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Have Even A Partial Solution?

General discussions of the systemic, societal and civilisational effects of depletion.

Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby rwwff » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 02:58:41

MonteQuest wrote:why does a move towards these concepts give rise to the visions of poverty, hard labor, and strife that we see trotted out?


Frankly, I think its because of the first one, population reduction. Its your biggest hurdle for being convincing. See the population threads for that nasty, hot, stinky potatoe...

Thats the origin of all the "die-off", "apocolypse", and "Zombie Horde" talk.

Put simply, what is the mechanical procedure by which the human population goes from 6-9 billion down to say 500 million within a time span that is meaningful?

Given that I can't come up with a procedure that wouldn't make Satan whimper in horror, and no one advocating the powerdown has suggested an effective mechanism either; it is not irrational for someone such as I to conclude that population reduction is simply not possible outside of a staggeringly malevolent program; and without the population reduction, you can't get the civilized powerdown.

Footnotes:
poverty = eating 3000 calories instead of 4000 calories per day.
hard labor = walking to the grocery store
strife = natural state of human existance.
If it competes, kill it. If it doesn't compete, kill it, then eat it.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Cabrone » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 05:06:08

Wildwell, I totally agree with your solutions to PO. We need not just an energy rethink but an architectural and social rethink to go with it.

Our living environment needs to be redesigned to encourage non polluting ways. Our towns and cities are designed for business, not people and this must change. In the town that I live a new shopping centre is being erected. The whole project is about cramming as many shops in as possible and making as much cash as you can, no consideration has been given to the people in the area and the environmental concerns that all the extra cars will produce. For all those shops not one new building for the community is going to be erected.

There needs to be a revolution in the minds of the people that make these decisions. Ordinary people can try and do their bit but without the system realigning itself in the right direction our efforts will be small.

My hope is that PO will force these people to reassess their priorities and the balance of power will shift back to the people.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Doly » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 05:20:36

Cabrone wrote:Ordinary people can try and do their bit but without the system realigning itself in the right direction our efforts will be small.


And what is exactly "the system"?

In my opinion, "the system" is the way different people/organizations interact with each other. You can't make others interact in a different way towards you, but you can interact in different ways with others. If you keep it up, and convince others to do the same, you will be changing "the system". That's what the hippies were trying to do in the sixties. They were only half successful, but that was because they were doing too many drugs.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby CARVER » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 07:37:09

rwwff wrote:But I have a fine rule that has served me well. If you don't fully understand it, don't sign it, and don't vote for it.


"You do ill if you praise, and still worse if you reprove in a matter you do not understand." -- Leonardo da Vinci
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 08:02:34

MonteQuest wrote:
Wildwell wrote:Well I said that the world wouldn't power down to agricultural levels, nor do I think there's a need to. Under no conceivable scenarios would millions of people throw years of education away, remain within walking distance of where they were born and go and shovel horse shit. Its pointless putting forward such a proposition and even more pointless enforcing it.

Governments have enough problems trying to get people to leave their cars at home let alone turn to hard labour and subsistence living.


Well, I can see that few even have an inkling of what a powerdown entails. Yes, I see a move away from machines and toward more manual labor, but hard labor and subsistence living?

Hardly.

Why is it that so many people haven't a clue as to what powerdown means?

Where does this mindset come from?

Powerdown in many cases will mean giving up speed of acquisition in return for quality.


It would be nice if people were interested, instead of leaping to the conclusion that powerdown means people becoming serfs on the land or something.

Nope.

Adjusting our culture to work with Earth's life systems rather than against them will probably mean more people will need to be at least somewhat involved with growing their own food and other needs, but it certainly doesn't require everyone become a farmer. In fact, I don't even promote farming, myself. I promote gardening, which is a much more productive use of resources than farming (in general) and far less physical labor. See websites below for more details.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Jack » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 09:43:02

MonteQuest wrote:
rwwff wrote: Hard to say really. I think I have a fairly pathetic and feeble understanding of what it is you envision, but I think it includes elements of:

1.) reduced population.
2.) sustained technology, but with much less mass industrial production.
3.) more localization of skills and products
4.) emphasis on renewable energy sources
5.) current economic model has to die, new model based on quality instead of quantity.

