Staying in the environmental frying pan only gets us hotter

Green capitalism is destined to fail: You can’t keep doing the same thing and expect different results. We can’t shop our way out of global warming nor are there technological magic wands that will save us. There is no alternative to a dramatic change in the organization of the global economy and consumption patterns.

Such a change will not come without costs — but the costs of doing nothing, of allowing global warming to precede is far greater. Therefore it is healthy to approach with a dose of skepticism the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that concludes the annual reduction in “consumption growth” on a global basis would be only 0.06 percent during the course of the 21st century. Almost nothing!

Wahiba Sands, Oman (Photo by Andries Oudshoorn)

Wahiba Sands, Oman (Photo by Andries Oudshoorn)

The “Summary for Policymakers” supplement of the IPCC’s Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change report, a dense 33-page document, estimates that the annualized reduction in consumption growth would be 0.04 to 0.16 percent, with the median value of various models at 0.06 percent. This estimate is based on projected global annual growth of 1.6 to 3.0 percent per year during the full course of the 21st century. [page 15]

This estimated cost is what the IPCC believes is what would be required to hold the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide equivalent to 450 parts per million, the level at which the IPCC believes total global warming would be 2 degrees Celsius by the year 2100, which in turn is seen as the maximum temperature rise to avoid catastrophic damage to Earth.

Let’s unpack those last two paragraphs. In sum, what the IPCC panel is asserting is that the cost of bringing global warming under control will be negligible, no more than a blip noticed only by statisticians. And, best of all, there need be no fundamental change to the world’s economic structures — we can remain on the path of endless growth. We can have our cake and not only eat it but make more cakes and eat them, too.

Alas, there are no free lunches nor limitless cakes.

On the current path, you’ll need scuba gear to get around

Hundreds of climate scientists from around the world (collectively, the “IPCC Working Group III”) contributed to the report, but it does appear to have been watered down to some extent for political reasons. Indeed, the Mitigation 2014 web site’s front page says the Summary for Policymakers “has been approved line by line by member governments.” Since most of the world’s governments are reluctant to do very little more than talk about global warming, a note of caution is surely warranted.

Nonetheless, the summary does acknowledge that greenhouse-gas emissions accelerated during the 2000-2010 decade as compared to the 1970-2000 period. It declares, with “high confidence,” that half of all anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions since 1750 (the dawn of the Industrial Revolution) have been discharged in the past 40 years. Worse, population and economic growth has outstripped gains in efficiency, thus greenhouse-gas emissions have increased despite increased efficiency in, and conservation of, energy usage. Continuing on this trajectory will have potentially catastrophic consequences, the summary says:

“Without additional efforts to reduce [greenhouse-gas] emissions beyond those in place today, emissions growth is expected to persist driven by growth in global population and economic activities. Baseline scenarios, those without additional mitigation, result in global mean surface temperature increases in 2100 from 3.7 °C to 4.8 °C compared to pre-industrial levels (median values; the range is 2.5 °C to 7.8 °C when including climate uncertainty) (high confidence).” [page 9]

Many of the world’s cities would be underwater, or well on their way to being underwater, should such heating occur. The temperature range of the preceding paragraph represents atmospheric concentrations of 750 to 1,300 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent. To instead hold that concentration to 450 parts per million will require a monumental undertaking — the concentration is already 400 ppm. The IPCC thus concludes that the level of greenhouse-gas gases will actually rise above the 450 mark, then brought down to that level under its scenario for capping the concentration at 450 ppm in 2100.

To achieve a goal of 450 ppm in 2100 would require that greenhouse-gas emissions be “40 to 70 percent lower globally” in 2050 than in 2010 and “near zero” in 2100. How to achieve this? The report makes these recommendations:

  • Further rapid improvements of energy efficiency.
  • Reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation.
  • Increase the use of renewable energy technologies, which would require subsidies.
  • Increased use of nuclear energy.
  • The development of carbon dioxide capture and storage technology, in particular “bioenergy with carbon dioxide capture and storage” (BECCS) by the year 2050.

The last of these, in particular BECCS, is the key to the IPCC’s belief that techno-fixes are the way to save the day. But there is ample reason to throw cold water on this optimism.

Bioenergy likely to increase global warming

BECCS is defined as the capture and sequestration of the carbon produced by bioenergy processes. The carbon dioxide would be “captured” before it escapes into the atmosphere and “permanently” stored underground or underwater, thereby removing it from the air and negating its greenhouse effects. One problem with BECCS is that the technology is not yet viable. Another is that the very idea that BECCS would lead to reduced atmospheric carbon dioxide is a false premise.

A Biofuelwatch study prepared by Rachel Smolker and Almuth Ernsting reports that there are significant costs associated with carbon-capture technologies. They write:

“High costs are associated with capturing … compressing and transporting [carbon] (including building new CO2 pipelines) and pumping it underground, and major technical challenges are associated with the majority of [carbon dioxide capture and storage] proposals. Storing CO2 below ground requires access to underground spaces, beneath both ocean and land areas. Current mapping of geological formations, with the expectation that these spaces will be accessed, is setting the stage for a new form of ‘underground’ land grab. Resistance has already begun with communities opposing the injection of CO2 into the ground beneath them.” [page 2]

The Biofuelwatch study reports that the IPCC, among others, counts flooding oil reservoirs with carbon dioxide, to extract otherwise inaccessible oil out of the ground, as BECCS. Hardly “carbon neutral”! The authors write:

“Crucially, the promotion of [carbon dioxide capture and storage], including BECCS for climate change mitigation and geo-engineering, coincides with the oil industry’s fast-growing demand for cheap continuous supplies of CO2. … [F]looding oil reservoirs with CO2 allows for the recovery of a far higher proportion of oil than would be possible with conventional means.” [page 2]

In a separate report, Ms. Smolker, writing in Truthout, challenges the science behind assumptions that BECCS projects will reduce greenhouse-gas emissions:

“Virtually nobody still contends that corn ethanol is ‘carbon neutral.’ Yet the premier BECCS project that is often referred to is an ADM corn ethanol refinery in Decatur, Illinois. In fact, when emissions from indirect impacts are included in analyses, along with a complete assessment of the impacts from growing, harvesting, fertilizer and chemical use etc., most bioenergy processes actually cause more emissions even than the fossil fuels they are meant to replace. … [W]e know already from the current scale of biofuel and biomass demand — just look at the current corn ethanol debacle — that it is driving loss of biodiversity, higher food prices, land grabs and other damages. Scaling up bioenergy to the extent that would be required to supposedly reduce global CO2 levels would be a disastrous backfire.”

A Partnership for Policy Integrity study found that biomass electricity generation, which relies primarily on the burning of wood, is “more polluting and worse for the climate than coal, according to a new analysis of 88 pollution permits for biomass power plants in 25 states.” The partnership’s director, Mary Booth, wrote:

“The biomass power industry portrays their facilities as ‘clean.’ But we found that even the newest biomass plants are allowed to pollute more than modern coal- and gas-fired plants, and that pollution from bioenergy is increasingly unregulated.”

