The plant chemical merely gives it a form in which to travel. And although this form does help our bodies, form to form, we are not (solely) our physical form, and our disease is not (usually) merely a physical form, like a virus… The disease itself is a meaning and cannot be healed merely by supplying a form.
Others say that the plant knowledge is not important and that it is the spiritual energy of the shaman that actuates the healing. This takes a lot of energy, which is stored up like a battery inside the body. Healing can be carried out when the battery is fully charged up, and as the healing is done the battery is used up so that at the end of the healing the shaman feels really exhausted. The ‘battery’ power then has to be recharged before further healing can be done. We have seen above that the heart is an electromagnetic transmitter/receiver and has a strong magnetic field. Energy is required for this to be done and maintained over time. It is also true that some people have more energy in their bodies and hearts than others. We also know that hearts can connect, or ‘entrain,’ with other living entities such as cells, plants, animals, and other hearts. It should come as no great surprise, then, that some people with an abundance of energy in their body and heart could ‘give’ (transmit) some of that energy to a person whose body/heart energy was weak due to illness and so on, and give them an energetic boost that could help them recover their health. However, there is little point in going deeply into this topic, since we only wish here to explore the necessity to achieve a healthy heart-brain balance achievable by the human-nature connection through the perceptive function of the heart.
Nevertheless, individual plants, though they may have their unique spirit, are a part of the interconnected, interacting web of life, the sum of which is a spiritual force that many have experienced as the ‘essence’ of Nature (with a capital ‘N’). The Pgaz K’Nyau perceive two kinds of spirits, k’laz (soul-spirits), which reside in humans and other living creatures such as plants and animals, and k’caj (owner-spirits), which are the spirits that ‘own’ the earth, the land, the water, the sky, and so on, and which are also ‘owners’ of particular areas of forests, for example. They also perceive an overarching natural spirit, a kind of ‘supreme being,’ Taj hti taj dau, who is the owner of nature itself. We could say that Taj hti taj dau is the Pgaz K’Nyau word for ‘God.’
We thus have the notion that Nature, from whom we have all been created, is roughly equivalent to what is called ‘God’ (in monotheistic religions). This large spiritual entity can be perceived directly and experienced, and appears to be the subject of ‘religions.’ Buhner says that the entity “has many names, but only one identity.”
religions are a particular mode of representation
they are not the thing itself
and continues on to say:
This identity is the center from which all things come. And it has always been clear to those who read the text of the world, who are open to the touch of life upon them, that this Mystery is so much greater than Man that it can never be understood by the linear mind.
Since the focus of this paper is Japan, I would like to quote extensively from a friend on Japan’s indigenous spirituality, Shinto.
On Shinto and nature, Shinto was traditionally very deeply rooted in nature, and the folk Shinto groups still are, and engage with nature by taking treks through the mountains, sometimes engaging in great feats of endurance, but that is secondary to being aware of conditions and letting the gods dictate the course and timing. In Shrine Shinto, the officially organized and codified side, the connection has largely been reduced to symbolism, but some of the former connection remains. This is particularly evident in the misogi ritual, which involves cold-water bathing in the ocean, waterfalls, rivers, and so on. Many of the professional priests I talk to, however, have no sense of the spirit world, and consider Shinto to be nothing but a set of traditions. They do see the value in maintaining pre-industrial knowledge and techniques, and choose those in particular for important rituals. A number have told me they wish they could "see" gods the way I and others say we can. I try to point them to times and places where gods are likely to be evident, dawn in particular and any place away from the distractions of modern society. From there, I tell people to be aware of a sense of deep familiarity, like you were coming to a place you loved in your childhood. This sense can be cultivated, but often we shut it out as mere irrationality. If you let it in, though, the insights become more powerful and life becomes more meaningful.
Shinto is also explicit about the perceptive capability of the heart (kokoro). One of the most universally used prayers of purification among Shintoists, Rokkon Shohjoh (Six-Rooted Purity) says, “With your eyes, see all manner of impurity, but in your heart, do not see it.” This is followed by ears, nose, mouth (interestingly, “With your mouth, say all manner of impurity, but in your heart, do not say it”), body (feel) and mind: “In your mind, think all manner of impurities, but in your heart, do not think them.” (Kokoro ni moromoro no fujoh wo omoite, kokoro ni moromoro no fujoh wo omowazu). In Fujikyo and some other sects, the last “kokoro” is pronounced “nakago” to distinguish it. Some sects write it as “inner heart”.
So far within Shinto, the only time it has been suggested to me to try to turn off the internal voice was with people involved in Shugendo, which has strong Buddhist influences. We hiked a rough course up from Kompira to the Ryuo-sha, a Buddhist-Shintoist deity--the Dragon King), and along the way, they told me that if I emptied my mind, I would be able to see the gods and spirits. Every year I continue to hike that trail and practice what they told me. It is a useful technique.
Shinto also recognizes one God, which they see variously as the unification of all that is divine or as the original God from whom all else is derived. Shinto can be considered a loose confederation of nature-based, polytheistic folk religions, held together in an imposed hierarchy, which they have gone along with. For any particular deity, there may be a number of names and descriptions. Amaterasu, the sun goddess, has been erroneously described as Shinto’s principal deity. She is well favored, of course, and worshipped at Shinto’s highest shrine, Ise Jingu, along with Toyouke, the god of agriculture. She is also called Tenshokohdaijin, the on-yomi (Chinese reading of the Chinese characters), with the kun-yomi (Japanese reading) being Amaterasu-Sumeohkami (and I see that in Fujikyo, she is listed as number 14 among the 16 principal deities, just before Jinmu-Jingu and Meiji-Jingu, so therefore principal of Japan’s specific hierarchy as a nation, but past a big list with Myo-o-jin from Buddhism, “Main-Heart God”, “One-Heart God”, Water, Fire and Wind Heart Gods, and so on included).
In Fujikyo, I have heard several names for the Great Divine Spirit: Ohmioya no Kami (Great Illustrious Parent One), and Taisosan-jin (Great Ancestral One, where “Tai” is written as “Ten,” so the meaning of the ‘God-father,’ not as ‘creator’ but as ‘guardian,’ of the heavens is included). Rev. Haruko Shimizu has explained that she considers Fuyoh Miroku-jin (which I will translate loosely as “Embodiment of Mt. Fuji and the Sun,” emphasizing the connection with nature that they seek in such an awe-inspiring locality) to be the Great Spirit, whose name comes up repeatedly in the prayers of that sect, and since he is listed second to Taisosan-jin, they are saying that God Himself has His own ancestors.
I think we can see in Shinto all the elements of the human-nature connection that have been mentioned thus far. The Chinese character for 'heart', when spoken as “kokoro” in Japanese is commonly understood to mean the human “heart” or “mind.” Despite the issue of whether people knew about their physical hearts hundreds of years ago, I do not think there is a great problem in equating kokoro with the human heart. We also see a recognition of an overarching spirit of nature, a “Great Ancestral One” or a “Great Spirit” very similar to the Pgaz K’Nyau Taj hti taj dau.
From the above it is possible to see that ‘God’ as the all-enveloping ‘tablecloth’ of the tonal is merely a shadow representation of ‘God’ in the nagual. It should be clear what religions are supposed to be doing but, in general, are not. The notion of an appropriate heart-brain balance, therefore, is not ‘religion,’ either in the sense of modern, organized religions, or in the sense that it relies fundamentally on subjective belief.
3.3 A sort of conclusion: Where does this path lead?
We have looked at what human happiness might be, and I have concluded that the path to happiness lies through a reconnection to nature through the use of the heart as an organ of perception. What might be the consequences of attempting to put this idea of “happiness” into practice, much as some now insist that the path to “happiness” is to be found through greater wealth and socialized security – through economic growth and social engineering?
Firstly, to go back to where this paper started out, what would this mean in terms of food and energy? Since we would be much more aware of the ‘feelings’ of plants and animals, many of the practices of modern farming would become impossible. We would have to recognize that an intensive use of machinery and chemicals (modern energy-intensive agriculture) in a way that is very ‘impolite’ to plants and other living organisms should be corrected in favour of overtly nonviolent forms of agriculture, such as permaculture and organic farming on small family farms. Greatly reduced use of machinery would mean, 1) more people working on the land, and 2) greater use of farm animals. It is likely that a re-balance of heart-brain cognition on a society-wide basis would trigger the movement of people from big cities to more rural settings. Greater use of animals on farms (the current problem being where to get the animals) would help agriculture as a whole to move back to mixed cropping and livestock-raising farms, rather than the forced separation of cropping and livestock that we have now, and presumably this would also go part of the way to solving the fertilizer problem that will occur when fewer chemicals are used.
So far, there is little news, since I have previously proposed these changes, in the context of diminishing supplies of fossil energy resources, for Japanese agriculture in a presentation in February 2010. In this presentation, I pointed out that since transportation would become problematical then ‘local production for local consumption’ would be a basic principle of this style of agriculture, and thus society as a whole would be likely to shift towards self-sustaining ‘bioregions.’ In this sense, the notion of moving to a society with a better heart-brain balance would appear to be appropriate for a world in which fossil energy use was greatly reduced.
As hinted at above, it should also be pointed out that plants are extremely adept at the use and manufacture of chemical substances, and we would therefore do ourselves a big favour by reducing the chemical pollution of the environment by synthetic chemicals. At the same time, since the heart’s connection with nature depends on electromagnetic radiation and fields, it would also be beneficial to reduce electromagnetic pollution of the environment as much as possible. This is also very much in line with the coming decline in the ability to use fossil energy resources. The future society should be far less polluted than the one we are experiencing now, making a healthy heart-brain balance that much easier to achieve.
Energy production in the bioregions would be local, decentralized forms of energy such as the use of wood, solar or wind power, and the use of animal traction for agriculture. There would be no large-scale industry as we know it now. This would also mean a greatly reduced role for money. This would also be a good match for a society with an improved heart-brain balance. The greater ability of almost all people to use their hearts for perception would make lying, cheating and thievery far less common because people would be much more aware of the intentions of those around them.
The Pgaz K’Nyau have a deep suspicion of any use of money beyond the use of small amounts for petty purchases. Anything more than that creates disparities in wealth between people (which can put the survival of a village in jeopardy) and will ruin lives that are lived simply to amass large amounts of money and property. In the Pgaz K’Nyau view of life and death, the land of the dead (pluz kauj) is a mirror image of the land of the living (le hko). In le hko, rice is delicious and people are important. In pluz kauj, rice is also delicious, but the people there have a love for money and wealth. When the Pgaz K’Nyau travel down from their villages in the mountains to the towns and cities in the valleys, where the people love money and are mostly ‘stuck’ in a linear/verbal/analytic ‘brain’ mode of cognition, they say they are going to pluz kauj, the land of the dead. The inference is that if you do not have a good heart-brain balance and are not capable of perceiving nature with your heart, then you are effectively ‘dead.’
Thus, to sum up briefly, “happiness” is a human condition that can only be reached through a “correct” connection with nature. This connection occurs by using the heart as an organ of perception, as it was meant to be. As a result, we can achieve a more appropriate heart-brain balance. This balance inevitably leads to changes in the moral behaviour of individuals and therefore to changes in society. The combination of these ideas and practices with the kind of, hopefully “happier,” lifestyle we can anticipate when fossil energy resources become scarce helps us to envisage the kind of society that might come into existence in the latter part of the 21st century.
In the midst of the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami disaster, the subsequent nuclear catastrophe at Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Station and the financial crisis that currently grips Europe and the United States, I feel strongly that human weakness and stupidity (and a certain amount of deceit) has created huge disasters within societies where for several decades we have heard little else but promises that economic growth was unquestionably leading all mankind toward a secure and comfortable lifestyle. I think it is now time to wake up to what is truly wrong with society and begin to educate everyone, especially children, on how to regain their birthright (the ability to use the heart as an organ of perception) and an appropriate heart-brain balance, and move toward the society of the 22nd century, where true human happiness may be achievable. While it may seem that this is only one possible future, I believe eventually this is the future toward which all human societies will eventually converge, whether in the 22nd or 23rd centuries, or later.
Citizens in Australia’s major cities are becoming increasingly unhappy about what they perceive as the escalating deterioration in their quality of life - traffic congestion, overloaded public transport, unaffordable housing for young people, increases in the costs of basic services and overcrowding. There is little doubt that recent election results and unfavourable opinion polls are partly an expression of this dissatisfaction. (Article first published on On-Line Opinion, where you may also currently make comments.)
First published as an Online opinion article by Tony Recsei - 23 August 2011
Citizens in Australia’s major cities are becoming increasingly unhappy about what they perceive as the escalating deterioration in their quality of life - traffic congestion, overloaded public transport, unaffordable housing for young people, increases in the costs of basic services and overcrowding. There is little doubt that recent election results and unfavourable opinion polls are partly an expression of this dissatisfaction.
‘Save Our Suburbs’ believe that these adverse trends are the result of high-density policies that have been imposed onto communities by state governments. Due to the misleading misinformation that has accompanied these policies, the public may not fully realise the connection between these policies on the one hand and deteriorating standard of living on the other. It is only when one sweeps the propaganda veil aside that one realises how shallow, trivial and sometimes downright deceptive the spin has been.
We should start out by making it clear that we have no issue with anyone that prefers living in a high-density area or with the free market construction of buildings to fulfill this preference. The issue we have is with the enforced imposition of high density housing upon the bulk of Australians that don’t want it.
The premise behind this government totalitarianism is that high-density living is better for the environment. They say that people will use their cars less and that greenhouse gas emissions will be greatly reduced. While these two propositions sound very much like commonsense the unfortunate fact is that the data does not bear them out. An idealised Melbourne study currently being quoted assumes that people, no matter where they live, will drive to the central business district daily. This is a completely unrealistic assumption. Only 9.9 per cent of employment in Melbourne is in the CBD. The majority of destinations for most people in the suburbs lie close to where they live and they do not in fact make daily trips to the CBD.
To get a better understanding we should look at the Australian Conservation Association’s Consumption Atlas, which shows greenhouse pollution per person in each postal code. The underlying research shows that the actual travel energy used by dwellers in inner Sydney suburbs is more than those in the outer suburbs, even when air travel is excluded.
When domestic energy is added to travel energy, the energy total for people in the inner suburbs is 22 per cent more than those living in the outer suburbs. This is because of energy needed in high-rise buildings for communal lifts, scores of individual clothes driers and ever-present security lighting in foyers and garage spaces.
While we do concede that private transport generates somewhat higher greenhouse gas emissions than public transport, the difference is not nearly as much as people think. Greenhouse gas emissions per passenger kilometre on Sydney City Rail are 105 gm. The figure for the average car is 155 gm. It is much less for modern hybrid vehicles, being a mere 70 gm.
Furthermore, a study of Melbourne areas shows that the people squeezed into newly converted dense areas did not use public transport to any greater extent and there was little or no change in their percentage of car use compared to living in the previous low-density.
In fact, traffic congestion increases whenever high-density policies are imposed wherever you are in the world. Any slight increase that may occur in the proportion of people using public transport is overwhelmed by the greater number of people squeezed into that area. The resulting congestion causes higher fuel consumption and dangerous exhaust emissions. The authorities fail to admit that many people still require their cars for getting to the many workplaces, sporting facilities, and relatives and friends homes not easily reached by public transport and for transporting items that are impractical or illegal aboard public transport such as weekend recreation equipment and the family pet.
High density advocates claim that high-density saves money. This is palpable nonsense. We are all acutely aware that high-density policies have resulted in a dramatic rise in the price of housing, due to the government enforced infill policy causing land scarcity, thereby locking out an entire generation of young people from the housing market. We are also conscious of substantial rises in the cost of services such as electricity, water and sewerage due to the incredibly inefficient modifications required to increase capacity in areas originally designed for lower densities.
A tragic and often overlooked failure of high-density policies is the adverse effect on human health, especially mental health. There is a considerable body of peer-reviewed research proving the link between density and ill health. An article published on 23 June 2011 by eleven authors in the prestigious scientific journal, Nature, states that the incidence of schizophrenia in city dwellers is double that of people living in less crowded conditions. This article has received worldwide media attention. In view of the serious mental health situation existing in our society, those forcing high-density onto communities that do not want it, should hang their heads in shame.
We reiterate that we have no issue with those of us that preferliving in a high-density area or with the free market construction of buildings to fulfill that limited demand. What we object to, is having draconian high density policies based on demonstrably faulty premises forced upon the 83 per cent of people that Australian research shows prefer to live in a free-standing home.
This is especially so when the result is maddening traffic congestion, more greenhouse gases, a creaking and overloaded infrastructure, the young and disadvantaged unable to afford their own home and poorer health outcomes.
Dr Tony Recsei has a background in chemistry and is an environmental consultant. Since retiring he has taken an interest in community affairs and is president of the Save Our Suburbs community group which opposes over-development forced onto communities by the New South Wales State Government. You can find the Youtube site here; and the blog here.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
Hugo Chavez, President of the South American oil-producing state of Venezuela, has proposed an international peace mission to Libyan leader, Kadhafi, according to the Venezuelan Minister for Communications.
Hugo Chavez, President of the South American oil-producing state of Venezuela, has proposed an international peace mission to Libyan leader, Kadhafi, according to the Venezuelan Minister for Communications. The minister confirmed that the two leaders had spoken together on Tuesday.
According to Al Jazira, Kadhafi accepted the proposal, however the Arab League has contradicted this, saying that it is still in the process of considering the idea.
Venezuela is suggesting an international mediation mission, composed of representatives from Latin American countries, Europe and the Middle East. The aim would be to try to negotiate a way out between Libyan rulers and revolutionaries.
Venezuelan authorities have not yet published the Libyan chief's response. Al Jazira, however, maintains that Kadhafi gave his agreement to Chavez's plan.
Hugo Chavez, a close ally of Mouammar Kadhafi, has accused the United States of exaggerating the Libyan situation in order to justify an invasion of the country.
Source: France2, INFO - MONDE - Libye, 3 March 2011.
Both leaders head oil producing countries which struggled for independence from the time of the first oil shock. Kadhafi says he believes that the US is exaggerating the problems in Libya to have an excuse to invade. Venezuela has long suffered from US interference and the peoples' resentment of this permitted the rise of Chavez .
Neither The BC Liberals Nor the NDP Will Question The Population Growth Which Drives Energy Consumption
Dan Doyle, the Chair of BC Hydro, appeared on BC Global TV News on July 14, 2010 to say that the corporation must spend as much as $220 million this year importing power from the United States to meet the province’s energy needs---some 10%. The province in fact has had to import power for the last 9 years, at a cost of $25-30 million per year. But thanks to the Peace River drought and a drop in the water volumes in hydro-electric reservoirs, recently at 77% of normal inflows—the fourth worst in 50 years-- BC Hydro will have to spend eight times that amount on imported energy this year---much of it from “dirty” fossil fuel sources. NDP energy critic John Horgan warned of a coming rate shock of 29% to meet the extra costs, but BC Hydro is looking to gain permission to defer these costs to the future by tapping into a “rainy day fund” that would be replenished when the rain returns to ‘normal’ patterns. The concept that global warming might thwart that confident expectation apparently does not enter Mr. Doyle’s mind. In less than a year the deferral fund will be in the red by $730 million---enough that would require a 21% rate hike to liquidate.
What Mr. Doyle, Mr. Horgan and Liberal Premier Gordon Campbell have in common is their acceptance of population growth as a given. Campbell says that BC will grow by a million people in the next 20 years. Former NDP environment critic, Shane Simpson, once proclaimed in Campbell River to an NDP gathering in January of 2007 that he “will not tell people not to come to British Columbia.” And neither will he tell people not to come to Canada. According to the 2006 census, some 80% of new BC residents came from other countries, and that percentage grows by the year. BC in fact attracts more immigrants per capita than any other province. But neither will Mr. Simpson, nor Mr. Horgan or anyone else in the BC NDP caucus tell the federal NDP to not to lobby for higher immigration quotas. Like local and provincial politicians of all parties, they dodge immigration issues by hiding behind the skirt of provincial jurisdiction, arguing that they cannot do anything about incoming migration from any source. Yet they eagerly collude with their federal counterparts by offering support for their political campaigns as a quid pro quo for leveraging more federal dollars to cope with the demands that issue from hyper immigration. More money for ESL training, for infrastructure projects and a myriad of other expenditures.
Absurdly, Horgan joins the BC Hydro chorus and calls for more energy conservation. The answer, it seems, is to develop alternative energy sources and “conserve”. It is doubtful that the NDP, the Greens or the Campbell Liberals ever met a problem that could not be solved by decreasing per capita consumption and waste and increasing “efficiency”----the great elixir for all that ails us. Campbell’s “Clean Energy Act” even held out the promise of reducing ,through conservation, the forecasted growth of electricity demand in B.C. by 66% and a reduction of green house gas emissions by 33% in the next ten years ---all the while an average of 50,000 new residents are hopping on board the provincial energy train each year. Nevertheless, while conservation would slow the rate of increasing energy consumption by as much as two-thirds, it would not stop it. In fact, according to Campbell, provincial energy demands will grow by 20-40% by 2030. Fast or slow, growth is growth, and it is definitely not sustainable.