I'm sure you'll say I'm all wrong, but I have done my best to understand your proposal; perhaps it is simply beyond the capacity of my limited intelligence and education to truly comprehend.

But I have a fine rule that has served me well. If you don't fully understand it, don't sign it, and don't vote for it.


No, not wrong. But why does a move towards these concepts give rise to the visions of poverty, hard labor, and strife that we see trotted out?


MonteQuest, I guess I don't understand how it can be otherwise.

Reduced population implies an increased death rate. If we assume that's due to natural causes that have previously been suppressed or mitigated, those dying are going to see that matter in a negative light. Furthermore, those caring about the dying will probably object. If the reduction is due to famine, we can be sure that hordes of desperate refugees will assail any oasis of plenty. That sounds like a formula for strife to me. Starvation also seems like an aspect of poverty.

I really don't see how one sustains technology without mass production. How does one produce CPUs or DRAM? For that matter, how does one produce large runs of books? I can see having a small bakery, a tailor, or grocer - but maintaining technology without the extensive support infrastructure seems problematic.

Localization of skills and products is fine - but see above. Does it make sense for every city to have a fab line for chips? (Yes, that's a silly example, and I know it.) But although localization is great for some things, I question whether the general case will work for most things.

An emphasis on renewable energy is fine, but given the EROEI, I get the impression that much more expensive energy is implied. If less available energy means economic shrinkage, it seems to me that some level of poverty is implied. I would note that a modest little house of the late 1940's era in the U.S. would, today, be regarded as a quite meager abode. So, if poverty is reduced material abundance, yes - I think the masses will experience some degree of poverty.

Finally, the issue of quantity versus quality. I like quality. But quantity has its merits - quantities of food, for one example. Quantities of clothing for another. Keep in mind that quality costs. A bespoke suit costs far more than a rack suit - and is also a lot better. But fewer people can afford the bespoke version. That will, I think, be perceived as impoverishment.

So - with all due respect - yes, I think the coming festivities will involve strife, poverty, and hard work. Perhaps you could show me how or why it wouldn't?
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Cabrone » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 09:50:42

And what is exactly "the system"?


The system is our society and how it functions. You don't have to be a hippie (and I'm not) to see that what we currently have is unsustainable and dysfunctional. We spend more and more time away from our family and friends getting more and more stressed out working on things that no-one really needs and use up more and more precious resources doing it. It makes no sense! I believe it's time we paused, had a rethink and got smart over how we live our lives. This system sucks us in and doesn't give us the time and space to really have a good think about what is important to us.

The trouble is the people who set the agenda and have the power to change things have vested interests in keeping us on the treadmill. Most ordinary people will live according to whatever rules are in place.

Wildwell came up with a great list of suggestions, none of which are beyond the wit of the powers that be. Will they make those changes? Not without being absolutely forced to and that hopefully is where PO and energy depletion comes in. It's a great chance for a rethink.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 17:50:34

Cabrone wrote:This crop is tough, can be grown for 30 years without any fertilizers or pesticides and actually makes the soil more fertile by when it is grown.
How is this so? Is all of elephant grass's biomass extracted from the air and sunlight?

Also, has anyone done any calculations on the total energy input to sow, grow, harvest and process this crop?

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Wildwell » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 19:50:31

Ludi wrote:
MonteQuest wrote:
Wildwell wrote:Well I said that the world wouldn't power down to agricultural levels, nor do I think there's a need to. Under no conceivable scenarios would millions of people throw years of education away, remain within walking distance of where they were born and go and shovel horse shit. Its pointless putting forward such a proposition and even more pointless enforcing it.

Governments have enough problems trying to get people to leave their cars at home let alone turn to hard labour and subsistence living.


Well, I can see that few even have an inkling of what a powerdown entails. Yes, I see a move away from machines and toward more manual labor, but hard labor and subsistence living?

Hardly.

Why is it that so many people haven't a clue as to what powerdown means?

Where does this mindset come from?

Powerdown in many cases will mean giving up speed of acquisition in return for quality.