The problem here is far deeper than wishful thinking. Optimistic scenarios such as the IPCC report rest on assumptions that the world can reduce its greenhouse-gas emissions, cut pollution and enjoy another century of consumer-fueled economic growth while business as usual goes on. But that is not possible.

Short-term scramble for survival trumps the long term

The capitalist system requires continual growth, which means expansion of production. Its internal logic also means that its incentives are to use more energy and inputs when more efficiency is achieved — the paradox that more energy is consumed instead of less when the cost drops. Because production is for private profit, growth is necessary to maintain profitability — and continually increasing profitability is the actual goal. If a corporation doesn’t expand, its competitor will and put it out of business.

Because of the built-in pressure to maintain profits in the face of relentless competition, corporations continually must reduce costs, employee wages not excepted. Production is moved to low-wage countries with fewer regulations, enabling not only more pollution but driving up energy and carbon-dioxide costs with the need for transportation across greater distances. Economic growth of 2.5 percent is necessary simply to maintain the unemployment rate where it is and “substantially stronger growth than that” is necessary for a rapid decrease, according to a former White House Council of Economic Advisers chair, Christina Romer.

Under capitalism, all the incentives are to continue business as usual, no matter the dire future that business as usual is leading humanity. Richard Smith, in a tour de force paper published in the Real-World Economics Review, “Green capitalism: the god that failed,” summed up the dilemma:

“[T]he problem is not just special interests, lobbyists and corruption. … [Under] capitalism, it is, perversely, in the general interest, in everyone’s immediate interests to do all we can to maximize growth right now, therefore, unavoidably, to maximize fossil fuel consumption right now — because practically every job in the country is, in one way or another, dependent upon fossil fuel consumption. … There is no way to cut CO2 emissions by anything like 80 percent without imposing drastic cuts across the board in industrial production. But since we live under capitalism, not socialism, no one is promising new jobs to all those … whose jobs would be at risk if fossil fuel use were really seriously curtailed. … Given capitalism, they have little choice but to focus on the short-term, to prioritize saving their jobs in the here and now to feed their kids today — and worry about tomorrow, tomorrow.” [page 121, March 2011]

“Green” enterprises will not be granted an exemption. They, too, will be pushed by market forces the same as any other enterprise. Dr. Smith writes:

“Biofuels, windpower and organic crops — all might be environmentally rational here or there, but not necessarily in every case or forever. But once investments are sunk, green industries have no choice but to seek to maximize profits and grow forever regardless of social need and scientific rationality, just like any other for-profit business.” [page 142]

All the more is that so for the capitalist system as a whole. Fred Magdoff and John Bellamy Foster, in their book What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism, write:

“ ‘Green capitalism,’ even if products are produced using the utmost environmental care and designed for easy reuse, offers no way out of a system that must expand exponentially and thus continue to ratchet up its use of natural resources, its chemical pollution, its contaminated sewage sludge, its garbage, and its many other toxic substances. Some of these ‘fixes’ will probably slow down the rate of environmental destruction, but the magnitude of the needed changes dwarfs these approaches.” [page 120]

A duty to shareholders, not humanity

The structural necessity of continual expansion is expressed in the mandate of corporations with stock traded on exchanges to maximize profits on behalf of their shareholders above all other considerations. There are well-meaning people who wag their fingers at “excesses” of corporate plunder and claim that the focus on shareholders is not necessary, but in reply one need only observe how swiftly financiers punish companies that fail to meet expectations and the frequency with which “enhancing shareholder value” is listed by corporations as their reason for existence.

None other than the high priest of orthodox economics, Milton Friedman, put it plainly in an interview with Joel Bakan recounted in the latter’s book, The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. John Browne, then the chief executive officer of BP, launched a public-relations offensive claiming that environmental stewardship would now be a primary goal for BP. Setting aside the nonsense of this, given BP’s dreadful record even by the standards of oil majors, Mr. Friedman had this to say, according to the author:

“Not surprisingly, Milton Friedman said ‘no’ when I asked him how far John Browne could go with his green convictions. … ‘He can do it with his own money. If he pursues those environmental interests in such a way as to run the corporation less effectively for its stockholders, then I think he’s being immoral. He’s an employee of the stockholders, however elevated his position may appear to be. As such, he has a very strong moral responsibility to them.’ ”

Putting the environment first in a capitalist economy is not realistic, and doing so anyway would be very costly due to capitalist dynamics. The IPCC is taking a head-in-the-sand approach with its claim that reversing global warming will be nearly cost-free. The more honest approach would be to acknowledge the high cost of saving the planet — and that the cost of not doing so, of continuing business as usual, will be far greater.

The European Commission estimates the cost of global warming in Europe could reach four percent of gross domestic product and estimates that almost 350,000 people per year will be displaced by flooding by mid-century. The National Resources Defense Council estimated that the U.S. government spent about $100 billion cleaning up natural disasters in 2012 — one-sixth of the federal budget’s non-defense discretionary spending and three times what private insurers paid out. Fifty billion tons of carbon dioxide equivalent is being thrown into the atmosphere yearly, and a U.S. government working group estimates each ton will cause $37 in future harms in today’s dollars.

And what would the cost be of abandoning many of the world’s cities if the ice caps melt? Of the world’s bread baskets turning into deserts? Of dead oceans? Such costs are not calculated by the IPCC.

The IPCC’s flawed approach does not derive from whatever political pressures have been exerted on it. The fundamental issue is that it can’t imagine a world without capitalism. It has much company in that. But a future in which we live in harmony with nature, rather than destroying nature for profit, can only be a very different world.

57 comments on “Staying in the environmental frying pan only gets us hotter

  1. xraymike79 says:

    Reblogged this on Collapse of Industrial Civilization and commented:
    Capitalism, no matter what label is put on it such as “green” capitalism or “inclusive” capitalism, still has the self-destructive characteristics of capitalism embedded within it. The very recent PR campaign orchestrated by the financial elite of the world under the socially responsible-sounding title of “inclusive capitalism” is no exception:
    Yesterday’s Conference on Inclusive Capitalism co-hosted by the City of London Corporation and EL Rothschild investment firm, brought together the people who control a third of the world’s liquid assets – the most powerful financial and business elites – to discuss the need for a more socially responsible form of capitalism that benefits everyone, not just a wealthy minority.

    Leading financiers referred to statistics on rising global inequalities and the role of banks and corporations in marginalising the majority while accelerating systemic financial risk – vindicating the need for change.

    While the self-reflective recognition by global capitalism’s leaders that business-as-usual cannot continue is welcome, sadly the event represented less a meaningful shift of direction than a barely transparent effort to rehabilitate a parasitical economic system on the brink of facing a global uprising.

