Tag Archives: future

Hubbert’s Peak Oil and the Hirsch Report

(Survival Manual/1. Disaster/ Hubbert’s Peak Oil and The Hirsch report)

(The Hubbert peak theory posits that for any given geographical area, from an individual oil-producing region to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production tends to follow a bell-shaped curve. It is one of the primary theories on peak oil.)

I.  BACK IN THE 1950s
they saw it coming, we knew what it meant, it was ignored.

A.   M. King Hubbert – the first to predict an oil peak
In the 1950s the well known U.S. geologist M. King Hubbert was working for Shell Oil. He noted that oil discoveries, graphed over time, tended to follow a bell shape curve. He supposed that the rate of oil production would follow a similar curve, now known as the Hubbert Curve. In 1956 Hubbert predicted that production from the US lower 48 states would peak between 1965 and 1970.
Despite efforts from his employer to pressure him into not making his projections public, the notoriously stubborn Hubbert did so anyway. In any case, most people inside and outside the industry quickly dismissed the predictions. As it happens, the US lower 48 oil production did peak in 1970/1.
In that year, by definition, US oil producers had never produced as much oil, and Hubbert’s predictions were a fading memory. The peak was only acknowledged with the benefit of several years of hindsight.
No oil producing region fits the bell shaped curve exactly because production is dependent on various geological, economic and political factors, but the Hubbert Curve remains a powerful predictive tool.

In retrospect, the U.S. oil peak might be seen as the most significant geopolitical event of the mid to late 20th Century, creating the conditions for the energy crises of the 1970s, leading to far greater U.S. strategic emphasis on controlling foreign sources of oil, and spelling the beginning of the end of the status of the U.S. as the world’s major creditor nation. The U.S. of course, was able to import oil from elsewhere. Mounting debt has allowed life to continue in the U.S. with only minimal interruption so far. When global oil production peaks, the implications will be felt far more widely, and with much more force.

What does peak oil mean for our societies?
Our industrial societies and our financial systems were built on the assumption of continual growth growth based on ever more readily available cheap fossil fuels. Oil in particular is the most convenient and multi-purposed of these fossil fuels. Oil currently accounts for about 41% of the world’s total fossil fuel consumption, 33% of all global fuel consumption, and 95% of global energy used for transportation.
Oil and gas are feed stocks for plastics, paints, pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, electronic components, tires and much more.
Oil is so important that the peak will have vast implications across the realms of war and geopolitics, medicine, culture, transport and trade, economic stability and food production. Significantly, for every one joule of food consumed in the United States, around 10 joules of fossil fuel energy have been used to produce it.

B.  The ‘Hirsch Report’
A U.S. Dept. of Energy commissioned study “Peaking of World Oil Production: Impacts, Mitigation and Risk Management” [PDF] was released in early 2005. Prepared by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), it is known commonly as the Hirsch Report after its primary author Robert L. Hirsch. For many months the report, although available on the website of a Californian High School, remained unacknowledged by the DOE.
The executive summary of the report warns that: as peaking is approached, liquid fuel prices and price volatility will increase dramatically, and, without timely mitigation, the economic, social, and political costs will be unprecedented. Viable mitigation options exist on both the supply and demand sides, but to have substantial impact, they must be initiated more than a decade in advance of peaking.
A later paper by Hirsch recommends the world urgently begin spending $1 trillion per year in crash programs for at least a decade, preferably two, before peaking. Obviously, nothing like the kind of efforts envisaged have yet begun. Hirsch was not asked to speculate on when the peak was likely to occur.
[In retrospect, the peak ocurred between 2000-2005; by 2011 we have quietly entered the decline phase. Although the West is in a double dip recession, gas prices have only slightly declined. Asian markets are absorbing production. Western commercial petroleum bulk storage is the lowest in years, while production cannot rebuild stocks to capacity. Its slow, its quiet. Who’s upset, yet? -Mr Larry]

C.  The Olduvai Theory
The theory is a proposed way of measuring industrial civilization by a single ratio – world annual energy use to population. The important idea is that, unlike previous civilizations which have risen and fallen to be replaced by others, industrial civilization would be the last because we would have used up all the easily obtainable resources (oil, coal, minerals) which are necessary for a civilization to form.
The theory is defined by the ratio of world energy production (use) and world population. The details are worked out. The theory is easy. It states that the life expectancy of Industrial Civilization is less than or equal to 100 years: 1930–2030.
World energy production per capita from 1945 to 1973 grew at a breakneck speed of 3.45%/year. Next from 1973 to the all-time peak in 1979, it slowed to a sluggish 0.64%/year. Then suddenly – and for the first time in history – energy production per capita took a long-term decline of 0.33%/year from 1979 to 1999. The Olduvai theory explains the 1979 peak and the subsequent decline. More to the point, it says that energy production per capita will fall to its 1930 value by 2030, thus giving Industrial Civilization a lifetime of less than or equal to 100 years.

The chart above is a graphic showing energy usage/population as a curve with various key points defined. These are:
Note 1: (1930) the beginning of Industrial Civilization
Note 2: (1979) all time peak of world energy production per capita
Note 3: (1999) the end of cheap oil
Note 4: (2000) eruption of violence in the Middle East
Note 5: (2006) all-time peak in world oil production
Note 6: (2008) OPEC crossover when more than 50% of oil comes from the OPEC nations
Note 7: (2012) permanent blackouts spread worldwide
Note 8: (2030) world energy production falls to 1930 level
The future dates may vary but it is easy to see how, with the knowledge we have of peak oil, the world could slip into a Medieval or even Stone Age scenario. Even a Dark Ages world would be difficult to sustain with no coal and little wood to burn. We are so dependent on energy that, unless we find some alternatives to hydrocarbon energy generation pretty quickly, we will find ourselves without the time or energy to switch.
.

II.  Predictions

Four Stages of Oil Depletion Through 2020
http://peakoilquestionoftheday.blogspot.com/p/life-after-crash.html
A.  World Oil and Natural Gas Liquids Production & Changes in each stage
Stage 1 (Now to end of 2011): World conventional crude oil and NGL production (CO&NGL) which is currently at 82 mbpd will remain stable with slight decline to 81 mbpd.
Continued economic stagnation with possible weak recovery, continued high unemployment will put little pressure on oil prices; gas prices will be generally stable. Non-OPEC production will begin to all off. Oil at $75 to $90 bbl; Gas at the pump in Dobbs Ferry $2.90 to $3.20.
Stage 2 (2012): Decline will accelerate in 2012 to 80 mbpd. Prices rises will become more pronounced, but still not seen as an emergency.
Global production fall off by end of year gets attention, markets respond with higher prices. Oil at $100 to $120 bbl; Gas at the pump in Dobbs Ferry $3.30 to $3.70. Economy continues to bump along in recession mode.
Stage 3 (2013 to 2015): Decline will be rapid in 2013 – 2015 with world production at 75 mbpd for CO&NGL by end of 2015.
Increasing fall off in production gets serious, news reports start talking about various causes — bad government policy, global conspiracy, return of “Drill, Baby, Drill”. Airlines cut back drastically as air travel becomes expensive. Demand for fuel-efficient cars soars. Government establishes crash programs to conserve, develop alternatives. Economy in terrible shape. By 2015 oil at $150 bbl; Gas at the pump at $6.00 to $10.00.
Stage 4 (2016 to 2020): by 2020 production will be 62 mbpd. Impossible to really estimate what prices will be. Life as we know it will be a memory.
Economy in shambles, oil prices continue higher.
By 2020 oil at $250+ bbl; Gas at the pump, when available, $15+.

B.  What will life be like once oil goes into decline. Here are a few things to expect.
1. Near Term Impact
__a) Continued economic decline with high unemployment. Without oil to fuel manufacturing, transportation, and food production, the only possible result is economic decline. Unemployment will continue to be high until people realize that they have no choice but to work for far less than they ever expected. Many of the unemployed will find work in agriculture as reliance on oil fueled machinery declines.
__b) Stagnant or declining stock market. Economic decline will inevitably impact the stock market and, as a result, the retirement savings of millions of Americans.
__c) Population move to urban areas/decline of suburbs. Who will want to (or be able to) live in a 4,000 square foot home 40 miles or more from work? The value of suburban housing (especially big houses) will decline as people try to get closer to urban centers and mass transit. Expect housing abandonment of the type already seen in California.
__d) Decline in construction, more people living together. As real income declines and construction costs increase, people will not be able to afford the square footage of living space they have become accustomed to. The migration from suburb to urban area, without additional construction, will mean more roommates, boarders, and houses cut up for rental.
__e) Air travel only for the rich. This is a no brainer. The airline industry is already in contraction. It won’t take much higher oil prices to push it over the edge.
__f) International trade declines.
__g) Deterioration of infrastructure as government revenues dry up.
__h) Increases in all prices — especially food and fuel.
__i) International conflict over remaining oil resources.
__j) Attempts by government to retain current lifestyle will fail and cause huge deficits, decline of currency.
__k) Solid waste disposal
2. Longer Term Impact
__a) more long distance transportation.
__b) Life becomes entirely local.
__c) Government breakdown.
__d) Social unrest.
__e) Population decline.
__f) Land becomes the main source of wealth.


 III. 
Preparing for Life in a Peak Oil World

23 January 2011, Oil Price.com, by Gail Tverberg
http://oilprice.com/Energy/Crude-Oil/Preparing-for-Life-in-a-Peak-Oil-World.html
“We know that peak oil will be here soon, and we feel like we should be doing something. But what? It is frustrating to know where to start. In this chapter, we will discuss a few ideas about what we as individuals can do.
1.  What will the first few years after peak oil be like? It is hard to know for certain, but a reasonable guess is that the impact will be like a major recession or depression. Many people will be laid off from work.
•  Gasoline is likely to be very expensive ($10 a gallon or more) and may not be available, except in limited quantities after waiting in line for a long time. Fewer goods of all types will be available in stores. Imports from third-world countries are likely to be especially unavailable, because of the impact of the oil shortage on their economies.
[Internet image right: Sanyo Enloop AA rechargeable batteries]
•  Gasoline prices may not rise as high as $10 gallon; the problem may be that at lower prices than $10 gallon, oil prices send the economy into recession. There may actually be a glut of oil supply because of recession or depression, because many cannot afford the high priced oil. For example, state highway departments cannot afford high priced asphalt. This is related to low “energy return on energy invested”. If the goods and services made with oil aren’t great enough to justify its high price, high oil price can be expected to send the economy into recession. Countries that use a lot of oil for purposes other than creating new goods and services are likely to be especially vulnerable to recession.
•  Money may not have the same value as previously–opinion is divided as to whether deflation or rampant inflation will be a problem. Investments, even those previously considered safe, are likely to lose value. Things we take for granted–like bottled water, fast food restaurants, and dry cleaners–may disappear fairly quickly. Electricity may become less reliable, with more frequent outages. Airplane tickets are likely to be extremely expensive, or only available with a special permit based on need.

2.  If a scenario like this is coming, what can a person do now? Here are a few ideas:
• Visit family and friends now, especially those at a distance. This may be more difficult to do in the future.
•  Learn to know your neighbors. It is likely that you will need each other’s help more in the future.
•  If you live by yourself, consider moving in with friends or relatives. In tough times, it is better to have others to rely on. It is also likely to be a lot cheaper.
•  Buy a bicycle that you can use as alternate transportation, if the need arises.
•  Start walking or jogging for exercise. Get yourself in good enough physical condition that you could walk a few miles if you needed to.
•  Take care of your physical health. If you need dental work or new glasses, get them. Don’t put off immunizations and other preventive medicine. These may be more difficult to get, or more expensive, later.
•  Move to a walkable neighborhood. If it seems likely that you will be able to keep your job, move closer to your job.
•  Trade in your car for one with better mileage. If you have a SUV, you can probably sell it at a better price now than in the future. [Internet image right: Mitsubishi or another make of small electric car.]
•  If you have two cars powered by gasoline, consider trading one for a diesel-powered vehicle. That way, if gasoline (or diesel) is not available, you will still have one car you can drive.
•  Make sure that you have at least a two-week supply of food and water, if there is some sort of supply disruption. It is always good to have some extra for an emergency–the likelihood of one arising is greater now.
•  Keep reasonable supplies of things you may need in an emergency–good walking shoes, boots, coats, rain wear, blankets, flashlights and batteries (or wind-up flashlights).
•  Take up hobbies that you will be able to continue in a low energy world, such as gardening, knitting, playing a musical instrument, bird watching, or playing cards with neighbors.
•  Join a local sustainability group or “permaculture” group and start learning about sustainable gardening methods.

3.  Do I need to do more than these things? It really depends on how much worse things get, and how quickly. If major services like electricity and water remain in place for many years, and if gasoline and diesel remain reasonably available, then relatively simple steps will go a long way.
Some steps that might be helpful to add once the crunch comes include:
•  Join a carpool for work, or make arrangements to work at home. If public transportation is available, use it.
•  Cut out unnecessary trips. Eat meals at home. Take your lunch to work. Walk or jog in your neighborhood rather than driving to the gym. Order from the internet or buy from stores you can walk to, rather than driving alone to stores.
•  If you live a distance from shopping, consider forming a neighborhood carpool for grocery and other shopping. Do this for other trips as well, such as attending church. If closer alternatives are available, consider them instead.
•  Plant a garden in your yard. Put in fruit or nut trees. Make a compost pile, and use it in your garden. Put to use what you learned in sustainability or permaculture groups.
•  Meat, particularly beef, is likely to be very expensive. Learn to prepare meals using less meat. Make casseroles like your grandmother’s, making a small amount of meat go a long way. Or make soup using a little meat plus vegetables or beans.
•  Use hand-me-down clothing for younger children. Or have a neighborhood garage sale, and trade clothing with others near you.

4.  Should families continue to have two, three, or four children, as they often do today? With the uncertainties ahead, it would be much better if families were very small–one child, or none at all. The world’s population has grown rapidly in the last 100 years. Part of the reason for growth is the fact that with oil and natural gas, it was possible to grow much more food than in the past. As we lose the use of these fossil fuels, it is likely that we will not be able to produce as much food as in the past, because of reduced ability to irrigate crops, and reduced availability of fertilizers, insecticides, and herbicides. In addition, manufactured goods of all types, including clothing and toys, are likely to be less available, with declining fossil fuel supply. Having smaller families will help fit the population to the available resources.
If couples have completed their families, it would probably be worthwhile for them to consider a permanent method of contraception, since birth control may be less available or more expensive.

5.  Are there any reasons why steps such as those outlined in Question 3 might be too little to handle the problem? Besides the decline in oil production, there are a number of other areas of concern. Hopefully, most of these will never happen, or if they do happen, will not occur for several years. If they do happen, greater measures than those outlined in Question 3 are likely to be needed.
•  Collapse of the financial system. Our financial system needs growth to sustain it, so that loans can be paid back with interest. Once peak oil hits, growth will be gone. Economic growth may even be replaced with economic decline. It is not clear our financial system can handle this.
•  Collapse of foreign trade. Many factors may come into play: The cost of transportation will be higher. Airline transport may not be available at all. Fewer goods are likely to be produced by the poorer countries of the world, because of power outages related to high oil prices. Rapid inflation/deflation may make monetary transactions more difficult.
•  Rapid climate change. Recently, scientists have discovered that climate change can take place over a very short period of time–as little as a decade or two. Temperature and precipitation changes may cause crop failures, and may make some areas no longer arable. Sea levels may also rise.
[Image right: Hot water and photovoltiac collectors on the roof of a private residence.]
•  Failure of the electrical grid. The grid tends to be vulnerable to many kinds of problems–including deterioration due to poor maintenance, damage during storms, and attacks in times of civil unrest. Maintenance is currently very poor (grade of D) according to the “Report Card on America’s Infrastructure” by the American Society of Civil Engineers. If we cannot maintain the grid, and upgrade it for the new wind and solar capacity being added, we will all be in the dark.
•  Water shortages. There are several issues–We are drawing down some aquifers at unsustainable rates, and these may be depleted. Climate change may reduce the amount of water available, by melting ice caps and changing storm patterns. City water and sewer systems require considerable energy inputs to continue functioning. If these are not provided, the systems will stop. Finally, systems must also be adequately maintained–something that is neglected currently.
•  Road deterioration. If we don’t have roads, it doesn’t matter whether we have cars. In the future, asphalt (a petroleum product) is expected to become more and more expensive and less available. It is not clear whether recycling asphalt from lesser-used roads will overcome this difficulty.
•  Decline in North American natural gas production. Natural gas is especially used for home heating, making plastics and making fertilizer. It is also used in electrical generation, particularly for extra load capacity when demand is high. Conventional natural gas is declining, and it is not clear that supply from other sources can make up the gap.
We now have shale gas and other unconventional making up the gap, but there are uncertainties how long it will stay with us.
•  Inadequate mineral supplies. A number of minerals are becoming less available, including copper (used in electric wiring), platinum (used in catalytic converters), phosphorous (used in fertilizer).
•  Fighting over available supplies. This could happen at any level. Individuals with inadequate food or gasoline may begin using violence. Or there may be fighting among groups within a nation, or between nations.

6. Are there any reasons for optimism? Yes. We know that people throughout the ages have gotten along successfully with far fewer resources than we have now, and with much less foreign trade. Financial systems have gotten into trouble in the past, and eventually new systems have replaced them. If nothing else, barter works.
We know that among the countries of the world, the United States, Canada, and Russia have reasonably good resource endowments in relation to their populations. They have fairly large amounts of land for crops, moderate rainfall, reasonable amounts of fossil fuels remaining, and populations that are not excessively large.
We also know that Cuba successfully made a transition from high oil usage to much lower oil usage, through the development of local gardens, increased public transit, and bicycles. A movie has been made about the Cuban experience.

7. What should we do, if we want to do more than described in Question 3? Some web sites (such as Life After the Oil Crash and wtdwtshtf.com) advocate moving to a farming area, buying land and hand tools, and learning to farm without fossil fuels. Typically, an individual purchases an existing farmhouse and adds solar panels or a windmill. The web sites generally recommend storing up large supplies of food, clothing, medicine, tools, guns, and ammunition, and learning a wide range of skills. These sites also suggest storing some things (liquor, razor blades, aspirin, etc.) for purposes of barter.
This approach may work for a few people, but it has its drawbacks. Making such a big move is likely to be expensive, and will most likely involve leaving one’s job. The individual will be alone, so security may be a problem. The individual may be dependent on his or her own resources for most things, especially if the farm is in a remote location. If the weather is bad, crops may fail. Living on the edge of a small town may prevent some problems, but such a move would still be a major undertaking.

8. How about Ecovillages? What are they? These are communities dedicated to the idea of sustainable living. These communities were set up in response to many issues facing the world, including global warming, resource depletion, and lifestyles that are not fulfilling. They were generally not formed with peak oil in mind.
Each ecovillage is different. Organizers often buy a large plot of land and lay out a plan for it. Individuals buy into the organization. Homes may be made from sustainable materials, such as bales of straw. Gardening is generally done using “permaculture”- a sustainable organic approach. Individuals may have assigned roles in the community.
The few ecovillages I investigated did not seem to truly be sustainable–they bought much of their food and clothing from outside, and made money by selling tours of their facilities. The ecovilliage approach could theoretically be expanded to provide self-sustaining post-peak oil communities, but would require some work. Some adventuresome readers may want to try this approach.

9. Is there a middle ground? What should people be doing now, if they want to do more than outlined in Questions 2 and 3, but aren’t ready to immerse themselves in a new lifestyle?
As a middle ground, people need to start thinking seriously about how to maintain their own food and water security, and start taking steps in that direction.

a) Food security. We certainly hope our current system of agriculture will continue without interruption, but there is no guarantee of this. Our current method is very productive, but uses huge amounts of energy. If we can keep our current system going, its productivity would likely be higher than that of a large number of individual gardens. The concern is that eventually the current system may break down due to reduced oil supply and need to be supplemented. Vulnerabilities include:
•  Making hybrid seed, and transporting it to farmers
•  Getting diesel fuel to the farmers who need it
•  Transporting food to processing centers by truck
•  Creating processed food in energy-intensive factories
•  Making boxes and other containers for food
•  Transporting processed food to market
[Internet image: Example of a way to grocery shop: Topeak trolley tote folding basket with groceries…also indicating that your home is located nearby a shopping district.]

If diesel fuel is allocated by high price alone, farmers may not be able to afford fuel, and may drop out. Or truck drivers may not be able to get what they need.
It is in our best interest to have a back-up plan. The one most often suggested is growing gardens in our yards–even front yards. Another choice is encouraging local farms, so that transportation is less of an issue. It takes several years to get everything working well (new skills learned, fruit trees to reach maturity), so we need to start early.
One type of crop that is particularly important is grain, since grain provides a lot of calories and stores well. In some parts of the country, potatoes might be a good substitute. It would be good if people started planting grain in gardens in their yards. There is a lot to learn in order to do this, including learning which grains grow well, how much moisture and nutrients the grains need, and how to process them. If the grain that grows well is unfamiliar, like amaranth, there is also a need to learn how to use it in cooking.
Individuals (or local farms) should also begin growing other foods that grow well in their areas, including fruits and nuts, greens of various types, and other more traditional garden crops, including beans. For all types of gardening, non-hybrids seeds (sometimes called heirloom seeds) are probably best for several reasons:
•  It makes storing seeds after harvest possible, and reduces dependence on hybrid seeds.
•  There is less uniformity, so the harvest is spread over a longer period.
•  The reduced uniformity also helps prevent crop failure in years with drought or excessive rain. Some seeds will not grow, but others will. (Hybrids are all or nothing.)
Imported foods are likely to shrink in supply more quickly than other foods. If you live in a country that is dependent on imported foods, you may want to consider moving elsewhere. [Farmers Market sales as seen in the picture above will not feed a community much less a city. Such sales seems to provide some sort of fuzzy safety net. The veggies look  so clean and healthy, but they are not an arithmatic solution (in lbs/person/year), but things could change, as they did in Cuba and North Korea, when the people got hungry. The problem is, following a crisis you have to ‘make do’ throught the next planting season to it harvest before the hopeful crop increase is realized.]

b) Water Security. Here, the largest issue is whether there is likely to be sufficient supply in your area. Another issue is whether there will be sufficient water for your garden, at appropriate times. A third issue is whether there will be disruptions in general, because of poor maintenance or because the process of treating fresh water (and sewage) is energy-intensive.
With respect to sufficient water in your area, if it looks like there is a problem (desert Southwest, for example), relocating now rather than later is probably a good idea. Transporting water is energy intensive, and new efforts at developing energy (like shale oil or more ethanol) are likely to make the water supply situation even worse.
With respect to water for gardening, consider a rainwater catchment system for your roof. Runoff water is saved in barrels, and can be used for irrigation in dry periods.
General disruptions of water supply are more difficult. Keep some bottled water on hand. You may also want to consider a tank for greater storage supply. Rainwater catchment can be used for drinking water, with the correct type of roofing (not asphalt shingles!) and proper treatment, but this is not generally legal in the United States.

10. What kind of investments should I be making? A person’s first priority should be buying at least a little protection for a rainy day – some extra food and water, comfortable clothing, blankets and flashlights. I suggested two weeks’ worth in Question 2. If you have money and space, you may want to buy more.
Paying down debt is probably a good idea, if only for the peace of mind it brings. There are some possible scenarios where debt is not a problem (hyper-inflation but you keep your existing job and get a raise). In many other scenarios (deflation; job lay-offs; rising food and energy prices) debt is likely to be even harder to pay off than it is now.
Land for a garden is probably a good investment, as well as garden tools. You will want to invest in gardening equipment, some books on permaculture, and perhaps some heirloom seeds. You may also want to consider a rainwater catchment system, to collect water from your roof.
You may also want to invest in solar panels for your home. If you want round-the-clock solar energy, you will also need back-up batteries. Buying these is questionable–they tend to be very expensive, require lots of maintenance, and need to be replaced often.
There is a possibility that the financial system will run into difficulty in the not-too-distant future. Some ideas for investments that may protect against this are
• Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS). [At 69 years of age I recieve Social Security, its suppose to ‘inflation protected’. With the price of every thng going up at the store, doctor’s office and gas station, we haven’t received a COLA raise in two years. I’m afraid TIPS investors will  conveniently
encounter the same non inflationary ‘protection.-Mr. Larry]
• Bank accounts protected by the FDIC  [Where FDIC means– some of the same folks that brought us here today.]
Gold coins
• Silver coins

If you want to invest in the stock market, we know that there will be more and more drilling done for oil and gas done in the next few years, so companies making drilling equipment are likely to do well. Small independent oil and gas companies may also do well, doing “work-over” business. We know that there are likely to be shortages in some metals in the years ahead (copper, platinum, uranium), so shares in companies mining these types of metals may do well.
Investments in biofuels should be considered with caution. Most ethanol from corn appears to be heavily dependent on subsidies. If it should ever have to compete with other fuels on a level playing ground, it is likely to do poorly.
I would be cautious about buying insurance policies, except for short-term needs such as automobile coverage, homeowners coverage, and term life insurance. If we encounter a period of significant deflation, insurance companies are likely to fail, because bondholders cannot pay their debt. If we run into a period of rapid inflation, the life insurance or long term care coverage you buy may have very little real value when you come to use it.

11.  Should I move to a different location? There are many reasons you might want to consider moving to a different location:
• To find something less expensive. If times are going to be difficult, you do not want to be paying most of your income on a mortgage or rent.
• To be closer to friends or family, in the difficult times ahead.
• To share a house or apartment with friends or family.
• To be closer to work or public transportation.
• To be closer to a type of employment that you believe will have a better chance of continuing in the future.
• To have better fresh water supplies.
• To join a community with similar interests in sustainability.
• To leave a community that you feel may be prone to violence, in time of shortage.

There are disadvantages as well as advantages to moving to a new location. If many others are trying to move at the same time, you may not be welcome in the new community. You will likely not have friends and the support group you would have had in your prior location. Because of these issues, it is probably better to move sooner, rather than later, if you are going to move. If you balance the pluses and the minuses, it may be better to stay where you are.

12.  We hear a lot about various things we can do to be “green”, like buying fluorescent light bulbs. Do these save oil? Most of the “green” ideas you read about save energy of some kind, but not necessarily oil. Even so, they are still a good idea. If there is a shortage of one type of energy, it tends to affect other types of energy as well. Doing “green” things is also helpful from a global warming perspective. Here are some green ideas besides using fluorescent light bulbs:
•  Move to a smaller house or apartment.
•  Insulate your house, and have it professionally sealed to keep out drafts.
•  If any rooms are unused, do not heat and cool them.
•  Keep your house warmer in summer, and cooler in winter.
•  If you no longer need a big refrigerator, buy a smaller one. Be sure it is an “Energy Star” refrigerator.
•  If you have more than one refrigerator, get rid of the extra(s). Refrigerators are a big source of energy use. For parties, use ice in a tub.
•  Separate freezers are also big energy users. Consider doing without.
•  Eat less meat. Also avoid highly processed foods and bottled water. All of these require large amounts of energy for production.
•  Get power strips and turn off appliances that drain energy when not in use.
•  Turn off lights that are not needed.
•  Rewire lights into smaller “banks”, so you do not need to light up the whole basement when all you want is light in a small corner.
•  Get a clothes line, so you do not need to use your clothes dryer.
•  When cooking, use the microwave whenever possible.
•  Reduce air travel to a minimum. Air travel results in a huge number of miles of travel with corresponding fuel use.
•  Recycle whenever you can.
•  Eliminate disposables as much as possible (coffee cups, napkins, plastic bags, etc.)

13. Should we be talking to our local government officials about these problems? Yes! At the local level, there are many changes that would be helpful:
•  Laws permitting people to put up clothes lines in their yards.
•  Laws encouraging gardens to be grown, even in the front yards of homes.
•  Laws permitting multiple occupancy of houses by unrelated individuals.
•  New local public transportation plans, particularly ones that do not require large outlay of funds. For example, a plan that is more like a glorified car pool might work.
•  Allocation of funds to study the best crops to be grown in the area, and the best cultivation methods, if energy supplies are much lower in the future.
•  It would also be helpful to make changes at higher levels of government, but these are beyond the scope of the discussion in this chapter.”
“The phrase, ‘consent of the governed’ has been turned into a cruel joke. There is no way to vote against the interests of Goldman Sachs. Civil disobedience is the only tool we have left.” —Chris Hedges
.

IV. Where we’ve been, where we are

Peak Oil
The world is rapidly approaching Peak Oil production and will be at an inflection point soon, if not already, after which, real prices will begin a long rise. Price inflection is possible before the next economic recovery, but will certainly come with a recovery, which will then be short lived, because rising energy prices will channel money away from other discretionary expenditures. For the last two years (2009-2010), the USA and Europe have been in recession with lower oil requirements, which have skewered the following 2007 chart by extending the plateau top and pushing the ‘decline in production slope’ (with subsequent increase in prices) into the future another couple years past the original 2007 projection.
Whether we are out of the recession or not by 2015 (within 4 years from now), production declines and the resultant rise in petroleum prices will probably have become an unpleasant factor in our national and personal, financial lives. On Saturday, 4 Sep 2010, FinancialSense.com weekly, ‘News Hour’ podcast, gave leads to the Peak Oil reports listed below. These articles seem to be telling a story, a story which has not yet been shared to any degree with the American people by either the US Government or the news media. Furthermore, there are almost monthly reports being issued by responsible, main stream institutions in Europe, the USA and the Middle East.
As I write, northern Europe is advancing on a program to greatly reduce their fossil fuel dependence; its estimated that in 10 years, by 2020, 20% of Europe’s energy, not just its electricity, will be derived from renewables.
What is happening in the United States? Nothing significant that I’ve heard, seen or read about. Maybe the government is waiting for a Peak Oil–Pearl Harbor type crisis to create a popular mandate for action, as opposed to making plans and choosing an intelligent path while there is time and opportunity to implement and mass test renewable systems.
The energy transition from one type energy to an alternative, historically, only happens about once per century and does so with momentous consequences. We will begin to move away from fossil fuels quite rapidly from here on forward. Business, families and individuals who can adapt to the charge and manage risk will gain an advantage with the shrinking energy pie. [Mr. Larry]

1)  February 2010: UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security (ITPOES) study on peak oil was released: “Business calls for urgent action on ‘oil crunch’ threat to UK economy
London, 10 February, 2010: A group of leading business people today call for urgent action to prepare the UK for Peak Oil. The second report of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security (ITPOES) finds that oil shortages, insecurity of supply and price volatility will destabilize economic, political and social activity, potentially by 2015. This means an end to the era of cheap oil.
•  Taskforce warns Britain is unprepared for significant risk to companies and consumers
•  Poorest to be hit hardest by price rises for travel, food, heating and consumer goods
•  New policies must be priority for whoever wins the General Election
•  Recommended packages include legislation, new technologies and behavior-change incentives
•  Fundamental change in demand patterns triggered by emerging economy countries

2)  March 2010: Telegraph.Co.UK, “Oil reserves ‘exaggerated by one third’
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7500669/Oil-reserves-exaggerated-by-one-third.html>
The world’s oil reserves have been exaggerated by up to a third, according to Sir David King, the Government’s former chief scientist, who has warned of shortages and price spikes within years.
Published: 9:51PM GMT 22 Mar 2010, by Rowena Mason, City Reporter (Energy)
“The scientists and researchers from Oxford University argue that official figures are inflated because member countries of the oil cartel, OPEC, over-reported reserves in the 1980s when competing for global market share.
Their new research argues that estimates of conventional reserves should be downgraded from 1,150bn to 1,350bn barrels to between 850bn and 900bn barrels and claims that demand may outstrip supply as early as 2014. The researchers claim it is an open secret that OPEC is likely to have inflated its reserves, but that the International Energy Agency (IEA), BP, the Energy Information Administration and World Oil do not take this into account in their statistics.
It’s critically important that reserves have been overstated, and if you take this into account, we’re talking supply not meeting demand in 2014-2015.”
Dr Oliver Inderwildi, who co-wrote the paper with Sir David and Nick Owen for Oxford University’s Smith School, believes radical measures such as switching freight transport to airships could become common in future.
“The belief that alternative fuels such as biofuels could mitigate oil supply shortages and eventually replace fossil fuels is a pie in the sky. Instead of relying on those silver bullet solutions, we have to make better use of the remaining resources by improving efficiency.”

3)  March 2010: A heatingoil.com, Kuwait University and Kuwait Oil Company– Peak Oil report
Kuwaiti Researchers Predict Peak Oil Production in 2014
March 10, 2010,  by Josh Garrett
<http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/energy/oilandgas/7500669/Oil-reserves-exaggerated-by-one-third.html>
“A new study published in the journal, Energy & Fuels, predicts that world conventional oil production will hit its peak in the year 2014. The study, undertaken by researchers at Kuwait University and Kuwait Oil Company (their chart shown above), looked at oil production in the top 47 oil-producing nations and found that humanity has extracted about 54 percent of total world oil reserves and that conventional oil production will reach its peak of 79 million stock tank barrels per day (an industry term, abbreviated as STB, that refers to the number of barrels of crude oil successfully extracted and “treated”) in about four years.
The study began with the Hubbert forecast model, named for peak oil pioneer M. King Hubbert, who successfully predicted that crude oil production in the US would peak in 1970. Though proven to be a useful tool in predicting peak oil, the Hubbert model has limitations when applied to more complex and diverse oil production methods and measures of the 21st century. The Kuwaiti researchers accounted for those limitations in the study, and also allowed for updates of their findings as new oil production data becomes available.
It should be noted that the study, no matter how sound its methods, reports exclusively on conventional oil (liquid crude that can be extracted from the ground relatively cheaply), and in doing so paints an incomplete picture of world oil supplies and the expected arrival of peak oil production.
(Note: If the study were to include data on unconventional sources such as Canada’s tar sands and oil shale deposits of the American West, the supply figures would grow substantially and the date of peak production would likely be pushed forward by at least a decade or two. However, because the technology and costs associated with extraction of unconventional oil vary widely and face an extremely uncertain future, it is logical that the study excludes unconventional oil figures.)
The more prepared governments and citizens are for any supply declines that could lead to rapid price increases in consumer fuels like heating oil, diesel, and gasoline, the less disruptive those increases will be to our daily lives.”
“Very few metro regions, cities or businesses are prepared for the impact of the global peak oil issue on their economies, or finances, operating budgets and mobility.
Cities, households and the economy will be impacted, as will industries. Some industries will be hurt (agriculture, retail, petrochemicals) and some sectors could be positively impacted (smart growth planners, alternative transportation providers, “smart city” technology providers, alternative fuel producers, mixed-use and infill developers)
Whether it’s bonafide peaking of global oil supplies, or a short- to medium-term “oil crunch,” the initial result will be the same. Rapidly rising gas prices and price instability should become evident by 2013, or even earlier if there are any supply shocks because of natural disasters (hurricanes in Gulf), political events, war and terrorists acts.
The most obvious area of impact of rising oil prices is transportation and mobility. During the gas price rises of 2006-2008, U.S. citizens turned to public transportation in record numbers. Light rail ridership was the biggest winner, as was an old and reliable form of gas-free transportation, the bicycle.
The biggest losers: SUVs (RIP Hummer) and personal automotive use. Across the nation, people substantially reduced their driving for the first time in decades, particularly in metro areas that had other mobility options.”

4)  April 2010: guardian.co.uk, “US military warns oil output may dip causing massive shortages by 2015” by Terry Macalister
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/11/peak-oil-production-supply>
“The US military has warned that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact.
The energy crisis outlined in a Joint Operating Environment report from the US Joint Forces Command, comes as the price of petrol in Britain reaches record levels and the cost of crude is predicted to soon top $100 a barrel.
“By 2012, surplus oil production capacity could entirely disappear, and as early as 2015, the shortfall in output could reach nearly 10 million barrels per day,” says the report, which has a foreword by a senior commander, General James N. Mattis. It adds: “While it is difficult to predict precisely what economic, political, and strategic effects such a shortfall might produce, it surely would reduce the prospects for growth in both the developing and developed worlds. Such an economic slowdown would exacerbate other unresolved tensions, push fragile and failing states further down the path toward collapse, and perhaps have serious economic impact on both China and India.”
•  Shortfall could reach 10 million barrels a day, report says
•  Cost of crude oil is predicted to top $100 a barrel

The US military says ‘its views cannot be taken as US government policy’, but admits they are meant to provide the Joint Forces with “an intellectual foundation upon which we will construct the concept to guide out future force developments.”
The warning is the latest in a series from around the world that has turned peak oil – the moment when demand exceeds supply – from a distant threat to a more immediate risk.

Future fuel supplies are of acute importance to the US Army because it is believed to be the biggest single user of petrol in the world. BP chief executive, Tony Hayward, said recently that there was little chance of crude from the carbon-heavy Canadian tar sands being banned in America because the US military like to have local supplies rather than rely on the politically unstable Middle East.
But there are signs that the US Department of Energy might also be changing its stance on peak oil. In a recent interview with French newspaper, Le Monde, Glen Sweetnam, main oil adviser to the Obama administration, admitted that “a chance exists that we may experience a decline” of world liquid fuels production between 2011 and 2015 if the investment was not forthcoming.