It would be nice if people were interested, instead of leaping to the conclusion that powerdown means people becoming serfs on the land or something.

Nope.

Adjusting our culture to work with Earth's life systems rather than against them will probably mean more people will need to be at least somewhat involved with growing their own food and other needs, but it certainly doesn't require everyone become a farmer. In fact, I don't even promote farming, myself. I promote gardening, which is a much more productive use of resources than farming (in general) and far less physical labor. See websites below for more details.


If you want my honest opinion some of this self-sufficiency stuff is a little naive, that's not to say there's not a place for some of it. Most people don't want to live 'the good life' and are more than happy enough with their microwave meals, widescreen TVs, electricity and clean water supply, all of which implies some sort of interdependence and industrial scale civilisation. We’re also not going to un-invent this stuff and do things ‘the hard way’. If families have moved about they are going to want to travel, people still want to know the news, have clean running water and food on the table.

You cannot sustain a modern city by growing a bit of veg in the garden. Materials have to come it and out, people actually have to do something to sustain themselves, and will naturally move to trade, making things to better their lot and invent things to make life easier – this is human nature and sets us apart from the animals, not to say some of the inventions are always sensible!

More interestingly the whole notion of 'localisation' (in the sense peak oilers mean it) is also void. Again, that's not to say growing food and making (some) products a little closer to have isn't beneficial, but I get the impression people think this can happen all around animal power and everything you want can be found within walking distance. And if it’s not based around animal power, even using humble bikes, it’s still industrial.

Materials, goods and labour to sustain the population are not found where you want them. Bad harvests have been known to kill millions. This is why transportation grew up – hence your oil use. We didn’t do it for fun, we did it to make life easier. Getting rid of all of that, or even a substantial part of that will make life much, much harder. Personally I don’t think motorised personal transport using throwaway vehicles is sustainable. Growing your own biodeisel sounds great on that site, only trouble is who is going to mine the iron ore, make the steel, design and make your car? It’s all far too hippyish to take seriously. I have included cars because erasing them is not acceptable to most people BUT with the caveat life is not planned around them in all but rural areas.

In essence you are talking about either an agricultural economy or an industrial one, there's no 'half way' house. My argument is using the right checks and a balance the industrial one doesn’t have to get out of hand, but that requires vision and policy, and responsibility, at every level. It may be the human civilisation is naturally boom/bust and we must let nature take its course somewhat and can never come up with an ‘acceptable’ solution that satisfies ‘working with the planets life systems’, but we can go a long way in getting most of the way there.

If you think people have got the wrong end of the stick, set out your stall, but make it attractive otherwise you have failed.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Ludi » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 21:19:09

I strongly disagree with you, Wildwell, but that's ok.

You can choose your path, I will choose mine. :)
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 22:24:21

This is a really good thread that cuts to the heart of the problem. It is easy to recognise what the problems are but harder to suggest possible solutions often because many here will say that it can't be done. I will try with off-the-cuff solutions that are probably naive and certainly incomplete. As I see it, there are 3 main inter-related problems to address here:
(1) Peak Oil, (2) Environment and (3) Economy.
Solutions
1. Ramp up all renewable (solar, wind, geothermal, biomass, tidal and like, nuclear) energy sources as soon as possible. Power down all fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal). Unfortunately, we will still need the latter for decades to come. Use fossil fuels more efficiently.
2. Implementing 1 will help 2 but, in addition, alternative fuels (ethanol, biodiesel, butanol, hydrogen) need to be developed. Also alternative (e.g. hydrid, ev and fuel cell) road, rail, ocean and air transport that does not use fossil fuels. International agreements like Kyoto that allow dramatic cuts in GHGs.
3. Economic growth can still occur but this has to be in a sustainable manner, ie it does not exhaust the world's natural resources but allows them to be replenished. Government controls on the excesses of capitalism. Redistribution of wealth through income tax that provide social services. International trade rules which promote fair employment conditions and open markets. Freedom to choose your own lifestyle - small rural communities versus medium to large urban ones.

I challenge others to add positive comments to the above.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Jack » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 23:11:17

Graeme wrote:3. Economic growth can still occur but this has to be in a sustainable manner, ie it does not exhaust the world's natural resources but allows them to be replenished.


