Putting PhilBest to rest

Nothing personal, you understand. This is probably a law-abiding, conscience-carrying, kiwi.

But – his philosophy, in my humble opinion, won’t be good for my kids.

He is a disciple – and I use the word purposely – of the gospel according to Julian Simon. The fellow is dead (there are obviously limits to something, then) but Simon was essentially a backward projectionist.

It goes like this:  we accelerate to 10kph. All good. To 20 kph. Still OK. tO 40. Fine. 80 – all sweet. 160, feeling nervous, but that straight is long enough. 320, we’re in serious doo-doo. 640 ain’t gonna happen – distance vs time (call it physics) are gonna beat you. If there was a brick wall at the end of the straight, which speed was safest? Which could you brake quickest from?

Simon is guilty of looking in the rearview mirror, and urging full-speed-ahead. The Titanic analogy is reasonably applicable.

So the commentator PhilBest, has been advocating growth in all things, and that there are no effective limits. We’d be better with millions more people here, according to him, on the basis that as we’ve advanced so far, so has population. The fallacy is to associate the population growth with the advancement. It’s a result, not a cause.

He also subscribes to the Simon approach to physics – if that is what you can call it. Apparently, the whole planet is available, and we haven’t tapped even 1% of that, and price, demand and technology will get us the required material.

Well, the weekend should have pointed out the nonsense of that – who would advocate digging 10 km down in Canty? So there’s the lower limit. But there is a more realistic piece of physics which limits the dream – energy.

It simply takes energy to extract resources physically. And to do so at an exponentially-increasing rate, to supply an exponentially-increasing population, requires an exponentially increasing supply of energy, minus efficiencies.

Alondside that, is the increasing ‘Operations and Maintenance’ of existing infrastructure, and the depletion rates of chyerry-picked supplies of resources, mainly energy.

We went first, for the easily extracted, and ramped from low extraction rates. Now, we have to not only up the rate of extraction, but do it from a reserve of lowering quality, and/or concentration.

Examples of this are Drake spudding in at Titusville, and an EROEI of perhaps 150:1. Now, we’re drilling in the deep sea in the Gulf of Mexico, even as use and demand are at never-before visited levels.

Growth is expressed in terms of ‘doubling time’. The idea that we could double the energy supply from here, is not advocated even by the sceptics (Peak Oil Debunked – Freddy Hutter, is the best of the worst) which leaves alternatives, and/or efficiencies.

This late in the piece, those of us who have tracked things thus far, fully expected the planet to come to a shuddering halt about now. The transition has simply been left too late, the supply of materials is too little, and the inertia too great.

That kind of social angst, in reality, only has one outcome – a scrap over resources.

Here in NZ, we can’t defend realistically, but we can get to sustainability, for the very good reason that we have more space, more arable land, more water, per person, than most.

While folk like him are here, thinking like they do, that won’t happen. W few centuries ago, folk like him would have burnt folk like me. as ‘heretics’. Read; threats to the established order (always the one with something to lose). I call it ignorance.

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