Monday, January 28, 2008
Sunday, January 27, 2008
After reviewing many of the concepts I've presented here, it's my hope dear reader, that you might add a lot of these up and make something of it as you see fit. Many writers when describing a scenario have themes of Peak Oil, Climate Change, Financial Collapse, as you might have noticed, mine is of Natural Consequence. Perhaps our society will evolve in a natural process to a new environment from the consequences of all three and more? Just exactly what that natural process will be, I think is anybody's guess. Back at the old school house, the instructors took very little stock on just how collapse would happen but what that collapse might look like and the consequences of it.
Under the "lights are out for good scenario" I'm going to attempt to explain what the consequences of this might be. In this attempt, I'll be going back to each card and describe what the consequences might be under this scenario.
Starting with the Ace first, or electricity, we learned that indeed that it is possible the entire North American electrical system could go down, so it's a real possibility that the lights can go out for everyone. In this case, it would be extremely hard to imagine for the power to be restored in time, before catastrophic events would begin to emerge. It's a fact, that wide spread area's of the country can go down at once and a possibility, that even more areas can go down in attempts to bring the power back on line. Time being of the essence until problems escalate into something insurmountable within the time frame before our society breaks down. Furthermore, as time wanes, the possibility of this actually happening becomes greater. Not only is this system aging, but there is more and more demand put on it. Could it be just a prolonged heat wave that will actually bring it down? The people over at BNB, was just shocked when I revealed that I thought this eventually might bring down one of the regional networks. Where was the electromagnetic bombs or terrorists attacks?! I also expressed my view that if one regional network went down it might be likely the other two would eventually go down the same way or by attempts to restore the broken one(s). Moreover, I thought it wouldn't matter anyway.
Even if the system were to go down like the size of the Northeastern Blackout of 2003 for a couple of weeks, it would be doubtful that even if the whole world came to our aid, it could stop the chaotic situation of 50 million people! Especially if this happen during the winter months. If this country had a hard enough time rescuing the people of Katrina, a catastrophe of this magnitude would be unimaginable and unmanageable. How would these people keep warm? How could the world even deliver the amount of relief to that many people in time, before they expired? Without power, it simply cannot happen. It's just not feasible.
Almost all modern infrastructure was designed, built and maintained under the assumption of continuous power. Without this infrastructure our environment will change immediately. It will be the end of our world as we knew it. As discussed earlier, city water would not last after this many days, how would you get fuel to all these thousands of back-ups in time? Wouldn't the grocery store be cleared out after the first day or two? How would it be restocked? How well does your furnace work without the blower powered by electricity? How far do you think you would get on a road system that is dependent on lights? How would you refill your tank? How would you take money out of a bank dependent on computers?
By the way, do you think you'll go to work under such conditions? Can you even perform your duties without electricity? Do you actually believe police, firemen, and other crucial personal in keeping order, will actually report to work, leaving their families behind under such a scenario? Even if they did, how long would it take before this type of personal would be overwhelmed? Don't feel alone if you don't have answers to these question, I don't either. However, this is the consequences if the lights go out for good or for any lenght of time. Not looking to good, eh?
On to the King of Spades, population dynamics. What happens to a population when you suddenly take away their daily requirements of food, water, shelter and security? Of course, you will have a chaotic situation at hand. That is exactly the situation the Dept. of Energy has suggested would happen. When the lights are out for good, better yet, if the lights don't come back on in time, the environment that we are so dependent on expires. Many of those who are unwilling or incapable of adapting to the new evolving environment will die, since they cannot meet their daily requirements needed for survival. There will be some seeking to isolate themselves from this situation and flee to yet another environment, perhaps the woods, hills, desert, etc.. They will have to have the acquired knowledge that comes from experience in order to do so and a good deal of luck. Perhaps there will be another day when the sun will shine for these people, however that will be after "the monster" has moved on... Good Luck to the people who attempt this and hope to see you in the woods!
The Queen of Spades, water. Without electricity, there will be a whole lot, less of it. Almost the entire population gets their potable water from deep wells. It takes power to pull that water up, called electricity. This is an example of the decoupling of electrical generation/uniform parts of mass production (the pump), that I was referring to earlier, that had supported a population of this size. Without it, well...... Therefore most of the population will have to rely on surface water to meet their needs. If this water is potable, how long will it be? Back on BNB, I predicted that there will be more people who will expire from dehydration and water born disease than from starvation. This only makes sense because when the body is deprived from both, it'll die quicker from lack of water, that's a fact.