BC Hydro, of course, comes equipped with all the trendy buzzwords necessary to make this pitch palatable to any who might doubt its mission of having us believe that we can have our cake and eat it too. Everything will be “smart”, “green”, “sustainable” and “efficient” on the road to population overload. Move over, California! “The Power Smart Sustainable Communities Program” will help developers “green their projects by providing expertise, education, program support and financial incentives.” “District energy systems” will “provide a reduction in overall energy use and are able to utilize the most environmentally friendly available source of energy such as biomass, waste heat or geoexchange heat pumps.” Don’t worry about the fact that some 200,000 more housing units will have to be constructed to accommodate the half a million new energy consumers who will make B.C. their home in the coming decade. These housing units will all be “smart, green, sustainable and efficient.” In the virtual reality of the trendy green imagination, we can apparently decouple economic and population growth from all negative ecological impacts. We can conserve, reuse, recycle and retrofit growth of existence. As we grow our cities up and out and burst urban boundaries with more and more housing, we can install CFL lights, “energy star” appliances, induction stove cooking tops, solar panels, apply paint that protects air quality, and offer new types of roofing materials, insulation, carpets and pavement. All the things that will allow a theoretically infinite number of people to share this wonderful land. No doubt one can expect that soon thirst will be decoupled from water and ice cream consumption will be decoupled from weight gain.
The network of dams built between 1960 and 1980 are aging assets that require massive maintenance inputs of over $10 billion in the next five years. In addition, the Site C dam project will possibly require $15 billion dollars, and promises to supply power to some 410,000 homes in the province---a gain that would be wiped out in twenty years by the province’s expected growth. The NDP argues that a Site C dam is unnecessary, just as it argued a half century ago that W.A.C. Bennett’s hydro megaprojects were unnecessary. They wince at the prospect of seeing 5,340 hectares of flooded land, and worry about its effect on agriculture and the environment---while remaining oblivious to the impact of immigrant-driven growth on those very same things. But rather than strike at the root of rising energy demands---the exponential growth in the number of consumers in British Columbia---they argue for all the boy scout measures that would reduce per capita consumption. One day they will learn that there are limits to conservation.
July 15, 2010
Jacob Saulwick, in "Libs back Greens call for inquiry into 'big Australia'",
March 16, 2010 Sydney Morning Herald, writes,
'The Greens leader, Bob Brown, said yesterday that the inquiry would hold hearings in every capital city, asking whether Australia had the environmental, housing and transport capacity to meet a predicted increase in population to 36 million by mid-century.
''We don't have the infrastructure to deal with 21 million people at the moment - for example, public transport and water infrastructure - let alone the estimated 35 million people by mid-century,'' Senator Brown said.'
'The opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, said the opposition would work with the Greens on the proposed inquiry.
''Australians want to be heard on this issue,'' he said. ''I think Australians are very frustrated by a prime minister who just signs us up to a 36 million population and they don't have any say about it.''
The capacity of state and local governments to provide services for their growing constituencies needed to be examined, he said.
''All of these issues require some very careful analysis to know what our migration intake should be.''
The Greens will move a motion in the Senate in May calling for the inquiry to be set up.'
Dick Smith, however, has suggested that what is needed is a proper risk study, ie. a study which shows what the risks are at various population numbers (milestones) and growth. .... "It could show that with 36 million in 2050 what our risks are and what the chance of those risks of occurring are. Anything like that can be more objective, and allow people then to work out what they think an optimum number may be."
High Rise does not solve population growth problems: State of Australian Cities Report
High rise is often touted as a panacea for population growth energy costs, but the State of Australian Cities Report, which has just been released, shows this is yet another furphy produced by the growth lobby.
The State of Australian Cities Report 2010 has been released, to assist the Australian Government, in cooperation with state, territory and local government, and in partnership with the community and industry, to improve Australian urban policies.
The report is designed to redress an information deficiency about economic, environmental, social and demographic changes, and to reveal trends and provide a platform of knowledge for the development and implementation of future urban policies.
The report found that the past outward urban expansion has meant a greater distance between residential and employment areas with a resultant greater use of cars, higher transport costs, more vulnerability to oil price rises and the loss of agricultural land or habitat. More recently, however, the pattern of growth has seen an increasing proportion of population growth accommodated in existing inner and middle suburban areas, most notably in Sydney.
The level of car dependency in Australian cities has increased at a faster rate than population growth, creating traffic congestion problems as infrastructure and public transport have failed to keep pace with population growth.
Other key findings include:
* Australian cities rank highly on an international comparison, particularly on indices that measure quality of life and global connectivity, and measures related to the social condition of people.There is evidence to suggest that Australian cities suffer with respect to infrastructure. Of concern is the evidence that suggests a decline in international relative performance and perception in the past five years.
* Water restrictions in major cities across the nation saw total consumption by households fall by 7 per cent between 200001 and 200405 despite population growth over the period.
* Residential energy use accounted for approximately 7 per cent of total energy consumption in 200708, but grew at a high rate (2.2 per cent) relative to other sectors over the period. This growth is attributed to population increase, higher ownership of appliances and IT equipment per household, and increases in the average size of homes. Standby power was the greatest contributor to average annual growth in household energy use over the period 198990 to 200607.
* Transport emissions are one of the strongest sources of emissions growth in Australia. Strong growth in emissions from the transport sector is expected to continue, with direct CO2 equivalent emissions projected to increase 22.6 per cent over the period 2007 to 2020 (or around 1.58 per cent a year).
* Climate change is affecting rainfall patterns. Since 1950 much of eastern Australia and the far southwest, where our largest cities are located and the majority of the population lives, have experienced an annual decline of up to 50 mm in rainfall per decade affecting both the availability and quality of water supplies across urban areas.
* Levels of the key pollutants of lead, carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide in the largest capital cities have decreased significantly over a ten-year period. However, particulate air pollution and ozone levels have remained at or above national air quality standard levels over the period and showed no evidence of decline.
* While national recycling rates have increased, total waste generation has also continued to increaseby around 31 per cent from 200203 to 200607 (4 years), exceeding the rate of population growth of 5.6 per cent over the period.
* When both direct and indirect environmental impacts are taken into account, higher [per capita?] environmental impacts at the household level are associated with higher incomes and smaller household sizes. Therefore, despite the opportunities for efficiency and reduced environmental impacts offered by more compact forms of urban living, inner city households of capital cities, followed by the inner suburban areas, feature the highest consumption of water use, energy use and ecological footprints even when reduced car use is taken into account.
Article by Boris A. Osadin
Moscow State Institute
for Radio-engineering, Electronics and Automatics
Moscow plasma physicist, Boris A. Osadin comes in from the cold winter with a fascinating account of the political history of trends in plasma physics theory, experiment and finance in Russia during the Cold War and today. This is an account of exotic Soviet scientific personalities and rival theoretical schools, as well as the broader associated military and international politics and the tolls on science of an 'atomic Gulag'. It is also a tale of how the financing of the ITER project today may be an outcome of the ways in which US, European and Soviet scientists exploited the crazy Cold War politics to the benefit of their research preferences and to survive.
In Physical kinetics and the drama of human destiny, Alekseev writes of a history of conflict between professor A.A. Vlasov, the creator of kinetic theory of plasma as a special substance, and a group of theorists headed by Academician* L.D. Landau, who considered plasma as just ionized gas.  This conflict started after the Second World War and continued during the Cold War, which influenced its outcome. Long-lasting consequences of Landau’s [official] “victory” over Vlasov in the scientific debate are considered below.
The victory was in dispute right from the start. Soviet physicists not aligned with the USSR Academy of Sciences (AS), did not recognize it. After Landau’s death (1968) the Physics faculty of Moscow State University (MSU) nominated professor Vlasov to the Lenin Prize. The Lenin Prize and State Premium Committee sought peer reviews by Academicians Sagdeev and Zavoisky and member-correspondent Kadomszev. The texts of all three reviews can be found in Russian archives, and nowadays present great interest. They are of interest because they demonstrate, not only the contemporary political interest in this specific field of physics, but also the level of understanding of Vlasov’s main idea, which consisted in recognizing the ability of plasma to organize itself. 
Sagdeev’s review was negative. He wrote that Vlasov “had overlooked the phenomenon of Landau’s extinguishing” (also called “Landau damping”) of longitudinal plasma waves. Sagdeev described the frequent mention of Vlasov’s name in physics literature as “of more significance than his input into science.” Kadomszev’s conclusion was kinder. Pointing to the mathematical error, which already had been noted by Landau, he wrote: “In my opinion A.A. Vlasov is worthy of Lenin’s prize but not for “the series of publications on plasma theory”, notably “the kinetic equation with self-organised [self-coordinated] field”. Only Zavoisky’s conclusion was completely positive: “Vlasov’s works should rank internationally with key scientific research and are worthy of Lenin’s prize, without doubt.” Because of that review, Vlasov won the prize in 1970.
Was he satisfied?
When one of his former post-graduates called him to congratulate him for his success, he exclaimed “Too late!” and ended the phone conversation.
In the early 1960’s as a graduate from the Physics faculty of MSU, under the guidance of Academician A.G. Iosifian in the Istra branch of the All-Union Institute for Electro-mechanics (near Moscow), I began experimental studies in impulse plasma accelerators. I quickly became uneasy about a number of observations. Looking for help on theory I connected with Dr. Sagdeev. The talk took place at Sagdeev’s apartment in the kitchen and was positive for both of us, but very soon I was persuaded that Sagdeev’s theoretical physics were a long way off testing. That’s why later I didn’t seek him out at meetings. As for Sagdeev, he very soon found himself in Novosibirsk, where he became a member of the USSR AS Space Exploration. Again in Moscow, he became director of the USSR AS Space Exploration Institute. After that he married the grand daughter of the former USA president Eisenhower and left the USSR for the USA.
The last time I saw Academician Kadomszev was 1997 at a sitting of the Scientific-Technical Council of the Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy, which was devoted to ITER (the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor). Kadomszev was the main speaker there. After his report he was asked for his opinion on the accuracy of the ITER Project calculations. Kadomszev estimated this accuracy as plus-or-minus 30%: if plus, everything will be OK. If minus, nothing will be. Soon after that sitting Kadomszev died.
I never met Academician Zavoisky and never followed his publications very closely. It seemed to me that Zavoisky’s plasma and my plasma were two very different plasmas. Only after Zavoisky’s death did I realize my mistake.
A letter to Stalin and other plasma physics
In 2009 physicists could say that 80 years had gone by since the term “plasma” first made its appearance, with its introduction into physics by the Americans Langmuir and Tonks, and that 60 years had passed since the young Soviet Sergeant Lavrentiev had sent his letter to Generalissimo Stalin.
The letter was devoted to the possibility of creating a man-made Sun on the Earth in the form of the controlled thermonuclear reactor. This idea had occurred to the sergeant’s mind after testing the first atomic bomb in the USSR, at the peak of the Soviet atomic project’s development. For the same reason Beria, the administrator of this project, sent the sergeant’s letter to theoretical physicist Sakharov. Thus the theory of magnetic thermonuclear reactor by I.E. Tamm and A.D. Sakharov  appeared. This theory was based on the hypothetical possibility of a man-made plasma torus, hanging in magnetic field that had no contact with the vacuum chamber walls. Some years later this supposition was transformed into the “tokamak” [reactor].
In the beginning of 1951, under Kurchatov’s guidance, a series of seminars on plasma physics and the controlled thermonuclear reactor idea took place. A number of famous Soviet physicists, including Landau, Tamm and Sakharov, participated in these seminars, but Vlasov did not. The most active participant was Arszimovich, who was not then an academician. He offered, not only to heat, but also to hold plasma by a strong electric current. (That is he proposed to use Joule’s Heat for plasma heating and Ampere’s Force for plasma holding.) Very soon he had demonstrated his idea by means of so called z-pinches. In these he discovered neutrons, testifying to nuclear fusion reactions, and won the Lenin Prize (together with co-workers). He then headed the plasma department of the Institute for Atomic Energy (IAE), teaching students that plasma may be controlled by Ampere’s force (known since 1820 and working in all electric machines) and thus transforming himself in the USSR into the absolute plasma physics leader.
Everything seemed OK in 1951. But in 1961, when Arszimovich tried to summarize experimental results , he was disappointed.
About tokamaks, for example, he wrote the following:
“The bright transverse flashes, following one after another, occupied the entire volume of the vacuum chamber…There is no skin-effect… The gas pressure in plasma is very small, and its meaning is insignificant…The kinetic energies of ions are far greater than the average energy of electrons… The distribution function doesn’t correspond to the idea of Maxwellian distribution of velocities… The density distribution through the cross-section of plasma torus isn’t clear. Its change in time isn’t clear either… Over 90% of energy inputs to plasma go to compensate for the huge energy losses of plasma. There is no convincing explanation for these losses… Magnetic thermo-isolation in the system under consideration is practically absent… There is relatively large number of ions with energies from 1keV up to tens of kilo-electron-volt, that testify to the strong deviation of energy distribution from Maxwellian one. Fast ions obtain their energy in accelerating processes… The plasma is found in condition of continuous macroscopic but extremely chaotic motion… In inertia processes ions are accelerated by electric fields, which bind them to electrons. However almost nothing has been achieved to understand these processes… If we consider the experimental results from the point of view of their capacity to offer solutions to the controlled thermonuclear fusion problem, then the outlook is pessimistic…All oscillogrammes of the current derivative show highly intensive oscillations, the chaotic character of which clearly indicates the development of some non-stable plasma processes. The intensity of oscillations very strongly changes during every discharge impulse… The high amplitude of high-frequency oscillations indicates that even a very strong outer magnetic field isn’t the ideal method for guaranteeing the whole stability of the plasma torus… The maximum plasma density is many times less than the value that is required, if all the particles initially in the vacuum chamber are to become plasma… To understand the nature of plasma phenomena, at least qualitatively, requires very intensive flow of new and reliable experimental information… Whether we will achieve what we set out to do remains the open question.”
This merciless self-criticism is to be found in Arszimovich’s Controlled thermonuclear reactions .
However a decade ago ( 1950) Vlasov had warned that plasma isn’t gas or metal but “an absolutely original substance binding long-distance forces”. What about remembering Vlasov’s work and restarting the development of the kinetic theory of plasma together with appropriate experiments? Instead of this, Arszimovich began a war against another famous physicist, who worked at the same IAE and in the same scientific field but disagreed with Arszimovich’s plasma-dynamic beliefs. The other physicist was Academician Zavoisky.
Let’s note here, that the atomic science race between USA and Russia meant that the scientists were literally forced to work at a "GULAG"** pace which made many of them psychologically ill.
Zavoisky’s fate was determined by the discovery of EPR (electronic paramagnetic resonance), which happened in 1944 at Kazan University. This University is one of the oldest in Russia and connected with the name of a famous mathematician, Lobachevsky. During the Second World War Kazan became the shelter for Soviet science. Evacuees from the Leningrad Institute for Technical Physics and the Moscow Physics Institute (both belonged to the USSR AS) were working there, including Academician Kurchatov and other well-known Soviet scientists. These circumstances meant that Zavoisky would receive special attention.
There are books available about Zavoisky prior to his work with plasma , . Zavoisky began working on plasma physics when he was over fifty and already a highly experienced scientist, as his plasma publications attest. 
Sagdeev wrote that Vlasov had overlooked “Landau’s extinguishing”. But what is Landau’s extinguishing? It came to light in 1946 through Vlasov’s kinetic equation for electron component of infinite plasma with homogenous ion density and the Maxwellian distribution function of electrons, which started out by deviating slightly from equilibrium . This task was formulated by Vlasov in 1938 as a specific example to demonstrate his approach to plasma, and, at the time, he believed it was conclusive. However his conclusion was not entirely correct from a mathematical point of view. Academician Landau corrected Vlasov’s conclusion - (Thanks Landau!) – and proved that a small deviation is extinguished with time.
But why would anyone be surprised by this?
It’s clear to everybody that man-made (laboratory) plasma cannot be infinite, and therefore that limited plasma cannot be Maxwellian. So Landau’s extinguishing is just the “on-paper effect”. And Zavoisky could not help but understand it. He also realized that Landau was not working in plasma physics before and after his conflict with Vlasov, despite the fact that Landau was an extremely gifted and adaptable physicist. Furthermore Zavoisky realized that Tamm and Sakharov had not studied high temperature plasma either before or after working on the magnetic thermonuclear reactor theory under Beria’s direction, following on from Lavrentiev’s letter to Stalin (see above).
This was why the only person that Zavoisky could consult with on theory was Vlasov.
Working with real plasma
But what was the main question for those experimenting with real plasma?
From the time of Langmuir and Tonks, scientists working with real plasma had been trying to understand the transformation of energy obtained by plasma in the outer electric field. Of course, at the end all energy radiates or transmits to the vacuum chamber walls. But what are the steps of its in-plasma dissipation? The scientists were not interested in the extinguishing or non- extinguishing of small deviations from thermodynamic equilibrium, but in the self-organised electron distribution function and determined by it the inner electric field, and also in the pattern of oscillations, which absorbed the energy input to the plasma. Vlasov’s kinetics came out of the investigation of this question.  And one of the most interesting applied questions of plasma kinetics is a question concerning the ability of plasma to heat itself up to high temperatures by oscillations of different kinds (by turbulence). For many years, Zavoisky and his co-workers concentrated most of their experimental research on turbulent heating.
Already the first tests, made on special equipment, (1962) showed, that:
“Where there is high enough tension in an alternative electromagnetic field anomalous energy absorption occurs at a speed greater than the speed of dissipation from collisions.”
Using equipment built in 1965, with oscillating power up to 1 Gigawatt (GW), the experimenters were able to transfer about 30 per cent of that power to the plasma. Simultaneously it was found that the newly discovered effect did not actually depend on the value of the magnetic field. In addition, via what is called Shtark’s widening of hydrogen spectral lines, strong inner-plasma electric fields (about 27 kilovolts per centimeter) were recorded.
In a report prepared for an international conference (1971), Zavoisky and his co-workers had the courage to state, that:
“The specific resistance of plasma is determined by small-scale turbulence”.
They also expressed confidence in:
“the possibility of heating plasma up to temperatures of 1-10 keV by means of instabilities of Debuy’s Dimension and in less time than one Kulon’s collision”.
[“Debuy’s Dimension” is the distance separating positive and negative particles in plasma. “Kulon’s collision” is incorrectly used here in plasma physics, because it is derived from gaseous kinetics – B.O.]
Academician Arszimovich understood that another kind of plasma physics was unfolding before his eyes and that it would not be easy for him to find a place in this new physics. At first Zavoisky was harassed by abusive comments at physics seminars and conferences, then by commissions checking-up on his experimental results. Subsequently he was pushed aside from continuing his experiments and lost his co-workers. When Zavoisky – a Member of the USSR AS, a Lenin prize-winner, and a Socialist Workers Hero, was finally deprived of the right to take part in international science forums, he left the IAE – in an act that was exceptional in the history of Soviet science, only comparable with Academician Sakharov’s action.
Zavoisky died in 1976 and his funeral service took place not at the IAE, which was named after I.V. Kurchatov, but at the Lebedev’s Physics Institute, where many years ago he had brilliantly defended his doctoral work before the Science Council with the President of USSR AS, Academician Vavilov as the chairman.
Incompatible with the Law of Impulse Conservation
If a mobile metallic sample is placed between parallel conductors (rails) and the rails are connected with an electric current source (for example a charged capacity), the sample (crosspiece) will be accelerating along the rails under the influence of Ampere’s force. Any school student with an interest in physics can calculate the motion of such an accelerator (a linear electric motor). The school student could also explain that the reaction causing the crosspiece to accelerate via a magnetic field comes to the conductors with electric current (the rails). So, if plasma was just a light (gaseous) metal-like conductor, as Arszimovich supposed, why not accelerate a plasma sample (crosspiece) in the same manner?
Nothing showed the inadequacy of Arszimovich and his co-workers’ plasma-dynamics beliefs so graphically as the “Impulse Plasma Accelerators” (IPA). Since the first of Arszimovich’s IPA-devoted publications appeared in the same year that the USSR launched the first Earth-orbiting sputnik, his mistake has a multiplying effect. At the end of the 1950s a number of Soviet research institutes and universities began to study IPA, which they believed showed promise as electro-reactive engines for future space vehicles.
In 1961 a colleague, Tainov, and I collected an IPA, calculated according to Arszimovich et al’s Electro-dynamic acceleration of plasma samples . The rails faced 50 cm long coaxial electrodes. Our plasma had been produced by evaporation of the isolator dividing electrodes. To measure the plasma impulse a ball-pendulum was used. Of course the parameters of the pendulum were calculated to meet the impulse of the value corresponding to Arszimovich et al’s article. After the first discharge of current from the appropriate capacity battery, however, the pendulum failed to move. We began to shorten the rails. Step by step we got to zero. Our IPA did not need any rails! We obtained maximum impulse in their absence. The plasma was accelerating all by itself, without any help from the rails or from Ampere’s force. This is why Academician Iosifian made us take out a patent for our plasma gun . After acquiring SPR (super-speedy photo-registrar with space permission 0.1 mm and time permission 10 ns) we forgot about electro-dynamic acceleration of plasma.
Nowadays it’s possible to state that Spontaneous Generation of High-velocity Plasma Samples (SGHPS) was the most notable discovery in plasma physics of the second half of last century. The first striped SPR-pictures, testifying to the interrupting generation of plasma layers with a frequency of 1-4 MHz and with ion energies up to 1-3 keV, were published by Sukhumi physicists . Nonetheless, working with gaseous filling of the vacuum chamber and not doing special spectral studies, when they published their article, they had not identified the ion components of their plasma and believed it to be of gaseous origin. Publications , , ,  proved the erosion origination of plasma samples (layers). They were forming out of the thin vaporous layer near the surfaces of electrodes or the isolator dividing them. Plasma ions were getting their energies inside a thin region (layer) next to the vaporous layer and having a thickness of not more than 0.1 mm. We should also note here the discovery of a powerful braking radiation in the accelerating layer , testifying to collective electron oscillations, or, according to Vlasov, vibrations, or, according to Zavoisky, instabilities of Debuy’s dimension.
Let’s look at the fine picture below.
A typical SPR-picture (rotating mirror picture) of SGHPS, SPR slot was oriented normally to a plasma-producing surface 
The plasma-producing surface (ordinary glass) is on the left. The plasma layers (ions of silicon and oxygen) are moving (between the rails) to the right. The time axis is directed downwards. The noted scales are equal to 1 cm and 1 microsecond accordingly. A stripe inclination to the time axis (dx/dt) characterizes a momentary velocity of a plasma sample (layer). We can’t see in the picture the region of plasma acceleration (because of Debuy’s dimension’s about one thousandth of millimeter). Everything looks as if plasma is flowing out from the plasma producing surface with its maximum velocity, and is further moving by inertia or even with slight deceleration. At the power supply of 10 MW or more all parameters of SGHPS [the frequency of samples generation (about 3 MHz), their non-homogeneous density, the velocity and energy of the directional motion of ions (about 60 km/s and 0.5 keV), the plasma temperature in moving system of coordinates (about 3 eV at the distances of 1 cm or more from the plasma producing surface) and so on] are settled spontaneously, that is by plasma itself. The fact is striking!
As a result of these experimental observations two questions had arisen, which were completely unresolvable using the framework of magnetic hydro-dynamics (Azszimovich’s beliefs). These were:
1) What is the nature of a strong electric field in the accelerating layer?
2) In what way does the energy, necessary for acceleration of ions, enter this layer?
Both questions lead to Vlasov’s kinetics.
Plasma is a many-faceted substance and not all kinetic effects are easy to interpret. But if we are to form conclusions from the simplest of Vlasov’s tasks, we get the following.
It is better to forget about Maxwellian electron and ion distribution and about plasma temperature as it is usually understood. Such a distribution is incompatible with the electric neutrality of a plasma sample as a whole. Bounded plasma presents itself as a hump of electric potential for ions and a potential pit for oscillating electrons. As for distribution function for electrons, it’s close to Dirak’s function with total electron energy as the argument. The total energies of electrons enclosed in the pit (kinetic plus potential) are equal or less than zero. And if electrons with positive energies (such as electrons called “transitory”) find themselves in the pit, over the period of a single transition through the pit (that is equal to the interval of the plasma oscillations) they lost most of their energy. This energy goes into the swinging of the collective electron oscillations in the pit and in the increasing of the self-organised electric field. That’s why the turbulent plasma has very high electrical resistance. The energy of the inner electric field is spent on the two-sided acceleration of the ions. As a result of it, the initial motionless plasma sample (layer) transforms into two high velocity samples, flying in opposite directions. In such a way the transformation of energy, to the plasma from the outer electric field, finishes - so as after a pause start a new cycle of transformation. It’s very significant, that at such process of energy transformation, a plasma as a whole doesn’t get any impulse.
In the case of relatively homogeneous ion density (in the volume of plasma), the plasma (micro) explosions lead to turbulent heating of the plasma, studied by Zavoisky. When a gradient of ion density is strong enough (near the evaporating wall) SGHPS phenomenon takes place. Both effects are exceptionally important for the real plasma. The turbulent (non-Maxwellian) heating increases a flow of particles (and accordingly flows of mass, impulse and energy) to a vacuum chamber wall. On the contrary SGHPS, though not without energy losses, throws back these flows from the wall. The plasma-wall touch is inevitable. Bu it is not so simple, as it had been imagined by pioneers of controlled fusion. First of all the contact of a hot plasma with a cold material (solid) wall realizes through a thin but dense vapor (or gaseous) layer. Secondly it can’t be stationary, only interrupting (see picture above). Thirdly and mainly: since 1950s till nowadays it remains terra incognita of plasma physics.
Reaction of plasma during SGHPS is not observed via the contour with the electric current, but via the surface directly producing plasma. This may well sum up the misunderstanding of Arszimovich and his advocates. It also means that plasma isn’t continuous but a self-dividing substance. Electro-technical and magneto-hydro-dynamic terms can’t be applied to it.
The physical interpretation of SGHPS, based on Vlasov’s kinetics, was first discussed in 1977 . At that time Vlasov and Zavoisky in the USSR were almost forgotten, while the primitive Arszimovich’s beliefs had become official dogma, which was included in the educational text-books and Encyclopedic Editions. That is why the “experiment for Arszimovich’s supporters” was absolutely necessary. Its idea was extremely simple. While Ampere’s force, like any other vector, has predetermined direction, the kinetic plasma explosion creates equal impulse flows in both the direction of Ampere’s force and the opposite direction. Magnetic field is certainly present in such processes, but, at the level of magnitude of Debuy’s dimension, it doesn’t influence plasma acceleration.
Such an effect had been demonstrated by means of special equipment (with two ball-pendulums) assembled towards the end of the 1970s in the Istra branch of the All-Union Institute for Electro-mechanics . The beliefs of Academician Arszimovich and his advocates in electro-dynamic acceleration of high-current plasma turned to be incompatible with one of fundamental physical laws – the law of impulse conservation.
At the Second International Symposium on Solar Space Satellites, in Paris, I spoke about plasma acceleration by means of a self-organised (Vlasov’s) electric field in 1991 . By chance my talk was in an auditorium named after Ampere. If this great physicist had been working not with metallic conductors, but with the high-current plasma samples he would not have discovered the force which now carries his name. Instead he might have discovered, firstly, turbulent electric fields stronger than Ampere’s force and, secondly, instabilities with dimensions characteristic of Debuy’s, or much stronger fields of electric layers, periodically arising and disappearing near a plasma producing wall and throwing plasma from the wall (see the picture above).
Plasma physics as a victim of the Cold War or A torus with a hundred holes
Now many people think that Soviet science exploded at the same time as the 4th block of the Chernobyl atomic plant. But there are more reasons to say it ended quietly in the middle of 1970s.
In 1975 M.V. Keldysh left the position of president of USSR AS. He was the last of “Three Great Ks” (Kurchatov, Korolev, Keldysh), that personified the historical phenomenon called “Soviet science”. Vlasov died in the same year, Arszimovich two years earlier, Zavoisky a year later. Keldysh was replaced by the 72 years old Academician and IEA director, A.P. Aleksandrov, a very experienced organizer but indifferent of basic science. Immediately his co-workers, Academicians E.P. Velikhov and B.B. Kadomszev , published in Pravda the article , in which you may read these words:
“Tokamak-10” – the last step to testing the reactor... Controlled thermonuclear fusion research is entering a new phase… we can solve this problem within the next five or six years… At the end of this century it will be possible to plan the beginning of thermonuclear power engineering, to determine its place and role in the energy balance of the USSR. On the threshold of XXV Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, scientists from the I.V. Kurchatov Institute will work with great creative enthusiasm…”
In the same year (1975) at the Poly-technical museum in Moscow, the painted plaster cast of “Tokamak-10” was exhibited as Communist Party’s program (nowadays on exhibition). Kinetic plasma physics which had been began by Vlasov and continued by Zavoisky had been cast out. A lot of experienced plasma physicists were forced to leave plasma physics. The fundamental plasma experiments were replaced by the total tokamak-building. Independent and different Soviet plasma scientists were overcome by the pseudo-scientific bureaucratic monster.
These events may be considered to mark a critical point, after which empty promises became routine in Soviet science, and led to the Chernobyl disaster and other unpleasant things. The historical roots of this point, however, must be sought in the Cold War.
During that war, if the Americans made the neutron bomb, the Soviets (Russians) had to make one too. If the Russians built a new tokamak, the Americans had to build a bigger one of their own. It was inappropriate to ask the question “what for?” during the Cold War. And it’s important to note that some Russian and some American (Western) scientists liked this practice very much. Already in Khruschev’s time the rivalry between Soviet and American scientists was more like secret cooperation. Later on the cooperation became almost open. Frightening the governments of their countries with imaginary scientific and technical achievements by their imaginary enemies guaranteed those scientists privileged financing of their studies and projects. Collapse of the Soviet Union threatened to put an end to such practices. Former “enemies” then became allies through international projects and international organizations were created to realize projects.
Nowadays the so-called International Thermonuclear Community (ITC), the global plasma monopolist, is promising mankind thermonuclear paradise after 2030. So the 5-6 years timeline for Academicians Velikhov and Kadomszev’s promise given in 1975, has been drawn out for over half a century. Recently Academician E.P. Krugliakov, not without pride, wrote to me that during the last decades in different countries of the world about 100 tokamaks have been built. Refuting Krugliakov, site www.iter.org named more than 200 tokamaks. But whether the real number is 100 or 200, mankind has got nothing from any of these tokamaks.
How come torus-holes can be sold to mankind for so long and so successfully?
They can be sold because of pseudo-scientific mythology.
Myth No.1: The quick exhaustion of hydrocarbons, after which mankind will experience energy collapse. Such a prediction was made many years ago, but oil-pipe lines and gas-pipe lines continue to be built. Nevertheless some day won’t hydrocarbons exhausted? Yes, of course. But that doesn’t mean that we need to build tokamaks. There are other sources of energy on Earth, of which the foremost is the Sun, a natural thermonuclear reactor, of incomparable bounty.
While malicious people were memorializing Vlasov, Landau, Arszimovich, Zavoisky and the IPA experiments, we tokamak-builders, had progressed from 10 to the minus 11-th up to 16 MW of thermonuclear neutrons, and now:
“There are no scientific problems here – only engineering ones.” (Academician Velikhov).
Psychologically this myth is exactly calculated to produce an impression on the “man in the street”. But let’s look at the specifics.
It is not always so easy to separate scientific problems from engineering ones. It is quite clear, however, that before speaking about resolving or not resolving problems, you need, at the minimum, to name them. Maybe the ITC members have resolved the General Vlasov’s task (three kinetic equations plus Maxwell’s equations)? Maybe they really know the distribution functions of electrons and ions in the tokamak plasma? Or the self-organised electric field in it? Maybe they have studied instabilities with dimensions characteristic of Debuy’s, or the turbulent heating of plasma, or the kinetics of boundary layers and the real plasma holding mechanism? (See the picture above). As for neutrons: are they really thermonuclear or a result of accelerating processes in plasma? Taking into account the doubts of a “confused Arszimovich” (see above), a great number of such questions could be asked. But the ITC doesn’t know the answer to any of them. And the best demonstration of its lack of knowledge is “about 100” or “over 200” tokamaks. Why not over a thousand?
But maybe tokamak-builders have known how to transform thermonuclear neutrons in useful energy and have calculated the coefficient of efficiency for future thermonuclear electric power-plant? Or have proved its commercial viability? All the answers are negative.
As for the16 MW of thermonuclear neutrons, although this was demonstrated during one or two seconds by the European tokamak JET in 1999 (on the threshold of the next Millennium instead of the next Congress of CPSU), they didn’t resolve any problems – neither scientific nor engineering. Neutrons had demonstrated already by Arszimovich, and by Zavoisky too. But JET gave them a lot more? There was a lot more plasma volume, and the money spent building JET was a lot more too. More money means more neutrons. That’s all.
Myth No.3: ITC is supported by the World Community.
It’s indeed impossible to imagine ITER without support from the former presidents of USSR, USA and France (Gorbachev, Reagan and Chirac). Hundreds of physicists and engineers of different nationalities could hardly have found their jobs and salaries without this support. (And, by the way, it is this support that makes these physicists and engineers keep a vow of silence about the real significance of their work). But the leaders of the countries participating in ITER (even in addition to some physicists and engineers) are not the whole World Community.
The first famous scientist, who called for reexamination of plasma-dynamic beliefs, was the Nobel prize-winner, the Swedish physicist Alfven. In the beginning of 1970’s he called his own plasma-dynamic paradigm, which he had worked out in the middle of the 1940s and which was later assimilated by Arszimovich and many others, “a theory of pseudo-plasma”; that is a theory of a substance which doesn’t exist in Nature . But tokamak-builders had ignored Alfven’s call for the theory to be reexamined.
After the disappearance of the USSR some former employees of the IAE (Kurchatov’s Institute) began to speak up. One of them, Dr S.I. Yakovlenko, in preprint  has written:
“Be forewarned of harsh criticism and different accusations from the people in favour of endlessly looking for a black cat in a dark room without switching on the light… What is the basis of the opinion that no obstacles exist to technical success? A mistake in the absence of any moral justification, caused scientists to be divided into “clean” and “not clean” according to their attitude to the tokamak idea. In particular the mistake gave rise to a phenomenon which came to be known in science- folklore by the name of “tokamafia”. This term refers to quite a large number of scientists at different levels, united by their intention to advance tokamaks by any price, but firstly by suppressing other directions in plasma research.”
Such words in 1990’s Russia were perceived by many former Soviet physicists as revolutionary. Simultaneously, however, they provoked the Russian and International tokamafias into global cooperation. And against the wishes of a majority of scientists this cooperation became a reality.
In 2006, answering a question about the prospects for controlled thermonuclear fusion, Academician Yu. A. Trutnev said:
“I’m not working in this field and don’t believe in it. I consider that scientists have carried out all this work in order to satisfy their own curiosity using State money. Researches in the field of thermonuclear fusion nowadays continue, but I don’t believe that such a fusion will become the real source of energy even in the distant future.” 
So “malicious persons” now exist even at Russian Academy of Sciences.
European scientists also express anxiety. For example, now on the site of http://candobetter.org it’s possible to read an article of CERN researcher, M. Dittmar, “Fusion illusions – project ITER and tritium supply”. It seems very important that Dr Dittmar showed that no materials or structures exist which would be able to work under real conditions of deuterium and tritium fusion, while self-supporting tritium breeding, which is absolutely necessary for the function of commercial thermonuclear reactors, is impossible in tokamaks. Dittmar’s main conclusion is quite persuasive: taxpayers, politicians and the mass media have to understand that commercial energy production will never be feasible through controlled nuclear fusion, realizing through tokamaks.
Meanwhile the deuterium-tritium fusion reactor as ITER and representing number 101-t or 201-t tokamak, is still being built in France. What might mankind anticipate from the building?
Ten billion Euro will simply evaporate
ITER organization has no reason to like the Internet, but is forced to use it. When this organization was fighting for finance, the www.iter.org site posted materials aimed at demonstrating the super-competence of tokamak-builders in the field of plasma physics. But thanks to letters from “malicious people” this material disappeared.
Nowadays this site advertises itself as an object of future-tourism under the name “ITER-tokamak”. The whole mass is equal to 23 000 tons (three Eifel towers). The entire length of wire for superconducting coils is equal to 150 000 kilometers (more than three circles round the Earth). The volume of vacuum chamber is equal to 1400 cubic meters; the volume of helium cryostat is 8500 cubic meters; the preliminary cost of the project is 10 billion Euros. On the subject of the plasma (which doesn’t currently exist) it is written, that the volume will be equal to 850 cubic meters and the temperature will be 150 million degrees (about 15 keV or ten times more than the temperature in the center of the Sun.) Five years ago on the same site for the same ITER it said 100 million degrees. But in advertising it doesn’t matter. The cherished purpose of the project is to put in plasma 50 MW and take out 500 MW (Q = 10). ITC propagandists have diligently explained to ordinary people that this will be real – that is useful – power.
Most site-visitors, punch-drunk with the information enumerated above, hurriedly close the site and prepare to travel to France to see the world new miracle in person. But in the minds of more suspicious people a question surfaces: “How many megawatts will this super-tokamak require to power itself?” On the page “Power Supply” these same suspicious people find the figure they are interested in, equal to between 110 MW and 620 MW. The second power will be consumed during the 30 seconds, when the plasma is burning and the fusion energy is produced. Here suspicious people begin to see the light, which is, that ITER has promised Q = 10, but in reality Q
“Let’s drop this Q. Instead of it we can have three Eifel’s towers and more than three circumferences of the Earth!”
But why does www.iter.org say nothing of the 500 MW of thermonuclear fusion power? Who will be their first consumer?
The suspicious people begin to run and jump through the site searching for the name of this happy consumer and continue until they open the page “Cooling water”, where they read:
“ITER will be equipped with a cooling water system to manage the heat generated during the operation of the tokamak… As ITER is a research facility and not a power plant, most of the cooling water will simply evaporate in the cooling towers.”
We can expect nothing from ITER. It’s just the next tokamak, with an energy coefficient equal to zero.
“The science, that would been created in applied purposes exclusively, is impossible. The scientific beliefs are fruitful only in that case when there is an inner connection between them. If to search only those truths, which promise immediate results, the connecting links slip off and the chain comes apart.”
This natural idea belongs to great French scientist, A. Poincare, and was formulated long before the Second World War followed by the Cold War . But during the Cold War in everything concerning science the World became unnatural.
Five years ago my public lectures at Poly-technical museum had the title:
“ITER: Future power-engineering or globalization of misunderstanding?”
In those lectures I had proposed to separate (by a special experiment) for tokamak plasma the holding effect of magnetic field from the holding effect of a vacuum chamber wall. But my person and already long ago is “not clean” for tokamak-builders.
Now I call for international discussion under the title:
“ITER and Anti-ITER: pro and contra.”
It seems to me, that only in this way can world science overturn the heritage of the Cold War and open the way for free development of research, which hold future, although not immediate promise to become very useful for the World Community.
List of literature
1. Alekseev B.V., "Physical kinetics and drama of human destiny", History of science and technology, No. 9, 2008. P. 2-9.
2. Tamm I.E., Sakharov A.D., "The magnetic thermonuclear reactor theory", in Plasma physics and controlled thermonuclear reactions, v. 1. USSR AS, 1958. P. 3-41.
3. Arszimovich L.A., Controlled thermonuclear reactions, Moscow,1961.
4. Vlasov A.A., The theory of many particles, Moscow,1950.
5. Silkin I.I., Eugeny Constantinovich Zavoisky, Documentary chronicle of scientific and educational activity in Kazan University, KSU, 2007.
6. Zavoiskaya N.E., The history of one discovery, Moscow, 2007.
7. Zavoisky E.C., Selected works, EPR and plasma physics, Moscow, 1990.
8. Landau L.D., "About oscillations of electronic plasma", in Collection of works, v. 2. M.,1969. P. 7-25.
9. Vlasov A.A., "The theory of vibration properties of electronic gas and its applications", MSU Scientific notes, Moscow, Issue 75, v.2, 1945.
10. Arszimovich L.A., Lukianov S.Yu., Podgorny I.M., Chuvatin S.A., "Electro-dynamic acceleration of plasma samples", JETPh, 33, 1957, p.3.
11. Osadin B.A., Tainov Yu.F., "Author’s certificate No.25155 with priority from the 3rd of May, 1962", Registered in the State register of the USSR, November the 23rd., 1962.
12. Kvarzhava I.F., Meladze P.D., Suladze K.V., "Tests on electro-dynamic plasma acceleration", , JTPh, 30, 1960, p. 289.
13. Gurov S.V., Jafarov T.A., Malinin A.A., Osadin B.A., Tainov Yu. F., "Processes on electrodes in high-current vacuum discharges", JTPh, 34, 1964, p. 867.
14. Osadin B.A., "About energy distribution in high-current vacuum discharge", JTPh, 35, 1965, p. 1230.
15. Osadin B.A., "To the question of sample production in impulse plasma accelerators", JTPh, 35, 1965, p.1327.
16. Grigoriev V.N., "Candidate dissertation", VEI, Moscow, 1967.
17. Derevschikov V.A., "Spectrums of plasma at different distances from plasma-producing surfaces", JTPh, 40, 1970, p.1564.
18. Osadin B.A., "To the erosion plasma accelerating mechanism", High temperatures thermo-physics, v. 15, No.5, 1977. (Annotations of articles, deposited with VINITI.)
19. Osadin B.A., Avatinian G.A., Ivanov G.V., Stechkin V.I., "Experimental evidence of non-electro-dynamic character of erosion plasma acceleration in impulse plasma accelerators", High temperatures thermo-physics, v. 18, 1980, p.1106.
20. Osadin B.A., "Plasma launchers for SPS", Second International Symposium, SPS 91, Power from space, Paris/Gif-sur-Yevette, 27 to 30 August 1991, p.492.
21. Velikhov E.P., Kadomszev B.B., "A task for the century: Starting the world’s largest experimental installation “Tokamak-10”", Pravda Newspaper, 4 July, 1975.
22. Alfven H., Cosmic and laboratory plasma physics, K. Schindler, Ed. Plenum Publishing Corporation, New York, 1972, p. 1-14.
23. Yakovlenko S.I., "A thermonuclear electric power-plant and questions of energy quality", preprint, Lebedev’s Physical Institute, 1992.
24. Trutnev Yu.A., "Only real cause educates people", MSIREA(TU), Hydrogen education, No. 3, 2006. P.16.
25. A. Poincare, "About Science", Science, Moscow, 1990, p.364.
NOTES from the Editor of Candobetter
*Academician - "Academician" may also be a functional title and denote a full member of the National Academy of Sciences in those countries where the academy has a strong influence on national scientific life, particularly countries that were part of, or influenced by, the Soviet Union. In such countries, "Academician" is used as an honorific title (like "Doctor", "Professor", etc.) when addressing or speaking about someone. Countries where the term Academician is used in this way include China, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia and Ukraine." (From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Academician)
**GULAG - the author originally wrote of an 'atomic GULAG'. A Gulag or GULAG was a government agency that administered one of several Soviet penal labor camp systems and so this is a term to describe break-back conditions imposed on scientists at the time in order to try to win the atom-bomb race and other technological challenges.
I have added this basic information to the article here as a footnote: 26. “In physics and chemistry, plasma is a gas, in which a certain proportion of the particles are ionized. The presence of a non-negligible number of charge carriers makes the plasma electrically conductive so that it responds strongly to electromagnetic fields. Plasma therefore state of matter.” Source:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plasma_%28physics%29
“A new computer simulation shows that dust immersed in ionized gas can organize itself into DNA-like double helixes. These dust structures can behave in many respects like living organisms.
The dust helixes can store information: the scaffolding of their “bodies” can have two stable states – with different size diameters. That way, a spiral can contain sets of wide and narrow sections.
It appears that the specific order of these sections can be copied from one dust spiral to another, like a genetic code. The researchers aren’t sure how it happens, but they think each narrow section of spiral creates a permanent vortex of moving dust outside it. So if another spiral drifts alongside it, that vortex pinches the same length into its narrow state.
Scientists probably wouldn’t classify it as “living” – hurricanes are similarly self-organizing systems, but you wouldn’t call them “alive”.
A team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Garching, Germany, are now looking for these structures in nature. One possible place to look is in the rings of Saturn; the dust particles would be fine ice grains and the plasma supplied by the solar wind.” Source: http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/Science-Fiction-News.asp?NewsNum=1157
Source of small picture with coat-hanger in teaser was http://new.savethecourt.org/content/womens-rights
I am frankly sick and tired of growth-promoters raising the spectre of “coercive population measures” whenever a suggestion is made that we must promote family planning or smaller families. Is there some sacred reason why fertility should not be limited if deemed necessary? In a world of 6.8 billion people going on 9 or 10 billion, or in any nation suffering from exponential population growth, there can be no “pro-creative” right.
This must not be confused with “reproductive” rights. Women should have the right not to have children. But they have no right, in the context of overshoot, to have as many children as they or their husbands want. The “right to choose” cannot be the right to abuse. Even the most jealously guarded right must be measured against equally fundamental rights, most especially the right of our species, and others, to live.
I have, at present, the "right" to drive a car. But I do not have a right to drive it over the speed limit. And it is society that establishes that limit, not me. Indeed, if society determines that there are too many people driving cars, it has the moral right to impose petroleum taxes, restrict parking permits and spaces, put tolls on highways and bridges and employ an assortment of other measures to discourage me from driving. I similarly have the right to go fishing, but I don't have the right to catch as many fish as I may like. In the face of shortages, we have come to accept that our collective right to achieve sustainability supersedes any individual “right”. The number of consumers who will compete for critically scarce resources is surely every bit as important as the number of people who go fishing and how many fish they catch. If there is a licence needed to fish, why should there not, in principle at least, be a licence required to inflict a child upon the rest of society? Am I advocating “coercion”? Absolutely. Coercion if necessary, but not necessarily coercion. Mutual coercion mutually agreed upon, if voluntary efforts, yet to be exhausted, prove ineffective. But would fertility controls represent the introduction of coercion where none presently exists? Absolutely not.
Let's get real. A great many women in the undeveloped world at least, are having children precisely because they are coerced. Coerced by husbands, priests and mullahs to have more than the number they want. Coerced by their cultural programming to give male wishes greater priority than their own. Coerced by their lack of access to birth control information, and by the denial of educational opportunities. This is where coercion makes itself most present. Not in China. Not by communist bureaucrats and law-makers. But by the dictates of domestic and religious patriarchal power.
And what of my rights? What about my right not to see my share of non-renewable resources diminished by the “personal” decision of the couple down the street to have an unnecessary child? Did they consult me about their decision to conceive another Canadian, an earth-trampling shopping machine who emits 23 metric tonnes of carbon each year, consumes 40,000 pounds of metals and minerals and accounts for over 150 pounds of curb side waste each day? Did they submit an application to the local planning authority or town council for a permit to stress the environment even further than it is being stressed? Why is their “right” to create more life considered more fundamental than our right to sustain the life that is already here? Why should the human population level of a country or a planet be subject to the whimsy and haphazard “personal” decisions of fertile individuals? Why must they replicate their own genes? Why are so many children forced to live in orphanages, foster homes and on the squalid streets of sprawling cities to fend for themselves while irrational ego-trippers generate more children just because they want to raise someone with the same pair of ears or eyes as they have? Children do not have to share your genes to share your love.
I wouldn't dream of telling anyone to have a child. So why would anyone tell me that I should move over for theirs? To paraphrase Hilary Clinton, it takes a whole ecosystem to raise a child, and as a charter member of it, I have the right to participate in the decisions that affect me. On an overloaded planet anybody's pregnancy is everybody's business. For every extra billion we grow in number, another 200 billion tonnes of Green House Gases are emitted, and to effectively reduce emissions, we must, among other things, reduce the number of emitters. Unfettered procreative rights are of little value on a dead planet. Beyond a certain point, parenthood is not a service but an imposition, not only upon humanity, but disproportionately upon the most disempowered and poorest part of it, the very people whom many Western feminists and human rights crusaders are most concerned with. How can an unsustainable population level enhance their rights? Can anyone seriously contend that the sum total of unplanned or unwanted pregnancies does not restrict personal autonomy more than the most intrusive family planning program? Or maintain that the absence of effective birth control is not the most coercive regime that women can suffer?
Just who is coercing whom?
Tim Murray, Quadra Island, BC
More phone-marketing instead of democratic consultation
I have been twice bothered by phone calls from people wanting to come into my house and take old lightbulbs out and put new ones in. They claim to be from one of 30 different private organisations which have been given taxpayers' money to do this. They claim that they cannot simply put the lightbulbs outside the door, but that they must come in and insert them for audit purposes.
Invasion of privacy
This is an invasion of privacy. What gives the government the moral right to sell off our essential services for competitive profit, and then to give private companies taxpayer donations and then to have them insist on coming into private citizens' houses?
Why should we trust any of them? If we have to accept this 'largesse' then the least that could be done is simply have the items dropped off, or possibly signed for by the householder.
Essential services outsourced for profit are a dysfunctional concept
Personally I have no confidence in an essential service which is outsourced for competitive profit along with an expensive commission to monitor it.
What I want is a government provided program which I can vote on as a citizen.
To be a 'client' is a much lesser empowerment than to be a citizen.
Vale social capital.
This is all so tragically ludicrous.
If you want to know more about these changes have a look at The Essential Services Commission, "Victoria's independent economic regulator of essential services".
You will find that most of their brief is just ensuring 'competition' to make for 'low prices', but of course the cost of electricity will continue to rise because of all the other government policies which are hell-bent on intensifying production and consumption.
I wonder who owns shares in sustainable lightbulbs and has some influence in parliament or the Essential Services Commission. And are they dishonest or simply idiots?
Source of illustration
The only way the global sustainability and justice predicament can be solved is via something like the inspiring Transition Towns movement. However thought needs to be given to a number of themes or it might fail to achieve significant goals.
The Transition Towns movement began only about 2005 and is growing rapidly. It emerged in the UK mainly in response to the realisation that the coming of “peak oil” is likely to leave towns in a desperate situation, and therefore that it is very important that they strive to develop local economic self sufficiency.
What many within the movement probably don’t know is that for decades some of us in the “deep green” camp have been arguing that the key element in a sustainable and just world has to be small, highly self sufficient, localised economies under local cooperative control. (See my Abandon Affluence, published in1985, and The Conserver Society, 1995.)
It is therefore immensely encouraging to find that this kind of initiative is not only underway but booming. I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that if this planet makes it through the next 50 years to sustainable and just ways it will be via some kind of Transition Towns process. However I also want to argue that if the movement is to have this outcome there are some very important issues it must think carefully about or it could actually come to little or nothing of any social significance. I want to suggest l below that there is a need for a much more focused and detailed action strategy, giving clearer guidance to newcomers, and following a much more radical vision than seems to be informing the movement at present.
My comments won’t make much sense unless I first make clear the perspective on the global situation my comments derive from. Most people would reject this view as being too extreme.
Where we are, and the way out.
The many alarming global problems now crowding in and threatening to destroy us are so big and serious that they cannot be solved within or by consumer-capitalist society. The way of life we have in rich countries is grossly unsustainable and unjust. There is no possibility of the “living standards” of all people on earth ever rising to rich world per capita levels of consumption of energy, minerals, timber, water, food, phosphorous etc. These rates of consumption are generating the numerous alarming global problems now threatening our survival. Yet most people have no idea of the magnitude of the overshoot, of how far we are beyond a sustainable levels of resource use and environmental impact. ln addition our way of life would not be possible if rich countries were not taking far more than their fair share of world resources, via an extremely unjust global economy, and thereby condemning most of the world’s people to deprivation.
Given this analysis of out situation, there must be transition to a very different kind of society, one not based on globalisation, market forces, the profit motive, centralisation, representative democracy, or competitive, individualistic acquisitiveness. Above all it must be a zero-growth economy, and most difficult of all, it cannot be an affluent society.
However almost everyone in the mainstream, from politicians, economists and bureaucrats down to ordinary people, totally fails to recognise any of this and proceeds on the comforting delusion that with more effort and technical advance we can solve problems like greenhouse without jeopardising our high “living standards” or the market economy or the obsession with growth. Our fundamental problem therefore is one of ideology or consciousness. Most people in this society are a very long way from having the understandings and values required for transition. Most seem not to know or care that they live as well as they do because the global economy is extremely unjust, or that affluence and growth are incompatible with ecological survival. Changing that consciousness is the key to transition.
I have appendixed some of the support for this perspective on out global situation. A more detailed account can be found at http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/
Given the above view of our situation, we must work for transition to a very different kind of society. I refer to it as The Simpler Way. Its core principles must be
- Far simpler material living standards
- High levels of self-sufficiency at household, national and especially neighbourhood and town levels, with relatively little travel, transport or trade. There must be mostly small, local economies in which most of the things we need are produced by local labour from local resources.
- Basically cooperative and participatory local systems,
- A quite different economic system, one not driven by market forces and profit, and in which there is far less work, production, and consumption, and a large cashless sector, including many free goods from local commons. There must be no economic growth at all. There must be mostly small local economies, under our control via participatory systems.
- Most problematic, a radically different culture, in which competitive and acquisitive individualism is replaced by frugal, self-sufficient collectivism.
Some of the elements within The Simpler Way are, -- mostly small and highly self-sufficient local economies with many little firms, ponds, animals, farms, forests throughout settlements – participatory democracy via town assemblies – neighbourhood workshops – many roads dug up – “edible landscapes” providing free fruit and nuts – being able to get to decentralised workplaces by bicycle or on foot voluntary community working bees – committees - many productive commons in the town (fruit, timber, bamboo, herbs…) – having to work for money only one or two days a week – no unemployment – living with many artists and crafts people – strong community --small communities making many of the important development and administration decisions.
Simple traditional alternative technologies will be quite sufficient for many purposes, especially for producing houses, furniture, food and pottery. Much production will take place via hobbies and crafts, small farms and family enterprises. However modern/high technologies and mass production can be used extensively where appropriate, including IT. The Simpler Way will free many more resources for purposes like medical research than are devoted to these at present, because most of the present vast quantity of unnecessary production will be phased out.
There could still be many small private firms, and market forces could have a role, but the economy must be under firm social control, via local participatory processes. Thus local town meetings would make the important economic decisions in terms of what’s best for the town and its people and environment. Rational assessments of basic necessities would be the main determinants of economic activity. We would not allow market forces to bankrupt any firm or dump anyone into unemployment. We would make sure everyone had a livelihood. The town would have to work out how to adjust its economy in the best interests of all.
Thus only an Anarchist form of government could work. Only if all participate in making the decisions and implementing them without authoritarian institutions will people enthusiastically contribute to effective town functioning. (There would still be some functions for state and national governments.)
Because we will be highly dependent on our local ecosystems and on our social cohesion, e.g., for most water and food, and for effective committees and working bees, all will have a strong incentive to focus on what is best for the town, rather than on what is best for themselves as competing individuals. Cooperation and conscientiousness will therefore tend to be automatically rewarded, whereas in consumer society competitive individualism is required and rewarded.
What we will be doing is building a new economy, Economy B, under the old one. Economy B will give us the power to produce the basic goods and services we need not just to survive as the old economy increasingly fails to provide, but to give all a high quality of life. The old economy could collapse and we would still be able to provide for ourselves.
Advocates of the Simpler Way believe that its many benefits and sources of satisfaction would provide a much higher quality of life than most people experience in consumer society.
It must be emphasised that The Simpler Way is not optional. If our global situation is as has been argued then a sustainable and just society in the coming era of scarcity has to be some kind of Simpler Way.
In my view the contradiction between consumer-capitalist society and The Simpler Way is so enormous that we are unlikely to make it. Nevertheless it is clear what we must try to do. Following are a few of the key points to consider in the discussion of transition strategy.
There is not much to be gained by trying to fight against the present system directly. Not only is it far too powerful and the dissenting forces far too weak, there isn’t time to beat it in head-on conflict. More importantly, even if we could for instance take state power, either by violent revolution or green parliamentary action, it would not be of any value to us whatsoever. State power cannot build self sufficient, self-governing local economies full of conscientious, responsible, creative, happy citizens. If the old industrial centralised system was still a viable model for a post-revolutionary society then maybe coups and revolutions and rule from the top might be relevant – but that model is irrelevant now.
Transition must therefore be a grass roots process whereby people slowly develop the consciousness, the skills, the local systems and infrastructures that will enable ordinary people to come together to run their own local communities. Much diminished state governments could have a valuable although secondary role, but we will have to do most of the thinking, work and learning ourselves in the towns and suburbs where we live. This is a basically Anarchist vision, and given the need for localism, frugality, participation, cooperation etc. set by the coming era of intense scarcity, we will have no choice about this.
The good society can and must be, as the Anarchists say, “prefigured”. We can begin now building aspects of it here within the failing old system, and indeed there is no other way to get from where we are to the kinds of settlements and systems we must have eventually.
There is no chance of significant change while the supermarket shelves remain well-stocked. Almost everyone will stolidly plod on purchasing, watching sport and playing electronic games until scarcity hits with a jolt. However, as the old systems run into more serious problems, people will come across to join us, realising that we are enjoying the benefits of the new ways. When oil starts to get seriously scarce people will see that they must either take up our examples or starve.
This revolution could therefore be smooth and non-violent. If we are lucky the old system will more or less just die away as people “ignore it to death”. The super-rich will resist desperately but without oil and confronted by millions of scattered people in their towns and suburbs doing their own thing they will have little capacity to stop us.
It is therefore of the utmost importance that we get the alternative examples up and running. Nothing will be more persuasive than pockets here and there where The Simpler Way can be seen as being lived and enjoyed within mainstream towns and suburbs.
Until around 2000 the basic pioneering work had been done by the Global Eco-village Movement. It’s possibly thousands of small communities have shown that a better way is possible. However the world’s soon-to-be 9 billion people cannot all form Eco-villages on green field sites. What they can do, however is transform the settlements they are living in into Eco-villages. And this is what the Transition Towns movement is in principle about.
The Transition Towns Movement.
The Transition Towns movement has emerged very rapidly and is spreading around the world. Towns in the UK have led the way, the best known being Totness. Although Rob Hopkins and his colleagues seems rightly to receive most of the credit for getting the movement going, its rapid spread testifies to a strong general grass roots readiness to take up the idea. There are now towns in several other countries joining the movement, including Australia and New Zealand. The website is inspiring, linking to many towns and projects, reflecting energy and enthusiasm. A handbook and other documents have been published.
The key concept referred to is building town “resilience” in the face of the coming peak oil crisis. The kinds of activities being taken up include, “re-skilling” whereby courses are run on things like bread baking, the planting of commons, e.g., nut trees on public land, local food production and marketing, especially community supported agriculture, and the encouragement of volunteering. These are not new ideas of course, but it is important that they are being linked together in whole town strategies for resilience. Notable is the fact that these initiatives have not come from states, governments or official bodies, but from ordinary people.
Despite my enthusiasm, I have serious concerns about the movement and I want to suggest some issues that require careful thought. If we do not get them right the movement could very easily end up making no significant contribution to solving the global problem.
Goals? Only building havens?
First there is the danger that it will only be a Not-In-My-Backyard phenomenon, that it will be about towns trying to insulate themselves from the coming time of scarcities and troubles. This is a quite different goal to working to replace consumer-capitalist society. It is not much good if your town bakes its own bread or even generates much of its own electricity, while it goes on importing hardware and appliances produced in China and taking holidays abroad. It will still indirectly be using considerable amounts of coal and oil in the goods it imports. The wider national society on which it depends for law, postal services, security etc. cannot continue as it is unless it maintains the Third World empire from which it draws so much wealth. Unless we eventually change all that then our Transition Towns will remain part of consumer-capitalist society, and will go down when it goes down.
In other words, given the view of the global situation sketched above the top concern must be to work to make sure the movement is explicitly, consciously and primarily about nothing less than contributing to global transition away from consumer-capitalist society. That kind of society is the cause of our problems, it is leading us to catastrophe, it is not possible for all, it is only possible for us because the Third World is plundered, and it destroys the environment. It condemns billions to dreadful conditions. Our top priority must be to replace it, as distinct from making our town “resilient” in the face of the trouble it is causing. This vision is not evident in the Transition Towns movement literature or in its web sites. If it was the movement would probably be much less popular.
Does this mean I should accept that I want to see a quite different movement, one that is for quite different goals, and therefore I should back off and not lecture the existing movement that its goals are mistaken, and go form my own? Perhaps this is so, but my hope obviously is that the existing movement will be willing to endorse goals that are wider and more critical/radical than they are at present. If it doesn’t then I don’t think it will make much difference to the fate of the planet. I have thought in terms of a Simpler Way Transition Strategy whereby we try to work within Transition Towns initiatives to get the broader vision and goals accepted. The practical involvement in building town self-sufficiency is the best means for doing that.
What are the sub-goals? The lack of guidance.
The website, the handbook and especially the 12 Steps document are valuable, but they are predominantly about procedure and it is remarkably difficult to find clear guidance as to what the sub-goals of the movement are, the actual structures and systems and projects that we should be trying to undertake if our town is to achieve transition or resilience. What we desperately need to know is what things should we start trying to set up, what should we avoid, what should come first. Especially important is that we need to be able to seethe causal links, to understand why setting up this venture will have the effect of creating greater town resilience. But unfortunately people coming to the movement eager to get started will find almost no guidance in the current literature as to what to actually try to do, let alone anything like a suggested plan of action with steps and do’s and don’ts and clear explanation of why specific projects will have desirable effects.
The advice and suggestions you do find in the literature are almost entirely about how to establish the movement (e.g., “Awareness raising”, “Form subgroups”, “Build a bridge to local government”), as distinct from how to establish things that will actually, obviously make the town more resilient. There is some reference to possibilities, such as set up community supported agriculture schemes, but we are told little more than that we should establish committees to look into what might be done in areas such as energy, food, education and health.
The authors of these documents seem to be anxious to avoid prescription and dogma, and it is likely that no one can give certain guidance at this early stage, but that does not mean that advice regarding probably valuable projects should not be offered. The lack is most evident in The Kinsale Energy Descent Plan, which does little more than repeat the process ideas in the 12 steps documents and contains virtually no information or projects to do with energy technology or strategies. It lists some possibilities, such as exploring insulation and the possibility of local energy generation, and reducing the need for transport, but again there is no advice as to what precisely can or might be set up. We need more than this; we need to know l how and why a particular project will make the town more resilient, and we need to know what projects we should start with, what the difficulties and costs might be, etc. Just being told “Create an energy descent plan” (Step 12) doesn’t help much when what we need to know how might we do that.
I suggest some possible concrete projects below, drawn from my tentative thoughts on The Simpler Way Transition Strategy. We might eventually realise this is not a good approach, but they indicate the kind or guidance people coming to the movement must be given. Otherwise we run the risk of people not having much idea what to set up, and rushing into exciting activities that are a waste of time, or becoming disenchanted with the failure to make much difference to the town’s situation.
What should be the top goal? Build a new economy, and run it!
I want to argue that the focal concern of the movement should not be energy and its coming scarcity. Yes all that sets the scene and the imperative, but the solution is not primarily to do with energy. It is to do with developing town economic self-sufficiency. The supreme need is for us to build a radically new economy within our town, and then for us to run it to meet our needs.
It is not oil that sets your greatest insecurity; it is the global economy. lt doesn’t need your town. It will relocate your jobs where profits are greatest. It can flip into recession overnight and dump you and billions of others into unemployment and poverty. It will only deliver to you whatever benefits trickle down from the ventures which maximise corporate profits. It loots the Third World to stock your supermarket shelves. It has condemned much of your town to idleness, in the form of unemployment and wasted time and resources that could be being devoted to meeting urgent needs there. ln the coming time of scarcity it will not look after you. You will only escape that fate if you build a radically new economy in your region, and run it to provide for the people who live there.
All this flatly contradicts the conventional economy. We have to build a local economy, not a national or globalised economy, an economy designed to meet needs not to maximise profits, an economy under participatory social control and not driven by corporate profit, and one guided by rational planning as distinct from leaving everything to the market. This is the antithesis of capitalism, markets, profit motivation and corporate control. Nothing could be more revolutionary. If we don’t plunge into building such an economy we will probably not survive in the coming age of scarcity. The Transition Towns movement will come to nothing of great significance if it does not set itself to build such economies. Either your town will get control of its own affairs and organise local productive capacity to provide for you, or it will remain within and dependent on the mainstream economy, and be dumped.
In other words, the goal here is to build Economy B, a new local economy enabling the people who live in the town to guarantee the provision of basic necessities by applying their labour, land and skills to local resources…all under our control. The old economy A can then drop /dead and we will still be able to provide for ourselves. This kind of vision and goal is not evident in the TT literature and reports I have read. There is no concept of a Community Development Cooperative setting out to eventually run the town economy for the benefit of the people via participatory means. The movement at present implicitly accepts the normal consumer-capitalist economy and merely seeks to become more resilient within it.
