Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Crisis of Civilization.10

I finished it! The last few chapters of the book talked about terrorism and militarization. I don't think at this point that most people need more information and stories of true conspiracy theories to be recounted here. At some point, Nafeez finished his exposition and began to outline the Key Structural Problems plaguing [Western/Northern/industrial/corporate] civilization. He doesn't go into huge detail about the specific strategies to fix them, but he does brush broad strokes about some paradigms we can shift and some hard work we'll have to reenvision and engage in to survive the continuing crises. Here's what I took from it all; some goals from Ahmed's own words:
  • increase access to, and ownership of, productive resources for the majority (249)
  • redistribute the wealth (yes, really; if you look at how capitalism systematically funnels all the wealth to the top, this will become more and more obvious and not just a Soviet dream)
  • increase regulation and oversight in banking, government, et al
  • use renewable energy
  • stop the "money as debt" MO (253)
  • cease/desist/abolish/prohibit computational finance and such transactions as do not produce anything of value and, in fact, hurt the people in the world
  • return to participatory democracy; build systems from the bottom up; empower people; recognize others as subjects and respect all life on earth (255); hierarchies may happen; just make sure to keep accountable and do what's best in individual communities
  • MATERIALISM (the idea that we're self-serving, consuming beings at heart) IS BULLSHIT; self-fulfillment is instead realized through ethical activity (undefined here; have fun with it); we're INTERCONNECTED, not purely selfish profit-seekers
My takeaways:
- be compassionate
- respect the interconnected web of all existence
- engage in your world; respect yourself and others enough to be involved

What's missing?
- The only thing I feel Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed missed in this book, or at least explicitly in the last chapter, was a push for us to use fewer resources. Yes, we should be using cleaner energy; but we also have to use a lot less of it. Myself most certainly included.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Dick Cheney on geopolitics, 1999

quoted from 1999, Dick Cheney talking to the London Institute of Petroleum:

"From the standpoint of the oil industry obviously - and I'll talk a little later on about gas - for over a hundred years we as an industry have had to deal with the pesky problem that once you find oil and pump it out of the ground you've got to turn around and find more or go out of business. Producing oil is obviously a self-depleting activity. Every year you've got to find and develop reserves equal to your output just to stand still, just to stay even. This is as true for companies as well in the broader economic sense it is for the world. A new merged company like Exxon-Mobil will have to secure over a billion and a half barrels of new oil equivalent reserves every year just to replace existing production. It's like making one hundred per cent interest; discovering another major field of some five hundred million barrels equivalent every four months or finding two Hibernias a year. For the world as a whole, oil companies are expected to keep finding and developing enough oil to offset our seventy one million plus barrel a day of oil depletion, but also to meet new demand. By some estimates there will be an average of 2% annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead along with conservatively a 3% natural decline in production from existing reserves. That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50,000,000 barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from? Governments and the national oil companies are obviously in control of about 90% of the assets. Oil remains fundamentally a government business. While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world's oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies, even though companies are anxious for greater access there, progress continues to be slow... Oil is unique in that it is so strategic in nature. We are not talking about soapflakes or leisurewear here. Energy is truly fundamental to the world's economy. The Gulf War was a reflection of that reality."

I read this from Nafeez Ahmed's amazing A User's Guide to the Crisis of Civilization, which I've been nursing for months now, eating ten or so pages at a time over my lunch break.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

John Michael Greer and the Future of Humanity

I read a lot of blogs about climate change, peak energy, sustainability, and humanistic religion. Here's an excerpt from a good piece I'm reading this morning:

"Cheap, easily accessible deposits of the resources on which industrial civilization depends have been exhausted, and replaced with increasing difficulty by more expensive substitutes, at steadily rising costs in money, labor, energy, and other resources; the national infrastructure and the natural environment have both been drawn into an accelerating spiral of malign neglect; standards of living for most of the population have been sliding steadily, along with most measures of public health and meaningful education; constitutional rights and the rule of law have taken a beating, administered with equal enthusiasm by both major parties, who seem incapable of agreeing on anything else even when the welfare of the nation is obviously at stake."

After spelling it out, Greer talks about how as humans, our response has been split:
1. we believe that technology or Jesus will save us and/or ignore the problems and continue to focus on how awesome civilization and humanity are, or
2. we believe that the apocalypse is upon us and we're all going to die, if not in a fiery blaze than in a world of pestilence and war

Greer doesn't like either of these. He challenges us instead to question the narratives that frame our culture - both messianic and apocalyptic - and be aware of our biases. He asks us to look at empirical evidence, patterns, cause and effect. I personally think that being aware of how things work and being respectful of life and natural limits is the way to go and is the foundation of how we should live. Maybe I'm becoming a bit druidic myself ;-)