If you have ever been to the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DWELP) and asked questions, you would be well-aware that the native-animal department has almost no staff, that DWELP does not use the law to protect native animals, but prevents others from using it, due to legal lack of standing. At the same time, the Agriculture arm of DWELP enthusiastically issues permits to kill kangaroos and other native animals with almost no restriction or inspection, and quasi-imaginary
A group of birds that are not usually found in Australia attracted hundreds of birders to a relatively remote town on the north coast of NSW, resulting in a significant boost to the Australian economy.
A group of birds that are not usually found in Australia attracted hundreds of birders to a relatively remote town on the north coast of NSW, resulting in a significant boost to the Australian economy.
The new report by UNSW scientists – recently published in the Journal of Ecotourism –estimates that the birders who came to see the Aleutian Terns brought in more than $200,000 in revenue to the NSW economy over about four months.
Aleutian Terns breed in Alaska (USA) and east Siberia (Russia), and usually spend our summer in the North Pacific and parts of Indonesia. To experts’ surprise, they turned up at Old Bar, and on 11 December 2017, Aleutian Terns were photographed using a sandbar that many birders are familiar with for its impressive congregations of shorebirds.
“After word got out to the birding community on 11 December 2017, the who’s who of Australian birders travelled to see these birds until about the end of March 2018,” says study lead author and UNSW Science PhD student Corey Callaghan.
“It was a unique case because there wasn’t just one individual vagrant bird, there were more than a dozen.”
The study by the UNSW Sydney-led team is the first to quantify the economic impact of a vagrant bird – a species observed outside its normal geographic range – in Australia. It estimates the birders’ activity brought between $199,000 - $363,000 to the Australian economy.
The study comes after a similar study published last year, also led by Corey Callaghan, estimated that a single Black-backed Oriole in rural Pennsylvania resulted in more than $US220,000 revenue for that local economy.
“I think together, these studies are demonstrating the exceptional pull of vagrant birds to birders, while also showing the real economic potential of these events. They are contributing to local economies around the world all the time,” Mr Callaghan says.
One of the other authors of the study – Professor Richard Kingsford, Director of the UNSW Centre for Ecosystem Science – says the untapped potential of these visitors also has implications for much-needed increased conservation funding.
“We found that birders were generally conservation aware and would be willing to donate up to $30,000 to view rare birds. Often vagrants are in National Parks and protected areas, providing a potential fundraising opportunity,” he says.
Vagrant bird chasing is just one aspect of the bird watching hobby.
“The total economic benefits of birders, generally, is much higher,” Mr Callaghan says.
“Many birders don’t travel or ‘competitively’ seek out birds; they appreciate them in their local park or bush.”
For example, according to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, up to $US40 billion dollars per year are spent on watching birds in the US.
“Ultimately, all birds depend on their habitats and so the benefits to the economy from birdwatching need to be factored in as real contributions, stacked up against development threats that destroy their habitats, such as land clearing,” Professor Kingsford says.
“The contribution of biodiversity to the economy is quite clear and needs to be factored in more in the future – at the moment, this is rarely done."
Dingoes play a key role in the conservation of Australian outback ecosystems by suppressing feral cat populations, a UNSW Sydney study has found. A UNSW Sydney study has ended an argument about whether or not dingoes have an effect on feral cat populations in the outback, finding that the wild dogs do indeed keep the wild cat numbers down.
In a paper published recently in Ecosystems, the researchers compared dingo and feral cat populations either side of the world’s longest fence that also doubles as the border between South Australia and New South Wales.
The fence was erected in the 1880s to in an attempt to keep dingoes from attacking sheep flocks in NSW and Queensland.
With a very small number of dingoes on the NSW side of the fence and much larger number on the SA side, the fence offered a perfect opportunity to observe feral cat numbers in identical environments with and without the influence of dingoes.
Professor Mike Leitnic from the Centre for Ecosystem Science, UNSW School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, says that over the course of a six year study – between 2011 and 2017 – he and his fellow researchers compared the numbers of dingoes, cats and their major prey species either side of the dingo fence in the Strzelecki Desert.
“We collected dingo scat and cat scat and analysed them to compare diets, while we also used spotlight searches to record numbers of each as well as two of their common food sources – rabbits and hopping mice,” he says.
“In our spotlight searches, dingoes were pretty much absent from the NSW side of the fence, with only four spotted in our six years of study. We also observed on this side that feral cats fluctuated as their prey numbers fluctuated.
“But on the SA side, where dingoes were common, the cat numbers were consistently lower.”
Co-author Dr Ben Feit says that early on in the study, both dingo and cat numbers on the SA side appeared to fluctuate along with numbers of their rabbit and hopping-mice prey, but from 2013 onwards, dingo numbers remained high while cat numbers remained low for the remainder of the study.
“In fact, the feral cats had basically disappeared by the end of 2015 and we went for a two year stretch without seeing any,” Dr Feit says.
“We think the cat population took a dive because of interference competition – either from dingoes actually preying on cats, or by scaring them completely away from the same hunting ground.”
The authors say that while the scat analysis showed that the wild dogs and cats eat similar foods, there wasn’t any evidence to suggest that competition for food was a major factor in how dingoes reduce cat populations. On the contrary, prey remained plentiful on the SA side of the fence, suggesting that dingoes had a direct, rather than incidental effect on the numbers of feral cats.
Feral cats are a serious conservation threat and have been linked with the extinction of at least 20 mammal species in Australia and threaten the ongoing survival of more than 100 native species.
The authors believe their study shows that dingoes play a key role in the conservation of Australian outback ecosystems by suppressing feral cat populations. Their work adds to previous studies that found dingoes help conservation efforts by keeping numbers of introduced red foxes, feral goats and feral pigs in check while also keeping kangaroos from overpopulating in certain areas.
A recent interview of the Prime Minister by Leigh Sales in the 7.30 Report on Tuesday 29 January 2019 provided a good illustration of the lack of understanding of economics by ABC journos or their deliberate and calculated rejection of some simple truths. John Coulter has written to Leigh Sales as follows.
Last evening in your interview with the Prime Minister you raised the issue of government debt. You suggested to Morrison that he was not really such a good economic manager because government 'debt' had increased on his watch and you allowed the PM to go on and claim that he had to pay back the debt that Labor had created. This part of the interview was initiated by you and predicated on the undesirability of government debt.
What you should have asked Morrison, 'to whom is government debt owed' for it is actually owed to itself and is not a matter of concern as long as certain conditions are met. You may then have gone on and asked whether 'if the government does achieve a surplus is this not likely to lead to an economic downturn?' A government surplus means that the government is taking more from the economy and there is less for private investment.
Nearly all the ABC interviewers are firmly embedded in the existing economic paradigm which regards endless growth of GDP as both desirable and necessary whereas it is one of the fundamental drivers of our environmental degradation and not actually leading to improvements in human welfare.
With best wishes,
John Coulter, former leader, Australian Democrats
Transcript of the actual interview
Economic experts have warned the Government faces a challenge in meeting its new jobs target if it restricts migration, and even if it does deliver on its pledge, Australians may not be the ones to benefit.
It follows a similar pledge by Tony Abbott prior to the 2013 election to create 1 million jobs by 2018.
Peter McDonald, Emeritus Professor of Demography at ANU’s Crawford School of Public Policy, said it was an “achievable” target and that a recent projection of labour market demand by Victoria University had already earmarked a similar level of demand.
But he also noted migration was the largest contributor to the growth in employment numbers in Australia since 2013, ahead of the growing trend for older Australians to stay in work.
The permanent migration program was reduced from around 190,000 to just above 160,000 in the past two years.
Mr Morrison revealed last year it’s likely the intake would remain at this new, lower level.
Deloitte Access Economics partner Chris Richardson said his firm forecasted that, at this stage, jobs growth would fall short of the Government’s 2023 target.
“You get, basically, growth in jobs pretty much anyway — over time, there are more Australians, that typically means more jobs, but it does get more complicated than that,” Mr Richardson said.
“An ageing population means more people are retiring, that makes it harder.
“The migration debate — if it means winding back the number of migrants — that also makes it harder.”
The Department of Jobs’ Employment Outlook, released last year, projects employment to increase by 886,100 over the five years to May 2023.
Mr Richardson said the ratio of new skilled adult migrants to jobs growth was “pretty much one to one”, despite community concerns over migration fuelled by “barbecue logic”.
“People think, ‘well if migrants arrive, surely they’re taking jobs and if other things are equal, that means less jobs for everyone else’,” he said.
“If somebody puts up a hand to take a job — a migrant, a married woman, a Martian — they get the job, they earn the income, spend the income, then create the next job.”
Professor McDonald said if the Government restricted permanent migration, the employees needed by Australian businesses would not come from the ranks of the local unemployed.
“If labour demand is strong, and permanent migration is not filling the demand, then it will come from temporary migration or New Zealanders,” he said.
A reduction in immigration, he argues, would not necessarily lead to more jobs for Australians.
I spent some hours on the US side of the wall near San Diego one night in the early 1990s. (Yes there has been a wall there since at least Kennedy’s time.) Crossing the wall was essentially a nighttime activity, but the “Mexicans” (they may have been mostly Mexicans going backwards and forwards between family in Mexico and illegal jobs they had in the USA) seemed to have ladders permanently against the wall on their side. Their heads appeared over the wall well before dark, sometimes waving cockily. After dark the border force vehicles cruised up and down on a road on the US side about 200 metres (in most places) from the wall, trying to guess where the “rushes” would come. Tourists sometimes came to see this nightly game.
(Meanwhile those with the right papers, including thousands legally working in the USA, streamed into the USA via about ten lanes of traffic near San Diego, with 30 second checks of their papers and car-boot.)
The technique at the fence was for a dozen, or for several dozen, people to all jump down together at a given place, preferably when there were no US vehicles in sight, and make a “rush” through 200 or 300 metres of no man’s land on the US side, and on into the suburban fences and backyards of San Diego and safety. With luck, they would overwhelm the defenders, and many or most would get through. Those captured were manicled with cable ties and taken to a processing centre where some details would be taken. They could be kept only a few hours before lawyers would appear to encourage them to claim refugee status. Since the US could not afford this expense, they would simply process and bus them back to Mexico, sometimes so promptly that the same person would be rearrested later that night while making a second attempt to enter the USA.
Effect of the wall, or of extending it? Mainly it seemed to discourage those not young and fit enough to jump down from it and run the gauntlet. Those I saw being processed were largely young males. I remember one young woman with a child that had a T-shirt saying “I love L.A.”, but I don’t think this method of entry worked well for families. You would need a certain fitness level and a certain disrespect for law or at least for US law, but with persistence you would get into the USA. There was therefore no real screening of who got into the USA; yet granted the possibility of being “processed”, anyone on an international wanted list might need to be cautious or at least have false ID. (This difference is the main reason that “illegals and crime” is an issue in US debates but not in Australian ones.)
A see-through fence would make a lot of sense for the border-guards, so they could see where their opponents were massing. On the other hand, groups like FAIR www.fairus.org think the single most important thing required is E-verification (a system that would force employers to verify that anyone to whom they gave a job was a genuine US citizen or permit holder). Paper certificates were easily purchased by illegals, but on online database would be harder to fool. But Trump knows his supporters want something tangible, like a big wall; and has done little on E-Verify.
Complaints from the USA side about the system in the 1990s were: that the illegals suffered no real penalty for failed attempts; that they created a nuisance for house-holders near the border by trampling and running through their gardens and scaling their fences, and a hazard for motorists (since in fleeing they sometimes ran across highways); and that apprehending them was difficult and physically dangerous work, and often resulted in unintended injuries both to the “illegals” and to those physically tackling them. “Having a rush of illegals go over you is kinda scarey!” And of course the whole “rush” systems seems like an insult to many US voters’ notion of national sovereignty.
A video has been published on YouTube about the potential impact of a US southern border wall on wildlife populations. The video raises valid questions, but offers no solutions to the problem of wildlife populations and human populations in the area. Wildlife populations are already threatened by the current situation, so there is a lot that needs to be appraised.
The article, "Immigration, population growth, and environmentalist hypocrisy on the border fence,"quoted below, was written a decade ago by wildlife biologist Leon Kolankiewicz on behalf of Californians for Population Stabilisation (CAPS), but his argument remains relevant.
Excerpts from Immigration, population growth, and environmentalist hypocrisy on the border fence:
The border fence is indeed likely to disrupt certain wildlife populations, particularly mammals, reptiles and amphibians. The barriers may well block the movements, migration, and gene flow of ground-dwelling species. In addition, there will be a linear loss of habitat in a narrow band stretching alongside the fence.
These impacts could potentially approach those of a restricted-access Interstate highway with fencing to prevent collisions between wildlife and vehicles. Since environmentalists get riled up about building freeways across natural habitat, they are being consistent in getting riled up about the border fence.
But they are being woefully inconsistent – even hypocritical – in not getting riled up about the ecological damage caused by rampant, unsustainable American population growth that illegal immigration exacerbates. The wildlife habitat eliminated to accommodate an additional 3 million people annually is on a scale far vaster and more widespread than the border fence. And it mounts year after year with no end in sight, as long as our population continues to soar. ....
Until mainstream environmental groups prove they’d rather be environmentally correct rather than politically correct and expedient, all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the border fence can be dismissed as mimicry. Like their fellow mimics in the animal kingdom, these imposters are mimicking those who are genuinely committed to saving wildlife and wilderness.
Upon seeing the youtube, Kolankiewicz remarked:
"Barriers can indeed pose a serious problem for gene flow and population viability for some species of flora and fauna, but I think this can be mitigated to a great extent with additional expenditure and proper design features.
One suggested mitigation, I believe, is for periodic passageways, say at stream crossings, where there would have to be a minimum of a culvert anyway. These might be designed in ways to facilitate the passage of at least small animals while discouraging or preventing people from getting through them."
The discovery of a dead 31ft sperm whale with 6kgs of plastic in its stomach off the coast of Indonesia is further indication of the grave future our oceans and aquatic wildlife face as a result of marine plastic pollution. (Boomerang Alliance director Jeff Angel.)
Plastic items found inside the deceased mammal included '115 coffee cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags and two flip-flops'.
It's not the first death attributed to plastic waste - and it won't be the last. But the quantity of plastic items point to a terrifying 'new normal' confronting our marine environment.
'The sad demise of a sperm whale is another warning about plastic pollution of the oceans,' Boomerang Alliance director Jeff Angel said today.
'No doubt there are many other whales and marine life we don't see dying in the oceans from plastic. We now know we have a serious problem and must act with strong responses from government, business and the community to end this pollution.'
There is an urgent need to translate our environment back into its true value. In a decade the price tag given today will look like a joke and we will ask, ”How could we have relinquished that land, (that river, those wetlands) for such a small sum?”
Over the last 40 years our environment has been increasingly spoken of in the public domain in terms of its monetary value. This was reinforced to me at a recent meeting where the speaker made it clear that tree and general nature conservation arguments must be expressed to the powers that be and associated bean counters in these terms. The attribution of a dollar value to something so complex and so vital to us as our natural environment is absurdly inadequate yet it has blinded and desensitised the minds of many to actual values. A translation back from the dollar is needed.
Once upon a time there was barter: transfer of goods between place of origin and place needed in exchange for what was considered of equal value. Then there was “currency” which acted as an intermediary for this exchange.
