Exploring Hydrocarbon Depletion
Page added on February 24, 2017
With Trump’s threats to dismantle the EPA and trash the Endangered Species Act, Norm Sanders reminds us of the Club of Rome’s warning that Planet Earth was finite.
JUST ABOUT everybody on earth knows who Donald Trump is, but many have never heard of the Club of Rome and its forecasts for the future of life on Planet Earth. The Club of Rome was formed in 1968 in Italy as a global think tank to deal with international issues such as the state of the environment, including climate change and the world economic system. Its basic premise was that the earth was finite. Members were high-powered individuals from international politics, science and business.
In 1972, the Club issued a report entitled ‘The Limits to Growth‘. The book sold 30 million copies in many translations and became a bible for environmentalists. The book was based on the work of husband and wife team, Donella and Dennis Meadows, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They developed a cutting-edge computer model called “World 3” to track the global economy and the environment.
The team modelled industrialization, population, food, use of resources and pollution. They entered data up to 1970, and then projected a set of scenarios which extended to 2100. Their modelling showed that humanity urgently needed to take serious and immediate action on all levels.
‘Limits to Growth’ and Paul Erlich’s ‘Population Bomb‘ were instrumental in raising awareness and the political clout necessary to bring in the extensive environmental legislation of the 1970s now being targeted by President Trump.
Sceptics from the big end of town rubbished the findings for years in the face of common sense and obvious planetary degradation, but the forecasts have turned out to be frighteningly accurate. In 2009, Paul Ehrlich said:
“Perhaps the most serious flaw in The Bomb was that it was much too optimistic about the future.”
As Limits to Growth concluded in 1972:
‘If the present growth trends in world population, industrialisation, pollution, food production, and resource depletion continue unchanged, the limits to growth on this planet will be reached sometime within the next one hundred years. The most probable result will be a rather sudden and uncontrollable decline in both population and industrial capacity.’
In other words, there would be “overshoot and collapse” in the environment, population and economy if it was business as usual. Original author Dennis Meadows speaking at the ‘Limits to Growth conference’ in 2014 shortened the overshoot-collapse time-frame down to 2015-2020.
The Limits to Growth — is the prediction of 1972 going to happen?
Extreme weather events, coral bleaching, drought, famine, accelerating species extinction and oceanic acidification are all indicators that he may be right. Last month, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists set the doomsday clock to 2.5 minutes to midnight, the closest in 30 years. Other indications are the “survivalists.” No longer are they just the eccentric camo-clad gun-toting subjects of TV shows. Now they include much richer people from big business including hedge-fund managers and technology CEOs.
These high-fliers are used to looking into the future and don’t like what they see. Many are buying “holiday homes” in New Zealand. In the first seven days after Donald Trump’s election, 13,401 Americans registered with New Zealand’s immigration authorities, more than seventeen times the usual rate. The influx has prompted the formation of “The Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa.” They say:
“Yanks, get this in your heads. Aotearoa NZ is not your little last resort safe haven.”
Enter Donald Trump. No longer is it even business as usual, but business as it was conducted in the 19th Century — the era of the American Robber Barons. He fancies himself as a later day Rockefeller, Astor or Stanford, men who made fortunes by laissez-faire exploitation of America’s resources. There were no pesky environmental regulations or native land rights. (In fact, if the natives got in the way, they were shot.)
In order to “Make America Great” in those days, the government gave away huge tracts of land on both sides of railway right-of-ways as an incentive to the railway tycoons. (Who mostly used immigrant Chinese for construction workers.) This formerly public land was funnelled into private pockets and became the source of many huge fortunes.
Of course, there were protests from the public, which came to a head over Yellowstone Park in 1886. The park, the first in the world, was established in Ulysses S. Grant in 1872. It was mismanaged for years, with mining and forestry activities scarring the landscape. In 1886, the U.S. Government yielded to the many voices of concern and called in the U.S. Calvary to sort things out. The Calvary defended the park for 30 years which is the kind of commitment National Parks SHOULD have.
Donald Trump has already shown interest in reducing protection for public lands by handing them over the States who are more prone to influence by resource exploiters. In addition, he has put a moratorium on hiring, which is hampering already understaffed National Park Service operations.
He is quickly dragging the U.S. back to the open-slather days of the past when cartoons showing black smoke belching from chimneys was a sign of prosperity. One of his first executive orders was to force ALL government agencies to rescind two regulations for each new one. Trump also wants to increase business profits by drastically cutting company taxes
He has vowed to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency and has appointed climate change sceptic Scott Pruitt as Secretary to oversee the dismantling. Moves are also afoot to trash the Endangered Species Act and anything else that gets in the way of “Making America Great Again.” And don’t forget that Trump picked the former Exxon Mobil CEO as Secretary of State. 1890s laissez-faire is back.
Donald Trump is the quintessential denizen of the big end of town. He doesn’t believe in climate change and has probably never heard of the Club of Rome. His appreciation of the environment extends only as far as the manicured grass of his golf courses. Trump’s typical reaction to any obstruction is bullying, bluster and threats.
Donald, it won’t work this time. As scientist and economist Robert K. Watson said:
“Mother nature is just chemistry, biology and physics. That’s all she is. You cannot sweet-talk her. You cannot spin her. You cannot tell her that the oil companies say climate change is a hoax. No, Mother Nature is going to do whatever chemistry, biology and physics dictate. Mother nature always bats last, and she always bats 1,000.”
Norm Sanders is a former University of California professor and retired Australian Federal senator.
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