The need for coordination, priorities and planning – by a Community Development Co-op
If we focus on the goal of local economic developed run by us to meet our needs we realise we must somehow set up mechanisms which enable us to work out and operate a plan. It will not be ideal if we proclaim the importance of town self-sufficiency and then all run off as individuals to set up a bakery here and a garden there. It is important that there be continual discussion about what the town needs to set up to achieve its goals, what should be done first, what is feasible, how we might proceed to get the first and the main things done, what are the most important ventures to set up? Of course individual initiatives are to be encouraged but much more important are likely to be bigger projects requiring whole-town effort.
This means that from the early stages we should set up some kind of Community Development Cooperative, a process whereby we can come together often to discuss and think about the town plan and our progress, towards having a coordinated and unified approach that will then help us decide on sub-goals and priorities, and especially on the purposes to which the early working bees will be put. Obviously this would not need to be elaborate or prescriptive and would not mean people would be discouraged from pursuing ventures other than those endorsed by the CDC.
My impression from the Transition Town literature is that this is something that needs urgent attention. Often it seems that inspired and energetic people are doing good things, but as independent “entrepreneurs” and according to their individual interests and skills. There will always be plenty of scope for this and every reason to encourage it, but the most important projects will be collective, public works which provide crucial services for the town. For instance the building of community gardens, sheds, premises for little firms, orchards, ponds, woodlots and the commons from which free food will come are whole-town projects that will be carried out by voluntary committees and working bees. Before these projects could sensibly begin we would need to have thought out at least an indicative plan which included priority, logistical, geographical, feasibility, research, resource etc. considerations.
What should the CDC actually do?
Following is an indication of the kind of projects that I think of as making up The Simpler Way Transition Strategy. These are the kinds of actual projects I had hoped to find in the TTR literature (and some are there).
• Identify the unmet needs of the town, and the unused productive capacities of the town, and bring them together. Set up the many simple cooperatives enabling all the unemployed, homeless, bored, retired, etc. people to get into the community gardens etc. that would enable them to start producing many of the basic things they need. Can we set up co-ops to run a bakery, bike repair shop, home help service, insulating operation, clothes making and repairing operation.... Especially important are the cooperatives to organise leisure resources, the concerts, picnics, dances, festivals? Can we organise a market day?
One of the worst contradictions in the present economy is that it dumps many people into unemployment, boredom, homelessness, "retirement", mental illness and depression – and in the US, watching 4+ hours of TV every day. These are huge productive capacities left idle land wasted. The CDC can pounce on these resources and harness them and enable dumped people to start producing to meet some of their on needs, thereby moving towards the elimination of employment. To do this is to have begun to set up Economy B. We simply record contributions and these entitle people to proportionate shares of the output. (This is to have initiated our own new currency; see below.)
This mechanism puts us in a position to eventually get rid of unemployment – to make sure all who want work and "incomes" and livelihoods can have them. It is absurd and annoying that governments, (and the people in your neighbourhood) tolerate people suffering depression and boredom when we could so easily set up the cooperatives that would enable them to produce things they need and enjoy purpose and solidarity. (Of course any move to do this would be rejected as “socialism”, which we all know does not work.)
• Help existing small firms to move to activities the town needs, setting up little firms and farms and markets. Establish a town bank to finance these ventures. Making sure no one goes bankrupt and no one is left without a livelihood.
• Organise Business Incubators; the voluntary panels of experts and advisers on gardening, small business, arts etc., so that we can get new ventures up and running well.
• Organise the working bees to plant and maintain the community orchards and other commons, build the premises for the bee keeper...and organise the committees to run the concerts and look after old people...
• Research what the town is importing, and the scope for local firms or new co-ops to start substituting local products.
• Decide what things will emphatically not be left for market forces to determine – such as unemployment, what firms we will have, whether fast food outlets will be patronised if they set up. We will not let market forces deprive anyone of a livelihood; if we have too many bakeries we will work out how to redirect one of them. The town gets together to decide what it needs, and to establish these things regardless of what market forces and the profit motive would have done.
• Stress the importance of reducing consumption, living more simply, making, growing, rep-airing, old things… The less we consume in the town the less we must produce or import. Remember, the world can't consume at anything like the rate rich countries average. As well as explaining the importance of reducing consumption the CDC must stress alternative satisfactions and develop these (e.g., the concerts, festivals, crafts…) It can also develop recipes for cheap but nutritious meals, teaching craft and gardening skills, preserving etc. The household economy should be upheld as the centre of our lives and the main source of life satisfaction, more important than career.
• Work towards the procedures for making good town decisions about these developments, the referenda, consensus processes, town meetings.
• Throughout all these activities recognise that our primary concern is to raise consciousness regarding the nature, functioning and unacceptability of consumer-capitalist society and the existence of better ways.
One concern the CDC would have is what not to try to do, or not yet. For instance in my view it is not at all clear that in the early states towns should make much effort to produce their own energy. Producing most forms of renewable energy in significant quantities is difficult and costly. Further, its significance for town independence or resilience is questionable. For instance if your town builds a wind farm this will benefit the nation but is not likely to be of much benefit to the town, other than as an export industry (sending surplus electricity to the grid…without which it could not function.) When the wind is down the town would have to draw from the grid.
More significant however would be the effort to reduce energy consumption, as distinct from increase production, by for instance insulating houses, cutting down on unnecessary production, localising work, cutting town imports, increasing local leisure resources and especially increasing local food production. (The Kinsale Energy Descent Plan recognises this.) Town resilience is going to depend more on the capacity to get to work and produce necessities without using much energy, than on whether the town can produce energy.
The introduction of local currencies.
Although the introduction of our own local currency is very important there is much confusion about local currencies and often proposed schemes would not have desirable effects. There is a tendency to proceed as if just creating a local currency would do wonders, without any thinking through of how it is supposed to work. lt will not have desirable effects unless it is carefully designed to do so. I have serious concerns about the currency schemes being adopted by the Transition Towns movement and I do not think the initiatives I am aware of are going to make significant contributions to the achievement of town resilience. It is not evident that they are based on a rationale that makes sense and enables one to see why they will have desirable effects.
It is most important that we are able to see precisely what general effect the form of currency we have opted for is going to have; we must be able to explain why we are implementing it in view of the beneficial effects it designed to have. To me the main purpose in introducing a currency is to contribute to getting the unused productive capacity of the town into action, i.e., stimulating/enabling increase in output to meet needs. (Another purpose is to avoid the interest charges when normal money is borrowed, but this can’t be done unless the new money is to be used to pay for inputs available in the town; it can’t pay for imported cement for instance.)
Following is the strategy that I think is most valuable. Consider again what happens in the above scenario, when our CDC sets up a community garden and invites people to come and work in it. When time contributions are recorded with the intention of sharing produce later in proportion to contributions, these slips of paper function like an IOU or “promissory note” (although that’s not what they are.). They can be used to “buy” garden produce when it becomes available. They are a form of money which enables everyone to keep track of how much work, producing and providing they have done and how great a claim they have on what’s been produced. The extremely important point about the design and use of this currency is that it helps in getting those idle people into producing to meet some of their own needs. Obviously the introduction of the currency was not the most important element in the process; organising the “firm” was the key factor. Also obvious is the way the currency works; you can see what its desirable effects are. So just introducing a currency of some kind does not necessarily have any desirable effect and it is crucial to do it in a way that you know will have definite and valuable effects.
At a later stage we can use our currency to start trading with firms in the old economy. We can find restaurants for instance willing to sell us meals which we can pay for with our money. They will accept payment in our money if they can then spend that money buying vegetables and labour from us in Economy B. But note that the normal shops in the town cannot accept our money and we in Economy B cannot buy from them, unless there is something we can sell to them. They can’t sell things to us, accepting our money, unless they can use that money. Nothing significant can be achieved unless people acquire the capacity to produce and sell things that others want. So the crucial task here for the Community Development co-op look for things we in Economy B might sell to the normal firms in the town.
Councils can facilitate this process, for example by accepting our new money in part payment of their rates—but again only if there is something they can spend the money on, that is, goods and services they need that we in Economy B can provide. Therefore the CDC must look for these possibilities.
Sometimes it makes sense for a council to issue a currency to enable use of local resources, especially labour, to build an infrastructure without having to borrow and pay interest to external banks. This can only be done for those inputs that are available locally. If for instance the cement for the swimming pool has to be imported then it will have to be paid for in national currency, but it would be a mistake to borrow normal money to pay the workers if they are available in the town. They can be paid in specially printed new money with which they are able to pay (part of) their rates. Note however that the council then has the problem of what to do with these payments. If it burns them the council has actually paid for the pool via reduced normal money rate income, and will have to reduce services to the town accordingly. Better to keep the money perpetually in use within a new Economy B, so those workers and the council can go on providing things to each other.
Now consider some ways of introducing a new currency that will not have desirable effects.
What would happen if the council or a charity just gave a lot of new money to poor people, and got some shops to agree to accept it as payment for goods they sell? The recipients would soon spend it…and be without jobs and poor again. The shops would hold lots of new money…but not be able to spend it buying anything they need. (They could use it to buy from each other, but would have no need to do this, because they were already able to buy the few things they needed from each other using normal money.) Again if things are not to gum up it must be possible for the shopkeepers in the old economy to use their new money purchasing something from those poor people, and that’s not possible unless they can produce things within a new Economy B.
Sometimes the arrangement is for people to buy new notes using normal money. This is just substituting, and achieves nothing for the town economy. What’s the point of people who would have used dollars now buying using “eco”s they have bought? Again there is no effect of bringing unused productive capacity into action.
What about the argument that local currencies encourage local purchasing because they can’t be spent outside the town? This reveals confusion. Anyone who understands the importance of buying local will do so as much as they can, regardless of what currency they have. Anyone who doesn’t will buy what’s cheapest, which is typically an imported item. Obviously what matters here is getting people to understand why it’s important to buy local; just issuing a local currency will make no significant difference.
Similarly, currencies which depreciate with time miss the point and are unnecessary. Anyone who understands the situation does not need to be penalised for holding new money and not spending it. In any case it’s wrong-headed to set out to encourage spending; people should buy as little as they can, and any economy in which you feel an obligation to spend to make work for someone else is not an acceptable economy. In a sensible economy there is only enough work, producing and spending and use of money as is necessary to ensure all have sufficient for a good quality of life.
The TransitionTowns movement is characterised by a remarkable level of enthusiasm and energy. I think this reflects the long pent up disenchantment with consomer-capitalist society and a desire for something better. There is a powerful case that the only way out of the alarming global predicament we are in has to be via a Transition Towns movement of some kind. To our great good fortune one has burst on the scene. But I worry that it could very easily fail to make a significant difference. My hope is that the foregoing thoughts will help to ensure that it does become the means whereby we get through to a sustainable and just world.
Appendix: An indication of the limits to growth case re the global
Consider some basic aspects of our situation. I have detailed this case in several sources including http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/ and will only refer here to a few of the main themes.
• If all the estimated 9 billion people likely to be living on earth after 2050 were to consume resources at the present per capita rate in rich countries, world annual resource production rates would have to be about 8 times as great as they are now.
• It is now widely thought that global petroleum supply will peak within a decade, and be down to half the present level by about 2030.
• “Footprint analysis” indicates that the amount of productive land required to provide one person in Australia with food, water, energy and settlement area is about 7- 8 ha. The US figure is closer to 12 ha. If 9 billion people were to live as Australians do, approximately 70 billion ha of productive land would be required. However the total amount available on the planet is only in the region of 8 billion ha. In other words our rich world footprint is about 10 times as big as it will ever be possible for all people to have.
• It is increasingly being thought that in order to prevent dangerous increase in global warming all CO2 emissions will have to be totally eliminated by 2050. There are good reasons for concluding that this is not possible in a consumer society, firstly because the alternative energy sources such as the sun and wind cannot meet demand, (Trainer, 2008) and even if they could there isn’t time to do so.
The point which such figures makes glaringly obvious is that it is totally impossible for all to have the ”living standards” we have taken for granted in rich countries like Australia. We are not just a little beyond sustainable levels of resource demand and ecological impact – we are far beyond sustainable levels.
However the main worry is not the present levels of resource use and ecological impact discussed above, it is the levels we will rise to given the obsession with constantly increasing volumes of production. The supreme goal in all countries is to raise incomes, “living standards” and the GDP as much as possible, constantly and without any idea of a limit. That is, the most important goal is economic growth.
If we assume a) a 3% p.a. economic growth, b) a population of 9 billion, c) all the world’s people rising to the “living standards” we in the rich world would have in 2070 given 3% growth until then, the total volume of world economic output would be 60 times as great as it is now.
So even though the present levels of production and consumption are grossly unsustainable the determination to have continual increase in income and economic output will multiply these towards absurdly impossible levels in coming decades.
Such enormous multiples rule out any possibility that technical advance can enable us to continue the pursuit of growth and affluence while greater energy efficiency, recycling effort, pollution control etc. deals with the resulting resource and ecological impacts.
The second major fault built into our society is that its economic system is massively unjust. We in rich countries could not have anywhere near our present “living standards” if we were not taking far more than our fair share of world resources. Our per capita consumption of items such as petroleum is around 17 times that of the poorest half of the world’s people. The rich 1/5 of the world’s people are consuming around 3/4 of the resources produced. Many people get so little that 800 million are hungry and more than that number have dangerously dirty water to drink. Three billion live on $2 per day or less.
This grotesque injustice is primarily due to the fact that the global economy operates on market principles. In a market need is totally irrelevant and is ignored. Resources and goods go mostly to those who are richer, because they can offer to pay more for them. Thus we in rich countries get almost all of the scarce oil and timber traded, while billions of people in desperate need get none.
Even more importantly, the market system explains why Third World development is so very inappropriate to the needs of Third World people. What is developed is not what is needed; it is always what will make most profit for the few people with capital to invest. Thus there is development of export plantations and cosmetic factories but not development of farms and firms in which poor people can produce for themselves the things they need. Many countries such as Haiti get no development at all because it does not suit anyone with capital to develop anything there…even though they have the land, water, talent and labour to produce most of the things they need for a good quality of life.
These are some of the reasons why conventional development can be regarded as a form of plunder. The Third World has been developed into a state whereby its land and labour benefit the rich, not Third World people. Rich world “living standards” could not be anywhere near as high as they are if the global economy was just.
These considerations of sustainability and global economic justice show that our predicament is extreme and cannot be solved in consumer-capitalist society. The problems are caused by some of the fundamental structures and processes of this society. There is no possibility of having an ecologically sustainable, just, peaceful and morally satisfactory society if we allow market forces and the profit motive to be the major determinant of what happens, or if we seek economic growth and ever-higher “living standards” without limit. Many people who claim to be concerned about the fate of the planet refuse to face up to the fact that this society cannot be fixed. The problems can only be solved by vast and radical change to some very different systems.
Ross Gittens, an economist, discusses the state of the recession in Australia in today's Business Age, 13-7-09. He made a comment about China needing lots of 'steel and energy' - the very 'commodities' that Australia supplies.
This common use of misleading terminology fosters misunderstanding of what is really happening.
Energy is not a commodity. Gittens was implicitly referring to the coal we export. Coal has the inherent potential to supply energy when ignited. It is this type of flow of energy when activated that is used to do work or some other useful purpose for society. This inherent potential has to converted to actual potential. A system has to be installed to mine the coal, transport it to the power station installed to generate the electricity. The inherent potential energy in the coal can then be realized. These activities entail the use of raw materials, including those providing the energy needed, for the construction, operation and maintenance of the system.
Thermodynamics is often mentioned in discussions about what is happening in industrialized society and what is possible in the future. Conventional thermodynamics deals with energy flows when the existing potential is activated. That is only part of the issue. It covers the functioning (operation) of the installed system. It does not cover the development of the system throughout its life that enables the potential in that coal field to be realized. 'net energy' does cover only some aspects of the development and operating costs.
"Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare."
This quote sums up one side of what current society is doing to its inheritance. The other side is what the wastes from its operations do, including causing climate change. It is lamentable that this is not widespread understanding in today's society.
Admiral Rickover spoke these words in 1957. Many prominent people have espoused this wisdom over many decades. However, the community at large and the elite who run the economy are deaf to this stark reality, even though the message on what the wastes are doing is starting to seep out.
It is intriguing to wonder how long it will be before there is widespread awareness of what civilization has done to its life support system. They have to learn that money does not really control what is happening. Dollars will not be a good fuel as oil runs out. They cannot be used for food and do not make a good drink.
It is to be hoped, however, that smart people power will utilize modern communication measures to cope with the irreversible developing challenges.
This was originally published on 15 January 2009
World energy consumption grew by 11 per cent between 1989 and 1999. Most forecasts project energy demand will grow a further 60 per cent between 2002 and 2030, due to rising global population and economic growth in countries like China and India. (source: chief executive BP oil). Yet, almost all petroleum geologists agree that oil production will peak within 20 years, by which time half of the Ultimate Recoverable Resource will have been consumed. Natural gas will peak shortly after oil. After this, consumption has to fall, eventually to zero. Were consumption to stay constant, proven reserves of oil would be largely depleted within 40 years and natural gas not long after.
Coal consumption is now growing at twice the average of all fuels, with China accounting for 80 per cent of the growth. If consumption continues at the present rate, proven recoverable reserves will last between 100 and 155 years. With coal, a substantial part of the problem is how much energy it takes to extract it. (source: AF Optimum Population Trust (OPT).
All fossil-fuels peak estimation
However, Professor David Rutledge of the California Institute of Technology recently made a compelling case for the peak of all fossil fuel energy production occurring in 2021 and for 90% of all the fossil fuels that we will ever extract being consumed by 2076. (October 2007: Hubbert’s Peak, the Coal Question and Climate Change).
While the 1990s saw the largest discovery of oil in 20 years in the Gulf of Mexico, this estimated new reserve of 700 million barrels would meet America’s then daily consumption of 17m barrels for just 42 days! (source: Albert Bartlett, Univ. of Colorado). By 2005, US oil consumption had increased by over a quarter, to 21million barrels a day, according to the US Energy Information Agency.
Average efficiency of coal fired power stations is about 35 per cent, but efficiencies could possibly be increased to nearer 46 per cent. However, limiting their carbon pollution by pumping effluent gasses into old oil or coal fields is energy intensive and expensive and there is no efficiency saving by adding carbon capture technology to power plants. As a result no commercial system has been built (source: the Economist magazine, 2 December 2006).
Renewables like wind, wave, tidal and photovoltaics are all uncontrollable power sources that together, are limited to supplying at most about 20 per cent of total electricity supply due to the uncontrollable nature of wind, solar and wave supply. Their variable power output causes efficiency problems for traditional power plants that will still be needed to provide on-line back up power. However, Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Energy has produced negligible results so far - about 1/700th of all commercial energy.
While world renewable energy supply grew by an average 2.3 per cent a year from 1971 to 2004, according to the International Energy Agency in Feb 2006, world population growth continued to increase the number of energy consumers, by 1.6 per cent a year. (source: OPT energy web pages)
Ethanol, produced either from corn or sugarcane, has a low output power density, containing 33 per cent less energy than the same amount of petrol. Eighteen per cent of U.S. corn goes to producing ethanol, but it provides only 1 per cent of the liquid fuel used in the U.S. (Pimentel et al). Similarly, biodiesel contains 12 per cent less chemical energy than diesel oil.
Expanding ethanol fuel production uses vital land needed for food production for ever-increasing populations and risks further widespread forest clearance to grow crops for fuel. Creating ethanol from cellulose waste is seen as a hopeful way forward, but no one has yet demonstrated a method by which more energy could be extracted than the energy required as inputs. The ‘Energy hopefuls’ talk about scientists finding better enzymes, but so far, this is just speculation.
'Net energy capture'
The ‘net energy capture’ would be a revealing figure if its value could be agreed, says OPT’s Andrew Ferguson, but we need to know how much of the by-product can be counted as an output and how much of the total crop can be utilised without causing soil degradation. In the case of corn, total yield is about 15,000 kg/ha (dry), with about half of this being grain and the rest being leftover stubble. (Pimentel and Pimentel,1996). Growing corn is prone to cause soil erosion and sugarcane causes even greater erosion. All the remaining stubble should be returned to the ground to return nutrients. The ‘energy balance’ of producing ethanol from corn can therefore be assessed as positive or negative, depending on judgement. A zero energy balance means that producing ethanol from biomass is not an energy transformation that produces useful energy; but merely a way of using other forms of available energy to produce energy in a liquid form.
Hydrogen a carrier, not a fuel
Hydrogen fuel cells are promoted as a clean fuel and only emit heat and water as waste. However, hydrogen is an energy-carrier, like electricity, not an energy source and needs electric power to extract hydrogen from water through electrolysis. It is only as clean as the fuel source used to produce it and provides only a quarter the energy as the same volume of petrol, diesel or kerosene (source: Prof. R Mann, Manchester University) – a significant problem for aircraft.
Biodiesel contains 12 per cent less chemical energy than diesel oil and is five per cent less fuel efficient when burnt in an engine. A litre of ethanol contains 33 per cent less energy than a litre of petrol. In addition, ethanol blended fuels cannot easily be transported by pipeline as the ethanol attracts water, making it ineffective as a fuel. It must be transported by road, causing further fuel inputs. (Ecologist Magazine March 2007).
In 2004, 50% of the electricity produced in the United States came from coal, 20% from nuclear, 18% from natural gas, 7% from hydro-electricity, 3% from petroleum and the remaining 3% from geothermal, biomass and solar.