    Central to the proceedings was an undercurrent of elite fear that the increasing disenfranchisement of the vast majority of the planetary population under decades of capitalist business-as-usual could well be its own undoing….

    Systemic disorder has written a clear-minded essay explaining why nothing short of a complete paradigm shift away from capitalism’s inherent inherent growth and profit-maximizing imperatives is needed to save mankind.

    • Mike, thank you for the shout-out. I recommend that readers wanting more material on the crisis of global warming go to his Collapse of Industrial Civilization site, both for his analyses and the many useful links there. I’m not surprised at all to hear of a capitalists’ attempt at public-relations management; it’s what should be expected. (For readers who may not be familiar with the term, “City of London” is Britain’s Wall Street.)

      Capitalism swallows everything, including alternative cultural movements that are eventually co-opted to sell corporate products and in which our cultural creations are sold back to us in diluted and sanitized forms. “Green capitalism” is just another attempt to cash in, but far more dangerous because it fosters illusions that we can grow our way out of our problems, when that growth is the source of the problem. There can’t be infinite growth on a finite planet.

  2. Alcuin says:

    Everything you say is correct and to be expected since we are embedded in a capitalist ideology that is extremely difficult to free ourselves from. Capitalism is the air that we breathe. Nonetheless, alternatives to capitalism (permaculture, home schooling, tiny houses, debt-free living schemes, community gardens, radical forms of Christianity …) seem to be proliferating, though certainly not in Washington or on Wall Street. At some point, the scale is going to tip in our direction as there is an increasing amount of discontent in the streets. No, the MSM doesn’t pay that any attention, but we know why that is. Most people are miserably unhappy and will feed the flames of the fire when the spark sets off the conflagration. A conflagration, by the way, that some among the elites can see coming and are terrified of. That spark is going to be a Black Swan event, though, so the elites have no defenses against it, other than increasing repression, which will not work.

    Marx was exactly right about capitalism – there is no finer analyst of how the economic system actually works. Despite what deniers (almost always Marxists who haven’t actually read Marx) say, capitalism just doesn’t work. Not for people, certainly and not for the environment. Increasingly, people are beginning to draw connections between capitalism and environmental degradation and destruction. “Green capitalism” is simply another way capitalism tries to co-opt its opponents. It’s working pretty well, what with McKibben and his friends beating the drum, but it won’t work in the end because capitalism just doesn’t work.

    Lately, I’ve been reading and stretching my mind at Larval Subjects and Noir Ecologies. It’s an intellectual jolt to have my mind stretched so much, but it has been rewarding. There is a burgeoning philosophical movement, built on the work of Foucault, Deleuze and Guattari, Latour, Morton, Bryant, Negri and Hardt and others who work in a field called Object Oriented Ontology. That philosophy is anti-humanist, i.e., it is not anthropocentric. It places homo sapiens sapiens in nature, not divorced from it, as philosophers of the modern age have done for centuries. It embraces Marx and builds on his work but in unexpected directions.

    If you’re up for some mind-stretching, I encourage readers of this blog to investigate this movement. Try searching on Object Oriented Ontology or Speculative Realism. Or visit the two blogs that I linked to – they are most interesting.

    If you don’t have the time or energy to pursue this project, just write on the blackboard, 100 times,

    Capitalism Just Doesn’t Work

    That means any form of capitalism. Green capitalism, anarcho-capitalism, neoliberal capitalism, Keynesian capitalism, New Deal capitalism and a hundred other varieties.

    • People are indeed drawing connections between capitalism and environmental degradation and destruction. We are a part of humanity, how can we not draw it? But not even Marxists, by and large, had integrated nature into dialectical philosophies (although they would have if they read Marx and especially Engels more carefully). The Soviet-style societies of the 20th century were so intent on out-producing capitalism they were even worse on the environment. Thankfully, today it is impossible for anybody who is serious about opposition to capitalism to not raise the specter of environmental destruction.

  3. palloy says:

    Everything you say is true except the impacts of Global Warming. The science is correct, and the climate models have been correctly calibrated to historical climate data, but the IPCC’s FORECASTS for what will happen in the future with emissions is all wrong.

    The commonly quoted forecasts are all in line with IEA forecasts, but the IEA is beholden to the fossil fuel industry and their friendly governments, and their predictions of oil-gas-coal production rates ignore the reality of Peak Fossils.

    Thus the IPCC forecasts come out all very scary, but they completely ignore Peak Oil. The lowest of IPCC’s scenarios in AR5 is called RCP2.6, and it predicts temperatures peaking at around +1.5°C in 2045, and very slowly diminishing after that – check it out. Even the RCP2.6 scenario is too high in terms of fossil fuel production rates. If you ignore the proportions that IPCC say will be burned using CCS technology, the oil figures are about right, but the gas and coal figures are still way too high.

    So with Peak Oil already past, and Peak Coal likely in the next few years, and Peak Gas likely within a decade, Global Warming will not be as bad as +1.5°C.
    Now the effects of that might still be very nasty, and certainly some species will find the going too tough and go extinct, but it won’t be as serious an issue as what will happen to Capitalism and industrial civilisation when oil has to be rationed in rich countries, while poor countries get none.

    There is not now enough fossil energy to spare, over and above what is needed to keep the world’s economy running and growing, to build all the infrastructure needed for a renewable energy transition. The maths to prove this is quite complicated, but it can be done, and it is a fact.

    If we had started on the transition 30 years ago, it could have been acheived, but that opportunity wasn’t taken, and now it is too late. Of course we can make a start on the transition, but sooner or later there would be a crunch point when the choice would have to be made between build more solar panel factories and keeping the lights on – and politically governments must keep the lights on.

    The solution? THERE IS NO SOLUTION – the Laws of Thermodynamics guarantee it. Wise governments would try to engineer a soft landing, involving not building any new stuff at all, but they are all totally commited to Capitalism, despite knowing all about Peak Oil (probably better than we do, since we rely on the data they give us).

    So it is Peak Oil that will bring about the end of industrial civilisation, not Global Warming.

    • Some say fire and some say ice.

      All natural resources will run out some day, and that day is not in the distant future for oil. There is no arguing with the laws of thermodynamics. When we do begin to run out of oil, and some metals necessary for industry as well, there won’t be a way to keep industrial civilization going if alternative energy sources aren’t in place.

      An interesting Marxist economist, Minqi Li, came to my attention when I discovered his paper, “Capitalism with Zero Profit Rate?” Professor Li makes the same points you do, and he is perhaps more pessimistic. The paper is somewhat technical but very readable and he has abundant calculations and data to back up his points. He also discusses them in his book The Rise of China and the Demise of the Capitalist World Economy, which I reviewed on this blog for folks who might like a shorter summary.