The Jack of Spades, food. Without power, how can we expect to feed the present population? This is impossible! It takes electrical power to process seed, power to transport seed, power to plant seed, power to nourish seed/crop, power to harvest crop, power to transport crop, power to transform crop into edible food, power to distribute food, and power to prepare this food to be acceptable to a population of 300 million people. Have I missed something here? Imagine feeding the entire population of the average community from the gardens grown in that community! Even if the gardens were large enough, try hand pumping the required water that garden would need. Of course, this is assuming the water table is within reach. This is also assuming that crop would be left to mature to produce next year's seed. Is that even possible with most of crops grown today? I think not. Of those that do have a resonable stock of food, they would likely have to defend it from those who do not. Especially, those that are not isolated from large populations...
The Ten of Spades, our industrial environment. Our industrial environment started when cheap fossil fuels made it economically feasible to couple electric generation with mass production of uniform parts. Take any one of these out of the equation and we don't have this environment any longer. If we don't have this environment, we cannot support the people that was produced by it. It's just that simple. People will have to find another environment and try to adapt to it, as I said before, this is easier said than done. Isolation can be a double edged sword. Areas where the populations are high and the physical boundaries (water, mountain ranges, etc.) are hard to breech, present unique problems within themselves. Another facet of this thought might be physical limitations, an example of this might be, if a population cannot reach water in time, if the distance is too great to reasonably obtain it, than that population becomes isolated. The extinction process begins since that population cannot reach another similar environment (one that has water). Yet another facet of isolation, of those that do breech another livable environment become isolated themselves from the rest of the population, this too can pose problems within itself....
The industrial environment's area mass is hugh, it encompasses everywhere that has infrastructure, transmission lines , roads and such. Land that does not have this feature of being civilized is hard to find. Land that can support even a small population without infrastructure, even harder. A small population that can support itself, even harder yet....
God, grant me the ability to accept the things I cannot change, to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.................................
While gleaning through the Wikipedia article, "Power Outage", I've came up with most of these facts.
A power outage may take one of three forms. 1) Blackout: where power is completely lost. A "rolling blackout" is a common term for a controlled way of rotating available generation capacity between various districts, thus avoiding wide area total blackouts. 2)Brownout: where the voltage level is below the normal minimum level specified for the system. This can be particularly damaging to electric motors. Some brownouts , called voltage reductions, are made to prevent a full power outage. 3)Dropout: where loss of power only lasts seconds.
Power failures are particularly critical for hospitals, since many life critical medical devices and tasks require power. For this reason hospitals, just like many other enterprises have emergency power generators which are typically powdered by diesel fuel. Power outage may also be the cause of sanitary sewer overflow, a condition of discharging raw sewage into the environment (water).
Under certain conditions, a network component shutting down can cause current fluctuations in neighboring segments of the network, though this is unlikely, leading to a cascading failure of a larger system of the network. This may range from a block to an entire city, to the ENTIRE GRID. Modern power systems are designed to be resistant to this sort of cascading failure, but it may be unavoidable. It has recently been argued on the basis of historical data and computer modeling that power grids are self-organized critical systems. These systems exhibit unavoidable disturbances of all sizes, up to the size of the ENTIRE SYSTEM, and any attempts to reduce the probability of small disturbances only increase the probability of the larger ones. Some observers have expressed concern that there is a tendency to erode the resilience of the network over time which is only corrected after the major failure occurs.
Restoring power after wide-area outage can be difficult, as power stations need to be brought back on line. Time being of the essence, before cascading problems amount to insurmountable problems. Normally, this is done with the help from the rest of the grid. In the total absence of grid power, a so-called "black start" needs to be performed to "bootstrap" the power grid into operation.
An example of this power loss through cascading events occurred Aug. 13, 2003. It was the largest blackout in North American history. Effecting 10 million people (1/3 the population) of Canada and 40 million (1/7 the population ) in the U.S., encompassing eight states. During this outage water systems in several cities lost pressure forcing boil water advisories. Cellular telephones experienced significant service disruptions. Most interstate passenger rail transport in the affected areas were shut down and the power outage's impact on international air transport and financial markets were widespread. Meanwhile, the reliability and vulnerability of all electrical power grids was called into question....