“It’s surprising to see that the US Army, unlike the US Department of Energy, publicly warns of major oil shortages in the near-term. “The Energy Information Administration (of the Department Of Energy) has been saying for years that Peak Oil was “decades away”. In light of the report from the US Joint Forces Command, is the EIA still confident of its previous highly optimistic conclusions?”
The Joint Operating Environment report paints a bleak picture of what can happen on occasions when there is serious economic upheaval. “One should not forget that the Great Depression spawned a number of totalitarian regimes that sought economic prosperity for their nations by ruthless conquest,” it points out. From

5)  June 2010: Guardian.co.uk, news article posted 11 July 2010, “Lloyd’s adds its voice to dire ‘peak oil’ warnings”, by Terry Macalister
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jul/11/peak-oil-energy-disruption>
“Business underestimating catastrophic consequences of declining oil, says Lloyd’s of London/Chatham House report. One of the City’s most respected institutions has warned of “catastrophic consequences” for businesses that fail to prepare for a world of increasing oil scarcity and a lower carbon economy.
The Lloyd’s insurance market and the highly regarded Royal Institute of International Affairs, known as Chatham House, says Britain needs to be ready for “peak oil” and disrupted energy supplies at a time of soaring fuel demand in China and India, constraints on production caused by the BP oil spill and political moves to cut CO2 to halt global warming.
“Companies which are able to take advantage of this new energy reality will increase both their resilience and competitiveness. Failure to do so could lead to expensive and potentially catastrophic consequences,” says the Lloyd’s and Chatham House report “Sustainable energy security: strategic risks and opportunities for business”.
The insurance market has a major interest in preparedness to counter climate change because of the fear of rising insurance claims related to property damage and business disruption. The review is groundbreaking because it comes from the heart of the City and contains the kind of dire warnings that are more associated with environmental groups or others accused by critics of resorting to hype. It takes a pot shot at the International Energy Agency which has been under fire for apparently under-estimating the threats, noting: “IEA expectations [on crude output] over the last decade have generally gone unmet.”
The report the world is heading for a global oil supply crunch and high prices owing to insufficient investment in oil production plus a rebound in global demand following recession. It repeats warning from Professor Paul Stevens, a former economist from Dundee University, at an earlier Chatham House conference that lack of oil by 2013 could force the price of crude above $200 (£130) a barrel.
It also quotes from a US department of energy report highlighting the economic chaos that would result from declining oil production as global demand continued to rise, recommending a crash programme to overhaul the transport system. “Even before we reach peak oil,” says the Lloyd’s report, “we could witness an oil supply crunch because of increased Asian demand. Major new investment in energy takes 10-15 years from the initial investment to first production, and to date we have not seen the amount of new projects that would supply the projected increase in demand.”
And while the world is gradually moving to new kinds of clean energy technologies the insurance market warns that there could be shortages of earth metals and other raw materials needed to help them thrive. From

6)  August 2010: Spiegal Online International, posted 4 September 2010, “German Military Study Warns of a Potentially Drastic Oil Crisis“, by Stefan Schultz
“A study by a German military think tank has analyzed how “peak oil” might change the global economy. The internal draft document — leaked on the Internet — shows for the first time how carefully the German government has considered a potential energy crisis.
The study is a product of the Future Analysis department of the Bundeswehr Transformation Center, a think tank tasked with fixing a direction for the German military. The team of authors, led by Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Will, uses sometimes-dramatic language to depict the consequences of an irreversible depletion of raw materials. It warns of shifts in the global balance of power, of the formation of new relationships based on interdependency, of a decline in importance of the western industrial nations, of the “total collapse of the markets” and of serious political and economic crises.

The news report from Spiegal Online was specific about their study’s socio-economic findings, pointing out that:
1.  “Shortages in the supply of vital goods could arise as a result, for example in food supplies.
2.  Oil is used directly or indirectly in the production of 95% of all industrial goods.
3.  Price shocks could therefore be seen in almost any industry and throughout all stages of the industrial supply chain.
4.  In the medium term the global economic system and every market-oriented national economy would collapse.…
5.  (Relapse into planned economy) Since virtually all economic sectors rely heavily on oil, peak oil could lead to a partial or complete failure of markets. A conceivable alternative would be government rationing and the allocation of important goods or the setting of production schedules and other short-term coercive measures to replace market-based mechanisms in times of crisis….
6.  (Global chain reaction) A restructuring of oil supplies will not be equally possible in all regions before the onset of peak oil. It is likely that a large number of states will not be in a position to make the necessary investments in time, or with sufficient magnitude.
7.  If there were economic crashes in some regions of the world, Germany could be affected. Germany would not escape the crises of other countries, because it’s so tightly integrated into the global economy….”
8.  The Bundeswehr study also raises fears for the survival of democracy itself. Parts of the population could perceive the upheaval triggered by peak oil “as a general systemic crisis.” This would create “room for ideological and extremist alternatives to existing forms of government….”
.

V.   The economy of extracting the last half of the oil

6th June 2010, MI2G, “Beyond Oil: Beginning of A New Era?”, London, UK
As the marginal cost of extracting oil has risen ever higher, it has been a red rag to the investment bulls seeking a return. Given that the risk profile of extracting that extra barrel of oil has now grown exponentially, this is likely to act as a new deterrent. The risks are rising much faster than previously anticipated as we approach peak oil.
The inertia which has set in amongst governments, businesses and the investment community in regard to preserving the status quo is going to be knocked sideways by the Gulf oil spill and as the costs of the cleanup mount, it will become imperative to invest in cleaner and safer forms of energy. The change in direction will ultimately be driven by a forced change in our collective value system. The end of oil-dependency is likely to mark the end of an era for the globalised western civilization’s model of oil-centric capitalism. If we survive, the age of oil will be followed by an age of recovery, restoration and a return to local generation of power through alternative means. What does the future look like without oil-dependency? Cleaner forms of energy are likely to proliferate. The possibility of a world in balance with natural resources, clean air, clean water, and with the natural environment, is like a shining light at the end of a dark tunnel.
If the problems were only the current recession, we’d muddle through and eventually it would end; if it were a matter of too much personal and national debt, we’d still muddle through, after increasing taxes and fees on everything and decade or so of unusually high inflation; if the problem were only Peak Oil, we’d muddle through, but with a sense of nervous urgency. However, combining, the recession, massive multi levels of debt and Peak oil is going to be taxing (pun intended), economically and socially exhausting.
It appears that global socio-economic systems are working their way deeper into a period of increasing stress. If there were no other major exogenous events to hit humanity over the next 5-10 years, we could probably pull off a global Manhattan type project of converting to renewable resources. An expansion of the ‘renewable energy’ paradigm would fuel manufacturing employment and consumer spending, banks would loan money, and for a short while there would be an economic boom, until the fallout from Peak Oil caught up. Our conversion from Oil to ‘renewables’ will not be fast enough to make up for the coming price hike in petroleum products. Look for the race from oil to renewables to be a ‘diminishing returns’ scenario, the more renewables we adopt, the higher energy prices go. Why? Because the problem is time related, we are starting too late to mitigate the coming Peak Oil price hikes.
So, even with the recession, massive debt and a late start at converting to renewable, we could with higher taxes and prices, come through with the current system intact, but jarred. Under these conditions the global economic system will be tight, there is little if any economic slack as we move forward through the recession toward Peak Oil. If an unexpected calamity arises, that could very well be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, resulting in serious, wide ranging population ‘hardships’.
[The term ‘hardships’ can cover a lot of unpleasant ground! Think about it. Name 10 inconveniences that could arise in your life from a national calamity, then throw in 10 unknowns you didn’t expect. Mr. Larry]
 .

VI. Energy: Shell’s future scenarios – Staring into energy’s black hole

6 Jul 2008, Author: Tobias Webb
http://www.climatechangecorp.com/content.asp?ContentID=5937
Shell’s “energy scenarios” see fossil fuels remaining a huge part of the energy mix to 2050. And if Shell is right, what does it mean for the planet’s future?

1.   Scramble scenerio
Under the Scramble scenario, the current and future “flight to coal” as a relatively cheap energy source cannot last forever. According to Bentham, in this scenario, around the mid part of the decade (ca 2014-2016) comes “a triple squeeze” in energy. This is made up of the logistical difficulties of having to move growing volumes of coal around the world. At the same time, conventional oil and gas supplies are likely to plateau because of a lack of investment and for “political issues” (shorthand for oil nationalism or a lack of big oil company interests in major projects).
These two factors could lead to the “demand levers being pulled rapidly”, Bentham said, and knee-jerk reactions by governments, such as reducing car speed limits to save on fuel use, decommissioning inefficient power plants quickly, and changing building regulations. All this, needless to say, is set to make the world a volatile place.
In Shell’s Scramble scenario, second generation (non-food sourced) biofuels will grow rapidly from 2020 onwards. Meanwhile, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar, will see local growth but will not yet be able to compete with conventional energy in size and scale. The economic conditions of the 2020s will encourage further renewables growth, Shell says, and renewable energy will “rebound” by the end of that decade. The flip side will be that only by then will serious action be likely on global carbon prices as climate change related weather events begin to be blamed on a lack of action during the world’s previous dash to coal sources for energy. This rather paints a bleak picture for the future for environmentalists and, indeed, anyone else.

2.  Blueprints scenerio
Shell believes that its Blueprints scenario presents a much more positive picture. While the company does not believe that achieving a global balance of 450ppm of CO2 by 2050 or earlier is remotely feasible, Shell says that global energy demand can be met by less-polluting sources than fossil fuels, and can be reduced significantly by technology, driven by both regulation and collaboration between governments.
Bentham spoke of the “political reality” of climate change as a key driver for this scenario of collaboration on energy use. He cited two key examples: the law passed in California in 2006 which mandated a cap-and-trade carbon emissions trading system by 2012; and the recent attempts by politicians in Australia to distance themselves from their nation’s past recalcitrant attitude to the Kyoto Protocol and carbon dioxide emissions regulation.
The Californian approach has influenced other US states, Bentham said, noting that in the US, climate change is now “a Federal issue”, with both US presidential candidates saying that they take the threat seriously. Bentham said that the C40 group of cities around the world, which is sharing best practices on transport management and infrastructure development across borders, in both developed and developing economies, is another example of an emerging consensus around the need for collaboration to tackle energy and climate concerns.
Developing countries such as China, and their citizens, are also increasingly concerned about environmental issues and this may drive change towards cleaner economies much faster than in the past, Bentham claimed. China has far more UN-approved clean development mechanism greenhouse gas reduction projects than any other nation.

By 2012 to 2015, under the Blueprints scenario, Bentham thinks that we might see “a critical mass of carbon pricing being applied to a critical mass of sectors in a critical mass of countries”. While this rollout is not global, it begins to influence the choices that people are making in investments. This encourages technological progress such as carbon capture and storage by 2020, and vehicle electrification – by 2050 around 40 per cent of all ‘vehicle miles’ are electric under this scenario. National approaches begin to be harmonized, such as around carbon pricing. This encourages energy efficiency and wind power, while helping electric vehicles come to mass market in the 2020s.
CO2 emissions rise, plateau and then fall by around 2050, under Blueprints. Shell believes that there is no one solution to the global energy and climate conundrum, and that, according to Bentham: “Any technology that is going to be deployed at global scale in the next 50 years is already out of the laboratory.” It’s all about policy and incentive choices, he concluded, “the next five years are crucial”.

3. A third scenario: no fossil fuels
So what do others make of Shell’s predictions and dire warnings about the future of climate change and energy? Opinions are mixed.
“Shell is living in la la land,” says Mark Lynas, author of climate disaster bestseller Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet. “They are constructing scenarios where they continue to be relevant as a fossil fuel company.” Lynas points out that the climate crisis is so serious that what he calls the “real world” will not tolerate such a high carbon vision of energy for 2050. “The whole scenario process should be about figuring out realistic outcomes and planning for them, whereas what Shell seems to be doing is deciding what they would most like to happen, and writing it down,” he says, calling Shell’s scenarios a “political exercise”.
Shell’s view that stabilizing global carbon emissions at 450 ppm is unrealistic is “totally irresponsible”, says Lynas. “If we don’t stabilize at way below 450 ppm we’ll see irreversible climate change with several tipping points being crossed as a result,” he argues. “They are obviously saying that the world can go fry and that their profits must come first.” Lynas believes that despite oil company claims that they can innovate around the frameworks set by politicians and prosper in a low-carbon world, the current large energy majors will eventually die off, as newer, hungrier firms replace them with what he calls “disruptive” energy technology.
David Strahan, author of The Last Oil Shock, says Shell’s best case analysis – Blueprints – is a “fairly disastrous scenario, because (by their estimation) coal is getting bigger as we go up to 2050”. Strahan notes that NASA’s Jim Hanson believes that if the planet managed to eliminate the emissions from coal-fired power stations by either closing them or capturing all the carbon, then “we squeak in at around 440 parts per million” of CO2. “What’s interesting about [what] Shell [is] saying [is] that it’s the end of the planet” if they are right, Strahan claims.

The carbon capture dream
Carbon capture and storage (CCS) is still largely wishful thinking, Lynas agrees. Right now only a tiny number of pilot projects exist around the world, with none being commercially viable. He is in favor of an upstream cap-and-trade system for carbon, which he says is “much easier to manage than regulating emissions” and should be discussed further. Under upstream trading systems, carbon is measured before consumers can become responsible for emitting it and effectively taxed heavily, creating energy efficiency and renewable energy investment incentives across the board.
While Lynas believes there is sufficient technology to decarbonizes power generation by 2050, he thinks it will have to come from renewable sources, with even nuclear a possibility, rather than from fossil fuels. He estimates that future scenarios should factor in a carbon price of €200-€300 a ton to make renewable energy power generation and transportation a reality by 2050. “We need to eliminate coal from the energy mix,” he says, noting that “nuclear may be a good option for China and India”.
“I think the scenarios are a good way of focusing policy makers’ attention on the progress we need to make,” says King. But she notes soberly that even with the considerable co-operation and technology implementation envisaged in Shell’s more positive Blueprints scenario: “We would not deliver the reductions that the climate science indicates we need. It is a useful reminder of the size of the challenge and the urgency.”

Scary future
A bleak message in many ways, but one that Shell appears increasingly comfortable offering – both as a wake-up call to others and to reassure shareholders of the company’s place in the future, after the firm was rocked in 2004 by a massive reserves accounting scandal and struggles to replace oil reserves.
Perhaps the most alarming two facts to emerge from Shell’s scenario planning are the uncertainty around predictions of future energy supply and the potential, or lack of it, of carbon capture and storage technology. No-one knows exactly when “peak oil” – the moment when more of the planet’s oil is out of the ground than left in it – will be reached and what the ramifications for global economics, unrest and politics will be.
Secondly, while many banks and energy firms say 2020 is the earliest when carbon capture and storage will be rolled out, the technology is still at its earliest stages. Unless massive investment in renewable energy is made over the next five to ten years, and if CCS is unable to decarbonize power generation from fossil fuels relatively quickly and on a commercially viable basis, the world will be short of low-carbon power options.
The fight between industry, with their hopeful ideas of carbon capture and storage technology, and those that want to see the whole planet shifting to renewable energy in the next two decades shows no signs of abating.

The peak oil problem
Shell predicts that global oil production will peak around 2020. But the company neatly side-steps the debate in its scenarios by predicting in both the Scramble and Blueprints scenarios that the decline rate of global production will be virtually negligible up to 2040.
David Strahan is surprised that Shell’s oil peak estimation is now 2020. “I haven’t heard them say that before,” he says. The world has already reached the beginnings of a global oil peak, he argues. “The facts are stark. The amount discovered has been falling for 40 years. For every barrel we find each year, we now guzzle three. Output is already falling in more than 60 of the world’s 98 oil-producing countries. And global oil production has been essentially flat, at just less than 86 million barrels per day, since early 2005. Serious analysts now forecast $200 per barrel.”

Blueprints or Scramble
Strahan believes peak oil is coming even earlier than Shell believes and will have a much faster decline rate in production than the company predicts. “Peak oil is this side of 2020”, he says. “Even if you take the most optimistic future discovery numbers that have any credibility and apply a little bit of common-sense you get a peak in 2017”. His fear is that global production will quickly descend to a 4 per cent annual decline rate sometime after that date. “That is the average decline rate of existing oil production capacity.
All major oil companies are struggling to replace their reserves and increase production, Strahan observes. Many are giving more money back to shareholders than they are spending on exploration and production combined, he claims. “They are basically liquidating themselves. Although the high oil price is giving them high profits for the time being, they are in trouble.”

[Did you understand that last statement (bold, brown text above)? After peak oil production, the rate of decline in oil coming to the market will quickly reach the standard average oil production DECLINE  rate of 4% a year. Every year there will be 4% less available oil in the market to sell, and for you, 4% less to buy.
Question: How can there be “growth” if every year there is 4% less work being done? How can we feed 2% more children born into the world with declining food production, when we already have a great deal of dislocation, warfare and starvation on the African continuent?
Since it takes 10 calories of energy input to produce and place 1 calorie of food on your table, if the energy input is declining so are the numbers of available food calories.
Of course there will be a couple years of belt tightening, which will briefly mitigate the food shortage in richer countries, but then with the energy continually declining 4% a year, the deficiencies add up fast: -4%, -8%, -12%, -16%, -20%….in less than 5 years we’ll be unable to hold back to flood tide of misery sweeping across the world, the country, into our homes. In 10 years there would be 40% less petroleum, in 25 years…..in less than 25 years, its all changed. Before 2034.
However, for now, (sadly said) if we can remain in a global recession for the next couple years that will push forward the ‘peak production’ inflection point a few months, while lower recessionary demand may or may not curtail price increases.
Your vote at the polls will not change this. Writing to elected officials or demonstrating on the street will not change this. The global population has voted, they are becoming increasingly concerned and now that they are becoming poorer, they are arming; some are hungry and many are angry, more are in the streets, but none will change the outcome. We are faced with classic ‘overshoot and collapse’.

In closing, a look back at a chart from the book, The Limits to Growth, © 1972, by the Club of Rome. The ‘limits to growth model’ data run is seen below, where there is a  cascading effect from the decline in (resources) oil production that spreads like falling dominos  across the variables, except death rate. The ‘establishment’ -governement, industry and finance, have found it economically convenient to ignore the concepts discussed by the Club of Rome, they did not heed the warning in Hubbert’s Peak oil or the Hirsch report; time passed and these ‘limiting factors’ have  quietly approached. Today, the leadership are ignoring the ‘peak oil’ reports made by various military, business and academic institutions…. Wake up, Neo!
Mr Larry]


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Filed under Survival Manual, __1. Disaster

Modern Freedom of Choice: Death by a 1000 cuts

(Survival manual/2. Social issues/Modern freedom of choice)

Modern Freedom of Choice topics:
1. ‘The Matrix’ (as a metaphor)
2. How Industry Manipulates Public opinion
3. How Propaganda Works in the West
4. Who Really Determines What You Will Or Will Not See On TV, Or Read In The Newspaper?
.  .
1.  ‘The Matrix’
Live Real: Where Science and religion meet common sense
<http://www.livereal.com/movies/matrix_for_real.htm>

_A. “Wake up, Neo.  The Matrix has you.”
So, what is “The Matrix”?
A seriously cool action flick. Stellar visuals. Next-generation special effects. Gnarly fight scenes. Carrie Anne-Moss. Really twisted story. Leather.
But that’s just the surface, the appearance of the movie. That’s all it seems to be.
But there’s something more going on here.
After all, The Matrix movies seem to have a deeper effect on people than that of just another sci-fi flick. What is it about this movie that seems to be speaking to people on such a deeper level? Maybe there is something there to explore…like The Inner Meaning of “The Matrix”

Some quotes from the movie:
“You’re here because you know something.
What you know you can’t explain.
But you feel it.
You’ve felt it your entire life.”
“That there is something wrong with the world.
You don’t know what it is, but it’s there,
like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad.”

 What is the Matrix?
It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.”
What truth?
That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Born into a prison that you cannot smell or taste or touch. A prison for your mind. Unfortunately, no one can be told what the Matrix is. You have to see it for yourself.”
“You’ve been living in a dream world, Neo.”

“The Matrix” – in one sense – is an entertaining adventure movie, with far-out psychological twist. Nothing more.
Keanu, the everyday guy, living the normal life as a computer software programmer, soon is faced with a harsh truth: he’s been living a double life; one by day, another by night. He’s forced to choose which one is really him.
From there, and once he makes a few more key choices, practically everything he believes about himself, his world, his place in the world, fundamental assumptions about him and his identity . . . unravel.
Pretty interesting movie, pretty interesting fantasy, but that’s all it is…or is it?

_B. Views from ‘The Real World’
Consider the following observations from some quite brilliant minds:

•  The first view is from Peter Ouspensky, the 20th-Century mathematician and author of In Search of the Miraculous, in which he quotes philosopher G. I. Gurdjieff:
 “If men could really see their true position and could understand all the horror of it, they would be unable to remain where they are even for one second. They would begin to seek a way out and they would quickly find it, because there is a way out; but men fail to see it simply because they are hypnotized.”

“You do not realize your own situation. You are in prison. All you can wish for, if you are a sensible man, is to escape. But how escape? It is necessary to tunnel under a wall. One man can do nothing. But let us suppose there are ten or twenty men – if they work in turn and if one covers another they can complete the tunnel and escape.”

“. . . Furthermore, no one can escape from prison without the help of those who have escaped before . . . if a man in prison was at any time to have a chance of escape, then he must first of all realize that he is in prison. So long as he fails to realize this, so long as he thinks he is free, he has no chance whatever. No one can help or liberate him by force, against his will, in opposition to his wishes. If liberation is possible, it is possible only as a result of great labor and great efforts, and, above all, of conscious efforts, towards a definite aim.”

      “If a man could understand all the horror of the lives of ordinary people who are turning round in a circle of insignificant interests and insignificant aims, if he could understand what they are losing, he would understand that there can be only one thing that is serious for him – to escape from the general law, to be free. What can be serious for a man in prison who is condemned to death? Only one thing: how to save himself, how to escape: nothing else is serious.”

•  Or the following from Indian spiritual teacher Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
 “Thus is created the world in which we live, our personal world. The real world is beyond the mind’s ken; we see it through the ‘net of our desires’, divided into pleasure and pain, right and wrong, inner  and outer.
To see the universe as it is, you must step beyond the net. It is not hard to do so, for the net is full of holes. Look at the net and its many contradictions.”

  From Plato
“’And now,’ I said, ‘let me show in a figure how far our nature is enlightened or unenlightened: behold human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light and reaching all along the den; here they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them, being prevented by the chains from turning round their heads. Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players put in front of them, over which they show the puppets.’
‘I see.’
‘And do you see,’ I said, ‘men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? Some of them are talking, others silent.’
‘You have shown me a strange thing, and they are strange prisoners.’
‘Like ourselves,’ I replied; ‘and they see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another .

  Or the words of  philosopher J. J. van der Leeuw
“Our life is like that of the prisoners in the cave; we too see only the back of the cave, the wall of our own consciousness on which dance the shadows, the images cast there by the reality which we do not behold.

We have come to know the play of these shadows so well that we have been able to build up an entire science concerning them. This science is right in so far as the shadows have a vital relation to the reality that casts them, but it is ever doomed to find itself confronted by mysteries which in the world of shadows never be solved, unless some who have seen the real world introduce into these sciences a wider knowledge. But we are impatient and incredulous when anyone would tell us that the world upon which we gaze is not the world of the Real, but only our world-image.

Yet among us too evidence is not lacking of men, who, throughout the ages, have found freedom from their bondage, who have conquered illusion and discovered that world of Reality of which this world of ours is but a shadow or image, cast in the cave of our consciousness . . .” (quoted from The Conquest of Illusion, 1928)

  Or the following from a description of Gnosticism
(Gnosticism was a philosophy that was influential around the time of the origin of Christianity. Many argue that Jesus was a member of a Gnostic sect called The Essenes.)
“. . . gnosticism taught that we are souls trapped in a prison like material world by an evil divinity, kept unaware of our plight by its carnal seductiveness. Only those with the occult knowledge (gnosis) of the true state of affairs can transcend this prison and enter a higher reality. The good divinity dwelling above this evil realm aids the lost souls by sending a messenger of truth to reveal the deception.
Replace archons with agents and magic with machine guns, and “The Matrix” is a virtual, point-for-point retelling of an gnostic concept.”

   Or the following from two psychologists
“The average person is unaware that he or she is living out a negative destiny according to his or her past (childhood) programming, preserving his or her familiar identity…,”
– Robert W. Firestone and Joyce Catlett

   Or the thoughts from Albert Einstein
“A human being is a part of the whole called a universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” [Image at left is an attempt to display the meaning of Einstein’s  4-dimensional universe on a 2-dimensional surface.]

   And from Scientific American
“Our innate perception that the world is three-dimensional could be an extraordinary illusion…results suggest that our universe, which we perceive to have 3 spatial dimensions, might instead be “written” on a 2-dimensional surface, like a hologram. Our everyday perceptions of the world as 3-dimensional would then be either a profound illusion or merely one of two alternative ways of viewing reality…”
– from “Information In the Holographic Universe” by Jacob D. Bekenstein, Scientific American, August 2003 [Image right]

These descriptions are very similar to the core message in the movies: The Truman Show, Jacob’s Ladder, The Thirteenth Floor, The Wizard of  Oz and Waking Life.
“It is not until you awaken that you will realize that you have been asleep, dreaming that you are awake.”Leonard Jacobson

 And If You Want To Go Deeper… – down the rabbit-hole
   It’s pretty safe to say that the vast majority of people who see The Matrix trilogy will more or less enjoy the movies, have a fun couple of hours with each…then move on with their lives, and that’s it. Good flicks.
  Another, smaller group of people, will go see the movies, and afterwards, think about the underlying message and philosophy that pervades the movies. They’ll take it to a slightly deeper level, and get intellectual about it…In a way, they will be like dreamers in a dream who dream that someone told them they were dreaming, and they talked and thought about it in the dream.
  And yet another, much smaller group, will go even further. They will see the movies, like them, and work to understand the deeper message that pervade the movies intellectually… then they’ll get to work.

After all, if the movies strike a chord with people because there’s some truth to them. If we actually are, in some way, living in some kind of illusion, and we’re more or less ‘cut off’ from reality or “IT” or whatever you want to call it, and this is why we suffer from all kinds of deception then there’s a lot of work to do.

And if there is some truth behind the ‘machines’ that we created becoming the enemy that enslaves us, then working to free ourselves from their grip and find ‘The Truth’ is what we need to do, which means, among other things, that we should probably be studying and practicing certain exercises, like a kind of ‘mental martial-arts, and work with others to help win the battle…and then, maybe one day we can all wake up.
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2.  How industry manipulates public opinion
http://www.healingdaily.com/beliefs.htm
Why you believe what you believe.
PR (public relations) was created to manipulate public opinion. More and more of what we hear, see and read as ‘news’ is actually PR content. On any given day much of what the media broadcasts or prints as news is provided by the PR industry.
There are two kinds of ‘experts’ we’re dealing with:
1)  the PR spin doctors behind the scenes and
2) the ‘independent’ experts paraded before the public, scientists who have been hand-picked, cultivated, and paid handsomely to promote the views of corporations which are involved in controversial actions.

“Third parties” set PR apart from advertising. Stauber and Rampton describe how the tobacco industry first hired movie stars to promote cigarettes and then spent millions of dollars to counter findings that cigarettes cause cancer, a strategy based on testimonials and the so-called third-party technique.


The book, Trust Us We’re Experts also considers the effect big money has on universities and scientific journals, describing instances in which tobacco companies paid 13 scientists $156,000 to write letters to influential medical journals.
People don’t realize how most issues of ‘conventional wisdom’ are scientifically implanted in the public consciousness by a thousand media clips a day.

If everybody believes something, it’s probably wrong. That’s what we call “Conventional Wisdom”. In the U.S., conventional wisdom which has mass acceptance is usually contrived: somebody paid for it. For example:
● “Hospitals are safe and clean”
● “The cure for cancer is just around the corner”
   Pharmaceuticals restore health”
  “America has the best health care in the world”
  “Vaccination brings immunity”
  “When a child is sick, he/she needs immediate antibiotics”
  “When a child has a fever he/she needs Tylenol”
  And many more

Public relations shaping public opinion
In “Trust Us We’re Experts“, Stauber and Rampton point to some compelling data describing the science of creating public opinion in the U.S. They trace modern public influence back to the early part of the 1900’s, highlighting the work of people like Edward L. Bernays, the “Father of Spin”.

[Image at right: Trust Us We’re Experts a book co-authored by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton of the Center for Media and Democracy, shows how the world’s richest and most powerful corporations are involved in the shenanigans of the public relations industry, which pays, influences and even invents a surprising number of those ‘experts’.]

Edward Bernays layed the groundwork for the fledgling public relations industry in the 1920s to the power it wields over public policy today.

In his book “Propaganda”, Bernays argued that scientific manipulation of public opinion is key. “A relatively small number of persons,” he wrote, “pull the wires which control the public mind.” Bernays believed that “somebody interested in leading the crowd needs to appeal not to logic but to unconscious motivation.”

Bernays dominated the PR industry until the 1940s, and was a significant force for another 40 years following that. During that time, Bernays took on hundreds various assignments to create a public perception about some product or idea. For example, as a new member on the Committee on Public Information, one of Bernays’ first assignments was to help sell the First World War to the American public with the idea to “Make the World Safe for Democracy.”

A few years later, Bernays helped popularize the notion of women smoking cigarettes. Not being one to turn down a challenge, Bernays set up the advertising format, along with the AMA, which lasted for almost 50 years proving that cigarettes are beneficial to health. It’s interesting to look at ads in issues of “Life” or “Time” magazines from the 40s and 50s.

Bernays also popularized the idea of bacon for breakfast.

Bernay’s job was to reframe an issue, to create a certain image which would put a particular concept or product in a desirable light. Bernays described the public as a ‘herd that needed to be led.’ And this herd-like thinking makes people “susceptible to leadership.” Bernays never strayed from his fundamental axiom to “control the masses without their knowing it.” The best PR takes places when the people are unaware that they are being manipulated.

Stauber describes Bernays’ rationale like this: “the scientific manipulation of public opinion was necessary to overcome chaos and conflict in a democratic society.” (“Trust Us We’re Experts” p. 42)
Once the possibilities of applying Freudian psychology to mass media were uncovered, Bernays’s list of corporate clients grew rapidly. Global corporations were eager to court the new Image Makers. There were hundreds of goods and services and ideas to be sold to the susceptible public. Over the years, these players have had the money to make their images happen. Some of those players are:

Monsanto
Philip Morris
DuPont
Pfizer
Dow Chemical
Union Carbide
tobacco industry
General Mills
Allstate
Eli Lilly
Ciba Geigy
Goodyear
lead industry
Coors
Chlorox
Shell Oil
Standard Oil
Procter & Gamble
Boeing
General Motors

The best PR is PR that goes unnoticed.

For decades these “players” have created the opinions most of us were raised with, on virtually any issue which has the remotest commercial value, including:

pharmaceutical drugs,
vaccines,
medicine as a profession,
tobacco,
leaded gasoline,
alternative medicine,
dental amalgams,
pollution of the oceans,
forests and lumber,
images of celebrities  inc. damage control
fluoridation of city water,
aspartame,
chlorine,
household cleaning products,
dioxin,
global warming,
cancer research and treatment,
crisis and disaster management,
genetically modified foods,
food additives; processed foods

Bernays learned early on that the most effective way to create credibility for a product or idea is with “independent third-party” endorsement. For example, if General Motors were to come out and say that “global warming” is a hoax invented by some liberal tree-huggers, the public would suspect GM’s motives, since GM’s fortune is made by selling cars.

If however some independent research institute with a very credible sounding name like the Global Climate Coalition comes out with a scientific report which says that global warming is really a fiction, the public begins to get confused and to have doubts about the issue.

So that’s exactly what Bernays did. With a policy inspired by genius, he set up “more institutes and foundations than Rockefeller and Carnegie combined.” (“Trust Us We’re Experts” p 45)

Quietly financed by the industry giants whose products were being evaluated, these “independent” research agencies would churn out “scientific” studies and press releases which could create any public image their handlers wanted. Such front groups are given important-sounding names like:

Alliance for Better Foods,
Temperature Research Foundation,
Consumer Alert,Industrial Health Federation,Manhattan Institute,
The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition,
International Food Information Council
Center for Produce Quality,
Tobacco Institute Research Council,
Cato Institute,
Air Hygiene Foundation,
American Council on Science and Health,Global Climate Coalition,
International Food Information Council

As Stauber explains in “Trust Us We’re Experts“, these organizations and hundreds of others like them are front-groups whose sole mission is to advance the image of the corporations which fund them.

Public relations and the media
The news media regularly fails to investigate so-called “independent experts” associated with industry front-groups. These front-groups all have important-sounding names like “Consumer Alert” and “The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition,” but they fail to reveal their corporate funding and their propaganda agenda.

Industries’s front-groups promote their agenda in part by an endless stream of “press releases” announcing “breakthrough research” to every newspaper, radio and TV station in the country. Many of these press releases read like news, and indeed are purposely molded in the news format. This saves journalists the trouble of researching the subjects on their own, especially for topics about which they know very little. Entire sections of the press releases can be just lifted intact, without any editing, given the byline of the reporter or newspaper or TV station – and voila! Instant news. Written by corporate PR firms

Does this really happen? It happens every single day, since the 1920s when the idea of the Press Release was first invented by Ivy Lee. (“Trust Us We’re Experts”, p. 22) These types of stories are mixed right in with legitimately researched news stories. Unless you have done the research yourself, you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Words in press releases are very carefully chosen for their emotional impact. A front group called the International Food Information Council handles the public’s natural aversion to genetically modified foods. Who do you think funds the International Food Information Council? Take a wild guess. Right – Monsanto, DuPont, Frito-Lay, Coca Cola, Nutrasweet – corporations in a position to make fortunes from GM foods. (“Trust Us We’re Experts” p. 20)

Science For Hire
Stauber tells the amazing story of how leaded gas came to be. In 1922, General Motors discovered that adding lead to gasoline gave cars more horsepower.
When there was some concern about safety, GM paid the Bureau of Mines to do some fake “testing” and publish “research” that “proved” that inhalation of lead was harmless. This is where Charles Kettering comes in.

Founder of the world-famous Sloan-Kettering Memorial Institute for medical research, Charles Kettering also happened to be an executive with General Motors. By some strange coincidence, we soon have the Sloan Kettering Institute issuing scientific reports stating that lead occurs naturally in the body and that the body has a way of eliminating low-level exposure.

Through its association with PR giant Hill & Knowlton and The Industrial Hygiene Foundation, Sloane Kettering opposed all anti-lead research for years. (“Trust Us We’re Experts” p. 92). For the next 60 years more and more gasoline became leaded, until by the ’70s, 90% of our gasoline was leaded.

Finally, it became too obvious to hide that lead was a major carcinogen, and leaded gas was finally phased out in the late ’80s. But during those 60 years, it is estimated that some 30 million tons of lead were released in vapor form onto American streets and highways. 30 million tons.

I hope this page will help you to start reading newspaper and magazine articles a little differently, and perhaps start watching TV news with a slightly different attitude. Always ask yourself, what are they selling here, and who is selling it?

If the news is dealing with an issue where money is involved, objective data won’t be so easy to obtain. Remember, if everybody knows something, that image has been bought and paid for.

Real knowledge takes a little more effort, a little digging down at least one level below what “everybody knows.”

We are all “conditioned”. What we are exposed to through the media, especially television, does shape our beliefs. Britney Spears is paid millions of dollars to tell us to drink Pepsi because IT ABSOLUTELY WORKS.
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3. How Propaganda Works in the West
11 November 2008, Ed Strong blog.com
http://edstrong.blog-city.com/noam_chomsky_how_propaganda_works_in_the_west.htm
The American approach to social control  is so much more sophisticated and pervasive  that it deserves a new name  It not propaganda any more, it’s “prop-agenda”. It’s not so much the control of what we think, but the control of what we think about.
Remember, children. Propaganda works because we don’t know we’re being propagandized.
How could anyone suggest that in this beacon of ‘freedom and democracy’, the magnificent United States of Amnesia, that we are programmed to follow an ideology?

Propaganda for Dummies
In the West the calculated manipulation of public opinion to serve political and ideological interests is much more covert and therefore much more effective than a propaganda system imposed in a totalitarian regime.
Its greatest triumph is that we generally don’t notice the influence of propaganda — or laugh at the notion it even exists.
We watch the democratic process taking place – heated debates in which we feel we could have a voice – and think that, because we have “free” media, it would be hard for the Government to get away with anything very devious without someone calling them on it.
The American approach to social control is so much more sophisticated and pervasive that it really deserves a new name. It isn’t just propaganda any more, it’s “prop-agenda.” It’s not so much the control of what we think, but the control of what we think about.
When our governments want to sell us a course of action, they do it by making sure it’s the only thing on the agenda, the only thing everyone’s talking about. And they pre-load the ensuing discussion with highly selected images, devious and prejudicial language, dubious linkages, weak or false “intelligence” and selected “leaks”.