      Although none of us can know what the exact scenario will prove to be, this is the last century of capitalism. If we don’t bring it to an end and implement a sustainable, steady-state economic system sooner, the future will be mighty unpleasant later. Humanity has to consume much less, either through rational choice or having it imposed by nature.

      • palloy says:

        I am in fact even more pessimistic than Professor Li. Energy Return on Energy Invested (ERoEI) is an important factor, but being a single number derived from a more detailled energy budget, it misses one important factor – the timing of the EI relative to the ER.

        For solar PV, almost all the EI has to be invested first, and then you can sit back and enjoy the “free” ER for the next 25 years. But do you actually have the EI to invest ? – you can’t borrow energy in the same way as you can borrow money. Once we get into an energy scarcity scenario, it could make still make sense to invest energy for the future, but it is impossible because there is none to spare.

        The same is true for huge dams for hydro-electricity, and gigantic wind turbine farms, and the horrendous up-front energy expense of building nuclear reactors. Not to mention the complete transition of vehicles over to electric power and the upgrades to transmission grids.

        Another mistake Li makes is to assume that post-Peak, world oil production rates will follow Hubbert’s Curve in a nice smooth declining slope. In fact such production curves are only followed at the national level when the world peak has not been reached (Norway is a good example). Once World Peak is in the rear-view mirror, chaos breaks out with ever-rising prices, business models failing, bankruptcies and mass lay-offs, loans defaulting, credit default swaps unable to be honoured, and the instant implosion of our fiat money system. The thing that CANNOT then happen is a bold new investment of fossil energy in renewable energy.

        Once the rot extends to the production of electricity, the power goes off and the internet dies, killing all communications and hence the ability of governments to coordinate emergency measures. The banking system can’t operate, no one can order goods or pay for them, the supermarkets can’t keep the shelves filled and anyway cash quickly finds its way into cash registers and wallets are empty.

        This brilliantly described in systems terminology in David Korowicz’s, “”Financial system / supply-chain cross contagion –- a study in global systemic collapse””

        Talk of ‘we will be unable to … by 2100’ fails to take all of this into account. We will be unable to revert to the old way of doing things because the old infrastructure (snail mail and bicycles) would need to be rebuilt, using ENERGY, which we don’t have.

        • Alcuin says:

          I’m glad you commented, palloy. The scenario you describe (banks failing, empty supermarkets, failure of the fiat money system) may or may not happen but what concerns me, when I visit Peak Oil sites, is the complete and utter doom and gloom of the participants at such sites. I’d like to suggest that you read the book Catastrophism: the Apocalyptic Politics of Collapse and Rebirth, by Sasha Lilley, David McNally, Eddie Yuen and James Davis.

          The problem I have with scenarios of collapse is that they don’t take into account human ingenuity in meeting crises. I also have a problem with the fact that the predictions of Peak Oil enthusiasts paralyze and foreclose any kind of positive and possibly preventable action. If the world is going to end in chaos, riots, drought, starvation and other such events, as portrayed in the movie Soylent Green years ago, why even bother to take any kind of action at all? We might as well party until the end, right? I don’t buy that at all.

          There is a considerable difference between cynicism and bitter pessimism. I’m not accusing Peak Oil people of being Chicken Littles but I am saying that by focusing on such a dark future, they foreclose any possibility of change.

          Another website that you might possibly be interested in perusing is The Dark Mountain Project.

          There are other sites, but I’m not sure that you are interested in moving beyond your world of utter surrender to a bleak future. Peak Oil sites have a following, yes, but has all of the verbiage of the posts on those sites resulted in any significant change? I think not.

          • palloy says:

            Ah yes, when all else fails there is always good old “human ingenuity” that’ll save us. I don’t think ingenuity will defeat the Laws of Thermodynamics.

            But the planet does get a good dose of sunlight every day, and even at a photosynthetic efficiency of about 1.5% plants will grow and yield a harvest. So I don’t subscribe to total human extinction, but I do foresee chaos, riots, wars that peter out through lack of fuel, mass starvation, disease and injuries that can’t be treated to 21st century standards.

            There are still a few isolated pockets of people, typically tropical rainforest hunter-gatherers, who have never joined the rest of us in using fossil fuels and money. They will scarcely notice any difference.

            A few subsistence rice-growing cultures have only recently joined us in using artificial fertilisers and hybrid seed, so their old folk will still know how it was done before and be able to adapt.

            But everyone else will have to ‘go backwards’, and no one will ever vote for that so long as some politician claims they can fix everything, until events put them in such a desperate situation that the life of a subsistence farmer seems like going forwards. Only then will they start pulling together as a community.

            The likelihood is that most of us won’t be around to see it, but there are a few general things that you can do to improve your chances. I live in a tropical rainforest, and am learning as much as I can about the food on offer – its going to need a LOT of walking and searching for a meagre diet, that’s for sure, but I reckon everyone else will abandon the area when the supermarket shuts, so I’ll have plenty of space to roam. Anyway, what else is there going to be to do when the internet goes down?

            I have spent half my life trying to live simply, in the hope of demonstrating to others that it can be done and enjoyed. They just don’t get it though. I have also used my time to do ‘grassroots politics’, and that has taught me that TPTB are not interested in hearing what the majority want, and ‘community consultation’ is just another tiresome box that has be ticked before their plans can go through. The length of time it took me to fully learn that lesson shows just how ensnared we all are in the matrix.

          • Alcuin says:

            And to clarify my position: an article from The Dark Mountain Project. I think we agree more than we disagree, palloy. Robinson Jeffers has been one of my favorites for over 40 years. However, I still think that a focus on political economy produces more understanding of our situation than a recitation of facts from Peak Oil sites. In a pensive state of mind, I wrote this blog post – it addresses some of the underlying issues we’re discussing here and has a link to a particularly incisive discussion, similar to John Michael Greer’s thoughts, on Paul Kingsnorth’s website. You might like to read it.

            • palloy says:

              Thanks for “Glimpses of Nirvana”. It certainly does highlight the point where we agree. I often end my dismal posts with “At least the wildlife will heave a huge sigh of relief.”

              I have had to stop doing my conservation work because it is too painful and anger-inspiring losing to the machine all the time. Also it has a negative effect on the ones that want to continue the fight. Every little win is wiped out by the next government, or the one after that – you need to do it for 30 years or so to get it into perspective.

              Dark Mountain is too much into poetry for me, being a mathematician first and foremost. Greer would be more credible if he didn’t dress up like what he thinks a Druid should look like. I’d rather crunch a set of numbers than ponder the meaning of a poem, but don’t let me stop anyone from finding inspiration wherever they can.

        • Professor Li writes that if capitalism is not overturned soon, human civilization is doomed. He believes that renewable energy will never be able to come close to replacing current energy sources and that if we near the end of oil and gas without the ability to replace that energy, the cities will have to empty because most of the population will have to engage in agriculture in order to survive. If you are more pessimistic than that …

          • Palloy, I just read Gail Tverberg’s article. Although I question some of her assumptions (mostly deriving from the fact that she does not conceive of any possibility outside of the present world capitalist system) it was quite interesting.