Currency was and still is used for its convenience, as it allows for a time lag in reciprocation and the ability to store credit. It serves a purpose.
Fast forward a few thousand years and find yourself in Australia. In the early 21st century. Not only goods are given a monetary value - let’s call it a $ value- but all that we see around us, all of nature, including natural processes that serve our needs and are vital to our survival are not real to those in power unless they are given a $ value. The $ (a human construct ) has become the end rather than the means. Trees that shade our local environments, keep us cool and are home to the birds whose song we enjoy may only be retained after their effects are translated into an ongoing $ value as in the savings on air conditioning and road re-surfacing. The $, whose buying- power is in fact fugitive and changeable, becomes the ultimate “measure” of the worth of things !
Bays and waterways, national parks and wild life, are considered by governments in respect to their tourist-pulling power rather than their intrinsic value as our enduring heritage and common wealth. The cart now goes before the horse, the tail wags the dog and the $ is now our tyrant . This despotism turns our attention from what we have to what we can aspire to, what can be acquired at the local mega store, to fulfill our material dreams. Or so we think.
When we are thus distracted from our surroundings , we can, in the blink of an eye, lose what we already have.
Translation of everything into the dollar ($ ), reduces beauty and benefits to numerals, and completely ignores subjectivity. So the joy of seeing something or being somewhere is not counted. This imperative to see everything in DOLLAR ($ ) terms means that our governments, our bureaucrats are dissuaded from using their mature judgement, abiding instead by the formula. Normal everyday people now even talk this way, in $ terms as though this is the real currency of our environment.
There is an urgent need to translate our environment back into its true value. In a decade the price tag given today will look like a joke and we will ask, ”How could we have relinquished that land, (that river, those wetlands) for such a small sum?”
We have been had. The value of an urban forest must be seen for itself as a cooling, calming, wildlife-accommodating irreplaceable oasis to be enjoyed, rather than a $2 million piece of potential housing real estate. $2 million will look totally ridiculous in a decade and the loss is permanent. It cannot be bought back once it has been put to another use. The $ value is ultimately meaningless.
We need to see things again for what they are, not through the $ medium. $s are handy for every day transactions but ridiculously inadequate and inappropriate for a unique geographical feature or area. Let’s ditch our $ glasses and really see our world, maybe for the first time in some people’s lives.
Let’s not lose our world in the useless one-way translation into the $ dollar. Earth is not a tradeable commodity.
- To extract oil and other minerals from locations where extraction is very difficult, such as in shale formations, or very deep under the sea;
- To mitigate water shortages and pollution issues, using processes such as desalination and long distance transport of food; and
- To attempt to reduce future fossil fuel use, by building devices such as solar panels and electric cars that increase fossil fuel energy use now in the hope of reducing energy use later.
We have long known that the world is likely to eventually reach limits. In 1972, the book The Limits to Growth by Donella Meadows and others modeled the likely impact of growing population, limited resources, and rising pollution in a finite world. They considered a number of scenarios under a range of different assumptions. These models strongly suggested the world economy would begin to hit limits in the first half of the 21st century and would eventually collapse.
The indications of the 1972 analysis were considered nonsense by most. Clearly, the world would work its way around limits of the type suggested. The world would find additional resources in short supply. It would become more efficient at using resources and would tackle the problem of rising pollution. The free market would handle any problems that might arise.
The Limits to Growth analysis modeled the world economy in terms of flows; it did not try to model the financial system. In recent years, I have been looking at the situation and have discovered that as we hit limits in a finite world, the financial system is the most vulnerable part because of the system because it ties everything else together. Debt in particular is vulnerable because the time-shifting aspect of debt “works” much better in a rapidly growing economy than in an economy that is barely growing or shrinking.
The problem that now looks like it has the potential to push the world into financial collapse is something no one would have thought of—high oil pricesclip_image002 that take a slice out of the economy, without anything to show in return. Consumers find that their own salaries do not rise as oil prices rise. They find that they need to cut back on discretionary spending if they are to have adequate funds to pay for necessities produced using oil. Food is one such necessity; oil is used to run farm equipment, make herbicides and pesticides, and transport finished food products. The result of a cutback in discretionary spending is recession or near recession, and less job availability. Governments find themselves in financial distress from trying to mitigate the recession-like impacts without adequate tax revenue.
One of our big problems now is a lack of cheap substitutes for oil. Highly touted renewable energy sources such as wind and solar PV are not cheap. They also do not substitute directly for oil, and they increase near-term fossil fuel consumption. Ethanol can act as an “oil extender,” but it is not cheap. Battery powered cars are also not cheap.
The issue of rising oil prices is really a two-sided issue. The least expensive sources of oil tend to be extracted first. Thus, the cost of producing oil tends to rise over time. As a result, oil producers tend to require ever-rising oil prices to cover their costs. It is the interaction of these two forces that leads to the likelihood of financial collapse in the near term:
- Need for ever-rising oil prices by oil producers.
- The adverse impact of high-energy prices on consumers.
If a cheap substitute for oil had already come along in adequate quantity, there would be no problem. The issue is that no suitable substitute has been found, and financial problems are here already. In fact, collapse may very well come from oil prices not rising high enough to satisfy the needs of those extracting the oil, because of worldwide recession.
The Role of Inexpensive Energy
The fact that few stop to realize is that energy of the right type is absolutely essential for making goods and services of all kinds. Even if the services are simply typing numbers into a computer, we need energy of precisely the right kind for several different purposes:
- To make the computer and transport it to the current location.
- To build the building where the worker works.
- To light the building where the worker works.
- To heat or cool the building where the worker works.
- To transport the worker to the location where he works.
- To produce the foods that the worker eats.
- To produce the clothing that the worker wears.
Furthermore, the energy used needs to be inexpensive, for many reasons—so that the worker’s salary goes farther; so that the goods or services created are competitive in a world market; and so that governments can gain adequate tax revenue from taxing energy products. We don’t think of fossil fuel energy products as being a significant source of tax revenue, but they very often are, especially for exporters (Rodgers map of oil “government take” percentages).
Some of the energy listed above is paid for by the employer; some is paid for by the employee. This difference is irrelevant, since all are equally essential. Some energy is omitted from the above list, but is still very important. Energy to build roads, electric transmission lines, schools, and health care centers is essential if the current system is to be maintained. If energy prices rise, taxes and fees to pay for basic services such as these will likely need to rise.
How “Growth” Began
For most primates, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, the number of the species fluctuates up and down within a range. Total population isn’t very high. If human population followed that of other large primates, there wouldn’t be more than a few million humans worldwide. They would likely live in one geographical area.
How did humans venture out of this mold? In my view, a likely way that humans were able to improve their dominance over other animals and plants was through the controlled use of fire, a skill they learned over one million years ago (Luke 2012). Controlled use of fire could be used for many purposes, including cooking food, providing heat in cool weather, and scaring away wild animals.
The earliest use of fire was in some sense very inexpensive. Dry sticks and leaves were close at hand. If humans used a technique such as twirling one stick against another with the right technique and the right kind of wood, such a fire could be made in less than a minute (Hough 1890). Once humans had discovered how to make fire, they could use it to leverage their meager muscular strength.
The benefits of the controlled use of fire are perhaps not as obvious to us as they would have been to the early users. When it became possible to cook food, a much wider variety of potential foodstuffs could be eaten. The nutrition from food was also better. There is even some evidence that cooking food allowed the human body to evolve in the direction of smaller chewing and digestive apparatus and a bigger brain (Wrangham 2009). A bigger brain would allow humans to outsmart their prey. (Dilworth 2010)
Cooking food allowed humans to spend much less time chewing food than previously—only one-tenth as much time according to one study (4.7% of daily activity vs. 48% of daily activity) (Organ et al. 2011). The reduction in chewing time left more time other activities, such as making tools and clothing.
Humans gradually increased their control over many additional energy sources. Training dogs to help in hunting came very early. Humans learned to make sailboats using wind energy. They learned to domesticate plants and animals, so that they could provide more food energy in the location where it was needed. Domesticated animals could also be used to pull loads.
Humans learned to use wind mills and water mills made from wood, and eventually learned to use coal, petroleum (also called oil), natural gas, and uranium. The availability of fossil fuels vastly increased our ability to make substances that require heating, including metals, glass, and concrete. Prior to this time, wood had been used as an energy source, leading to widespread deforestation.
With the availability of metals, glass, and concrete in quantity, it became possible to develop modern hydroelectric power plants and transmission lines to transmit this electricity. It also became possible to build railroads, steam-powered ships, better plows, and many other useful devices.
Population rose dramatically after fossil fuels were added, enabling better food production and transportation. This started about 1800.
All of these activities led to a very long history of what we today might call economic growth. Prior to the availability of fossil fuels, the majority of this growth was in population, rather than a major change in living standards. (The population was still very low compared to today.) In later years, increased energy use was still associated with increased population, but it was also associated with an increase in creature comforts—bigger homes, better transportation, heating and cooling of homes, and greater availability of services like education, medicine, and financial servicesclip_image002.
How Cheap Energy and Technology Combine to Lead to Economic Growth
Without external energy, all we have is the energy from our own bodies. We can perhaps leverage this energy a bit by picking up a stick and using it to hit something, or by picking up a rock and throwing it. In total, this leveraging of our own energy doesn’t get us very far—many animals do the same thing. Such tools provide some leverage, but they are not quite enough.
The next step up in leverage comes if we can find some sort of external energy to use to supplement our own energy when making goods and services. One example might be heat from a fire built with sticks used for baking bread; another example might be energy from an animal pulling a cart. This additional energy can’t take too much of (1) our human energy, (2) resources from the ground, or (3) financial capital, or we will have little to invest what we really want—technology that gives us the many goods we use, and services such as education, health care, and recreation.
The use of inexpensive energy led to a positive feedback loop: the value of the goods and service produced was sufficient to produce a profit when all costs were considered, thanks to the inexpensive cost of the energy used. This profit allowed additional investment, and contributed to further energy development and further growth. This profit also often led to rising salaries. The additional cheap energy use combined with greater technology produced the impression that humans were becoming more “productive.”
For a very long time, we were able to ramp up the amount of energy we used, worldwide. There were many civilizations that collapsed along the way, but in total, for all civilizations in the world combined, energy consumption, population, and goods and services produced tended to rise over time.
In the 1970s, we had our first experience with oil limits. US oil production started dropping in 1971. The drop in oil production set us up as easy prey for an oil embargo in 1973-1974, and oil prices spiked. We got around this problem, and more high price problems in the late 1970s by
- Starting work on new inexpensive oil production in the North Sea, Alaska, and Mexico.
- Adopting more fuel-efficient cars, already available in Japan.
- Switching from oil to nuclear or coal for electricity production.
- Cutting back on oil intensive activities, such as building new roads and doing heavy manufacturing in the United States.
The economy eventually more or less recovered, but men’s wages stagnated, and women found a need to join the workforce to maintain the standards of living of their families. Oil prices dropped back, but not quite a far as to prior level. The lack of energy intensive industries (powered by cheap oil) likely contributed to the stagnation of wages for men.
Recently, since about 2004, we have again been encountering high oil prices. Unfortunately, the easy options to fix them are mostly gone. We have run out of cheap energy options—tight oil from shale formations isn’t cheap. Wages again are stagnating, even worse than before. The positive feedback loop based on low energy prices that we had been experiencing when oil prices were low isn’t working nearly as well, and economic growth rates are falling.
The technical name for the problem we are running into with oil is diminishing marginal returns. This represents a situation where more and more inputs are used in extraction, but these additional inputs add very little more in the way of the desired output, which is oil. Oil companies find that an investment of a given amount, say $1,000 dollars, yields a much smaller amount of oil than it used to in the past—often less than a fourth as much. There are often more up-front expenses in drilling the wells, and less certainty about the length of time that oil can be extracted from a new well.
Oil that requires high up-front investment needs a high price to justify its extraction. When consumers pay the high oil price, the amount they have for discretionary goods drops. The feedback loop starts working the wrong direction—in the direction of more layoffs, and lower wages for those working. Companies, including oil companies, have a harder time making a profit. They find outsourcing labor costs to lower-cost parts of the world more attractive.
Can this Growth Continue Indefinitely?
Even apart from the oil price problem, there are other reasons to think that growth cannot continue indefinitely in a finite world. For one thing, we are already running short of fresh water in many parts of the world, including China, India and the Middle East. Topsoil is eroding, and is being depleted of minerals. In addition, if population continues to rise, we will need a way to feed all of these people—either more arable land, or a way of producing more food per acre.
Pollution is another issue. One type is acidification of oceans; another leads to dead zones in oceans. Mercury pollution is a widespread problem. Fresh water that is available is often very polluted. Excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to concerns about climate change.
There is also an issue with humans crowding out other species. In the past, there have been five widespread die-offs of species, called “Mass Extinctions.” Humans seem now to be causing a Sixth Mass Extinction. Paleontologist Niles Eldredge describes the Sixth Mass Extinction as follows:
- Phase One began when first humans began to disperse to different parts of the world about 100,000 years ago. [We were still hunter-gatherers at that point, but we killed off large species for food as we went.]
- Phase Two began about 10,000 years ago, when humans turned to agriculture.
According to Eldredge, once we turned to agriculture, we stopped living within local ecosystems. We converted land to produce only one or two crops, and classified all unwanted species as “weeds”. Now with fossil fuels, we are bringing our attack on other species to a new higher level. For example, there is greater clearing of land for agriculture, overfishing, and too much forest use by humans (Eldredge 2005).
In many ways, the pattern of human population growth and growth of use of resources by humans are like a cancer. Growth has to stop for one reason or other—smothering other species, depletion of resources, or pollution.
Many Competing Wrong Diagnoses of our Current Problem
The problem we are running into now is not an easy one to figure out because the problem crosses many disciplines. Is it a financial problem? Or a climate change problem? Or an oil depletion problem? It is hard to find individuals with knowledge across a range of fields.
There is also a strong bias against really understanding the problem, if the answer appears to be in the “very bad to truly awful” range. Politicians want a problem that is easily solvable. So do sustainability folks, and peak oil folks, and people writing academic papers. Those selling newspapers want answers that will please their advertisers. Academic book publishers want books that won’t scare potential buyers.
Another issue is that nature works on a flow basis. All we have in a given year in terms of resources is what we pull out in that year. If we use more resources for one thing–extracting oil, or making solar panels, it leaves less for other purposes. Consumers also work mostly from the income from their current paychecks. Even if we come up with what looks like wonderful solutions, in terms of an investment now for payback later, nature and consumers aren’t very co-operative in producing them.
Consumers need ever-more debt, to make the solutions sort of work. If one necessary resource–cheap oil–is in short supply, nature dictates that other resource uses shrink, to work within available balances. So there is more pressure toward collapse.
Virtually no one understands our complex problem. As a result, we end up with all kinds of stories about how we can fix our problem, none of which make sense:
“Humans don’t need fossil fuels; we can just walk away.” – But how do we feed 7 billion people? How long would our forests last before they are used for fuel?
“More wind and solar PV” – But these use fossil fuels now, and don’t fix oil prices.
“Climate change is our only problem.”—Climate change needs to be considered in conjunction with other limits, many of which are hitting very soon. Maybe there is good news about climate, but it likely will be more than offset by bad news from limits not considered in the model.