With the ground thus prepared, governments are happy if you then “use the democratic process” to agree or disagree — for, after all, their intention is to mobilize enough headlines and conversation to make the whole thing seem real and urgent.
The more emotional the debate, the better. Emotion creates reality, reality demands action.

Keeping the People Passive & Obedient
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum – even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

Since the voice of the people is allowed to speak out in democratic societies, those in power better control what that voice says — in other words, control what people think.

One of the ways to do this is to create political debate that appears to embrace many opinions, but actually stays within very narrow margins. You have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions — and that those assumptions are the basis of the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, the debate is permissible.

One reason that propaganda often works better on the educated than on the uneducated is that educated people read more, so they receive more propaganda. Another is that they have jobs in management, media, and academia and therefore work in some capacity as agents of the propaganda system — and they believe what the system expects them to believe. By and large, they’re part of the privileged elite, and share the interests and perceptions of those in power.

It is much more difficult to see a propaganda system at work where the media are private and formal censorship is absent. This is especially true where the media actively compete, periodically attack and expose corporate and government malfeasance, and aggressively portray themselves as spokesmen for free speech and the general community interest.

What is not evident (and remains undiscussed in the media) is the limited nature of such critiques, as well as the huge inequality of the command of resources, and its effect both on access to a private media system and on its behavior and performance.

Propaganda & the Ruling Ideology
When a leading journalist or TV news presenter is asked whether they are subject to pressure or censorship, they say they are completely free to express their own opinions. So how does thought control work in a democratic society? We know how it works in dictatorships.

Journalists are an integral part of the ruling ideology. They are so well ‘integrated’ that they can’t see outside the ideological box they inhabit. Their journalism is balanced, fair and tolerant of other points of view. But that is part of the ‘value system’ they are promulgating. ‘Truth’ is their version of the world.

To return to the original question. If one suggests there is censorship in the Western media, journalists immediately reply: “No one has been exerting any pressure on me. I write what I want.” And it’s true.  But if they defended positions contrary to the dominant norm, someone else would soon be writing editorials in their place.

Obviously it is not a hard-and-fast rule: the US press sometimes publishes even my work, and the US is not a totalitarian country. But anyone who fails to fulfill certain minimum requirements does not stand a chance of becoming an established commentator. It is one of the big differences between the propaganda system of a totalitarian state and the way democratic societies go about things. Exaggerating slightly, in totalitarian countries the state decides the official line and everyone must then comply.

Democratic societies operate differently. The line is never presented as such, merely implied. This involves brainwashing people who are still at liberty. Even the passionate debates in the main media stay within the bounds of commonly accepted, implicit rules, which sideline a large number of contrary views.  The system of control in democratic societies is extremely effective. We do not notice the line any more than we notice the air we breathe.

We sometimes even imagine we are seeing a lively debate. The system of control is much more powerful than in totalitarian systems. Look at Germany in the early 1930s. We tend to forget that it was the most advanced country in Europe, taking the lead in art, science, technology, literature and philosophy. Then, in no time at all, it suffered a complete reversal of fortune and became the most barbaric, murderous state in human history. All that was achieved by using fear: Fear of the Bolsheviks, the Jews, the Americans, the Gypsies – everyone who, according to the Nazis, was threatening the core values of European culture and the direct descendants of Greek civilization (as the philosopher Martin Heidegger wrote in 1935).

However, most of the German media who inundated the population with these messages were using marketing techniques developed by US advertising agents. The same method is always used to impose an ideology. Violence is not enough to dominate people: some other justification is required.

When one person wields power over another – whether they are a dictator, a colonist, a bureaucrat, a spouse or a boss – they need an ideology justifying their action. And it is always the same: their domination is exerted for the good of the underdog. Those in power always present themselves as being altruistic, disinterested and generous.

In the 1930s the rules for Nazi propaganda involved using simple words and repeating them in association with emotions and phobia. When Hitler invaded the Sudetenland in 1938 he cited the noblest, most charitable motives: the need for a humanitarian intervention to prevent the ethnic cleansing of German speakers. Henceforward everyone would be living under Germany’s protective wing, with the support of the world’s most artistically and culturally advanced country.

When it comes to propaganda (though in a sense nothing has changed since the days of Athens) there have been some minor improvements. The instruments available now are much more refined, in particular – surprising as it may seem – in the countries with the greatest civil liberties, Britain and the US.

The contemporary public relations industry was born there in the 1920s, an activity we may also refer to as opinion forming or propaganda. Both countries had made such progress in democratic rights (women’s suffrage, freedom of speech) that state violence was no longer sufficient to contain the desire for liberty. So those in power sought other ways of manufacturing consent.

The PR industry produces, in the true sense of the term, concept, acceptance and submission.

It controls people’s minds and ideas. It is a major advance on totalitarian rule, as it is much more agreeable to be subjected to advertising than to torture.

4. Who Really Determines What You Will Or Will Not See On TV Or Read In The Newspaper?
http://www.whoownsthenews.com/
In the early years of our democracy the ‘free press’ was all that stood between greedy corporate interests, government corruption and you and I. While many newspapers were controlled by wealthy individuals such as William Randolph Hearst, who influenced the content of the news in his papers, a kind of journalistic ‘Hippocratic oath’ seemed to prevail across the country as reporters and publishers at small papers usually chose to pursue the truth in reporting.

Local papers, TV stations and radio outlets were owned mostly by local individuals with an interest in their community. That began to change as a powerful institution known as the Council On Foreign Relations gained power and the trend toward total corporate media control rapidly accelerated during the Bush-era with media consolidation.

Suddenly the old rule that one corporation could not own all of the town’s news outlets was gone. Companies like Clear Channel Communications suddenly began to buy up every radio station, TV outlet and newspaper in major markets, effectively controlling everything that people read, watched and heard. The pattern of media consolidation has increased during the last eight years to the point that now only a few corporations control the news that we watch.

He who owns the media, controls the media. With such powerful platforms they are able to drown out independent media and control public opinion and government policy. There can be no freedom without freedom of the press and there can be no freedom of the press if only a few powerful corporations own it.

What Liberal or Right Wing Media? It’s Just Corporate Media.
Who really controls the media? Is the so-called ‘liberal media’ that the’ right’ complains about controlled by Hollywood and liberal special interests? Is Fox News controlled by the Republican Party? If you believe any of these generalizations you are dead wrong and the truth will shock you.

Major multinational corporations, Middle Eastern sovereign wealth funds and Saudi Princes, all hell-bent on protecting their own interests, choose what you will see on the nightly news and trick you into believing it is unbiased reporting. As we see below all the major news outlets, regardless of what they make you believe, contributed heavily to George W. Bush in both 2000 and 2004, so any argument that they are controlled by liberals evaporates. In this case they all supported the candidate that promised to allow consolidation of multiple media companies.

The very news stories that you are fed by the mainstream media are manipulated to mirror the public relations campaigns of companies that operate nuclear plants, sprawling theme parks that gobble up wetlands, defense contractors, oil companies and even Saudi Princes.
Remember the old ‘Outer Limits’ TV shows where the announcer says “We control everything you see and hear, the vertical, the horizontal,” etc? The corporate controlled news media controls all you see and hear.

Below,  are the top twenty media corporations in the U.S. according to mediaowners.com All but two, #18 and #19, are not members of the Council On Foreign Relations.

1. Time Warner Inc.
2. Walt Disney Company
3. Viacom Inc.
4. News Corporation
5. CBS Corporation
6. Cox Enterprises
7. NBC Universal
8. Gannett Company, Inc.
9. Clear Channel Communications Inc.
10. Advance Publications, Inc.

11. Tribune Company
12. McGraw-Hill Companies
13. Hearst Corporation
14. Washington Post Company
15. The New York Times Company
16. E.W. Scripps Co.
17. McClatchy Company
18. Thomson Corporation
19. Freedom Communications, Inc.
20. A&E Television Networks

Question: Who Owns The Media?
Answer:  Industry Giants, Saudi Princes and Australian Robber Barons.
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Here is a breakdown of the “Liberal” media ownership By Corporations:
..
GENERAL ELECTRIC, –Not Just Light Bulbs Anymore
General Electric – NBC (In 2000  they donated 1.1 million to George W Bush for his election campaign)

_TV Holdings:
 •    NBC: Owns outright 13 stations and many affiliates, Market penetration: 28% of US households.
 •   NBC Network News: Owns The Today Show, Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, Meet the Press, Dateline.
 •   CNBC business network, MSNBC 24-hour cable and Internet news service (co-owned by both NBC and Microsoft); Court TV (co-owned with Time Warner), Bravo (50%), A&E (25%), History Channel (25%).
The MS in MSNBC stands for Microsoft, Bill Gate’s Microsoft donated 2.4 million in 2000 to get George W Bush elected.

_Other Holdings:
 •   GE Consumer Electronics and Household Products and components used in military electronics..
 •   GE Power Systems, which makes turbines for nuclear reactors, wind turbines, “clean” coal technology.
 •   GE Plastics: produces military hardware for fighter jets, ships and nuclear power equipment.
 •   GE Transportation Systems: manufactures engines and diesel and electric locomotives.

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WESTINGHOUSE / CBS INC. –  Not Just Fridges Anymore.
Westinghouse Electric Company, part of the large Nuclear Utilities Business Group of British Nuclear Fuels.
Which is Headed By Frank Carlucci of the Carlyle Group. A group with very strong ties to the Bush Administration.

_TV Holdings:
 •   CBS: Owns outright 14 stations and over 200 affiliates in the US.
 •   CBS Network News: 60 minutes, 48 hours, CBS Evening News, CBS Morning News.
•   Country Music Television, The Nashville Network.
•   Group W Satellite Communications.
Other Holdings:
 •   Westinghouse Electric Company: provides services to the nuclear power industry including owning 4 nuclear plants, waste disposal and transport.

.

 DISNEY – ABC Not just cartoon characters, ‘Worlds’ or family movies anymore.
(Donated $640,000 to George W Bush’s 2000 political campaign)

_TV Holdings:
 •   ABC: includes 10 stations outright, many affiliates, Penetration in the market: 24% of US households.
•   ABC Network News: Prime Time Live, Nightline, 20/20, Good Morning America.
•   ESPN, Lifetime Television (50%), as well as smaller holdings in A&E, History Channel and E!
•   Disney Channel/Disney Television, Touchtone Television.

_Other Major Media Holdings.
 •   Miramax, Touchtone Pictures.
•   Major Magazines: Jane, Los Angeles Magazine, Discover.
•   Three recording labels, twelve major local newspapers.
•   Hyperion books.
•   Infoseek search engine.

Major shareholders include Sid R. Bass, oil and gas baron.
Disney’s environmental and social record: Source wikipedia.org

The company has been accused of human rights violations regarding the working conditions in factories that produce their merchandise. Numerous environmental groups in Florida and California have criticized development procedures used in building theme parks including damage to wetlands.

An environmental management plan for a zone of Great Guana Cay, in the Abaco Islands, criticized Disney for poor management of a 90-acre (36.4 ha) tract of the island. Disney partially developed, but then abandoned the place, which was to have been a cruise ship resort called Treasure Island. The report, by the University of Miami and the College of the Bahamas, blames Disney for leaving hazardous materials, electrical transformers, and fuel tanks, and for introducing invasive alien plants and insects that threaten the natural flora and fauna of the island.
.

TIME-WARNER TBS – AOL (In 2000 they donated 1.6 million to George Bush’s political campaign)
“Time, Not Just On The Coffee Table Anymore”.
America Online (AOL) acquired Time Warner which was the largest merger in corporate history.

_TV Holdings:
 •   CNN, HBO, Cinemax, TBS Superstation, Turner Network Television, Turner Classic Movies, Warner Brothers Television, Cartoon Network, Sega Channel, TNT, Comedy Central.
•   Largest cable system owner with an estimated 13 million households.

_Media Holdings:
 •   HBO Productions, Warner Home Video, New Line Cinema, Castle Rock, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera.
•   Music: Atlantic, Elektra, Rhino, Sire, Warner Bros. Records, EMI.
 •   Thirty three major magazines including Time, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, In Style, Fortune, The Book of the Month Club, Entertainment Weekly, Life Magazne, DC Comics, MAD Magazine.

_Other major corporation Holdings:
   Sports Teams and Wrestling: The Atlanta Braves, The Atlanta Hawks, World Championship Wrestling.
.

NEWS CORPORATION LTD. / FOX NETWORKS (Rupert Murdoch, numerous donations. On Board of Directors of Phillip Morris, Phillip Morris Donated 2.9 million to Bush’s campaign.
Why did Australian Rupert Murdoch forsake his native country and become a U.S. citizen? Reportedly it was because he could save on taxes and start over in virgin territory after leaving behind so much scorched earth in the Australian economy as he laid waste to his business opponents and bought up media outlets. Or perhaps it was just so he could get around foreign media ownership laws. (Which no longer exist.)

Does a Saudi billionaire actually have the power to control the news on the Fox network, of which he is a part owner?

_Major Television Holdings:
 •    Fox Television: includes 22 major and many affiliate stations, Penetration into more than 60% of US households.
•    Fox International: extensive worldwide cable and satellite networks include British Sky Broadcasting (40%); VOX, Germany (49.9%); Canal Fox, Latin America; FOXTEL, Australia (50%); STAR TV, Asia, IskyB, India; Bahasa Programming Ltd., Indonesia (50%); and News Broadcasting, Japan (80%), major owner of DirecTV.
•   The Golf Channel (33%).

_Other Major Media Holdings:
 •   Twentieth Century Fox, Fox Searchlight.
•   132 major newspapers (113 in Australia alone) including the New York Post, the London Times and The Australian.
•   Owns 25 magazines including TV Guide and The Weekly Standard.
•   Owns Harper Collins books.
.
_Other major corporation holdings around the world:
 •    Sports: LA Dodgers, LA Kings, LA Lakers, National Rugby League.
•   Ansett Australia airline, Ansett New Zealand airlines.
•    Rupert Murdoch is on the Board of Directors of Philip Morris, a major Bush donor.
It’s no surprise that corporate robber baron Rupert Murdoch is a major Bush supporter, but who else owns Fox News?
•   Prince al-Walid bin Talal owns 5.5% of Fox News.  Prince al- Walid bin Talal stated recently that he used his influence to change Fox’s headlines. During the recent riots in Muslim neighborhoods in France Fox was using the term “Muslim Riots” to describe rioting by Muslim youths and Prince bin Talal claims that called Fox News had them change the title of the story to “Youth Riots”.
Source. worldnetdaily.com [Image at left.]

 •   In another instance, where supposedly conservative Fox News should have been up in arms, was the deal by a United Arab Emirates holding company to buy U.S. ports. Suddenly Fox went from being against the deal to very supportive of a deal that would have put US container ports in foreign hands.
A U.A.E. sovereign wealth fund also owns major shares of Fox.

The “good ole boys” that hang on every word that Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly utters might not be so happy when they hear who is whispering in their idol’s ears.
.

The Council On Foreign Relations and What It Has To Do With Corporate Control Of The News CFR Seal.
What do Dan Rather, Barbara Walters, Jim Lehrer, Rupert Murdoch, Tom Brokaw and the late William F. Buckley have in common? They are all members of the CFR, The Council On Foreign Relations. The stated goal of the CFR is to manipulate the News to bring about a new world order or corporate control of everything. This is not some weird conspiracy theory, it is stated in their original charter.
Who else belongs to the CFR, Disney’s Michael Eisner and ABC’s Thomas Murphy, Tom Johnson, CEO of CNN, Time Warner’s Gerald Levine, and many, many more media CEO’s who have merged their empires under the CFR’s guidance.

Freedom of the press is vital to our democracy. We need to prevent things like media consolidation, where one company is allowed to own all the news outlets in any given market. Speak up and stop the corporate robber barons and the CFR from taking that right away from us.

[Sorry to say, but the horse is already out of the barn, the time for prevention has passed. Modern freedom of choice really is part of the milieu we find ourselves in: a slow, social, economic, environmental and democratic death by 1000 cuts. Mr Larry]

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Filed under Survival Manual, __2. Social Issues

Modern Competition: Part 3 of 3 (Illegal Immigration & Free Trade)

(Survival Manual/ 2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Competition: Part 3 of 3)

Topics:
Part I
1.  College and future income

2.  Consumer debt

Part II
3.  Wage slaves

Part III
4.  Illegal (Mexican) immigration
5.  Free trade & globalization
.

4 . Illegal (Mexican) immigration

A.     Illegal Immigration
1 Sep 2010, SHTF Plan.com
“…With a 10% unemployment rate, nationally, estimated by the government; it means there are more than 35 million Americans out of work. At more than 16% unemployed based upon Shadow Stats analysis, it means that more than 50 million Americans are out of work, while presumably, 30 million Illegal Latinos are still working. If these 30 million Illegal’s are not working in American jobs, what the hell are they doing here to survive? And if they are working in American jobs, why is this acceptable to our federal government?

Many false arguments arise with respect to the employment picture. The biggest fallacy is that these Latino foreign nationals are taking jobs Americans don’t want. Does any American citizen really believe that there are 30 million Latino “lettuce pickers” in the United States?

 

A.  “Legal vs Illegal
(–from the web: anonymous)
You have two families: “Joe Legal” and “Jose Illegal”. Both families have two parents, two children, and live in California . Joe Legal works in construction, has a Social Security Number and makes $25.00 per hour with taxes deducted. Jose Illegal also works in construction, has NO Social Security Number, and gets paid $15.00 cash “under the table”.

Ready? Now pay attention . . .

Joe Legal: $25.00 per hour x 40 hours = $1000.00 per week, or $52,000.00 per year. Now take 30% away for state and federal tax; Joe Legal now has $31,231.00.
Jose Illegal: $15.00 per hour x 40 hours = $600.00 per week, or $31,200.00 per year. Jose Illegal pays no taxes. Jose Illegal now has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays medical and dental insurance with limited coverage for his family at $600.00 per month, or $7,200.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $24,031.00.
Jose Illegal has full medical and dental coverage through the state and local clinics at a cost of $0.00 per year. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal makes too much money and is not eligible for food stamps or welfare. Joe Legal pays $500.00 per month for food, or $6,000.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $18,031.00.
Jose Illegal has no documented income and is eligible for food stamps and welfare. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays rent of $1,200.00 per month, or $14,400.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $9,631.00.
Jose Illegal receives a $500.00 per month federal rent subsidy. Jose Illegal pays out that $500.00 per month, or $6,000.00 per year. Jose Illegal still has $ 31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays $200.00 per month, or $2,400.00 for insurance. Joe Legal now has $7,231.0
Jose Illegal says, “We don’t need no stinkin’ insurance!” and he still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal has to make his $7,231.00 stretch to pay utilities, gasoline, etc . . .
Jose Illegal has to make his $31,200.00 stretch to pay utilities, gasoline, and what he sends out of the country every month.

Joe Legal now works overtime on Saturdays or gets a part time job after work.
Jose Illegal has nights and weekends off to enjoy with his family.

Joe Legal’s and Jose Illegal’s children both attend the same school.
Joe Legal pays for his children’s lunches while Jose Illegal’s children get a government sponsored lunch.

Jose Illegal’s children have an after school ESL program.
Joe Legal’s children go home.

Joe Legal and Jose Illegal both enjoy the same police and fire services, but Joe paid for them and Jose did not pay.”
..

B.  Income Gap Growing in Texas, Group Says. Illegal Aliens and a Spineless Government the Cause, I Say!
Friday, May 16, 2008
<http://theunloadingzone.blogspot.com/2008/04/income-gap-growing-in-texas-group-says.html&gt;

The Dallas Morning News recently did an article on how the gap between Rich and Poor in Texas is growing. REALLY? You’re just noticing that now?
In Texas the gap between rich and poor is growing. Not only is it true, but they define “rich” as $124K per year and poor at $16K per year. Texas rich is upper middle class up north….barely. And Texas poor, well you tell me how anyone can support a family on $16K a year.

The article ends: “You can either live in Texas, where you may be poor but you have lots of job opportunities, or you can do what these people propose and turn us into Michigan or Illinois, which are hemorrhaging jobs,” he said. “There, if you’re poor, you stay poor.” .

That’s because they’re not over-run with millions of illegal aliens working below the minimum wage for cash. That’s because employers get away with hiring them every day.

It’s because Governor Perry and TxDot are turning every road and highway in what was middle class Texas into “lucrative” toll roads. And that’s their plan for the future…..toll, toll, toll. Why?
We have Fund 6 where all the gas tax money is SUPPOSED to be going, but instead is being siphoned off for other “projects”. Gas prices are 2 weeks away from $4/gallon for regular. In Collin County, STATE HIGHWAY 121 (not supposed to be a toll road), when complete, will cost the average user $1800 a year for their work commute.

The middle class is systematically being wiped out. Sales taxes are at 8.25% and, unlike most States, food and clothes are not exempt. What was the middle class has no discretionary income; no dinners out; no movies. The solution? BRING IN MORE Illegal Aliens! But at least we can brag we don’t have a State Income Tax.

It’s because Texas is re-fighting the Mexican-American War alone and losing. Texas is losing its identity, it’s heritage, it’s culture, and it’s standard of living. Crime rates are up, taxes are up paying to educate, feed, house, and provide free health care for people not legally allowed in this country in the first place.

The Feds don’t care. The Dept. of Homeland Security is such a tangled bureaucratic mess that even divisions like ICE don’t know what they’re responsible for. And the politicians: all they know is Hispanics will be the majority racial group in this country by 2060 and they want those votes at any cost.

They talk about “amnesty”. Ronald Reagan, a giant of a man, badly miscalculated when he gave a million Hispanics amnesty in 1986. I spoke to the Regional Director of ICE recently: they are STILL trying to process those illegals from 22 years ago!
How are we going to give amnesty to 12-18 million more illegals? That will take centuries!

And Texas is losing because it’s culture is passive-aggressive. With a very few exceptions, people and towns take action. Most just smile and say how wonderful diversity is in public, and then go home and rant and rave. So much for the myth of the “plain-spoken Texan”.
Meanwhile, half the jobs advertised require bi-lingual language skills, there are Spanish-Only billboards and signs popping up every day, and the people do nothing.…while the small to medium sized business community cashes in.

And now even the big box retailers are joining in. Walmart has more Spanish signage than English in many of their stores. And you can walk the entire length of the store and never hear a word spoken in English. So much for the melting pot theory.  What a Great TV Ad for Texas this article would make! I’m sure all the local Texas Chambers of Commerce loved it too.
.

5.  Free Trade

A.  How “Free Trade” Ruined America
28 February 2011, The Drifting Ship: The U.S. and Global Economy
http://fsuchick86.blogspot.com/2011/02/how-free-trade-ruined-america.html

The one question that is running rampant in class is, “Where are the jobs, professor?”
How will America get jobs back in America? How do we jump start the American economy without deficit spending? It appears that all economists — at least the ones teaching — haven’t an answer. It’s all about finding the right “incentives” and “business environment” and BAM… back to the booming 1980s. But perhaps it’s due to the entire economics profession selling out to Wall Street interests or corrupted by age-old economic doctrinaires that DO NOT work in the “real world.”

I, however, offer a different take on why there are no jobs in America and it has to do with “free trade” and the practice that Wal-Mart aka “the Temple of More” is notorious for… outsourcing.

[Image above: Our exports]

Today, economists are blind to the loss of American industries and occupations because they believe these results reflect the beneficial workings of “free trade.” Whatever is being lost, they think, is being replaced by something as good or better. This thinking is rooted in the doctrine of comparative advantage put forth by David Richardio in 1817. In sum, it states that, even if a country is a high-cost producer of most things, it can still enjoy an advantage, since it will produce some goods at lower relative cost than its trading partners.

Today’s economists leading the pack and teaching in academia can’t identify what the new industries and occupations might be that will replace those that are lost (manufacturing), but they’re certain that those jobs and sectors are out there somewhere. We just have to look a little bit harder. What does not occur to them is that the same incentive that causes the loss of one tradable good or service — cheap, skilled foreign labor — applies to all tradable goods and services. But there is no reason that the “replacement” industry or job, if it exists, won’t follow its predecessor offshore.

For comparative advantage to work, a country’s labor, capital, and technology must NOT move offshore. This international immobility is necessary to prevent a business from seeking an absolute advantage by going abroad. The internal cost ratios that determine comparative advantage reflect the quantity and quality of the country’s technology and capital. If these factors move abroad to where cheap labor makes them more productive, absolute advantage takes over from comparative advantage.

This is what is wrong with today’s debate about outsourcing and offshore production. It’s not really about trade, but about labor arbitrage. Companies producing for U.S. markets are substituting cheap labor for expensive U.S. labor. The U.S. loses jobs and also the capital and technology that move offshore to employ the cheaper foreign labor. Many economists argue that this loss of capital does not result in unemployment but rather a reduction in wages. The remaining capital is spread more thinly among workers, while the foreign workers whose country gains the money become more productive and are better paid.

Economists like to call this wrenching adjustment short-run “wage adjustments.” But when the loss of jobs leaves people with less income but the same mortgages and debts, upward mobility collapses. Income distribution becomes more polarized to the upper tiers of society, the tax base is lost, and the ability to maintain infrastructure, pension funds, and public commitments is reduced. Nor is this adjustment just short-run. The huge excess supplies of labor in India and China mean that American wages will fall a lot faster than Asian wages will rise for a long time. That is economic reality.

Until recently, advanced economies retained their capital, labor, and technology. Foreign investment occurred, but it worked differently from outsourcing. Foreign investment was confined mainly to the world’s advanced economies. Its purpose was to avoid shipping costs, tariffs, and quotas, and thus sell more cheaply in the foreign market. The purpose of foreign investment was not offshore production with cheap foreign labor for the home market.

When David Ricardo developed the doctrine of comparative advantage in 1817, climate and geography were important variables in the economy. The assumption that factors of production were immobile internationally was realistic. Since there were inherent differences in climate and geography, the assumption that different countries would have different relative costs of producing tradable goods was also realistic.

Today, acquired knowledge is the basis for most tradable goods and services, making the Ricardian assumptions unrealistic. Indeed, it is not clear where there is a basis for comparative advantage when production rests on acquired knowledge. Modern production functions operate the same way regardless of their locations. There is no necessary reason for the relative costs of producing manufactured goods to vary from one country to another. Yet without different internal cost ratios, there is no basis for comparative advantage.

Outsourcing is driven by absolute advantage. Asia has an absolute advantage because of its vast excess supply of skilled and educated labor. With American capital, technology, and business know-how, this labor can be just as productive as American labor, but workers can be hired for much less money. Thus, the capitalist incentive to seek the lowest cost and most profit will seek to substitute cheap labor for expensive labor. India and China are gaining, and America is losing!
Until outsourcing is reversed one should not expect jobs to return to America any time soon. That is just something I like to call the harsh economic reality of 2011!

B.  Cost of US ‘free’ trade: collapse of two centuries of broadly shared prosperity
April 1, 2011, The Christian Science Monitor, By Ian Fletcher
http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion/2011/0401/Cost-of-US-free-trade-collapse-of-two-centuries-of-broadly-shared-prosperity

It’s time to face a brutal truth about the American economy: Even if rising gas and food prices don’thasten a double dip recession, our 200-year tradition of broadly shared prosperity is over. That’s because the great American job machine has been destroyed by a reckless free-trade policy.

Since the end of the cold war, and accelerating after NAFTA in 1994, Washington has pursued a globalized economy made possible by ever-expanding “free” trade agreements. This policy is a major factor in America’s increasing inequality, our rising indebtedness, community abandonment, and the weakening of the industrial sinews of our national security.
.

[Photo above: Our imports]

About to crumble
The good news is that this global order of free trade is about to crumble – within the next 10 years at most. The unsustainable American trade deficit alone makes this a near-certainty.
For now, though, America’s economy continues to struggle because our trade deficit – fluctuating around $500 billion a year for a decade now – acts as a giant “reverse stimulus.” It causes a huge slice of domestic demand to flow not into domestic jobs but foreign wages.

Our trade deficit helps Guangdong, Seoul, Yokohama, even Munich – but not Gary, Indiana, Fontana, California, and the other badlands of America’s industrial decline. Washington’s response? Yet more stimulus, leading to an ever-increasing overhang of debt, both foreign and domestic, the cost of whose servicing then exerts its own drag on recovery.

Despite the 216,000 jobs added last month, the American economy has, in fact, entirely lost the ability to create jobs in tradable sectors. This cheery fact comes straight from the Commerce Department. All our net new jobs are in non-tradable services: a few heart surgeons and a legion of busboys and security guards, most of them without health insurance or retirement benefits.

These are dead-end jobs, and our economy as a whole is being similarly squeezed into dead-end industries. The green jobs of the future? Gone to places like China, where governments bid sweeter subsidies than Massachusetts can afford. Nanotechnology? Perhaps the first major technology in a century where America is not the leading innovator. Foreign subsidies are illegal under WTO rules, but no matter: Who’s going to enforce them when corporate America is happily lapping at their very trough?

Part of the problem is that today’s free-trade order is in reality a curious mixture of genuinely free trade practiced by the United States and a few others with the technocratic mercantilism of surging East Asia and Germanic-Scandinavian Europe. It wasn’t always like this.

A history of protection
From 1790 to 1945, America grew and prospered in a largely protected economic environment. Our trade then was not “free.” But after World War II, we wandered away from Alexander Hamilton’s vision of a relatively self-contained American economy in order to win the cold war. We threw our markets open to the world as a bribe not to go communist. If we fail to return to a policy of strategic, not unconditional, economic openness, we may lose the next cold war – to a Confucian authoritarianism no less opposed to the idea of a free society than Marxism, and considerably more efficient.

There is an appropriate policy response. For starters, the US should apply compensatory tariffs against imports subsidized by currency manipulation, an idea that originated with Kevin Kearns of the US Business and Industry Council and was recently passed by the House of Representatives. Also essential is a border tax to counter foreign export rebates implemented by means of foreign value-added taxes.

The fundamental reality of free trade is that it relieves corporate America from any substantial tie to the economic well-being of ordinary Americans. If corporate America can produce its products anywhere, and sell them anywhere, then it has no incentive to care about the capacity of Americans to produce or consume. Conversely, if it is tied to making a profit by selling goods made by Americans to Americans, then it has a natural incentive to care about American productivity and consumption.

Productivity and consumption are prosperity. [Think about that. The US has lost productive capacity,  there are less production jobs, unemployment has increased considerably and become a structural problem (very long term), the US dollar is declining in value–prosperity is slowly evaporating, like soil moisture before an expanding drought . Mr Larry]

C.  Globalization and American Wages: Today and Tomorrow
October 10, 2007, EPI Briefing Paper #196 Globalization and American Wages
Today and Tomorrow,  by L. Josh Bivens
<http://www.epi.org/publications/entry/bp196/&gt;

The continuing integration of the rich United States with a far poorer global economy has provoked much anxiety among American workers. Because it is well-known that basic economic theory predicts that global integration leads to gains for all nations, this anxiety is often treated as a political puzzle. A once again fashionable explanation for this puzzle is that globalization’s benefits are huge but diffuse (primarily, lower prices for imported goods), while its costs are small but concentrated (workers displaced by imports); hence, the gains are hard to see, but the losses are all too visible.1

This Briefing Paper reexamines what conventional economics actually predicts about the effects of integrating the rich United States and poor global economies. Contrary to popular rhetoric, there is no puzzle to be explained: conventional economic theory argues that American workers will indeed be harmed by this integration—and their anxiety is well-founded.

The paper also provides rough empirical estimates of integration’s effect on American wages and inequality. Lastly, it uses some prominent forecasts about the future potential reach of service-sector offshoring to make a very rough guess as to the future wage implications of these forecasts.

The key findings indicate:
•  In 2006, the impact of trade flows increased the inequality of earnings by roughly 7%, with the resulting loss to a representative household (two earners making the median wage and working the average amount of hours each year) reaching more than $2,000. This amount rivals the entire annual federal income tax bill paid by this household.
•  Over the next 10-20 years, if some prominent forecasts of the reach of service-sector offshoring hold true, and, if current patterns of trade roughly characterize this offshoring, then globalization could essentially erase all wage gains made since 1979 by workers without a four-year college degree. [A couple decades ago, wives went to work to supplement the erosion of a one income family, that 2nd income is now rapidly eroding; over the next decade or so, lower class  and less fortunate children may again need to return to work ‘to help make ends meet’. Mr Larry]

[Before 1938 (when the US Child Labor Laws were enacted), a great many American children worked to help support their families. More recently, because of the loss of substantial numbers of good paying US production jobs, increasing energy prices as we decline from Peak Oil, the US household donsumer debt structure, and erosion of income from 2 income families–we may again see pictures comparable to the one above. When Amazon and Apple market shares tank and Walmart scales back it inventory and floor space, look for a line of ‘Made in USA’, young teens ‘rough and ready work dungarees’ at your favorite clothing retailler.]

Globalization’s real costs: not just unemployment or adjustment
Some readers may think these results are obvious. Nobody, for example, denies that, say, U.S. steel workers displaced by import competition face hardship from trade. These costs, however, are often thought to be small and manageable with temporary government assistance.

This is, however, a radical understating of globalization’s costs. Note that the above example did not take into account the adjustment cost of workers’ unemployment spell between jobs. These adjustment costs are, of course, real and should be of concern to policy makers, but they are not the first-order costs of globalization to American workers.

Rather, the losses identified above are permanent wage-loss suffered by labor in this simple economy. Empirical studies in the trade and wages debate have generally used production and non-supervisory labor as a proxy for labor in the United States, and non-production and supervisory labor as a proxy for professionals. Occasionally, workers with a 4-year college degree stand in for professionals, with the rest of the workforce standing in for labor.

Production workers constitute roughly 75% of the entire U.S. workforce, and workers without a four-year college degree constitute roughly 70% of this workforce. Hence, while gross gains may exceed gross losses in the U.S. as global integration proceeds, it is not necessarily the case that winners outnumber losers. Global integration, in short, has the potential to inflict permanent harm to most American workers, and the scale of this harm is much larger than commonly realized.

[Sooner, or later, we’ll return to the time honored, ‘old fashion way’ of competing – by production, work, scrimping to save, investing wisely and personal responisbility…Mr. Larry]

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Filed under Survival Manual, __2. Social Issues

Modern Competition: Part 2 of 3 (Wage Slaves)

(Survival Manual/ 2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Competition: Part 2 of 3)

Topics:
Part I
1.  College and future income
2.  Consumer debt

Part II
3.  Wage slaves

Part III
4.  Illegal (Mexican/Central American) immigration
5.  Free trade & globalization
.

3.  Wage Slaves

A.      What is a wage slave?
<http://www.whywork.org/about/faq/wageslave.html&gt;

So what exactly is a wage slave? It’s doubtful that you’d be exploring this web site if you didn’t have some idea at least, but for the sake of ease, we’ll clarify further.
Here are some brief and incomplete definitions from CLAWS members:
•  “Wage slavery is the state where you are unable to perceive choices and create courses of action different from the grind of the job.”
•  “Wage slave: A wage earner whose livelihood is completely dependent on the wages earned.”

The point here, of course, is that we don’t have a single agreed-upon definition of wage slavery. Many of us prefer to focus on wage slavery as a state of mind, while others prefer to focus on the external aspects of wage slavery such as the wage economy. But overall, we seem to sense something rotten at the core of what we’ve been taught about “making a living”, and that’s the place to begin our questioning.

Have you ever noticed how many of us seem to live “lives of quiet desperation”, as Henry David Thoreau puts it? We feel trapped by forces beyond our control, trapped in a mindless job, for the sake of money, status or recognition. We complain that we never seem to have the time for what’s really important to us, because our jobs take so much energy and focus that we hardly have anything left over. We plod along day to day; sometimes we even dread getting out of bed in the morning.

We see the futility of the standard, socially approved path in America. It goes something like this: Go to school, get good grades, so you can get a “good” job, make lots of money, get a mortgage and a car and a spouse, keep up with the Joneses, and be “successful”. We know it’s not the path for us; we want to define success for ourselves. But we don’t know how to forge a new path for ourselves, because, well, what would we do for money if we quit? How would we support ourselves? Sometimes there’s a glazed look in our eyes; it’s as if some part of us has died. We are just doing time, working hard and hoping for the next promotion, waiting for the day when we can throw off our shackles, quit our dull jobs, and finally live life. Everything gets put on hold until we have more time, or more money. Meanwhile, life is passing us by.

Perhaps you are one of these people. If so, CLAWS (Creating Livable Alternatives to Wage Slavery) was created for your benefit. We have news for you: You do not have to live your life that way. CLAWS is here to inspire you to greater fulfillment, and to help you figure out how to get out of the endless cycle of living paycheck to paycheck and feeling chained to a job you don’t care about.