At this point we can assume that a threat of the entire grid shutting down is real, it's a possibility. To think that the Northeast Blackout occurred in 2003, leaving 50 million people without power, is fact. I view this threat to our present environment very much as viable as Peak Oil, Climate Change and Financial Collapse.
THE NORTH AMERICAN GRID
Again, I must ask you my dear reader, "Why do you suppose, almost everyone associates the power being out with collapse?" Could this be some kind of worldwide, wide held premonition? However, when it comes to discussing this topic of what life might be like without power, it ranks a close second to that of die-off, of being unpopular. It is so unpopular, that almost no one knows much about it, they simply can't imagine what life might be like without it or have some kind of fantasy, totally unrealistic view. Could it be, like the industrial environment (the coupling of electrical generation/mass production of uniform parts) that has produced and maintained the present population and the "de-industrial" environment (the de-coupling of electrical generation/ mass production of uniform parts) will actually produce the die-off? Do you suppose some people are unconsciously associating life without power with die-off? Or do mechanisms that assure survival of the species block these kind of thoughts of some people? I think it could lay somewhere in between.....
Back at the old school house, the instructors likened the electrical grid or grids, to that of the nervous system of the human body. In fact, our nerves run much like electrical current, that it's electrical current sending messages to the brain. An example of this might be, a pin prick to the finger will send an electrical charge through the interconnected nervous system that will stimulate pain in the brain. Any damage of nerve along this route and brain never receives this "message". If the body sustains enough nerve damage it automatically begins to shut down and die.
What is the North American grid? Gleaning from an article entitled, "GridWorks", from the U.S. Dept. of Energy, these are the following facts. The North American grid, consists of three independent networks, Eastern Interconnection, Western Interconnection, and the Texas Interconnection. These networks incorporate international connection with Canada and Mexico. In 1940, 10% of energy consumption in America was used to produced electricity. In 1970, that fraction was 25%. Today it is 40%, showing electricity's growing importance as an energy supply. It has the unique ability to convey both energy and information. It's a world-class system, however it's facing some serious challenges. The majority of the 10,000 power plants, are generally long-lived investments; the majority of the existing capacity is 30 years or older.
Electric power is essential to modern society. Economic prosperity, national security and public health and safety CANNOT be achieved without it. Communities that lack electric power, even for SHORT PERIODS have trouble meeting basic needs of food, shelter, water, law and order.
Isn't this what I've been eluding to all along?
Friday, January 25, 2008
Progress: a proceeding forward; advancement or improvement in mental, moral, or physical condition. growth or development. source The Winston Dictionary, Advanced Edition, 1946.
Back to Duncan's Olduvai theory, the first phase of human history basically was when simple tools and weak machines (like the one pictured above) limited economic growth. The second "industrial" phase encompasses modern industrial civilization where machines temporarily lift all limits to growth. The final "de-industrial" phase follows where industrial economies decline to a point of equilibrium with nonrenewable resources and the natural environment.
Without getting too technical and looking at a worldwide view, it might be fair to point out that we're probably in the latter stages of the second "industrial" phase. Not quite yet in the third phase. The instructors thought that once global progress ceased, the die-off would soon begin. Furthermore, once forward progressed stopped, there would be a "pause" before another direction or decline could take place. An example of this might be that a train must come to a complete stop from going forward before it can go in reverse. Pauses can be very hard to spot, when looking at market trends for example, sometimes they are only realized in retrospect. However, what we're talking about here is a break within the 100 year industrial life span. Perhaps, the severe recession we had during the early 1980's, was this the pause in this country? This is mighty close to what Duncan predicted to happen in 1979. Have we progressed beyond this? The answer is, yes, beyond a doubt, we were still growing beyond 1979! Correct? We cannot continue growing in population, economy, and extraction of resources, once the extraction of those resources begins to diminish! Of course, all resources are not all going to diminish at once, making it extremely hard to pin point when the scales actually dip the other way. An example of a diminished resource could be the fisheries of the world.
Even though, I believe we have declined here in North America for the past thirty years, we are becoming more and more a part of a global economy that hasn't. Hasn't this actually "masked" our true situation in this country? Thinking of Russia, without a doubt, they have come back and their standard of living continues to grow from the early 1990's when the former Soviet Union collapsed. Look at the growth of the economies of India and China! Another notion the instructors had, is that there would very likely be a explosion of resources extracted and consumed toward the end of the "age of progress". I am certain, they were thinking of terms of 1930- 1970, however they are still correct in that respect, only that there's a lot more resource than they dare imagined. Of course, this only makes sense as it would require more resource to maintain the population.