            She writes at one point: “The problem now is that oil prices are too low for producers, at the same time that they are very high for the consumer.” Oil prices, however, are too low for producers because of the dynamics of capitalism. Oil companies still rake in billions of dollars per year in profits, but those profits have declined in recent years. In an economic system that requires constant growth, declining profits (even if large) are unacceptable, thereby accelerating the destruction of the environment, pillage of natural resources and global warming as corporations expand production in an attempt to bolster their bottom lines.

            As Fredric Jameson famously said, it’s easier for us to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism.

            • palloy says:

              It is interesting that the largest oil company ExxonMobil made the news twice last week.

              Firstly as being the third highest purchaser of its own shares in 2014/Q1, after Apple and Google ( ) meaning it can think of no better way to use $4 billion to raise its share price, having already dropped out of the US shale oil business, due to its unprofitability.

              Secondly by persevering (along with BP and Total SA) with signing deals with Russia’s Rossneft, despite US sanctions on Rossneft’s CEO Igor Sechin, and attending the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum despite White House pressure to boycott it. ( )

              To me that signals there are few new profit-making opportunities left for oil and gas. The old fields, of course, are still highly profitable, but production rates must run down in time, and need to be replaced.

              Gail has blossomed since the days when she wrote as “Gail the Actuary”, when she was very reluctant to voice her thoughts about where all this is going. We all see Capitalism as entering its decline phase, and we rule out “green capitalism”. Learning how to do without seems sensible, but no one will vote for that. So what alternatives are there?

              I reckon when the next (and final) financial crash occurs, the 1%’s Plan B is to start all the wars it is currently queueing up, and put the western economies on a war footing, with food and fuel rationing, conscripting angry young men on the streets, increasing police powers and limiting dissent through internet censorship. That would explain all the current apparently over-the-top activities, that seem so unnecessary while we operate under Plan A, but make perfect sense under Plan B.

              • Massive stock buybacks, which occur across industries, are a result of mandates that elevate the interests of shareholders above all other considerations. Exxon Mobil’s stock buybacks and signing a deal with Rosneft make perfect sense from its perspective, and no White House administration is going to challenge such behavior.

                As to Plan B, all the more reason the world’s working peoples had better start organizing. It’s no mystery as to why repression is on the rise; the question is whether there will effective resistance. Capitalists are organized internationally; we had better be, too.

              • palloy says:

                Plan B will fail for exactly the same reason that Plan A will fail – lack of energy to build new stuff and run existing stuff.

                From what I can gather from “There is no democracy without economic democracy”, your Plan C still envisions factories, mines, states, constitutions, laws, and presumably police, courts, prisons, hospitals, doctors and nurses, fire-men and other emergency service workers, water and sewerage services, and the list goes on and on …

                I don’t see how any of this can happen given the shortage of energy. It doesn’t happen even now, at World Peak Energy, in Third World countries. I am still looking for a Plan C better than subsistence farming with none of the government services listed above.

        • Alcuin says:

          But see, palloy, the despair that you feel is the problem. I’m not saying that humanity has a bright future, but despair closes off any possibilities of identifying problems and taking steps to address them. I’m not saying that the Left has had any particular success in that venture, either – my post makes that clear. But despair is a dead-end.

          As for John Michael Greer – you must know that he “serves as the Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA), a contemporary school of Druid nature spirituality.”

          Perhaps, as a mathematician, you reject the idea that there is a spiritual dimension to our predicament. I don’t. Not when I see so many fundamentalist Christians praying for rain to ease the severe droughts in Texas and California. Ideologies (which includes religions) are socially constructed and therefore they can be changed. Easy? Not at all. But, being a materialist, I don’t subscribe to the idea of a Platonic world.

          Some mathematicians think of themselves as poets. I’ve known several people over the years who excelled computer programming and music. Einstein allegedly said that a flower told him about the Theory of Relativity.

          • palloy says:

            The Ancient Order of Druids in America – founded in 1912 🙂

            Ah, the Theory of Relativity (1905) – now there’s a beautiful concept. Newton’s description of “The Motion of Bodies” in Principia Vol.1 (1686) is beautiful too, but unfortunately begins with Definition 1: “The quantity of Matter is the measure of the same, arising from its density and bulk conjointly”, which we now know is not the whole truth. Newton would have agreed too, once he had caught up on the intervening 219 years of scientific progress.

            The difference between science and spirituality is that the former is always improving, building on the shoulders of giants, whereas spiritualists will keep arguing for their own particular corner without ever getting anywhere.

            There are, of course, questions that are not amenable to mathematical analysis, but then they are not amenable to ANY sort of rational analysis, so why waste time on them.

          • Alcuin says:

            Ah, yes. I used the word “spirituality”. My bad. “Spirituality” is very much like “Marxism” – the definition depends on the reader. I should have been more specific. I use the word in the sense that David Abram, in The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal: An Earthy Cosmology uses it. Abram, like myself, is a phenomenologist, a materialist, a cultural ecologist and a follower of McLuhan, Havelock, and Ong. I doubt that you would be interested in either book, but if you are, I’d recommend Becoming Animal rather than The Spell of the Sensuous, simply because the latter book assumes a working knowledge of phenomenology which you may not have. I’m also a post-modernist and, as such, reject a number of the “accomplishments” of the Enlightenment, two of which are the scientific and industrial “revolutions”. We might agree on Jeffers but I doubt that we agree on the value of science and “progress”. I will add that I am not anti-science, either, but I am an anti-capitalist. Western science and capitalism have been and continue to be intimate partners in “progress”. Where has that gotten us?

            I find it very interesting that you believe that if a problem is “not amenable to mathematical analysis” it is a waste of time to address it. Interesting, very interesting. Such a limited universe you live in.

            • palloy says:

              Worse than that, I have never heard of Phenomenology before, and having looked it up in Wikipedia and got 10 disambiguations, I don’t know which to follow. I only know 1 thing about McLuhan (yes, that one) and haven’t heard of any of the others.

              Is it so hard to say what you actually mean, instead of throwing all these obscure labels around?

              BTW I don’t go along with “the despair that you feel is the problem”. I’m not in despair. I am nearly offically “old”, and my life experiences have given me the wisdom to say “I despair of humanity sorting out this crisis”, but that’s not the same as being in despair.

