Friday, April 27, 2007

A Look At Water Depletion In Australia

Think that oil, natural gas, uranium and coal are the only resources that are subject to permanent depletion? Sorry, but even so-called "renewable" resources can behave like nonrenewables when drawn down at unsustainable rates, which, by some coincidence, is starting to happen in many parts of the world due to (you guessed it) increasing population and resource use. Particularly in the case of the world's fresh water, this is quite a cause for concern, since water is used not only for drinking, but innumerable other uses, including industrial, and agricultural. A nice snapshot of efforts to contain profligate water use in the Murray-Darling river in South Australia is contained in this article. Chaos was heartened to read that a water conservation and use plan concerning the river was making headway, but along came a severe drought, causing all plans to grind to a halt. Interesting that the underlying problems continue not to be recognized (and certainly not ever in a mainstream publication like The Economist), but Chaos supposes that when the water runs out , as it eventually will, humans may begin to see. Best hopes for population dieoff!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Collapse Revisited: Tainter's Collapse (the abridged version)

Chaos somehow doubts that most casual readers will attempt to get through what is considered the definitive work on collapse, Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies, since it is somewhat academic and scholarly, and let's face it, who reads these days anyhow (besides Chaos)? At any rate here is a much shorter link for those who wish to know why complexity leads eventually to collapse, or at least it has in the past...or is modern industrial civilization "special" and exempt from past historical experience, much like those who insist that civilization can keep growing (and destroying the planet as it does) forever, in defiance of the laws of nature, since humans are "special."

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Inflation Monster Arises

No, Chaos is not being dramatic...a reading of today's selection will induce fear and horror, if you are a resident of the most financially profligate nation on the planet. The US economy appears to be suspended in midair, held together by nothing by hope and delusions. Its people have forgotten how to save, and its government has made promises that will bankrupt it and everyone who lives here. A sober, reasonable expectation for the future will be roaring inflation and massive tax increases. Chaos envies not at all those who will be attempting to maintain employment in the US during the next twenty years or so. Scott Burns, co-author of the excellent The Coming Generational Storm, gives us an update on the state of these so-called government "promises"--Social Security and Medicare. The cost of these two programs exceeds what will be collected in taxes by 63.675 trillion dollars, more than the market value of all land, buildings, highways, plants and equipment in the US (by about 20 trillion dollars). Chaos must emphasize that these figures are not new (well, they have gotten worse of course, since nothing has been done) since commentators like Burns have been sounding the warning for years. Chaos has no further prediction beyond the obvious above, but suggests that the other factors discussed often here will enhance the negative effects. If this subject does not incline one towards relocation, Chaos wonders what would...

Refugee Focus: Iraq

An excellent piece at the consistently prescient antiwar site Tomdispatch, written by Dahr Jamail, gives a true picture of what life in the maelstrom of Iraq is cut to the chase, upwards of 1.5 million people have left the country because of the unremitting violence and chaos caused by the US invasion (another couple of million, give or take, have been internally displaced). Jamail follows some of these unfortunates into Syria, where an overwhelmed UN agency struggles vainly to provide them with the bare necessities. The statistics are staggering, but the individual interviews will make the hardhearted blush. The mainstream media in the Empire have chosen to avoid this subject and why not? The maudlin aftermath of university shootings or the Kabuki rantings and apology of a celebrity are more to the liking of the somnolent public.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Some Scary Stuff

Here's a couple of items to keep you on the edge of your seat, so to speak...

The first is "A Crude Awakening: Oil Crash," which premiered the other night on the Sundance Channel, and is set for a few more showings this weekend. A fine documentary which covers all the basics of the subject; the visualizations are scary and excellent. Gather any "nonbelievers" in your circle and plop them down in front of this one, if you can.

Our second entry comes from the blog of esteemed poster Greyzone on The Oil Drum....a near future scenario laid out in enough detail and drawing upon currently known facts. Quite fine, and frightening in its possibilities.

Enjoy your day in the Matrix, readers.

Does the Government Want You to Know About Peak Oil?

The headline above was not rhetorical,, it does not. Here's the proof: the Energy Information Administration, charged with looking at all the data and coming up with predictions for energy usage and prices in the near and far future, has, well, quite a track record when it comes to prognostication. One might say Panglossian, to be kind, but at any rate, this article should enlighten those who wonder why more people aren't actually aware of how oil is going to stop flowing some day soon. From the article: "EIA’s monthly and annual predictions have only one purpose: to prevent the mainstream media from alerting the driving public to the fragility of the domestic energy picture." Yes indeed. Peruse it and weep, readers.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Friedman Savaged By Carmudgeon Realist: A Study in Contrasts

Just the other day, a long and detailed piece by the NYTimes international columnist Thomas Friedman appeared in The Magazine (a weekly feature, for those unfamiliar with the nation's paper of record), the subject of which was how development of "green energy" would lead the US out of its increasing dependency on unstable Middle East countries (which would in turn eliminate the so-called "oil curse"), put the productive capacity and brainpower of the nation to work to produce more "clean technology," which developing nations (China, India) would purchase, and simultaneously enable the US and the world to make progress on global warming.