The instructors all believed that once the world ceased to progress, there would be a short pause and then we would start our descent. That this era will be short lived and marked by power outages, finally bringing down entire electrical grids around the world. That is, once electrical generation was decoupled with mass production of parts (one cannot happen without the other and this actually defines the industrail society), this present environment (age of progress) would end adruptly. At that point, the industrial society (age of progress) could not support the population it created. Once that happened, the die-off would begin in earnest, end of story (the instructors would not speculate what might happen after that).
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
Now this story is about to get very interesting and perhaps frightening to some. As a young man, I developed this image in my mind or vision if you will, of the coming die-off of our society in this environment. I'm going to start to paint a picture of what the die-off might look like. By following each step in this process, you might at the end, be able to view the same picture as I. When I was finished describing this scenario over at BNB, perhaps only half of the people could envision this portrait. One of them that couldn't was a former professor from the Oxford University of England. This "elderly women", just could not grasp to what I was eluding to, even after others on the post and myself, was helping her all that we could. As much as she tried, she just couldn't "see it". It's to this personality, that I'm going to dedicate this "ace" to. I'll be actually throwing this ace towards the greatest mind who ever contemplated the die-off, in my opinion. As I said before, I have the utmost respect for this personality.
This segment, "Ace of Spades" will be a lengthy one, I'll be combining all the concepts discussed in this series and how they'll pertain in the lights are out for good scenario. Furthermore, I'll be discussing a scenario, as if all electrical generation from the interconnected grid should go down on the North American continent within days and weeks, not months and years. I'll be discussing if this is actually possible and the probability of this actually happening.
I cannot claim the originality of this piece, as there are many others who share almost the same vision, as I have. Of these people, are my instructors, some of my fellow classmates, and others who I've met along this trail, I call, "life". I'll be staying true to the wishes of those who have got me this far, and not discuss or speculate what life might be like after the die-off.
To those who are about to walk down this trail with me,"Good Luck!"
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
I've just read of an account of some suburbanite, that the minute when the shit hits the fan, she's going to bug out and go live in the nearest National Forest,(again, this person thought this is when the power will go out for good). However, she's worried about leaving her animals behind. I almost felt like replying, that she had better take them with her, if she plans on eating something....but thought better of it. Why on earth would I want to waste my time?
I've spent a great deal of time in the woods and have actually subsisted entirely on a diet coming from there....at times,....for not very long......,and only where game, fish and wild edibles abound...,and by using modern weapons, snares, fish line, etc.... and having a vast knowledge in order to do so. Still with all the experience that I've obtained over the years and being in a land where deer out number the people, I'd have to say that my chances of being alive after one or two years, to be almost zero. I am certain of this, as I've been as close to this situation than anyone I've ever known. I've always lost a lot of weight attempting to live in the wild and even though I can harvest game and edibles, quickly and efficiently, this does take effort. In the long run, I can't help but think that this situation is a "sink", that is, expending more energy than what I'm getting out of it. Perhaps, if more skilled persons like myself grouped together this situation might change, however, anyone not able to pull their own weight, would be not only a reliability to themselves but could be detrimental to the entire group.
Like water, everyone must be able to eat to maintain their activity. The human body will do almost anything to stay alive, this includes some unimaginable things. Like the rats in the box, I don't think it would take much of a reduction of food in our society before our environment would change, especially when most of those rats can only think progressively. Again, one only has to look at Katrina or any other disaster to find people refusing to leave the situation or not believing it is happening at all or making the situation worse than it already is.
There's some people out there who think that the earth can support as much as two billion people, without the use of fossil fuels and this may be very well so. The population was raising during the agricultural era (1700's through the 1800's) as depicted on population charts, with plenty room for expansion. However, this can only be realized if this transition is slow enough for people to adapt to this new environment. Learning how to farm without the use of fossil fuels for example. It will also take time for some land to become fertile again after years of misuse.
Under the lights are suddenly out scenario, well, we just wouldn't have the time to adapt, certainly not for the 300 million living in this country. We just wouldn't have the power to plant, water, fertilize, harvest and transport crops. At this point, this new environment couldn't even support a fraction of the existing population and the die-off would begin. An example of this might be a wild fire burning through a hay field. It is reasonable to believe that the population would be much lower than it was during the agricultural era, as it'll be very likely we would not have the resources nor the knowledge that was afforded to sustain the population back then.