A typical sized power station generates around 1000 megawatts (MW), where one MW equals a million watts. In 2002 average power demand in the UK was around 45 gigawatts (GW) or 45 billion watts. With average demand about 66% of peak demand, peak UK demand was then about 68 GW.
Geothermal energy can be extracted without burning fossil fuel and produces only a sixth of the carbon dioxide of a natural gas-fuelled power plant, but heat pumps are expensive to install in houses. While it is very successful in a country like Iceland, where the capital is heated by geothermal energy, it is not as successful in the many places where there is no abundant heat sink in the soil.
Some say nuclear power is the only realistic answer to growing energy needs, despite the huge problems of storing deadly waste and potential terrorist threats. A 1,000-megawatt nuclear power station produces around 30 metric tonnes of high-level waste a year, which remains hazardous to life for thousands of years.
Nuclear fission generates just 2.5 per cent of the world’s electricity and in most industrial countries nuclear supplies about 20 per cent of energy needs. In an extensive investigation, the June 2006 Ecologist magazine noted that Australia has 40 per cent of the world’s estimated 3.5 million tonnes supply of uranium. The industry estimates this would only fuel current nuclear capacity for another 45-50 years, but the potential doubling in number of fission reactors across the world could see commercially extractable uranium fuel ore run out in 20 years. As shortages loom, it is unlikely that nuclear nations with uranium ore, such as Russia, Canada and the USA, will be likely to sell it. The spot market price has risen 600 per cent between 2002 and 2006. The UK and other nuclear power generating countries will be increasingly reliant on remaining supplies from Kazakhstan, South Africa and Brazil and if major expansion takes place, will be investing billions to produce long-term deadly waste for only a short-term energy gain.
Nuclear reactors need 30 million gallons of water daily as coolant to prevent potential meltdown. With sea levels predicted to rise by half a metre by the end of this century, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, all the UK’s nuclear reactor sites are at potential risk of flooding and erosion. Major new reactor construction programmes will add millions of tonnes to CO2 emissions, though nuclear generated power will help to reduce carbon emissions. If the UK opts to keep nuclear power supplying around 20 per cent of energy needs it is likely 10 new reactors will need to be built. Worldwide, around 80 new reactors are envisaged. However, many countries are considering increasing their nuclear capacity further.
A 1998 study for the Canadian nuclear industry found that for every unit of useable high-grade (one per cent) uranium ore recovered, 20 times that amount of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. Most uranium deposits are only found in concentrations of 0.02 or less, making the true picture more problematic. Attempts to extract uranium from seawater would take three times as much energy as would eventually be produced in power output and involves highly polluting chemicals.
One hope is that reactors that breed their own fuel will come on stream. There are only three fast-breeder reactors in the world, in Russia, Japan and France, but only the Russian reactor is still operating and none has successfully managed to breed fuel. According to environmental consultancy Ceedata, if the technology could be made to work, the plutonium fuel to start up two reactors could theoretically double in size every 40 years - enough fuel to power up two more reactors. Optimistic forecasts say the technology might be ready in 20 years.
Contrary energy messages include claims by Solar Century, a company promoting solar power, that if every south facing roof in Britain carried a solar panel, this would generate 85% of UK electricity needs. The same Guardian article of March 7, 2000 also quotes Shell Oil claims that if alternative ‘green’ energy sources were developed these technologies could provide up to 50% of the world’s energy needs by 2050.
Friends of the Earth
Friends of the Earth in its “Tomorrow’s World in Ten Minutes” overview of environmental challenges claims we have the technology to cut home energy use by 95 per cent, increase waste recycling by 80 per cent and vehicle fuel efficiency by 10 times. It says we could produce the food we need with a “tiny fraction” of the chemicals and fossil energy now used. It assumes a stable world population in 2050 without saying how all this can be achieved.
However, most of these claims are totally unrealistic, says OPT’s Andrew Ferguson, because they ignore the problem of intermittency of renewable energy sources, like wind turbines and low power density in biomass and hydro, So there are no grounds for confidence in the belief of a transition to a renewable energy world.
 Traditional geothermal, not deep geothermal or hot rocks.
 This figure, from The Ecologist is much smaller than the figure given by the International Energy Association, which was 6.8 in 2008. (See: www.iea.org/textbase/nppdf/free/2004/keyworld2004.pdf) The IEA predicts that nuclear generation in 2010 will be 6.2% of the total energy mix and that in 2030 it will be 4.3%, with - surprisingly - greater use of petroleum. I welcome readers' comments on these figures.
Summary: The report's two crucial conclusions are that the greenhouse problem can be solved by adoption of alternative technologies, and that this can be done at negligible cost to GDP.
The glaring fault in the Report is its failure to discuss the energy assumptions underlying these conclusions, which I argue are invalid.
The core assumption is that alternative energy technologies can be scaled up by the huge magnitudes required to replace fossil fuels.
There has been almost no study of this issue, i.e., the limits to renewable energy sources. The paper looks at the quantities of wind, solar, geo-sequestration etc. that would have to be provided if Garnaut's conclusions were to be achievable, and indicates why these quantities are impossibly large.
If these arguments are valid then it will not be possible to provide the amount of energy consumer capitalist society demands while achieving acceptable greenhouse targets. lt is argued that the greenhouse and energy problems must be seen as elements within the general limits to growth predicament, and that these and other alarming global problems cannot be solved without transition to some kind of Simpler Way.
The 12 page paper is dated 13-11-08 and can also be found at ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/GarnautFinal.html Critical feedback on the paper would be welcome.
The Final Garnaut Report; A Radical Critique of its Energy Assumptions.
The publication of the Final Garnaut report (2008) has made a significant contribution to increasing awareness of the magnitude and urgency of the greenhouse problem and it has moved Australia towards the implementation of carbon trading. However the lengthy and detailed report is based on crucial energy assumptions that are not discussed let alone established. The argument below is that these assumptions are invalid and therefore Garnaut’s conclusions are unsound and his policy recommendations are seriously misleading.
Like the Stern (2007) and IPCC Fourth Report Working Group 3 (2007) analyses of carbon mitigation Garnaut’s core conclusion is that the greenhouse problem can be solved by the adoption of alternative technologies at negligible cost to GDP. In other words, these three highly influential reports reaffirm the common belief that conservation effort, geo-sequestration, nuclear energy and renewable energy sources can cut greenhouse emissions to safe levels while GDP continues to grow at more or less historical rates. Remarkably, none of these reports considers the reasons for concluding that the alternatives cannot replace fossil fuels, at any economic cost. This case is detailed in my Renewale Energy Cannot Sustain Consumer Society, (Trainer, 2007a), and a more recent summary of the case is given in Trainer 2008. (Critiques of the Stern and IPCC Reports are given in Trainer 2007b, and Trainer 2007c.)
Garnaut’s treatment of the crucial assumption
Garnaut concludes that the desirable target for atmospheric CO2 concentration is 450 ppm (although he recommends a 550 ppm target on the grounds that the lower one is not likely to be accepted.) The IPCC estimates that the 450 ppm target would result in a 2 – 2.4 degree rise in temperature. Many would now say that this runs an unacceptable risk of global ecological damage. Hansen (2008) argues that the appropriate target is in the region of 380 ppm, which the world has already passed.
Garnaut aligns with the IPCC in saying that the target would require all carbon emissions to be eliminated by 2100. He anticipates that by 2100 Australian electricity consumption is likely to be 7 times as great as it is now, i.e., around 5.25 EJ/y. (Fig. 20.10.) His Fig. 20.18 anticipates that globally electricity will be generated at a rate that is 10.3 times the present rate, i.e., 103 TWh/y or 620 EJ/y. These figures represent huge increases on present electricity consumption rates, and Garnaut is saying they will be achieved without carbon emissions (p. 482) or significant economic cost. Apart from a few superficial remarks, no explanation, derivation or defence of these assumptions or conclusions is given in the 700 page Report. Almost no reference is made to the possible magnitudes of the contributions that might be made by renewable energy sources, geosequestration and nuclear energy. He simply assumes or states that alternative technologies will be able to cut emissions sufficiently. Almost all of the relevant statements in the 700 page report are given in the brief Appendix 1 to this paper.
The energy targets.
First, note again the magnitude of the problem. By Garnaut’s own account the 2100 global target is a 10 fold multiple of present electricity supply, and a 7.5 multiple for Australia, with 95% of it coming from non-carbon emitting energy sources.
It is not clear how Garnaut accounts Australia’s probable transport energy and the figures do not seem to add up. Fig. 21.4 shows transport emissions rising from 80 million t/y to 350 million t/y under business as usual, but falling to about 20 million t/y by 2100 under the Standard run. (p. 512.) It is assumed that by the end of the century zero-emissions fuels account for 90 per cent of fuel use in these transport modes. (p.. 513.) This would mean that transport energy demand would multiply by 4.375, to 4.725 EJ.
However Fig. 20.10 shows total electricity demand is expected to be 5.25 EJ by 2100, which would mean only .875 EJ would be left to meet direct electricity demand, which is already .7 EJ and increasing at around 3% p.a. If direct electricity demand increases only at the rate ABARE expects Australian energy demand to settle to to (1.9% p. by 2030), then by 2100 it will be 6 times as great as it is now, around 4.2 EJ/y. If we add to this the electricity Garnaut assumes for transport the total is 9.45 EJ, 13.5 times the present amount, not the 5.25 EJ Garnaut’s Fig. 20.10 indicates.
The faulty methodology; "Top down" modeling.
Like Stern and the IPCC Working Group 3 and virtually all analyses of carbon mitigation, Garnaut has relied solely on either "bottom up" modeling (costing each unit of replacement technology and multiplying by the amount that would be needed) or top down modeling (estimating the effect that overall measures such as a carbon tax would have on a choice of energy sources). Garnaut’s approach is in general "top down" although he says some of the studies referred to were "bottom up".
The logic of the former approach asks what amount of tax on carbon would raise the cost of carbon based energy to the point where users would turn to other sources. To answer this question satisfactorily we would need to know firstly what the other sources cost, and more importantly whether they can be implemented on the scale required. This second question is not asked by Stern, the IPCC, or Garnaut. The following section sketches some of the many reasons for concluding that the alternatives cannot be scaled up sufficiently.
The reasons why alternatives cannot replace carbon fuels.
Let us take the global electricity target Garnaut assumes, 620 EJ/y, and also assume one-third of this comes from geosequestration, wind and solar sources respectively.
If one-third of 620 EJ, i.e., 206 EJ was to come from coal via geosequestration which captured 90% of emissions (and it might be only 80%), this would be about 6 times the present amount of world electricity produced from coal. If 90% of emissions were captured, emissions from electricity generation alone would be about 1/2 of the present global total CO2 emission level, when the target must be zero. In addition at that rate of coal use the commonly estimated probably recoverable coal resource of 1 trillion tones would last less than 40 years. (However the Energy Watch Group, 2007 (see also Hienberg, 2007), believe resources are much more limited than has been generally assumed, and that coal supply could peak within about 2 decades.
Note that all this is only for the provision of electricity and other forms of energy would also need to be explained. At present 40% of Australian energy is not accounted for by electricity plus transport.
If 206 EJ of electricity was to come from wind, where would this amount of capacity be located? Garnaut notes that there could be a problem of "site availability" (p. 481.) Trieb (undated), a strong advocate of renewables, estimates that total on and off shsore European potential is only 4 EJ. Europe would have to draw from a far wider area such as Czisch (2004) advocates extending from Morocco to Khazakhstan. This would set problems to do with transmission loss and equity; i.e., the right of other people in those areas to a share of the wind energy they produce.
If Australia is to use 7 times its present .7 EJ/y of electricity, and one-third of this is to come from wind, then wind supply would be 1.7 EJ/y. This is 50 times the amount of wind energy that the Sustainable Energy Development Authority estimated in 2005 might be provided by wind farms in NSW. Australia would need about 156,000 windmills of 1.5 MW capacity (at global average capacity of .23; IPCC, although Australia is likely to exceed this.) Average annual mill production for replacement purposes would have to be about 6,000, costing perhaps $9 billion p.a., not including transmission line replacement.
If we assume that Australia has 5000 km of coast with ideal wind conditions, then at normal spacing (5 x 10 diametres) the mills would form a band 156 km wide. (This is a significant underestimate, given the fact that areas are excluded by prior use, and that wider spacing would be required in a continuous band.)
To derive one-third of a world 620 EJ electricity supply from PV sources, at average Sydney insolation, yielding about .85 GJ/m/y, would require 242 billion square metres of panels, which would probably be 27 metres per person (for 2050 population). For most of the world insolation would be much lower than in Sydney.
If Australia was to derive 1.7 EJ p.a. from solar panels we would need 2 billion square metres of panels, possibly 66 square metres per person. At the present cost, including balance of system cost, this would come to $475,000 for a household of four for one-third of national electricity supply. These PV panels could only supply electricity for about 7 hours a day on average.
Nuclear energy is almost irrelevant to a discussion of the long term global energy future in view of the limited Uranium plus Thorium resources, unless breeder or fusion technologies are assumed. (Trainer 2007, Chapter 9.) The commonly estimated 3.7 – 4 million tones of Uranium would generate a total of only about 600 EJ of electricity, i.e., the equivalent of one year’s demand at the 2100 global rate Garnaut anticipates. Taking the high resource estimates and adding Thorium might multiple the quantity by 6. (Zittel, 2006.)
Even if these formidable quantities of wind and solar energy could be collected and afforded, the main problems surrounding renewables have not yet been raised. These are to do with the integration and storage problems they set. No matter how much wind and PV capacity we build they can provide no energy at all – on a calm night. Output from wind and solar sources rises and falls markedly, and can do so quickly. All PV capacity would come on stream within a couple of hours, but it can take many hours to ramp up a coal-fired plant to full output. (Gas plant can ramp up quicker than coal, but gas use will not be a significant component in a renewable world, because it emits CO2, and gas resources will be largely exhausted later in this century.)
These are not difficult problems when wind and sun contribute a small proportion of demand, say up to 15% each, because adjusting the surplus coal/nuclear generating capacity can accommodate their varying output.
Very large quantities of electricity cannot be stored. Pumped hydro systems are the best option, but can cope with only a small fraction of the demand. Hydroelectricity makes up only about 6% of Australian electricity supply. To store as hydrogen means that possibly 75% of the electrical energy generated would be lost, not including the embodied energy cost of building the elaborate hydrogen generating, processing, storing and electricity regenerating plant. (Bossell, 2004.) That is why a number of people believe we will never have a large scale "hydrogen economy." (See Trainer, 2007a, Chapter 6.) Garnaut devotes one sentence to this enormous storage problem, simply asserting that we can expect it to be solved. (p. 481.)
Note also that if the wind sector is large, for every 1000 MW of wind capacity added up to 1000 MW of coal or nuclear power might also have to be built, to use when the winds are down. This would add greatly to the capital cost of the new system, and clash with greenhouse goals.
If the PV contribution fell from 1.7 EJ to zero in a few hours a load equivalent to about 70 coal or nuclear power stations of 1000 MW capacity, twice our present total generating capacity, would have to be picked up by some other source.
Could solar thermal systems solve the problem?
Because solar thermal systems have the capacity to store heat that can be used to generate later they will probably be the most valuable contributors to a renewable energy world. However it seems that even in Central Australia, possibly the best solar thermal site in the world, these systems will not be ale to provide significant quantities of electricity over the three winter months at an acceptable cost. (For a more detailed discussion, see Trainer, 2008.)
In winter output from trough systems in use in the best US sites goes down to 20% of summer output. The analysis of relevant factors such as direct normal insolation levels, the probable performance of east west troughs in winter, operating and embodied energy costs, and transmission losses from distant sites, seems to leave little doubt that trough systems in winter would not be viable. Average 24 hour flows might be in the region of 10 W/m.
Dishes would be more effective than troughs, but output from the US Mod dish systems corresponds to a continual flow of 18-25 W/metre over a winter month. Performance data on other systems (Davenport, 2008) indicates c. 25 W/m flows. However such figures apply to use of efficient Stirling engines generating electricity at the focus of each dish and these are not applicable to our purpose, which requires heat storage.
The ANU group is exploring the use of ammonia dissociation (splitting into hydrogen and nitrogen) as a way of storing heat from dishes. (Lovegrove and Luzzi, 1996.) They believe the energy efficiency of the chemical process could be .7, and that half the energy entering the dish should be available for generating electricity after storage. This approach is very promising but its net energy efficiency seems to be problematic. For instance if the above Mod etc. winter output figure is reduced to .7 to take into account the ammonia storage process efficiency, and reduced again to take into account the lower efficiency of steam generation compared with Stirling engines, then the winter output would probably be significantly lower than the above 18-25 W/m reported for dish–Stirling systems. Note that at 25 W/m a large power station would need a 40 million square metre collection area, probably costing in the region of $(A)35 billion.
From this gross flow must be subtracted the embodied energy cost of building the collection plant and the heat storage plant involving large and heavy pressurised tanks for the ammonia process. The attempt to assess the embodied energy cost of this system in Trainer 2008 indicates high figures for very large scale systems. Fortunately the Whyalla project being built by Wizard Power will clarify some of these issues. Its developers say they are not yet clear about probable performance and in any case understandably will not make their technical information public.
Also to be deducted are the embodied energy costs of the very long distance transmission lines from central Australia to Eastern coasts. For European supply from Eastern Sahara these could be 15% of energy generated.
Perhaps the most difficult problem for solar thermal systems is set by the need for several days storage of energy in view of winter cloud occurrence. The climate data in Trainer 2008 shows that in central Australia in each winter month there might be two runs of 4 days with little sunlight. Heat storage capacity capable of coping with such runs would be extremely costly in terms of dollars and embodied energy. However if it is assumed that solar thermal is going to solve the intermittency problem set by other renewable source a far greater storage problem is set. This would require solar thermal plant to be equipped with the capacity to generate, accumulate, and store energy output from perhaps three times as much wind plus PV etc. plant as there is solar thermal plant, for several days.
For these reasons it seems that although solar thermal systems will probably be the most valuable contributors to a renewable energy world, they will not be able to guarantee electricity supply in winter even in Australia.
The conversion problem.
Discussions of the potential of renewable energy sources usually fail to take into account the need to convert energy from forms that are available to forms that are needed. Conversion is typically quite energy-inefficient, meaning that much more energy needs to be generated than might appear to be the case.
Electricity accounts for only about 20% of Australian final energy consumption. Garnaut does not explain where the perhaps 40% of energy other than direct electricity and transport energy is to come from, and he therefore does not deal with the losses of energy in conversion from one form to another Nor does Garnaut deal with the fact that sea and air transport cannot be fuelled by electricity.
It should be made clear that little of the global energy budget is likely to come from biomass. (Garnaut does not assume a large contribution.) In Chapter 5 of Trainer 2007a it is explained that if 9 billion people were to have the present Australian amount of transport energy per person from cellulosic ethanol, we would have to harvest a 23 billion ha plantation on a planet with only 13 billion ha of land. (Australia’s biomass potential is likely to be far greater than most countries.)
At the very least the above discussion shows that there are several major difficulties and important issues which need to be resolved satisfactorily before confident conclusions can be arrived at, yet Garnaut does not deal with any of these. He anticipates an Australian electricity consumption that is 7.5 times the present amount, with 7 times the present amount coming from non-carbon based sources, and he anticipates global electricity consumption 10.3 times as great as at present but in a report of 700 pages gives no attention to showing that such huge multiples can be provided. This paper has pointed out that there are a number of impressive lines of argument supporting the conclusion that they cannot be provided.
All the issues raised above were presented to Garnaut as a mid-2008 response to the Interim Report, in the paper Trainer 2008. Receipt of this paper was acknowledged but it is not included in the list of submissions received in the Final Report.
It should be stressed that the points made above are not arguments against renewable energy. We must move to total dependence on renewables as quickly as possible and we can all live well on them, but not in an affluent-consumer-capitalist society.
The Limits to Growth position.
For some 50 years a "limits to growth" analysis of our situation has been accumulating, taking into account many more than energy issues. Its core point is that consumer society is grossly unsustainable because its levels of production and consumption are far higher than can be kept up for long or than all could ever rise to. The quest for affluence and growth is the direct cause of the many alarming global problems now accelerating. Just to note one of these impressive lines of argument, the Australian per capita footprint, around 8 ha of productive land, is about 10 times the amount of productive land that will be available on the planet by 2050 (even ignoring land losses.)
Considerations of this kind support the claim that consumer-capitalist society is not just grossly unsustainable, it cannot be made sustainable. A way of life which is rapidly destroying ecosystems and depleting resources, that is shared by only one-fifth of the world’s people but that all the rest are striving for, that insists on doubling consumption every 23 years, that is possible for a few only because they are taking far more than their fair share and condemning some 4 billion people to poverty – can’t be made sustainable or just.
Even though Garnaut actually briefly discusses the problem of resource limits (p. 69 and Table 3.3), he defers to the dominant ideology regarding the limits theme. He says there is no point considering any option to the greenhouse problem which threatens significant slowing of growth, let alone which involves a transition to much lower levels of production and consumption. He says, "It is neither desirable, nor remotely feasible, to seek to lower the climate change risk by substantially slowing the rise in living standards anywhere, least of all in developing countries. If such an approach were thought to be desirable in some expression of distant and idiosyncratic values, neither Australians, nor people in the developing countries, would accept it.(p. xxl.) Global and national mitigation is only going to be successful if reductions in emissions can be made and demonstrated to be consistent with continued economic growth and rising living standards." (p..)
For several decades some of us have been arguing that the only way out of the global predicament is by huge and radical transition to some form of Simpler Way, in which the core elements are non-affluent lifestyles, mostly small local economies under participatory social control and not driven by market forces or profit, and without any growth at all. (See The Simpler Way website, Trainer 2006.) Such a society would not be possible without equally radical change away from the competitive, acquisitive value syndrome that has driven Western culture for several hundred years.
