Sunday, May 22, 2011

Digging our own grave, and other stories

Global resource use could triple to 140 billion tonnes p.a. by 2050 according to UNEP. We are currently at 59 billion tonnes, have been at 49 at 2000 and 6 at 1900. Where does it end?

Are you in an online filter bubble? How would you know? Not just Facebook, but Google and most other major online gatekeepers use algorithms to determine what you want to see, and then just show you that. Anything uncomfortable, challenging, different will eventually be filtered out. Bliss? Or a Brave New World...

Five stages of social collapse in five minutes. Based on the work of Dmitri Orlov, who lived through the collapse of the USSR. You can read a slightly longer version here.
H/T Desdemona.

Australian ocean study uncovers disturbing suggestions concerning the viability of marine life under rising levels of carbon dioxide.

CP: How academic integrity can be sold to the highest bidder. This is yet another area where the profit motive distorts and undermines human endeavour.

CP: We like to think of tasks as either easy or impossible. But sometimes, they are simply hard.

Onion: Be alert, but not alarmed. One from the archives to brighten your day.


byron smith said...

Guardian: Another introduction to ocean acidification.

jessica smith said...

On the Orlov post... when you post something like this, what are you thinking? Is this something you think could happen in the next hundred years (stages 3 -5)? Is this just interesting? Just hard to know what significance you think it has from your one liner.

byron smith said...

Yes, it is certainly not outside the realms of possibility. Much will depend on contingent factors of how geopolitical entities react to various stresses setting the conditions under which local communities will experience the coming decades. For instance, given that declining access to key resources (and in this I include food and water) will almost certainly lead to conflicts (and exacerbations of existing conflicts), which kinds of conflict (economic, diplomatic, cyber, economic, conventional, nuclear) will different nations enter into at what stage? Knowing how humanity will respond under the kinds of novel pressures we are beginning to enter into is very difficult. Our only real guide is how other societies have coped with declining resources and it usually hasn't been very pretty. I'm still planning on putting together a post on disruptions and discontinuities at some stage to be a bit more explicit about my expectations and different kinds of bumpy futures we might be approaching.

byron smith said...

I thought this wasn't a bad summary of some of my own concerns (from Stoneleigh of The Automatic Earth):

"This summer The Automatic Earth marks three and a half years of big picture commentary on finance, energy, the environment, resources, carrying capacity, geopolitics, the psychology of herding behaviour, networked systems, crisis preparedness and anything else we have considered to be relevant to helping people to navigate the tumultuous times we are poised to descend into. While there are many sources of information on single aspects of our predicament, there are few that attempt to truly tackle complexity and render it comprehensible. That is our chosen role and we see it as being of the utmost importance.

"The consequences of ponzi finance on the global scale, the peaking of the energy supply that has been our lifeblood as a civilization, environmental degradation and ecological overshoot are set to manifest in our times, and we need to understand what is unfolding in order to minimize the impact on ourselves, our loved ones and our societies.

"The Automatic Earth focuses first on finance for reasons of timeframe. As the resumption of financial crisis looms, and bubbles can burst very rapidly once a critical momentum to the downside is reached, people must address the issues of debt vulnerability, control over the essentials of their own existence and capital preservation in order to retain their freedom of action to deal with the other challenges to follow.

"However, we must not lose sight of the larger context. Humanity faces an intractable and thoroughly multi-faceted predicament, with no means to continue a busines-as-usual scenario. As the top down structures we have built, which are structurally dependent on cheap energy and cheap credit, begin to fail, we must construct new means of supporting ourselves from the bottom up - at a human rather than an industrial scale.

"These community initiatives will need to be funded, and that requires capital to be rescued and preserved for the purpose, rather than allowing it to disappear into a giant black hole of credit destruction or end up entirely in the the hands of the very few. The Automatic Earth attempts to provide the information ordinary people need to accomplish this critical task.

"We also exist to warn people as to the dangers of the darker side of human nature that typically manifests when there is not enough to go around, especially when that circumstance can manifest rapidly. When fear and anger are in the ascendancy, societies can turn in directions that benefit no one but a handful of manipulative predators.

"One of our goals is to minimize the tendency for people to become embroiled in movements that feed such interests, and maintain a focus on the constructive activities that will be absolutely essential if we are to mitigate the pain of a major economic depression. Fear and anger are extremely 'catching', hence we regard what we do as providing a 'psychological inoculation' against them."

byron smith said...

Guardian: Online filter bubbles and the Norwegian massacre.