THE ASSUMPTION of CONTINUOUS GROWTH
Going back briefly to part I, one should come away with this thought, that once the modern industrial age began, so did the population explosion. More food was produced by three things that were not present in the age or environment before it. 1) Electrical generation, 2) mass production of uniform parts, 3) wide spread use of fossil fuels. The above photo shows a farm implement that was made before electrical generation.
For thousands of years, people could expect that their offspring would have a reasonable chance at a better lifestyle than they had. This was an reasonable assumption, that is until the industrial environment came to being. During this "run" our natural resources are being consumed at an unprecedented rate. As our population expands, so does the rate of consumption. Of course this consumption produces pollution even further destroying what resources are left. There could be a day when these resources are eventually gone, or spent, if you believe that resources such as oil is limited.
There's a concept that I'll borrow from Jay Hanson and share with you. Hanson's thoughts about why most people cannot come to terms with peak oil is that through out the thousands of years of progressing, people have become conditioned to think in those terms. That is, most people can only think "progressively" forward, they are incapable of imagining a tomorrow of decline, not there. They simply cannot "see" it. This isn't their fault, after thousands of years of conditioning, it's in the genetic make-up. Perhaps, an example of this might be sheep following one another over a cliff.
This thought of "ever progressing" is not only limited to people. Continuous growth is the basic assumption, driving our economy. Investment is made in hopes of future growth. Loans are made in hope of growth. Interest is only realized after growth. Without real growth, how can our financial system survive? Suppose, we're almost there? Could it be, that after this last expansion of growth this country has experienced from the housing market, employing perhaps a quarter of Americans, there's nothing more to grow?
When the resources that products are made from become to scarce or too expensive to profit from we can expect those products will no longer be made. No company is going to make them for nothing, not for long. Perhaps, this has been happening already? When a product costs more to make and transport, than what the market will bear, that product becomes "worthless". Could we be seeing this now with the McMansions that are in the out-laying communities far from employment centers?
Ever hear of anyone calling it this? Most terms we hear are "industrial revolution", industrial society" and so-on. Well, let me assure you that nothing has had a more profound effect on the earth than this movement in thousands of years. Resource depletion, pollution, extinctions and global warming just to name a few. Maybe in that order?
Back over at BNB (Bullnotbull.com), there was some discussion on how our economy has evolved here in the U.S.. I can remember offering my version of it in order, hunter/gather, agricultural, industrial, service, finance and finally leading to now, the "knowledge economy". That each economy actually evolved from the one preceding it and would contribute to the development of the proceeding one, following it. An example of this might be: From the agricultural economy grew the labor needed to develop the industrial economy. From the industrial economy grew the products that would later grow the service economy to maintain the products and the lifestyle that economy afforded. Which in turn grew the financial economy as an attempt to continue the lifestyle afforded by the previous economy. At last, we're in the knowledge economy in an attempt to maintain the financial one. Notice, how we're actually going backwards to maintain the lifestyle the industrial/service economy afforded? This is another concept that is very hard to follow and or accept. If I were to speculate in the future, I would dare say we'll likely go full circle and evolve to another agricultural economy of some kind.
When did the industrial environment, or movement really begin in earnest when it started to have this profound effect on the land? I would dare say some where in the early 1900's, especially when machinery transformed the previous agricultural movement by replacing the energy that up to then was produced by men and livestock.
Back at the old school house, the instructors thought there were only two men who actually changed the world, benefiting mankind. They are often called the "fathers of the industrial society" and were the best of friends. They are Henry Ford and Thomas Edison, together these two men actually transformed the world, more than anyone else, in the history of mankind.
Henry Ford, often thought of the father of the automobile was much more than that. Actually, he is the father of modern assembly lines used in the mass production of uniform parts. Thomas Edison, often thought of the father of electricity, was actually one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production to the process of invention. Through electrical generation, this would provide the power needed to produce parts and products in mass quantity. Ford held a global vision, with consumerism as the key to peace. It was Ford, who thought that by coupling innovation and a higher wage for workers, would enable those workers to buy the products being made.