This article was originally published on 04.11.2013 on Gail Tverberg's blog, Our Finite World:
About Gail Tverberg
Gail Tverberg is an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. The financial system is also likely to be affected. Gail writes on these issues at Our Finite World.
The Centre for Compassionate Conservation presents
Wolves and Dingoes: Top dogs that deserve compassion
Two keynote speakers Suzanne Asha Stone from Defenders of Wildlife, USA and
Dr Brad Purcell from the University of Western Sydney will discuss the important role top predators, such as wolves and dingoes, play in ecosystems and how more compassionate solutions can protect human livelihood, restore the environment and enable us to share territory with nature’s top dogs.
This special event is moderated and supported by Dr Daniel Ramp, Director of the Centre for Compassionate Conservation at UTS.
University of Technology, Sydney Guthrie Theatre, building 6, level 3, Harris Street Ultimo
Date: Tuesday 12, November 2013
Location: UTS Guthrie Theatre, Building 6, Level 3, Harris St Ultimo.
Time: 5:30pm light refreshments. Lecture from 6:00pm - 8:00pm.
Registration essential - REGISTER HERE
During a recent conversation with a rather misguided friend, he remarked on the pleasure he claimed to experience at a glimpse via the window of a magpie feeding its young in his backyard. I have never actually seen his house but he described it as a wide bungalow running east-west along his outer suburban property, designed to catch the north sun. He also admitted to owning vacant bush land with wildlife on either side of his house.
During a recent conversation with a rather misguided friend, he remarked on the pleasure he claimed to experience at a glimpse via the window of a magpie feeding its young in his backyard. I have never actually seen his house but he described it as a wide bungalow running east-west along his outer suburban property, designed to catch the north sun. He also admitted to owning vacant bush land with wildlife on either side of his house.
He went on to say regretfully that when he and his wife move on to eternal life, the blocks where they now live will be filled with units and the bush land setting will be gone.
I did not have the heart to tell him that I think the sooner his current selfishly uneconomical situation is remedied, the better. Goodness, he is occupying land that could be filled with people and contribute to economic growth! In terms of bird life, admittedly there would be virtually no room for much more than a sparrow when the land is fully utilized, but one must be practical about land around Melbourne. There is still a zoo and people can always watch the nature channel.
A sun-catching urban bungalow
Let's face it, gone are the Alistair Knox (http://alistairknox.org/) days of windows to the floor catching sunshine unimpeded by nearby buildings and people living amongst Australian wildlife. No, this piece of nationalistic iconery needs to be put resolutely in the nostalgia basket. Thank goodness the artist colony on acres surrounded by orchards with 5 Alistair Knox designed houses that I used to visit in Templestowe has made way for a denser but more opulently material suburb packed with modern draftsman designed mansions amid properly paved streets.
My rueful friend is an anachronism, facing extinction, a proper target for developers, if I do say myself. He should make a clean break and just "get over it!" He must realise that the way to live is in modern units adjoining each other fitting in together, maximizing space like a sophisticated Lego set. It's very practical and people soon get used to the density, especially when they realise they don't have a choice. You will notice an allusion to vegetation in the foreground of the illustrated example so we know nature is not forgotten but it takes up very little space and may not even be real or need watering!
Now I must add, in all honesty that this type of medium density living has its drawbacks from the point of view of the individual and for sustainability but we must go through this to come out the other side! What I mean is that, although we must eventfully rediscover and return to optimizing energy availability in our living arrangements, if we don't get away from it and go through the "urban density transition", how can we rediscover and return to what we once enjoyed and expected?
For a few diehards, like my friend and his wife who claim to dread the disruption, it can be what you might call a painful process. Once the bush is gone though, no-one will be able to imagine the dead quiet that once reigned , let alone regret it. So many more people will be accommodated in more vibrant human circumstances! Perhaps 60 people will be able to live on my friend's land, without the same space, but with far more action. Are these 60 people going to be 30 times less happy than the current occupants? I doubt it. John Stuart Mill (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utilitarianism_(book)) would commend me for my reasoning . Furthermore, happiness will be increased on the numeric level as people are brought in from more overcrowded places, so that by comparison, the medium density living that replaces the bush block actually increases their happiness although it makes my friends miserable.
High rise apartments in Jangandong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Enough of individual happiness! The other downside is that whilst the low slung bungalow on the bush block took advantage of winter sun with the longest wall and windows facing north, this will no longer be possible with medium density living. Some units will capture north sun but obviously the majority will have to take what they get and in the interests of maximum number of units, some of them will have to be satisfied with "borrowed light". This won't matter too much because the occupants will be at work all day and won't be able to enjoy it, anyway. The unit will also require more artificial heating because it will be very cold in winter without direct sunlight. There will be a similar requirement for more lighting as "borrowed light" is not very ...er light.
On a very domestic note, every unit will require an electric clothes dryer as there will not be room for the residents to festoon their washing on lines outside. This is a small inconvenience but I have to admit is a greenhouse gas emitter. In any case the people who live in the units may have come from even higher density living where they would have been emitting like crazy to dry clothes in an even more cramped situation.
I've put a lot of thought into this and I think my friend can make a killing out of population growth in a once in a lifetime opportunity. He can live in one of the units, even pick the best. Although he won't have the months long winter sun streaming through and he will have to bid adieu to the bird life, but it's about time he grew up anyway.
It's all for a greater good.
What might put the wind up him and get him moving would be a land tax. He tells me his house is now valued at $0.00 but what about the land?
A high-rise apartment building in Chile, which collapsed
on 27 Feb 2010 as a result of an earthquake ...
Queensland clearing laws could kill over 400 million native animalsl The Commonwealth must act to stop the destruction.
More about the upcoming 2013 environmental exhibition containing this painting, at end of this article under "Notes".
Impact of new Queensland laws and Coalition intentions
Humane Society International (HSI) Campaign Director Michael Kennedy said today:
“With the passage of legislation through the Queensland Parliament this week allowing farmers to clear potentially large areas of threatened wildlife habitats and graze cattle in National Parks, and news confirming that an incoming Coalition Government would devolve the Commonwealth’s national environment powers to the states and territories, a national environmental disaster is looming.”
Mr Kennedy continued,
“Under the amendments to Queensland’s Vegetation Management Act, approximately 2,000,000 hectares (5,000,000 acres) of wildlife habitats are at-risk of clearing*. Extrapolating from a scientific report** on the numbers of animals killed during land clearing operations in Queensland during the late 90s, it can be estimated that if all land clearing options were taken up by Queensland farmers, in the region of 455 million native animals could be killed as a result. And even if only a quarter of this land total was cleared, we are still talking about killing over 100 million animals.”
The Commonwealth’s Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act) also protects 14 threatened ecological communities.*** in Queensland, highly endangered habitats that require the Federal Environment Minister’s permission before any development can occur that may significantly affect them. It is estimated* that 169,000 hectares of mature bushland and 366,000 hectares of important regrowth habitats of these threatened ecological communities are now at risk from clearing, presenting Minister Burke with clear reasons for intervening in Queensland.
Cattle grazing is also highly destructive on the natural environment, spreading weeds, significantly damaging waterways and having the potential to destroy critical habitats and native ground-dwelling species. Giving a few private individuals access to a highly valuable public asset, due to their continuing incompetence, is a public policy travesty. Calls by the RSPCA in Queensland to allow cattle to graze in National Parks are chronically misguided, and do not address the root cause of the plight of the animals – greed and prolonged environmental and livestock mismanagement.
Mr Kennedy concluded,
“We are urging the Prime Minister and Environment Minster Burke to change the Federal environment laws so that any incoming Coalition Government cannot devolve national environment powers; introduce new national environment “triggers” for land clearing and the National Reserve System; and to “call-in” Queensland land clearing and cattle grazing proposals and actions for assessment under the EPBC Act.”
***HSI prepared scientific listing proposals for 8 of these threatened communities
Re image, "Apocalypse". From the original site at http://www.cantonart.org/20"This touring art exhibition confronts environmental issues facing human, plant and wildlife species in our time, from land development to natural resource depletion, and seeks to heighten public awareness through the power of art. The show is curated by Dr. David J. Wagner, author of the reference book, American Wildlife Art, and curator/tour director of an impressive list of exhibitions including The Art of Robert Bateman, The Sea of Cortez, and Endangered Species: Flora and Fauna in Peril which toured to the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. The exhibition features iconic works such Still Not Listening, a poem and sculpture of the same title by Leo Osborne, an elegy to victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska. (Image: Apocalypse, Walter Ferguson)"
[Candobetter.net Editor 4 April 2018. Our attention has been drawn to the fact that the title of this article could make people think that candobetter.net is generally in agreement with Dr Yugovic on this matter. The fact is that we do not agree, but we have permitted him to put his argument here, in response to other articles that find that tree dieoff has many other causes. These articles can be found under the general topic of 'predator restauration>.]In response to Hans Brunner’s post, I note he does not actually quote me and if he reads my article ("Do ecosystems need top predators?" on the SPIFFA website and in the journal Indigenotes) carefully he will find there is no recommendation for more foxes, cats and dogs. The term ‘plague’ of possums is not mine and I use it in quotation marks in the article. It is a term I have heard locals use, and with some justification.
(Photos provided by Dr Jeff Yugovic)
Possum induced tree decline is very real and is a very serious threat to indigenous trees on the Mornington Peninsula, with thousands of trees dead or dying in many locations. Just drive down Old Mornington Road, Walkers Road or Kunyung Road in Mount Eliza or visit Mount Martha Park to see for yourself, but you need to be able to identify indigenous eucalypts as the many planted non-indigenous eucalypts are generally not eaten by possums. I also attach further photographic evidence.
The evidence of possum damage is all too abundant and there are several consultant reports on this issue (see my article for some references). Mornington Peninsula Shire has an unreleased tree pathology report on tree decline on the Mornington Peninsula which says in relation to Mount Martha Park:
Diagnosis: The sparse crowns of the trees in plots appear to be indicative of browsing damage. Eucalyptus pauciflora appeared to be the main species affected. The probable cause of browsing animals is supported by the banded trees in one area of the park, which show significant crown recovery following the installation of the bands (Figure 20A). Prognosis: Continued unsustainable browsing will result in further defoliation and dieback and eventual death of trees in the Park.
We need to recognise the problem of possum induced tree decline, and move on to analyse what is causing this imbalance and how it can be addressed, noting that the phenomenon was not reported by early Europeans when Victoria was in its original and natural condition and seems to have developed since European arrival.
Mornington Peninsula The writer of an article about ecosystem need for top predators claims that "Observations on trees and experience with possum guards by the author indicate that possums are the major cause of tree decline on the Mornington Peninsula ..."
Hans Brunner: I am somewhat alarmed that a highly respected ecologist, Dr. Jeff Yugovic, can declare that possums on the peninsula are in plague proportions (published in the journal Indigenous, “Do Ecosystems need top predators?”) and that this was supported by Carol Shelton on behalf of Mt Eliza Association for Environment in form of a press release. There are probably many other people who would agree with Yugovic and Shelton merely because they don’t like possums jumping about on their roofs during the night.
I myself believe in scientific evidence.
Where are the regular spotlight counts that establish the real numbers of possums compared to the number of trees available to them in a given area?
Where are the true numbers of trees that actually die from possum browsing compared with trees dying from the many other reasons?
I have inspected lots of sick-looking trees without finding possum droppings under them and no signs of browsing. I can find more possum droppings in built-up areas under power-lines used by possums than under trees and in those areas all the trees look healthy.
The assumption that there is a plague of possums on the Mornington Peninsula resulting in the destruction of the tree canopy is in my view only a hypothetical observation and is definitely not based on rigorous scientific and unbiased research.
Over the last three years Victoria has experienced each year one or two severe heat waves. As a result, thousands of possums died in those years from heat exhaustion. So, where now is this “plague” of them?
With more heat-waves predicted in the future they may even become endangered.
The suggestion that we overdo predator control and that, on the contrary, we need more foxes, cats and dogs to reduce possums is totally irresponsible.
Because of these predators - foxes, cats and dogs - on our Peninsula, nine (9) native mammalian species have already become extinct, five (5) species have become extremely rare and another two (2) are endangered. And this is just mammals!
This same ratio or worse applies to species of birds, reptiles and amphibians.
While I think, and hopefully all of us agree, that in large natural environmental ecosystems a balance between predator and prey species is essential, here on the Peninsula the situation is very, very different.
The expectation that an increase of predators may reduce a few possums would surely be badly out-weighed by the risk of losing proportionally even more of our rare, native wildlife species.
Putting flexible plastic sheets around the trunk of trees, to be effective, would require being done to every tree on the Peninsula, because if possums can’t go up one tree they would soon find another one. Even if this were possible, practical, or desirable, the risk is that it will also exclude koalas, sugar gliders, marsupial mice and reptiles accessing these trees in the same manner as possums.
So, please don’t make possums the scapegoat and declare war on them!
 The Mornington Peninsula is in Victoria, Australia.
Comment by Candobetter.net editor: It was declared part of the UN Biosphere series a few years ago, in one of many attempts to save its biodiversity and considerable natural ammenity, but despite this, it is sadly being covered in roads and housing by successive troglodyte Victorian governments.
Originally published under another title on 2013-03-26 20:40:25 +1000.
The contest is international. This year it will focus on the human-ocean connection. The Marine Photobank is seeking images depicting human impacts on the ocean, its inhabitants and its resources, both restorative and destructive. First prize is a voyage for two aboard the National Geographic Endeavor to the Galapagos Islands with Lindblad Expeditions. There is also a second and third prize.
This awfully unsettling photograph by Terri Goss of a shark with a permanent hook in situ was the winner of last year's competition.
Conservation Photo contest launched to inspire Ocean Protection
SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank Partners with Lindblad Expeditions for Fifth Anniversary Contest to Shine Spotlight on Ocean Conservation through Photography
October 1, 2012 marked the launch of the fifth annual Ocean in Focus Conservation Photography Contest by SeaWeb’s Marine Photobank program. The goal of the contest is to inspire photographers, from hobby photographers to professional photographers, to care about the ocean and focus their lens on the true positive and negative human impacts on the marine environment.
The contest this year will focus on the human-ocean connection. The Marine Photobank is seeking images depicting human impacts on the ocean, its inhabitants and its resources, both restorative and destructive. The Ocean In Focus photo contest launches October 1, 2012 and will accept photos at www.marinephotobank.com through January 31, 2013 11:59pm U.S. Eastern Time. Finalists will be chosen based on the photo submissions and will be eligible to compete in the first grand prize photo essay competition for a chance to win an expedition to the Galapagos Islands courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.
“This inspiring photo contest has generated remarkably compelling images from photographers all around the world,” said Dawn M. Martin, President of SeaWeb. “To celebrate the fifth year of the contest, we want to turn the lens back on to the photographers and the rich, motivating stories they tell with their photographs. The newly incorporated photo essay component will capture these stories and more-fully tell the tale of their encounters with the ocean.”
Following a review from a panel of judges representing the photography, ocean conservation and responsible travel communities, finalists will be announced in February 2013. Finalists will then be invited to submit 3-4 images for a photo essay of 400-600 words. The same panel of judges will judge the photo essays and the winner will receive recognition as SeaWeb’s Photographer Of The Year.