          • Alcuin says:

            Thank you for your thoughts, palloy. I believe I understand your frustration when you ask if I can say what I “actually mean, instead of throwing all these obscure labels around.” I don’t doubt that I would feel the same way if you, as a mathematician, replied to a query of mine with words that I didn’t understand, either. The problem is, though, that those “obscure labels” have a lot of meaning to people who do understand them. Regrettably, perhaps they are a means of excluding people from intellectual inquiry. The only way forward in understanding “obscure labels” is to dive in and investigate them so that they become somewhat clear. Over the years, I’ve run into countless walls and suffered severe headaches trying to understand those “obscure labels.” I still do – learning is a process that never ends. At a high level, mathematicians work in similar fields to some of those I’m investigating. I don’t know if you are familiar with that kind of mathematics or not. I don’t have a rational mind – I have an irrational mind. I don’t understand the “obscure labels” in mathematics so I choose to work with “obscure labels” of a different kind. I don’t know the answer, palloy, I really don’t. Perhaps it would be useful to state that I am trying to situate capitalism in a broader network so that I can understand how we got to where we are. From what you’ve written, it appears to me that you focus on the results of capitalism, not the events that have enabled it to dominate our existence. I can’t do anything about the results; therefore, I try to focus on the events that led us, as a species, to our present predicament. We are all trapped in the same Matrix. I don’t see any benefit from reading posts by people like Gail Tverberg. If we’re toast, we’re toast and no amount of reading about it will change that. I prefer not to focus on the negative, which I think Ms. Tverberg does. You apparently think there is some value there. Perhaps you think that if enough information is given out humans will wake up and change. I disagree. Ms. Tverberg and I do agree that humans are doing nothing “wrong” – they are doing what every species does. If that means severe ecological disruption and possible extinction, so be it. There is very little that I can do about that.

            Life is like a beanstalk, isn’t it?

        • alan2102 says:

          Palloy, one thing that you and all peak oil doomers (including me at one time — oh, about 8-10 years ago) fail to account for is the fact that at least half and perhaps as much as 3/4 of our energy is simply WASTED, i.e. pissed away on nothing required to meet human needs. Virtually the entirety of the auto/industrial complex, for example, is pure waste. And there’s much more. There is tremendous slack in the system. You might want to check out Amory Lovins’ work; he has written a lot in detail about waste built-in to the system.

          • alan2102 says:

            PS: That’s why it is ridiculous when you pose the problem as one of our backs being pushed up against the wall by the iron laws of thermodynamics. Nothing of the sort is even remotely the case. We’re FAR FAR from being short on energy. What we’re short on is intelligence, good sense, quality thinking, sane social and economic organization, charity, faith, and a score of other moral, soul and spiritual qualities that I don’t feel like typing out.

            • palloy says:

              So if, as you say, the answer is use less energy making crappy stuff we don’t need, how is the system going to keep growing?
              Clearly the factories making crappy the stuff will fold, and the workers will be sacked and have less money available to buy anything, forcing more factories to close, in an imploding feedback loop. Less oil means less production of fossil fuels – another feedback loop. And less oil means less globalized trade – another feedback loop.

              You can’t just wave your hand and say ‘we must change to a completely different lifestyle, with no cars and no high consumption lifestyle’, wise though it may be. Anyway, that has been tried already (the Powerdown movement), and its proponents completely ignored by the system whose political power it threatens. No one will vote for less. Less will have to happen the hard way.

              • I’ll give my own answer (and I hope Alan2012 will give his answer as well). The system can’t keep growing. Capitalism must grow, which is why humanity is approaching an environmental crisis point. If we continue to live under the present world capitalist system, the downward spiral you describe will indeed be our future. A sustainable, steady-state economy, designed for human need rather than private profit, has no need for growth; indeed it can decrease production as needed, whether because of natural population declines or much less need to produce manufactured items. Such an economy will produce much less, so we’ll have less of the clutter and junk that modern consumerism spawns.

                No one will vote for less? Many would, if given a rational alternative that is seen as better. Appearances to the contrary, we are not living a perpetual motion machine. Everything is of human construct and everything therefore is capable of being changed. Not easy at all and impossible without a massive global movement. If humanity does stay on its present course, then yes, ultimately, “less will have to happen the hard way.” Our future, however, is not written.

              • palloy says:

                People might vote for a clutter, junk and growth free system, if such a vote could ever be set up. But what is needed is a system that adapts to the decreasing availability of energy, and recognises everyone deserves a “world’s fair share” of the basics – food, water, fuel/electricity.
                That would require the First World to use maybe 20% of what it does now, with even less energy to follow, and it is THAT that can’t be sold to voters.

                Bear in mind that we are no longer in a position to build a new range of transport vehicles and support infrastructure, be it super-efficient, small, light diesel-powered cars, or electric + a trillion solar panels, or whatever.

                Nowadays food is effectively fossil energy – fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, tractors, transport from the farm gate to wholesalers, retailers, to surburbia. All of this would have to change, and all without the building of new infrastructure using more energy.

                I would love for Powerdown to be successful, but I’m afraid that given where we’re starting from, it just won’t happen.

          • Alcuin says:

            An interesting blog post that counters peak oil doomers.

            • The author of the linked post, Priscilla Stuckey, believes that collapse can be avoided with immediate action:

              “Collapse can be avoided and population can reach equilibrium if the per capita rate of depletion of nature is reduced to a sustainable level, and if resources are distributed in a reasonably equitable fashion. … The sooner we make a concerted effort to curtail the burning of fossil fuels as our primary energy source and releasing the CO2 to the air, the lower our risk and cost will be.”

              And, from that, she offers three solutions:

              “Cut down on consumption. Stop burning fossil fuels. Work toward greater social and economic equality.”

              I have no argument with any of this. What Dr. Stuckey writes is correct. But, once again, it is not possible within the capitalist mode of production, for the reasons I discussed in my post and for other reasons discussed at greater length in two of the links in my original post, Green capitalism: The god that failed and What Every Environmentalist Needs to Know About Capitalism. Reaching those goals would require the economy be organized on very different lines, and that is the part most people are not aware of, much less prepared to act upon.

              Your overall point, Alcuin, that all is not yet lost if we begin to act now, is a critical one to be made lest we collapse into defeatism.

          • Alcuin says:

            Two quotes from Stuckey’s article that I liked:

            “There is much we can do. On this point both studies completely agree. Societal collapse, while difficult to avoid, is not inevitable.”


            “We do not yet know the end of this story.”

            Collapsarians know the end of the story – I don’t. I think there is a very good possibility that the burgeoning interest in growing our own food will be the start of the end of capitalism. There are a lot of possibilities and I doubt very much that Marx’ scenario will come to pass. As I wrote some time ago, the Peak Oil doom-and-gloom crowd don’t take into consideration human ingenuity. Palloy misread that statement to imply that I might support Green Capitalism, which I don’t. Not at all. Schopenhauer wrote about the will to live and that is what I was referring to, not Green Capitalism. With apologies to Procol Harum, life is like a beanstalk, isn’t it?

  4. xraymike79 says:

    In response to Systemic Disorder commenter Palloy who thinks that peak oil will save mankind and that global warming “will not be as bad as +1.5°C.”