Together these men actually created the modern industrial society, and Michigan actually being the heart of it. It was here for decades, that through innovation, the lifestyle of the people living in the Mid-West was and continues to be, the envy of the world. However, that is just now beginning to change. As our economy has changed ever more to a global one, that industry is now being lost or imported to countries that have a cheaper work force. Since Michigan was the first to go on line in this industrial environment, it only stands to reason it would be the first to decline without it. That is where we are now. I have contended for years that Michigan still leads the economy, it's only the rest of the country that will eventually "catch up". That is, what we have experienced here in Michigan, the whole country will soon experience.
Even though Ford's dream was a noble one, it was doomed to fail from the start. Probably unknown to him or Edison, was that the earth's resources are limited, making consumerism unsustainable. It's very likely both men held a linear view of the future, that through new innovation the human race would ever progress. Also, I can't imagine that both men could foresee the "elephant in room", that was created during this movement.
Monday, January 21, 2008
The next concept in this population dynamics series I'd like to relate came to me, while I was over at David Pollard's very interesting site, "How to Change the World". Pollard described the situation we're all in, as like rats in a very large box, that continued to populate as more and more food was introduced into the box. Indeed, any population will expand as long as there's food to support it. But what happens if this food was reduced by 10% or 50% suddenly? Maybe the rats could get by on the 10% reduction and their population would stabilize in adjustment. They would be adapting to the new environment inside the box. However, a sudden 50% reduction of food and it's quite likely we'd have a problem with this environment, as there would not be enough time to adapt to such a reduction. It's very likely the rats would become cannibalistic, mutate and or die-off. Perhaps, some could manage to get out of the box?!
Likening our population to those of the rats and the box as our society, it only stands to reason that one would better off to leave this society than likely go down with it, if there was a sudden crash. However, one would be taking his chances of adapting to the new environment outside the box or die trying to adapt. If one could, wouldn't it be wise to try to adapt to this new environment, before a crisis arises? Well, of course it would be! This is easier said than done, I can promise you that. For some, it's altogether impossible because they would not have the time to adjust to it and yet for others, they wouldn't be able to adapt even if they had the time to do so.
An example of this might be: Winter can be very hard on the deer herd here in Northern Michigan and annual "die-offs" are a normal occurance. During the summer months, of the deer that come to our yard we supplement their diet with corn, (these are deer who are getting outside the box as opposed the deer who are not getting the supplement, as those stuck in the box). When winter comes the entire herd, (representing the total population both those that diets were supplemented and those not), goes to yard in the swamp together (inside the box) where again corn will be supplemented to their diet to prevent starvation. Most the deer that were supplemented corn in their diet through the summer are more likely to survive because they could adapt and digest the corn. While many of the others who didn't have corn in the summer, died with corn in their stomachs, they couldn't digest it, or adapt to it.
This is not an easy concept to comprehend. One personality over at BNB had no problem following this concept, that was Whatmeworry. Whatmeworry, in my opinion, was by far the brightest person on the posts, however very radical. This "little old lady", who was living at some compound in the middle of the Arizona desert, ( I was gullible enough to believe this at the time), prided herself by having piles of whole and cracked corn. When I told her, I'd rather be sitting on a pile of Big Mac's and that at least I could digest this, she became very upset. Being a genius doesn't make you always right, doesn't enable you to digest corn in this matter and doesn't ensure that you'll be able to adapt or survive, period. I had insulted her intelligence and everyone would pay dearly for it! However, she did agree completely with this concept and even expressed sorrow for those who couldn't grasp or accept it. Again, we both viewed a very sudden collapse of society, that once die-off began in earnest, it'd have a life of it's own and there was no way of stopping it. Not only did we view the die-off as an event but a thing, a monster if you will. That the only chance of survival was to completely get out of the way of it.
Another person who didn't like where I was going with this was Kentar. I was suggesting that perhaps the only way out of this collapse was to leave civilization or anyplace you might find transmission lines, behind. As you might recall Kentar viewed collapse as coming ever so slowly, not a event but a series of declines. Kentar questioned that although this might be an option for someone with the experience that I have, it wouldn't realistically be an option for just about anyone else there on the board. Of course, I had to agree with this and even offered that someone of my experience couldn't last long or go very far, without the help of others. However, at this time Kentar, did agree that this might be the only approach,(leaving civilization behind), if the lights should go out for good suddenly, but thought this wasn't very likely.
Under the lights are out for good scenario, it's much better looking inside the box from the outside, than inside the box looking out!
Sunday, January 20, 2008
source: The Winston Dictionary, Advanced Addition, 1946.
