sexta-feira, setembro 07, 2007

Praise My Guru

Self-reinforcing feedback loops sometimes occur in nature (population blooms are always evidence of some sort of reinforcing feedback loop), but they rarely continue for long. They usually lead to population crashes and die-offs. The simple fact is that growth in population and consumption cannot continue unabated on a finite planet.

If the increased availability of cheap energy has historically enabled unprecedented growth in rates of the extraction of other resources, then the coincidence of Peak Oil with the peaking and decline of many other resources is entirely predictable.

Moreover, as the availability of energy resources peaks, this will also affect various parameters of social welfare:

  • Per-capita consumption levels
  • Economic growth
  • Easy, cheap, quick mobility
  • Technological change and invention
  • Political stability

All of these are clearly related to the availability of energy and other critical resources. Once we accept that energy, fresh water, and food will become less freely available over next few decades, it is hard to escape the conclusion that, while the 20th century saw the greatest and most rapid expansion of the scale, scope, and complexity of human societies in history, the 21st will see contraction and simplification. The only real question then is whether societies will contract and simplify intelligently or in an uncontrolled, chaotic fashion.

None of this is easy to contemplate. Nor can this information easily be discussed in polite company: the suggestion that we are at or near the peak of population and consumption levels for the entirety of human history and that it's all downhill from here is not likely to win votes, lead to a better job, or even make for pleasant dinner banter. Most people turn off and tune out when the conversation moves in this direction; advertisers and news organizations take note and act accordingly. The result: a general, societal pattern of denial.

The above text is an excerpt from Museletter #185 by Richard Heinberg