We have other news, too: It won’t necessarily be the easiest thing you’ve ever done. You have a choice, but you may have to re-examine your way of thinking very thoroughly. The pull of the socially accepted way of doing things is amazingly strong, and trips up the best of us despite our good intentions. It takes a certain kind of independent thinker to be “job-free”. We use that term rather than “unemployed”, in an effort to convey to people that we’re proud, not ashamed, of not having regular jobs. We also make an important distinction between jobs and work. All of us do some kind of work, though not necessarily for monetary compensation.

Another thing you’ll need if you decide to rethink your beliefs about jobs and money is the willingness to challenge conventional wisdom. It will take perseverance, and a commitment to throw out the limiting beliefs you may have unwittingly adopted. This is not the path for everyone. If your priority is comfort or social approval, or if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t rock the boat, CLAWS probably won’t meet your needs.

If you embark on this path, it’s important to know what it will ask of you. It may require you to disassemble, dissect, and tear apart your old beliefs, let go of some mighty persistent and tempting illusions, and build a new foundation for your thinking, sometimes from scratch. Are you prepared to do this? If so, you’re in the right place.

Even if you have seen through the false sense of “security” a normal job offers you, and already questioned that approach to life, you may not really believe you can do it. You may still have questions about how to bridge the gap from the old way of life to a new one that you envision. That’s where we can help, dear reader. CLAWS would like to see you devote yourself to the life you’ve dreamed of, the life your heart desires. We don’t want to see you waste your precious days any longer. Life is short, and the time to pursue your dreams is NOW.

In the words of Norman Cousins:
“Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live.”
“The debt and work cycle is an ingenious tool of subjugation. Make people think they need all these things, then they must have a job, and they give up control of their lives. It’s as simple as that. We live in one of the most free countries in the world, but we fix it so we are not free at all

Larry Roth
“Capitalism only supports certain kinds of groups, the nuclear family for example, or ‘the people I know at my job’, because such groups are already self-alienated & hooked into the Work/Consume/Die structure.”

Hakim Bey
“Supposing we suddenly imagine a world in which nearly everybody is doing what they want. Then we don’t need to be paid in order to work and the whole issue of how money circulates, how we get things done, suddenly alters.”

Robert Theobald
When survival or mere subsistence is at stake, a society can focus only on the overwhelming needs of the moment, and questions of meaningful work and leisure are considered purely academic. But we believe that the world has enough wealth to move all of humanity above survival and subsistence.”
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B.  Modern Day Slavery, or Debt Slavery
Saturday, January 3, 2009, by Patent Attorney Robert Platt Bell
http://livingstingy.blogspot.com/2009/01/modern-day-slavery-or-debt-slavery.html

When I discuss Modern Day Slavery, or Debt Slavery, some people freak out, or even say such talk is racist, or some such nonsense. In reality, Slavery has existed for millennia. In the old days of Leviticus and such, slaves were not necessarily Black, but merely folks, who, for one reason or another, found themselves indentured. Typically, invading armies would enslave foes, usually people they deemed to be of lesser intelligence and value.

It was only until the 18th Century that Slavery became associated as a Black-only thing. But the roots remained the same – a view by the slave-masters that they were superior to the enslaved. And even then, the enslavement of Africans was a follow-on to the practice of indentured servitude, which was promulgated in the New World. Once the settlers in the New World ran out of indentured servants, taking Africans as slaves seemed like a natural next step. Debt-slavery conditioned people to accept actual slavery – which is troubling, given the conditions in the world today.

Even today, slavery exists in the world, albeit in a much smaller scale. Oppressed people are coerced into slave-like conditions. The traffic in human misery continues, as women are forced into prostitution, or the poor are kept as virtual hostages as housekeepers and servants in some countries – sometimes even in the US!

But that is not what I am talking about here. While those types of modern-day slavery exist and are deplorable, they are not as common as what might be called Debt Slavery – the defacto condition of servitude that many in this country (and others) find themselves in as the result of economic conditions and consumer debt. While Debt Slavery is certainly not on the level of the traffic in human flesh, it can be debilitating and devastating to its victims. And since it is far, far more widespread, one could argue that Debt Slavery is a greater harm overall.

The conundrum of Debt Slavery is that most victims willing fall into it, through their own actions and by yielding to easily-offered temptation. And like traditional slavery, it disproportionally affects minorities, the poor, and the less educated. However, even white, middle-class folks can end up selling their souls to “the man”.

What is Debt Slavery?
In England in the 1700’s, one could literally fall into a real form of Debt Slavery. If one failed to pay the bills and went bankrupt, not only would you lose all your worldly possessions, one could be forced into the workhouse or jail (debtor’s prison) until the debt was considered “paid” or a prison sentence served. Like in antebellum slavery, children were often separated from their parents (as in Dickens’ Oliver Twist) and literally sold.

Reforms brought about in part by stories like Dickens’ have made bankruptcy less harsh. We no longer throw debtors into prison or take them to the workhouse. However, even a lavish prison is still a prison, and many folks in modern America find themselves in perpetual debt. If real slavery were legalized tomorrow, within a few years, a staggering proportion of Americans would end up as slaves, all because of the inability to control spending. People would literally sell themselves into bondage, all for a wall-screen TeeVee.

Debt Slavery might be defined as a condition of perpetual debt, which in turn forces a person to perpetually work in order to pay off this perpetual debt. It is a condition in which a large percentage of a person’s labor (one third or more) is devoted to servicing debt – most of which is payment of interest on debt. A person in Debt Slavery never gets ahead, since as soon as one debt is paid off, another is incurred. A person in Debt Slavery never owns anything, they only owe.

And while reforms since Dickens’ time have made the poorhouse and the debtor’s prison things of the past, recent “reforms” to bankruptcy laws have made it nearly impossible to get out from some debts, particularly student loan debts. The old days, where debts were “wiped clean” are largely past. And as a result, we have created a nation of perpetual debtors, who are forever trying to “work out” their past debts, never to get ahead.

How Do People Become Debt Slaves?
One of the most puzzling thing about Debt Slavery is that most, if not all, people who fall victim to this condition willingly sign up for it. In exchange for shiny consumer goods (cars, boats, televisions, clothes, etc.) they sign their lives away, so that they can have it all “now” rather than later. Often this means paying two, three, or four times as much for an article than its actual retail price.

So, for example, a person buys a brand new car, signing up for three or four years of car payments. With interest, they easily pay 1-1/2 times the retail price of the car. Compared to the same car purchased used, they pay double the value of the car. Throw in the added cost of collision insurance over the life of the loan, and (for young people in particular) they can end up paying four or five times the value of the car.

They signed up for this to satisfy the need of the ego to have something new and shiny – and because of weakness – the inability to say “no” to a persuasive salesman. It also is a result of ignorance, or lack of experience or training. Car salesmen and dealers are not going to point out the economic folly of such a transaction. And yet the victim sees all his peers doing the same thing, so he thinks, “This must be an OK deal, right?” Wrong, of course.

Once the process starts, it worsens. Paying too much for one item, like a car, leaves the victim with less money to spend on other essentials, such as car maintenance. When the car is finally “paid for” (or even before) it is in such bad shape that the victim goes back to the dealer to “trade in” – often on onerous terms. Since the car may be worth less than the balance of the loan, sometimes the “negative equity” is folded into a new loan. As the creditworthiness of a Debt Slave is always suspect, and the balance on the loan exceeds the value of the new car, the terms of the loan (interest rate) are staggering.

But the debt slave, seeing only a monthly payment and a shiny new car, signs the papers and kids themselves they are “ahead” of their neighbor who owns and older, paid-for car.
The car scenario is only one major example, and an example of how debt can snowball out of control. Granted, most people don’t end up being scammed as badly as in my example above. But that example is based on the real-world experiences of a friend of mine, so I can say that it does happen.

How Do People Remain Debt Slaves?
Once people get into Debt Slavery, it is very, very difficult to get out. Institutions cater to the Debt Slave and continually entice them to staying in its grasp. Once a credit rating is shot, only the worst sort of financing is available to the Debt Slave – interest rates of 20-30% or more.

Catering to the “I have to have it NOW” mentality, enterprises such as Rent-To-Own furniture and appliances sell consumer goods to the Debt Slave for 2-3 times their real market value. A recent trend and extension of this concept is the Rent-To-Own Rims (car wheels) that enslave their victims in exchange for what is literally bright shiny and cheaply made trinkets. The Manhattan Indians were tricked in a similar manner, swapping the Island of Manhattan for $24 worth of beads and trinkets. In the cities today, young men do the same thing for cheap Korean-made “bling” rims.

Of course, once the process starts, the Debt Slave is short of money. Financing companies fill in the gap by providing payday loans, often at interest rates of 300% or more. Each payday loan is folded over into another loan, and never paid off. Tom Wolfe wrote about this practice back in the 1930’s in Look Homeward Angel, in which an unscrupulous local lawyer would loan $20 to the poor, having them pay it back in $1 weekly installments perpetually – to cover only the interest. Once trapped like this, the victims never paid the loan back. In over 70 years, not much has changed.

Pawn Shops, Car Title Loan shops, and other enterprises separate the Debt Slave from the meager consumer goods that they have managed to pay off. For pennies on the dollar, they sell off what little they have in exchange for getting money NOW.
Even if the Debt Slave manages to get ahead somewhat in payments, or gets a raise or promotion, they often fall back into slavery by buying yet another new car or purchase.

Credit Cards merit special mention. Credit Card companies have been very aggressive in recruiting new customers, oftentimes customers they know cannot pay off large debts. They offer large credit lines, knowing that the victims will indulge themselves with purchases of food, clothing, and other consumer items. Once they reach their limit, they will be charged over-limit fees and the like. Since the Debt Slave cannot manage their finances, they may pay a card late, which in turn jacks the interest rates to 20-30% or more, making paying off the debt nearly impossible. And the Credit Card companies have successfully lobbied to pass new laws limiting a debtor’s rights in bankruptcy. The one weapon that debtors had in the past has been severely blunted.

Why Do People Remain Debt Slaves?
Peer Pressure is one reason many people remain in Debt Slavery. By this I do not mean the type of pressure to conform faced by high school students. Rather, I mean the tendency of human beings to judge their own actions by the actions of others. If a suburbanite sees that his neighbor is in debt, but has a new car and other desirable consumer goods, then he/she thinks that such indebtedness is a “normal” part of modern life.

Unfortunately, we, as humans, tend to judge our actions this way – by what our peers are doing. And this negative tendency can explain some of the most egregious human behavior. If all your neighbors join the Nazi party, then it certainly doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. Germans were not being particularly evil, they were just being particularly human. The scary lesson here is that any behavior can be adopted on a mass-scale, once people view it as a “norm”.

Or take cigarette smoking – and the campaigns against it. When everyone smoked, the idea of lighting dozens of small, hand-held fires in an aircraft surrounded by aviation fuel seemed “normal”. Today, the “norm” is to be anti-smoking, so smokers can be ostracized. Homophobia worked the same way. Today, homosexuality is accepted as part of the “norm”, but in the not-too-distant past, it was not. What is viewed as a “norm” in society can change, and change very rapidly.

For this reason, the Debt Slavery industry does not want to change what is perceived as normative. Here in Georgia, for example, laws were passed outlawing payday loans. The payday loan industry has fought this, arguing that they are a legitimate business, and that in certain instances, people need such loans to get by – and that the government should not interfere in what is, essentially, a private transaction. Usury laws and the like were also repealed on similar grounds.

The Debt Industry advertises heavily. You probably know the catch-phrases and jingles of most major credit card companies (“What’s in YOUR wallet?”). Payday loan places, Rent-to-Own furniture stores, and the like, all heavily advertise on Radio and TeeVee. Unscrupulous home refinancing deals also advertise heavily, offering the Debt Slave a “way out” – but one paved with toxic ARMS, junk fees, and loan points.

For many people, however, the TeeVee is the source of their normative cues. Most Americans watch 6-8 hours a day, believe it or not. They wake up to the TeeVee, watch it at a restaurant during lunch, turn it on after work, and shut it off before they go to bed. The TeeVee is the ultimate propaganda machine, and if you keep watching it, you will end up brainwashed, no matter what. The best thing to do, is turn it off entirely.

So long as Debt Slavery can be viewed as a “norm,” it will continue. The best thing you can do is stop taking your normative cues from television and your dimwitted neighbors, and learn to think for yourself.

One interesting aspect of Debt Slavery is that on many blog sites and other discussion boards, you will see postings from people who actually defend bad financial decisions that lead to Debt Slavery. While some of these postings are no doubt shilling from the debt industry, others appear to be from genuine individuals who want to self justify their own bad behavior, by convincing themselves that leasing a brand new car every three years or running up debt on an ” airline miles” card really isn’t such a bad thing after all.

So Why is Debt Slavery a Bad Thing?
Some might argue that Debt Slavery affects only its victims. And by being in debt, the victims of Debt Slavery have a motivation to go to work every day, and thus it encourages productivity from the masses. Debt Slavery results in a massive transfer of wealth from the people in our society who can afford it least, to a small minority of people and institutions who need it least.

But just as secondhand smoke affects non-smokers, Debt Slavery harms society as a whole, not just its immediate victims. Debt Slavery creates a permanent underclass in our society, an underclass that feels it has been lied to and taken advantage of. The Debt Slave tends to believe, with good reason, that the system is fixed and the game is rigged – that there is no legitimate way to win.

And with ” reforms” in bankruptcy laws, the debt industry has been emboldened to lend money more and more to people they know in advance cannot pay it back. They count on “workouts” and other means of getting their money back, plus copious interest payments. By the time most Debt Slaves think about bankruptcy, they have paid for their credit card purchases at least twice over, with interest charges. Any workout money is a pure bonus for the debt industry. Compare this to the old days, when banks and credit card companies were reluctant to loan money to people they knew would default – as there was a real risk of not being paid back!

Creating a permanent disgruntled underclass degrades our entire society, not just the underclass it affects. Once a person comes to believe, either from personal experience or by watching the experiences of others, that they cannot get ahead legitimately, then criminal activity seems all the more legitimate. The next time you are robbed or your car stolen, ask yourself if the motivation of the robber or thief was pure laziness or merely a sound economic decision based on the perceived choices available to them.
The wealthy have far more to lose by creating a permanent underclass than does the underclass itself.

How do You Avoid Debt Slavery?
The key here is to redefine your normative cues. This can be difficult in a city or suburb, or even in the country (Many a farmer has gone bankrupt buying the latest and largest tractor, just because his neighbor has one). Bucking the norm will open you up to ridicule and abuse. But life at the center of the herd is never the richest. Most of the grazing grass at the center of the herd has been eaten down, trampled and pooped upon. The edge of the herd is dangerous, to be sure, but that’s where the prime grazing is.

      If you buy a second hand car and then keep it for 10 years, you can be sure that a shallow neighbor will rib you about having an “old car”. This is to be expected, particularly if the neighbor has a shiny new car and a string of car payments (or worse, lease payments). You are challenging their norm, and it scares them. They want to reassure themselves that being in debt is good, and that you are the one who is wrong.

In other cultures, it may be different cues. In Gay communities in major cities, many young men bankrupt themselves trying to appease a mythical “norm” which involves spending enormous amounts of money (all on credit) on clothes, bars, and oftentimes, drugs. Those who challenge such norms will be ridiculed for not having “stylish” clothes and $200 haircuts.

The list goes on and on. Regardless of whether you live on a 1,000 acre farm, an Army barracks, a tract home, or a school dorm, you will be pressured to get involved in many forms of self-destructive economic behavior. It takes strength and resolve to fight these trends and have your own ideas – and follow through with them. Once you have that resolve the rest is easy.

The procedural techniques of what you need to do to get out of debt and stay out of debt are well-known and obvious, and can be summed up in one simple statement: spend less than you make. That is not the hard part. Like a diet, the hard part is willpower.

It is also a good idea to understand the politics of Debt Slavery. Payday loan operators spend a lot of money supporting candidates who want preserve their line of work. Credit Card companies pay lobbyists millions of dollars to get Congressmen to pass laws in their favor. If you vote for such politicians based on their position on “social issues,” for example, but fail to recognize the real dangers to yourself and society, then it is you, not the slave-masters, who are to blame.

Debt Slavery is deadly serious, and nothing to take lightly. And anyone can fall victim to it, without thinking. If you follow the herd and take your cues from the television, chances are you are on your way to becoming a debt slave, if you are not already one.

“Money is the new form of slavery” – Leo Tolstoy 1900 AD
End of part 2 of 3.

Continued in Survival Manual/ 2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Competition: Part 3 of 3.

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Filed under Survival Manual, __2. Social Issues

Modern Competition: Part 1 of 3 (College vs. Income & Consumer Debt)

(Survival Manual/ 2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Competition: Part 1 of 3)

Topics:
Part I
1.  College and future income
2.  Consumer debt

Part II
3.  Wage slaves

Part III
4.  Illegal (Mexican) immigration
5.  Free trade & globalization
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1.  College and future income

Will a College Education be Worth the Investment in the Future?
November 22, 2010, econfuture
<http://econfuture.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/will-a-college-education-be-worth-the-investment-in-the-future/&gt;

Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism has a good post on the declining economic value of college, and the looming danger of massive student loan defaults. Shockingly, a full 50% of college graduates are winding up underemployed:

Take note: half the recently-minted college grads are in jobs that do not require a college degree.

Now if these graduates were going to college for the mere love of learning, and didn’t mind working at Home Depot because they could work on a novel in their garret, this picture might not be quite as terrible as it looks. But I sincerely doubt that anyone in the US goes to college to become a working class intellectual.

But the economic (as opposed to social and personal) value of higher education is exaggerated. The widely-touted College Board claim that lifetime earnings for college grad outpace those of mere high school grads by $800,000 does not stand up to scrutiny. The author of the 2007 study which the College Board relied upon disclaims that estimate and says $450,000 is a better figure. Mark Schneider, a vice president of the American Institutes for Research, who used actual earnings data of graduates ten years after college, and allowed for other factors such as taxes, pegged the difference at $280,000.

And these estimates are averages. Students who are drawn to fields such as architecture, which require advanced education, but are not terribly well paid, will fare less well.

In addition, the value of a degree is premised as much on its scarcity and credentialing value as it is on actual gains in skills. If college educations go from a sign of achievement to a mere social norm, do they really provide that much income benefit to the recipient? James Galbraith, in The Predator State, argued that encouraging more people to get college degrees actually lowered its value, but also served the useful social function of delaying entry into the job market, and hence reducing employment pressures.

But students and their parents have been sold on the value of education as an investment, and it isn’t hard to see why. As higher education costs have skyrocketed, more and more students need to borrow to finance their schooling. The Economist gives an overview:

“For decades, college fees have risen faster than Americans’ ability to pay them. Median household income has grown by a factor of 6.5 in the past 40 years, but the cost of attending a state college has increased by a factor of 15 for in-state students and 24 for out-of-state students. The cost of attending a private college has increased by a factor of more than 13 (a year in the Ivy League will set you back $38,000, excluding bed and board). Academic inflation makes most other kinds look modest by comparison.’

In the stone ages of my youth, many middle class parents could afford to send their kids to Ivy League schools. A year at Harvard, with room and board, is now over $50,000, on a par with median household income.

And perversely, student loans are the only form of consumer debt that is virtually impossible to discharge in bankruptcy.

Thanks to a provision the 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act signed into law by then President George W. Bush, the current law only allows the discharge of private student loans in bankruptcy after a showing of “undue hardship,” the same requirement that is made for federal or non-profit backed student loans. Undue hardship requires a separate showing to a bankruptcy judge proving, in essence, that the borrower would never be able to pay off the loan. This is an extremely difficult legal standard to meet.

New graduates are, or at least should be, very attractive to employers. Someone who can’t find a good job right out of school will face even higher hurdles down the road. Paul and Wilson describe how high unemployment rates for young people represent a an economic and ultimately a social problem:

Recent college graduates, those in the labor force with the freshest batch of knowledge and skills, are currently underwater and sinking fast with unprecedented student loan and personal debt. Average student debt for the class of 2008 was $23,200, an increase over four years of about 25%, meaning that students are knee deep in negative equity between their educational investment and actual earnings.

Between inflated student debt and the lack of available jobs for qualified graduates, students are defaulting at an all time high level of 7.2%. From 2008 to 2009, student debt defaults jumped about 30% to $50.8 billion. This earning-to-debt gap not only hurts lending institutions, but also may affect students’ future abilities to borrow – a significant hurdle in our credit driven economy.

[Above, <http://valutarian.blogspot.com/2010/02/are-college-degrees-bubble-asset.html> the appalling graph, Earnings of Young College Grads vs college Costs.]

If student debt and job stagnation continue, younger workers will face real structural unemployment (as opposed to the fake kind that had been suspected by some economists, but was recently debunked by the San Francisco Fed). The more time these young workers spend unemployed and underemployed, the greater chance for future structural unemployment due to deteriorating human capital.

High debt, high defaults, and low family earnings will prevent many students from finishing college at all. High unemployment for those who do manage to graduate with a degree will create barriers for those unable to start their careers.

This is a slow motion train wreck. Optimistic estimates of economic recovery project unemployment reverting to pre-bust norms by 2015; more realistic forecasts put it at years later. And the more students drop out of college, the worse job market pressures become.

At the end of their piece, Paul and Wilson make a persuasive case for action:
“In order to solve future structural problems in the United States and ensure a future for the sandwich generation, fiscal policy focused on educational and job growth is crucial. While deficit hawks may squawk about the costs, the burden of repayment is on younger people. Without adequate education and careers for students, we will never be able to balance the budget. In the long run, it makes more fiscal sense to create jobs and collect tax revenue than to rely on a model that merely waits for the private sector to invest.”

But the “long run” and “fiscal sense” don’t count for much in deficit debates. Sadly, the very real plight of this cohort is certain to be ignored unless they can find a way to make their needs heard.

Unfortunately, I think there is every reason to believe that the problem will get worse. Technology will increasingly be leveraged to automate the knowledge worker jobs that are often taken by new college graduates, and this is likely to hit especially hard at the entry-level.

I also think the future impact of offshoring is underestimated. We cannot escape the reality that intellectual capability within the population is subject to a normal distribution. This implies that, collectively, India and China have more smart people…than the United States has people. In the future, technology will make it even easier for the millions of people on the right flank of Asia’s bell curve to compete directly with Americans for knowledge-based jobs.

Here is a section from The Lights in the Tunnel in which I discuss the future of college education:
“Nearly everyone agrees that a college degree is generally a ticket to a brighter future. In the United States in 2006, the average worker with a bachelor’s degree earned $56,788, while the average high school graduate earned a little more than half this amount, or $31,071. Workers with graduate or professional degrees earned a still higher average salary of $82,320. While the primary motive for the majority of individuals to pursue advanced education is almost certainly economic, we would all agree that education also conveys many other benefits both to the individual and to society as a whole. A person with more education seems likely to enjoy a generally richer existence, to have an interest in a greater variety of issues and is perhaps also more likely to be focused on continuing personal and professional growth. A more educated society is generally a more civil society with a lower crime rate.” An educated person is likely to hang out in the library—rather than on street corners.

The unfortunate reality, however, is that the college dream is likely at some point to collide with the trends in offshoring and automation that we have been discussing in this chapter. The fact is that college graduates very often become knowledge workers. As we have seen, these jobs—and in particular more routine or entry level jobs—are at very high risk. The danger is that as these trends accelerate, a college degree will be seen increasingly not as a ticket to a prosperous future, but as a ticket to a job that will very likely vaporize. At some point in the future, the high cost of a college education, together with diminishing prospects for college graduates, is likely to begin having a negative impact on college enrollment. This will be especially true of students coming from more modest backgrounds, but it will have impact at all levels of society.

This is, obviously, a very unconventional view. Most economists and others who study such trends would probably strongly argue exactly the opposite case: that in the future, a college degree will be increasingly valuable and there will be strong demand for well-educated workers.

This is essentially the “skill premium” argument—the idea that technology is creating jobs for highly skilled workers even as it destroys opportunities for the unskilled. I think the evidence clearly shows that this has indeed been the case over the past couple of decades, but I do not think it can continue indefinitely. The reason is simple: machines and computers are advancing in capability and will increasingly invade the realm of the highly educated. We’ll likely see evidence of this at some point in the form of diminished opportunity and unemployment among recent graduates and also among older college-educated workers who lose jobs and are unable to find comparable positions.

We may not see an actual closing of the gap in average pay for college v. non-college graduates because opportunities for workers of all skill levels are likely to be in decline. I am not suggesting that high school graduates who would have otherwise gone to college will chose to remain completely unskilled, but I do think there is likely to be a migration toward relatively skilled blue collar jobs if there is a perception that these occupations offer more security.

As new high school graduates begin to shy away from a course leading to knowledge worker jobs, they will increasingly turn to the trades. As we have seen, jobs for people like auto mechanics, truck drivers, plumbers and so forth are among the most difficult to automate. The result may well be intense competition for these relatively “safe” jobs. As high school graduates who might previously have been college-bound compete instead for trade jobs, they will, of course, end up displacing less academically inclined people who may have been a better fit for those jobs. That will leave even fewer options for a large number of workers.

We see evidence of this trend already in the daily news. Newspapers routinely report that people are specifically seeking jobs that can’t be off shored. Much is made of new “green collar jobs that cannot be outsourced.” While this is certainly a desirable development, we have to acknowledge that the bulk of these jobs are going to involve installing solar panels, wind turbines and so forth. They are trade jobs; not jobs for college graduates.

The cost to society of such a turn away from education would be enormous. It would damage the hopes, dreams and expectations of our children and potentially rob them of things that we ourselves have come to take for granted. Those workers whose prospects were diminished by a new influx of more “book smart” competitors would become even more dispirited and more likely to turn to crime or other undesirable alternatives. This hash new reality would fall most heavily on people in disadvantaged sectors of the population. Finally, and perhaps most chillingly, a trend away from college would rob us of talent we may well need in the future.

2.  Consumer Debt

 A.  Consumer Debt Statistics
2006, Money-zine.com
<http://www.money-zine.com/Financial-Planning/Debt-Consolidation/Consumer-Debt-Statistics/&gt;

The latest statistics from the Federal Reserve indicate that the total amount of consumer debt outstanding remained fairly steady in 2010. The total amount of consumer debt in the United States stands at nearly $2.4 trillion. Based on the 2010 Census statistics, that works out to be nearly $7,800 in debt for every man, woman and child that lives here in the U.S.

If you’re saying to yourself – that that statistic doesn’t seem quite so bad – keep this in mind: We’re talking about consumer credit, which does not include debt secured by real estate. If you thought that number has debt associated with mortgages, it doesn’t.

Consumer Credit Breakdown
So just how does that debt breakdown in terms of credit cards or the purchase of a new automobile? Roughly 33% of all consumer debt, as of October 2010, is what is termed revolving credit. This is credit that is repeatedly available as periodic repayments are made to lenders. The most common type of revolving credit would be credis card debt.

The other 67% of that debt is derived from loans that are not revolving in nature. This type of debt would include automobile loans, student loans, as well as loans on boats, trailers, or even vacations. In fact, these statistics also tell us that the average new car loan is over $27,600, and the loan to value ratio is 83%. That means new car buyers are using down payments that are 17% of the car’s purchase price.

Credit Card Debt
According to information gathered by the US Census bureau, there were approximately 173 million credit card holders in the United States in 2006, and that number was projected to grow to 181 million Americans by the end of 2010. These same Americans own approximately 1.5 billion cards, an average of nearly nine credit cards issued per credit card holder.

In addition, Americans charged approximately $1,950 billion to their credit cards in 2006. That’s just over $11,300 in charges per cardholder. This information includes all credit card types such as bank cards, phone cards, as well as credit cards issued by oil companies and retail stores.

This data also tells us that Americans carried approximately $886 billion in credit card debt, and that number is expected to grow to a projected $1,177 billion by the end of 2010. This works out to over $5,100 in credit card debt per cardholder (not household) and that number is expected to increase to over $6,500 by the end of 2010.

[The above chart shows credit card debt on a per-household basis,compared to and dwarfing median household income growth since 1980.]

Bankruptcy and Consumer Debt
In January 2008, the American Bankers Association reported credit card accounts that were 30 or more days past due dipped slightly to 4.18% in the fourth quarter of 2007. That’s good news because it means more consumers are paying their bills on time.

But even with this decline in late payments, credit card delinquencies were at the third highest level on record. To James Chessen, ABA’s chief economist, that can signal financial distress, and he attributes this distress to the rise in gasoline prices as well as rising interest rates.

In January 2010, Fitch Ratings reported the number of cardholders 60 or more days late on payments stood at 4.50%. Cardholders that were 30 days late declined to 5.72%. Both of these values are significantly higher than reported by the ABA back in 2008.

Bankruptcy Filings
Despite the Fed’s feelings about consumer credit, the bankruptsy law changes that were instituted in the fall of 2005 resulted in a rush of indebted consumers to file for bankruptsy. At that time, personal bankruptcy filings rose to their highest levels on record, with estimates in excess of 2 million filings.

The trend in stagnating or falling real wages has been happening since the 1970s.
The chart below shows household debt as a percentage of GDP. Once wages began to stagnate, households turned to borrowing to make up the difference. You can also clearly see that the debt-fueled housing boom begin around 2001. Consumer spending makes up more than 70 percent of the economy, and it usually drives growth during economic recoveries.  Households are now beginning the painful process of deleveraging by cutting back on spending and paying down their debt.

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What If the Consumer Economy Never Comes Back?
http://www.quizzle.com/blog/2011/10/what-if-the-consumer-economy-never-comes-back/ According to a recent article in the New York Times, there is no “going back to normal.” This is the new “normal.” America’s economy was propelled for almost 30 years by consumer spending, consumer credit, and home equity debt, and the driving forces that made this situation possible are no longer in play.

Consider these sobering facts from the article:
•  American consumers are on track to buy 28 percent fewer cars in 2011 than in 2001.
•  Sales of ovens and stoves are at their lowest level since 1992.
•  Americans’ “discretionary service spending” (i.e. restaurant meals, entertainment, education, insurance and other categories) is own 7 percent – more than any other time in history.
•  Walmart’s CFO has mentioned that Walmart customers are buying smaller packages at the end of the month – a sign that these families are literally running out of money each month.
•  The U.S. unemployment rate has risen 5 percentage points in the past four years.
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B.  Personal debt and peak oil
Published Feb 1 2005 by <www.powerswitch.org.uk, Archived Feb 1 2005 by Clive Smith
http://www.energybulletin.net/node/4200> (from England, what happened there soon happens in the USA)

National identity cards, a national road toll system that will charge car users large sums of money for driving at peak times by 2014. The government has already given warning that the current pension system, is not in the long term affordable. In the summer of 2004 the UK government announced that it was prudent that people should put three weeks worth of food aside for emergencies (the BBC ran several pieces on this), mainly terrorist attack. Along with plans to base the army at food depots during the next fuel strike and you begin to understand that we have all quietly been put on notice.
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[Note: The USA Gov’t. has increased the recommended amount of household emergency food storage from 72 hours (3 days) to 5 days–as opposed to the UK’s 21 days. Who do you suppose is the most in error. It occassionally takes 3 days just to enter a damaged area, mush less beging to service the needs of the surviving residents. Mr. Larry]

For the majority of us, our standard of living is better than it has ever been. You just have to look around to see all this newfound wealth – although with the UK consumer debt having topped the £1 trillion mark last summer (including mortgage debt), you begin to wonder. Many homeowners discovered in the last few years that their homes are worth so much more than they paid for them, so they have borrowed extra, to finance home improvements or a new car and holidays. This new wealth is in reality huge debt running on borrowed time.

Most of our recent increased personal wealth, seen as new cars, home improvements, bigger homes, two holidays a year and expensive electrical goods, has been funded by personal borrowing. One of the most popular forms of borrowing has been to extend mortgages, as the UK has over the past few years seen a huge housing boom. Increased borrowing on a mortgage is the most expensive form of borrowing. The interest is paid over a very long period and unfortunately the housing bubble will be the first to burst in an economic down turn, leaving many people out in the cold so to speak.

You are probably thinking this is all very interesting and you have probably heard some of it before, “so what has this got to do with me?”

Since we have done nothing to prepare for the coming oil shocks, we are completely reliant on increasing our supply of oil to power all of our transport needs, our food production, our manufacturing of goods and 40% of our total energy needs. With an economy that is based on perpetual growth, this is very bad news. As a lack of surplus energy, means a lack of economic growth.[As it becomes more difficult to service debt, debt ceilings will be lowered for many and the lines of credit cut off for most. Mr. Larry]

It is generally given in simple terms, that a shrinking oil supply will mean a recession and high prices for all goods. In a recession, people tend to lose their jobs and spend less money. Thus the spending of less money – a consumer downturn – makes the spiral even worse and more people lose their jobs.

I had a conversation with a friend who works in the airline business the other day. He has known about the basics of peak oil for a while and could see the price of oil continuing to rise into the future. He suggested that as the price of crude oil increases and thus the price of holidays and flights, people would just pay more as they wouldn’t stop travelling to go on holiday.

This idea is very common, put completely incorrect. In the short term this might happen. Although as many people lose their jobs and there is less money around as the economy enters into a crisis, the majority of us will not be going on holidays abroad whatever the cost. Many companies will go to the wall. Not only will there be less money available, but also less goods. It’s a spiraling down effect that will continue, even if we manage to find a miracle that can replace oil, for many years.

If I could offer you three pieces of advice that would make your life easier in the future, it would be the following;
a) Get out of debt, b) Reduce your debt base, c) Pay off your debts.

The future is likely going to be tough. Many changes will happen and we will have to change our very ideals and ways we live. Governments have known about this for years, but the changes that are needed to secure our futures are unpopular and not vote winners. So nothing will be done, until it becomes complete obvious to all that we really are in trouble and most of our beliefs about our lives and prosperity come crashing down around us.

If you are up to your eyes in debt, with a mortgage, loan(s) and credit card(s), what will happen when you lose your job or are forced to take a job paying substantially less than you need to service these debts? “Your house is at risk, if you are unable to keep up the repayments on it”. This well-known phrase should give you an idea of what is likely to come. The economic downturn that brought on the last housing market crash in the early 90s was small, compared to the possible energy crisis ahead. Many people lost their homes and were left with huge debts. The current housing boom has taken personal debt to new highs and left many families very vulnerable.

I can’t stress the importance of this. Having excessive debt is going to make things very difficult. Although, I do think it is important to have some sort of balance, between this and things that you want to do in your life. What I mean by this is, if you have always wanted to travel the Far East or back pack round the world, now is the time to do it. It’s a balancing act, between getting your life in order and enjoying the party, whilst we are still living through it.

Try to clear loans and credit cards and reduce your mortgage. This is far more important in the long term to your well being, than buying a new car (or the latest plasma screen, dishwasher etc), when a cheaper second hand model is adequate. You could also sell expensive assets to help pay off your debts or mortgage quicker, i.e. downgrade from a prestige car to a more economical cheaper model. You might decide that this is the right time to sell your house/flat in London and move to a house in the country or a small town, thus reducing your mortgage.
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C.  Eight Things You Need to Know About the Shaky U.S. Economy
by Larry Saltzman and Linda Buzzell-Saltzman
<http://www.forthefuture.org/assets/articles/col_shaky_econ.htm&gt;

On the macro level, we may be concerned about the negative impacts of globalization and so-called “free trade.” We may also be uncomfortable with the kind of planet-destroying capitalism that has sprung up under the giant international corporations. But there is more – much more – we need to understand about how economics is impacting our personal and collective lives and the health of our planet.

The economic consequences of globalization and late stage hyper-capitalism are reaching a crisis point that will be felt by most of us in the next few years “up close and personal” – probably even before we feel the immediate results of peak oil or global warming. Even if we are doing everything we can to live a low-impact, sustainable lifestyle, we need to understand what’s happening in the U.S. and world economies.

The Big Picture
We have lived most of our lives in a growth economy, and our society has been getting rich off the consumption of cheap fossil fuel. That “free ride” up to Peak Oil and along the gradually declining top of the curve, is just about over, while a number of disturbing economic trends are appearing that spell big trouble for oil-dependent economies and for the average U.S. citizen. The era of endless “economic growth” is coming to an end. The Energy Descent economy has begun.

So let’s examine eight worrisome economic trends. They are interconnected and when stirred together create a nasty brew…

_1.  Private Debt
“Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.” – Charles Dickens, “David Copperfield”

America has forgotten Charles Dickens’ famous words of wisdom. We are collectively trying to buy happiness by going on the greatest credit binge in the history of humanity.

Here are a few of the shocking facts:
•  The Federal Reserve reports that Americans collectively owe $2,164 trillion, of which $804 billion is credit-card or other revolving debt. By 2001, Americans were paying $50 billion a year in finance charges to service their debt and that number has since climbed higher. The average American owes $8,562 on their credit card(s) and will need ten years to pay that amount off at the minimum payment. At that point, they will have paid out over $16,000 or almost double the amount they originally borrowed.
•  These levels of personal debt are virtually enslaving Americans, forcing many of us to work harder and harder, for longer hours, at often meaningless corporate jobs in order to pay off our obligations. And bankruptcy laws have recently been hardened to make it even more difficult to escape the impact of serious personal debt, often caused by huge medical bills as well as our own intemperance.