This is an interesting graph, that I stumbled by. Notice, how world population tripled in the last 100 years. However, the industrialized regions only doubled, during this time, and is projected to level off during the next 50 years. Of course, this is only an assumption, not fact, as we're not there yet.
Some European countries populations are in fact in decline and Japan's population is expected to decline. Through better nutrition, education and medicine in the last 100 years, has enabled the population to grow older. Of course this drives down the rate of fertility. Just as infant mortality drives down the medium age within a population. This presents quite the challenge for certain countries to support this aging population in coming years.
Back at the old school house, the instructors insisted that any given land and it's natural resources can only support X amount of people in the long term. Their favorite example was here, the U.P. of Michigan. The population has virtually went unchanged in the last 100 years,(1900's), in this industrial/agricultural environment. The environment of the 1800's was much different and only supported a fraction of the present population. It was the power of fossil fuels in the 1900's that transformed the environment on this land. Within this time span, the economy has changed from timber harvest, to agricultural, (which was a failed experiment by the Federal Government), to tourism. Now, the forest somewhat resembles the forest that was found in the early 1900's. Also during this time, the population aged, in a two fold way, of those that stayed here are getting older and of those that had to move to support families have been replaced by people who are retiring here. This has drove down the fertility rate to the point the school system has been halved in student population since I went to school! So the population peaked in the early 1900's and has managed to stay consistent, riding a plateau for the last 100 years. This would suggest that the population level is at the maximum point, the land can support in this environment that depends on fossil fuels.
Back to the graph, most of the population expansion has come from developing regions, they are just now coming on line of being able to support larger populations. Again, through the use of fossil fuels is this only made possible. The population's medium age is much younger than that of industrialized regions, naturally making the fertility rates much higher. Most of these regions are 100 years behind those regions that were industrialized 100 years ago! To even further exasperate the problem is wealth is not more evenly distributed as it had been for earlier industrialized regions, making these people uneducated and poorer. Of course, this also inflates the fertility rate.
I have some very dire forecasts for many of these developing regions with higher populations, in coming articles.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
Friday, January 18, 2008
Many people believe that our human population will be reduced by the scarcity of oil and other resources that our society has come to depend on. That this reduction will actually correspond much like it had exploded when the rate of resources consumed, soared. Put another way, as our resources deplete, so will the population in comparison to it. Or yet another way, our population will decline at the same rate of depletion. Many contend that following the population trend that has increased in the last 100 years will decrease in much the same matter and time, in the next 100 years. Much like those "bell graphs" or "Hubbert's curve", everyone is used to seeing on sites such as LATOC, Die-off, The Oil Drum, etc.. Most show how the human population has followed the rate at which oil has been consumed and now many contend we're at the peak or around there somewhere.
It would be an assumption on our part to project anything in the future. We're simply not there yet! Facts can be only found in the past. It would be a pretense on our part to project that the population dynamics would follow a similiar pattern on the back side of the curve as opposed to the front side. Perhaps, we're on some kind of plateau as of now, and our energy demand is barely being met to support the present population. Once demand surpasses energy production, would it be reasonable to start to see decline in population? No. The momentum of the population expansion will "carry over" or "overshoot", the actual resource base that can sustain it. Overshoot occurs when a population exceeds the long term carrying capacity of its environment. The consequence of overshoot is called a "crash" or die-off". There are some who contend that overshoot, likely started in the late 1970's and some estimates are suggesting that we're over 25% past carrying capacity now. To my knowledge, world population continues to grow, however at a slower rate than the recent past.
My point here, is that no one knows for sure how our population will descend, but a some point it will, once resources cannot support the existing population in this environment. Since no one can accurately predict how consumption of energy and other resources will play out in the future, it's impossible to predict how populations around the world will react, with any certainly.
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Sunday, January 13, 2008
It was New Years Eve 2005, when I came across a futuristic scenario written by Carolyn Baker, over at a site that was called, "Adaptation". I can't remember the title of this article, but I suppose after reading it, I knew in my heart that after 35 years of silence, I just had to bring something forth. I had been formally educated and groomed, to criticize such scenarios with historical and scientific fact.
