- Peak Oil, Energy Descent, and the Fate of Consumerism
- Coming to terms with Nature, (Spanish and Italian)
- Boom and doom: Revisiting prophecies of collapse (New Scientist)

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Deep thought - Jan 12

Click on the headline (link) for the full text.

Many more articles are available through the Energy Bulletin homepage.


New documentary: "The Crisis of Civilization"

The Crisis of Civilization (documentary website)
The Crisis of Civilization is a documentary feature film investigating how global crises like ecological disaster, financial meltdown, dwindling oil reserves, terrorism and food shortages are converging symptoms of a single, failed global system.

Weaving together archival film footage and animations, film-maker Dean Puckett, animator Lucca Benney and international security analyst Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed – author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It – offer a stunning wake-up call proving that ‘another world’ is not merely possible, but on its way.

Trailer

The Crisis of Civilization: Trailer from thecrisisofcivilization on Vimeo.

Like the book on which it is based, the film consists of seven parts which explore the interconnected dynamic of global crises of Climate Catastrophe; Peak Energy; Peak Food; Economic Instability; International Terrorism; and the Militarization Tendency – with a final section on The Post-Peak World.

The film reveals how a failure to understand the systemic context of these crises, linked to neoliberal ideology, has generated a tendency to deal not with their root structural causes, but only with their symptoms. This has led to the proliferation of war, terror, and state-terror, including encroachment on civil liberties, while accelerating global crises rather than solving them.

The real solution, Nafeez argues, is to recognise the inevitability of civilizational change, and to work toward a fundamental systemic transformation based on more participatory forms of living, politically, economically and culturally.

Also featuring clowns, car crashes, explosions, acrobats, super heroes, xylophones and much, much more!

Clip: The fundamental issue is land

The fundamental issue is land from thecrisisofcivilization on Vimeo.

(January 2012)
Post Carbon Institute writes: "Friend of PCI Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed delivers a powerful new film. Check this quick clip on 'Peak Food'. From Richard Heinberg: "I don't think I've seen a more comprehensive "welcome to the 21st century." "


Peak Oil, Energy Descent, and the Fate of Consumerism
(18-page PDF)
Dr Samuel Alexander, Simplicity Institute
Abstract:

Western-style consumer lifestyles are highly resource and energy intensive. This paper examines the energy intensity of these consumer lifestyles and considers whether such lifestyles could be sustained in a future with declining energy supplies and much higher energy prices.

The rise of consumer societies since the industrial revolution has only been possible due to the abundant supply of cheap fossil fuels – most notably, oil – and the persistence of consumer societies depend upon continued supply, for reasons that will be explained. But recently there has been growing concern that the world is reaching, or has already reached, its peak in oil production, despite demand for oil still expected to grow considerably.

Put more directly, many analysts believe that demand for oil is very soon expected to outstrip supply, with a recent study by the US military reporting that, globally, spare productive capacity could entirely dry up by 2012 and by 2015 demand for oil could outstrip supply by almost 10 million barrels per day. What this means – even allowing for some uncertainty in timing and extent – is that the world is soon to face a situation where economic and geopolitical competition escalates over access to increasingly scarce oil supplies.

One consequence of this (a consequence already playing out) is that oil will get more expensive. Since oil is the ultimate foundation of industrial economies, when it gets more expensive, all commodities get more expensive, and this dynamic will have pervasive implications on the globalised economy and the high consumption lifestyles that fully depend on that economy.

This paper reviews the current energy supply situation and considers the fate of consumer lifestyles in the context of an imminent stagnation and eventual decline in oil supplies. The primary purpose of this paper is to outline why the global consumer class should at once begin preparing itself for a significant downscaling of the highly energy and resource intensive lifestyles that are widely celebrated today. Such downscaling is desirable for environmental and social justice reasons, but the present focus will be on how oil supply may soon enforce such downscaling, whether it is desirable or not.

While this externally imposed downscaling of lifestyles will be a great and unpleasant cultural shock for all those who do not anticipate it, this paper concludes by considering whether members of the global consumer class could actually benefit from voluntarily embracing a ‘simpler life’ of reduced energy and resource consumption.

Although energy supply issues have the very real potential to cause unprecedented human suffering, it will be argued that, if handled wisely, the forced transition away from energy-intensive consumer lifestyles (whether due to peak oil, climate change, or broader resource constraints) could actually lead humanity down a more meaningful, just, and sustainable path, such that we should want to choose this path even if it were not to be forced upon us in coming decades. But it is important to understand that we must leave consumer lifestyles before they leave us, for if we wait for them to be taken from us by force of circumstances, the transition beyond them will not be a blessing but a curse.

Dr. Samuel Alexander is a lecturer in ‘Consumerism and Sustainability’ at the Office for Environmental Programs, University of Melbourne. He is also Co-Director of the Simplicity Institute (www.simplicityinstitute.org), a research institute that addresses issues related to sustainable consumption. Contact: [email protected]
(January 2012)



Coming to terms with Nature,
(Spanish and Italian)
Antonio Turiel, Cassandra's Legacy
A colleague of mine is occasionally engaged in oceanographic campaigns in Antarctica. A couple of years ago he found himself revisiting an area that he had seen for the first time some 20 years earlier. Coming back, he told me many stories about his travel; of how he had seen his old oceanographic ship, his colleagues on board..... After that, he became pensive and he told me, "You know, the worst is not that each year there is more free sea. 20 years ago, the icebergs were white. Now they are blue." I said, "yes," and we both remained silent. The color of the ice is related the amount of air which remains trapped inside. As the ice is trapped in higher depths and is more compressed, the air escapes and the ices becomes more and more blue. Those icebergs seen by my colleague hadn't seen the light of the sun for a long time; perhaps centuries ...

Continue reading the complete post in Spanish, or in Italian.
(7 January 2012)
Looks like a good post. Anyone interested in translating it into English might contact Ugo Bardi by leaving a comment on the post at the original. -BA



Boom and doom: Revisiting prophecies of collapse

Debora MacKenzie, New Scientist
AT THE beginning of the 1970s, a group of young scientists set out to explore our future. Their findings shook a generation and may be even more relevant than ever today.

The question the group set out to answer was: what would happen if the world's population and industry continued to grow rapidly? Could growth continue indefinitely or would we start to hit limits at some point? In those days, few believed that there were any limits to growth - some economists still don't. Even those who accepted that on a finite planet there must be some limits usually assumed that growth would merely level off as we approached them.

These notions, however, were based on little more than speculation and ideology. The young scientists tried to take a more rigorous approach: using a computer model to explore possible futures. What was shocking was that their simulations, far from showing ...

... These explosive conclusions were published in 1972 in a slim paperback called The Limits to Growth. It became a bestseller – and provoked a furious backlash that has obscured what it actually said. For instance, it is widely believed that Limits predicted collapse by 2000, yet in fact it made no such claim. So what did it say? And 40 years on, how do its projections compare with reality so far?

... Forty years on from its publication, it is still not clear whether Limits was right, but it hasn’t been proved wrong either. And while the model was too pessimistic about birth and death rates, it was too optimistic about the future impact of pollution. We now know that overshoot – the delayed response to problems that makes the effects so much worse – will eventually be especially catastrophic for climate change, because the full effects of greenhouse gases will not be apparent for centuries.

There will be no more sequels based on World3, though. The model can no longer serve its purpose, which was to show us how to avoid collapse. Starting from the current conditions, no plausible assumptions produce any result but overshoot. “There is no sense in only describing a series of collapse scenarios,” says Dennis Meadows, another of the original authors of Limits.

... Instead of declaring we are doomed, or proclaiming that technology will save us, we should explore the future more rigorously, says Bar-Yam. We need better models. “If you think the scientific basis of those conclusions can be challenged, then the answer is more science,” he says. “We need a much better understanding of global dynamics.”

We need to apply that knowledge, too. The most important message of Limits was that the longer we ignore the problems caused by growth, the harder they are to overcome. As we pump out more CO2, it is clear this is a lesson we have yet to learn.

Debora MacKenzie is a consultant for New Scientist based in Brussels, Belgium
(4 January 2012)
Most of the article is behind a paywall. Matthew Simmons, Ugo Bardi, Dennis Meadows and other authors familiar to EB reades are quoted in the article. Recommended by Michael Lardelli and Bill Henderson. -BA

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