    Palloy is overlooking the part that aerosols from industrial activity play in temporarily cooling the planet. James Hansen called this the Faustian Bargain:

    …Human activity modifies the impact of the greenhouse effect by the release of airborne particulate pollutants known as aerosols. These include black-carbon soot, organic carbon, sulphates, nitrates, as well as dust from smoke, manufacturing, wind storms, and other sources. Aerosols have a net cooling effect because they reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches the ground and they increase cloud cover. This is popularly known as “global dimming”, because the overall aerosol impact is to mask some of the warming effect of greenhouse gases.

    Hansen’s new study estimates this aerosol “dimming” at 1.2 degrees (plus or minus 0.2°), much higher than previously figured. Aerosols are washed out of the atmosphere by rain on average every 10 days, so their cooling effect is only maintained because of continuing human pollution, the principal source of which is the burning of fossil fuels, which also cause a rise in carbon dioxide levels and global warming that lasts for many centuries…

    The average global temperature rise thus far is about 0.85°C since the onset of the Industrial Revolution. Once industrial activity ceases and its accompanying aerosols fall out of the atmosphere, the average global temp will jump to about 2°C, but it won’t simply stop there because Palloy forgets that there is a lag time involved with CO2 emissions. The effects we are feeling now were from our emissions 40 years ago:

    …The estimate of 40 years for climate lag, the time between the cause (increased greenhouse gas emissions) and the effect (increased temperatures), has profound negative consequences for humanity. However, if governments can find the will to act, there are positive consequences as well.

    With 40 years between cause and effect, it means that average temperatures of the last decade are a result of what we were thoughtlessly putting into the air in the 1960’s. It also means that the true impact of our emissions over the last decade will not be felt until the 2040’s. This thought should send a chill down your spine!…

    This “committed warming” of past CO2 emissions whose effect will be manifested in the coming decades is about 0.6 degrees Celsius. If all industrial activity stopped right now, we would already be committed to 2.5°C, a global average temperature rise of nearly three times what we are currently experiencing. With all the drought, flooding, hurricanes, landslides, fires, and other manifestations of climate change that we are experiencing now, I shudder to think what the world will be like in 2050 and yet humans continue to burn coal and other fossil fuels at breakneck speed.

    Now we get to the even more insidious aspects of anthropogenic climate change that very few comprehend. Dozens of self-reinforcing feedback loops have already been triggered, but we’ll discuss only one in the loss of our planet’s air conditioners, the Arctic and Antarctic:

    (1)   An increase in temperature decreases the area covered by sea ice as it melts leaving a larger area of exposed ocean.
    (2)   This decreases the reflection of sunlight as ice is far more reflective than the newly exposed ocean.
    (3)   Reduced reflection increases the area’s absorption of heat from the sun.
    (4)   This increases the temperature of the area, amplifying the original increase in temperature mentioned in (1).

    A recent study calculated that the loss of Arctic ice reflectivity from 1979 to 2011 added an amplifying feedback to human warming equivalent to 25% of the heat captured by CO2 emissions during that same time.

    Thus, we can see that the world is changing quickly into an environment that may well be outside the habitability of humans. The timing of human near-term extinction is likely academic.

    • I know you were confining your feedback discussion points to only the polar areas covered by ice, but I would add (5): the melting of the permafrost. The greenhouse gases locked up that will be released with the melting of high-latitude permafrost will also add considerably to global warming.

      The changes are already happening faster than scientists’ predictions, and, as you correctly point out, we are experiencing increasingly severe weather with slightly less than a one degree C. rise.

    • Alcuin says:

      In defense of palloy, he didn’t say that Peak Oil will save mankind. My take on his comment is that he agrees that humans are on a collision course with Nature but he waffles on the severity of the impact. Systemic Disorder’s comment regarding the insanity of the idea that humans are somehow not part of Nature gets to the crux of the issue and is one that I’ve been investigating for a few years now. The philosophers in the Speculative Realism school are anti-humanist; that is, they are not anthropocentric.

      • palloy says:

        Just to clarify, I think that Peak Oil will be enough to collapse the system. It will also ameliorate Global Warming, in fact it already has, as world production of Crude + Condensate stalled in 2005 after 20 years of growth averaging 1.6% per year.

  5. Timothy says:

    This. This is the final and ultimate reason to leave capitalism. People can deny Marx. They may close their eyes and ears to the suffering of the poor majority. They might deny the spectacle of inequality. They may reject every single theory that goes against capitalism. But no one can ever escape the dread of environment destruction.

    Deny all they want, but already we have the extreme cold in US, missing spring in the EU, and major flooding in Bosnia plus extreme drought in Syria. Capitalism might not harm the people, they said, but it clearly harms the environment – which in turn harms us all.

  6. JAH says:

    Too many lemmings + not enough forage = population crash.

    Some of the lemmings have H bombs, so on top of starvation,
    infrastructure collapse, environmental degradation / change,
    a short but VERY nasty world war three is quite possible.

    The survivalists, from right “wing nuts” to off the grid “eco hippies”
    while hoping to pass through this period, will find themselves
    overwhelmed by the multitudes of the desperate.

    Unlike lemmings, recovery won’t resemble what existed
    before. The new “Third Dark Age” will center around Tech-no
    Feudalism (what’s left of technology), with the elite centered in
    “secure” areas, and the diminished remainder subsisting on the outside.

    Socialism is ultimately about democratic sharing, but capitalism has fetishised
    greed for so long, and so successfully, that even “aware” capitalists can’t
    change the course of this ship of fools.

    I wonder what stories (myths) they will tell of the vanished “Golden Age”?

    • If the world descends into a Dark Age, assuming print records survive I suppose they will be telling of humanity’s inability to learn. And perhaps the foolishness of self-centered greed.

  7. Ken says:

    First time I’ve seen this blog, Nice piece. Do listen to the panel on green growth that was hosted on CBC’s IDEAS this week. There are some very compelling arguments that “green growth” is not an oxymoron.

    • Alcuin says:

      Well, let’s see … From the Sustainable Prosperity website, Stewart Elgie

      “… received his Masters of Law from Harvard, and his doctorate (J.S.D.) from Yale (thesis on forest carbon markets). He is also the founder and chair of Sustainable Prosperity, Canada’s major green economy think tank and policy-research network. His research involves many aspects of environmental and economic sustainability, with a particular focus in recent years on market-based approaches.”


      “SP focuses on market-based approaches to build a greener, more competitive economy. It brings together business, policy and academic leaders to help innovative ideas inform policy development.”

      Among other posts that she held, Nancy Olewiler “served on the Board of Directors of BC Hydro and several of its subsidiaries.”

      Avrim Lazar has held the following positions:

      Director of Tolko Industries
      President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada
      Chair of the National Business Association Roundtable
      President of the International Council of Forest and Paper Associations

      Joshua Farley is an ecological economist and a professor at the University of Vermont and co-authored two books: Ecological Economics: Principles and Applications and Restoring Natural Capital: Financing and Valuation.