There is now a small but rapidly growing global movement attempting to build an alternative of this general kind, most evident in the Global Ecovillage Movement and the Transition Towns initiative. Yet, given the overwhelming dominance of the commitment to material affluence and economic growth, the prospects for global transition to some kind of Simpler Way must be judged to be remote. This conclusion is powerfully reinforced by the failure/refusal of governments, media, bureaucracies, people in general, and the intelligentsia to recognise any need to question the commitment to pursuing limitless affluence and growth. Garnaut’s final Report powerfully reinforces the faith that there is no need to think about limits or transition to simpler ways, because alternative technologies will be able to eliminate the greenhouse problem while delivering with vastly greater quantities of energy, and at negligible cost.
Appendix 1. Statements relevant to the adequacy
of renewable energy sources.
- There is a path to Australia being a low-emissions economy by the middle of the
21st century, consistently with continuing strong growth in material living standards.(p. xvii.)
- The solutions to the climate change challenge must be found in removing the
- The interaction of the emissions trading scheme with support for research,
development and commercialisation and for network infrastructure will lead to
successful transition to a near-zero emissions energy sector by mid-century. (p. xliii.)
- Substantial de-carbonisation by 2050 to meet either the 450 or 550 obligation is
- The development of storage technologies and ongoing technical innovation is expected to combine with geothermal energy to begin to replace fossil fuels as the long term solution to our energy needs. Near zero emissions coal technology will have carried out its primary role and remain a significant energy source for some time. (p. 482.)
In Chapter 11 Garnaut makes it clear that he has not examined the potential of particular renewable energy technologies (p. 251) but he regards the most likely of these to be carbon capture and storage. The key numbers, such as those represented in Figure 11.1 stating costs associated with the 450 and 550 ppm targets, cannot sensibly be given without a detailed and convincing explanation of precisely what mix of alternatives might make their contributions and at what cost for each of them. No derivations of these conclusions are given.
- Technological development of any type is difficult to predict. When powerful incentives to innovation are introduced to a market environment, however, human ingenuity usually surprises on the upside. How will this ingenuity manifest itself in the face of high emissions prices and increased public support on a global scale for research, development and commercialisation of low-emissions technologies? We do not know, but there are good reasons to believe that, if we get the policy settings right over the next few years, the technological realities later in the century will be greatly superior to those which, for good reason, are embodied in the standard technology variants of the models used by the Review. (p. 273.)
The footnote says “2 The standard technology assumptions represent a best estimate of the cost, availability and performance of technologies based on historical experience, current knowledge and expected future trends. The standard scenario includes some technological cost reductions through learning by doing and improvements in existing technologies and the emergence and wide-scale deployment of some currently unproven technologies such as carbon capture and storage, hot rocks (geothermal) and hydrogen cars. It does not, however, include a backstop technology in any sector.” (p. 273.) No references are given.
- As one alternative to the standard technology assumptions, the Review
modeled an enhanced technology future, embodying various assumptions of more rapid technological progress, none of which seems unlikely. (p. 252.)
The essentials in the footnote are
- Faster energy efficiency improvements of an extra 1 per cent annually from 2013 to 2030, an extra 0.5 per cent from 2031 to 2040
- More effective carbon capture and storage in response to higher carbon prices
- The share of combustion CO 2 captured increases from 90 per cent to 99 per cent as the permit price rises from zero to $140/t CO2-e
- Faster learning by doing for electricity and transport technologies by increasing the parameter for the learning functions by 50 per cent relative to the standard assumptions over the whole simulation period, and
- Non-combustion agricultural emissions are eliminated when the carbon price exceeds $250/t CO-e. (p. 273.)
Each of the statements in this footnote lacks support, raises major problems and is open to radical criticism. Firstly, the future rate of energy efficiency improvement is highly uncertain and there are poor grounds for assuming particular rates regardless of whether or not the past yields clear figures. We are in an era of great uncertainty, risk and difficulties. Certainly in the short run the now greatly increased incentive is likely to generate considerable gains, but after the low hanging fruit have been picked there will probably be severely diminishing returns. Yet Garnaut assumes likely rates of improvement out to 2040, without supporting argument.
One of the most challengeable aspects of Garnaut’s optimism concerns geosequestration. In this passage he proceeds as if 99% capture and storage will be achieved. (E.g. pp. 273, 482.) It is generally assumed, including by the IPCC, that the limit is 80 -90%. In any case geosequestration can only be applied to that perhaps 50 - 60% of carbon emitting energy generating plant that is stationary. What’s more, Garnaut assumes without explanation that this rate will be possible at the relatively benign cost of $140/t – CO2e.
The third claim is not clear but seems to be, again without explanation, that the figures in the first (energy efficiency) paragraph can be increased by 50%.
In the fourth statement he baldly asserts an outcome which, to say the least, calls for serious examination. How are agricultural emissions to be eliminated, and how is this brought about by the carbon price of $250/t?
In Economic Modeling Technical Paper 1 it is said that there was a detailed treatment of renewable generation in the MMRF modeling, (p. 10), but no information is given.
The most appropriate statement Garnaut makes regarding the core problems is, “Many of the individual technologies are technically proven. Issues of scale, integration and economics are likely to be the greatest challenges. The challenge posed by the scale of the task is the most significant of these.” (p. 495). The reference to the scale of the problem is appropriate but no discussion is offered or referred to.
Again these statements are in effect all the Report includes which refer to, let alone defend the crucial assumption that alternative technologies can solve the problem. In other words almost no case is given and it has been simply assumed that sufficient alternatives can be found to provide more than ten times present electricity supply, while almost completely eliminating emissions.
Bossel, U., (2004), 'The hydrogen illusion; why electrons are a better energy carrier', Cogeneration and On-Site Power Production, March – April, pp. 55 – 59.
Czisch, G., (2004), Least-cost European/Transeuropean electricity supply entirely with renewable energies, www.iset.uni-kassel.de/abt/w3-w/project/Eur-Transeur-El-Sup.pdf
Energy Watch Group, (2007), Coal Resources and Future Production, April. http://www.energybulletin.net/28287.html
Garnaut, R., (2008), The Garnaut Climate Change Review; Final Report.
Hansen , J., (2008), http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/007829.html
Heinberg, R., (2007), “Peak coal; Sooner than you think”, On Line Opinion, 21, May,
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (2007), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report, Climate Change 2007: (Working Group 3), Mitigation of Climate Change, Summary for Policy Makers.
Lovegrove, K., Luzzi, A., (1996), "Endothermic Reactors for an Ammonia Based Thermochemical Solar Energy Storage and Transport System", Solar Energy, vol. 56, pp. 361-371.
Stern, N., 2006, Review on the Economics of Climate Change, H.M.Treasury, UK, Oct., . http://www.sternreview.org.uk
Trainer, T., (2006), The Simpler Way website, http//ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/
Trainer, T., (2007a), Renewable Energy Cannot Sustain A Consumer Society, Dordrect, Springer.
Trainer, T., (2007b), The Stern Review; A critical analysis of its mitigation optimism, http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/Stern.html
Trainer, T., (2007c), A critical discussion of the IPCC analyses of carbon emission mitigation possibilities and costs, http//ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/IPCCcrit.html
Trainer, T., (2008), Assessing the limits of solar thermal power generation. http://ssis.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/solartherm.html
Trieb, F., (undated), Trans-Mediterranean Interconnection for Concentrating Solar Power; Final Report, German Aerospace Center (DLR), Institute of Technical Thermodynamics, Section Systems Analysis and Technology Assessment.
Zittel, W, et al., (2006), Uranium resources and nuclear energy, Energy Watch Group, Dec.
This article was originally published on Culture Change on 16 Sep 08 as Collapse of Wall Street precedes complete disintegration of system. About those "green jobs".... As one who is convinced that our modern industrialised society cannot last, I, nevertheless find Jan Lundberg's article troubling. It is predicting what even most of the our system's ostensible critics are not prepared to. It is predicting the imminent collapse of industrialised society.
Personally as a 'deep green' environmentalist, I am torn between, on the one hand, wanting our society to endure long enough for there to be a "soft landing" or on the other hand, wishing the terrible toll that industrial society takes on our habitat every hour that it endures, to end.
In the former case, the hope is that all of us, through large scale grass roots political action, will establish more sustainable lifestyles, with stable populations consuming far less of our natural resouces in relocalised economies.
Lundberg's article is focussed on the U.S. for which the prognosis may be grim. However, it fails to take account of the fact that other societies, such as those of continental Europe, particularly the EU, have different land-use planning systems and have not as fully embraced the Friedmanite free market system as has the Anglophone world. Consequently, as just one example, citizens are more likely to be located in smaller towns surrounded by diverse farmland with local markets, on scales which can be negotiated on foot. The U.S., however, is a country of vast incorporated agricultural monocultures and distribution systems that have no direct interface with the people of North America's big cities and sprawling suburbs. Europe, probably in part due to less immigration and emigration, also has better social cohesion, especially at a local level. Note however that countries on the edges of the Continent, like Italy, Greece and Spain, are more porous and/or less cohesive for a variety of reasons. (See for instance, "Italian baby-boom summer" and "Tiny Lampedusa struggles with tide of illegal immigration") As economies, many of the continental European ones stand a better a better chance of coping with with the looming shortage of petroleum as they did in the first oil shock of 1973. So, the collapse that Lundberg is predicting may not spread immediately to all corners of the globe.
In 101 Views of Hubbert's Peak, Sheila Newman in The Final Energy Crisis, 2nd Edition, Pluto UK, 2008, points out that peaceful survival has a greater chance if we slow down depletion. How might we do this? By working less, producing less and using less, writes Ms Newman, citing, among others, Clive Hamilton's Growth Fetish book. She suggests that if workers could take back unions from their corporate alienation, they might then use them to negotiate with government and business for a slower economy.
Jan Lundberg fails to consider this simple restructuring method, although he does actually hope that people will manage to find a way to restructure and survive with less.
If we fail to adapt our society, the human toll across the planet could be in the order of at least a significant fraction of all those alive today, vastly exceeding the combined toll of all the the terrible wars of the 20th century, as I wrote when I first set up this site. It may well prove that the hope for social and economic adaptation was futile and that the longer our industrial society lasts the worse will be the scale and toll of the eventual collapse.
- JS 17 Sep 08.
Collapse of Wall Street precedes complete disintegration of system. About
those "green jobs"...
Do not be distracted by the hysteria of the news-media circus regarding the "credit crunch" and the other names given the process of collapse. The monster under the bed is real, but most of us are hiding under the covers. By embracing our fears we can roll with the changes. At the same time look at who and what are propping up a hopeless, destructive system, and take action. It's not difficult.
The "progressive" or alternative press mostly subscribes to the constant corporate media/government lie that things will get back to "normal." Hope for a good transfusion of fresh blood from a new president is periodically based on misplaced faith in the handmaidens of the status quo, Democrats or Republicans. Regardless of this quandary, we had best understand better the fact of collapse.
A big-picture analysis includes the loss of cheap, abundant energy that cannot be replaced. The news media studiously ignores this while pretending to present real news on energy and the environment. This policy is followed also by the mainstream or Establishment Environmentalists who are paid publicists for the technofix. Some of their work on pointing out problems and brushfires is invaluable, but you don't hear a car-free-lifestyle message from them, and you probably won't -- until that's everyone's only option.
Orion magazine' new interview of James Gustave Speth lets us see how radical Establishment-environmentalism can ever get:
"We're going to grow phenomenally. At the current rates, the world economy will be twice as big as it is today in seventeen years. That carries the potential for enormous additional destruction. The environmental movement has a lot of wonderful things about it, and it's accomplished a lot. But it's not up to this challenge of dealing with this amount of environmental loss and destruction. The fundamental thing that's happened is that our efforts to clean up the environment are being overwhelmed by the sheer increase in the size of the economy. And there's no reason to think that won't continue." [Really? Hello Gus, peak oil? – ed.]
Truthout is a major outlet for news that, like its bigger competitors, does not recognize collapse and refuses to air it. Sans sports and celebrity gossip, Truthout epitomizes the best of the liberal and progressive online press, and is dependable for its convenience and occasional excellent finds. But almost every day Truthout's offerings reflect mainstream assumptions about the continuation of politics, economics and social relationships as we know them. Take this example from their Sept. 15th dispatch regarding the "top news story" (i.e., the Great Collapse, or the historic unraveling): in its article "Big Banks Go Bust: Time to Reform Wall Street" Dean Baker writes,
"With the demise of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, IndyMac, Bear Stearns and now Lehman Brothers, we've been treated to the failure of more major financial firms than during any year since the Great Depression. The sight of rich bankers getting the boot might be lots of fun if it were just a spectator sport. Unfortunately, we are in the game with these clowns."
Mr. Baker, count me out. The clowns are indeed prominent, but the future right up ahead will be different. How different and how soon depends in part on our rejecting untenable and unsustainable institutions and practices destroying us. Mr. Baker wants to "restore sanity to the salaries paid on Wall Street." Oh, that'll save the planet?
We may be wondering if this is really it: general collapse, or a major hiccup for the system resulting in mere recession. Some of us activists privately admit we want collapse now, because it will only be worse the longer it's delayed, and the planet's climate further compromised. We look forward to Humpty Dumpty going all the way down -- not because we like to see anyone suffer, but we see clearly that the continuation of predation on the ecosystem and on exploited humanity have no future except everyone's extinction. Ah, but radical thoughts like this are to be marginalized and hidden from the people, by reformers playing politics.
Here is how the economic landscape will look, with attendant unraveling of the already frayed and twisted social fabric. Let's summarize in terms of (A) coming days and weeks, (B) then perhaps months for the intense phase of collapse, and (C) post collapse:
The coming days and weeks
More bank failures. Government default as well. Revaluing the currency. Shortage of fuel, food and jobs. Otherwise, things are still working as to turning the tap and getting water, throwing the switch and getting electricity, and we see the various officials and cogs in the machine at their posts.
During the buildup to the collapse as seen by price increases, bankruptcies and bailouts, the elite's careful top-down selection of commentators and officials' pronouncements keep assuring us that a recession and a shake-out are possibly underway, but that the economy -- globally corporate and guzzling energy that costs more due to (hush!) depletion -- is of course going to always be with us and eventually rebound. The resumption of growth is a given, like believing in gods in heaven forever.
Height of collapse
"The revolution will be televised" only up to a point. Then the workers at the controls will head for their homes or head for the hills. As Republican Congressman Roscoe Bartlett told me, studies show that police and firemen bail after fives days of riots and other chaos, to protect their own homes. The height of collapse will be seen, felt and experienced, rather than documented (whether with commercials or thanks extended to the so-and-so foundation).
Overpopulation may be finally considered to be obvious, but what's the difference by then? Die-off will be underway, for the simple reason that petroleum for food production and delivery (and storage, packaging and cooking) has been curtailed for various reasons, chiefly depletion. The violent desperation in the streets and fields may appear to some to just be a breakdown in order. Some loud voices may promise to restore it, but on a national level in the huge U.S. it's not likely.
Post collapse and a new world paradigm
When the dust settles, out of rubble come the survivors. "Hi, remember me, we were neighbors but for some reason never met." The petroleum infrastructure has collapsed, negating the promise of alterative energy across the board. But small, decentralized mini-systems will be jury-rigged, and the bicycles will be traveling and hauling whatever. Food gardens and other essentials will be done through our evolutionary cooperation making a comeback. The family will again be the basis of (previously lost) community. Tribes will form for common defense and solidarity.
What's your tribe? Are you living in an actual community yet? You will be, if you survive collapse. Is it the vague future when you will learn those basic skills your grandparents knew?
When society reconstitutes itself after the Great Collapse, I predict that greed-schemes and domination will be unattractive and seen as anti-social. With lower population the status of the common man and woman is much higher, as history has shown.
What's pointing the way now for a livable future:
Ecovillages, intentional communities, anarchist collectives, Community Supported Agriculture, bicycle culture, animal husbandry, natural building techniques, biochar, sail transport network, and the path of the peaceful spiritual warrior. And more, add away. If you are not a part of these things, or aren't supporting them, then you are definitely part of the problem and will be left behind in today's Consumer Age. Whether the latter is a good or bad memory, we'll see. I'm an optimist.
The way out from capitalism's collapse is two-fold: (1) local-based economics without the growth syndrome. (2) Nature is the way. Nature is local; we cannot be everywhere. Nature is "the real thing," although Coca Cola drummed it into millions of people's heads that just anything can be the "real thing," even a bottle of sugar and other drugs and chemicals in water. Such products, mainly for their plastic packaging, are the enemy of Mother Nature -- this means you. You are Mother Nature. If we can't stop our addictions to soy-milk drink-boxes, who are we fooling that we are hip and green? You may ask, What's a better local drink? Answer: Water, and bring your own cup or make one out of your hand in the stream.
"To build the new economy"?
This is dreamland, perpetrated by those who hold steadfastly to their blinders. The proponents are paid to keep up their sing-song of a promised land. They won't tell you that a single interdependent national or therefore global economy is not only unfeasible, but highly undesirable. Yet, it is believed in by those who do not understand peak oil and those lacking in actual community. They're cut off from their evolutionary life boat.
The Green Jobs Now campaign touts a "green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty." Poverty as defined by what -- not being able to buy corporate products? If people take over some land and make it productive, respecting the existing wild species, they may achieve subsistence and yet be called impoverished. But they are the survivors. The green job that gives you money to buy stuff and services from unaccountable strangers is just more wage slavery, but we are urged to embrace it as if there's nothing else conceivable.
As long as we believe in fairy tales of a new and better America for clean, continued consumption, instead of first dismantling the present system and building true alternatives on a local scale, we are eating BS for breakfast lunch and dinner.
Instead of "greenjobsnow" it would be more accurate to say, "green-job snow job." Is it being framed in a constant growth paradigm? Where will the training be done? What about the fast-disappearing energy to forge the green economy? A critical analysis of the work-force aspects of the green jobs promise is from the San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper (see link below; note that the head of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights left to head a green jobs center). Green Jobs Now "is a project of Green For All, 1Sky, the We Campaign..." Clearly, green is meant to mean dollar bills' color, as the old expression was.
We need green (natural) living, not green jobs. Why continue to keep capitalism alive, or give away your time? Keep it personal, keep it in the community, and remember that energy is not the thing we most need, but rather the essential things that today are almost always too energy intensive.
Accept the deal right off the shelf
But I have the right to defend myself
(from "I Walk The Earth" -- listen on our website version of this
report to a demo track for the next Depaver Jan eco-song album)
"Greening away poverty: If green is the new black, eco-populism is the new environmentalism" by Vanessa Carr, April 30, 2008:
Gus Speth interview "Change Everything Now - One of the nation's most mainstream environmentalists says it's time to get a lot more radical", by Jeff Goodell, September/October 2008, Orion magazine
"Big Banks Go Bust: Time to Reform Wall Street", Truthout, Sept. 15, 2008, by Dean Baker, The Campaign for America's Future:
Green Jobs Now:
The founder and publisher of Culture Change (http://culturechange.org) is Jan Lundberg, who was a well-known oil-industry analyst when he changed over to nonprofit environmental activism in 1988. His work has since been profiled in The Washington Post, Sun Magazine, Associated Press, and he has broadcast his ideas on CBS Radio Network, the Pacifica Radio Network, NPR, and elsewhere. He is available for presentations and will take public transportation: "Car free for 19 years!"
Snowy CEO should stop using public money to push sell-off
NSW Greens Media Release: 31 July 2008
The CEO of Snowy Hydro has again used his Corporation's resources to push for the sell-off of Australia's largest renewable energy generator, according to Greens NSW MP John Kaye.
Dr Kaye said: "Snowy Hydro CEO Terry Charlton has should either get on with the business of running a publicly-owned entity or he should resign.
"He lost the privatisation debate in 2006 and there has been no shift in community attitudes since then.
"He refuses to accept the judgment of the people of NSW, local residents and even the NSW government who have ruled out privatisation of Snowy Hydro.
"The latest glossy newsletter, circulated to thousands of Snowy Mountains residents, contains a two page 'Company Vision' from Mr Charlton, #PrivatisationPropaganda">arguing that Snowy must be sold off to generate 'extra capital [it needs] to keep up'.
"He tried a similar trick in the March Newsletter when he threatened the people of the Snowy with the spectre of a degrading publicly-owned asset, isolated in a sea of privatised generators.
"His rhetoric did not work then and it will fail again.
"Mr Charlton's behaviour is outside what people expect from the management of a publicly-owned corporation.
"He has a clear conflict of interest. He would be in the box seat to head a privatised Snowy with a good chance of a much bigger pay packet.
"It is time Mr Charlton decided his future with the Snowy. If he can't make a go of it as a publicly owned entity, he should step aside for someone who can.
"He cannot continue using the Corporation's assets to push his pro-privatisation propaganda after his shareholders have told him that a sell-off is not on the table," Dr Kaye said.
The July edition of Snowy Hydro News is available at: www.snowyhydro.com.au/files/SHLNews_July08.pdf (1.5M)
For more information: John Kaye 0407 195 455
#PrivatisationPropaganda" id="PrivatisationPropaganda">Appendix: pro-privatisation propaganda in the Snowy Hydro News of July 2008
In order to demonstrate that the material referred to above by John Kaye were not a careless paragraph or two in the midst of a broader article, we are including it here. The explicit unambiguous pro-privatisation material ocupies one and a half pages of a two page article Company Vision by Terry Charlton CEO & Managing director in a very glossy 12 page magazine.