Finalists will take home a copy of renowned marine scientist, Callum Robert’s, recently released book, The Ocean of Life. One finalist, selected for the best overall image, will also receive a Solio Q-Cells solar charger for charging your devices in the field with the power of the sun. The grand prize package, awarded to the Photographer Of The Year, is a voyage for two aboard the National Geographic Endeavor to the Galapagos Islands courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.
“We want to hear the stories behind these incredible images and give our contributing photographers a voice and an opportunity to tell others about the truths they have witnessed in the ocean,” said Devin Harvey, Manager of the Marine Photobank.
The photo contest launch coincides with the 2011 Ocean in Focus contest winner, Terry Goss’, voyage to the Galapagos Islands aboard the National Geographic Endeavor with Lindblad Expeditions. Goss received the grand prize in 2011 for his stunning underwater photograph of a blue shark with a rusted hook protruding from its lower jaw. The shark may not have been the intended target of the longline, demonstrating the sometimes-unavoidable impact of humans on ocean wildlife. Goss’ photo was shot with a Nikon D300, with a Nikkor 10.5mm fisheye lens inside an Aquatica housing, using two Sea & Sea YS90 strobes. Follow Goss’ travels through the Galapagos Islands through SeaWeb’s twitter account: www.twitter.com/SeaWeb_Org.
“It’s a true honor and an amazing opportunity to yet again be partnering with the Lindblad Expeditions team on this effort. Their expertise and passion to share stories from around the world is what, in the end, will save our ocean” said Martin.
The Marine Photobank inspires photographers to actively engage in ocean issues by capturing photographs of our ocean ecosystem. By turning their lenses in a different direction—one that informs and inspires positive action, photographers can help conserve marine species and their environments. Beautiful ocean photography has the power to inspire awe and raise awareness, but truly impactful photography will shine a light on the dark truths of human impact to the ocean and has the power to affect change. Many challenges lie ahead for the ocean and it will take even more dedication to turn the tide on our changing seas. This is the role photographers can play.
For dates and details on submitting photos, and other rules and regulations, visit www.marinephotobank.com. Find more information about the contest on Facebook: www.facebook.com/marinephotobank and through SeaWeb’s twitter account: www.twitter.com/SeaWeb_org. Use the official hash tag of the contest: #MPBphotocontest.
Lindblad Expeditions, specialists in expedition travel, voyages the world in alliance with National Geographic to inspire travelers to explore and care about the planet. Their renowned expedition team includes a Lindblad-National Geographic certified photo instructor on every voyage to help guests bring their skills to the next level. Join them on hikes, Zodiac rides, or on deck during a thrilling wildlife encounter. Swim and snorkel with sea lions, penguins and sea turtles. Discover nature in its purest form on one of the most significant travel experiences of your life. www.expeditions.com
The Marine Photobank, a project of SeaWeb, encourages ocean conservation by collecting and providing compelling, high quality marine photos, images and graphics at no cost for noncommercial use as well as for media use under special terms. The Marine Photobank aims to illuminate pressing marine issues and human impacts on the ocean through imagery. www.marinephotobank.org. Follow us at facebook.com/MarinePhotobank.
SeaWeb is the only international, nonprofit organization exclusively using the science of communications to fundamentally shift the way people interact with the ocean. To accomplish this important goal, SeaWeb convenes forums where economic, policy, social and environmental interests converge to improve ocean health. We transform knowledge into action by shining a spotlight on workable, science-based solutions to the most serious threats facing the ocean, such as climate change, pollution and depletion of marine life. We work collaboratively with targeted sectors to encourage market solutions, policies and behaviors that result in a healthy, thriving ocean. By informing and empowering diverse ocean voices and conservation champions, SeaWeb is creating a culture of ocean conservation. For more information, visit: www.seaweb.org, or follow us on Twitter: email and Facebook: SeaWeb_org.
Bill McKibben has recently unveiled some new "terrifying math" about global warming. But there are other numbers that terrify me more. My mother used to tell me to stop worrying, because it is not the things we worry about that usually get us, but the things we don't see coming. I think she was right.
Bill McKibben recently wrote about the “terrifying math” of global warming:
A third of the summer Arctic ice is gone and oceans are 30% more acidic.
We are already three-quarters along the road to the two-degree increase that we have been told is the tipping point beyond which runaway temperature increases follow.
We are on pace to exceed the 565 gigaton carbon “budget” left to keep us under the tipping point in just 16 years.
We are planning to burn oil, gas and coal reserves that would exceed this carbon budget by a factor of five.
To keep “under budget”, we must keep 80% of known hydrocarbons in the ground.
Yes, those numbers sound truly terrifying alright. But try these on for size:
October 31, 2011
7 billion humans on Planet Earth.
A thousand times more people than what there were through most of human history.
More humans are born every day than there are primates in the world.
Each day the world adds 220,000 people to its burden (a Saskatoon, Saskatchewan every day). Each day each Canadian--or an American---consumes over 100 lbs of minerals, metals and fuels---all non-renewable.
Each day as the pool of affordable and accessible minerals, metals and fuels shrinks, the number of people making a claim on them grows.
Each year a Canadian consumes the equivalent of 25 barrels of oil.
These numbers are scary. And solid.
Realists know that there is a difference between a LONG emergency and a PERMANENT one, and know therefore, that there can be no real preparation for de-industrialization. They know that they can hide from marauding hordes in a bunker, or in a remote re-localized community, but they cannot hide from scarcity. And they know that governments will pull out all stops to keep the industrial machine running. In retrospect, environmental sensibilities will seem like a quaint middle class indulgence of a people who didn't know what real hardship was all about. We will drill in children’s graveyards if we think it will keep us warm at night.
Arctic ice can melt. But so can human flesh in a thermonuclear war---or freeze after one.
Vanishing ice can send temperatures soaring, but nuclear winter can send them plummeting.
An old bush pilot said to me that if your plane is aloft and you notice that your engine is on fire, you don't care about what the needle on your fuel gauge says. You have to focus on putting that fire out. First things first. We have to address scarcity.
Connect these dots
Connect these dots. 2010--the Chinese spend over $4 billion to buy 9% of Syncrude as a part of their determined effort to gain more control of the Alberta tar sands project. Then in the summer of 2011, they launch their first aircraft carrier in determined effort to build up their fleet and grow their military muscle. Then this summer they spent over $15 billion to purchase control of Nexen Corporation, paying 61% more than share value, to gain an even bigger foothold in the Tar Sands. Given the scale of this commitment, a pipeline to the Pacific coast to serve the Chinese market is a certainty. If not soon, then later. Environmental concerns will be cast aside.
Final dot. China---an emerging superpower, and the US, an increasingly desperate and fading superpower, both crave tar sands oil. Is this not reminiscent of the conditions which led the Japanese to launch the desperately foolish attack on Pearl Harbor? How ironic it would be if it was the United States that would be placed in Japan's position in 1941?
These are things that keep me awake at night, not Glikson’s or Hansen's speculations regarding sea levels 50 years from now.
I feel that we are all sitting on a tinderbox, while across the world governments are stockpiling matches. As McKibben’s nightmare is unfolding with a quickening pace, mine has broken out into a sprint.
Let me summarize the forgoing perspective in point form:
1) The “down slope” experience is one of increasing scarcity.
2) Relocalization is just one moment in the down slope ( not the end condition).
3) Relocalized communities require isolation or insulation from roving pillagers, but there is no sanctuary from scarcity.
4) Governments are not going to help us get to sustainable communities. They are going spend every bit of monetary and natural capital trying to keep the overloaded system afloat.
5) The actions that concerned people (environmentalists) are taking to prevent the down slope are too weak to be meaningful.
6) In the end each person (each environmentalist) will desecrate everything to stay afloat.
7) You worry about rising waters and temperatures that will fry us. I worry about nuclear winter that will freeze us. But it is increasing scarcity that will trigger one of these two, and it is the problem that most deserves our focus.
8) Governments sold our resources to industry, and industry will sell them to the highest bidder. The lower bidder will resort to desperate measures to re-access lost resource streams.
9) The resulting conflict will drain resources from all both sides, resulting in further scarcity and death. Nuclear winter is the climate change that may kill us first.
August 14, 2012
by Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
With her 1962 book, Silent Spring, Rachel Carson got DDT and other synthetic pesticides banned and saved bird life. Today it is humans who are directly threatened by technologies designed to extract the maximum profit at the lowest private cost and the maximum social cost from natural resources. Once abundant clean water has become a scarce resource. Yet, in the US ground water and surface water are being polluted and made unusable by mountain top removal mining, fracking and other such "new technologies. Ranchers in eastern Montana, for example, are being forced out of ranching by polluted water.
http : / / www . youtube.com/watch?v=lZiAV6fU2NM&feature=player_embedded#!
Offshore oil drilling and chemical farming run-off have destroyed fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico. In other parts of the world, explosives used to maximize short-run fish catches have destroyed coral reefs that sustained fish life. http://aquatek- california.com/coral-reef-destruction/ Deforestation for short-run agricultural production results in replacing bio-diverse rain forests with barren land. The "now generation is leaving a resource scarce planet to future generations.
Nuclear power plants are thoughtlessly built in earthquake and tsunami zones. Spent fuel rods are stored within the plants, a practice that adds their destructive potential to a catastrophic accident or act of nature.
The newest threat comes from genetically modified seeds that produce crops resistant to herbicides. The active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is glyphosate, a toxic element that now contaminates groundwater in Spain and according to the US Geological Survey is now "commonly found in rain and streams in the Mississippi River Basin.
In 2011 Don Huber, a plant pathologist and soil microbiologist, wrote to the US Secretary of Agriculture about the unexpected consequences of GMOs and the accompanying herbicides. He cited adverse effects on critical micronutrients, soil fertility, and the nutritional value of foods. He cited the impairment of metabolic pathways that prevents plants from accumulating and storing minerals, such as iron, manganese, and zinc, minerals important for liver function and immune response in animals and people. He cited toxic effects on the microorganisms in the soil that have disrupted nature's balance and resulted in large increases in plant diseases. He cited livestock deaths from botulism, premature animal aging, and an increase in animal and human infertility.
In an interview, Huber said that the power of agri-business has made it almost impossible to do research on GMOs and that regulatory agencies with the responsibility of protecting the public are dependent on the industry's own self-serving studies and have no independent objective science on which to base a regulatory decision.
In short, in order to secure bumper crops for several years, we are destroying the fertility of soil, animal and human life.
1493, Spanish silver and Chinese floods
Mankind has been destroying the world for a long time. In his fascinating book, 1493, Charles C. Mann describes the adverse effects on the environment, people, and civilizations of the globalism unleashed by Christopher Columbus. These include the international transfer of human and plant diseases, deforestation, destructions of peoples and empires, and the impact on distant China of Spanish new world silver.
Mann provides a history lesson in unintended and unexpected consequences resulting from the actions of elites and of those that elites dominated. The Chinese government fixed taxation in terms of the quantity of silver, but the importation of Spanish silver inflated prices (decreased the value of a given quantity of silver) and left the government without sufficient revenues.
A successor government or dynasty evicted Chinese from the coast in order to deprive pirates of resources. The displaced millions of people deforested mountainsides in order to sustain themselves with terrace agriculture. The result of deforestation was floods that not only washed away the terraces but also the crops in the fertile valleys below. Consequently, floods became one of China's greatest challenges to its food supply.
Slavery and mosquitoes
The first slaves were conquered new world natives, but the "Indians had no immunity to European diseases. The second wave of slaves were European whites, but the Europeans had no immunity to malaria and yellow fever. By default slavery fell to blacks, many of whom had immunity to malaria and yellow fever. Thus, a black workforce could survive the infected environments and newly created wetlands in which to raise sugarcane, wetlands that were ideal homes for malaria and yellow fever bearing mosquitoes. Mann, of course, is merely reporting, not justifying black or any slavery.
Mann points out that the lowly mosquito had a large impact on American history. The Mason-Dixon Line roughly splits the East Coast into two zones, the South in which disease carrying mosquitoes were an endemic threat, and the north in which malaria was not a threat. In the South, a person who survived childhood and grew into an adult had acquired immunity. Northerners had no such protection.
This had enormous consequences when Northern armies invaded the South. Mann reports that "disease killed twice as many Union troops as Confederate bullets or shells. Between the summers of 1863 and 1864, the official annual infection rate for what was called "intermittent fevers was 233 percent. The average northern soldier was felled more than twice. In one year 361,968 troops were infected. Most of the deaths from malaria were indirect. The disease so badly weakened the troops that they died from dysentery, measles or strep infection.
The mosquito was the South's most powerful ally and so prolonged the war, despite the vast numerical superiority of the Union force, that Lincoln was forced to take action that he opposed and declare emancipation of slaves. Thus, Mann writes, it is not farfetched to conclude that blacks were freed by the very malaria mosquito that had caused blacks to be the preferred workforce.
Mann shows that long before the birth of capitalism, greed drove men to barbarous treatment of their fellows. He also shows that policies, whether driven by greed or by well-intended socio-political design, inevitably had unexpected consequences. His multi-faceted history well illustrates the old adage, "the well laid plans of mice and men often go awry.
The old world's colonization of the new world devastated new world peoples, but the new world bit back with the spread of the potato blight to Europe and Spanish and European inflation.
Environmental destruction resulted mainly from deforestation and soils washed away by consequent floods. Prior to modern technology and toxic chemicals, the planet survived mankind.
Externalising costs and corporate influence on governments
Today the prospects for the planet are different. The human population is vast compared to earlier times, putting far more pressure on resources, and the disastrous consequences of new technologies are unknown at the time that they are employed, when the focus is on the expected benefits. Moreover, these costs are external to the business, corporation, or economic unit. The costs are inflicted on the environment and on other humans and other animal life. The costs are not included when the business calculates its profit and return on its investment. The external costs of fracking, mountain top removal mining, chemical farming, and GMOs could exceed the value of the marketable products.
Businesses have no incentive to take these costs into account, because to do so reduces their profits and could indicate that the full cost of production exceeds the value of the output. Governments have proven to be largely ineffective in controlling external costs, because of the ability of private interests to influence the decisions of government. Even if one country were to confront these costs, other countries would take advantage of the situation. Companies that externalize some of their costs can undersell companies that internalize all of the costs of their production. Thus, the planet can be destroyed by the short-term profit and convenience interests of one generation.
Chronological 'progress' illusory
The main lesson that emerges from Mann's highly readable book is that people today have no better grasp of the consequences of their actions than superstitious and unscientific people centuries ago. Modern technological man is just as easily bamboozled by propaganda as ancient man was by superstition and ignorance.
If you doubt that the peoples of Western civilization live in an artificial reality created by propaganda, watch the documentary on psyops at http : / / www . youtube.com/watch?v=lZiAV6fU2NM&feature=player_embedded#! The documentary does a good job despite wandering off into a couple of side issues on which it takes one-sided positions. It is a bit heavy on blaming the rich, and overlooks that Stalin, for example, had plenty of propaganda and wasn't looking to make himself a billionaire. Not all the rich are against the people. Billionaires Roger Milliken and Sir James Goldsmith fought against jobs offshoring and globalism, which increases the powerlessness of the people vis-a-vis the elites. Both spoke for the people to no avail.