_2. The Real Estate Bubble
Thanks to low interest rates, Americans have been on a real estate binge, buying any property at any imaginable price in the belief that real estate will appreciate forever. Interest-only loans, variable interest loans, balloon payments and low- or no-down payments have become the norm in the usually conservative world of home loans. The result is that as interest rates continue their inevitable ride upwards, many recent home buyers are going to see their home payments rise beyond their ability to pay. And as home prices begin to fall, and perhaps collapse, some home owners are going to experience negative amortization. That means that every month, instead of the equity on your home increasing, it will decrease and the total amount you owe will increase.

As real estate prices soften, which is already happening on the South Coast and elsewhere, foreclosures may rise as people go “upside down” on their loans, owing more on their mortgage than their properties are currently worth. Banks, stuck with unwanted properties, may begin to sell them at fire-sale prices, further depressing the price of real estate.

 Any fall in real estate values is especially worrisome as some Americans have been using their home equity as a kind of last-resort personal bank, taking out second mortgages to pay off credit card balances, do home remodels, buy cars or take expensive vacations. Others have used their equity to pay monthly or extraordinary bills, masking the fact that it’s getting harder and harder for many Americans to retain a middle class lifestyle in the era of outsourced jobs and flattened incomes.

_3. Our Savings Rate
The citizens of the United States can now boast having a negative savings rate. We remove more money every month from our collective piggy banks than we put in. The average baby boomer will retire with a net worth of $23,000. The parents of baby boomers left their children far better off than the baby boomers are going to leave their children. Perhaps we can partly blame boomers’ extravagance, consumerism and sense of entitlement. But we also have to look at changes in the U.S. economy that have allowed those at the top to earn more and more while paying less and less taxes, while the middle and working classes are being squeezed with job losses and the export of much of our manufacturing.

_4.  The Bond Bubble
This is a little more obscure problem, but worth understanding. As interest rates have been increasing on short term debt, the interest rates on long term debt have remained stubbornly low — probably because of foreign investment in U.S. Treasuries and the fact that U.S. currency has been until recently the preferred currency to accept payment in. Recently a 90-day Treasury bill paid approximately the same interest rate as a ten-year bond. As interest rates keep rising, the value of bonds may plummet, causing many people to lose a lot of money in supposedly safe and secure U.S. Treasury Bonds.

Bonds are confusing to most people. High interest rates mean that the price of existing lower-yielding bonds falls. Why buy an existing bond paying 5% when you can get a new bond paying 6%? Much of this U.S. debt is of course held by foreign countries, most notably China. If foreign countries ever panic and begin dumping U.S. Treasuries, we will see interest rates rise dramatically and we will be very lucky to escape a full blown depression.

_5. Government Debt
Whatever happened to old fashioned conservative fiscal responsibility? Thanks to George Bush and his imbecilic economic policies, we have now become the nation with both the largest personal debt and the largest government debt. Our military policies are hugely expensive as well as immoral and stupid. And as the effects of Peak Oil and Energy Descent begin to be felt, we will have little wealth available to invest in new solutions.

If we are lucky enough to elect one of the hapless Democratic candidates for President and this person turns out to be a Franklin Roosevelt disguised as a centrist Democrat, he or she will have none of the maneuvering room, that Roosevelt had, to get us out of the economic depression that we may face in the not too distant future. Roosevelt was able to keep the much smaller federal budget of that era in balance while spending on programs to jump start the economy. Today’s Bush economics will leave a great deal of our federal budget servicing the debt the fiscally irresponsible Republicans have run up.

_6. Inflation and Higher Prices
By lowering interest rates to practically zero to encourage false and unsustainable economic growth, the Federal Reserve under recently-retired Chairman Alan Greenspan set the stage for inflationary pressure in the economy. Virtually non-existent interest rates not only fueled the current real estate bubble but made borrowing in general too cheap and easy. This conned millions of Americans into a borrowing binge that has left us deep in debt to the banking industry. If we cannot pay those debts, the banks themselves may also falter.

_7.  Loss of True Productivity
What does America actually produce these days? Our financial services sector is now far larger than our manufacturing base. In other words, the business of America is moving money around. And what happens to this truly unproductive economy when the shaky American dollar falters or exorbitant fossil fuel prices make it impossible to import what we need?

_8.  The Shaky U.S. Dollar
A currency has to be based on something of true value. But the U.S. dollar is increasingly dependent on its status as the world’s default currency rather than the underlying worth of America’s productivity. So what would happen if oil producers, for example, decide they’d rather be paid in Euros than dollars?

Add it all up…

So what do these eight interconnected trends add up to? An unsustainable situation, a house of cards waiting for a tiny breeze – another spike in oil prices caused by a natural or terrorist supply glitch, a sneeze from our major creditor: China, a major oil producer requesting payment in Euros, another bad hurricane season – to start the downward cascade.

How You Can Survive and Thrive in Spite of these Trends
The solutions at the individual level are clear:
•  Stay out of debt, and if you are in debt get out ASAP. If you don’t pay your credit cards off in full every month, get rid of them and use a debit card.
Even if you aren’t in credit-card debt, consider getting rid of your cards anyway as a political act. Credit cards have tricked and deluded Americans into feeling richer than we actually are. They start arriving in the mail while we are in college so we get hooked young. Then these plastic handcuffs enslave many of us, creating an illusion of wealth and disguising the fact that our salaries have stagnated and fallen. This has benefited politicians and banks, not ordinary people. Credit cards lock us into the world of materialism, consumerism and greed and keep us like hamsters in a treadmill, running to keep up, going nowhere. If you think of debt as an addiction, the credit card companies are the pushers.
•  Find work that has a future in an energy descent economy in which “economic growth” is a relic of the pre-Peak past.
•  Learn to take your pleasures from simple and sustainable living. Live at or below your means and save for the future, even if you can sock away only a few bucks a month. Let friends, family and spiritual pursuits replace consumerism and greed. The Voluntary Simplicity movement has done a great job of showing us how to enjoy a rich and satisfying lifestyle without excessive materialism. And Permaculture offers the practical tools for sustainable living that increase our real prosperity and the true wealth of the earth rather than squandering it on the impossible nightmare of endless economic growth at the cost of environmental and social destruction.
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D.   Cycle of debt continues through life
11 May 2008, Seattle Times, by Barbara Steiner
http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2004406000_pfdebtstages11.html.
An indispensable tool in modern life, debt happens for many reasons. As the economic struggle of the Depression and rationing of World War…

Debt life stages (discussed in paragraphs below)
College
: As the cost of higher education soars, more students are taking out loans.
Young singles: At a time when people don’t have much money, they need it to get established.
Young families: Having children can stretch finances to the breaking point.
Mature families: A time of relative security, but maybe too much spending.
Empty nesters: Now it’s time to help the grown-up kids.
Retirees: Time to relax? Maybe.

An indispensable tool in modern life, debt happens for many reasons.

As the economic struggle of the 1930s Depression and rationing of World War II fades from the collective consciousness, Americans feel more confident taking on debt and optimistic about their ability to pay it all back and start saving one day in the future.

Robert Manning, author of “Credit Card Nation,” studied the financial practices of Americans across generations to discover what influences spending in specific age groups. The research professor and director of the Center for Consumer Financial Services at Rochester Institute of Technology also examined the different attitudes toward debt to find out why people owe so much more today than they did 40 years ago.

“You really can’t overgeneralize,” Manning says. “You have to look at people in particular life cycles to find out why they spent more on those particular items than did a previous generation.”
Experts explain that debt starts from youth and continues on through life, often into those not-so-golden years. 

College
Borrowing to pay for college has become the primary way that most students pay for college,” says Tamara Draut, director of the Economic Opportunity Program at Demos and author of “Strapped: Why America’s 20- and 30-Somethings Can’t Get Ahead.”
Parents unable to save the staggering amount of money needed to fund their children’s undergraduate degrees have a few choices. They can go into debt by getting a plus loan or by taking out a second mortgage — or they can put the burden on their children.

“If you look at the way we used to do it, we had pressures on states to keep tuitions low and affordable for middle-income households, and for lower-income households we had grant aid that covered about three-fourths of the cost of going to college,” Draut says.
“Now the majority of aid is debt-based aid and the grants cover about a third of the cost of school.”

According to the College Board’s “Trends in College Pricing 2007,” average tuition costs for the 2007-08 academic year are $23,712 at a private school and $6,185 for a public school. Add in room and board and the totals come to $32,307 and $13,589, respectively.
The borrowing doesn’t stop there for college students. Undergraduates make easy targets for credit-card companies that often give out swag for signing up for a card. “Young people are starting off graduation not only in debt, but it also shows that that competitive pressure that they experienced in high school is what they see as the norm when they go to college,” Manning says. “As we start to see the competitive consumption start at an earlier and earlier age, it’s not surprising that it then continues in older age groups,” he says.

Young singles
Getting established in the world costs money — lots of money. In a cruel twist, people fresh out of school often don’t have a lot of it. Some lucky people can fall back on their parents for help, but not everyone has that option or wants to take it.

“It’s unfortunate, but people have always judged others on superficial stuff. So you have to have nice clothes, a nice car, a nice apartment,” says Lewis Mandell, professor of finance and managerial economics at the University of Buffalo.
A recession may mean that college graduates won’t be able to waltz into a cushy corporate job that offers ample pay for a worker bee living in the big city.

“Earnings have been really flat for young people with college degrees,” Draut says. “Incomes are not really keeping up with costs, but one particular difference is that you’re talking about a starting salary and a lot of debt that has to be repaid,” she says.
With tight budgets and soaring living expenses, young people end up on a tightrope between paydays and too often credit cards are their only safety net. “There is not a lot of cushion left at the end of every month, which makes young people very vulnerable to amassing large amounts of credit-card debt when the car breaks down or when they need to go to the dentist,” Draut says.

But if college graduates are feeling bruised by harsh economic realities, those without degrees feel it even more. “The potential for a young worker without a college degree has plummeted within a generation,” Draut says. “They make a lot less than they used to and all of the benefits that we used to think of coming with your first real job have disappeared.”

Young families
For young people already struggling with living expenses and stagnating wages, adding a baby can stretch finances to the breaking point.
According to Draut, couples with children are twice as likely to file for bankruptcy.

This is a time when you’ve got loans that have to be repaid,” she says. You have earnings that are starting lower and growing slower, and then you add a new baby into the mix — which has always been an added expense. It’s nothing new for this generation. “What’s new is that those student loans, those credit cards, don’t go away overnight.”

This life stage also ushers in new housing needs. Whereas a studio or one-bedroom apartment may have been sufficient a couple of years earlier, with the addition of a spouse and a child, space becomes an issue — as does the school district.
“You get married in the late 20s now in the states and you have a kid and then you want, of course, to live in a nice house in a neighborhood with a good school. The American way of life virtually compels most people to take on a lot of consumer debt and it doesn’t really give you an opportunity to get rid of it,” Mandell says.

Home values in good neighborhoods force many young families to confront difficult choices. The best jobs are in metropolitan areas, but those areas don’t come cheap, Draut says. “A starter-home market has disappeared for a lot of high-cost areas,” she says.

Mature families
Typically, mature families have reached a certain level of security. But Manning found that families in this age group spend more and save less than did previous generations.
“One of the most striking findings of my study was the elasticity of demand for people who have children — there’s never a good reason to not indulge our children these days,” Manning says. “Instead of saving money for their children to go to college, parents are spending that money while the kids are in high school.”
Indulging the short-term whims of teenagers can further perpetuate the debt cycle, obligating children to take on loans for college as well as diverting money from retirement savings.

Debt in this stage can be particularly precarious, especially if savings are spare. Many parents take on debt to fund children’s education — for instance, by taking out a second mortgage — which puts them in the uncomfortable position of either entering retirement with debt or using money that would otherwise be saved for retirement to service the debt.

If parents put off saving for retirement until the kids are out of the house and out of school, they may not have enough time to accumulate adequate funds. “It just means that people aren’t going to be able to retire, and that’s fine for people who enjoy their work and are in good health. But for people who aren’t in such good health, that’s one of the costs of debt that’s going to really come back and bite them,” Mandell says.

Empty nesters
In his study, “Living with debt,” Manning found that older people weren’t necessarily shifting their spending into a lower gear.
“By the time we see older people, they are used to living on debt and don’t want to cut back on their standard of living. So they’re maintaining. While their savings rate may go up, they’re spending more — maybe on helping their children. “It was remarkable how many people in their 50s, 60s and 70s are helping a child or maybe a grandchild,” Manning says.

With the kids out of the house and the accompanying pipeline into the wallet of mom and dad removed, empty nesters should be sitting pretty.

Using data from the 2001 Survey of Consumer Finances conducted by the Federal Reserve, Tansel Yilmazer, assistant professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences and Retailing at Purdue University, found that debt does decline with time.
“In general, the probability of carrying debt decreased with age,” she says.
However, some experts think this could be changing, or shifting with the changing demographic. People are having children later in life and reaching the empty-nest phase later as well. As acceptance of debt has increased, the older population is increasingly indebted.

“Some of them, of course, are maybe opting to work longer periods of time. That certainly is a trend that may be part of the changing life cycle stages,” Mandell says.
But he adds that attitudes toward debt at this stage are also changing.
“Also I think that the thinking that ’60 is the new 40′ is really encouraging older people who might in previous generations have been a little bit more sedate in their lifestyles. Now you look on TV and see a 60-year-old doing helicopter skiing and sailing boats across the Atlantic single-handedly. So I think the notion of settling into an empty-nest sedate lifestyle is going against the grain.”

Retirees
Retirement is on shaky ground. No longer assured of pensions, today’s retirees are easing into their golden years with less savings and more debt. If acceptance of debt and lack of savings are symptoms of the debt epidemic, this stage of life is where the ravages of the disease really flare up.

Throughout their lives, people are spending what they used to save, Manning says. “And so the real crisis is being deferred to retirement.”
“We’re seeing retirees leaving the workforce now with as much as $60,000 in unsecured debt,” says David Jones, president of the Association of Independent Consumer Credit Counseling Agencies.

The cycle of debt has a domino effect. As today’s young people take on more debt for education, they will spend the money they should have been saving for their retirements to pay off that debt.
Today’s retirees are also affected by skyrocketing education costs. “A bigger percentage of retirees today still owe on their mortgages and that’s not isolated from what’s happening to young people around college. A lot of people are taking out second or third mortgages to help pay for college,” Draut says.
“That’s moved mortgage payments to the retirement years which used to be much more uncommon than it is today.”

For older Americans in good health, that leaves only one option — work. Those that find themselves in debt and in poor health will struggle.
“There are going to be very bad endings for a lot of people,” Mandell says.
He points out expected cuts in Social Security and diminished pensions. “The one thing that may save them is that, with the shrinking labor force, if they are valuable to their employer, they might get the opportunity to work until they’re 92,” he says.
“This may not be what people had originally hoped for.”
End of Part 1 of 3.

Continued in Survival Manual/ 2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Competition: Part 2 of 3

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Modern Air & Water, Part 3 of 3

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Air & Water)

Modern Air & Water topics:
1.  Air pollution (it hasn’t gone away)
2.  Water, with chlorine, fluorine, pharmaceuticals and more.
3.  Berkey water purification system, Royal model
4.  Mercury in food & vaccines
5.  Pollution causes 40% of worldwide deaths

3.     Berkey Water purification system, Royal model

(The advertisement) The versatile Royal Berkey system (see arrow in picture below, 3.25 gallon capacity)  is the ideal system for use at home with large families, travel, outdoor activities or during unexpected emergencies. This powerful system purifies both treated water and untreated raw water from such sources as remote lakes, streams, stagnant ponds and water supplies in foreign countries, where regulations may be substandard at best. Perfect for outdoor activities and a must in hostile environments where electricity, water pressure or treated water may not be available. The Royal Berkey system removes pathogenic bacteria, cysts and parasites entirely and extracts harmful chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides, VOCs, organic solvents, radon 222 and trihalomethanes. It also reduces nitrates, nitrites and unhealthy minerals such as lead and mercury. This system is so powerful it can remove red food coloring from water without removing the beneficial minerals your body needs. Virtually no other system can duplicate this performance. Constructed of highly polished 304 stainless steel, the system comes complete with two purification elements and utilizes the latest technological advances. This system has a storage capacity of about 3.25 gallons (12.3 liters) and when in use it stands 23″ in height with a diameter of 9.5″. The upper chamber nests within the lower chamber for transport and stands only 15.25″ in height. Configured with two Black Berkey purification elements the system will purify up to 4 Gallons (15.1 liters) per hour. This system can be expanded to use four purification elements and is capable of purifying up to 8 Gallons (30.3 liters) per hour.
Price: $283 + any additional Purification Elements.
[The Royal Berkey Water Purification System that I have and use continuously at home, see white arrow below.-lfp]

Black Berkey Water Filters
http://www.berkeywaterfilters.com/blbetesp.html
Each Black Berkey is able to filter up to 3,000 gallons per filter element, making it one of the most cost-effective filters on the market.
[My Royal Berkey using 2 Black Berkey elements can therefore filter up to 6000 gallons water-lfp]

We tested the Black Berkey purification elements with more than 10,000 times the concentration of pathogens per liter than is required by standard test protocol. This concentration of pathogens is so great that the post filtered water should be expected to contain 100,000 or more pathogens per liter (99.99% reduction – the requirement for pathogenic removal). Incredibly the purification elements removed 100%. Absolutely no pathogens were cultured from the effluent or were able to be detected, even under an electron microscope, setting a new standard in water purification.

Under normal conditions it is recommended that each set of two PF-2™ elements be replaced after 1,000 gallons. The Royal Berkey®system is about 3.25 gallons therefore the PF-2™ filters should be replaced after 1,000/3.25 or 307 refills. If the system is refilled about one time per day, the PF-2™’s should be replaced after 10 months, if the system is refilled about twice per day, the PF-2™’s should be replaced about every five months). Actual capacity is dependent on the presence of other competing contaminants in the source water. High levels of Fluoride, arsenic and heavy metals may reduce the capacity and efficiency of the elements.

The ‘Black Berkey’ purification/filter elements (a 7 Log device, 99.99999%) remove or reduce the following:
– Pathogenic Bacteria and Cysts (E. Coli, Klebsiella, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, Raoltella Terrigena) – Reduced to > 99.999% (100%)
– Viruses (MS2 – Fr Coliphage) – Reduced to >99.999%
– Parasites – Reduced to > 99.9999%
– Harmful or unwanted chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides
ChlorineRemoved to Below Detectable Limits (99.9999999%)
– Detergents

Organic solvents removal
– THM’s (Trihalomethanes – Bromodichloromethane, Bromoform, Chloroform, Dibromochloromethane) – Removed to Below Detectable Limits (99.99999%)
– MTBE’s (Methyl tert-Butyl Ehter) – Removed to Below Detectable Limits
.
Table below: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC’s) removed:

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
Removed to below detectable limits
Alachlor
Atrazine
Benzene
Carbofuran
Carbon Tetrachloride
Chlorine
Chlorobenzene
Chloroform
2,4-D
DBCP
p-Dichlorobenzene
o-Dichlorobenzene
1, 1-Dichloroethane
1, 2-Dichloroethane
1, 1-Dichloroethylene
cis 1, 2-Dichloroethylene
Trans  1,2-Dichloroethylene
1, 2-Dichloropropane
cis l,3-Dichloropropylene
Dinoseb
Endrin
Ethylbenzene
Ethylene Dibromide (EDB)
Heptachlor
Heptachlor Epoxide
Hexachlorobutodiene
Hexachlorocyclopentadiene
Lindane,
Methoxychlor
MTBE
Pentachlorophenol
Simazine
Styrene
1,1,2,2-Tetrachloroethane
Tetrachloroethylene
Toluene
2,4,5-TP (Silvex)
1,2,4-trichlorobenzene
1,1,1-trichloroethane
1,1,2-trichloroethane
Trichloroethylene
o-Xylene
m-Xylene
p-Xylene

– Cloudiness, removed.
– Silt, removed.
– Sediment, removed.
– Radiologicals – Radon 222 – Removed to Below Detectable Limits
– Nitrates & Nitrites, Greater than 95% reduction
– Heavy metals: Lead, Mercury, Aluminum, Cadmium, Chromium, Copper  – Greater than 95% reduction.
– Fluoride- With PF-2 fluoride filter, Fluoride reduced greater than 95%
– Iron
Foul tastes and odor.

PF-2™ reduction elements are designed for use in conjunction with Black Berkey® water purification elements to absorb the following unwanted elements found in drinking water:
•   Fluoride
•   Arsenic V and pre-oxidized Arsenic III
•   Other residual heavy metal ions

Heavy Metals reduced by up to 95% by the Black Berkey Filter:

Contaminant Health effects
Lead kidney, nervous system damage
Mercury kidney, nervous system disorders
Aluminum respiratory, nervous system disorders
Cadmium kidney damage
Chromium liver, kidney, circulatory system disorders
Copper gastro-enteric diseases

 .My estimated filter change periods:

Use rate

(gallons per day)

Black Berkey   days/yrs

 Mfg Suggested      My Actual

PF-2   days/years

Mfg Suggested       My actual

1/2 12000/32                       4 2000/5                            2
1 6000/16                         4 1000/2.75                       2
2 3000/8                           4 500/1.36                         2

Change PF-2 every two years and change Black Berkey every 4 years (at every other PF-2 change) . Change more often if, even after cleaning, the filtration rate does not increase, but continues to become slower. Have one set each of  PF-2 ($55/pair) and Black Berkey Filters ($107/pair) on hand for emergency backup.

.
4.    
Mercury in food & vaccines

 A.   Dumbing Down Society Part 2: Mercury in Foods and Vaccines
July 9th, 2010, By VC
http://vigilantcitizen.com/vigilantreport/dumbing-down-society-pt-2-mercury-in-foods-and-vaccines/
Even though mercury is known to degenerate brain neurons and disrupt the central nervous system, it is still found in processed foods and mandatory vaccines. In this second part of the series examining the intentional dumbing-down of society, this article will discuss the presence of mercury in common foods and vaccines.

The first article in this series – Dumbing Down Society Pt 1: Foods, Beverages and Meds – looked at the effects of aspartame, fluoride and prescription pills on the human brain. These substances all cause a decrease of cognitive power which, on a large scale, leads to a dumbing down of the population that is ingesting them. This second article focuses on another toxic product found in everyday foods and mandatory vaccines: mercury.

Mercury is a heavy metal naturally found in the environment. However, it is not suitable for human consumption, as it is extremely harmful to the human body, especially the brain. While some people say that anything can be consumed in moderation, many experts agree that no amount of mercury is safe for the human body. Despite this and the many studies concerning the negative effects of mercury, the heavy metal is continually added to mandatory vaccines and processed foods.

Mercury is known to cause brain neuron degeneration and to disturb the central nervous system. Direct exposure to the metal causes immediate and violent effects:

“Exposure to high levels of metallic, inorganic, or organic mercury can permanently damage the brain, kidneys, and developing fetus. Effects on brain functioning may result in irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, and memory problems.”

Most people do not come in direct contact with mercury, but are exposed to small doses at a time, resulting in a slow but steady poisoning of the brain. As the years go by, the effects of the substance impairs judgment and rational thinking, decreases memory and disrupts emotional stability. In other words: It makes you dumber.

Mercury has also the unfortunate ability to transfer from pregnant woman to their unborn babies. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mercury passed on to the fetus during pregnancy may have lasting consequences, including memory impairment, diminished language skills and other cognitive complications.

It has been highly publicized that mercury is found in dangerous quantities in seafood, such as tuna, swordfish and tilefish. This creates a rather ironic situation: Instead of making you smarter because of all the Omega-3 they contain, the fish produce exactly the opposite effect on the brain due to mercury poisoning.

Unfortunately, mercury is also found in other products: vaccines and high-fructose corn syrup.

“I think it’s absolutely criminal to give mercury to an infant.” – Boyd Haley, Ph.D., Chemistry Department Chair, University of Kentucky

Mercury is found in great quantities in mandatory vaccines. Before we get into the details of it, here are some facts about vaccines in America as noted by Dr. Sherri Tenpenny:
•  The U.S. government is the largest purchaser of vaccines in the country. In fact, nearly 30 percent of the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) annual budget is composed of purchasing vaccines and ensuring vaccination is completed for every child in the country.
•  Private insurance companies, which do the best liability studies, have completely abandoned coverage for damage to life and property due to: Acts of God, nuclear war, nuclear power plant accidents and … vaccination.
•  Laws have been passed to protect vaccine manufactures from liability, while at the same time, state laws require parents to inject their children with up to 100 vaccination antigens prior to entering school. If a vaccine injury–or death–occurs after a vaccine, parents cannot sue the doctor, the drug company or the government; they are required to petition the Vaccine Court for damages, a process that can take years and often ends with a dismissal of the case.
•  Each state has school vaccination laws that require children of appropriate age to be vaccinated for several communicable diseases. State vaccination laws mandate that children be vaccinated prior to being allowed to attend public or private schools. Failure to vaccinate children can not only result in children being prohibited from attending school, but their parents or guardians can receive civil fines and criminal penalties. Schools don’t usually tell parents is that in every state, an exemption exists allowing parents to legally refuse vaccines while still allowing their children to attend school.
•  The medical industry advocates vaccines, often demanding that parents vaccinate their children in order to remain under their doctor’s care. A sizable portion of a pediatrician’s income is derived from insurance reimbursement for vaccinations. The ever-expanding vaccination schedule that includes increasingly more expensive vaccines has been a source of increased revenues for vaccinating doctors.

Thimerosal
A child receives approximately 21 vaccines before the age of six and 6 more before the age of 18, for a total of 27 shots during childhood. Many of these injections contain Thimerosal, a preservative added to the shots, made of 49% mercury. The unprecedented use of mercury on children has created a generation of cognitively impaired children.

      “The symptoms experienced by children exposed to mercury are real and can be directly linked to the vaccines they were given as infants. It’s ironic that the vaccines given to these young people are meant to protect them, when in fact they are adversely affecting their neurological development.”
On top of causing an entire generation of babies to have their brains damaged, the use of Thimerosal in vaccines has been linked by many scientists to the staggering rise of autism in the past two decades. Did the dumbing-down campaign go too far?

      “In children who are fully vaccinated, by the sixth month of life they have received more mercury from vaccines than recommended by the EPA. There are many similarities in symptoms between mercury toxicity and autism, including social deficits, language deficits, repetitive behaviors, sensory abnormalities, cognition deficits, movement disorders, and behavioral problems. There are also similarities in physical symptoms, including biochemical, gastrointestinal, muscle tone, eurochemistry, neurophysiology, EEG measurements, and immune system/autoimmunity.”

Due to the suspected link between vaccines and autism, more than 5,000 U.S. families have filed claims in a federal vaccine court against the companies producing the vaccines. In most cases, the plaintiffs received no compensation and all correlation between the illness and vaccines was denied by the defendants. A public relations war has been going on for years, as studies and counter-studies have appeared, proving or denying the links between vaccines and autism, depending where they originate from. The studies claiming that vaccines are safe have often been funded by the very companies that produce them.

Despite the denials, Thimerosal is slowly–and silently–being phased out of vaccines for babies. Not too long after the phasing out began, cases of autism have sharply dropped in the country.

“Published in the March 10 issue of the Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, the data show since mercury was removed from childhood vaccines, the reported rates of autism and other neurological disorders in children not only stopped increasing but actually dropped sharply – by as much as 35 percent. Using the government’s own databases, independent researchers analyzed reports of childhood neurological disorders, including autism, before and after removal of mercury-based preservatives.

According to a statement from the Association of American Physicians & Surgeons, or AAPS, the numbers from California show that reported autism rates hit a high of 800 in May 2003. If that trend had continued, the reports would have risen to more than 1,000 by the beginning of 2006. But the number actually went down to 620, a real decrease of 22 percent, and a decrease from the projection of 35 percent.
The phasing out of Thimerosal from vaccines intended for children is all well and good, but the preservative is still found in many vaccines intended for adults. Did someone realize that mercury in vaccines is too strong for children, making them sick and ultimately unproductive, but perfect to dumb-down fully developed adults? The ruling class is not looking to create a generation of autistic people who would need constant care, but a mass of “useful idiots” that can accomplish repetitive and mind-numbing tasks, while accepting without questioning what they are being told.

As of today, Thimerosal is still found in Influenza vaccines, commonly known as the flu shot. Those shots are seasonal, meaning that patients are encouraged to come back every winter to get their yearly vaccine/dose of mercury.

Makers of the Influenza vaccine say it boasts a “solid health record,” meaning the shot does not seem cause observable illnesses. What is NEVER discussed, however, is the slow and gradual brain neuron degeneration most individuals go through, year after year, due constant mercury poisoning. This process of slowing down brain functions is not easily observable nor quantifiable but it is still happening on a world-wide scale. If mercury can completely disrupt the fragile minds of children enough to possibly cause autism, it will, at the very least, impair fully developed minds.

Almost as if created to generate demands for vaccines, new diseases appear periodically around the world that, with the help of mass media scare campaigns, cause people to beg their officials for the miracle shot that they are told will cure everybody.

H1N1, also known as the Swine Flu, was the latest of those scary diseases that terrified millions of people for several months. When the shot became available, heavily promoted and massive vaccination campaigns sprung around the world. One fact that was not promoted: Swine flu was often easily curable, and not very different than the “regular” flu. Another fact that was not promoted: Most of the flu shots contained Thimerosal.

High-Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
A poison is a “substance that causes injury, illness, or death, especially by chemical means.”
Going by this definition, high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is truly a poison. HFCS is a highly processed sweetner made from corn that has been used since 1970. It continues to replace white sugar and sucrose in processed foods and is currently found in the majority of processed foods found in supermarkets. Studies have determined that Americans consume an average of 12 teaspoons a day of the sweetner.

Here’s a graph depicting the rise of HFCS in our diets:

Due to its sweetening propreties, HFCS is obviously found in sugary products like jams, soft drinks and pre-packaged baked goods. However, most people do not realize that it is also found in numerous other products, including soups, breads, pasta sauces, cereals, frozen entrees, meat products, salad dressings and condiments. HFCS is also found in so-called health products, including protein-bars, “low-fat” foods and energy drinks.How can something that taste so good be so bad?
Here are some facts about HFCS:
•  Research links HFCS to increasing rates of obesity and diabetes in North America, especially among children. Fructose converts to fat more than any other sugar. And being a liquid, it passes much more quickly into the blood stream.
•  Beverages containing HFCS have higher levels of reactive compounds (carbonyls), which are linked with cell and tissue damage leading to diabetes.
•  There is some evidence that corn fructose is processed differently in the body than cane sugar, leading to reduced feelings of satiation and a greater potential for over-consumption.
•  Studies by researchers at UC Davis and the University of Michigan have shown that consuming fructose, which is more readily converted to fat by the liver, increases the levels of fat in the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides.
•  Unlike other types of carbohydrate made up of glucose, fructose does not stimulate the pancreas to produce insulin. Peter Havel, a nutrition researcher at UC Davis who studies the metabolic effects of fructose, has also shown that fructose fails to increase the production of leptin, a hormone produced by the body’s fat cells. Both insulin and leptin act as signals to the brain to turn down the appetite and control body weight. Havel’s research also shows that fructose does not appear to suppress the production of ghrelin, a hormone that increases hunger and appetite.
•  Because the body processes the fructose in HFCS differently than it does cane or beet sugar, it alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function. It also forces the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream. The end result is that our bodies are essentially tricked into wanting to eat more, while at the same time, storing more fat.
•  A study in The Journal of the National Cancer Institute suggested that women whose diet was high in total carbohydrate and fructose intake had an increased risk of colorectal cancer.
•  HFCS interferes with the heart’s use of key minerals like magnesium, copper and chromium.
•  HFCS has been found to deplete the immune system by inhibiting the action of white blood cells. The body is then unable to defend against harmful foreign invaders.
•  Research suggests that fructose actually promotes disease more readily than glucose. Glucose is metabolized in every cell in the body, but all fructose must be metabolized in the liver. The livers of test animals fed large amounts of fructose develop fatty deposits and cirrhosis, similar to problems that develop in the livers of alcoholics.
•  HFCS is highly refined–even more so than white sugar.
•  The corn from which HFCS is derived is almost always genetically modified, as are the enzymes used in the refining process.
•  There are increasing concerns about the politics surrounding the economics of corn production (subsidies, tariffs, and regulations), as well as the effects of intensive corn agriculture on the environment.

Many studies have observed a strong correlation between the rise HFCS in the past years and the rise of obesity during the same period of time.
Obesity, on top of being unhealthy for the body, directly affects brain functions. Some researchers have even questioned the role of obesity in brain degeneration.

Research scientists have long suspected that a relationship existed between obesity and a decline in brain power. New studies now confirm the contention that being overweight is detrimental to the brain. Researchers at the University of California in an article published in the Archives of Neurology demonstrated a strong correlation between central obesity (that is, being fat around the middle) and shrinkage of a part of the brain ( the hippocampus) fundamental for memory.

This does not mean that obese people are dumb. It does however mean that their brain is probably not processing as effectively as it could be. But even if HFCS does not make you fat, it will still affect your brain. Recent studies have shown that the sweetener contains … you’ve guessed it … mercury!
•  “One study – published in the journal, Environmental Health – shows mercury in nine out of 20 samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup.
•  The second study – by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) – finds nearly one in three of 55 brand-name foods contained mercury, especially dairy products, dressings and condiments. The brands included big names like Quaker, Hershey’s, Kraft and Smucker’s.”

Here is the table found in the IATP’s study called, Not So Sweet: Missing Mercury and High Fructose Corn Syrup, detailing the amount of mercury found in everyday products found in supermarkets.

Of course, companies who produce HFCS deny the results of those studies, claiming the sweetner is “natural”. But this is coming from those who, y’know, SELL the stuff. Corn refiners have even produced some strange PR ads to encourage people to keep ingesting their toxic product.

In Conclusion
Despite the existence of many studies describing the negative effects of mercury on the human brain, governments still push for the increased vaccination of the population with shots containing Thimerosal. Furthermore, governing bodies have protected the pharmaceutical companies who produce the vaccines and foods containing HFCS against any type of lawsuits. The fact that many high executives of these companies also hold key positions within the government, might provide an explanation. There are indeed a restricted amount of persons holding positions of high power in both the private and public sector. These people, in what are clear cases of conflict of interest, collide at the top to form what this site refers to as “the elite” or “the ruling class.” Most of these people have never been elected to governmental positions, yet they create public policies that further their agenda, regardless of the political party in power. Look at the membership of the Bilderberg Group, the Committee of 300 or the Council of Foreign Relations and you will find the CEOs of companies producing your food and medication … and the same people who pass laws governing your food and medication.

Since no public official is likely to betray his peers and fund-raisers to become a whistleblower, it is up to each one of us to learn about what we consume. The cliché saying “read the labels” is quite true, but if you have no idea what “monosodium glutamate” means, reading the label will not help you. This series of articles aims to raise basic awareness of the most harmful substances found in everyday products. I personally cannot claim to have a perfect diet … I grew up in the 80s and love the taste of processed foods like candy, sodas … even Hamburger Helper. But as you find more information and as you begin to realize that every step in the right direction really does make you feel better, each subsequent step becomes easier. No one can do it for you: It’s up to you to take that next step … whether it is toward your detoxification or to Burger King.

B.  Health: Foods Containing Mercury
eHow, By Alexander Grouch
http://www.ehow.com/about_5376461_foods-containing-mercury.html

Foods Containing Mercury
Mercury is a heavy metal that exists in many places throughout the earth. As a result, some of the food we eat contains traces of mercury. Fish in particular absorb copious amounts of mercury as they swim in the water. This is due both to the natural occurrence of mercury and various human actions that exacerbate the situation. While slight amounts of mercury usually will not have a noticeable effect on the human body, prolonged mercury exposure through food may lead to serious health problems such as methylmercury poisoning, vision problems and neurological disturbances in fetuses and infants.

Foods That Contain High Levels of Mercury
Although many foods may contain traces of mercury, fish and shellfish are known to have the most mercury overall. As mercury enters the water supply, all fish absorb some of it into their bodies. Fish that are higher on the food chain have especially high mercury levels since they consume smaller fish. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the largest fish often contain the most mercury. High-mercury fish include swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tile fish. Certain types of tuna also contain mercury well above U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s limits of 0.1 microgram per 2.2 pounds of body weight.

Other Foods That Contain Mercury
While fish gets most of the bad press regarding mercury, other food products also contain mercury. In early 2009, Environmental Health Journal reported on a study conducted by a team led by Renee Dufault that found high fructose corn syrup had high levels of mercury. Many mass-marketed food products contain high fructose corn syrup due the prevalence of corn production in America and the government’s corn subsidy. Popular products sweetened with high fructose corn syrup include most sodas, ketchup and even bread.

In the Dufault study, samples revealed 0.57 micrograms of mercury per gram of high fructose corn syrup. When you consider the large quantities of high fructose corn syrup that most American ingest, many people’s mercury consumption exceeds EPA or U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommendations. To find products free of high fructose corn syrup, read all the ingredients in food products. The earlier in the list you find high fructose corn syrup, the more of it that’s in the product.