There are many objections someone who is familiar with the issues of the end of cheap energy, global heating, and the effects of exponential growth on finite resources might make; language like this, for example, not only gives one pause but tends to undermine whatever value the rest of the article might contain:

"After World War II, President Eisenhower responded to the threat of Communism and the 'red menace' with massive spending on an interstate highway system to tie America together, in large part so that we could better move weapons in the event of a war with the Soviets. That highway system, though, helped to enshrine America’s car culture (atrophying our railroads) and to lock in suburban sprawl and low-density housing, which all combined to get America addicted to cheap fossil fuels, particularly oil. Many in the world followed our model.

Today, we are paying the accumulated economic, geopolitical and climate prices for that kind of America. I am not proposing that we radically alter our lifestyles. We are who we are — including a car culture. But if we want to continue to be who we are, enjoy the benefits and be able to pass them on to our children, we do need to fuel our future in a cleaner, greener way."(emphasis Chaos')

The effects of the continuation of ridiculously wasteful American lifestyles is obviously not going to be addressed by Friedman; why not? Perhaps Friedman's audience would find that too disturbing to consider. What soporific effect is meant by "we are who we are"? In fact, transportation uses quite a bit of energy, but simply stating that citizens may have to drive less is "beyond the scope" of this article; why? Another interesting question might be: how does an optimist like Friedman expect to handle the energy needs for the "extra" 100 million citizens of the US who are projected to "arrive" by 2050? In fact, the overall tone of the article seems calculated to induce a pleasant sensation: just a little old-fashioned American ingenuity and government incentives, and these problems will just go away. Overall, the piece is disturbing, in that it contains a bedeviling mixture of facts and delusions that together give a much more optimistic tone than is reasonably warranted by the nature of the looming multiple catastrophes. (Chaos is adopting a more strident tone in preparation for the introduction of the next writer).

Chaos will now leave off the criticism of Friedman or, more properly, turn it over to James Howard Kunstler, who addresses this piece in his weekly blog, Clusterfuck Nation. Besides being screamingly funny, the man has put it all together, in such works as The Geography of Nowhere, and The Long Emergency, both highly recommended. Chaos thinks that it might help readers to get a sense of just how large the problems are by reading Friedman's piece and Kunstler's response to it. Further, what lurks behind the NYTimes article (and many others like it in the MSM) is the plain fact that it is impossible to tell the truth to the American public. Any solutions proposed will have to account for this "energy ADHD" aspect (hint: few, if any of them do).

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Homeless Inhabit the Library: Another Sign Your Empire's Crumbling

This is a somewhat long and detailed post on the excellent Tomdispatch site, about how the homeless, lacking any sort of safety net, and suffering from mental illnesses, alcoholism, drug problems, and the like, have by necessity started permanently visiting the libraries of the Empire, turning librarians into involuntary social workers. A sort of canary in the coal mine, in Chaos' opinion and apparently also that of the author:

"America is proud of its hyper-individualism, our liberation from the bonds of tribe and the social constraints of traditional societies. We glorify the accomplishments of inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, pioneers, and artists. But while some individuals thrive and the cutting edge of our technology is wondrous, the plight of the chronically homeless tells me that our communities are also fragmented and disintegrating. We may have gained the world and lost each other."

And this:

"What do you think about a culture that abandons suffering people and expects them to fend for themselves on the street, then criminalizes them for expressing the symptoms of illnesses they cannot control?"

What do you think, readers? An isolated event, an unfortunate byproduct of our success, or a sign of the beginning of the collapse of the Empire? Chaos suggests, once again, to pay attention to the actions of the culture, not the "values" it proclaims it has.

Tinfoil Hat Edition: Conspiracies to Entertain

As has been mentioned, Chaos is not a fan of conspiracies (secrets seem to have a way of spilling out, despite best efforts of all involved; most plans require a degree of interconnectedness and coordination which seems unlikely given the general level of incompetence), but here are a couple for your own amusement. The first posits that the primary reason the US attacked Iraq was to install a secret pipeline to Saudi Arabia to shore up its lagging oil production (if "lagging Saudi oil production" is new to you, spend more time at The Oil Drum). Baldly stating it here does not do the piece justice; the connection of the dots is somewhat interesting and even compelling for the less skeptical. Next up is a piece from Jim Puplava's site; more of a speculative analysis of the coming resource wars and competitions between nations than an actual conspiracy, but mildly entertaining nonetheless, and perhaps an introduction to the Puplava site (he has hosted Simmons, Kunstler, and others on his radio shows). Oh, and here's an interesting piece on just how fragmented, incomplete and ridiculously secretive the "terror database" is. Woe be to you if you have the same or similar name to that of someone on the list, but well, that's just life in the Empire, isn't it? Well, there you have it, then, some current conspiracy stuff to entertain. Chaos does not recall noting the classic ones (now more than a year old, but not stale yet), like Halliburton's $385m contract to build refugee camps for some unknown reason here in the Empire(confirmed), or the Emperor's purchase of a 98,000 ranch in Paraguay(speculative).