US Propaganda and Terrorism laws
The documentary also blames the Constitution for limiting the participation of the mass of the people in governing themselves without acknowledging that the Constitution restricted the power of government and guaranteed civil liberty by making law a shield of the people instead of a weapon in the hands of the government. It is not the Constitution's fault, or the fault of Founding Father James Madison, that the American people succumbed to propaganda by Bush and Obama and gave up their civil liberty in order to be "safe from "Muslim terrorists."
The documentary shows that propaganda is a form of mind control, and controlled minds are indeed the American predicament.
In 1962 Rachel Carson caught Monsanto off guard and thus gained an audience. Today she would not get the same attention. Ready and waiting psyops would go into operation to discredit her. I just read an article by an economist who wrote that economists have decided that environmentalism is a religion, in other words, an unscientific belief system that preaches "religious values. This demonstrates what little importance economists attribute to external costs and the ability of externalized costs to destroy the productive power of the planet. Thus, the question, "silent spring for us? is not merely rhetorical. It is real.
Dr. Roberts' latest book is Economies in Collapse: The Failure of Globalism, published in Europe, June, 2012.
Culex molestus is thought to have been introduced into southern Australia in the 1940s, hitching a ride into the country with travelling American military personnel. The species is known in other countries for the spread of West Nile virus. Since the 1940s the mosquito has been found in all states except Queensland and the Northern Territory. Where exactly the mosquito came from before arriving in Australia is still a mystery but it is well known from cities in the US and Europe. The mosquito infamously made a meal of Londoners sleeping in the Underground during the Blitz and is often commonly referred to as the London Underground Mosquito. The culex species, although not necessarily Culex molestus, has been implicated in the spread of diverse diseases which include Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and Western Equine Encephalitis.
Enigmatic international mosquito species lurks in unexpected places
(19 June 2012) A secretive and exotic species of mosquito found across much of Australia has revealed a new twist on the insect’s famous ‘blood-sucking’ reputation to researchers at the University of Sydney.
Researchers discovered that rather than breeding in ponds, pools or wetlands, the Culex molestus mosquito has adapted to life underground, particularly in septic tanks and disused stormwater pipes.
Exotic underground mosquito that postpones its blood feast
Unlike other mosquitoes, the Culex molestus can also develop their eggs without first requiring a blood meal.
“The curious biological trait of this underground-dwelling mosquito shows that people in cities need to take mosquitoes’ amazing adaptability into account when designing water storage systems,” said Dr Cameron Webb, from University’s Department of Medical Entomology and Westmead Hospital.
Dr Webb is the team leader of a study on the mosquitoes which has been published in this month’s edition of the Journal of Vector Ecology.
“We have spent the last two years chasing the species, which has adapted superbly to life beneath our cities,” Dr Webb said.
“Finding this mosquito isn’t easy. Instead of wandering through pristine wetlands, we were snooping around stormwater drains and other polluted structures,” said Dr Webb.
“However, the toilet blocks in urban parklands were where we really struck gold. The disused septic tanks associated with these structures are where this mosquito is commonly found.”
While the majority of pest mosquitoes require blood to develop their eggs, the female of this species can develop and lay a batch of eggs using nutrients stored earlier in its life cycle.
This phenomenon is known as autogeny and has been documented in a number of mosquitoes.
“The breakthrough with our study is that if this mosquito is offered a blood meal, it won’t bite until its first batch of eggs has been laid. We believe this is the only Australian species to exhibit this behaviour” Dr Webb said.
“Once that first batch of eggs has been laid, they are on the hunt for blood and can be severe nuisance-biting pests.”
It is difficult to know why the mosquito ignores the offer of blood but given the absence of suitable animals to feed on in underground tanks and pipes, this biological adaptation ensures the mosquito can exclusively exploit these habitats not just during the summer but throughout the year.
Mosquito epidemiology-naive Planners and Developers increase risk to community
Planners and Developers need education in the risks of exacerbating mosquito-borne disease when they clear new land, disturb soil and water, and create new water-storage opportunities.
Dr Webb mentioned that in NSW some councils are requiring developers to incorporate mosquito opportunity prevention into their plans.
“One of the major implications of this work is that we must be mindful of the mosquito risks when designing subterranean water storage systems in our cities so we do not create new opportunities for mosquitoes.”
“Ensuring water storage structures are screened or designed to limit the opportunities for mosquito access is crucial. Perhaps more importantly, when assessing the risks of mosquito-borne disease, these underground habitats shouldn’t be ignored,” said Dr Webb.
Risks involved in community's and gardeners' water-saving techniques
The community should be aware of the risks involved in opportunistically conserving water in all sorts of containers as the cost of water rises in Australia. Dr Webb described how, although a well-constructed water tank may be impermeable at first, over time most water-storage becomes vulnerable.
The presence of fish in natural water-sources is a safety factor that is lacking in most artificial storage containers. Fish love mosquito larvae and, together with other predators of mosquitoes in natural environments, keep diseases associated with mosquitoes down.
Culex molestus is thought to have been introduced into southern Australia in the 1940s, hitching a ride into the country with travelling American military personnel. Since then, the mosquito has been found in all states except Queensland and the Northern Territory.
Where exactly the mosquito came from before arriving in Australia is still a mystery but it is well known from cities in the US and Europe. The mosquito infamously made a meal of Londoners sleeping in the Underground during the Blitz and is often commonly referred to as the London Underground Mosquito.
“Mosquitoes have adapted to a wide range of ecological niches, from coastal rock pools to alpine snowmelt pools. Advancing our understanding of how mosquitoes adapt to their habitats will improve the ways we manage their pest and public health impacts,” Dr Webb said.
Human disease implications of culex molestus habits
I asked Dr Cameron Webb whether there had been any epidemiological reasons for studing Culex molestus.
Dr Webb said that the species belongs to a group internationally known to be important for spreading diseases like West Nile Virus. The species has not been studied well in Australia. Recent study has focused on the species with the aim of filling a gap in our knowledge in case of any problems in the future.
How does culex molestus get into closed systems like disused underground pipes and septic tanks? Do they seep in as 'wrigglers' or do they find other ways in?
Although these underground spaces appear closed to us, they presumably have all kinds of fissures and small openings, particularly with earth movement over time.
"We should not underestimate how clever they are," says Dr Cameron Webb.
There are few if any marine or aqueous environments that don't have their mosquito. Wherever a mosquito can find a toe-hold, it is likely to establish. In the case of Culex molestus lack of fish and other predators in its underground lairs is an obvious advantage.
Some mosquitoes require sunlight to dry their chitinous wings before they can fly. Culex molestus, which spends much of its life underground, must have found some way to do without sunlight in this process. There is a lot we still do not know about this mosquito and other mosquitoes.
There are about 300 species of mosquito in Australia.
The culex species, although not necessarily Culex molestuss, has been implicated in the spread of diverse diseases which include Eastern Equine Encephalitis, Japanese Encephalitis Virus, St. Louis Encephalitis, and Western Equine Encephalitis.
With climate change and expected warming of south eastern states of Australia, there is also a risk of in-migration of tropical mosquitoes and their diseases, including those that carry dengue fever (Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus and malaria (notably the anopheles mosquito).
The contributing authors on the paper are Nur Faeza Abu Kassim and Professor Richard Russell from the Department of Medical Entomology at the University of Sydney.
The logging crew could have left the pond alone and still allowed clearance for any passing logging vehicles. But that would have required a rudimentary respect for natural beauty. What are these brutes made of?
The Pond in its glory
“O! pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth, that I am meek and gentle with these butchers” Shakespeare (from Julius Caesar).
“We end, I think, at what might be called the standard paradox of the twentieth century: our tools are better than we are, and grow faster than we do. They suffice to crack the atom, to command the tides. But, they do not suffice for the oldest task in human history: to live on a piece of land without spoiling it....We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.” Aldo Leopold
Barney stands and meditates in the Pond
Rage and grief
My present mood is one of rage and grief. Two miles from where I live was a little jewel of a pond beside a forest trail, that even in the midst of summer, offered a deep, cold bath for dogs like mine---- and I just learned, a little boy as well. It was welcome respite from the heat, and an opportunity for meditation. Even the dogs paused to take in its soothing silence. It was shrouded by trees, fed on one side by a stream coming from the other side of the trail. As the pond narrowed, it formed another stream which wound its way through the forest, broad enough to form an impenetrable marsh made tantalizing by its mysterious course. On sunny days shafts of light would allow glimpses of its beauty as if it was a strip-tease dancer trying to excite my imagination with fleeting revelations.
Days ago, in its mission to cut back the foliage that had encroached upon the two mile trail, a machine of some description massacred the site, laying waste to the pond's shield of trees and bushes, fragments of which were left strewn over it like a carpet. I looked upon it as if it were a loved one I found beaten, violated and left to die in a ditch, tossed aside as if rubbish. Destroyed without respect or ceremony.
The logging crew could have left the pond alone and still allowed clearance for any passing logging vehicles. But that would have required a rudimentary respect for natural beauty. What are these brutes made of? Have they no sense of the sacred? Did they never pause to marvel at this masterpiece of solitude and life? Wolves, cougars and bears have drank from that pond. Frogs, and many other creatures that I can't imagine had made it their home.
Our social system impotent to protect what we love
That pond died a lonely death. Murdered without witnesses, like a mob hit that will never be punished in a court of law. Its passing will escape wide notice. There were no protestors to bar the road to logging equipment, no petitions handed out to lobby for its protection, no politicians around to make it a cause celebre. After all, it was just one pond, one stream, one marsh. But nevertheless, it was a big part of my world, and of so many others of no political account. Not much in the grand scheme of things, I suppose, but it does serve to remind me that at the root of ecological destruction is a spiritual vacuity that when recruited by the profit motive, is a reckless, ruthless and apparently irresistible force.
Where does one direct anger? Who can be held accountable for this callous mentality that is so pervasive and universal? Corporate directors? Shareholders? Consumers of wood products? Slumbering voters? Parents? Human nature? I feel impotent and heartsick......
What is wrong with our species?
June 20, 2011
PS. A year has now past, and the wound has not yet healed.
June 9, 2012.
The Stable Population Party Australia is reaching out to members and sympathisers in a series of networking events across Australia. Should be interesting and fun to meet like-minded people and help to organise a coordinated electoral response to the growth lobby that has taken over our country. (Candobetter Ed.)
Invitation to all sympathisers
A message from William Bourke, National Convenor of Stable Population Party of Australia:
We'd like to welcome members and non-member supporters to Stable Population Party networking events across Australia.
These social events present a great opportunity to engage with like-minded people on sustainability and population matters.
Each event will run for around 3 hours & include:
- Party update
- Opportunity to meet current candidates
- Opportunity to meet state coordinators to discuss policies, campaign support and expressions of interest in candidature
- Opportunity to purchase lunch/dinner & beverages
12pm on Saturday 2 June @ Edinburgh Castle Hotel, Sydney (L1, Lounge Bar):
6pm on Friday 8 June @ E'cco Bar, Brisbane:
12pm on Saturday 16 June @ Richmond Club Hotel, Richmond (L1, Balcony Bar):
12pm on Saturday 23 June @ The Court Hotel:
12pm on Sunday 24 June @ The Kingston Hotel (Red Room):
73 Canberra Avenue, Kingston
For planning purposes, please RSVP ASAP by replying to this eNews or contact us through our website: CLICK HERE
Networking events: NT, SA & Tas
Would you like to attend a networking event in Darwin, Adelaide or Tasmania in July?
If so please contact us ASAP to express your interest. You can reply to this eNews or contact us through our website: CLICK HERE
Your support is vital...
Our grassroots community party relies on its members and supporters to make these events a success. We look forward to seeing you there!
On behalf of the national committee
STABLE POPULATION PARTY
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Humanity has struggled to survive through the millennia in terms of balancing population size with food supply. The same is true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a century. The limiting factor has been hidden, but this factor -- oil and natural gas, or petroleum -- is close to or beyond its peak extraction. Without ample, free-flowing petroleum, it will not be possible to support a population of several billion for long. Originally posted on Culture Change on 2 March 2010. Re-posted here by author Peter Goodchild.
Humanity has struggled to survive through the millennia in terms of balancing population size with food supply. The same is true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a century. The limiting factor has been hidden, but this factor -- oil and natural gas, or petroleum -- is close to or beyond its peak extraction. Without ample, free-flowing petroleum, it will not be possible to support a population of several billion for long.
Originally posted on Culture Change on 2 March 2010. Re-posted here by author Peter Goodchild.
Humanity has struggled to survive through the millennia in terms of balancing population size with food supply. The same is true now, but population numbers have been soaring for over a century. The limiting factor has been hidden, but this factor -- oil and natural gas, or petroleum -- is close to or beyond its peak extraction. Without ample, free-flowing petroleum, it will not be possible to support a population of several billion for long.
By Peter Goodchild. Originally posted on Culture Change on of 2 March 2010. Re-posted her by author Peter Goodchild originally as a response to article by Tim Murray, What Will The Dalai Lama Say When The Oil Runs Out?
Famine caused by petroleum supply failure alone will result in about 2.5 billion above-normal deaths before the year 2050; lost and averted births will amount to roughly an equal number.
In terms of its effects on daily human life, the most significant aspect of fossil-fuel depletion will be the lack of food. "Peak oil" is basically "peak food." Modern agriculture is highly dependent on fossil fuels for fertilizers (the Haber-Bosch process combines natural gas with atmospheric nitrogen to produce nitrogen fertilizer), pesticides, and the operation of machines for irrigation, harvesting, processing, and transportation.
Without fossil fuels, modern methods of food production will disappear, and crop yields will be far less than at present. Crop yields are far lower in societies that do not have fossil fuels or modern machinery. We should therefore have no illusions that several billion humans can be fed by "organic gardening" or anything else of that nature.
The Green Revolution involved, among other things, the development of higher-yielding crops. These new varieties, however, could be grown only with large inputs of fertilizer and pesticides, all of which required fossil fuels. In essence, the Green Revolution was little more than the invention of a way to turn petroleum into food.
Over the next few decades, therefore, there will be famine on a scale many times larger than ever before in human history. It is possible, of course, that warfare and plague will take their toll to a large extent before famine claims its victims. The distinctions, in any case, can never be absolute: often "war + drought = famine" , especially in sub-Saharan Africa, but there are several other combinations of factors.
Although, when discussing theories of famine, economists generally use the term "neo-malthusian" in a derogatory manner, the coming famine will be very much a case of an imbalance between population and resources. The overwhelming cause of the imbalance and famine will be fossil-fuel depletion, not government policy (as in the days of Stalin or Mao), warfare, ethnic discrimination, bad weather, poor methods of distribution, inadequate transportation, livestock diseases, or any of the other variables that have often turned mere hunger into genuine starvation.
The increase in the world's population has followed a simple curve: from about 1.7 billion in 1900 to about 6.1 billion in 2000. A quick glance at a chart of world population growth, on a broader time scale, shows a line that runs almost horizontally for thousands of years, and then makes an almost vertical ascent as it approaches the present. That is not just an amusing curiosity. It is a shocking fact that should have awakened humanity to the realization that something is dreadfully wrong.
Mankind is always prey to its own "exuberance," to use Catton's term . That has certainly been true of population growth. In many cultures, "Do you have any children?" or, "How many children do you have?" is a form of greeting or civility almost equivalent to "How do you do?" or, "Nice to meet you." World population growth, nevertheless, has always been ecologically hazardous. The destruction of the environment reaches back into the invisible past, and the ruination of land, sea, and sky has been well described if not well heeded. But what is even less frequently noted is that with every increase in human numbers we are only barely able to keep up with the demand: providing all those people with food and water has not been easy. We are always pushing ourselves to the limits of Earth's ability to hold us.
