Monday, May 29, 2006

Climber Dies On Everest; Population Control

"As you put more people into the world, the value of life not only declines, it disappears..."
--Dr. Albert Bartlett

If Chaos' faithful readers (are there any?) have kept up with our journey towards greater and greater entropy, they have come across this lecture by Dr. Albert Bartlett on the inevitable consequences of exponential growth in a world of finite resources. (To those of you who still believe that the Earth's resources are in effect, infinite, you are quite behind and need to catch up--Chaos suggests you read January 12, 2006's post and watch the video link provided therein). The most profound observation of Bartlett's, however, deals with the effects of population growth: "democracy cannot survive overpopulation...human dignity cannot survive overpopulation." Bartlett uses a metaphor: two people in an apartment with two bathrooms, you have "freedom of the bathroom." Twenty people in the apartment, you can't have freedom of the bathroom, no matter how much people believe in the freedom of the bathroom. Fast forward to today's paper of record, in which a climber on Everest died (of exposure, Chaos assumes) whilst some 40 other climbers simply walked on by. The contrast between the first summit in 1953 and today is stunning: Sir Edmund Hilary is quoted as stating that climbers today just don't get it; there was no possibility of anyone in his party, had they been injured, being left behind on the original expedition. Chaos can think of no more compelling example of the disastrous consequences of overpopulation than this.

Friday, May 26, 2006

An Assault on the School System!

This is just too rich to pass up....seems a couple of mischievous high-schoolers thought it funny to serve up some marijuana-laced brownies to teachers in Dallas. What do you suppose were the end results of this juvenile prank? If you guessed "assault on a public servant--third degree felony prosecution" congratulations, you probably live in Texas or one of the equally red states, because that's just what happened. Curiously, it's the "fringe" events like this that persuade Chaos that a sentient force of nature would perhaps be happier in different locales (Costa Rica, New Zealand, Canada, and the French countryside come to mind).

The Gas Price Fiasco Continues, GM XLT Edition

Since stupid people do not understand complex problems, and since the Empire's automobile companies have been part of the problem and not, at any time, the solution, here's the latest entry in the "you just can't make this stuff up" department. The sadly sagging General Motors, whose fortunes have been shall we say, less than stellar, has come up with perhaps the worst response to the growing twilight of oil imaginable: The General proposes to pay the difference in price of gasoline above $1.99 per gallon for one year to buyers of grotesquely sized Suburbans, Yukon XLs, Hummers, and slowww-selling Buick Lacrosses. Chaos has had no formal business training, but suspects a move like this foreshadows extreme desperation and eventual bankruptcy.

A Word (Or Two) From James Lovelock

Chaos recently mentioned James Lovelock and his book, The Revenge of Gaia, in a collapse-themed post. Currently the work is unavailable in the US, but here's a nice column from the author, which Chaos supposes captures the essence of the book. (Of course, this is from a British newspaper; the likelihood of this appearing in a major US news outlet is slim at best). Chaos would point out that the analogy of Gaia to a living organism is only that, although Lovelock appears to have carried it so far as to believe it literally.

Scuba Divers Unite! Coral Endangered

Here's another boring global warming article, centered on the Florida Keys...seems that staghorn and elkhorn coral were recently added to the threatened species list of the Endangered Species Act. Of the many reasons these corals are threatened, the most prominent is "bleaching" caused by rising ocean temperatures caused by (you guessed it) human climatological activities. Chaos supposes that the planet in the future will be much much hotter and much more barren. (Sigh) What we give up to drive our SUVs...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Views of Collapse: Christy Rodgers

"Impossible to predict, the future is."

The voices of the end of civilization and its resulting effects have long been noted here, specifically those of Jared Diamond and James Howard Kunstler. Now Christy Rodgers, an internet being previously unknown to Chaos, takes on these influential prognosticators, in this extended review, along with one apparently unavailable in the US, James Lovelock, author of The Revenge of Gaia. Rodgers effectively skewers both Diamond and Kunstler for their foibles; in Diamond's case it is a starry-eyed emphasis on "balance" between pessimism and optimism, the delusion that the "public" will collectively act to deal with our environmental unsustainability and a refusal to treat the present with the same rigor as his analysis of past collapses, while Rodgers saves most of her vitriol for Kunstler, who presents a set of "sketchily researched laundry list" of converging catastrophes as fact, while in general, projecting his own paranoia and prejudices into his predictions (we all remember the invading Asian pirates!). Rodgers review of Lovelock is similar: the man predicts the violent revenge of the planet for the insults done to it by humans unconcerned with their ultimate environmental effects. As Rodgers notes, this doesn't give a potential audience much to be hopeful about. As far as Chaos is aware, this is the most thoughtful critique of collapse theory at the moment, and well worth perusal (especially if you've read some of the works). Kunstler has always made Chaos somewhat uncomfortable, especially the firmness (and sometimes outrageousness) of his predictions. Likewise, Diamond's almost deliberate slighting of the effects of peak oil seems calculated to produce an untowardly optimistic result. Chaos wonders how Rodgers would view Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Civilizations.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Return From Holiday; Final Words on Gas Prices

Chaos begs pardon from faithful readers, having been on holiday and personally witnessed a portion of the devolution of the airline industry (there is now, apparently, an extra charge of $25 for 'overweight' bags, forcing Chaos to squat humiliatingly in front of the ticket counter, removing heavy items from said bag). Along with charging more for aisle seats, and attempts to develop standing room only "seats," this marks the beginning of the end of easy air travel.

Upon return, Chaos was fortunate enough to come across this exceptionally well-written open letter to the public on gas prices, courtesy of the aptly named EngineerPoet. Chaos has really nothing to add to this, save that for the chosen few, this letter will never reach its intended audience. So, fellow travelers, count yourselves among the rare and fortunate.