The story went something like this: It related the life of a middle aged couple living in some suburb of Detroit, Michigan, through a diary the wife was keeping. It started out explaining how the young couple through good jobs worked their way up the ladder and into a nice neighborhood where they could raise their children. The husband had a good job at an auto manufacturer and they afforded the good life until he lost his job there. By that time the kids were out of school and pretty much on their own. The wife returned to work to try to make up the difference, but their lifestyle continued to decline. Their neighbors were no better off and soon shortages of food, gas and other items needed for daily living were becoming more common place. Even communication between the couple and their children became spotty, as lines were apparently not in order and the Internet was off and on. Soon, all communication was broken off from their siblings. Also during this time the power was going on and off and the duration of outages was lasting longer and longer. Finally, the couple decided to flee the neighborhood after the power went out for good and roaming gangs of young people were taking what they wanted. Total chaos had taken to the streets and had spread from the inner city to the out lying neighborhoods. Along the way in their flight on foot from the suburbs out towards the countryside, the couple was fortunate to get A GLASS OF WATER A DAY. It wasn't long into the journey that the husband finally perished from a lack of his medication. The women continued on until she happened onto a farm that was willing to take her on. End of story.
Now normally, I'm the type of guy that would set something like this aside. However, this story came from a professional writer with a PH.D, no less! I was outraged! How could someone of her stature drop the ball, so to speak, so profoundly. I decided to email her at once and a spirited email exchange ensued on New Year's Day of 2006, during the Rose Parade. I really didn't have a problem with the story until the power went completely out and yet that fleeing couple on foot managed to even find a glass of water a day! Let alone continue on in this matter! Apparently, no one had ever brought this to her attention. It wasn't long before I suspect she had pulled the article altogether, I can't find it anywhere. It was then, I realized I had made a mistake bringing this folly to her attention. Now, I couldn't use this article in supporting my case. One thing that story did for me, was it deepened my resolve to come forth with my own version of what might happen in the near future. That is, the future up to the die-off, beyond that I was never to have a hypothesis. Back at the old school house, the instructors were quite adamant about theorizing beyond die-off, as they thought there was no point in it.
What the instructors did make a point of are those elements needed for survival, and water was one of them. All life forms on this earth depend on water. The human body is composed of about 70% of water. While the body can survive without food for about five weeks, the body cannot survive without water for longer than five days. On the average, our bodies need at least eight glasses of water a day. A regular glass of water contains about eight ounces. Put another way, our bodies need a half ounce of water for every pound of weight, unless we're very active, in which case we'll need to increase the intake to two-thirds an ounce of water per pound of body weight, daily.
Another aspect of Baker's thought about the couple only getting a glass of water a day, where would that water come from? The story was told that the power had went out for good. I can't remember if this was nation wide, I'm assuming it was, however even if the power was out regionally, say like what happened in August of 2003 when the Northeast Blackout occurred, "city water " would likely stop running after a week. This critical part of our infrastructure, is designed, built and managed on the assumption of contineous power. Of course, most water treatment plants have diesel back ups to keep the water flowing, however, this is just a temporary fix until the power would come back on. Most of these diesel back ups cannot do the work as their electrical counterparts. Most have about a week's worth of fuel stored for just an emergency, but what happens after a week? It's just not feasible that all of the thousands of back ups would be refueled in such a scenario...How? Here's something to think about, how would New York city water over eight million residents without power?
Imagine for a moment, four million people of the Detroit Metropolitan area fleeing out to the countryside looking for a drink of water.....In this scenario, when the power is out, that can only be the case, people will have to go where there is water period, or die. So simple. Don't believe it? Just how many hand pumps do you actually see in the city? Even if there were hand pumps, where are the wells to draw from? Would the water table be at 25 feet or higher in order to use common hand pumps? About the only water these people would have at their disposal would be surface water from ponds, lakes, rivers and such. Much of this surface water is polluted, not fit for human consumption. Sure, this water can be chemically treated but how many people do you know have these tablets? Of course, one could always boil water..... Now we've got real problems, some serious feedback loops are beginning to arise. We have a lot of people sick drinking contaminated water and people who are not accustomed to making fire, suddenly doing so. Could you imagine what the people in the cities of Las Vegas or Tuscon would do if this should happen to them? Could they even walk to water in time? Um, reader, what's your situation with water? Better figure this out...
The class held the topic of water for what seemed like weeks, this I can remember quite well, even after 35 some years. Finally at the end of this discussion, as the instructor made for the door, he said in a low voice, "You all were born from water, without it you shall surely die..." He quietly closed the door behind him and I can still hear him whistling, "Dixie" as he made his way down the hallway..............
Friday, January 11, 2008
collapse: 1.) to fall in or together; cave in suddenly; shrink together abruptly. 2.) to fail utterly