Even that is an understatement. No matter how much we depleted our resources, there was always the sense that we could somehow "get by." But in the late twentieth century we stopped getting by. It is important to differentiate between production in an "absolute" sense and production "per capita." Although oil production, in "absolute" numbers, kept climbing — only to decline in the early twenty-first century — what was ignored was that although that "absolute" production was climbing, the production "per capita" reached its peak in 1979 .
The unequal distribution of resources plays a part, of course. The average inhabitant of the United States consumes far more than the average inhabitant of India or China. Nevertheless, if all the world's resources were evenly distributed, the result would only be universal poverty. It is the totals and the averages of resources that we must deal with in order to determine the totals and averages of results. For example, if all of the world's arable land were distributed evenly, in the absence of mechanized agriculture each person on the planet would have an inadequate amount of farmland for survival: distribution would have accomplished very little.
We were always scraping the edges of the earth, but we are now entering a far more dangerous era. The main point to keep in mind, however, is that throughout the twentieth century, oil production and human population were so closely integrated that every barrel of oil had an effect on human numbers. While population has been going up, so has oil production.
Future excess mortality can therefore be determined -- at least in a rough-and-ready manner -- by the fact that in modern industrial society it is oil supply that determines how many people can be fed. An increase in oil production leads to an increase in population, and a decrease in oil production leads to a decrease in population. [editor's note: this is why hopes for a technofix of renewable energy -- almost always only for electricity -- is far off base regarding the huge present population's need to eat.]
In round numbers, global oil production in the year 2008 was 30 billion barrels, and the population was 7 billion. The consensus is that in the year 2050 oil production will be about 2 billion barrels. The same amount of oil production occurred in the year 1930, when the population was 2 billion. The population in 2050 will therefore be about the same as in 1930: 2 billion. The difference between 7 billion people and 2 billion is 5 billion, which will therefore be the total number of famine deaths and lost or averted births for that period.
We can also determine the annual number of famine deaths and lost or averted births. From 2008 to 2050 is 42 years. The average annual difference in population is therefore 5 billion divided by 42, which is about 120 million.
It is quite possible, however, that the decline in population will not exactly parallel the decline in oil. In other words, the peak of the population curve may well be a few years later than the peak of the oil curve. People might simply live with less oil per capita for a few decades, i.e. they will just sink further into poverty, with greater problems of malnutrition. In fact, as long ago as 1972, the first edition of The Limits to Growth in its Figure 35, "World Model Standard Run," showed a 40-year gap between the peak production of food per capita and the peak of population .
Many of those annual 120 million will not actually be deaths; famine will cause a lowering of the birth rate. This will sometimes happen voluntarily, as people realize they lack the resources to raise children, or it will happen involuntarily when famine and general ill health result in infertility . In most famines the number of deaths from starvation or from starvation-induced disease is very roughly the same as the number of lost or averted births [3, 4]. In Ireland's nineteenth-century famine, for example, the number of famine deaths was 1.3 million, whereas the number of lost births was 0.4 million. The number of famine deaths during China's Great Leap Forward (1958-1961) was perhaps 30 million, and the number of lost births was perhaps 33 million.
The "normal," non-famine-related, birth and death rates are not incorporated into the above future population figures, since for most of pre-industrial human history the sum of the two — i.e. the growth rate — has been nearly zero. If not for the problem of resource-depletion, in other words, the future birth rate and death rate would be nearly identical, as they were in pre-industrial times. And there is no question that the future will mean a return to the "pre-industrial."
Nevertheless, it will often be hard to separate "famine deaths" from a rather broad category of "other excess deaths." War, disease, global warming, topsoil deterioration, and other factors will have unforeseeable effects of their own. Considering the unusual duration of the coming famine, and with Leningrad  as one of many precursors, cannibalism may be significant; to what extent should this be included in a calculation of "famine deaths"? It is probably safe to say, however, that an unusually large decline in the population of a country will be the most significant indicator that this predicted famine has in fact arrived.
These figures obliterate all previous estimates of future population growth. Instead of a steady rise over the course of this century, as generally predicted, there will be a clash of the two giant forces of overpopulation and oil depletion, followed by a precipitous ride into the unknown future.
If the above figures are fairly accurate, we are ill-prepared for the next few years. The problem of oil depletion turns out to be something other than a bit of macabre speculation for people of the distant future to deal with, but rather a sudden catastrophe that will only be studied dispassionately long after the event itself has occurred. Doomsday will be upon us before we have time to look at it carefully.
The world has certainly known some terrible famines in the past, of course. In recent centuries, one of the worst was that of North China in 1876-79, when between 9 and 13 million died, but India had a famine at the same time, with perhaps 5 million deaths. The Soviet Union had famine deaths of about 5 million in 1932-34, purely because of political policies. The worst famine in history was that of China's Great Leap Forward, 1958-61, when perhaps 30 million died, as mentioned above.
A close analogy to "petroleum famine" may be Ireland's potato famine of the 1840s, since — like petroleum — it was a single commodity that caused such devastation . The response of the British government at the time can be summarized as a jumble of incompetence, frustration, and indecision, if not outright genocide. "There is such a tendency to exaggeration and inaccuracy in Irish reports that delay in acting on them is always desirable," wrote Sir Robert Peel in 1845. By 1847 the description had changed: "Bodies half-eaten by rats were an ordinary sight; 'two dogs were shot while tearing a body to pieces.'"
The news of the coming famine might not be announced with sufficient clarity. Famines tend to be back-page news nowadays, perhaps for the very reason that they are too common to be worth mentioning. Although Ó Gráda speaks of "making famine history" , the reality is that between 70 and 80 million people died of famine in the twentieth century, far more than in any previous century .
The above predictions can be nothing more than approximate, of course, but even the most elaborate mathematics will not entirely help us to deal with the great number of interacting factors. We need to swing toward a more pessimistic figure for humanity's future if we include the effects of war, disease, and so on. The most serious negative factor will be largely sociological: To what extent can the oil industry maintain the advanced technology required for drilling ever-deeper wells in ever-more-remote places, when that industry will be struggling to survive in a milieu of social chaos? Intricate division of labor, large-scale government, and high-level education will no longer exist
On the other hand, there are elements of optimism that may need to be plugged in. For one thing, there is what might be called the "inertia factor": the planet Earth is so big that even the most catastrophic events take time for their ripples to finish spreading. An asteroid fragment 10 kilometers wide hit eastern Mexico 65 million years ago, but enough of our distant ancestors survived that we ourselves are alive today to tell the story.
Somewhat related, among optimistic factors, is the sheer tenacity of the human species: we are intelligent social creatures living at the top of the food chain, in the manner of wolves, yet we outnumber wolves worldwide by about a million to one; we are as populous as rats or mice. We can outrace a horse over long distances. Even with Stone-Age technology, we can inhabit almost every environment on Earth, even if most of the required survival skills have been forgotten.
Specifically, we must consider the fact that neither geography nor population is homogeneous. All over the world, there are forgotten pockets of habitable land, much of it abandoned in the modern transition to urbanization, for the ironic reason that city dwellers regarded rural life as too difficult, as they traded their peasant smocks for factory overalls. There are still areas of the planet's surface that are sparsely occupied although they are habitable or could be made so, to the extent that many rural areas have had a decline in population that is absolute, i.e. not merely relative to another place or time. By careful calculation, therefore, there will be survivors. Over the next few years, human ingenuity must be devoted to an understanding of these geographic and demographic matters, so that at least a few can escape the tribulation. Neither the present nor future generations should have to say, "We were never warned."
1. BP Global Statistical Review of World Energy. Annual. www.bp.com/statisticalreview
2. Catton, William R., Jr. Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change. Champaign, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1982.
3. Devereux, Stephen. "Famine in the Twentieth Century." IDS Working Paper 105. www.dse.unifi.it/sviluppo/doc/WP105.pdf
4. Ó Gráda, Cormac. "Making Famine History." Journal of Economic Literature, March 2007. www.ucd.ie/economics/research/papers/2006/WP06.10.pdf
5. Salisbury, Harrison E. The 900 Days: The Siege of Leningrad. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Da Capo Press, 2003.
6. Woodham-Smith, Cecil. The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845-1849. New York and Evanston: Harper & Row, 1962.
7. Donella Meadows, Jorgen Randers, Dennis L. Meadows and William W. Behrens III. The Limits to Growth. New York: Universe Books, 1972.
* * * * *
Peter Goodchild is the author of Survival Skills of the North American Indians, published by Chicago Review Press.
"(There is) a fatal bias of the publishing world toward optimism. It is a bias that is commercially rewarding because it panders to our cultural and neurological need for false hope. The problem is, while optimism may be a good coping strategy on a personal level, it could be a calamitous approach for humanity to take on a collective level. If the crises we face are as challenging as the science indicates, we need first to fully understand how challenging they really are, as opposed to what we are comfortable with acknowledging. In other words, we need realism, not optimism. Before there can be a ‘call to action’, we have to understand the scope and nature of the problem we want to solve." Tim Murray
"To be truly radical is to make hope possible,
rather than despair convincing. "
Raymond Henry Williams
(Slogan for Mike Nickerson's "The Sustainability Project", Lanark, Ontario)
Is there any better summation of the environmental "justice" coalition than this? Need there be any further question about why "progressive" publishers like New Society Publishers and Clarity Press demand manuscripts that end with a happy ending---even if it contradicts the logic of the evidence presented by the author? Their mission is not to seek the truth, but offer hope that through activism "we" can "make a difference". This is the prevailing ethic in Sierra Disney World, the island of flakes, the community where I live.(Slogan, "Make a wish upon a star...."). The attitude here is, "If you can't offer a solution, then shut up". Every problem MUST have a solution. No wonder "Solutions" is such a popular website. To say that there is no solution, no "fix" for industrial civilization is tantamount to treason. I am letting the side down by undermining morale. I am the Tokyo Rose and Lord Haw Haw of Greendom, preaching defeatism. The possibility that the facts agree with me is irrelevant. It is The Cause which is important.
I would make the same point that Steve Kurtz made. "I do not believe that fantasizing is a solution except in one's mind. The hundreds of people I've encountered in 25 years of population-environment are not doing nothing if they debunk false hopes and strategies. They are also doing something if they soldier on with politically correct, but non-effective career paths: they are wasting time and energy and money. If there were no expanding problem, they might be out of a job."
The most disturbing possibility that emerges from the recent spate of doomsday books with absurdly happy endings is that authors may even be customizing their conclusions to fit the requirements of publishers rather than fit the reality of our predicament. A case in point would be Dale Pfeiffer’s article, “Eating Fossil Fuels, which formed the basis of a subsequent book of the same title published by New Society Publishers.
Pfeiffer’s concluding remarks offer a reason why NSP published his book. NSP, like other “progressive” publishers, see their mandate as one that endeavours to offer “inspiration for the daily struggle” and hope that through activism, people can find solutions cooperatively.
Pfeiffer says: “I am by nature positive and optimistic. In spite of this article, I continue to believe that we can find a positive solution to the multiple crises bearing down upon us. Though this article may provoke a flood of hate mail, it is simply a factual report of data and the obvious conclusions that follow from it.” This statement is inherently contradictory. His belief that “we can find a positive solution to the multiple crises bearing down upon us” is not an “obvious conclusion” that would follow from his “factual report of data”. As Pfeiffer concedes, it is a conclusion made “in spite of this article.”
I make this point not to be critical of Pfeiffer---a brilliant mind who has written a great many outstanding essays in addition to the one referred to---but to illustrate what I think is the fatal bias of the publishing world toward optimism. It is a bias that is commercially rewarding because it panders to our cultural and neurological need for false hope. The problem is, while optimism may be a good coping strategy on a personal level, it could be a calamitous approach for humanity to take on a collective level. If the crises we face are as challenging as the science indicates, we need first to fully understand how challenging they really are, as opposed to what we are comfortable with acknowledging. In other words, we need realism, not optimism. Before there can be a ‘call to action’, we have to understand the scope and nature of the problem we want to solve. Or do mass demonstrations and Occupy protests address geological constraints? What set of demands can we present to Mother Nature that would persuade her to yield more low-hanging fruit?
What progressives don't get is that by definition, being 'radical' ---as opposed to being 'militant', 'committed', 'passionate' or 'progressive'----is to be determined to find the "root" cause of our predicament. If it is found there are no solutions to address the root cause, then anyone who shies away from this conclusion is not being 'radical', but being in denial. Attacking the symptoms and manifestations of the root cause because of an unwillingness or inability to address it can only be regarded as displacement behaviour, 'busy work' to assuage anxiety. But that essentially is what "environmentalism" today is all about. Polishing the wooden furniture while the house is burning down. Dashing around trying to put out brush fires while ignoring the major conflagration. "OK, maybe you can't save the world but you feel good about yourself". Anything to banish all the guilt we must feel for being white, privileged and greedy. Sin, guilt and expiation---it was the successful Christian formula for millennia, and so it makes sense that it should work for Christianity's heir apparent, the new secular religion of environmentalism.
Here's a newsflash for true believers and anyone else who works exclusively from their right brain:
Nature doesn't care about our emotional state, and objective reality is not a function of my "mood". Optimism and pessimism are not material to the issue of overshoot. "Morale" has no impact on EROIs. Just as religion has no place in a science class, the Human Potential Movement has no place in ecological analysis. The "you-can-do-anything-if-you-put-your-mind-to-it" philosophy has no relevance to our problem. Nevertheless, it seems that the environmental movement is being guided by the shibboleths of Wayne Dyer ("The Sky is the Limit") rather than the insights of William Catton.
One wonders how Dyer's "lifestyle coaching" could help people deal with the collapse or incineration of industrial civilization. I know, that mushroom cloud could be "perceived" differently. A mass die-off from starvation, disease and conflict doesn't have to be my reality if I can focus inward. Reality can be anything we perceive it to be. Ad nauseam. It is amazing that Self-Help gurus have made so much money for so many years preaching this bullshit. But then, look at Greenpeace and the Sierra Club or Nature Conservancy. There is big money to be had in promising false hope and salvation. The trick is to tell people (and corporate donors) what they would like to hear. Soothing lies.
Perhaps I do have at least one 'solution'. I have a scheme to generate money for a book publishing house that would print the unwelcome truth. I would set up a "progressive" publishing house to rival all others called "Dis-Connect Press" ("Connecting all the dots except the last one"), whereby steady-staters, volunteer family planning-only advocates, "Eco-socialists", Hartmannite feminists, and environmentalists could publish books that end on a note of idiot optimism ( “Yes there is a 14 foot gash on the starboard side, yes the pumps can't keep up with the incoming water, yes the ship will go down in two hours, BUT there is hope if we....”) . Since the market for false hope is insatiable, I would expect that sales would be brisk, and the money would roll in. With that money, "Reality Press" would be up and running......Its slogan? "Reality is socially unacceptable and the truth seldom politically correct".
March17, 2012 ( Happy Potato Famine day!)
Resource scarcity is the root of war and terrorism, and liberty is the first casualty of conflict. But as oppressive as state surveillance and detention can be, nature's noose will be even tighter.