      Out of the participants in the panel, I think it is safe for me to say that only one, Joshua Farley, has any credibility at all for the active participants on this blog. Most of us have a great deal of respect for Marx, which I doubt very much is shared by Elgie, Olewiler or Lazar. Suffice it to say that I only listened to the first 5 minutes of the podcast.

      No, “green growth” is an oxymoron. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, Ken, but that is simply the truth. To understand where most of us are coming from, I would suggest that you visit David Harvey’s website. That is as good a place to start as any.

    • Ken, perhaps you can summarize briefly why the speakers on the program to which you linked believe in green growth, so we have a better idea of what those ideas are.

      I will say that I agree with Alcuin that the professional backgrounds of the speakers do not lend them credibility. Promotion of “green growth” or “green capitalism” would be precisely what would be expected from them, given their own interests — this point of view would be more credible coming from someone who won’t be profiting from it.

  8. Alcuin says:

    I just saw this in my inbox – an interesting commentary on the burgeoning industry of “survivalism”. I’m sure more than a few Peak Oil people are very familiar with the information in this article. Trouble is, there’s a hell of a lot more of us than there are of them – I don’t think they’ve thought of that. Or they think that their supplies will last them indefinitely.

  9. Palloy:

    “So if, as you say, the answer is use less energy making crappy stuff we don’t need, how is the system going to keep growing?”

    It won’t keep growing. It will not necessarily collapse as you seem to foresee, but it will not keep growing.

    “You can’t just wave your hand and say ‘we must change to a completely different lifestyle, with no cars and no high consumption lifestyle’, wise though it may be.”

    I didn’t do that. I just pointed out the fact that we are not short of oil or any other resource. We are short of intelligence, political will, discipline, and a bunch of other qualities. I’m not hearing anything from you that disputes what I said. Society may collapse, but it won’t be because we ran out of oil. It will be because we’re idiots.

    Get clear on what the real problem is. It is NOT a lack of resources. If anything, we’ve had FAR TOO MUCH oil and other stuff for many years.

  10. Systemic disorder:

    “The system can’t keep growing.”

    Right, it can’t, so it won’t. Whether we go from that to systemic collapse remains to be seen. Maybe so, maybe not.

    “No one will vote for less? Many would”

    Yes, many would vote for less. They would vote for less pollution, less war, less military spending, less imperial adventurism, less spying, less fascism, less fraud and corruption, less deception, less greed, less support for the already rich and privileged, less theft from those who can least afford it, and on and on. And as a result of all that, fabulous quantities of resources would be freed up — easily enough to provide for everyone’s true need, without depleting nonrenewable resources at a suicidal rate.

    Those same people would vote FOR a higher quality life, better and more fulfilling employment, better health and healthcare, much better food, more time with family and friends, a cleaner environment and community, and on and on — things that have become all but impossible for the great majority in the current system.

    So, in answer to the spirit of the original question: yes, they would vote for it, if given a chance to. To phrase it as you have chosen to do — “no one is going to vote for LESS” — makes you sound like some kind of corporate hack or ad guy who is incapable of seeing the different and VASTLY BETTER world that could easily exist given present levels of technical advancement and resources, if we were not idiots. Your question assumes that we must continue to behave like idiots, pretending that the current insanely-wasteful and stupid order of things must continue exactly as it is presently constituted and functioning until we blow up or melt down irretrievably. And, it is fair to say that if history is any guide, there’s a good chance that we WILL continue to behave, collectively, like just such idiots until we destroy everything. But we don’t know that for sure. There are other possibilities. The future is not here yet. There are many hopeful signs and positive developments, along with the daily onrush of bad news. When I was a peak oil (and etc.) doomer, I was incapable of seeing the hopeful and the positive, as though such things did not exist. All I could see was the onrush of bad. Now I see both. I do believe it is an improvement.

    “Things are getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster”. — Tom Atlee

  11. PS:

    “makes you sound like some kind of corporate hack or ad guy”

    I’m not saying that’s what you are; I’m saying that’s what you sounded like. For the record.

  12. PSS:

    “makes you sound like some kind of corporate hack or ad guy”

    Expanding on this idea for a moment: this is often what the “peakists” as a whole sound like, in a strange way. They sound like people whose consciousnesses have been so thoroughly colonized by capitalism and commercialism (a redundancy, I guess), whose imaginations have been so badly crippled or ruined, whose basic sensibilities have been robbed from them, that they cannot even imagine a world substantially different from the one that now exists, even though existing technical apparatuses and resources make such a different world (SHOULD make such a different world) very easy to imagine.

    It is understandable that the General Motors ad guy or PR flak (for example) cannot comprehend or envision the possibility of a de-automobilized, walkable urban world. What is less understandable is that the peakist — supposedly an “out of the box”, big thinker — is similarly unable to comprehend or envision.

    The above is also related to a broad phenomenon that I became aware of late in my own peakism experience: that of peakism being a sort of grassroots recapitulation (with some colorful exaggeration) of the Petro-Industrial Complex (PIC) propaganda narrative. The way it comes out is: “without the PIC’s indispensable product and associated structures — on which we are TOTALLY DEPENDENT, with NO ALTERNATIVES — we are all doomed to painful economic contraction if not collapse, and perhaps even mass dieoff and social disintegration.”

    Geez! If I were a top executive in the PIC somewhere I could not help but smirk with inner glee when reading such stuff pumped out by the peakists. I mean, you can’t BUY propaganda that good! Anything that good has to come up organically, from the grass roots. And so it did.
    But I for one refused any longer to be a party to those particular grass roots. There ARE alternatives. Plenty of them. And tons of money have been spent over the decades to marginalize them or dismiss them — or usually simply fail to mention them because of the aforementioned crippling of imagination and vision.

    I could go on, but that’s enough for now.

  13. Reblogged this on Gaia will prevail and commented:
    “Putting the environment first in a capitalist economy is not realistic, and doing so anyway would be very costly due to capitalist dynamics.”

  14. Reblogged this on Agenda: Awakening! and commented:
    Can you imagine a world without capitalism? Well, you better start practicing because it’ll be here sooner than you think.

  15. E.D. says:

    i could not read all of your article, the last few lines really said it all – but don’t we are know this at least, on some level. No need for the reports etc. no need for this lengthy discussion by useless EU members. We know anyway. Our eyes can see the destruction to our planet. I guess it is only a matter of time before we lose this battle.

  16. […] The IPCC report, prepared by scientists from around the world but apparently watered down by the world’s governments, promises that mitigating global warming will be virtually cost-free and require no fundamental change to the world’s economic structure. Alas, there are no free lunches — the IPCC report’s insistence that techno-fixes will magically take care of carbon buildup, allowing humanity to continue the path it has been on since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution, is dangerously unrealistic. […]

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