Effects
In high doses, mercury wreaks havoc on the central nervous system. Pregnant women especially should avoid fish that may contain mercury. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, mercury passed on to the fetus during pregnancy may have lasting consequences such as memory impairment, diminished language skills and other cognitive complications. If you are pregnant, look for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or EPA updates on what foods contain high levels of mercury and avoid them to prevent possible damage to your child’s cognitive development.

Mercury Poisoning
In rare cases, some people may consume so much fish and other mercury-rich foods that they experience mercury poisoning. One of the most highly publicized cases of mercury poisoning occurred in 2008 when actor Jeremy Piven had to drop out of a play due to mercury poisoning.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning include impairment to your sight, hearing and touch. Some people who suffer from mercury poisoning report ambulatory trouble and tingling around the lips. If you have a diet high in fish and suffer any of the above symptoms, visit a hospital promptly for evaluation.

Fish Low In Mercury
Since several fish contain such powerful nutrients and healthy oils, the benefits of fish may outweigh genuine mercury concerns. If you want to balance the health benefits of fish with mercury risks, eat fish further down the food chain. According to the FDA and EPA, fish low in mercury include salmon, catfish and pollock. Canned light tuna also contains a relatively low amount of mercury per serving. However, other types of tuna such as albacore have higher levels of mercury. As long as you keep track of your portion sizes, you probably will not suffer any ill effects due to mercury in food. For optimal portion size, eat no more than 12 oz. (about two meals) of low-mercury fish a week.
Read more: Foods Containing Mercury | eHow.com http://www.ehow.com/about_5376461_foods-containing-mercury.html#ixzz1MFy97JfQ
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5.     Pollution Causes 40 Percent Of Deaths Worldwide, Study Finds

Aug. 14, 2007, ScienceDaily
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070813162438.htm
About 40 percent of deaths worldwide are caused by water, air and soil pollution, concludes a Cornell researcher. Such environmental degradation, coupled with the growth in world population, are major causes behind the rapid increase in human diseases, which the World Health Organization has recently reported. Both factors contribute to the malnourishment and disease susceptibility of 3.7 billion people, he says.

David Pimentel, Cornell professor of ecology and agricultural sciences, and a team of Cornell graduate students examined data from more than 120 published papers on the effects of population growth, malnutrition and various kinds of environmental degradation on human diseases. Their report is published in the online version of the journal Human Ecology and will be published in the December print issue.

“We have serious environmental resource problems of water, land and energy, and these are now coming to bear on food production, malnutrition and the incidence of diseases,” said Pimentel.

Of the world population of about 6.5 billion, 57 percent is malnourished, compared with 20 percent of a world population of 2.5 billion in 1950, said Pimentel. Malnutrition is not only the direct cause of 6 million children’s deaths each year but also makes millions of people much more susceptible to such killers as acute respiratory infections, malaria and a host of other life-threatening diseases, according to the research.

Among the study’s other main points:
Nearly half the world’s people are crowded into urban areas, often without adequate sanitation, and are exposed to epidemics of such diseases as measles and flu.
With 1.2 billion people lacking clean water, waterborne infections account for 80 percent of all infectious diseases. Increased water pollution creates breeding grounds for malaria-carrying mosquitoes, killing 1.2 million to 2.7 million people a year, and air pollution kills about 3 million people a year. Unsanitary living conditions account for more than 5 million deaths each year, of which more than half are children.

Air pollution from smoke and various chemicals kills 3 million people a year. In the United States alone about 3 million tons of toxic chemicals are released into the environment — contributing to cancer, birth defects, immune system defects and many other serious health problems.

Soil is contaminated by many chemicals and pathogens, which are passed on to humans through direct contact or via food and water. Increased soil erosion worldwide not only results in more soil being blown but spreading of disease microbes and various toxins.

At the same time, more microbes are becoming increasingly drug-resistant. And global warming, together with changes in biological diversity, influence parasite evolution and the ability of exotic species to invade new areas. As a result, such diseases as tuberculosis and influenza are re-emerging as major threats, while new threats — including West Nile virus and Lyme disease — have developed.

“A growing number of people lack basic needs, like pure water and ample food. They become more susceptible to diseases driven by malnourishment, and air, water and soil pollutants,” Pimentel concludes. He and his co-authors call for comprehensive and fair population policies and more conservation of environmental resources that support human life.

“Relying on increasing diseases and malnutrition to limit human numbers in the world diminishes the quality of life for all humans and is a high-risk policy,” the researchers conclude.

We are affliced by and bringing on ourselves, a global human condition tantamount to ‘Death by 1000 cuts.’, Mr Larry

End of article, Modern Air and Water
Read also the 4dtraveler posts: Modern Competition, Modern Foraging, Modern Freedom of Choice and, Modern Living.

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Filed under Survival Manual, __2. Social Issues

Modern Air & Water, Part 2 of 3

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/ Death by 1000 cuts/ Modern Air & Water)

Modern Air & Water topics:
1.  Air pollution (it hasn’t gone away) .
2.  Water, with chlorine, fluorine, pharmaceuticals and more.
3.  Berkey water purification system, Royal model
4.  Mercury in food & vaccines
5.  Synopsis; Pollution causes 40% of worldwide deaths

2.  Water, with chlorine,  fluorine,  pharmaceuticals  and  more

[Photo above: Garbage concentration in a perpetual and growing trash vortex, located 800 miles north of Hawaii, in a 10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. This is an odd stretch of ocean, a place most boats purposely avoid. For one thing, it is becalmed. “The doldrums,” sailors called it, and they steered clear. So do the ocean’s top predators: the tuna, sharks, and other large fish that required livelier waters, flush with prey. The gyre is more like a desert—a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that lingers above it. The huge trash concentration began with a line of plastic bags ghosting the surface, followed by an ugly tangle of junk: nets and ropes and bottles, motor-oil jugs and cracked bath toys, a mangled tarp. Tires. A traffic cone. Out in this desolate place, the water is a stew of plastic. It is as though someone has taken a pristine seascape and turned it into a landfill.
Scientists refer to this area as the “Eastern Garbage Patch”, a place in the ocean where the trail of plastic goes on for hundreds of miles.
Yachts traveling through the Gyre sail for a week amongst bobbing, toxic debris, all trapped in a purgatory of circling currents in this 21st-century Leviathan. It had no head, no tail. Just an endless body. http://jonbowermaster.com/blog/tag/30-days-of-oceans/page/4/]
.

A.  The Water Resources of Earth
Over 70% of our Earth’s surface is covered by water ( we should really call our planet “Ocean” instead of “Earth”). Although water is seemingly abundant, the real issue is the amount of fresh water available.
•  97.5% of all water on Earth is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water
•  Nearly 70% of that fresh water is frozen in the icecaps of Antarctica and Greenland; most of the remainder is present as soil moisture, or lies in deep underground aquifers as groundwater not accessible to human use.
•  1% of the world’s fresh water (~0.007% of all water on earth) is accessible for direct human uses. This is the water found in lakes, rivers, reservoirs and those underground sources that are shallow enough to be tapped at an affordable cost. Only this amount is regularly renewed by rain and snowfall, and is therefore available on a sustainable basis.

Water as a Resource
Since antiquity, irrigation, drainage, and impoundment have been the three types of water control having a major impact on landscapes and water flows. Since the dawn of irrigated agriculture at least 5000 years ago, controlling water to grow crops has been the primary motivation for human alteration of freshwater supplies. Today, principal demands for fresh water are for irrigation, household and municipal water use, and industrial uses. Most supplies come from surface runoff, although mining of “fossil water” from underground aquifers is an important source in some areas. The pattern of water withdrawal over the past 300 years shows the dramatic increases in this century.

[Human Appropriation of the World’s Fresh Water Supply
<http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/freshwater_supply/freshwater.html>]

A timeline of human water use:
http://www.globalchange.umich.edu/globalchange2/current/lectures/   freshwater_supply/freshwater.html
•  12,000 yrs. ago: hunter-gatherers continually return to fertile river valleys
•  7,000 yrs. ago: water shortages spur humans to invent irrigation
•  1,100 yrs ago: collapse of Mayan civilization due to drought
•  Mid 1800’s: fecal contamination of surface water causes severe health problems (typhoid, cholera) in some major North American cities, notably Chicago
•  1858: “Year of the Great Stink” in London, due to sewage and wastes in Thames
•  Late 1800s-early 1900: Dams became popular as a water management tool
•  1900s: The green revolution strengthens human dependency on irrigation for agriculture
•  World War II: water quality impacted by industrial and agricultural chemicals
•  1972: Clean Water Act passed; humans recognize need to protect water
•  The six billion people of Planet Earth use nearly 30% of the world’s total accessible renewal supply of water.  By 2025, that value may reach 70%.  Yet billions of people lack basic water services, and millions die each year from water-related diseases.

B.   The unHealthy side Effects of Chlorine in Drinking Water
http://www.pure-earth.com/chlorine.html
The U.S. General Accounting Office reports that there are serious deficiencies in water treatment plants in 75% of the states. More than 120 million people (about 50% of the US population) may get unsafe water according to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council.

U.S. Health Officials estimate 900,000 people each year become ill – and possibly 900 die – from waterborne disease. The General Accounting Office estimates 66% of Safe Drinking Water Act violations aren’t reported.

The contamination of water is directly related to the degree of contamination of our environment. Rainwater flushes airborne pollution from the skies, and then washes over the land before running into the, rivers, aquifers, and lakes that supply our drinking water. Any and all chemicals generated by human activity can and will find their way into water supplies.

The chemical element chlorine is a corrosive, poisonous, greenish-yellow gas that has a suffocating odor and is 2- 1/2 times heavier than air. Chlorine belongs to the group of elements called halogens. The halogens combine with metals to form compounds called halides. Chlorine is manufactured commercially by running an electric current through salt water. This process produces free chlorine, hydrogen, and sodium hydroxide. Chlorine is changed to its liquid form by compressing the gas, the resulting liquid is then shipped. Liquid chlorine is mixed into drinking water and swimming pools to destroy bacteria.

Until recently, concerns about drinking water focused on eliminating pathogens. The chlorine used to reduce the risk of infectious disease may account for a substantial portion of the cancer risk associated with drinking water. Chlorination of drinking water was a major factor in the reduction in the mortality rates associated with waterborne pathogen. The use of chlorine was believed to be safe. This view is evident in an article, which appeared on the back page of the New York Times. The report stated that with the use of chlorine, “Any municipal water supply can be made as pure as mountain spring water. Chlorination destroys all animal and microbial life, leaving no trace of itself afterwards”. This statement reflected opinion accepted until recent years when halogenated organic compounds, such as chloroform, were identified in chlorinated drinking water supplies. Recent surveys show that these compounds are common in water supplies throughout the United States.

These concerns about cancer risks associated with chemical contamination from chlorination by-products have resulted in numerous epidemiological studies. These studies generally support the notion that by-products of chlorination are associated with increased cancer risks.

Chlorine is used to combat microbial contamination, but it can react with organic matter in the water and form dangerous, carcinogenic Trihalomethanes. According to Dr. Joseph M. Price, MD, in Moseby’s Medical Dictionary, “Chlorine is the greatest crippler and killer of modern times. It is an insidious poison”.

In a 1992 study that made front-page headlines, and was reported on in the July issue of the American Journal of Public Health researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee found that people who regularly drink tap water containing high levels of chlorine by-products have a greater risk of developing bladder and rectal cancers than people who drink unchlorinated water. The study estimates that about 9 percent of all bladder cancer and 18 percent of all rectal cancer cases are associated with long-term consumption of these by-products. This amounts to over 20,000 new cases each year.

Morris, with epidemiologist Thomas C. Chalmers and his colleagues at Harvard, used a new technique called meta-analysis to combine the results from the 10 best studies, yielding the new findings. They report that people drinking chlorinated water over long periods have a 21% increase in the risk of contracting bladder cancer and a 38% increase in the risk of rectal cancer. “I am quite convinced, based on this study, that there is an association between cancer and chlorinated water.”, says Robert D. Morris of the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, who directed the new study.

About 90% of the population is drinking water which may contain hundreds of these Disinfection By-products (DBPs), also known as Trihalomethanes. The Environmental Protection Agency lowered the Maximum Contaminant Level for Disinfection By-products but it will be years before the new standard goes into effect.

In his book, Coronaries/Cholesterol/Chlorine, Joseph M. Price, MD presents startling evidence that Trihalomethanes, are the “prime causative agents of arteriosclerosis and its inevitable result, the heart attack or stroke.” These Trihalomethanes are created when the chlorine that is added to the municipal water supply reacts with organic matter such as leaves, twigs, or chemicals from agricultural runoff.

Here’s What The Experts Have To Say
•  Drinking chlorinated water has finally been officially linked to an increased incidence of colon cancer. An epidemiologist at Oak Ridge Associated Universities completed a study of colon cancer victims and non-cancer patients and concluded that the drinking of chlorinated water for 15 years or more was conducive to a high rate of colon cancer. Health Freedom News, January/February 1987
•  Long-term drinking of chlorinated water appears to increase a person’s risk of developing bladder cancer as much as 80%, according to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Some 45,000 Americans are diagnosed every year with bladder cancer. St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press, December 17, 1987
•  Although concentrations of these carcinogens are low…it is precisely these low levels which cancer scientists believe are responsible for the majority of human cancers in the United States.  Report Issued By The Environmental Defense Fund
•  Chlorine itself is not believed to be the problem. Scientists suspect that the actual cause of the bladder cancers is a group of chemicals that form as result of reactions between the chlorine and natural substances and pollutants in the water. (organic matter such as leaves and twigs.) St. Paul Dispatch & Pioneer Press, December 17, 1987
•  Greenpeace reports have found chlorine-based compounds to be the most common toxic and persistent pollutants in the Great Lakes.

Summary and Prevention Strategies
Contaminants may enter water supplies at many points before reaching the tap. The carcinogens in drinking water at the point of use may result from contamination of source water, arise from the treatment processes, or enter as the water is transported to the consumer. Varied carcinogens may contaminate the source water, but they usually exist in drinking water at low concentrations. However, chemicals that enter drinking water during water treatment are limited in number, but appear in drinking water supplies with greater frequency than most source water contaminants.

Under conditions of average temperature, humidity, and activity, the human body loses and, therefore, must replace about 2.3 liters of water each day. Two-thirds of this consumption is in the form of water or some other beverage. Concerns about the health risks or taste of drinking water may cause those who consume tap water to shift to bottled water, or other beverages. These beverages may include sweetened soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, which can pose health risks greater than those associated with drinking water.

To stop chlorination of drinking water to eliminate the elevated cancer risks from chlorination by-products would be foolhardy. Nonetheless, the data provide strong evidence to support expanded efforts in research and development of alternatives to chlorination for the disinfection of drinking water. Chlorination is particularly effective in preventing recontamination during distribution. Alternatives must provide a similar level of protection. Perhaps the most viable alternative is point of use water treatment units.

The weight of the evidence suggests that chlorination by-products pose substantial cancer risks that should be reduced.

Dr. Herbert Schwartz of Cumberland County College in Vineman, N.J. says: “Chlorine has so many dangers it should be banned. Putting chlorine in the water supply is like starting a time bomb. Cancer, heart trouble, premature senility, both mental and physical, are conditions attributable to chlorine treated water supplies. It is making us grow old before our time by producing symptoms of aging such as hardening of the arteries.”

Chlorine has been hailed as the saviour against cholera and various other water-borne diseases; and rightfully so. Its disinfectant qualities and economy of production have allowed communities and whole cities to grow and prosper by providing disease-free tap water to homes and industry. Some people have grown-up on tap water, and believe the taste of chlorine signifies purity and safety. Well, not necessarily so.

      Chlorine is, essentially, bleach. And what comes out of most municipally delivered faucets is, quite actually, a mild bleach solution. Consider some well-known attributes of chlorine. Let’s say, “the dark side” of the saviour. A PhD chemist friend put it this way: “If I were assigned to go into a lab and produce a menu of known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents), the first thing I would do would be to grab-up a cylinder of chlorine and start bubbling it through some water that contains naturally occuring organic acids (humic and fumic acids — as are found in all natural bodies of water like rivers, lakes, reservoirs, etc.).”

      Note the “chloro” part in the following: trichlorophosphate (TCP) and the trihalomethane group (THMs) which includes chloroform. You may recognize these known bad guys by the legally imposed requirement of your municipality to periodically make report to the public (newspaper) on the levels of these known or highly suspected carcinogens in the tap water being produced. There are others, but those are popularly known. And they’re all chlorine by-products.

      Another problem directly related to chlorine disinfection are the aesthetic properties imparted when chlorine is combined with organic compounds that are natural to open bodies of water (surface water). This regards the “taste and odor” problems many municipalities experience during certain times of the year (especially in four-season latitudes) which draw their water supply from surface water. Surface water includes ponds, lakes, reservoirs, rivers, etc., as opposed to underground sources (wells, aquifers). Bubble chlorine through humic and fumic acids common to surface water supplies and you produce the “fishy” or “musty” odors and tastes so common in the spring and fall, when the lake “turns-over.”

The good news is, you don’t have to drink it anymore. The most practical and efficient method for removing chlorine, chlorine by-products, and taste and odor problems, is to filter it with granular activated carbon (GAC) or other suitable chemical-removing filter media.

      The municipalities are stuck. Environmental and public safety laws require most to maintain a chlorine residual throughout the entire water main delivery system. This is to retain some disinfecting properties in the event of groundwater infiltration and other contaminations. Barking at your local water company or water department about the taste and odor will accomplish nothing. Chances are, they’re doing their best, and meeting the laws. The most practical solution to the problem is to take it back out at the “point of use” (POU) — your own home or office.

Environmental Systems Distributing
Sunday, 20 February, 2000, The Electronic Telegraph, London, England
An independent study into the use of chlorine-treated drinking water has been ordered by the Government because of fears that it may cause spina bifida and stillbirths.

Scientists from Imperial College, London University, will carry out the research after doctors in Norway, Canada and the United States reported higher levels of birth defects in areas where chlorine is used, compared with drinking water treated by alternative methods. All of Britain’s water companies chlorinate their supplies. The only people who have non-chlorinated water are those with their own bore holes or wells.

A Norwegian study of 141,000 births over three years found a 14 per cent increased risk of birth defects in areas with chlorinated water. Scientists have already found an association between chlorine and an increased risk of bowel, kidney and bladder cancer, but it is the first time that a link has been found with higher levels of spina bifida.

Last night the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association said it was “concerned” by the findings and would be discussing them with medical advisers before considering making representations to the Government. British water industry experts have not dismissed the findings but said that the safety benefits of purification outweigh the risks of birth defects.

Dr Per Magnus, who carried out the Norwegian research, said: “This is an important finding because we know there are chemicals released by the action of chlorine on organic particles at treatment works. We have observed mutations in these chemicals which seem to tie up with mutations that are found in babies. We were in a unique position in Norway to make these observations because in some areas our water comes from the mountains and doesn’t require cleaning with chlorine.”

The Norwegian government has ordered more research. Concerned families there have been filtering tap water. A popular method has been to place sachets of coral sand, dredged from fjords, into water before it is drunk, removing all traces of chlorine in tap water in 15 minutes. In Canada, at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia, researchers found that high levels of trihalomethanes, a by-product of chlorine in drinking water, significantly increased the risk of stillbirth.

Dr John Marshall, of the Pure Water Association, a pressure group which has been campaigning for safer drinking water, said: “It shows we should be paying more attention to the chemicals we put in drinking water and be looking for other alternatives to chlorination. A number of safe, non-toxic options exist, such as treating water with the gas ozone or ultra violet.”

Chlorine is in the same chemical group as fluoride, which has been linked with cancer and osteoporosis. There is also a connection between fluoride and increased blood pressure and an increase in problems with the thyroid gland. John Fawell, a leading specialist on water quality, and an independent industry consultant, said the British Government and water companies were taking the danger of birth defects seriously. He said: “The people who have done this work in Norway and the United States are reputable researchers and the Government and water companies have commissioned their own research from London University.

“But at present the conclusion of the World Health Organization and other concerned bodies is that the risk from contaminated water supplies outweighs the risk to health from chlorine. Levels of chlorine and its by-products have been falling in water and the amount coming out of the average tap is half a milliliter per liter.”

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C.     Environment: Top 11 compounds in US drinking water
12 January 2009 by Rowan Hooper
<http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16397-top-11-compounds-in-us-drinking-water.html&gt;

A comprehensive survey of the drinking water for more than 28 million Americans has detected the widespread, but low-level presence of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals.
[Photo at left: Our image of the kind of polluted water you might expect to find under the worst conditions in a 3rd World rcountry. We need to realize it’s not just how water looks that idicates it’s not healthy. Tap water in the USA looks clean and pure, but in large percent of the country, various types and concentrations of chemicals are in our drinking water. Chemicals that we can’t see it or taste. Think of this in the same way as nuclear radiation, we can’t see it or taste it, but a slightly higher doases over a number of years can injure you, or in the case of ‘high tech’ chemicals in the water, can disrupt activities in your body’s biochemistry causing premature illness, disability and a reduction in your quality of life over the long term.  lfp]

Little was known about people’s exposure to such compounds from drinking water, so Shane Snyder and colleagues at the Southern Nevada Water Authority in Las Vegas screened tap water from 19 US water utilities for 51 different compounds. The surveys were carried out between 2006 and 2007.

The 11 most frequently detected compounds – all found at extremely low concentrations – were:
•  Atenolol, a beta-blocker used to treat cardiovascular disease
•  Atrazine, an organic herbicide banned in the European Union, but still used in the US, which has been implicated in the decline of fish stocks and in changes in animal behaviour
•  Carbamazepine, a mood-stabilising drug used to treat bipolar disorder, amongst other things
•  Estrone, an oestrogen hormone secreted by the ovaries and blamed for causing gender-bending changes in fish
•  Gemfibrozil, an anti-cholesterol drug
•  Meprobamate, a tranquiliser widely used in psychiatric treatment
•  Naproxen, a painkiller and anti-inflammatory linked to increases in asthma incidence
•  Phenytoin, an anticonvulsant that has been used to treat epilepsy
•  Sulfamethoxazole, an antibiotic used against the Streptococcus bacteria, which is responsible for tonsillitis and other diseases
•  TCEP, a reducing agent used in molecular biology
•  Trimethoprim, another antibiotic

The concentrations of pharmaceuticals in drinking water were millions of times lower than in a medical dose, and Snyder emphasises that they pose no public health threat. He cautions, though, that “if a person has a unique health condition, or is concerned about particular contaminants in public water systems, I strongly recommend they consult their physician”.

Christian Daughton of the EPA’s National Exposure Research Laboratory says that neither this nor other recent water assessments give cause for health concern. “But several point to the potential for risk – especially for the fetus and those with severely compromised health.”

Daughton says the contamination surveys help people realize how they are intimately and inseparably connected with their environment. “The occurrence of pharmaceuticals in the environment also serves to make us acutely aware of the chemical sea that surrounds us,” he says.

Modern life
While the US government regulates the levels of pathogens in US drinking water, there are no rules for pharmaceuticals and other compounds, apart from one: the herbicide atrazine. The atrazine levels measured by Snyder and colleagues were well within federal limits.
Snyder says water utilities could make drinking water purer. But the costs of “extreme purification” – far beyond what is needed for safety alone – are huge in terms of increased energy usage and carbon footprint. Ultra-pure water might not even be safe, adds Snyder.
The widespread occurrence of pharmaceuticals and endocrine disruptors reflects improved detection techniques, rather than greater pollution, says Snyder. Contamination is a fact of modern life, he adds.
“As we continue to populate and aggregate, our wastes will certainly accumulate where we live,” he says. “We as a species have decided to live a modern life, with pharmaceuticals, plastics, transportation – therefore we must accept that there will be a certain degree of contamination.”
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D.     Pharmaceuticals and ther Contaminants in Our Drinking Water?
http://health-compendium.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=121&Itemid=9
We can’t live without water…, tainted water may not seem like a big deal now, and without sounding to much like an alarmist it is an issue that will eventually affect all of us if something isn’t done soon (if it isn’t already). The issue of contaminants in the water that we drink has come to light lately in the press, and whether you believe the news or not, it is really an insidious detriment to society.

The reality of the situation is that we are completely dependent on water to survive; however we have a tendency to take this fact for granted. It is yet another environmental issue that lies just under the medical radar, and isn’t taken seriously because many ‘so called’ experts say we should not be concerned. Then there are the political issues; if the scientists that worked for the government and water treatment plants all over the U.S. let on as to how big an issue this is, there would be wide spread panic.
•  With that said; just to let you know how big a problem this is, contaminants such as pharmaceuticals and other chemicals in our drinking water has been shown to affect 41 million people that live in the U.S. Many of the largest cities in the country have reported that their water has been found to contain everything from antibiotics to anti-depressants, birth control pills, seizure medication, cancer treatment meds, hormones, pain killers, tranquilizers and derivatives of cholesterol-lowering compounds. This is only the tip of the iceberg, because when these meds come in contact with the chlorine that is already in the water, there is evidence that they become even more toxic than their original form.
•  These public water statistics are those that can be quantified because they are being extracted from documentation that comes from cities that keep these kinds of records. What about the folks that get their water from wells; this water isn’t filtered or treated in any way and therefore may contain higher concentrations of the above contaminants. So, where do these toxins come from, who is dumping them into the ecosystem? Well, the answer is fairly clear. Most of what is ending up in the system comes from the pharmaceutical industry, hospitals and millions of households around the country. When people are done with meds that they have not used up, they many times dispose of them by flushing what is left down the toilet, the other way they end up in circulation is by being excreted from the body as waste into the toilet, which then gets re-circulated in the water table. Most of these drugs pass through conventional sewage treatment facilities intact, and get re-deposited back into streams, lakes and even underground aquifers. The same goes for meds that have been tossed into the garbage, these pharmaceuticals often end up in dumps and landfills, and eventually again end up in our ground water. When researchers tested water from remote streams, they really didn’t expect to find much, but instead found as many as sixty different common pharmaceuticals…this really is shocking. The drugs they identified ranged from lipid-lowering drugs, antiseptics, antibiotics, beta-blockers, analgesics and contrast agents used to process X rays.
•  The information provided above has only touched on what comes from humans; the ‘other side of the coin’ are the hormones and other drugs that get deposited back into the environment as they are excreted from animals. Farm animals are also a source of contamination because they are injected with a host of drugs, and the rest they consume. An unknown fact is that approximately forty percent of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are fed to farm animals to increase yields. Many of the pharmaceuticals these animals excrete end up back in the ground water that surrounds many of our largest cities.
•  The above discusses only the pharmaceuticals, but there is much more to the story. Now take into account the millions of gallons of personal care products that people worldwide use every day, that end up in our bath water, septic tanks and sewage treatment plants. These chemicals are the active ingredients in soaps, toilet/shower cleaners, and shampoo’s which include an array of ingredients too long to list here. All of these also have a direct impact on the environment. Should we even talk about the pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals that are used on farms, in home gardens and those discarded by industry? It is mind boggling…

      There has been a considerable amount of press on this subject that has been printed lately, and some scientific organizations are just now starting to take note. However, much of what is being found isn’t getting much traction. You see; since a direct correlation between what is being found in the water that we are drinking can’t be directly tied to causing any specific disease, no one in a position of authority seems to want to take this issue on. It is really all about money, since there isn’t any monetary gain to be garnered from testing for these contaminants; it is difficult to get funding to do what is needed to make the case against the contamination that is on going.

      Some will say that these toxins were found only in trace amounts, which are in the parts per million or even lower range. This may be true, but what they don’t tell you is that many of these drugs are fat soluble and they will accumulate in the body over time. And if you are already taking some of these meds to treat a disease, ingesting extra amounts from external sources, even in small amounts can be toxic. This brings up the subject of antibiotic resistance; this occurs when the system becomes resistant to certain types and therefore doesn’t protect the body from what it is supposed to. Virus’s also become resistant to some drugs after long term exposure, they then mutate and the drugs no longer perform as they are supposed to.

      What is really disconcerting is that these contaminants also make their way into the food table, that is in fish and any other wild life that drink tainted waters, it can become concentrated in their bodies and then when ‘they’ are eaten as food, the recipient gets a much more concentrated dose than they would even get from water. So, you can see that it isn’t as simple as the people in charge make it out to be. When young girls start having their periods at age ten, and young boys start to appear with what is known as gynocomastia (man breasts), this is a problem and it is happening more and more each year. This doesn’t take into account the idiopathic pathologies that manifest in millions of people that the medical profession can’t treat, because they don’t make the connection between the environmental issue and the pathology that the patient is presenting with.

      So, you have to be the judge as to whether this is an issue for you and your children, you should read everything you can get your hands on that discusses this subject so you can make an educated decision. The only way that you can protect yourself as of right now is to purchase a reverse osmosis filtration system; this is the only sure way to ensure your drinking water is safe to consume. If you listen to the officials that claim there isn’t an problem, and that their treatment plants meet government standards for safety, well the standard right now really isn’t set up to show what levels are of concern, mostly because they claim it isn’t an issue to begin with. And even if it did, to filter and treat water at this level would cost millions, and no one wants to pick up the tab for that.

So, until such time that science can show that this issue can be tied directly to large groups of people manifesting a certain disease, those that are suffering from exposure and are presenting in the doctor’s office with sub-clinical symptoms that most doctors do not know how to treat or test for…,they will have to suffer. In the mean time, we will have to take charge and fend for ourselves. When it is all said and done though, your best defense is to drink clean water to start with.

Continued in Survival Manual/Social Issues/Modern Air & Water, Part 3 of 3.

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Our Future, Part 4 of 4

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 4 of 4)

Section VII  considers reactions to the Energy Descent Scenarios

A.  Global and Local Perspectives
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/32/47/>
The scenarios as described are biased towards looking at the future for the billion or so relatively affluent persons who mostly live in the long industrialized nations mostly of Europe and North America but including Japan, Australia and New Zealand. For many people outside these countries the promise of benefits from global industrial culture are just that; promises. The general history tells of local and self reliant economies and communities decaying or collapsing as they are displaced by monetary economies, media and consumer ideologies. This is a process often associated with migration from rural to urban areas. The debate about the balance of benefits and disadvantages from these changes has been intense for thirty years.

Very few proponents or even critics of conventional economic development are yet considering energy descent scenarios, or the increased vulnerabilities to them which result from this loss of self reliance. Poor people crowded into barrios around super cities completely dependent on meager cash flows to maintain access to food and fuel are less able to provide for themselves when these systems fail. Five months in Latin America has given me cause to think deeply about these vulnerabilities that are already unfolding in many places where, compared to wages, fuel prices are ten times more than what they are in Australia.

It is not just the ability to cope with deprivation but more the pyscho-social capacity to accept life as it happens On the other hand one cannot experience life in many poorer countries without also considering how recent the changes have been. In many places people still know how to grow food and some cases can return to their home villages as soon as economic conditions suggest this will be more rewarding (even if it is only to labor on a relative’s farm) than hustling in the city for a dollar. Even when this is not possible, the sense of how resourceful and flexible people can be in what we might think extreme conditions, is a strength.

It is not just the ability to cope with deprivation but more the pyscho-social capacity to accept life as it happens without fixed expectation that lead to inevitable disappointment. While teaching a course in Mexico I was summarizing the energy descent scenarios session with reference to the house fire insurance analogy, that it was not necessary to believe your house would burn down to have fire insurance. The mostly middle class Mexicans laughed at my analogy because most Mexican homeowners don’t have fire insurance. It is this easy going acceptance of life that may be one of the characteristics that enables Mexicans to weather the storms that are surely coming.

In Australia many generations of steady growing affluence and high expectations have created a psychological and social brittleness.

On the other hand, in Australia and other long affluent countries, many generations of steady growing affluence and high expectations have created a psychological and social brittleness that suggests we may not weather the storms as well as we should. As a teenager I came to the conclusion that Australia was vulnerable to the attractions of fascism if and when social and economic conditions became much tougher. This early insight provided a foundation for the Brown Tech scenario.

In some nations, economic collapse and sustained conflict over the last few decades have simulated some aspects of energy descent. Most of the evidence is not good, with breakdown of law and order, food insecurity, falling life expectancy and mass migration. Russia, Argentina, Cuba, Zimbabwe and North Korea are examples of relatively affluent and industrialized countries that have experienced sustained conditions analogous to those possible from more general and global energy descent. An increasing amount of research and analysis within the Peak Oil network has focused on these countries to gain greater understanding of the hazards and opportunities of energy descent futures. Most notable is the Cuban experience that is remarkably positive and has provided a great boost to permaculture and other activists trying to show the opportunities from energy descent.

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B.  Cuba: Brown Tech, Green Tech or Earth Steward?
During the crisis of the “Special Period” in the early 1990’s the power of strong central government did not weaken, let alone fail. In some ways the government lead by Fidel Castro represents many of the elements of the Brown Tech world. On the other hand Cuba is not a very large country and can be considered as one bioregion with Havana as its capital so the scale of governance is more akin to that proposed for the Green Tech scenario. Further, many of the strategies for coping with the crisis from urban agriculture to bicycle and public transport are emblematic of the Green Tech scenario. Health and education statistics for Cuba also rule out the more severe conditions associated with Earth Steward, let alone Lifeboat. However while in Cuba in 2007 I became aware of some aspects of the crisis that did give insight into likely conditions in the more extreme scenarios.

During two trips in the countryside I observed extensive growth of Marabou (a spiny leguminous shrub) over large areas that appeared to have been farmland. The rapid spread occurred during the crisis and today cover about 20% of the farmland.  These species were previously common in the landscape mostly as a component of living fences and hedges. When the crisis hit, supplies of grains to feed the industrialized dairy industry collapsed and many of the dairy cows died in the dry season.

My hypothesis is that prior to dying, the cows would have eaten the dry pastures to bare ground and the living fences to sticks. The seeds of the Marabou consumed by the cows pass through in manure so in the succeeding wet season a complete crop of thorn shrubs would have emerged and dominated the recovering pastures. Despite the desperate need for food, the absence of fuel to plow the land for crops or resow pastures, allowed the shrubs to take over the land. This example illustrates how valuable resources can lie idyll in the face of desperate need.

The process of recovering the land from the thicket forests is a slow one even with better economic conditions but it also has produced benefits that are slow to be recognized. Increased carbon sequestration has been substantial and plant diversity and wildlife is increasing as the shrub legumes mature. The soil rejuvenating characteristics of these spiny legume shrubs may be building an asset that will be more valuable to Cuba as global energy descent begins to impact. Two low energy pathways to more productive and sustainable use of the land are possible. One is to use goats to reclaim the land back to pasture. Alternatively, accelerated succession to mixed food forest by selective seeding and planting could create agroforestry systems that continue to increase the woody biomass and food production both from fruit and nuts.

It is significant that both of these changes would require further changes in Cuban eating habits. This is connected to another sobering impression in the otherwise quite positive picture, that Cubans remained reluctant to change their traditional food habits even during the crisis and mostly have gone back to those habits after the crisis. The fact that a diet with less meat and dairy and a greater diversity of tropical vegetables, fruits and nuts could be more easily and sustainably produced will require continued efforts on many fronts and/or a longer cycle of deprivation to shift the deeply entrenched European food culture heritage in this tropical country.

Perhaps more relevant to countries with less government controls over the economy, Argentina provides some interesting examples of revitalization of local economies as central currencies and economies broke down, although most of these stopped once the monetary economy was re-established.

One of the uncertainties that emerges from reflecting on these examples of economic contraction is how different the situation will be when the dominant economic powers experience these problems. While this will create some more general global conditions it will also dramatically reduce the capacity to project power through globalization. Consequently we can expect conditions in local bioregions and nations to increasingly reflect the local resources, economy and culture, and be less driven by remote and global forces. As always this will precipitate new threats but also opportunities.

The next section considers how these scenarios can be both depressing and empowering, and can help us direct our energy towards positive change effectively.

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C.  Depressing and Positive Scenarios
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/48/67/>
Another reaction to the scenarios by some participants on courses is that the Brown Tech scenario seems a depressing but realistic assessment of the situation in many affluent countries while the Green Tech scenario looks more utopian and unrealistic, but one that could be almost be “sold” as a desirable future by Green parties of western democracies.

The argument that the distributed power provided by resurgent rural economies will ameliorate the centralized and inequitable structures that lead to the Brown Tech world may be seen as a weak one, especially for people who are suspicious of the concept that fundamental energy and resources drive economic, social and political systems. Similarly the relative positive nature of Earth Steward compared with Lifeboat is partly predicated on the distributed rather than concentrated nature of resources and wealth (and of course the gift of a relatively benign climate).

We can better shape our responses to each of the scenarios if we recognize the constraining forces that are beyond our control.

It is possible to see some good and bad potentials, depending in part on our philosophical bent, in all four scenarios. Perhaps as an act of faith in human values and maturity, I believe we can better shape our responses to each of the scenarios if as individuals and as communities and nations we recognize the constraining forces that are beyond our control. We can then consider how basic human values and needs can be sustained without wasting resources on projects or objectives that may have little chance of altering the fundamental dynamics of our world.

