New Zealand media – the Emperor continues unquestionably clothed.

I’m fired up this morning. After some time blogging/commenting alone, I went to a lecture last night. About lignite – but it encompassed peak coal, peak oil, global population, limits and climate change.

In short, the big picture.

Who should be presenting that to you and I?

The media.

So – with the acknowledged exception of some National Radio folk, I’m going to take the New Zealand media to task; indeed I’m going to suggest they’re lying – as in: they’re not telling the truth – but there is a genuine question as to whether they’re lying to themselves, or purposely. I guess there’s always the chance they’ll plead ignorance, but hey, that’s not good enough from the media, regardless of the fact that it’s not accepted legally.    

A few quick background facts  (sorry if you’ve heard it all before):

* Nothing happens without energy being expended.

* We are a biological species, living on a finite planet.

* Exponential growth (of anything) is expressed in terms of  ‘doubling time’.

* Our fiscal system is growth-based.

* No exponential growth continues indefinitely within a finite system.

* A system based on exponential growth is in trouble not at the end, but at the half-way point (max flow).

Lets put it all together:

All life, our included, requires energy. We eat, or die. If a predator uses more calories in the chase, than the devoured prey returns, it dies. All energy comes from the sun, directly or indirectly. Wind, hydro, oil, coal, are all just indirect solar (decayed trees, etc). For the last 200 years, one species has tapped into millions of years-worth of solar energy, being fossil (the name says it all) fuels. Despite silver bullets and rabbits in hats, no mass viable alternative has appeared, and we are now at the half-way (max flow) point.

We also have inherited a planet which once had no oxygen in it’s atmosphere. All the chemical elements are present, for that to happen again. There are other states we could go into – warming, sea level etc. Given that we have moved on from offloading responsibility to mythical deities, the responsibility for the condition of the planet lies with us.

What we have done, is to tap into that easy energy and use it to artificially boost our numbers (even cooking saves us energy – it displaces digestion, which takes calories. Vegetables currently take around 10 calories of fossil oil, per 1 calorie of food. Meat runs 27 calories of oil, for 1 of food. We’re simply eating our way through a finite resource, and supporting an unprecedented 7 billion people on the planet.

This can be seen in two ways – we have too few planets, or too many people. 3-4 planets, or a reduction to about 2 billion people, are the requirement. We are ahead of projections birth-rate-wise, but there is no way we get to 9 billion by 2050.

Clearly, if the resources that took millions of years to accumulate are consumed, and the resultant pollution not fully addressed/mitigated, there is no chance that our particular species could re-group. The only valid course is to hand on a planet in equilibrium, all else is degrees of fraud; perpetrated on unrepresented generations.

Unfortunately, that necessity is impossible while we continue to pursue economic growth, for the simple reason that we have never – and can never – separate the production of goods and/or services, from the physical resources of the planet. It was inevitable that the monitoring system for trading would be set up in the growth phase – the only paradigm extant at the time. It is also inevitable that a growth-based system has to be moved away from, for us to survive as a species (why folk think we are the single magic exception to the rules of physics/chemistry/biology, beats me.

Interestingly, a growth-based system won’t last much beyond the peak flow of the most crucial ingredient – and energy is the essential ingredient – no energy; no work. Curtailed energy: curtailed work. Efficiencies will slow the lowering sword, but will furnish diminishing returns.

All money is a proxy – an expectation that it can be exchanged for goods and/or services. Trading will continue post peak-energy-flow, but leverage, profit, debt, usury and fiat money-creation, are all doomed.

Our media report ‘growth’ as being good. Being ‘positive’. Being ‘richer’ is the thing. I suggest they’re telling porkies, either to themselves or to us. Maybe it’s cognitive dissonance, maybe denial, parental or self. That’s not good enough. Nor is the reporting of folk (usually economists) who tout/forecast growth, without either challenge about the effects, or without a countermanding view being proffered. Business on Radio NZ is a classic example of this bias – but it’s more the rule than the exception.

I’ve hassled – reasonably legibly (I think) and reasonably logically (I think) much of the New Zealand media over this, over the last 5 years. I’m only a newspaper/Nat Radio/blogs person, don’t do TV or Talkback, but I’d expect the move to come from my chosen sources. Senior journo’s – the John Armstrongs of the nation – have an obligation to lead the way here – to investigate, to report. All we are getting is regurgitated spin – in a word, lies.

Five years ago I thought they’d get there, and it was only ignorance of the issue that was preventing them. That’s not the case. The failure of my own local paper (the ODT) to ask or learn, have only been matched by their ability to continue the horse-shit – Dene Mackenzies fron page ‘opinion’ that selling off energy generators ‘made sense’, being a classic, as was a recent Editorial (yes, we are all entitled to our opinions, but an Editorial should be researched, logical and based on fact) screaming (of DCC investigations into Peak Oil – what does it do that doesn’t use oil, again? And what is it planning for – the past, perhaps?)  “they are not – they are luxuries”.


Time you told the truth, NZ media. Your omission in this regard, to me, is several orders of magnitude worse than Murdoch’s transgression. Get it together, please.

Note:  most folk fail to grasp exponential growth. 3% growth doubles in 24 years. It would double again (so 4 times the original) in the next 24. 10% growth doubles in 7 years. Quadruples in 14, eight time the original in 21 years.

All doubling-time graphs trend to the vertical, in a J-curve. None are ever sustainable – the only question of every exponential growth regime is ‘when does it crash’.


One Response

  1. The media simply do not report what they do not want to hear. I thought that today may have been a good time to run a piece I submitted on Hillside Engineering. But I suppose it was foolish to expect the media to savage the hand that feeds it.

    It certainly does seem like a scheme to keep the people in the dark. I really like your article because it actually made me think about what you had written on a very deep level. Well done!

    Ultimately, I think population will be kept down by an unholy trinity of war, resource scarcity and pollution

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