Sunday, May 01, 2005

F. William Engdahl and other reading

Last year, I started on the train of thought that led me to publish this blog. I stumbled on some articles by F. William Engdahl. Reading these three essays stunned me into an eventual realization that the human society is at a crucial turning point and it looks very much like a drastic, and probably irreversable turn for the worse.
About how soon we are approaching a world energy crisis
Abut the US real estate bubble and US debt, and how that will cause the collapse of the dollar
A long article about how maintaining America's dominant position requires ever more imperialist force. Interesting points about the IMF, and the occupation of Iraq.

Seeking more information, I have also read two books on peak oil:
  • The Party's Over, by Richard Heinberg
  • The End of Oil, by Paul Roberts.
    Heinberg is by far the most pessimistic author I've read, he is a Cassandra bearing dreadful prophesy. He sees the energy crisis that will come with the end of plentiful oil as inevitable, and the consequenses devastaing. In several decades time, most nations will not be able to maintain universal public electricty grids. What electric resources will be available, will only be for military and government elites. Over the next hundred years or so, the population of the earth will fall drastically, to the level it was at before industrial, petrochemical-based, fertilizer became available: it will fall to 1/4 of what it is now. And it will fall by the means that population usually falls, by disease, famine, and warfare.

    Roberts sees a glimmer of hope for the energy supply of the globe. by smart government management of resources, nations may be able to transition to natural gas as a bridge fuel, and finally to renewables. Coal will probably always be available for some uses.

    The way I see it, per capita available energy will have to fall drastically, no matter what sort of society we have in the future. (Per capita available energy seems to be the crucial metric that charts the rise and fall of civilization. for a numerical explanation of this, called the Olduvai Gorge theory, see this page: The Peak of World Oil Production.) We may devolve to a coal burning, early industrial society, or a "green" society with wind, biomass, and solar energy to supplementing our remaining fossil fuel. But these systems will not be able to support anywhere near the current earth population. No alternative energy source (with the possible exception of nuclear fusion) has the energy concentration, portability, and huge volumes that oil has givien us. We may also devolve to a feudal, pre-industrial society. It is not out of the question that the human race might be extinct in 100 years.

    I don't believe that there will be a single computer functioning on Earth in 100 years time. Even in the most optimistic senario, this level of technology will be unsupportable. The problem that makes me most pessimistic, is that all the economic analysis doesn't take into account the many disruptive effects of global warming, which now looks every bit as inevitable as a peak oil energy crisis.

    (A strange footnote: assuming human society survives, future historians will look back on history, and they will have a pretty good record of what happened until about the mid 1990s, when most information becomes electronic. All computer data will be lost when the electical grids go dark, and the factories no longer manufacture hi tech parts to keep old computers running. Historians of the 22nd Century may well wonder "What The Fuck Happened"?)

    I have also read a fascinating book on how societies disintergrate, or, alternately, how they survive societal crisis and prosper anew. If societies made intelligent choices that enabled them to survive, the choices were always about careful conservation and government management of resources, and population controls. The book is Collapse, by Jared Diamond
  • 1 comment:

    Big Gav said...

    If you think Heinberg is the most pessimistic person you've read then you obviously haven't read enough Jay ( Hanson !