How? Really, truly, serious as a heart attack - how?

Growth generally means more wealth. I suppose we could make those mere computer entries - but at some point, people will want to transform those blips on computers into "stuff".

Economic growth seems to always mean more stuff. More and better food, more and better housing, more and better appliances. I don't see how you can get growth and sustainability. At some point you reach limits, and at that point - growth dies.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Graeme » Tue 27 Jun 2006, 23:46:19

I can think of 2 comments immediately. Firstly, recycling. Secondly, intellectual property. We are not going to run out of new ideas. We simply reconstitute the same physical material to make something useful.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby MonteQuest » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 00:01:35

Jack wrote:I really don't see how one sustains technology without mass production.


You mean how do you sustain consumer consumption and economic growth, don't you?

You don't. You meet needs and not wants.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 01:22:43

Graeme wrote:I can think of 2 comments immediately. Firstly, recycling. Secondly, intellectual property. We are not going to run out of new ideas. We simply reconstitute the same physical material to make something useful.
Graeme, was this meant to be an answer to sustainable growth? If so, it won't work. You can make short term efficiencies and start to reuse "thrown away" resources but ultimately, economic growth means "more stuff". And with more people wanting more stuff, growth does not come in the sustainable flavour.

Growth is unsustainable.

Think about it.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Graeme » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 01:37:28

You're partly right. But so am I.

However, technologies such as renewable energy, recycling and the provision of services can, if carried out appropriately, provide for growth in the economic sense, either without the use of limited resources, or by using a relatively small amount of resources with a small impact. In the latter case, even the use of small amounts of resources may be unsustainable if continued indefinitely.


wikipedia
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 01:56:58

Graeme wrote:You're partly right. But so am I.

However, technologies such as renewable energy, recycling and the provision of services can, if carried out appropriately, provide for growth in the economic sense, either without the use of limited resources, or by using a relatively small amount of resources with a small impact. In the latter case, even the use of small amounts of resources may be unsustainable if continued indefinitely.


wikipedia
Ah, good old Wikipedia. Does it explain how this (in a sense) economic growth can go on without using an increasing amount of resources? It can't be done.
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Graeme » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 02:19:59

You didn't read the article or my quote. Recycling, renewable energy and new ideas and services are resources to sustain growth. In addition, we can use physical resources outside the Earth (e.g. asteroids) to sustain long-term growth.

Take a look at Omnitir post here:
http://www.peakoil.com/fortopic21378-0-asc-30.html
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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby TonyPrep » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 02:43:54

Graeme wrote:You didn't read the article or my quote. Recycling, renewable energy and new ideas and services are resources to sustain growth. In addition, we can use physical resources outside the Earth (e.g. asteroids) to sustain long-term growth.

Take a look at Omnitir post here:
http://www.peakoil.com/fortopic21378-0-asc-30.html
You're right, I didn't read the article, though I did read your post. This latest post continues the misunderstandings about growth. If you can get a constant supply of asteroids to miraculously find there way down here, then you might be able to avoid one of the limits to growth - for a while. As you continue to grow the stuff that people have, and the number of people, then you run out of land and resources that are more limited.

Renewable energy is a must, but building the infrastructure for renewable energy takes resources. Also, if you use renewables beyond their renewable rate, it makes little difference that they are technically renewable. We need to move to a society that doesn't use resources beyond their renewal rate. That means, at some point, no growth. If we leave it too long, it will mean negative growth for a while.

Think about recycling. How long can you continue to make stuff from the bits of old stuff that people throw away? Don't you think this "resource" will dwindle? If not, why not?

Growth is unsustainable. It isn't rocket science, but it is a message that most people don't want to hear.

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Re: Do you have an "acceptable" solution to peak o

Unread postby Doly » Wed 28 Jun 2006, 03:45:56

TonyPrep wrote:How long can you continue to make stuff from the bits of old stuff that people throw away? Don't you think this "resource" will dwindle? If not, why not?


If things were manufactured to be recycled, some stuff could be recycled almost indefinitely. Think glass, for example. There's no reason why glass couldn't be 99% recycled.
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