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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Clearly It Is Going To Suck....

I just caught up on a few of my favorite econ blogs. And of course we had the recent midterm elections. I am disturbed by the number of people who think that there is a way to avoid a drastic change of our current quality of life.

We are thermodynamic thieves living wholly unsustainable lifestyles. With the magic of easy oil (and the remarkable generosity of outside entities lending us money to fuel astounding social programs) we have built a wonderland of greater and greater complexity. It has been stable for so long that it appears that many have mistaken it for nature; the natural order of things.

I fear that one of the two major political parties believes that we can stop some of this debt (more likely just redirect it) by ending social problems and "nature" will hold. Heck, they believe our lifestyles will actually improve. A wealthy theocracy will ensue!

I fear that the other major political party believes that we can continue things exactly like they are. Heck, maybe we could even have more social programs and "nature" will hold. None will suffer the consequences of their actions!

There seems to be a growing third party that believes that the system will collapse, but their personal lifestyles can continue because they were bright enough to buy metals with strange properties. I got mine, Jack!

But all seem to be denying the interrelated matrix of factors that have provided our fantastic lifestyles. I recently at the grocery store looking for my favorite organic cheese flavored (but no MSG) corn chip indulgence. An entire aisle devoted to brightly colored bags of chips and I was getting surly because I couldn't locate the ones with my very specific qualifications. How lucky! When the poor are rioting and farmer's don't have oil for tractors I suspect my choices in caloric intake will have to be modified.

Perhaps I should start the "Soft Landing" political party. We will seek the smoothest transition into national sustainability. Our motto will be "Clearly It Is Going To Suck, But Let's Try To Be Rational About It".


Dr John said...

I think it is gonna get bad and there is not much we can do. I certainly have zero faith in either political party. It's why I am a libertarian. I know a lot of those people buying a bit of the precious metals that you speak of Dink. I am one of them. It certainly is not because I believe what we are doing can be sustained and a little gold will keep me safe. I am buying canned goods and bags of rice for my cold cellar too. Fact is it's like watching and being involved in a train wreck. You are desperate to do anything at all to try to help yourself even if it seems pathetic but down deep you don't really believe it's going to make a big difference in the outcome. I admit it. It's pretty frightening.

rjs said...

you're right, of course...and your party's motto works for me, too...

ChrisA said...

LOL. I'm with you.

But then again, when Wyle E. Coyote is hangin' out over the void, starting to understand his lesson on gravitation, what exactly would being "rational" look like? Screaming and flailing is as useful as anything else.

Gold, canned food and ammunition, oh my! Dimitri Orlov said it's like digging a hole and waiting for someone to come along and push you in. Or maybe it's more like Wyle E. struggling to get on top of the boulder he's falling with before it all comes to a sudden stop...

JP said...

We are first going to try to use all of our coal and nuclear energy.

We aren't really thermodynamic theives. It pays to remember that the universe itself is a free lunch.

There is a clear limit to the number of people who can live on this planet over the long term. That limit is related directly to Mr. Sun.

And the West is going under anyway, apparently due to the fractal nature of High Cultures deployed in time. The West really began around 1000.

Humanity will survive, learn lessons, and move on.

rjs said...

oh sure, humanity will survive, but the question remains at what level of civilization?

JP said...


You can probably get the best idea over at the Archdruid's report. It's basically all he thinks about it.

And the short answer to your question is that civilization will be at a level that is sustainable based on energy input from Mr. Sun.

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits