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Permaculture and the Myth of Scarcity
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
Posts: 6722
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Tarrel wrote:
I think there's been a gradual ramping-up of our ability to sustain a larger population, from the time of hunter-gatherer to early experiments in agriculture, then to the generation of surplus allowing some folk to specialise in particular types of work (e.g. doctors, keeping more of us alive for longer), through to food preservation, allowing us to eat a healthier diet for more of the year, through to current "industrial ag.".

Of course the real exponential growth in population has happened since we started to mainline on fossil fuels.

Population level is a function of birth rate, death rate and life expectancy. When we had the capacity to produce less food, and it took more of us to do it, I imagine population was kept under control not so much by the amount of food there was to go round, but by a myriad of other control mechanisms, such as disease, lower average life-expectancy, higher infant mortality, leading to fewer people reaching the age of fertility, etc., all of which could be attributed to a poor / insufficient diet plus the fact that we were so focused on producing it that we didn't have time/energy for other endeavours, such as science and medicine.

Now we seem to have reached a state where we feel so entitled to life that huge resources are invested in prolonging life as long as possible; allowing individuals to give birth who, in the natural scheme of things, probably couldn't; using fertility treatment and surrogacy to grant children to non-heterosexual couples, etc. Not passing judgement as to whether this is right or wrong, but it does add to the overall population footprint.
You've more or less just restated the essential point I was making. That is to say, in the absence of huge amounts of energy and the primary resource extraction and processing that affords, the level of food production currently in place, in concert with a myriad of other energy-intensive, population-supporting mechanisms, is simply not possible. It is all of these mechanisms, acting in concert, that allows for seven billion plus people to simultaneously exist. Thus, as these support mechanisms inevitably begin to collapse due to a diminishing energy supply, so too will the population they support. The notion that this can all be avoided by organising ourselves in ever more complex, smarter ways is, ironically, merely a different flavour of the same hubris that underlies the climate denier narrative and all of the other delusional narratives of those on the "other side" of this debate. Our organisational structures (in the medium to long term) are not going to get more complex and smarter. They are going to get simpler.

A LOT simpler.

In other words, less energy = less complexity (technologically, organisationally and in any other way you care to imagine). Or, at least in the medium to longer term. In the short to medium term, however, our hydrocarbon elites will no doubt devise and implement ever more complex, technologically driven ways of surveilling us and suppressing us as we fall off our hydrocarbon perch. Indeed, the ramping up of the above is already well under-way. But, in the end, even those methods will fail for all of the reasons I have described. At which point older, more direct and transparent methods of coercion and control will inevitably come back into play, even for us over here in the cosseted West.

I'm saying that the future is going to be a re-run of the past. Only grimmer due to our having so comprehensively buggered up the land and sea and air and wiped out vast swathes of the life that lives in each those environments. The only thing that could occur to possibly mitigate the worst of the savagery to come is a socialist revolution of some sort, however imperfect and fraught with failure that may be. Though, to be frank, I don't hold out much hope of it for all of the obvious reasons. Nevertheless, that's just about all the hope I can muster and so I am compelled to hold onto it. It may also, in the end, be only possible to maintain it at the level of the city/regional state. At which point, it might be more properly called "tribal-communalism" since that would be no more than it would amount to. That might not sound like much to hope for. But, I am utterly convinced the alternative would be facism/barbarism. Indeed, truth be told, I think the alternative is by far the more likely outcome due to the short horizon of most people's imaginations. Especially so, if they are under pressure.

As for time-scales with regards to the above, that's the killer question. If the USA's recent behaviour is anything to go by, major collapse might be in the offing in the not too distant future. In which case, all bets are off. I'm hoping, however, it happens over a 50 to 100 year time period to give my descendants time to culturally adjust. All I can really do is explain to my lads what I think the future may hold and then it's up to them how they decide to prepare, if at all. For the most part, they and their kids as yet unborn, like the vast majority of the rest of humanity will simply have to go with the flow and make the best of whatever goes down.

I've got to be honest though Tarrel and admit that sometimes, in my darker moments, I wish the big players who run the bloody show just got on with it and had their inevitable showdown sooner rather than later and let off a few fireworks, leaving what remains of us to rebuild from the ashes. At least that way, it gets the suffering out of the way in one big bang.


Last edited by Little John on Mon Oct 06, 2014 6:29 pm; edited 1 time in total
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fuzzy



Joined: 29 Nov 2013
Posts: 876
Location: The Marches, UK

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 5:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I do feel very sorry for people with a vision like yours [and mine] who have kids. That must be hard going. My wife and I don't have any kids for technical reasons but at least we can just worry about ourselves....and clueless babyboomer parents, nieces and nephews [only 1 really needs support], clueless neighbours...
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Little John



Joined: 08 Mar 2008
Posts: 6722
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Oct 06, 2014 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

fuzzy wrote:
I do feel very sorry for people with a vision like yours [and mine] who have kids. That must be hard going. My wife and I don't have any kids for technical reasons but at least we can just worry about ourselves....and clueless babyboomer parents, nieces and nephews [only 1 really needs support], clueless neighbours...
It is hard going if I let it get to me, which occasionally I do. When that happens, I weep for the life my kids and as yet unborn grand kids have got heading their way. I just make sure my lads never see it because it is of zero value to them. They are the ones who are gong to have to deal with the shit heading their way that the rest of us have left behind for them and for that they need to be strong and positive.

Last edited by Little John on Tue Oct 07, 2014 8:10 am; edited 1 time in total
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peaceful_life



Joined: 21 Sep 2010
Posts: 544

PostPosted: Tue Oct 07, 2014 12:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

stevecook172001 wrote:
fuzzy wrote:
I do feel very sorry for people with a vision like yours [and mine] who have kids. That must be hard going. My wife and I don't have any kids for technical reasons but at least we can just worry about ourselves....and clueless babyboomer parents, nieces and nephews [only 1 really needs support], clueless neighbours...
It is hard going if I let it get to me, which occasionally I do. When that happens, I weep for the life my kids and as yet unborn grand kids have got heading their way. I just make sure my lads never see it because it is of zero value to them. They are the one's who are gong to have to deal with the shit heading their way that the rest of us have left behind for them and for that they need to be strong and positive.


Steve, fwiw....I don't hold the position that this system is sustainable, or even that we should try to maintain it, all I'm saying is there are other ways to do things and whether we end up with an egalitarian form of eco socialism, or complete fascist barbarism, either way......things need done differently and there are many people actually doing it, at least...up until such time as climatic events make life non conducive for us (humans), so for me...it's about how we play that out and I opt for the other way.

Can we harvest an order of magnitude (more like several) more energy by somewhat benign harnessing of photosynthesis?.....yes.

Will we?....probably not, but better to try and at least attempt to encourage the former scenario into being.


Just for the craic, at least check this lad out doing his bit on a dead desert, it's worth letting them role and watching them through.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L6LmVDujYWY
Cheers.
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