We may not like privatisation and we may even be ideologically opposed to it in regard to the electricity industry but it has largely already happened across the industry and is not going to be reversed. We may also not like the large energy companies becoming larger and more efficient and we may not like multinational companies owning some Australian businesses but this too has already happened. We may not like the realities of drought, and we might be confronted by the many competing but valid community and economic demands that now limit what can be done quickly for the environment, particularly for our rivers. But there are numerous realities that have to be recognised and accepted. Governments have recognised that they don’t run businesses well and that businesses, such as Snowy Hydro Limited, are best transferred to private sector ownership through either “trade sales” or transformed to publicly listed companies. “Social service” activities such as schools, police, hospitals, basic roads and community infrastructure are, arguably, the province of Governments and rightly so.
understanding and support...
I am very positive that we can achieve our full potential. I am, however, very unhappy about the delayed time frame. The world in which we operate is changing around us and changing fast.
We need extra capital in order to keep up. Our shareholders have indicated they won’t inject extra capital and we can’t expect them to forego dividends forever. The only option is privatisation and I accept this is a shareholder matter.
There is an undeniable truth that given the constraints we confront, we have no better way forward if the vision for the Snowy Scheme, the Snowy Hydro Company and our people is to be fulfilled.
Solutions that promise return to single Government ownership are no solution at all, unless new capital injection is provided, up front along with further capital when the business case justifies it.
Greater borrowings are not prudently possible. Reverting the business to a “water authority” would not sustain existing local employment, nor career growth, nor enable the electricity business to continue to subsidise the water operations and hydrological asset maintenance requirements. Our options are limited indeed… if the vision is to be fulfilled!
I am also often asked about what the local communities can now do to assist Snowy Hydro in securing a long term successful future?
Our response is that we ask for your understanding and support. We want to know that there is a positive community environment and some affirmation that we are doing a good job for all stakeholders. We are in a difficult business at a difficult time. We are doing well against the competitive odds and we are offering a very good working environment. We are supporting our communities. Gone are the days of job insecurity and industrial accidents.
Should options for Snowy Hydro Limited’s future be discussed, and if an option of some form of privatisation of the company, separated from the “icon” dam and tunnel assets, be suggested, if it is not by then too late, we ask that it be positively considered by our communities. Such consideration will include an awareness of the changed and changing realities of our industry and the benefits privatisation of the Company can provide to Snowy Hydro and all its stakeholders.
This has been cross-posted to the site of the Southern Cross Party
This book, by by Linda Weiss, Elizabeth Thurbon and John Mathews, the authors of "How to Kill A Country", is a damning expose of how the same Howard Government which cites "Australia's national Interest" as an excuse to sabotage international efforts to act against the threat of global warming, has, in fact, betrayed those very same interests. Subjects covered include Energy, Rural Industries, Culture, Defence and Blood.
In fact, the list is not comprehensive, as, of course, a comprehensive coverage of all of John Howard's betrayals of our national interest would be a truly massive undertaking. Some I would have also included are:
- The Privatisation of Telstra,
- the ongoing export of Australian jobs to low-wage third world economies,
- ramping up immigration to a stratospheric annual rate of 300,000 from only 58,000 in 1996, in spite of Howard having won the 1996 elections largely on the basis of dissatisafaction with Labor's high immigration policies
- the flogging of Australian real estate on the international market, thereby pricing beyond the means of Australians what was affordable to single income working class families barely more than a generation ago.
The chapter on defence(#fn1">1) shows how the Government has overruled all the normal defence equipment procurement procedures in order to impose a "Buy American" policy. As a result this country's defence forces will be forced to use inferior equipment, largely unsuited to our defence needs, that won't be delivered for years. In the case of the Joint Strike Fighter we are to be kept waiting until 2018. The book describes how this deal was secured:
How was this deal sold to a gullible Australian ministry? It was first and foremost the Prime Minister's decision, taken unilaterally during a visit to Washington in early June 2002. Discussions with President Bush were followed by a private briefing from the plane's makers, Lockheed Martin, in John Howard's hotel room. Howard seems to have succumbed easily and enthusiastically. So enthusiastically it appears, that even senior Lockheed Martin executives commented that they were 'flabbergasted' that Australia decided to make the purchase so quickly. "That was just amazing, it stopped everything in the room at the time," said Lockheed's international programs director for the JSF, Mike Consentino, about Australia's surprise announcement. "This was our first international customer so it was a memorable day." (pages 150-151)
In order to fill the gap until 2018 which exists as a result of the PM's hasty decision, we are to spend an additional $6 billion on the purchase of 24 Super Hornet (F/A 18 F) fighter aircraft, which were designed to operate from aircraft carriers rather than from land.
Other disastrous Howard Government defence equipment acquisition decisions put under the microscope include:
- The AU$539million purchase of 59 reconditioned second-hand M1A1 Abrams tanks, which require special road transporters, which cannot be airlifted by any Australian Defence Forces (ADF) transport plane, nor be loaded onto any of Australia's six heavy landing craft. The tanks cannot be used for the defence of the Australian continent because they are too heavy for Australia's roads and bridges. In spite of their reputation for indestructability, at least 80 had been put out of action by 2005 by Iraqi insurgents who found that their armour could be penetrated with surprising ease by low-tech bombs and rocket propelled grenades.
- The decision to purchase the US Raytheon combat system for Australia's conventionally powered Collins class submarine fleet. This was in spite of the fact that more suitable European alternatives had been developed for conventionally powered submarines whilst the Raytheon had been scaled down from a combat system designed for nuclear powered submarines.
The chapter on Energy shows how the Howard Government has undermined tentatitve efforts to establish renewable energy industries in order to satisfy the wishes of Australia's climate changing fossil fuel lobby. This chapter does to some degree suffer from an uncritical acceptance of all alternatives to fossil fuels, the worst example being bio-fuels. It is not altogether clear whether bio-fuels actually increase the world's stock of energy given that fossil fuel derived fertilsers are necessary to grow bio-fuels in the first place. Further the expansion of bio-fuels is exacerbating the loss of bio-diversity in the Third world as rainforests are cleared in order to grow bio-fuels. They are also responsible for making food less affordable for many of the world's poorest as more corn crops are diverted to the manufacture of ethanol.
Neverthless the case for the need alternatives to fossil fuel is indisputable and the Howard Government is deservedly condemended for its wanton sabotage of a number of viable alternatives. Whilst the previous Keating and Hawke Labor governments have vastly better records than the Howard government in this regard, a decision made, upon winning office in 1983, by the Hawke Labor government to close down a government-funded renewable energy program(#fn2">2) did also unnecesarily set back Australia's development of alternatives.
Another fact of significance, not alluded to in this work, was that Whitlam Government Energy Minister the late Rex Connor attempted, in response to the oil crisis of 1973 to make Australia independent. This was the purpose of the AU$4 billion loan that Connor attempted to secure through the Pakistani broker Tirath Khemlani. Of course, this was blown up into the "Khemlani Affair" by the Australian media establisment, most notably Rupert Murdoch's 'evil empire', and was used to destroy Connor's career as well as, ultimately, the Whitlam government in 1975.
Rex Connor died tragically early in 1978 and the since corrupted Australian Labor Party has turned its back on the legacy of this visionary and great Australian political leader(#fn3">3).
The chapter on rural industries shows how the Howard government has undermined the competitive advantage enjoyed by Australia's rural industries in order to please various US agricultural lobbies. This includes the undermining of Australia's strict quarantine regime and measures to keep out 'Mad Cow' disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy - BSE), which has compromised the U.S. beef industry. Australia has done the bidding of the U.S. on the international market to break down Japan's resistance to U.S. Beef imports because of the BSE threat. This would in fact remove the competitive advantage that Australian Beef enjoys over U.S. beef in the Japanese market.
"National Insecurity" also describes how Australia's competitive advantage in the Pork industry has been similarly undermined to suit U.S. rural commercial interests.
The chapter describes the subordination of industry groups ostensibly acting on behalf of Australia's primary producers and counter-moves by ordinary rural producers including the creation of the Australian Beef Association.
One concern I have with this issue is that all forms of large scale international trade in primary produce are largely unsustainable whether they are into or out of Australia. They are unsustainable because they depend upon non-renewable petroleum to export them to the other side of the globe and because the constant extraction of nutrients from the soil and the need for irrigation in the longer term will destroy the fertility of the soil. For further information read chapter "Farming and Food Production under regimes of Climate Change" by Edward R. D. Goldsmith in the Final Energy Crisis co-edited by Sheila Newman. A second edition is due to be published next year.
The chapter on Culture about contains more damning evidence of the Howard government's complicity in the destruction of Australia's film, television and performing industries.
The book suffers from being not sufficiently critical of the previous Keating Labor Government which, in its time made its own sterling contribution to undermining Australia's economic, cultural and environmental security. It could also use an index, but it is still a very useful and courageous contribution to a necessary debate and well worth the AU$24.95 recommended retail price.
#fn1" name="fn1" id="fn1">1. Disclaimer: I write this as one who has been, on occasions, outspoken against Australia's military adventures, notably the bloody and destructive Vietnam War and the
current inferno in Iraq
. Nevertheless, in a world which is becoming increasingly unstable, it would be suicidal for any nation in a region such as south East Asia not to have a capable national defence force. Of course, the first recourse should be to try to achieve international justice and not engage in any unjust wars.
#fn2" name="fn2" id="fn2">2. I can't cite the source for this fact but I can remember it being mentioned on the radio, probably Radio National, perhaps, 15 years ago.
#fn3" name="fn2" id="fn2">3. For further information, please see chapter 7 of "The Growth Lobby and its Absence : The Relationship between the Property Development and Housing Industries and Immigration Policy in Australia and France", Sheila Newman's 2002 Master's thesis (pdf 2.6MB) downloadable from http://candobetter.org/sheila )
Alzo, today we seem no closer to realising the dream of unlimited supplies of energy from nuclear fusion than we were thirty years ago. According to one scientist, who has worked on nuclear fusion, the nail in the coffin of nuclear fusion will prove to be the lack of sufficient supplies of the necessary hydrogen isotope tritium. For further information, see the forthcoming second edition of "The Final Energy Crisis" edited by Sheila Newman (http://candobetter.org/sheila).
Hazards of nuclear fission
In regard to nuclear fission, it is obviously a more viable source of energy that just may, if we are extremely careful, provide a bridge towards a more sustainable future whilst stocks of Uranium and Thorium last, however it has a very considerable environmental cost. If we increase the scale of nuclear power generation to the extent necessary to fill the gap power the environmental risks we currently face will be multiplied many times. The Chernobyl disaster. which could have been far worst if not for the quick thinking of those courageous workers on the spot is one illustration. On top of the hazards of nuclear fission electricity generation, even more environmental threats are posed by mining of uranium, enrichment, reprocessing and disposal of nuclear wastes. A likely consequence of the expansion of uranium mining in Central Australia is that the Eastern seaboard stands to be exposed to clouds bearing poisonous radioactive uranium and other toxic metals blown from the mine tailings dumps (see David Bradbury's film "Blowin' in the wind" for a graphic illustration of this threat). In the past, the long-term containment of tailings from mining operation has been problematic and, more often than not, fails in the longer term (as Jared Diamond has illustrated in describing past mining operations in Montana in Chapter 2 of "Collapse" pp35-41). I don't hold out any greater hope that the mining companies will do any better a job containing the mountains of tailings from the planned expanded Uranium mines.
Practical limitations of nuclear fission
Another problem with nuclear fission is that it can only be used to generate electricity. In order to operate transport or run factory machinery or mine milling equipment, the electricity has to be either somehow stored chemically, or transported directly as electricity using power lines, transformers and other expensive infrastructure. In the former case, energy is lost, in creating, for example, hydrogen from water, and the containment of hydrogen necessitates the fabrication of particularly strong and well-sealed containers. In the latter case, large quantities of non-renewable resources, particularly copper, are required, and it is expected that the world's production of copper will begin to decline next year (http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa003&articleID=000CEA15-3272-13C8-9BFE83414B7FFE87).
Practical limitations of other 'renewables'
The other "lots of possible energy sources" are essentially derived from solar energy or geothermal energy. All require the use of equipment, the manufacture of which now requires non-renewable rare metals, petroleum-derived plastics and fossil fuel energy. The problems in building renewable energy generators, on a scale necessary to indefinitely meet global society's demands, as well as to provide the necessary additional energy to build replacement generators and infrastructure, without reliance upon fossil-fuel energy, appear to be overwhelming. It seems unlikely that this can be done on a scale anywhere near the scale we have been able to do thus far relying on our finite endowment of fossil fuels.
Applying the precautionary principle
So, I would suggest that it would be extremely imprudent to continue to consume natural resources at our current rate, let alone to increase our rate of consumption, and to go on trashing the world's ecology as we are doing now on the assumption that we can find an easy replacement to so much of that conveniently packaged solar energy captured over tens of millions of years that we have found buried under the ground. It would be far more prudent to assume that our current practices are unsustainable, and to begin now to reduce those levels of consumption.
Those who are consuming the most whilst contributing the least to society, such as property speculators and financial advisers should be amongst the first to be made to do so.
I have been a researcher for over fifty years. I am used to trying to look into the minds of writers to understand their views of complex operations. I know that even the brightest and most informed people have a limited zone of understanding. And this limitation is more restricted by the difficulty of converting the mental image into the written word. It follows that there is very appreciable uncertainty about what civilization has done to the operation of its life support system, the environment. Many different perspectives are put forward. Often they express opinions without providing the supporting arguments and facts. There is increasing concern amongst informed people about current trends, especially as the gulf between the rich and poor grows rapidly and climate change becomes more noticeable.
I know that any article I may write about the unsustainable nature of the current operations of society would contrast with many others, often seemingly authoritative because of the skill of the writers. I may be able, in my mind, to critically weigh up their selective arguments but that serves little useful purpose. The general view will roll on.
I decided some years ago that in view of my limited zone of understanding, I would concentrate on getting a sound understanding of what civilization has actually done to the environment. I have done that. It is summarized by what I call 'The Dependence on Nature Law'.
I then set out to explain why this sums up what human operations have done. It is quite long because I found it necessary to define many terms I use and to clarify many of the common misunderstandings. It presents some novel perspective that needs thinking through to appreciate. 'What went wrong? The misdirection of civilization' is my attempt to articulate what has happened in a form that the non-technical can understand while showing the scientific basis.
I believe it is unlikely that many will take the trouble to think through the message in 'What went wrong' in the near future. However, I do believe that it does make a major contribution to understanding of what has happened. I do expect that in due course it will be recognized as pioneering a novel view of the impact of civilization on the ecosystem. A view that will help some in society adjust to the decline ahead. I expect that there will be increasing bewilderment as over population, climate change, water supply problems, investment failings, food shortages, petrol price rises, health problems, a long lasting recession, more global conflict and natural disasters combine with other stress factors to dim future prospects. Those who gain the understanding in 'What went wrong' could well contribute to the Earth Revolution that eases the crisis.
17 June 2007
#DependenceOnNatureLaw" id="DependenceOnNatureLaw">The Dependence on Nature Law
The freedom of humans to be creative and innovative is acclaimed - by us. This is the positive side of the uniquely human attribute. There is, however, a negative side that is not generally recognized.
Humans employ a huge range of transient operations they have installed that invariably involve using and abusing natural resources. Each of these operations provides something deemed of value to society during its lifetime. Each of these operations incurs an irrevocable, un-repayable ecological cost. We are irreversibly drawing down on the irreplaceable natural bounty.
I argue in 'What went wrong? The misdirection of civilization' that this Dependence on Nature Law is soundly based but that society generally does not weigh up worth against eco cost realistically. A natural law is the summation of what invariably happens during natural operations. It is therefore appropriate to classify the dependence of the material operations of civilization on what is available from the environment as a natural law. Natural operations are also dependent on what is available but generally they draw down on natural bounty income only. The consequence of society's exuberance is unnecessarily rapid degradation of our life support system, the bounty available from the ecosystem. There are too many people consuming too much of what nature has left to offer and then providing irrevocable waste. This holistic consumption predicament is exacerbated by the demands on the bounty to maintain the aging foundations of civilization. It is made worse by the gluttony of the powerful. The spree is unsustainable. It is a plague coming to its end. Catabolic collapse can only be avoided by a wise power down. Even then, there is the problem of maintaining cultural benefits even as the population declines.
The conventional economic growth paradigm is based on the fallacious argument that the materialistic structure and operations of our civilization can occur without exacerbating this holistic malaise, consumption of the natural bounty. So growth is being fostered even as the available bounty is declining more rapidly. This is an unsustainable double whammy exacerbated by the need to look after the structure of civilization.
The Dependence on Nature Law really does under lay the operation and maintenance of the foundations of our civilization. Appreciation of that fact makes it much easier to understand how it is that current trends are based on false premises, so are unsustainable. It explains what went wrong.
The following is from a larger article, "Peak Oil and the Preservation of Knowledge" by Alice Friedemann (Link to http://www.energybulletin.net/18978.html was broken. Now changed to http://www.energybulletin.net/node/18978 - Ed, 14 Jun 11) from www.energybulletin.net. An abridged version "The fragility of microprocessors" (Link similarly fixed) can be found on the same site. This article refutes the kind of argument frequently put by people who argue against the urgency of taking action to preserve our world's stock of fossil fuels. A typical #comment-38071">example can found in a discussion on Peak Oil on John Quiggin's blog site of November 2005:
Plenty of options exist. Solar and its derivatives (wind, wave, tidal etc) all have good chances and, with some serious work, could answer the problem. If a more immediate need is there, nuclear is already there. For cars, hydrogen is a suitable energy storage mechanism in the medium term and batteries or hybrids will work now. There is no major crisis, nor will there be.
The important thing now is not to panic and start forcing solutions - let the market signals work their way through and sort it out. It has worked in the past and will in the future.
It is often difficult, without the hard facts and sound, such as are to be found in the article below, to refute these kinds of cock-sure assertions that technology, particlarly technology operating in a world in which market forces are unfettered, will solve all of our looming problems of overpopulation and resource scarcity.
Please refer to original document for footnotes.
Published on 7 Jan 2006 by Energy Bulletin.
Replacing fossil fuels with some other energy source
by Alice Friedemann
At one time, the Energy Returned on Energy Invested (EROI) for oil was at least 100 to 1.1 We are reaching the point where the EROI of oil will be 1 and no more drilling will take place.17 It was while the EROI of oil was high that most of our current infrastructure was built.
Evidence suggests that the EROI of corn ethanol is less than one, which means it takes more energy to make than you get out of it â€“ an energy sink.
Pimentel and Patzek have shown that it takes twenty seven to fifty seven percent more fossil fuel energy to create ethanol or biodiesel than you get in the energy returned. Worse yet, this is done at a tremendous environmental cost, since biofuel crops harm soil structure and remove the nutrients, deplete groundwater, pollute water with pesticides, insecticides, and herbicides, cause eutrophication of water via nitrogen runoff, increase soil erosion, and contribute to air pollution and global warming at the ethanol plant and when burned in cars.18
Even if the highest claim of a net energy for ethanol of 1.67 were true, a much greater EROI than .67 is needed to run civilization. The 1 in the 1.67 is needed just to make the ethanol. An EROI of .67 has 150 times less energy than oil when we started building American infrastructure.
Charles A. S. Hall, who has been studying net energy for decades, believes that youâ€™d need an EROI of at least 5 to run civilization, because you need to include the energy to make the machines, mitigate environmental damage, feed and house the workers, etc.19
For example, consider a windmill composed of steel and concrete. A windmill farm in the Escalante desert, built to produce 5.55 TWh of power, would require 13.8 million pounds of aluminum, 2.8 trillion pounds of concrete, 639 billion pounds of steel, etc. The wind farm would occupy over 189 square miles.20 Pacca & Horvath donâ€™t give the capacity factor for these windmills, but an often used number is 30% (i.e. wind blows hard enough 30% of the time), so a 5.55 TWh wind farm might serve around 175,000 to 350,000 people, depending on the wind speed and how close people were to the windmills, since power is lost via transmission over long distances.
In 1992 such a wind farm would cost 200 million dollars, which doesnâ€™t include labor and maintenance costs, and would serve less than one percent of the United States population. It would cost over $200,000,000,000 to build enough windmills to generate electrical power for everyone (though of course, you couldnâ€™t, since not all areas have enough wind). With energy prices many times higher now than in 1992, the cost would be far more expensive.
After fossil fuels are gone, the windmills must be able to generate enough energy to maintain themselves and build new windmills, including all of the equipment used to mine the metal and concrete components, forge metal into blades and towers, and build the trucks and roads that enable windmills to be delivered to their sites. Windmill energy must also provide the energy to build and maintain the electric grid and storage battery infrastructure, and all of the people involved in the process. Any extra energy could now be used to run civilization.
Itâ€™s often said that once oil goes to â€œxâ€ dollars a barrel, alternative energy will become economically viable. But this will never happen, because the alternative energy infrastructure is built with fossil-fuel inputs, so alternative energy sources will always cost more than oil. To even talk about energy using dollar figures makes no sense -- you canâ€™t stuff dollar bills down your gas tank.
Energy can be reduced to physics, to the laws of thermodynamics and other rules that the Big Bang bequeathed our universe. Oil has been a free lunch, one that nature spent hundreds of millions of years making, reducing 196,000 pounds of plant matter into one gallon of gasoline â€“ pure, unadulterated solar power that no alternative energy source but fusion could possibly hope to replace.21 Oil is also incredibly easy to use, ship, and store.
The number of scientists who insist that alternative energies can substitute for fossil fuels, and ignore or deny the basic laws of physics and thermodynamics is frightening. Itâ€™s reminiscent of Lysenkoism.