An alternative plan?

I do a lot of knocking here, and a lot of scoffing at stupid political decisions. That’s easily done. You don’t have to be constructive, and with time to consider, it is easy to be quite cutting via a keyboard.

The harder part, is promulgating a positive alternative. I’ve never shirked from that, which is why, after a couple of years sniping at my local County Council – I stood for it.

So, what do I think we should do differently?

First, population. Be very clear, if you have 3 kids or more per couple, no amount of reducing, reusing or recycling will make up for your extra procreativeness. The catholics – quite simply, are wrong. This goes planetarily, but locally too. If there were only Adam and Eve (lets just say the story evolved) then they would have at their disposal half a planet’s resources each. Untold riches, and a fair timeline ahead (inbreeding issues – issues? – aside) to enjoy them. If you have 9 billion on the planet, you get on average, one nine-billionth of those same resources. You have to be poorer, and you have to be chronically nearer the end of the extraction time-line.

So: replacement-or-less population, then.

Then, for those who exist, there is one clear, mathematically unchallengeable argument: you must leave the place as you found it. What business folk would call a ‘going concern’, and the way farms are (Crafar excepted) handed down.

That has easy and hard parts. Agriculture, silviculture, and harvesting in general, have the ability to be ‘sustainable’, if you’ll pardon the overused buzzword.

The hard part, is how you manage finite resources. I don’t have a problem with iron ore, gold, bauxite, silicon and the like, being gotten into use, as long as they have a regime of reuse and recycling.

The biggie – and it’s the one which underwrites all we do, is the extraction of finite sources of energy. Fossil fuels, gas and uranium are the main ones. We have gotten to where we are on the back of them, but the supply (even by optimistic estimates) doesn’t last for more than another generation. (Human lifetime generations, I mean) So we need a plan.

To get to sustainability (reckoned at two billion carrying capacity) we are probably too late to achieve without anguish. I could tell you who to blame – even why – but that is not the brief here.

We have three scenarios – we can continue BAU (business as usual) until we exhaust so much, that the die-off will be swift and catastrophic. I expect that will happen, given current trends. This scenario inevitably includes war, over said reduced resources (isn’t almost every war? the only exceptions are the ego/vanity ones)

Or there will be a pandemic – opportunistically taking advantage of a food-deprived, overcrowded, stressed populace.

Or – and it’s the only intelligent option – we attempt to lower our population voluntarily, while weaning ourselves from the use of finite sources of energy, to renewable ones. This step will inevitably require a reduction in ‘living standards’, but that is endemic in all options – we have no choice in that regard.

There will be surviving humans, and it will all be over by 2100. The $64,000 question is whether we’ve left them enough to start again. Probably yes. We can’t maintain the growth past peak energy, at which point there’s essentially 50% of the oil left in the ground. The speed wobbles have to be not far behind, but of course the extraction rates are not linear. We’ve used more in the last 5 years, than they’d used (totally) up until 1960. So perhaps 20 – 30% left for the survivors to kick-start something. And the lowest EROEI end of the barrel at that.

Good luck – they’ll need it. Only on the freely abundant, easily accessable energy sources, (oil/wood/coal) did we get ahead from hunter-gatherer – and only on some such resource can it be kick-started again. You can predict that things like blue-fin tuna will be off their menu.

I don’t hold out any hope whatever at this point. We all, locally, nationally and planetarily, are going in an accelerating way, in the completely wrong direction.

Someone – I think it was Jay Forrester – said that if we can’t do this, then it’s reasonable to predict that no dominant species emerging on any finite planet, will make it. All pre-conditioned to a temporary state of chemistry which is all they have known.

What a sad thought.


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