The Window For Protest Is Rapidly Closing
The window of opportunity is shutting down for all of us everywhere. In Canada, the United States, Britain....and as you can see here, Australia as well. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-01-07/brown-slams-spying-on-environmental-activists/3762308 We are being monitored, and as surveillance cameras track us, legislation is being prepared or has been prepared to give governments emergency powers to arrest and detain us without further ado. Consider the stakes----trillions of dollars of oil, natural gas, coal, hydro-electricity, pipelines and transmission lines that need to be marshalled for the insatiable and desperate appetite of our voracious industrial economy. Surely it would be naive to think that the fate of this goliath of capital investment would be put at risk by any democratic indulgence. Corporations and governments have a kit bag of dirty tricks to reach into, and a media that can spin the news to depict us as enemies of the people. Why do we think that we are exempt from the fate that has befallen protesters in other lands without democratic traditions, people who stood in the way of logging in Sumatra or environmental vandalism in Nigeria or the former Soviet Union? One could recall the prescient remark of Louisiana's Huey Long, after he was asked in the 1930s if fascism would ever come to America. "Yes," Long replied, "only they'll call it anti-fascism". American resource analyst Chris Clugston has made a similar prediction:
"Interestingly, those who claim today that any and all forms of "uncivilized behavior" are despicable and unacceptable, will be those who will justify them in the next few years, in the name of "the people". Those who protest now are considered "extremists"; those who protest in the future will be considered "enemies of the people", and will be dealt with according to the provisions of laws such as the Defense Authorization Act. It will be like Nazi Germany on steroids... NNR scarcity is like a vise around the collective skulls of humanity; a vise that tightens at the rate of 1/1000 of a turn per day. While the incremental pressure is almost imperceptible on a daily basis, the handle on the vise will turn 3 full revolutions in 10 years, and 6 full revolutions in 20 years. Somewhere along the line, humanity will crack. Given such phenomena as the incessant global riots, the OWSers, and our persistent global economic malaise, I'd say we're showing signs of stress already."
Idiot America And The Death Of Democracy
Democracy needs an educated, vigilant and assertive citizenry. Do you see that now in Idiot America? How many of the 99% bothered to get off their duffs or make a statement about our current predicament? Statistically, quite few. And the few who did were far from clear in their message. The Department of Education spent over $67 billion on dummed-down "education" in the United States in 2009, and the result? A population most of whom believe in the literal truth of Genesis, and a generation of teenagers whose conversation is much like this:
Think about it. This you tube got 10 million hits, while this you tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTWduFB_RX0 about our critical overpopulation crisis will be lucky to be seen by five percent of that number. And just for good measure, for the ten or fifteen percent of the population who do understand that something is terribly wrong or dysfunctional about the "system", our so-called environmental "watchdogs", flush with corporate donations, and the "progessive-left" media, stand ready with greenwash and politically correct euphemisms to further stupefy us.
The Language Of Insight Has Been Hijacked
As Orwell told us, the purpose of "Newspeak" is to narrow our perceptions by limiting our vocabulary, to render us incapable of thinking "outside the box" by robbing us of the words we need to get there, to channel our thinking along prescribed lines. Language is now more a tool of deception than elucidation. Some of us may know that the system is broken and the industrial machine is rigged for destruction, but having gotten by that first line of defence, we can't go further because we can't identify root causes for want of verbal precision and the critical thinking it permits. The language of radical insight has been coopted and twisted to mean its opposite. What remains are the time-worn shibboleths of the civil rights movement and various identity groups, including the pathetic lexicon of a rejuvenated Marxism that dresses up in green colours to beguile a new generation while preaching a line so obsolete that it would be comic if not so dangerous.
A Generation Stuck In Ideological Ruts
As John M. Owen IV recently wrote in the NY Times ("Why Islamism is Winning" Jan. 6, 2012)), the ideology that harvests current discontent can be compared to a channel dug by one generation of activists and kept open, "sometimes quietly", by their successors in the next generation. "When the storms of revolution arrive, the waters will find those channels." Thus it is the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic extremists who will reap the dividends of the Arab Spring, and I would add, just as the myths of the New Left were launched from the platform of the Old Left, this generation of so-called "Eco-socialists" and "climate justice" or "environmental justice" activists carry on to lay down the channels of thought and discourse which form concrete conduits that steer the digital generation away from any real grasp of biophysical laws or the concept of ecological limits. They don't see overpopulation or the terminal and unrelenting decline of non-renewable resources because they live in a conceptual straitjacket defended by impenetrable jargon and politically incorrect no-go zones. They have a religious conviction that poverty is merely a function of maldistribution and the profit motive and some even have the cheek to call this conviction "scientific" socialism. Theoretically, an equal division of the global economic pie would indeed, for the time being, secure a per capita income equivalent to a decent 'Brazilian' lifestyle. The problem however, is that the pie would continue shrinking as affordably accessible non-renewable resources upon which we all depend remorsely diminish.
We Can Shut Down A Pipeline But We Can't Shut Down Peak Non-Renewables
The point is, we are hemmed in on both sides. On one side by those who would physically quarantine us as security threats, and on the other side by those who would quarantine our ideas because they contest their version of radical change, the managed dissent of fake rebellion. Lenin said that the best way to beat the opposition is to lead it. It looks like corporations have it all covered. They fund Green Inc. and then let their useful idiots on the green-left lead a charge down a blind alley. The truth is, direct action can theoretically shut down a pipeline or an energy project, but it cannot solve non-renewable resource shortages. We can protest against envrionmental devastation, but nature is deaf to any protests against peak oil, metals and minerals. There are too many of us, we consume too much, and more than that, our existence depends on consuming stuff that cannot be replenished. The language of social justice and equality apparently does not have a word for that kind of scarcity. Like the inmates of a remote Siberian gulag amidst an endless frozen wasteland, we don't really need Patriot Acts, surveilance and prison guards to control us---- nature is our ultimate jailor. Amoral, indifferent and unmoved by our pleadings for justice and fair play.
January 9, 2012
January 07, 2012
Greens leader Bob Brown has accused Federal Resources Minister Martin
Ferguson of turning Australia into a police state, after reports he
pushed for increased surveillance of environmental activists.
A report in Fairfax newspapers details documents, obtained under Freedom
of Information laws, that show Mr Ferguson requested additional
monitoring of anti-coal mining groups and other environmental groups.
Senator Brown claims coal and fossil fuel companies pressured Mr
Ferguson into having the federal police spy on environment groups who
protest against energy companies.
Senator Brown says tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers' money is
being spent having private contractors monitor activists.
"That paying of private corporations to spy on community groups is an
abuse of taxpayers' money," he said.
"Martin Ferguson should never have been allowed to promote that and it
should be stopped.
"The Attorney-General, if not the Prime Minister, should see that it
A spokeswoman for Mr Ferguson says governments are concerned with
maintaining energy security.
She says this includes maintaining the rule of law and energy supply,
where issues-motivated groups seek to engage in unlawful activity.
Are humans individuals with personalities or are we simply portions of a greater whole, with little claim to individuality? Some thoughts on cellular arrangement and the end-game thermodynamics of progress ideology. The tension between a glimpsed view of living wholeness and the steady extrusion of deadness that is crushing around and upon us. I wonder how many other people see this?
Life support systems
The appearance of being discrete individuals fully captures most people's perception and belief. In reality however, our form is a fleetingly arranged and fluid part within a basically cellular, holistic global life-form. The shape and content of this overall form shifts and changes over time as and when factors vary within it and around it. Matter and energy flow through and around it like tides and rivers. Life continues as it must in accord with the prevailing conditions. We come and go within this cadence, and are always entirely and imminently recyclable within its constantly alloying form, as individuals, as clans, as a species. Doubtlessly though we do have the very considerable power to engineer the early disposal of ourselves and much of the living infrastructure around us. We could perhaps trigger the reductive disappearance of entire biological classes and perhaps even phylum. What extent of planetary upheaval would be required to take life back to a bacterial drawing board? Would a combination of extreme climate change and thermo-nuclear resource wars tip such regressive imbalance?
Dualism and civilisation
Our sense of separation from the dynamically creative whole is due in very large part to our mono-theistic training, inculcated widely and intensely over relatively recent times, to assist our tolerance of and compliant function within the development of large, hierarchically deep socio-economic systems. This social format is most commonly referred to as 'civilisation', a somewhat benign euphemism considering its essential function of metastasis upon surrounding societies, their resource bases, and within life itself as a whole unit.
Characteristically this form identifies with an existential purpose of 'progress' along a notional linear direction. This view is very militantly at philosophical odds with the comparatively 'aimless' existence of 'uncivilised' society and its accord with, and deference to, repetitive natural cycles. This linear path heads to a destination that is not clearly defined, and is certainly not objectively measured, anywhere within the 'civilised' project. The destination is given various names such as heaven or utopia. It is also embodied in various allegorical forms such 'the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow', which is almost self-deprecating in its inherent impossibility. Materially the pathway equates to a relentless and ever expanding extraction and depletion of natural planetary resources. Properly recognising this core function within the linear pathway of progress, the destination's objective definition can really only be eventual expiration of 'progress' and collapse of the socio-economic project, amidst crushing resource depletion.
Fossil-fuel-powered religion and secular delusion
Modern times, and the intoxicating experiences afforded by abundant fossil energy, have seen the traditional theistic mechanism translated into some variously powerful secular forms. Humanism and capitalism are two of these. Capitalism and its omni-present, omniscient, omnipotent Market-god now reign supreme within the modern global zeitgeist. In its superiority it is quite ecumenical toward the lesser theistic forms. Intense delusions of personal freedom are a central seduction toward common self-imprisonment within and supplication to the Market order. Capitalists can readily include humanism or any of the traditional religions to add flavor to their state of imagined separation from all other living things. The sense of separation is the vital function that is uniformly maintained. It is what enables us to perceive the accrual of individual benefits from the progressive destruction of our own living form.
The Expanding Dead Zone
Accordant with all of this, I am struck in particular by the way we surround ourselves with dead things. We turn life into death and then form the detritus into myriad shapes and mechanisms that we use to facilitate and adorn our lives within our delusion of separation. This constructed dead zone then further obstructs our view of life, it better reflects our illusion about ourselves, and thus it better enables us to wreak even further and more rapid decimation upon our global life-form in a deranged perception and pursuit of our expanding 'needs'.
We animate our dead things with a rich fossil energy stream, distilled from many trillions of days of ancient sunshine and now drawn down to nearly half its extent in just over one hundred years. This animated array performs a zombie caricature of real life and real life systems. It instills us with a loin-stirring sense of an invincible power to prevail over any challenge or circumstance. But these machines and constructions are just dead things. They're doomed to stillness and utterly fatal deficit once their immense hunger for the expensively manufactured energy stream overwhelms its limited supply reserves. Our marvelous dead things then become our graves and our tombstones.
I acknowledge that I'm surrounded with dead things of my own choice and accumulation. I'm complicit in the fabrication that deludes others and which anchors my own delusion. Accumulated doubts and insights have rent many small tears in my inherited cultural fabric. I can peer through this perforated curtain and grasp part glimpses of the total living form that pulses beyond its stifled confines. I can sense the wholeness of this vast organism and can begin to wonder at its profound function. I can feel deep joy and strength flow from this immense beauty however I simultaneously feel viscerally injured by the senselessly violent and rapacious destruction being wrought upon it.
My perception flickers between this glimpsed view of living wholeness and the steady extrusion of deadness that is crushing around and upon me. The shifting, variously composite view between the two states poses a variously decorated, essentially lonely and potentially crazed schizophrenia. I wonder how many other people see this?
Are the campaign priorities of environmental organizations driven by the dictates of science or the dictates of finance? Is environmentalism a movement---or a business? Whose sustainability are the green NGOs in business to foster----the environment's, or theirs?
"Very few of us are bothered about creepy-crawlies, which is doubtless why there has been so little awareness of the staggering decline in insect numbers which has emerged, in recent years, as a disturbing environmental phenomenon, indeed, as one of the defining ecological features of our age and an alarming pointer to the future. But they don't only creep and crawl; these are "the little things that run the world", playing key roles in myriad ecosystems, and their disappearance has profound dangers..." Michael McCarthy of the Independent
The question is, why aren't the mainstream environmental organizations directing attention to this issue? Answer---IT IS NOT A FUNDING TOOL.
Imagine a Sierra Club campaign to save the creepy-crawlies. I can see the poster now---a leatherjacket fighting for its life as it writhes in pain after a thoughtless Tea-bagger sprayed his lawn with weed killer. Mounting a campaign to save the majestic "Rocky Mountain Cariboo" , or better yet, the magnificiently beautiful "Great Spirit Bear", on the other hand, is a proven winner---money just rolls in and the bureaucracy lives to fight another day. Insects don't fly----at least as a hook in pulling public heart-strings and purse-strings.
The same principle applies to the issue of population growth, and especially to immigration as its key driver. Why touch it when so many politically correct green yuppies might get antsy and walk away, or a corporate donor like the Royal Bank of Canada or TD bank might just stop giving? Better to focus on climate change and pictures of drowning polar bears, and pretend that good planning ("smart growth") will nullify any negative ecological impacts of population growth. But if green NGOs truly believe that climate change is a consequence of human activity, how can they be cavalier about the growing number of humans in that part of the globe where per capita greenhouse gas emissions are the highest (--or second highest, if Australians want to claim that title)? The imperatives of finance clearly dictates the priorities of environmental campaigns, not science.
Green Inc. must be seen for what it is. A business. A testament to Robert Michels "Iron Law of Oligarchy": any revolutionary organization or institution that dedicates itself to fundamental change and in the process grows a bureaucracy to achieve it, will come to pursue policies which serve the bureaucracy even if they run counter to the original aims of the movemnent.
January 29/ 2011
The population of Australia is now over 22.5 million and increasing rapidly, currently at a rate of 1.7% increase per year. Despite the deceptively small number, it still means a doubling of population every 41 years, and the subsequent increases of food, water, infrastructure, environmental degradation and housing. Opinions differ, but economic and politics demand ongoing and maximum population growth for their own agendas.
What the experts say – Tim Flannery
Professor Tim Flannery, Australian of the Year 2007, calculated a long-term carrying capacity of between 8 million and 12 million. We had that population in 1950 and 1968 respectively, not so long ago. The population is now over 22.5 million and increasing rapidly, currently at a rate of 1.7% increase per year.
Despite the deceptively small number, it still means a doubling of population every 41 years, and the subsequent increases of food, water, infrastructure, environmental degradation and housing.
Human, social and economic systems must remain within the carrying capacity of Planet Earth. Carrying capacity is defined here as the maximum number of human population that can be supported by a particular ecosystem or eco-region or physical landscape on a continued basis without irreversibly degrading the health and ecological processes.
His report, Tim Flannery - Biological considerations in determining an optimum human population for Australia
Our diversity of species in Australia is extremely high, with slow growing and reproducing plants and a very small number of warm-blooded carnivores, with a correspondingly minutely adjusted ecosystem incorporating highly specialised characteristics and co-operative behaviours. We do not have the mountainous and fertile soils with predictable seasonal patterns of Europe.
On the contrary, Southeast Asia has very productive soils, plentiful rainfall and plenty of sunshine, with a large ability to provide food for cheap. Australia has the oldest soils on the planet - very depleted, dependent on fertilisers, plentiful sun shine, but rainfall is the limiting factor.
