Friday, March 02, 2007

System Change Not climate change

Recognizing the imminent and overwhelming threat that global warming and climate change pose to this planet I decided to outline a few possible ways to bring about the needed cuts in Co2 emissions. As the cultural will does not exist in any form at this current time to bring about these changes this s a purely academic exercise and should not be taken seriously or literally.

To bring about 90% cuts we will need to seriously reshape civilization, phasing out most industry, travel and agriculture. For all intents and purposes this may be seen as bringing down civilization as this is what these changes would require. Changes which would seriously reshape civilization are unlikely to have any substantial public support as there is a perceived right on the part of individuals to pollute and despoil the natural world. Indeed at the moment the degradation of the environment is only taken seriously when It begins to affect people, and then usually only rich people. There is however a group of people which value the long term health of the planet over its current rape.

Realizing that only a small number of people are likely to support a massive change in lifestyle we will now look at those things which are fundamental to our current system. By identifying these things weak points may become apparent within our current system. A gross simplification of the things I think are pillars of industrial civilization would include.

1. Stable weather conditions.

2. An abundant and cheap food supply.

3. A compliant and low paid workforce.

4. Abundant and cheap natural resources especially fossil fuels.

5. A social and governmental system which commodifies all life and which accepts implicitly hierarchy.

Factor 1 is rapidly changing – and I believe could realistically cause industrial civilization to collapse. The speed and timing is unknown but it would not take a huge change in weather patterns to disrupt factor 2, the world’s food supply. As the worlds weather patterns could change from a fluctuating equilibrium to a chaotic pattern this could cause civilization to collapse within 10 – 20 years. This is accentuated by land degradation in food producing areas.

Factor 2 is only possible through cheap fossil fuels to manufacture fertilizers and all biocides as well as running farm machinery and transporting food. It is only possible with stable weather conditions. It also requires fertile land, land which due to overexploitation is suffering from desertification and salinisation. All these factors and several others make our global food supply something which will not be able to continue into the midterm future.

Factor 3 is readily supplied through our stratified social hierarchy and capitalist system, any form of revolt on the part of the low paid would effectively cripple our industrial system. However as production is still idolized even by those supposedly opposed to capitalism it is likely that any such revolt would quickly reorder itself into a stratified society aimed at production over the natural world. This revolt furthermore is not likely to happen until the current system has begun to disintegrate to an irreparable point. If the disintegration was purposely aided the time of this revolt could be speeded immensely. A best case scenario would be an eco-anarchist revolt in which hierarchy was greatly reduced and in which the environment came to be valued highly. These two factors alone would be enough to prevent civilization from continuing.

Factor 4 I believe this is the most important choke point in industrial civilization as if the flow of natural resources particularly fossil fuels were to be cut off for an extended period then civilization left without an abundant energy source would enter into a ever increasing cycle of collapse. Furthermore the supply lines for many of these resources originate or pass through areas of social conflict. If these supply lines were targeted at the same time as the peak in production for a particular resource were reached then the world economy would suffer a double hit and the resulting recession would probably be terminal.

Factor 5 I believe that this social system is so ingrained in the human psyche that most of the population will fight and die to protect the current system against any threats. There is however a large underclass and a huge portion of the population is profoundly unhappy with our current way of life. Any large scale disruption could trigger an event which would alter factor 3 and cause a collapse. I have no idea what it would take to get rid of the commodification of the environment but the psychic transition would probably be far to slow to be viewed as a means to bring about the needed cuts in carbon dioxide emissions.

These five factors have been grossly simplified but provide an opening as to how our system change may occur. Those serious about system change should consider which point is weakest and honestly assess the number of allies they have. From there they should assess the global breakdown we will see beginning in the next decade and decide when the best point to exploit those weaknesses is. All of these factors affect every other factor, a large enough breach to any part of the system could trigger a disintegration especially as resources become scarce. Due to a lack of reliable data the only projections I can give are 5 – 25 years into the future. I doubt the ongoing degradation of the land can continue at its present rate till 2020 and doubt the current system can rise much further.


Anonymous said...

so you envisage a mass die-off of humans, either as civilisation collapses of its own accord or as revolutionary changes abolishes it?

John said...

Yup. This is largely inevitable due to the degradation of arable land world wide combined with the fact that our current high yields are almost sole sustained with fossil fuels via fertilisers. The only real way to avert massive food shortages is to teach people how to grow their own food sustainably in communities - something I am heavily involved with.

I believe we need to face the reality that our current population levels are unsustainable and do something about it rather than ignoring such an issue because it makes us feel uncomfortable or unpure.

Anonymous said...

Here's a question: do you feel happy or unhappy about the imminent collapse of civilisation?I mean, if you were wrong and we could have hudreds more years of hamburgers and electricity, would you be relieved?

John said...

Um im glad that I know that this civilisation will not continue indefinetly. Im not particularly keen on the immediate after effects so think we should be doing the best to future proof NZ.

If i thought that civilisation would continue for a long time I would not be relieved as I know the inherently destructive nature of our civilisation.

Anonymous said...

I think the reality is that only a tiny minority of people agree with you that life would be better without electricity and the other features of 'civilisation' and that, in the absence of any plausible social force to identify with as an agent of change, you have developed a ludicrously apocalyptic view of the near future. If humans don't want it, nature will do it for them. By your own admission you want to see the collapse of civilisation, even if it entails the deaths of hundreds of millions of people, and that this desire conditions your reading of the evidence for the effects of climate change and other ecological problems.

John said...

Yes I c agree with most of your argument, However I (of course) believe that the degradation of the worlds environemt will impact severely on the quality of human life within the near future (ie my lifetime). Even agencys like the IPCC and the USDA have admitted that the degradation is worrying and will affect human life. If you want I can post my sources more, until now I have not bothered but if you are not convinced of my arguments I can do so.

I suspect most people have a problem with the fact I think a collapse of civilisation would be a good thing, I think this because of the current effect civilisation is having on the global environment and the effect it continus to have on indegenous communitys.

I admit and have said several times that the timeframes for my predictions are shorter than most institutions have picked. This is because I believe the interralated nature of the global economy and environment will cause a cascade of failures - this is based on my limited knowledge of ecology, agriculture, systems theory and the worlds economy.

As for my disregard of human life, I have spent a large portion of the past several years educating myself and others as to how to deal with peak oil and food shortages. I have several times encouraged attacks on the weak points in our current global system, this would force the system to deal with its reliance on fossil fuels and electricity. Eventually these systems will collapse and I think it would be better if this occured sooner rather than later.

You probably know what im doing to educate others and to spread skills such as organic gardening. What are you doing and what evidence do you have that the phenomena I allude to are false?

I understand where you are coming from and think your points are fair.