Of course this reaction can be seen as negative, defeatist or even contributing to the realization of these undesirable scenarios. In the ad hoc internet community of Peak Oil activism that has sprung up the last few years, the divide between the “doomers” and the “optimists” has been a notable one. Since 2005 the worsening evidence on climate change has led to more of the experts in that field moving towards a “doomer” perspective on the climate front. Part of the process of moving beyond this simplistic and mostly counterproductive debate, is to see some of the positive potentials that exist in energy descent scenarios.

Permaculture activism has a long history of being informed by a negative view of the state of the world. But these perspectives drive an optimistic opportunity-based response.

Permaculture activism has a long history of being informed by a negative view of the state of the world. But these perspectives drive an optimistic opportunity-based response that can empower people to creative action and adaption in the face of adversity. The fact that permaculture activists privately and even publicly look forward to some aspects of these scenarios may be seen by some as naive or even immoral. On the other hand, an increasing number of people around the world find permaculture an empowering focus for ethical and practical action.

My recent experience from presenting the Energy Descent scenarios in Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Cuba, Mexico and Argentina on permaculture courses as well as other gatherings of sustainability professionals, is that they can be very empowering, although I recognize the risk that they still pose, in triggering denial or depression and paralysis.

The next section considers how different regions look likely to tend towards different scenarios.

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D.  Different Scenarios in Different Places
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/46/68/>
Australia and New Zealand provide examples of two very similar affluent countries in the South Pacific that may already be on very different trajectories and that reflect the dynamics of these scenarios. As the previous Prime Minister John Howard, proclaimed, Australia is one of the new energy superpowers. This claim is supported by the fact that Australia is the largest global exporter of coal, one of the largest exporters of gas with the seventh largest reserves, and has the largest reserves of uranium as well as many other minerals.

Australia exhibits the essential conditions for the emergence of the Brown Tech scenario. On the other hand climate change modeling suggests Australia is perhaps the most vulnerable of OECD countries, a vulnerability highlighted by the recent and continuing drought. These are the essential conditions for the emergence of Brown Tech. The “debate” about nuclear power initiated by the Australian government and the rush to build desalination plants and super-pipelines to address the water crisis are emblematic of this trend. The change of federal government to the Labor Party is likely to further concentrate power at the federal level and could lead to a more rapid abandonment of free market capitalism, further entrenching the Brown Tech scenario.

New Zealand looks like a strong candidate for Green Tech. New Zealand on the other hand has very little in the way of minable energy and resources, but, relative to its population, has extremely rich biophysical resources to support agriculture, forestry and renewable energies. The local impacts of climate change are predicted to be much less severe, allowing New Zealand to take advantage of these distributed rural resources. This looks like a strong candidate for Green Tech.

Without going into a detailed analysis of the emerging trends in the Australian and New Zealand economies and politics, it is sufficient to say Australia and New Zealand have been diverging for some time. This suggests that these underlying differences between the energy and resource bases of these two countries may have been contributing to the emerging differences at the political and even the social levels.

The next section looks at how planning for these scenarios occurs at different scales.

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E.  Stepped Energy Descent Pathways Linking the Scenarios
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/51/73/>
As previously mentioned, energy descent may not be a continuous gradual process. Instead it could be characterized by an initial crisis that sets the conditions for a new order that is stable for some time before another crisis leads to further descent. The growth of energy and resultant technological complexity over the last two hundred years has involved varying rates of change, plateaus and even regressions during wars and depressions, but energy descent is likely to be much more variable than energy ascent. This is consistent with our common sense understanding that growth is a more consistent process than decline.

Natural ecosystems tend to maintain homeostasis under stress through the allocation of stored resources. If the conditions continue to deteriorate, then further stress can fracture the homeostasis. If the stress involves a reduction in energy availability, the system may collapse. But total collapse and system disintegration is rare, at least in the short term. More typically a re-stabilization at a lower level of energy processing and organizational complexity occurs. The new homeostasis will typically be stable for some time before declining energy availability precipitates another crisis. This may also be a model for how human societies respond to the crisis of resource and energy decline. It also makes sense that natural disasters, or a crisis such as war, rarely continue for very long but they shape the new state that emerges in their aftermath. If crisis does persist at an intense level for years then psychosocial systems reorganize around the crisis as the new normality.

The following conceptual graph shows these two pathways from Hubbert’s Peak of Oil (and net energy production). The discontinuities are periods of extreme crisis, conflict and/or breakdown. Each scenario represents a homeostasis that tends to be self-maintaining until further stress precipitates a further unraveling.

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F.  Energy Descent Pathways
The red pathway is more extreme after continued growth leads to a precipitous drop through natural disasters, economic depression and/or war. Brown Tech emerges as the new world order allowing recovery and modest growth before further natural disasters/climate change and oil depletion precipitate another discontinuity leading to a Lifeboat world. The green pathway is less extreme with a lower peak and a gentler decline through the first discontinuity to the Green Tech scenario while the descent to Earth Steward is even more continuous driven by on-going depletion and decay of infrastructure from the Hubbert’s Peak and Green Tech worlds.

The chart also shows the relative levels of net energy availability per capita. This is much more speculative than the general concept of the stepwise descent or the relationships between the scenarios, because it depends on many variables. I’ve shown the Brown Tech and Lifeboat scenarios as processing more net energy per capita than the Green Tech and Earth Steward scenarios respectively. A range of factors contribute to this speculative maths, and hide some harsh realities. Depending on how net energy is understood and evaluated, a higher total energy base in Brown Tech may maintain greater organizational and technological complexity but Green Tech may be more energetically efficient at providing real human services.

A harsher discontinuity leading to Brown Tech may produce a higher death rate in the more urbanized populations while more severe controls on births may further reduce populations. The numbers of people the energy base needs to support strongly affects the per capita level so a higher per capita figure may reflect lower birth rates and/or higher death rates rather than a more energy rich society. Alternatively the lower death rate during the gentler discontinuity leading to Green Tech combined with a higher birth rate to tap the more distributed rural resources of the Green Tech world may result in overall higher populations. Although net energy per capita is lower, life may on average be better than in the Brown Tech scenario.

Similarly in the second discontinuity crisis, the death rate increases but more so in the red pathway to the Lifeboat. The lack of community capacity in the midst of massive material salvage opportunities, combine with the lower population, to deliver relatively high net energy per capita even though life is very harsh. The more abundant distributed renewable resources of the Earth Steward scenario leads to a higher birth rate (to tap those resources). Combined with the lower death rate, the higher overall population gives a very low net energy per capita. Efficient communitarian economies and a spiritual rather than material culture may make for higher wellbeing despite limited resources per person.

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G.  Nested Scenarios
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/34/29/>
Yet another way to consider these scenarios is as all emerging simultaneously one nested within the other. The following figure shows the scenarios nested with their associated organizational and energetic scale. This suggests that the four organizational levels represented by the scenarios from the household to the national will all be transformed as global systems weaken and contract but none will fail completely. In a sense this is implicit in each scenario in any case and resolves the difficulty in imagining the Earth Steward and Lifeboat scenarios with a complete absence of city and national level power structures even if their functions and influence are very weak or attenuated away from the centers of power.

In explaining this on the afore mentioned course in Mexico, I suggested that in the Earth Steward and Lifeboat scenarios there could still be a government in Mexico city issuing edicts, but that no one, outside the much reduced city, would hear or take any notice. Like the reaction to my insurance example, my Mexican students laughed and suggested that no one took any notice of the government in Mexico now. This humorous response actually reflects an ongoing process of fragmentation in Mexico where autonomous movements in some regions and drug lords in others already rival the central and state governments in the provision of security, extraction of taxes and provision of services.

It is natural for national governments and large corporations to implement the systems that characterize the Brown Tech scenario. The other reason for considering that aspects of all scenarios will simultaneously emerge in all regions is the structural commitment of each level of governance to systems that can work at their respective levels. It is natural for national governments and large corporations to implement the systems that characterize the Brown Tech scenario because these systems are commensurate with the organizational scale in which they work. Similarly it is natural for city and bioregional (state) governments to implement the somewhat more distributed, diverse and smaller scale systems of the Green Tech scenario. Middle sized business using regional resources and serving regional markets will naturally work to reinforce this scenario.

[Energy Descent Scenarios nested by scale of related system]

 Any planning for Lifeboats is mostly a private activity of people who lack total faith in the stability of our economy and society Following this logic we can see smaller forms of organization (small business and local government) could manage many of the strategies applicable to the Earth Steward scenario while the household or closed community is the natural level of organization to contemplate the Lifeboat scenario. This nested hierarchy of scenarios explains why any planning for Lifeboats is mostly a private activity of people who lack total faith in the stability of our economy and society. Similarly many community activists work towards strategies that level the playing field, develop communitarian cultures and would be potent in an Earth Steward world, just as earnest middle level managers and planners work towards the Green Tech world as the best progressive evolution from what we have. Many of the elite “movers and shakers”, often from long established wealthy families in affluent countries, who move between the upper levels of corporations, governments and global governance organizations, believe the Brown Tech world is the hard reality that must be worked with (although this can hardly be acknowledged publicly).

I think this is one of the most insightful and empowering ways to think about these scenarios because it helps us understand the apparent contradictions between different perspectives and motivations of different groups in society and even contradiction within our own thoughts and behaviors. For example, it is common for people to have private thoughts about the Lifeboats or perhaps Earth Steward futures, while most of people’s public behavior as workers and consumers reinforce Brown Tech or perhaps Green Tech. The private thoughts are often internally critiqued as anti-social or at least naïve, while the public actions are often internally critiqued as driven by powerful outside forces. This nested model can help us better integrate these different aspects of ourselves.

Section VIII – The assumptions of current mainstream sustainability
efforts and  their relevance within the four Energy Descent Scenarios.
  

A.  Relevance of Mainstream Sustainability to Energy Descent
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/47/69/>
Mainstream approaches to sustainability tend to assume stability if not expansion in the energy flows available to humanity even if there are major transitions in the nature of the energy sources. Consequently, continuity of many of the structures underpinning current social and economic systems is assumed.

For example, modern affluent urban life in a society dominated by service economies may be transformed by revolutions in efficiency but will remain the norm for future sustainable society. Further, it is widely assumed that food production and management of biological resources to provide for human needs will remain a minor part of future economies, and that geopolitical stability will allow globalised trade and other global governance regimes to become increasingly effective as instruments to establish sustainable systems.

These are not so different from the business as usual assumptions about constant growth, but they require not only herculean efforts to build a new energy infrastructure before energy becomes too expensive and unreliable, but also massively reducing our greenhouse gas emissions today, if not yesterday.

There is also the small problem of reforming the monetary system away from dependence on perpetual growth without inducing financial collapse. I say “small problem” with irony of course because growth in economic activity is essential to support the debt based currency which is the very foundation of our money and banking system stretching back to the beginnings of capitalism and its economic precursors.

For these reasons I feel the Techno Stability long-term future has even less prospects than the default future of Techno explosion. Maybe this also helps explain the deep resistance and antagonism in the centers of political and economic power to questioning of the logic of growth. Whether it comes from an ecological or sociological perspective questioning economic growth threatens the very basis of our economic system. The lip service to environmental sustainability – so long as it can maintain essential growth – reflects this understanding.

Consequently more idealistic notions of steady state green economics are automatically rejected as throwing the “baby out with the bathwater”. While I have been as critical of the concept of continuous economic growth as most environmentalists and scientists, I also recognize that attempts to avoid the ecological precipice by reducing economic growth could bring down the whole system just as Gorbachev’s Glasnost contributed to the unraveling of the Soviet system. The economic hard liners could be right. There is no way to stop the train of global industrial capitalism (other than by crashing).

[Relevance of Mainstream Sustainability to Energy Descent Scenarios]

Despite these doubts about the logic behind many mainstream approaches to sustainability, they have contributed greatly in spreading new environmental thinking. For example the Natural Step concept64aims to protect biophysical systems by creating closed loop industrial manufacturing through continual improvements in performance. It has been very influential in Scandinavia and has been adopted by some of the more progressive manufacturing corporations. Rapidly rising costs of energy and commodities will reinforce many of the Natural Step strategies but these will also increase the costs of adopting some of the more elaborate environmental technologies that have been used to ensure no contamination of natural or human environments.

Natural Step might work to some degree in the Green Tech world but would seem futile in the Brown Tech, technically and organizationally impractical in the Earth Steward, and meaningless in the Lifeboat. The vast majority of sustainability concepts and strategies to reduce ecological footprint and greenhouse gas emissions could be similarly analyzed as having uncertain relevance at best to energy descent scenarios.

In general, fundamental principles will have more utility than specific strategies and technologies The following table quantifies my view that mainstream approaches to sustainability have quite low relevance to energy descent scenarios. Low scores do not mean that these ideas will completely disappear but that they will tend to shift from their current status as the innovative cutting edge of the economy to reflecting a past era – rather than their objective of becoming the norm within a sustainable society. The table also shows that in general, fundamental principles will have more utility than specific strategies and technologies that are currently being applied as good examples of these concepts.

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B.  Examples of  Relevanced Principles

_1.  Renewable Energy Sources
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/49/70/>
A good example of likely greater relevance of environmental principles when compared with specific strategies and technologies can be seen in relation to future energy sources. In fossil fuelled global industrial systems, energy supply has been generally concentrated in a few big powerful sources. A common principle in sustainability thinking is that a greater diversity of smaller and more distributed power sources will replace current fossil fuel, large hydro and nuclear sources.

The current roll out of wind power and to a lesser extent solar electric are technologies that illustrate this general principle and are widely recognized as central to the Techno Stability future. But energy descent may see growth in these particular energy sources slow or fail while older distributed sources such as wood and small scale hydro could grow rapidly. In a rapidly changing world appropriate design principles provide more guidance than specific strategies and technologies.

_2.  Biodiversity in Natural Resource Management
In the field of natural resource management the general principle of valuing biodiversity is likely to persist to some degree, at least in the Green Tech world, but the examples of vegetation management exclusively focused on local indigenous species, which are common today, will seem very dated as reflecting a world of rising wealth and constant climate.

Arguably, the principle of valuing biodiversity may even grow in strength as the current economic drivers favoring monoculture in agriculture and forestry weaken and are overtaken by viral forms of polyculture better able to use soil and water resources without inputs, and better able to serve mixed local markets. This process will allow the principle of valuing biodiversity to spread from the relative “cultural ghetto” of conservation management in affluent countries, to a more powerful expression of the permaculture version of the principle “Use and Value Diversity”. This very change may be experienced by those wedded to the current dominant views within the field of Conservation Biology as heresy to be resisted.

Energy descent demands that we consider more radical approaches to achieving environmental and social objectives.

[Relevance of Permaculture to Energy Descent Scenarios]

This is just one example of how energy descent scenarios will challenge some cherished beliefs within the environmental movement, while making others natural and obvious. Energy descent demands that we consider more radical approaches to achieving environmental and social objectives.
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_3.  Permaculture Design Principles
Permaculture as an environmental design concept with a long and evolving lineage of action around the world provides one such framework for developing new and reinforcing existing strategies that should be adaptive in energy descent scenarios.

In Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, I explain the importance of design principles as the basis for generating new strategies and techniques in a world of change and uncertainty. The following table shows how permaculture, especially when it is understood through its design principles more so than currently applied strategies, has a closer fit with energy descent scenarios than many other sustainability concepts that have achieved more mainstream acceptance in affluent counties. While the numerical scores compared with those for “Mainstream Sustainability” can be taken with a grain of salt, the broad thrust is clear.

This table may reflect a claim of permaculture’s central relevance to energy descent, but it also suggests an equal challenge to permaculture educators, activists and designers to more effectively use design principles to identify strategies, techniques and working models that are tuned to emerging rather than past conditions.

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_4.  Meta-scenarios of Permaculture
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/50/71/>
Each scenario presents quite different opportunities and challenges including ethical dilemmas for permaculture and related environmental and social activists. The analysis of the relevance of permaculture to the energy descent scenarios makes it possible to imagine meta-scenarios of how permaculture and related activism might influence society in ways different from today. Clearly these meta-scenarios are even more speculative than the energy descent scenarios, but provide a stimulus, especially for young people, to imagine oneself in the
energy descent future.

I imagine that permaculture – by principle and model, if not in name – will become the dominant paradigm in the Earth Steward scenario. I imagine that permaculture – by principle and model, if not in name – will become the dominant paradigm in the Earth Steward scenario. Those with a long track record of achievement will become the natural leaders within new emergent power structures, primarily at the local level, that will be more effective than higher levels of governance and organization. The ethical and design challenges will be those associated with leadership and power. Because “power” at this (and all levels) will be very weak, it will be more characterized by inspiration and wise council than the capacity to make binding decisions. Transparent and collaborative leadership that draws from the whole community and accepts slow evolutionary change and avoids the imposition of ideology is likely to be most effective in conserving resources and continuing to build a nature based culture.

•  In Lifeboats the focus of permaculturists is on provision of basic needs first and maintenance of seed and skills. Permaculture is also highly relevant to survival in the Lifeboat scenario. The focus on provision of basic needs first and maintenance of seed and other genetic resources and skills to salvage and ‘make do’ will all be essential. Those with considerable knowledge, skills and ability to provide for others, as well as having good communication and organization skills in difficult conditions, are likely to become natural leaders of lifeboat households and communities. The ethical and design challenges are less those of broader and collaborative leadership and more those represented by having to decide who to let into the lifeboat without threatening the survival of those already on board. The ability to integrate and defend the group without sentimentality while providing for the community and maintaining knowledge critical to long-term cultural survival, is the task of those able to think beyond everyday survival.

•  In Green Tech, the dominant paradigm is still focused in the economic and technological domains rather than the ecological. In the Green Tech scenario “sustainability” has become the dominant paradigm of more localized city and bioregional governance structures. Permaculture and related concepts have high status and receive resources from government and businesses to help further develop local food production and community economies that can buffer against further energy and ecological crises. For the permaculture activist this is a more familiar condition where there is ongoing, even rapid growth in influence but where the dominant paradigm is still focused in the economic and technological domains rather than the ecological domain as the source of wealth and meaning.

The primary ethical dilemma is that of comfortable co-option by the new sustainability elites, in the context of their heroic successes in avoiding the worst impacts of energy descent. Should permaculture activists quietly accept the status and resources that flow from these sustainability elites and focus on the slow change of society through practical works or should they critique the new elite for not accepting that energy descent will precipitate further crises unless we localize and simplify our economies further? The ability to lead by example and provide clear and persuasive articulation of values and goals beyond the prevailing mainstream lead to progressively more influence as the ongoing realities of energy descent unfold.

•  In the Brown Tech scenario the challenges for permaculture activists are somewhat analogous to those working in some poorer countries today. In the Brown Tech scenario, permaculture remains marginal to the mainstream, although it provides hope and some solutions for the increasing numbers of disenfranchised and alienated who reject, or are rejected, by the systems controlled by powerful central governments. The challenges for permaculture activists are somewhat analogous to those working in some poorer countries today; trying to assist the disadvantaged with simple technologies and solutions while avoiding threats from repressive central power.

Too much structure, organization and prominence could see such activism ruthlessly crushed as a threat to the system. Anarchistic and invisible modes of activism are likely to be more effective. Of course there are also those attempting to use ethical and design principles to reform the system from within (with all the attendant contradictions). Quiet and persistent collaboration between these two levels of activism could see a graceful descent to Earth Stewardship while failure could lead to the Lifeboat as the last option for the salvage of civilization.

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C.  Conclusion
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/37/45/>
This exploration of energy descent scenarios has been an organic one which began with a didactic intention to highlight how large scale energetic and environmental factors shape history more than ideologies and the heroic actions of individuals. But my purpose was to empower those committed to ecological values and social justice to be effective in their quest to create the world we want, rather than just resist the world we don’t want. Finally it has become about telling a story that can help bring that world to life, an apparent contradiction to the premise I began with. Although the primary lesson about the large scale forces that control the course of history may be true for the long periods of stability, during periods of ecological and cultural chaos, small groups of people have been instrumental in those transitions.

In nature, disturbance events (such as fire, flood or drought) or eruptive disturbances from within an ecosystem, such as insect plagues or fungal disease, are often understood as examples of system dysfunction. Alternatively they can be understood as either initiating another succession cycle that brings renewed life or a novel force that deflects the ecosystem in different directions determined by the chance arrival of new species or other factors. The ecosystems that emerge from these periods of disturbance can be quite different from those that preceded them and these changes can be characterised from a systems ecology perspective as either degradation of biophysical resources and productivity, and/or ones involving new evolutionary pathways. The lesson from nature is that evolution of life works in strange ways that cannot be fully predicted.

The historian William Irwin Thompson’s67 interpretation of creation of the world’s “first university” by Pythagoras suggests similar processes at work when civilization finds itself in a cultural dead end or design cul de sac. Pythagoras had been an initiate of the Egyptian mystery schools that were part of a decaying theocracy in the 6th century BC. Pythagoras and his followers secularized some of the hidden and arcane knowledge but his school in Calabria was burnt to the ground in some local political dispute. Pythagoras died a broken man but his followers, the Pythagoreans fled to Greece where they found fertile social conditions for their ideas and values. This was the beginning of the flowering of classical Grecian culture that we recognize as the origins of western civilization. In a similar story Thompson describes how the penniless monks of Lindisfarne converted the British Isles to Christianity in the 6thcentury AD. They had no power but their spiritual message shaped to reflect the Celtic traditions, was transformative in a country in the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman empire and where no one any longer knew the function of Stonehenge. For a couple of generations a form of free anarchic Christianity provided spiritual meaning, but the monastery was burnt to the ground by the Vikings.

Like Pythagoras and the monks of Lindisfarne we live in a world of collapsing culture where we have to choose what is worthwhile at this great turning point in history. We are faced with the mixed pieces of the myriad of broken traditional cultures of the world and the novel and shining bits of unraveling industrial modernity. All of this will end in the dustbin of history. Our task is to choose which pieces of these jigsaw puzzles will be useful in creating an energy descent culture, the boundaries, features and colors of which, we can scarcely imagine. What is worth saving? What are the limits of our capacity? We have little time to decide and act. We must commit to concrete actions and projects. We must stake our claim, not for ourselves but for the future. In committing to our task we should remember the stories of Pythagoras and the monks of Lindisfarne. It is not the project but the living process that will be the measure of our actions.

Let us act as if we are part of nature’s striving for the next evolutionary way to creatively respond to the recurring cycles of energy ascent and descent that characterize human history and the more ancient history of Gaia, the living planet. Imagine that our descendants and our ancestors are watching us.

End of article: (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 4 of 4)

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Our Future, Part 3 of 4

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/ Our Future, Parts 1-4)

Section V considers the interaction of peak oil and climate change to consider four distinct energy descent scenarios.

Descent scenarios 

A.  Scenario Planning
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/26/40/>
The systems approach to the energy descent future can be taken further by using a scenario planning model that combines two fundamental, and largely independent variables that generate four scenarios, one for each of the quadrants of a conceptual graph. Scenarios in this context are plausible and internally consistent stories about the future that help organizations and individuals to achieve a broad and open-ended adaptability to inherent unpredictability.

In classic corporate scenario planning the two variables might be the growth rate in the wider economy and the regulatory framework that constrains or encourages business. Climate Change and Oil Production Decline are the variables I use as the primary drivers in creating the four energy descent scenarios because I believe these are the strongest forces shaping human destiny over the 21st century and beyond. Consequently they are central to consideration of the energy transition across nations and cultures and in both urban and rural environments.

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B.  Interaction of Peak Oil and Climate Change
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/42/52/>
Although both variables are caused by collective human behaviour and potentially can be ameliorated by human behaviour, they arise from geological and climatic limits beyond human control. The debate over amelioration vs adaption to climate change is often portrayed as a potent moral choice between burning coal and accepting a changed world, or a shift to renewable energy to save nature. The emerging evidence suggests that this choice was one that humanity collectively fudged in the 1980’s.

Similarly the actions necessary to make an orderly transition from oil to other energy sources has been assessed as taking at least two decades. Again society had the evidence from the peaking of US oil production in 1970 but with the return of cheap oil in the 1980’s the energy problem appeared to have simply gone away due to “better” economic policies. Now climate change is accelerating and peak oil is upon us.

As well as having to adapt to both of these new realities, we also grapple with the interactions both positive and negative. The accelerating shift to increased dependence on natural gas is often portrayed as a positive reduction in carbon intensity but this is simply accelerating the depletion of our children’s remaining inheritance of high quality transport fuel. Similarly projects developing tar sands and other low-grade sources of oil massively increase greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps more surprising to some, the huge push in the US and Europe to make biofuels from corn and oil seed crops is increasing land degradation, resource consumption and contributing to driving up the cost of grains and oil seeds. Many authorities are a warning of global famine due to climate and energy crisis factors (including biofuels) coming together. The low ERoEI of biofuels, especially corn-based ethanol, suggest biofuels may be a way to deplete natural gas while degrading agricultural land and starving the world’s poor.

[Chart showing Average Per Capita Energy consumption going forward from Peak Oil]

On the other hand, radical reductions in consumption due to transformative lifestyle change, creative reuse of wastes generated by industrial and consumer systems, and a shift to truly productive work within revitalised home and community economies, show how we can both build local resilience and capacity to adapt to the destructive change at the same time as we make the greatest contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel depletion rates. While this strategy would be most productive and effective in the most affluent countries, it has increasing relevance world-wide.

The reluctance to seriously consider positive reductions in consumption in public debate about climate solutions could be swept away by the unfolding global energy and food crisis. Developing some of the harder and longer term ecological and modest technological adaption’s to ongoing and relentless energy descent will take decades to have widespread impacts (as do all high energy, high-tech centralized approaches) but radical and rapid human behavioral change is possible and even likely (given the right psycho-social conditions). The emerging energy and economic crisis will make these reductions a reality with or without a planned and creative response.

The alternate scenarios I have constructed provide more detail about how the Energy Descent future might evolve over the next few decades rather than the hundreds of the years of the long-term scenarios. As well as combining the effects of slow or rapid oil production decline, and slow or rapid global warming, they cover a very broad spectrum of human possibilities that can be recognized by various symptoms and signs in different places in the world today. They are all energy descent scenarios in that they depict possible futures with progressively declining net energy. This must be understood against the historical background in which energy use per capita globally has been on a bumpy plateau for thirty years after the previous thirty years of rapid growth per capita from the end of World War II. The graph below from the previously mentioned study suggests per worldwide capita energy use may continue to rise to about 1.7 tons of oil equivalent (toe) by 2020 before falling to 0.9 toe by 2050.

However when we use net energy ratios to convert these undifferentiated joules of energy, I believe that we are already into a global decline in net energy per person and will soon be into absolute global net energy decline.

C.  The Four Energy Descent and Climate Scenarios
Four Energy Descent scenarios are considered, each emerging from a combination of either fast of slow oil decline and either mild or severe climate change over the next 10-30 years:
1.  Brown Tech: (slow oil decline, fast climate change)
2.  Green Tech: (slow oil decline, slow climate change)
3.  Earth Steward: (fast oil decline, slow climate change)
4.  Lifeboats: (fast oil decline , fast climate change)

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D.  The Four Global Climate Change & Energy Descent Scenarios
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/27/46/>
While the characterization of the four scenarios is difficult and inevitably speculative, they do provide a framework for considering how Peak Oil and Climate Change could interact to reshape global and local energy resources, settlement patterns, economy and governance. They also provide some insight into what could be effective responses for aware activists to secure their own and family’s future while contributing to society in a positive way. Those responses might include potentially effective policies that could be adopted by relevant forms of government that might be functional in each of these scenarios.
Finally they clarify the relevance of permaculture principles in a world of energy descent and focus our attention on the strengths and weaknesses of various strategies in adapting to the differing scenarios.
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Section VI considers the first scenario, Brown Tech.

1.  Brown Tech: Top Down Constriction
(Slow energy decline rates, severe climate change symptoms)
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/28/48/>
The Brown Tech world is one in which the production of oil declines after a peak 2005-2010 at about 2% per annum and the subsequent peak and decline of natural gas is also relatively gentle, but the severity of global warming symptoms is at the extreme end of current mainstream scientific predictions. In this scenario strong, even aggressive, national policies and actions prevail to address both the threats and the opportunities from energy peak and climatic change. The political system could be described as Corporatist or Fascist (which Mussolini described as a merger of state and corporate power).

The tendency in existing systems for massive centralized investment by corporations and governments, give priority to getting more energy out of lower grade non-renewable resources (eg. tar sands, coal and uranium) and biofuels from industrial agriculture and forestry. “Breakthrough” technologies provide the constant promise of a better future but much of the investment in energy harvesting accelerates global warming, at least in the short term.

At the same time the cost of defending or replacing urban infrastructure threatened by storms and future sea level rise consumes more resources, while droughts and chaotic seasonal changes reduce food production from broadacre and small scale agriculture.

Flows of energy from more expensive sources such as tar sands, deep ocean oil, gas to liquids and coal to liquids slow the decline in fuels from crude oil. This transition requires a huge mobilization of the technical and managerial capacity held mostly by global corporations, along with the financial, legal and military security that only sovereign governments can provide. This resource nationalism by government  breaks down free trade and the faith in international markets that underpins the global economy.

By 2007, we had already seen the shift from a buyers to a sellers market for energy cascading through all commodities markets and reshaping geopolitical relations. The profits from both non-renewable resources and large scale industrial agriculture rise on the back of high commodity prices, reversing many of the economic patterns and trends of recent decades. The wealth of farmers and miners as well as corporations and nations in control of these resources increases even as depletion reduces the flows of resources and climate change causes chaos in farming and land management.

The demand for biofuels in affluent countries reduces world food stocks and raises prices to levels that result in famine and chaos in many poor countries unable to sustain subsidies for staple food. In other countries, food riots by the poor force government to pay for escalating subsidies. The wealth left over for education, health etc. collapses. Wars to secure fuel and food increase and refocus public attention on external threats. In richer countries, consumer led economic growth falters or is actively shut down by government policies to focus limited resources on food, fuel and climate security. Some type of global economic depression unfolds from the combined effects of high energy and food prices, superpower contest, resource nationalism and the fragility of the financial system.

Rapid onset of climate change also tends to support centralized nationalist systems for several reasons. First the consequences of chaotic weather, food supply problems, radical land use change and abandonment of marginal land, leads to demands for strong government action to protect people from high food and fuel costs, natural disasters, the consequences of strong action by other nations, and mass migration by displaced people. Rates of urbanization increase as climate change impacts and withdrawal of government supported services in more remote rural regions accelerates.

A decline of the middle class already evident in many western countries accelerates leading to discontent and suppression by government including internment camps either for migrants or homeless people. Strong approaches to population control, even forced sterilization are introduced in some countries.

A series of short but intense international conflicts confirm major shifts in global power balances while accelerating resource depletion. Control of non-renewable fossil fuel and mineral resources remains critical, while the (relative) importance of distributed renewable wealth from agriculture and forestry continues to decline as the climate deteriorates especially in my home country of Australia where greater severity of droughts hit hard. With food supply under threat, fossil fuels and other resources are redirected from personal mobility and consumption to intensive factory farming in greenhouses and other controlled environments, mostly clustered around urban centers and managed by agribusiness corporations.

Desalination and other high energy ways to maintain water supply systems are built at huge cost and further increase demand for energy. The threat of sea level rises leads to large scale urban redevelopment driven by strong government policies. Some very bold initiatives for energy efficient medium density urban development and public transport infrastructure are funded. A key characteristic of this scenario is the sense of divide between the reducing numbers of “haves” dependent on a job in the “system” and the relatively lawless, loose but perhaps communitarian “have nots” with their highly flexible and nomadic subcultures living from the wastes of the “system” and the wilds of nature. Security of the “haves” is a constant issue with gated communities, and apartheid style townships and barrios for the “have nots”. While economic depression and reduction in consumption slow greenhouse gas emissions, the rapid expansion of strategic investment by government in new energy and urban infrastructure more than replaces the reduced private consumption, leading to a positive feedback loop that accelerates global warming.
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[Photo: Left half of picture sprawling slums of  The Poor. Right half (beyond wall) with swimming pool terraced apartments, community pool and tennis courts of The Rich. Many wealthy neighborhoods in Brazil are gated and heavily secured to keep out the poor.  In many cases wealth and absolute poverty are only separated by a thin division as seen in the photograph above.

Pasted from <http://www.doctorhousingbubble.com/brazilian-style-living-in-southern-california-%E2%80%93-mls-inventory-creeping-up-section-8-vouchers-for-granite-countertops-and-california-budget-going-mayan-in-2012/>]

While the elites continue to be driven by a commitment to super rationalist beliefs, a sense of hollowness and lack of purpose characterizes the shrinking middle class, while fundamentalist religions and cults plays a stronger role in the lives of the working and unemployed classes partly through genuine reactions to the failures of modern humanism and partly manipulated by the elites to deflect anger and disenchantment. The Brown Tech scenario could be dominant and even more or less socially stable for many decades until ongoing climatic breakdown and reduced net energy return drive a shift to the Lifeboats scenario.

Top down constriction” summaries the essence of this scenario in that national power constricts consumption and focuses resources to maintain the nation state, in the face of deteriorating climate and reduced energy and food supply.
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2.  Green Tech: Distributed Powerdown
(
Slow energy decline rates, mild climate change symptoms)
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/29/49/>
The Green Tech scenario is the most benign, in that adverse climate changes are at the low end of projections. Oil and gas production declines slowly as in the Brown Tech future, so the sense of chaos and crisis is more muted without major economic collapse or conflict. This allows resources to flow to a greater diversity of responses at the global, national, city, community and personal level. In some already densely populated poor countries, conditions worsen.

However higher commodity prices allows some poorer producer economies to escape their debt cycle while programs to empower women result in rapid reduction in the birth rate. The gradual reduction in capacity of countries to project power globally due to rising energy costs, increases national security and redirection of resources away from defense and resource capture to resource conservation and technological innovation. The consolidation of the global communication systems maintains global outlooks and understandings if not global economics.

As in the Brown Tech scenario, electrification is a key element in the energy transition but the renewable energy sources of wind, biomass, solar, hydro, tidal, wave etc. grow rapidly developing a more diverse and distributed mix. The relatively benign climate allows a resurgence of rural and regional economies on the back of sustained and growing prices for all natural commodities including feedstock for biofuels.

The principles behind organic agriculture and ecological management and resource allocation become the norm in many farming systems, helping to stabilize agriculture challenged by increasing cost of energy inputs and (albeit mild) climate change.

The accelerating conflict between biofuels and food is stabilized if not resolved by government subsidies to support food supply from agriculture, with biofuels coming mainly from forestry wastes. In many regions with prime agricultural land and small populations, wealthy farmers and agribusiness corporations are the main beneficiaries employing both high technology and cheap labor from migrant workers. In some regions, with poorer and steeper land and more diversified land ownership, smaller scale polyculture systems designed using permaculture principles spread wealth more evenly through local communities.

Continuous contraction affects large sections of the economy but the energy, resource and agriculture sectors along with recycling and retrofit industries experience rapid growth based on high commodity prices that are sustained despite economic recession in the main consuming economies. In some affluent countries, reform of monetary systems lowers the scale of financial collapses and refocuses capital on productive and socially useful innovation and investment.

Information technology continues to yield gains in energy and resource management; from real time pricing and self-healing electrical grids, to internet based ride sharing systems and telecommuting. Conservation yields the greatest gains with major public policies to change personal and organizational behavior. In other countries, especially the USA, the apparent opportunities for continued economic growth, combine with political policies to support a low carbon economy, leading to a renewable energy investment bubble followed by a severe recession.

State and city governments responsible for providing services are able to lead much of the restructuring to more compact cities and towns with increasing public transport infrastructure. Growth in large cities (especially in coastal lowlands) is reversed by public policies ahead of the worst effects of energy cost and global warming, while regional cities, towns and villages see modest growth on a compact urban model that preserves prime agricultural land and develops mixed use neighborhoods with more local work and radically less commuting.

The placing together of many of the more optimistic aspects of energy descent may seem artificial, but there are reasons to believe that the Green Tech scenario will tend towards a more egalitarian structure with the relative shift of power from control of oil wells and mines to control of the productivity of nature via traditional land uses such as agriculture and forestry and more novel renewable technologies.

The inherently distributed nature of these resources will lead to more distributed economic and political power at the level of cities, their hinterlands and organizations focused at this scale. For example, successful large scale farmers who have reduced their dependence of energy intensive inputs through permaculture strategies and organic methods may find new profits in more localized markets with prices sustained by policies that encourage regional self reliance. Any profits beyond farming are likely to be invested into local energy systems that generate more employment and further reduce economic dependence on central governments and large corporations. It is possible that these same processes could lead to highly inequitable, even feudal systems. However the universal focus on more sustainable production and reduced consumption that is not forced by remote and arbitrary central power, has the tendency to foster more egalitarian responses than in the Brown Tech scenario.

The substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions that result from this scenario keep climate change impacts to a minimum, thus stabilizing and reinforcing the scenario’s basic characteristics for at least several decades.

The success in radically reducing consumption of resources while sustaining modest growth in some local economies combined with stabilization of the climate, encourages a new “sustainability” elite to consider further changes to consolidate these achievements in the face of ongoing net energy decline. The worse excesses of consumer capitalism are controlled by restriction and reforms of advertising and other dysfunctional forces.

Civic culture strengthens where further transition towards a non-materialistic society combines with the maturation of feminism and environmentalism, and a resurgence in indigenous and traditional cultural values. These trends stabilize the accelerating loss of faith in secular humanism allowing the evolution of more spiritual “cultures of place”. Over time an evolution toward the Earth Steward scenario seems an obvious and natural response to the inexorable decline of non-renewable resources. “Distributed Powerdown” summarizes this scenario by emphasizing both the distributed nature of resources and power, and the planned contraction involved.

At their extremes the Green Tech and Brown Tech scenarios also describe many of the elements that could be expected in the Techno Stability Long Term Scenario where new energy sources manage to replace fossil fuels without the stresses that lead to system wide contraction. The current levels of ecological, economic and socio-political stress are the indirect indicators that we are entering the energy descent scenarios rather than simply a transition from energetic growth to stability. Relative insulation from those stresses and the persistence of faith in the monetary accounting “house of cards” by the upper middle class (if not the global elites) continues the confusion. The lack of understanding of net energy accounting and disagreement amongst the experts on appropriate methods, combined with political pressures from the unfolding crisis lead to energetic descent being mistaken for “business as usual”.

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3.  Earth Steward: Bottom Up Rebuild
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Rapid energy decline rates, mild climate change symptoms)
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/30/50/>
In this scenario the decline in oil production after a peak in total liquids production before 2010 is at the extreme end of authoritative predictions (about 10%) and is followed by an even faster decline in gas production plus a simultaneous peak in coal production. The shock to the world’s fragile financial systems is overwhelming, resulting in severe economic depression and perhaps some further short, sharp resource wars.

This economic collapse and these political stresses, more than the actual shortage of resources, prevents the development of more expensive and large scale non-renewable resources that characterize the Brown Tech scenario or the renewable resources and infrastructure of the Green Tech. International and national communications networks break down.

Electricity grids become non-functional as cost and availability of fuels and spare parts reduce production and lack of paying businesses and customers reduces revenues. International tensions remain but capacity of stronger countries to use military force is constrained by unreliable energy and parts supplies and the strong evidence that war uses more resources than it captures. Global warming is slowed dramatically and reversed by the collapse of the global consumer economy and absence of large scale investment in new energy infrastructure.

There is a radical reduction in mass mobility of both people and goods. The food supply chain is severely affected both on farms and through the distribution system. Energy intensive large scale farming supplying central marketing chains is the worst affected leading to abandonment of even highly productive land. Shortages lead to rationing, black markets, and riots for food and energy.

Increases in crime, malnutrition and disease lead to a rising death rate accelerated in some countries by epidemics and pandemics that have a major impact on social and economic capacity. The collapse in the tax base available to national and state governments reduces their power and even city level restructuring of infrastructure is difficult, but local government retains some degree of effective services, decision making and possibly democracy.

Collapse of larger businesses and the difficulties in maintaining urban infrastructure leads to a hollowing out of the cities. Loss of jobs and houses leads to migration of people out of cities to smaller towns, villages and farms with more robust local economies able to take advantage of the influx of labor. Impacts and demands on local soil, water and forest resources increases, to severe levels in many poor countries as people move out of the cities to harvest fuel, wildlife and restart food production. In long affluent countries, the underuse of local biological resources in the late 20th century provides some buffer against these impacts.

Large numbers of homeless exurbanites form a new underclass lacking even the skills of poverty.

Large numbers of homeless ex-urbanites form a new underclass lacking even the skills of poverty. They provide basic labour in exchange for food and accommodation on farms needing the labour. Surviving structures of power may adapt to impose a more feudal structure based on concentrated control of productive farms and forests and built assets in large farming estates.

Organic and small farmers, close to markets and able to make use of labour and animal power, thrive (to the extent security allows) in a context of relatively benign and slow climate change. An explosion of home businesses based on building and equipment retrofit, maintenance and salvage starts to build a diversified economy. Further afield biofuels from crop waste allow farmers to continue to use machinery while wood and charcoal gasification based on regrowth forest resources near settlements and towns provide an increasing proportion of limited transport fuel. This small business growth in turn provides a new tax base for some form of effective local government. In some places new bioregional governments institute land reform and debt cancellation following collapse of financial institutions and central banks, allowing people to stay on their properties.

Suburban landscapes around smaller cities and regional towns with greater social capital are transformed with a booming and relatively egalitarian society sustained by bio-intensive/permaculture farming and retrofitting and reuse supported by resources from both the immediate rural hinterland and inner urban salvage.

This ruralization of suburban landscape to produce food on all available open space, private and public provides most of the fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy and small livestock products. Local currencies, food, car and fuel co-ops, community supported agriculture all grow rapidly. Informal and household economies provide an increasing proportion of basic needs as corporate and government systems fail to deliver.

Around the larger cities especially in countries where social capital and community capacity is severely eroded, most of these new developments are in gated communities providing the basic needs and security of their residents with trade outside the community being more difficult or dangerous. Outside the gated communities salvage, fuel harvesting and animal husbandry are the main economic activities with trade controlled by gangs and local warlords.

While the impacts on people and local environments of this scenario are severe there is also a cultural and spiritual revolution as people are released from the rat race of addictive behaviours. While the impacts on people and local environments of this scenario are severe, in previously affluent countries at least, there is also a cultural and spiritual revolution as people are released from the rat race of addictive behaviors and begin to experience the gift of resurgent community and the simple abundance of nature to provide for basic needs.

The biggest difference from the Green and Brown Tech scenarios is that the rebuilding and stabilization is no longer based on dreams of sustainability or restoring the old system. Instead people accept that each generation will have to face the challenges of further ongoing simplification and localization of society as the fossil resource base continues to decline. This simplification in the material domain is seen as the opportunity for growth in the spiritual domain. There is a resurgence in leadership by women and a celebration of the feminine in nature and people. “Bottom Up Rebuild” summarises this scenario by emphasizing the new growth from biological and community foundations. In some ways this scenario might be considered as the archetypal one of the Energy Descent future and the one in which permaculture principles and strategies are most powerfully applied.

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4.  Lifeboats: Civilization Triage
Rapid energy decline rates, severe climate change symptoms.
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/31/51/>
In this scenario, supplies of high quality fossil fuels decline rapidly, the economy fails and human contributions to global warming collapse, but lag effects and positive feedbacks in the climate system continue to drive an acceleration of global warming. As of 2007, an increasing number of scientists believe it may already be too late to avoid catastrophic climate change. In the Lifeboat scenario the adverse symptoms of the Brown Tech and Earth Steward scenarios combine to force a progressive collapse in most forms of economy and social organization. Local wars, including use of nuclear weapons accelerate collapse in some areas but the failure of national systems of power prevent global warfare. Successive waves of famine and disease breakdown social and economic capacity on a larger scale than the Black Death in medieval Europe leading to a halving of global population in a few decades.

New forms of oasis agriculture that are low input versions of the Brown Tech intensive systems evolve that stabilize food production as chaotic seasons make traditional field agriculture and horticulture almost impossible. Forest and rangeland hunting and harvesting become the predominant use of resources over large regions supporting nomadic bands. Warrior and gang cults provides meaning in a world of grief and violence, leading to the development of new religions and even languages that attempt to make sense of people’s lives.

Urban areas are largely abandoned and dangerous but remain valuable as quarries for salvaging materials especially metals. Suburban landscapes become ruralized into defensive hamlets making use of salvaged materials, urban storm water and surplus building space for mixed household economies.

The impacts are very patchy with worse effects in high density previously affluent and urbanized countries. In the most remote regions remnants of hunter-gatherer and pioneer farmer cultures are better able to weather the changes. The relative abundance and ongoing availability of high quality metals and other materials make a critical technological distinction from that of ancient traditional hunter gatherer cultures.

Mountain regions, especially with surviving glacier fed rivers allow hydroelectric systems to be maintained and rebuilt on a smaller scale. Nutrient rich glacier fed rivers also sustain intensive irrigated agriculture. In some localities, especially in favorable regions with accessible energy and agricultural resources, communities analogous to the monasteries of the early medieval period provide basic knowledge and skills to their surrounding communities and are thus protected by the locals from the ravages of local warlords and pirates. These communities, mostly in rural and suburban areas, and based on pre-collapse efforts of intentional communities or rich benefactors, pursue the task of saving and condensing knowledge and cultural values for the long dark ages ahead.

“Civilization triage” refers to the processes by which remaining social capacity (beyond meeting immediate basic needs) are focused on conserving technology and culture that could be useful to a future society, once energy descent is stabilized after a precipitous but limited collapse process. This is not the dominant process of the scenario but the most significant in terms of future cultural capacity. The Christian monasteries that saved many of the elements of Greco-Roman culture and later provided the foundations for the Renaissance of Western civilization is one historical example that could serve as a model for understanding how this process might work.

At its extreme, this scenario describes many of the elements of the Collapse Long Term future in which there is a complete breakdown in the lineage of industrial civilization such that future simple societies retain nothing from what we created through industrial civilization. Drawing a distinction between this scenario and total collapse may seem pedantic but the reasons are important. In the Collapse Long Term scenario, any future civilization that could emerge only learns from the lessons of ours via archeology and perhaps long attenuated mythic stories. In the Lifeboat scenario the retention of cultural knowledge of the past combined with a moderately habitable environment allow new civilizations to emerge that build on at least some of the knowledge and lessons from ours.

Three factors may prevent the continuous free fall to a very low global population of hunter gatherers surviving on the fringes of the Arctic of a hotter planet.
_1)  The first is the wild card created by the mixing of the world’s biota, most notable the large numbers of tree and other species that exhibit what foresters call “exotic vigour”. This allows new recombinant ecosystems to stabilize many environments that climate scientists are now saying will become uninhabitable in extreme climate change. The release of critical minerals, most notably phosphorus over the last 200 years into the biosphere may allow these new ecosystems to ultimately achieve biological productivity exceeding that possible from pre-existing systems.
_2)  Secondly the flooding of large areas of coastal lowlands complete with complex reef structures from flooded cities and infrastructure may also create the conditions for highly productive shallow waters and estuaries. These types of ecosystem are some of the most biologically productive ecosystems on the planet.
_3)  Thirdly, the precipitous drop in human numbers and their initial tendency to remain relatively aggregated to make use of the huge resources from industrial salvage materials (and for security) should see very large regions able to recover without harvesting and other impacts from people.

If the knowledge of ecological processes and their creative manipulation using minimal resources are retained and developed in the Lifeboat communities, then survival and resurgence of a more than minimalist culture may allow global human population to be sustained at perhaps half, rather than one tenth, of current levels. More importantly it may be possible to embed the wisdom of the lessons learnt so that unconstrained human growth does not repeat such an intense cycle. Clearly these last thoughts are highly speculative but build from the same linage of permaculture thinking developed over the last thirty years that informs the rest of the scenarios.

Summary of the Four Climate/Energy Descent Scenarios
The following table summarizes the main elements and characteristics of the four scenarios.

Continued in (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 4 of 4)

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Our Future, Part 2 of 4

(Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/ Our Future, Parts 1-4)

H.  Energy Descent: The Ignored Scenario 
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/20/57/>
Public discussion of energy descent is generally seen as unrealistic, defeatist and politically counterproductive although many activists promoting sustainability strategies privately acknowledge that energy descent maybe inevitable. I want to expand the systems approach to future energy transitions by focusing on the most ignored of the long term scenarios for the following reasons.
_1.   We do not have to believe that a particular scenario is likely before making serious preparations. For example most people have fire insurance on their homes, not because they expect their primary asset to be destroyed by fire but because they recognize the severity of this unlikely event. Similarly, energy descent scenarios,  by their very nature, require more forethought and proactive planning than energy growth or steady state scenarios (to avert catastrophic consequences) .
[Image at left: Amish horse cart outside of SUV’s in auto sales lot, Raleigh North Carolina. 2005. A model for energy descent in more ways than the obvious. The Amish driver is likely to be a farmer, a symbol of the greater number of people who will be involved in food production both domestically and commercially in a future of less energy; in ironic contrast to the Burger King take away food sign in the background.]

_2.  The rapidly accumulating evidence on both climate change and peaking of world oil supply, to name the two most important factors, makes some sort of energy descent increasingly likely despite the deep structural and psychological denial of this evidence.
_3.  The likelihood that permaculture principles and strategies (not necessarily by that name) could inform societal-wide redesign and re-organization in an energy descent future. Since this scenario is the one in which permaculture is naturally at the fore, it is logical for those committed to permaculture to think more deeply about energy descent.

Ecological modeling suggests an energy descent path that could play out over a similar time frame to the industrial ascent era of 250 years. Historical evidence suggests a descent process that could involve a series of crises that provide stepwise transitions between consolidation and stabilization phases that could be more or less stable for decades before another crisis triggers another fall and then another restabilisation.

There is a desperate need to recast energy descent as a positive process that can free people from the strictures and dysfunctions of growth economics and consumer culture. This is now apparent to many people around the world and is far more fundamental than a public relations campaign to paint a black sky blue. It is a necessary process to provide a sense of hope and connection to fundamental human values expressed by every traditional culture throughout human history; that the pursuit of materialism is a false god.

One of the positive aspects of energy descent that is often overlooked is that it is a culture of continuous and novel change over many human generations. Ironically the growth culture of the previous several hundred years provides us with some conceptual and cultural experience at dealing with change that traditional peoples in more stable societies lacked. We are now familiar with continuous change, that we must do something different to our parent’s generation and that our children must do something different again. This may seem a small bright spot when considering the challenges of energy descent but it is a real asset that we must harness if we are to deal with energy descent in the most graceful way possible.
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Section II  Explores the relevance of permaculture design systems to an era of energy descent.

 A.  Permaculture
Pasted from <http://www.futurescenarios.org/content/view/21/58/>
Serious and thoughtful responses to energy descent futures over the last 30 years (from both sociological and ecological perspectives) have received limited attention academically.  In affluent countries, movements advocating low energy lifestyles, such as permaculture, have contributed mostly to action and changes at the fringes of society. Permaculture has been stress tested in poor countries and in crisis situations, and as fossil fuel depletion hits levels of
affluence globally, its relevance will likely increase radically.
[Image at right: Melliodora central Victoria 2004. View over poultry deep litter yard, roof runoff garden, olive and fruit trees to house with solar clerestory showing above trees. ]

Permaculture was one of the environmental design concepts to emerge from the 1970’s debate over energy and resource availability and was founded on the assumption that the next energy transition would involve the re-emergence of biological systems as central to economics and society. The vision that informed permaculture design, teaching and action saw relocalized food and renewable energy production, revitalized household and community economies and bioregional political structures establishing a permanent (i.e. sustainable) human culture. The opportunistic use of fossil fuelled wealth and waste to fund the transition was an integral part of the permaculture strategy. I see permaculture design generating more appropriate biological and human capital in ways less demanding of physical resources and with low depreciation rates that are useful to a world of energy descent. In my book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, I explained the title in terms of the Energy Descent future undermining the steady state notions inherent to most thinking about sustainability and even permaculture.

Permaculture has spread around the world but has an extraordinary, perhaps unique role in Australia, as a concept, a collection of design strategies, and as an environmental movement. A definition is included in the Macquarie dictionary and it is almost a household word. As a “brand” it carries a great deal of good will but also much baggage and is generally regarded in policy and planning circles as marginal to mainstream decision making. Some more thoughtful people recognize it as tuned to a world of declining resources that will require adaptive strategies quite different from those being pursued currently.

Permaculture is already contributing to changing Australian suburbs and lifestyle via bottom up and organic processes. Increasing community awareness of environmental issues combined with rises in the cost of energy, water and food are likely to lead to an explosion in permaculture inspired activity in Australian cities, towns and rural landscapes. It is now essential that academics, educators, activists, planners and policy makers understand permaculture as both a factor in the social and physical fabric of Australian society and a conceptual framework for the organic redesign of society and culture for the energy descent future in Australia as well as globally.

Not surprisingly, Permaculture solutions have been more effectively applied in community and agricultural development work in many majority world communities where energy descent has been a reality for many people. While these conditions can be understood in terms of inequitable distribution of resources rather than fundamental limits, they provide models for behavior in response to energy descent. The most dramatic example is the role that permaculture strategies and techniques played in rapidly increasing urban food production as part of a multi pronged strategy to avert famine in Cuba in the early 1990’s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. What is particularly interesting about this model is that Cuba is a middle income country with a long history of industrialized agriculture and an urbanized and dependent population similar to many affluent countries. Today Cubans have life expectancy and other indices of development comparable with the USA while using one seventh the energy and resources.

Permaculture is, intuitively, most relevant to the Energy Descent scenarios in which there is a major decline in the power from non-renewable resources but many of the strategies are synergistic with those focused on appropriate responses to the Techno Stability scenario which demands a degree of relocalization of food supply and other key economies and a shift from centralized to distributed energy sources.

One way to understand permaculture is as a post-modern integration of elements from different traditions and modernity that involves continuous change and evolution.

Sometimes permaculture is understood as simply returning to traditional patterns from the past and is consequently criticized as impractical. While it is true that older, more traditional patterns of resource use and living provide some of the elements and inspiration for permaculture, it is certainly more than this. One way to understand permaculture is as a post-modern integration of elements from different traditions and modernity that involves continuous change and evolution. This builds on the human experience of continuous change rather than static tradition as well as the more recent emergence of design as a new literacy that allows us to effectively and efficiently respond to and redesign our environment and ourselves.

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B.  Climate change and Peak Oil as Fundamental Drivers of Change
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The simultaneous onset of climate change and the peaking of global oil supply represent unprecedented challenges driving this energy transition but historians may look back with the verdict that the efforts at transition were too little too late. The immediacy of the problems undermines many of the options for longer term restructuring around renewable energy and appropriate infrastructure. The systemic interlocking of human/environment systems suggests other apparently independent crises from the psychological to the geopolitical are being drawn together to reinforce an historic inflection point.

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C.  Climate Change
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While Peak Oil has remained a concept at the fringe of public debate and policy, climate change has gathered speed as the key environmental issue demanding attention alongside more traditional concerns about economics and security. The creation of the IPCC in 1988 reflected the scientific consensus in the mid 1980’s that increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide was caused by human emissions but the realization that climate change was already happening began to take shape in the 1990’s and by 2007 even political leaders in the USA and Australia (who had become infamous for denying climate change) began to accept it as a reality. It has been the increase in drought and extreme weather events more than increases in average temperatures or subtle ecological changes that have spurred the political and public realization that climate change is already happening. The focus has shifted from impacts on nature to impacts on humanity.

Strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions have become almost synonymous with the sustainability concept. New financial instruments such as carbon trading have developed despite the uncertainty about international agreements to underpin and sustain them. Renewable energy sources have grown significantly especially in countries with the most progressive responses to climate change. At the same time geological sequestration of carbon dioxide has been strongly promoted as a way to allow coal-fired power stations to continue to provide the bulk of the world’s electric power without creating climate chaos. The nuclear industry has been recast as an environmental savior. Despite all the focus on the issue, the emissions of greenhouse gases worldwide has continued to parallel economic growth. Consequently the emissions increases have been higher than even the worst case (business as usual) scenarios produced in the earlier reports by the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change).  

The most recent evidence on climate change is showing that the rate of onset of warming in the Arctic make the IPCC’s fourth report look incompetent in its failure to be alarmist enough. Hansen’s report suggests that the onset of severe impacts from climate change are now inevitable even if there is a huge world wide effort at mitigation. Greenland ice cap melting and sea ice retreat are occurring now far faster than expected. This new evidence has been ignored by the IPCC’s ponderous processes for its reports. James Hansen’s research suggests that sea level rises could be 5 meters by 2100 rather than the 0.5m used in the IPCC’s fourth report. This suggests that the onset of severe impacts from climate change is now inevitable, even if there is a huge world-wide effort at mitigation.

There is also very little evidence that mitigation within the  context of modern affluent society will radically reduce greenhouse gas emission in any case. Most of the increases in efficiency and other  gains through technology have been countered by increases in emissions elsewhere. This may appear to be due to the small scale and spread of these gains but there is a more fundamental problem that is known to systems theorists as the “rebound effect” or the “Jevons’ paradox”. A gain in resource efficiency in one part of a system is immediately used to drive growth in another part. For example, the savings made in reducing Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions house heating costs is typically being spent on something like an overseas holiday by a householder. This suggests that without radical behavioral and organizational change that would threaten the foundations of our growth economy, greenhouse gas emissions along with other environmental impacts will not decline.  Economic recession is the only proven mechanism for a rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and may now be the only real hope for maintaining the earth in a habitable state.

Further, most of the proposals for mitigation from Kyoto to the feverish efforts to construct post Kyoto solutions have been framed in ignorance of Peak Oil. As Richard Heinberg has argued recently, proposals to cap carbon emissions annually, and allowing them to be traded, rely on the rights to pollute being scarce relative to the availability of the fuel. Actual scarcity of fuel may make such schemes irrelevant.

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D.  Energy Reserves and Production Peaks
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Most of the comparative discussion about energy resources has focused on “Proven, Probable and Possible Reserves”. These are economic concepts about what can be profitably extracted using current technology and prices. Banks lend massive amounts of money to develop energy projects over long periods with risks of price collapses that can reduce or eliminate profits. The Proven reserves represent assets that can be considered as collateral by the lender. There is a long history of “reserve growth” of Proven reserves. While some of this is due to technology improvement, and more recently price rises, very little is due to finding more oil. Most is simply due to shifting reserves from the Probable to the Proven category driven by reporting policies and regulations.

Nationalization of oil reserves in the 1970’s allowed OPEC countries to report reserve growth with less scrutiny by western banks and in the 1980’s radical revision upward of reserve figures were made without finding any more oil. This hopeless corruption of reserve figures, of arguably the most important set of accounts in the world, was not exposed until the late 1990’s with the work of Campbell and Laherrere beginning the current debate about peak oil. It is still yet to be accepted or acknowledged by governments or intergovernmental agencies such as the International Energy Agency, charged with providing transparent and accurate information on energy resources.

The debate about Peak Oil has also highlighted the confusion in economic and political discourse about the importance of production rates and their potential to keep expanding. This collective myopia on the part of the intelligentsia is all the more stunning because it has been increasing rates of energy production (not reserve growth) that has underpinned economic growth. The orthodox view that healthy reserves, by themselves, can ensure expanding production has been show to be false.

The collective myopia on the part of the intelligentsia is all the more stunning because it has been increasing rates of energy production that has underpinned economic growth.
Similarly, the conventional wisdom that coal reserves are so great that we can expand coal based electricity with or without carbon sequestration, and make liquid fuel from coal is now being widely challenged. As with oil, we see that reserve figures are of dubious reliability and large reserves do not mean that production rates can necessarily increase. The slow rate of increase in oil production from the Canadian tar sands, despite massive investment, heroic logistics (and massive environmental damage) proves that large reserves do not necessarily lead to high production rates. The fact that Canada, overnight, became the nation with the largest oil reserves in the world because it was allowedto classify its tar sands as oil, highlights the arbitrary nature of the reserve concept. It is highly likely that nowhere near enough fossil fuels can be mined fast enough to generate the worst case emission scenarios of the IPCC. It is just unfortunate that climate change seems to be happening at much lower levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide than predicted in those same models.

The evidence on peak oil is gathering so fast that it is now certain that the world has already peaked in the production of cheap (conventional) oil and that the peak production of “crude plus condensate” (the standard measure of oil) may have already passed despite vigorous debunking of peak oil that continues in policy circles and the media. The steady climb in prices for eight years should have been enough to lift production if that were possible. The impacts of peak oil are unfolding all around us in the world but they are being regularly interpreted in the media as caused by more familiar (above ground) factors such as terrorism, oil nationalism, corporate greed or incompetence, speculators, etc. The combination of rolling crises and obfuscation of the issues is leading to confusion and inappropriate responses (from oil wars to biofuels from agricultural crops) that are compounding the problems.

The debate amongst peak oil analysts has now shifted from when, to at what rate, the world will decline. The debate amongst peak oil analysts has now shifted from when, to at what rate, the world will decline after we move off the current plateau in production. The decline rates in the UK and Mexico have provided progressively stronger evidence that the application of modern management and technology in oil production, while delaying peak, ultimately leads to faster decline rates than had been expected (based on past rates of national decline). If these higher decline rates follow through into global decline, then mitigation and adaption strategies, without economic collapse will be very difficult. Given the accelerating consumption of natural gas and coal we should assume peak production of both will quickly follow oil peak.
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Access to oil will likely decrease far more rapidly in importing nations as explored in the next section
Collapsing Oil Exports 
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Another factor is already accelerating the impact of global peak on the importing countries. Almost all of the oil producing countries have rapidly growing economies driven by large oil revenues and in many cases rapidly growing populations. Internal consumption in these countries is ensuring that after peak, the rate of exports declines much faster than production. The two largest producers and exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia are the prime examples.  Global economic growth may continue for some years in oil and resource rich countries, but not in the importing countries that have been used to affluence and continuous economic growth for the longest.
[Image at left: The rising cost of intercontinental shipping costs is threatening to reverse the globalization of manufacturing.]

Alternatively, a constant state of corruption, dysfunction and/or open war, in oil exporting countries can have the effect of enforcing exports in the face of shortages at home. Although this appears counter-intuitive, the failure of functional governance in the national interest combined with a shattered or stunted economy reduces the capacity of the national market to pay for oil and allows foreign oil companies to gain favorable concessions and military protection from corrupt governments. Aspects of this scenario are at work to maintain the flow of oil from Nigeria and Iraq to the USA and other large importers.

Thus, we can see both the collapsing exports, and enforced export scenarios unfolding simultaneously as the major expression of the struggle for declining production. This suggests at the very least, massive shifts in geo-political and economic power over the next few years, even if global growth continues.
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Section III considers one other compounding factor, that of decreasing net energy returns.

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A. 
Net Energy Return
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An even more fundamental issue is that of net energy return. It takes energy to get energy. Fossil fuel resources have been such an abundant source of concentrated energy that the investment of energy we make in exploration, mining, transport and processing has been relatively small. Even when we consider all the energy embodied in equipment and infrastructure, the net energy return or profit has been very high. Adding all the energy and resources needed to train and support all the engineers and other employees in the energy industries still leaves a huge net energy profit which explains why the oil industry has been such a profitable one. However now that we have passed the peak of production of conventional oil,  the net energy yield from new projects tapping the heavy, deep ocean, arctic and small remaining amounts in old oil fields, using advanced recovery methods, is less and less.

This decline in net energy yield results in an increasing proportion of society’s real wealth being devoted to the energy harvesting sectors of the economy, leaving less and less for all other sectors.

Other resources sectors with rapidly increasing demand for energy include mining and metal processing, which currently use about 10% of world energy supply, have an escalating demand as lower quality ore bodies are mined. The implications of declines in Energy Return On Energy Invested (ERoEI) are so shocking that there is much confusion and denial about the concept of net energy.

The idea that biofuels or coal to liquids will simply replace oil and gas the way oil and gas have replaced wood and coal shows an astonishing degree of ignorance of the concept of net energy. When we moved from wood to coal and on to oil, the increase in power available to humanity was not just from the increasing quantity of energy, but from the increasing quality. The quantity is easily measured in joules (heat energy released) but the quality is something scientists are more confused about. It is widely accepted by scientists that energy quality is real and determines the usefulness of energy, but without an agreed way to measure quality, it is largely ignored.

The net energy concept is just beginning to surface in the media and policy circles as a way to assess alternative energy sources and strategies, especially in the debate over corn ethanol in the USA. While different methods of accounting for net energy produce substantially different net energy profit figures, they all show a pattern of higher returns for current and past sources of fossil energy than new ones. Economic power and profit from past development of different energy sources also reflects these general patterns revealed by net energy calculation methods. This suggests they can be used to predict real economic impacts of future energy systems.

The declining net energy yields of our energy resources results in an increasing proportion of society’s real wealth being devoted to the energy harvesting sectors of the economy, leaving less and less for all other sectors.

[The above graph models gross energy availability.  Due to decreasing net energy yields of many of the above resources, actual available energy for society will likely decrease more dramatically.]

The promotion by the US dept of Agriculture of research showing a Energy Return On Energy Invested of 1.6 as a good result, indicates how the understanding of these issues is very poor, even by the scientifically literate. A society based on an energy source of this quality would be constantly investing 62% of its energy back into the energy industry (the 1 in 1.6), leaving only the remaining 38% of the total energy in society for everything else, ie. health, education, culture, food production, law, leisure and so on. Our modern industrial society has been fueled by energy sources with Energy Return on Energy Invested as high as 100 and at least 6 (requiring between 1% and 17% of the wealth created being invested to get the yield)

Ironically conventional economics is blind to this shift because one type of economic transaction is considered as good as another, so growth in the energy sector at the expense of say personal consumption is not seen as indicative of any fundamental problem.

My own tracking of these issues over the last thirty years leads me to the conclusion that the next energy transition is to sources with lower energy production rates and lower net energy yield which in turn will drive changes in human economy and society that are without precedent since the decline and/or collapse of previous complex civilizations such as the Mayans and the Romans.

The most sophisticated method of evaluating net energy, with the longest history of development, is EMergy Accounting developed by Howard Odum and colleagues. It has informed my own development of permaculture principles and strategies over the last 30 years but unfortunately it remains unknown or at best misunderstood in academic and policy circles. EMergy accounting includes ways of measuring energy quality (called “Transformity”). This makes it possible to account for small quantities of very high quality energy in technology and human services that undermine many of the more optimistic assessments of alternative energy sources including biomass, nuclear and solar.

To test the relative impact of net energy compared with declines in energy production rates, I used a recent assessment of global energy production through to 2050 by Paul Chefurka published and discussed on The Oil Drum website. The study was well referenced and its assumptions and methodology were clear. It took account of likely reductions from oil, gas and coal but included reasonably optimistic figures for future production from renewables and nuclear. It shows a peak in total energy production about 2020 followed by a decline to 70% of 2005 production by 2050. This is a very serious reduction given an expected global population of 9 billion. Below are the key production projections and energy mix pie charts from the study.

Using published EMergy accounting studies I multiplied these current and projected global energy sources by their net EMergy yield ratios. This shows that the energy quality of 2050 energy mix will be 58% of the 2005 energy mix. This suggests that declining net energy is a greater factor than projected declines in production. Multiplying these factors together suggests real energetic power available to humanity will be 40% of current yields. This does not allow for the energetic cost of carbon sequestration (still unknown) to ameliorate the otherwise disastrous impacts on the climate of the increased use of coal.

The net energy return from fossil fuels including coal will decline so that  the above calculation of humanity having about 40% of current net energy by 2050 may still be optimistic. Further it does not take account of decline (or increase) in the average net energy return for a particular source. While it is possible that net energy return from newer renewable sources (such as solar and even wind) could conceivably improve with time, it is more likely that they will decline as the embedded fossil energy contribution (to the new energy sources) declines. A new evaluation of the net energy return of gas production in North America using a methodology developed by Cleverland and Costanza suggests net energy return is in the process of a collapse so severe that net energy yield from gas in Canada will effectively fall to almost nothing by 2014 and that similar results apply to US production. This is very different from the official view that claims the USA has 86 years of production at 2004 levels based on production to reserves ratios.
The implications of some of this information is so shocking that the naïve and simplistic idea that we are running out of oil and gas (rather than just peaking in production) may be closer to the truth than even the most pessimistic assessments of peak oil proponents a decade ago.
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Section IV considers briefly some other major factors besides Peak Oil and Climate Change which will determine the future.
Associated issues 


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Many other factors beyond Climate Change and Peak Oil are increasing the stress on global ecosystems and humanity making some form of energetic descent if not collapse, seem inevitable. A few of the more fundamental ones need at least a mention.
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•  Critical materials depletion
Accelerating economic growth and energy extraction over the last decade has greatly increased depletion of other essential non-renewable resources, especially phosphates for food production and non ferrous metals for industry. Almost all the unfolding plans and projects for energy transition beyond oil will place more demand on these depleting resources. For example, the demand for nickel steel alloys required for high pressure natural gas pipelines is pushing up the price of nickel and further depleting the remaining stocks. As lower quality deposits of critical materials are tapped, energy demands for extraction and processing will escalate dramatically and production rates will fall.  The title of Richard Heinberg’s latest book Peak Everything sums up the situation.

•  Water depletion
Water is the most abundant resource used by humanity, but the growing demand, is so vast that the limits once specific to a bioregion, are now being expressed at the global scale. Although I don’t subscribe the view that global water shortage will constrict global growth before or more severely than liquid fuel supplies, the global water crisis is already quite severe. Even if we attribute the most dramatic impacts of droughts directly to climate change, other factors are independently contributing to the water crisis.  The loss of wetlands, perennial vegetation and forests as well as soil humus are all reducing the capacity of catchments and soils to catch and store water between periods of rain, which in turn, escalates demand for irrigation. Increasing affluence is directly and indirectly increasing water consumption especially through intensive livestock husbandry dependent on irrigated fodder crops. The extraction of ground water beyond recharge rates, including huge reserves laid down after the last ice age, makes many water resources as depletable as fossil fuels, giving rise to the term “fossil water”. Finally, the decline in water quality is increasing death and illness from water borne diseases, demand for expensive water filtration and treatment as well as bottled water supplies.

•  Food supply
The unfolding global food crisis can be largely attributed to the manifold interactions and knock on effects of energy costs and climate change including droughts and bad seasons, biofuel demand and escalating costs of (energy intensive) fertilizers, pesticides, and irrigation.  Other factors exacerbating the crisis include rising affluence increasing demand especially for beef and cotton, past low prices destroying farming as a livelihood and failure of the land reform agenda in most countries. Fixing these secondary factors is technically possible, but seems unlikely. But there is also evidence that agriculture is running up against fundamental yield limits for our main crops that, despite all the promises, genetic engineering has failed to break through. Widespread application of organic methods and permaculture design, especially when applied to small scale systems could reduce the impact of the crisis but this will not be simple or quick.

•  Population Pressures
The continued growth in human numbers is now pushing well beyond that which could be sustainably supported without fossil fuels. Although affluence, conflict and other human created factors are multiplying the impact of population, there are structural factors that make the large and growing human population more important than it might otherwise be.  The total size of the human population, its density of settlement in cities and the constant interchange of microbes due to travel and trade are all powerful factors increasing the likelihood of new and old diseases creating pandemics on an unprecedented scale.

•  Financial Instability
The accelerating growth and concentration of debt and financial assets especially in the housing and derivatives markets is destabilizing the global economy. The virtual impossibility that future growth in the real economy could ever be large enough to justify those debts and assets suggests a major and enduring economic contraction in the near future. Alternatively we may see the financial crisis in the USA trigger a collapse similar to that which happened in the Soviet Union. If China, India, Russia and other growing economies survive relatively unscathed,  completely new global power and economic systems could emerge quite quickly.

•  Psychosocial limits to affluence
The psychosocial limits of affluent consumer culture suggest that multi generational mass affluence may burn itself out in a few generations, through dysfunctional behavior, addictions and depression. While the “Roaring 20s” in affluent countries gave some examples of the excesses of affluence that were swept away by the Great Depression and Second World War, the three generations of affluence since then have stimulated lifestyles and behaviors that are amplifying unsustainable resource consumption to new heights. The onset of severe psychosocial dysfunction in the long affluent western world could be as powerful a force as the financial system instability.

•  Species extinction
The accelerating rate of species extinctions suggests humans have initiated a wave of extinctions on the scale of the asteroid that is believed to be the cause of the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. Apart from the ethical and psychological issues involved, it is hard to predict how, and when this will result in major adverse impacts on humanity other than to recognize that it is eroding the genetic base that we will increasingly depend on in the future, as well as increasing ecological instability that is undermining our ability to produce food.

Despite the severity of these and other associated problems I see climate change and peak oil as the most fundamental ones for the following reasons:
1. They both are inevitable consequences of the accelerating use of fossil fuels, the undeniable primary factor in creating the explosion of human numbers, cultural complexity and impacts on nature.
2. They both appear to be generating immediate and severe threats to humanity
3. They both show a long term pattern of accelerating intensity
4. They both contribute directly or indirectly to the impact of the other serious problems threatening humanity and nature.

To suggest that the next energy transition will fall well short of the past patterns of human collective expectations is a gross understatement. My quick overview of evidence around the most critical issues suggests we need to refocus our assumptions about the future around energy descent while developing the psycho-social and eco-technical capacity to respond to the range of possible scenarios that we could face.
While continued efforts to better understand the rate of onset of climate change and the decline in oil production is very useful, an equally important task is to understand how these factors will combine to create differing futures.

Continued in (Survival Manual/2. Social Issues/Our Future, Part 3  of 4)

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