The world ability to supply food for a growing population depends on the population carrying capacity. The population carrying capacity depends on the soil quality and the level of technology applied.
Australia's unique landscape and environment
With Australia's population projected (boosted) to reach 35 million by 2049, critics continue to express concern about the pressure this growth will place on resources.
Humans are large warm-blooded omnivores. They have high energy demands. This makes them potentially vulnerable in Australian environments. Human populations in Australia have always been small and dispersed, being an order of magnitude or more smaller than the average density found on other continents (Birdsell 1953).
Virtually all hunter-gatherer societies seem to possess a 'golden rule' of population. This is, that in "normal" times, the human population of a given area rarely exceeds 20-30% of the carrying capacity of the land. (Sahlins 1968).
Surely, Flannery states, It would appear to make good sense to observe the 'golden rule' of population in determining Australia's 'carrying capacity'.
1994 Australian Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee
In late 1994 The Australian Parliament House of Representatives Standing Committee on Long Term Strategies delivered a report entitled Australia's Population 'Carrying Capacity'. One Nation—Two Ecologies. This report argued that Australia should adopt a population policy.
Obviously, it's worrying that the population trajectory has most likely already exceed the long-term carrying capacity.
Australian Academy of Sciences Symposium:
In 1994, Australian Academy of Sciences held the Symposium, "Population 2040: Australia's choice". The joint statement said:
the quality of all aspects of our children's lives will be maximised if the population of Australia by the mid-21st Century is kept to the low, stable end of the achievable range, i.e. to approximately 23 million.
Australia's land mass, though large, is less rich than other continents in many biologically important elements. As a consequence, its ecosystems are relatively fragile, and human impact on the environment is particularly severe. This impact has been documented even for the relatively sparse, low-consumption Aboriginal societies. The impact of modern Australian society is much more severe.
Stable Population Party of Australia
The Stable Population Party of Australia is advocating a stable population at 23 million in line with the Australian Academy of Science findings. To obtain this option we would need to have zero net migration and phase out the baby bonus.
MP Kelvin Thomson
Kelvin Thomson's 14 Point Plan for Population Reform aims to set out the reasons why I believe the world’s projected population levels are too high and unsustainable – global warming, food crisis, water shortages, housing affordability, overcrowded cities, transport congestion, fisheries collapse, species extinctions, increasing prices, waste, war and terrorism.
We are already in “ecological overshoot”. Land size does not equate to carrying capacity. Our lifestyles, for the most, are spiraling downhill due to the stress of population growth and the associated costs and loss of social capital. Once ecosystems melt down, they are gone. It doesn't depend on what we want, but how many people our land can realistically and desirably support. Big is not necessarily better.
Treasury 2010 Intergenerational Report
According to the Treasury 2010 Intergenerational Report, the best way to respond to the economic and fiscal pressures of an ageing population is to support strong, sustainable economic growth. Economic growth will be supported by sound policies that support productivity, participation and population — the '3Ps'.
They assume that if Australia's productivity growth could be increased above the long-run average, the economy would be bigger, living standards would be higher and fiscal pressure from the ageing of the population would be reduced. If, for example, annual productivity growth was to average 2 per cent over the next 40 years, then:
- annual real GDP growth would average over 3 per cent over the next 40 years and the economy would be $570 billion bigger in 2049?50; and
- real GDP per capita in 2049?50 would be 15 per cent (or around $16,000) higher.
It assumes that the main purpose of the economy is to GROW, even to our own detriment. Costs of economic growth include increased pressure on social relationships and environmental degradation, whilst non-welfare issues include distribution, poverty and intergenerational equity. Also, GDP per capita is a better measure of the economic well-being of a country than total GDP, as it takes into account population size – very populous countries may have very large overall GDP, but when divided by population size the resultant GDP per capita figure will give a much clearer indication of the country’s comparable wealth.
The same baseless argument of "keep the economy growing" is being proved as a sham. As for a worry of populations going down, why is this a bad thing? While GDP overall may decrease, GDP per person (or GDP per capita) will certainly increase. Higher populations don't create wealth, it just redistributes. Production is the engine room of economic growth!
So as populations go down, the average citizen is better off. Only people reliant on growing markets ie, CEO's, politicians, producers of consumer goods etc would be worse off.
Japan is presented as a "loser" in the population stakes, where India is "the big winner". Makes you wonder about the value of winning that particular economic growth race!
Tony Burke Minister for Population
The nation's first Population Minister, Tony Burke, ruled out setting population targets in the strategy that he will draw up over the next 12 months. He ruled out a model that could take into account lour “chronic” labour shortages, with any precision. With a growing population happening "no matter what", the federal government would not focus on an arbitrary population target. His recent “report” is a sham. Our population growth is not arbitrary or inevitable, but manipulated by political decision. What about shortages in water, energy, food, land and funds for education and training?
Tony Burke needs to take a holistic viewpoint, and not just base his assumptions on limitless growth.
We are not the only country in the world that has raised the population question. Global population is an increasing threat, and once natural resources and amenities outstrip supply, we could be facing famine, lack of potable water, pollution of oceans and waterways, and environmental degradation - leading to further decline of species, and extinctions. Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are other Asian countries that are facing food security problem due to limited arable land to support the ever increasing population.
Evolutionary Trait to expand
An evolutionary trait of species is to consume and increase numbers and overtake the territories and resources of other species is very well developed in humans. Once populations tip over a level that supports an economy of scale, the downside could be disastrous. As species capable of a moral and spiritual dimensions, can we justify the mass extinctions of other species on the planet, for our own expansion? Each species lost means a decline in the health and robustness of our ecologies.
As Dr. Paul Ehrlich said, All causes are lost causes without limiting human population.
Birdsell, J.B. (1953). Some environmental and cultural factors influencing the structure of Australian Aboriginal populations. American Naturalist 87:171-207.
Sahlins, M. (1968). Notes on the original affluent society. Pp 85-89 In Man the Hunter. R.B. Lee & I DeVore (eds). Aldine Publishing Company, Chicago.
Mayor Robert Doyle has recommended that powerful owls be encouraged back to Melbourne's parks in order to reduce the possum population. He may be desperate for publicity, but he is giving a poor example. It sounds mean to possums, which he misrepresents as 'vermin' and might encourage still more cruelty to them by ignorant people. An anonymous contributor writes, "Mayor Robert Doyle is focusing on the wrong pest. ..." (This article first appeared as a comment by Nimby, "Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle's war on possums," to candobetter.org.)
Article by "Nimby."
Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle's war on possums
Melbourne's Lord Mayor Robert Doyle is threatening to unleash a brigade of predators - powerful owls - to fix our problem possums. Cr Doyle yesterday declared war on the "exploding" population of "vermin".
He says, "I know they are protected, but I come out of my house in South Melbourne and I'm virtually waist deep in possum poo."
Next year, nesting boxes designed to attract powerful owls will be placed in Royal Park in Parkville, and the Fitzroy and Flagstaff gardens in the city.
The Powerful Owl is symbolic as being one of the supreme nocturnal predators in the forests of south-eastern Australia, They are forest dwellers which rely on areas of old growth forests that contain mature, live hollow bearing eucalypt trees that can be hundreds of years old. The main component of the Powerful Owl diet across its range is Ringtail Possum, this may be supplemented by other arboreal possums and gliders depending on the geographic location and prey present, eg Greater Glider, Brushtail Possum, Sugar Glider, Yellow-bellied Glider.
Ironically, the powerful owl is Vulnerable in Victoria. They are adversely affected by the clearfelling of forests and the consequent conversion of those forests into open landscapes, but the species may persist in forests that have been lightly or selectively logged. Thanks to VicForests! Here we have contradictory policies from State and Local government.
More trees needed for native animals
Rheya Linden from Animal Active branded the Mayor "ignorant". The human population explosion has meant that native trees are being chopped, and the number of exotics have increased. What we need is an ecological balance, with MORE native trees!
Too many humans too ignorant to recognise our natural wealth
Mayor Robert Doyle is focusing on the wrong pest. Why not clean up all the alcohol venues and the drugs and violence in Melbourne's streets, and make it safe like it used to be? The violence and crime is not coming from possums, but feral humans! We can't fight against Nature and pretend we are a European city. Australia is a country called "mega-diverse", which means we are rich in flora and fauna. This is part of our natural wealth, and it needs to be embraced, not trashed.
Remember the lesson of the great Newfoundland cod fisheries. Rudyard Kipling’s Captains Courageous gives a description of fish so plentiful that the waters seethed with them. In 1977 Canada tried to stop the reduction of the cod stocks by declaring 320 kilometers off Newfoundland off limits to foreign factory ships. The local industry flourished, bringing prosperity to Newfoundland. In the 1980s marine biologists warned that the future was threatened by the heavy fishing and recommended an annual target of 125,000 tonnes of cod. But the community outcry about the economic and social damage made the government set the target at 235,000 tonnes. Stocks fell below a sustainable level and in June 1992 one of the richest natural resources was closed down. 30,000 jobs were lost and Newfoundland fell into rapid economic decline.
Millions of people depend on Murray River health
The lesson for the health of the Murray River is clear. (See Peter Goodwin’s letter in the AGE, October 2010)
Millions of us depend upon this river. We cannot repeat the mistake of Newfoundland when scientists warn us of consequences of letting it die.
We are doing some silly things.
Is water wasted that is not directly used now by the people? Is it wasted if it keeps the river alive for our future use, if it floods the plains where the red gums grow, or keeps alive the swamps, which the migrating birds, and other wildlife depend upon? This is a question, which must be answered by us all now, for the sake of the future.
Four States of Australia squabble over what water there is – Queensland, where much of the water originates, New South Wales and Victoria which have the problem of whether to keep the trees of the flood plains alive, and South Australia, where the river used to flow into the sea, and is now struggling to keep the lakes and estuary alive, as well as the capital of Adelaide.
Water waste by irrigators and country towns is now greatly reduced by more enlightened practices, but some areas are more progressive than others. It is still not worked out which crops are best suited to different areas, especially with water-hungry cotton and rice. Other crops such as dried fruit would prosper more if they could compete with Middle Eastern imports, which have low labor costs but a high real cost in freight, which adds to carbon emissions and fuel loss.
There are some crops necessary for feeding our population, which it would be wiser to grow to some extent at least, in our fertile Murray River Basin, than rely entirely on imports. Water is a scarce commodity the most of the world, and we use the water overseas for our imported food too.
Private ownership of water is disastrous for this country
A great waste of the Murray River is the private ownership of water. This means that government must pay private interests for water to use in the public interest. Originally far-seeing legislators in Victoria decreed that all water belonged to the state, which gave irrigators and others the rights to use it. Unfortunately this right has become a right to own it. Not only irrigators but financial interests have now got a source of income that costs the Murray River and the State dearly. A title system for the use of water similar to land ownership would be disastrous for this dry country.
Farmers and States trading rights to use water on an annual basis is one thing. To have titles to private ownership of water is reckless.
Water ownership would inevitably accumulate into the hands of a few. There would be no legal way to prevent foreign ownership. Greedy people have their eyes on water ownership globally, as with growing population pressures it becomes the most valuable commodity on earth. The pressure on governments from these private interests may be great, and must be resisted.
Governments selling our life-blood away are treasonous
There is such a thing as treason, and selling away our life-blood is one of them. Although distribution can be allowed through private companies, and private interests assist in infrastructure, the living water itself must remain inalienably in public ownership, and subject to public control. Free trade agreements must never have a legal chance to include water.
North South Pipeline is a really stupid waste
The stupidest waste of the Murray River is the North-South Pipeline of Victoria, built by the Victorian government to keep the Melbourne electorates happy, takes water down south for Melbourne, which otherwise would flow down the Goulburn River to the Murray River and associated irrigators.
Australian Aboriginals did it much better than we do
The aboriginal inhabitants for 40,000 years lived sustainably on the banks of the river, and harvested its wildlife without extinction, keeping their population within the bounds of existing technology, droughts and floods.
'It may be tempting to believe our 4WD has bumped over a wombat.' (from an article in a magazine)
Roadkill is driving some species towards extinction. Too few safe corridors for animals to find more food. Too many cars and trucks on many more roads through their habitats.
How about a campaign to stop carelessness about road-kill? This could encompass:
1. More careful night-driving. through countrysides and slower diving through bushland could prevent so many deaths and so many orphaned creatures that other people may then try to save, or don't.
2. Invention. Can a form of warning that is effective in warning for animals up to four minutes ahead of the coming killing-machine be invented for use by cars and trucks in places and at times that creatures are liable to be hit. Headlights can simply paralyse them in the middle of the road.
3. Safe crossing tunnels and overheads which are used in some countries. These should be build in places where many small animals get run over.
4. A British man eats road-kill as his way of preventing waste.
5. Raise awareness. It would be interesting to know how many drivers know they have driven over animals. The Royal Australian Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) could ask its members. Let's have some idea of the grim tally.
What are people feeling is their own greatest collective guilt? There's a lot of it around. Trillions are spent on weapons of horrible destruction – even by the 'goodies?
Universal Guilt Day – making a real Day of Atonement - followed by ? Could we have a Peace and Saving Museum?
1. "Tassie's roadkill carnage" by Michelle Paine in teh Hobart Mercury of 21 Nov 08.
NEARLY 300,000 animals are killed on Tasmanian roads every year. Among them, 4000 Tasmanian devils -- about 5 per cent of a population already being dying from an infectious cancer.
"Pretty much everything that lives in Tasmania, we've seen dead on the road," said scientist Alistair Hobday, who has compiled the figures in one of the most extensive roadkill studies in the world.
"Of that, 70 per cent are hit in roadkill blackspots, which only exist on small sections of the road."
2. roadkill.wilddiscovery.com.au/ "Wild Discovery Guides - Australian Wildlife RoadKill, A Wild Discovery Guide" with Len Zell.
Wild Discovery PO Box 1696 Townsville Qld 4810 ISBN 0-9757184-3-6 RRP: A$19.95. The description is:
Roadkill was shortlisted for the 2007 Whitley Award for significant contribution to Australian zoology. This is the essential 'in-car' book for any road traveller in Australia. With about one million kilometres of road, anyone travelling them is, sadly, very likely to see or cause roadkill - certainly of the millions of small bugs that will be hit.This book provides an overview of the types of roadkill, hints on what to do with them, how to clean bugs off the car and an eclectic mix of other information - from road safety to recipes. In addition the book gives an unusual insight into the many aspects of Australia's very special fauna, albeit in a somewhat macabre way.More than 200 photographs of roadkill all some identification and an excellent guide on how to avoid and observe roadkill and who to send interesting specimens to.
3. Macabre ‘humour' at www.wwwildcats.com/abz.htm
Due to the creative genius of one Charlie Conroy whom we proudly claim as one of our own, we are excited to announce a world first, the ABZ of ROADKILL. This is a photographic competition open to all bikers worldwide, it is designed to utilise something that would otherwise just lie around going to waste, and is currently regarded just as something to stay upwind of and to avoid hitting when it is lying in the middle of the road. This comp is aimed as a small way of making their sacrifice worthwhile and at the same time offending the general population. Both worthy aspirations of any genuine bikers!
4. Ten minutes on Google can find you a whole lot of insensitive things done and thought about roadkill.