Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Ten of Spades Part I, The Industrial Environment


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.


auntiegrav said...

Ahh. Now I found the one you referred to. Give Eeyore enough time, and he eventually figures it out...

Ford and Edison were very aware of the threat of oil running out. That's why they worked on electric vehicles and wanted to avoid the gasoline engines. (Re: "Internal Combustion" by Edwin Black) However, the lead battery trusts and automobile Combine conspired against them at the same time that the noise and power of gasoline engines became 'Manliness', and their nickel-iron alkaline batteries went the way of the dodo. (still available from Korea, I think, a friend and I are considering some work with these).
The light bulb led to much of the demise of humanity, along with the industrial production model. To think only in terms of resources and production, we forget about the human biology and psychology factors, as well as what really makes money valuable. What happened to bring about our present situation is the same thing that has happened to millions of people with the industrial society: burnout. There are plenty of resources to have comfortable, peaceful lives, but the competition mindset which pitted individuals against themselves and against machines (the John Henry song) without proper compensation and rest has burned out our collective culture. Perhaps the coming SuperDepression will make everyone take a break, back off, and spend some time really thinking about what they need and what value means to the individuals which make up civilization. Perhaps they will then realize there are much better ways to work, to eat, and to produce. Without an extended break, however, the culture is at the mercy of the culture itself, and anyone promoting a decline is ignored.
Industrial schools, industrial foods, industrial people, and perceptions controlled by television fantasies. There never was a 'service' economy or a 'knowledge' economy. The only place that value can be created is by the desire for and implementation of physical resources. The lies of advertising and economists have been propped up by simply increasing debt to pay for 'services' or 'knowledge' value, but real products have not been produced in large enough quantity to pay those debts. Especially the cost of imported energy has outweighed the value of exported real goods. Stealing the oil didn't work, and trying to borrow from the future to buy our way out of bankruptcy isn't working either.

yooper said...

Some excellent thoughts there, auntiegrav. Suppose the Jones are just burned out trying to compete?

I suspect, you're "Super Depression", will only give those who survive it, a break to think about what they really need and value in life. I think, our society cannot go back to a depression like era. This is one of those irreversible consnequences this society has brought upon itself, without a die-off. Sure it may be slow, but this die-off will occur none the less. The industrial environment created this ballooning population and without it, there is nothing that can support population levels at present levels. energy=value? petrodollars=petropeople?

Yes, exactly, we are not producing enough to pay off debt.

auntiegrav said...

I don't think things can 'go back' to be a Depression-like era, because there is no such thing. The Great Depression was a chaotic time, and that's what is coming. The reduction in consumption that comes with it, however, can cause the stress on some of the system to be less, which allows for some people to step back and look for different ways of building social networks and needs networks. I agree with the term 'petropeople', but don't be surprised if we find that the non-petropeople outnumber the petropeople, especially after hard times. The US could easily live comfortable with probably 1/4th of the energy it now uses. We just have to learn how, and we won't as long as the economy keeps pumping easy money into energy purchases that don't need to be made in the first place.
I used to like the Dieoff scenario because I'm a yoopee misanthrope, too. However, I've learned to try and see when people take the easy answer (usually brought to my attention if it is what one of my relatives thinks), and overpopulation is an oversimplification of the circumstances. If we put people back on the land to replace oil, and use the modern techniques that are available for organic farming, we could create a solar-oriented society which has almost the same number of people that we have now, only without the smog. It takes new thinking, new leadership, and old ways which people won't embrace very easily until they are hungry.
3 meals to a revolution, so why not make the revolution about food?

yooper said...

Hello auntiegrav! Yup,the people who survive will need social and needs networking.

I strongly disagree with your thought about that we, (300 million) can get along comfortably, on a quarter of the energy used now. Here's the catch, we're presently using around 40% of that energy making electrical power.However, I think, you're right, we can get along just fine on a fraction (1/4) of the energy used today, but only with a (1/4) of the people. energy=people.

Really, I don't mistrust mankind and generally believe that everything will come out clean after the wash.. I'd like to suggest reading the article below this one called, "Rats in a Box". Die-off is an event(s), it's a thing, a monster if you will. It's like a raging wildfire, it has a life of it's own and there's little anyone can do to alter it's course. You might also be interested in the isolation article below that one, and ask yourself, can I do this?

Auntigrav, you're getting might close to seeing the same picture (vision) as I am. Hang in there with me!

Thanks, yooper

auntiegrav said...

I don't think that we can predict what will happen because as I've said before, it's Chaos theory. There are a lot of ifs and variables to look at, and the picture in our heads is going to be relative to our mood that day. You caught me in a good mood when I said that we COULD live comfortably on 1/4th of the energy. What I didn't say was that I HOPE we don't. I HOPE that the people who spend their lives consuming and driving to jobs to create more jobs to advertise more cars to get to jobs to pay taxes for government jobs to protect their oil so they can drive to jobs to buy clothes and a car to go to a job...will simply freakin' DIE. But they won't. They will probably show up and try to steal food and THEN they will die and I'll have to clean up the mess. That's a different mood.
The government CAN do some amazing things very easily because it has the resources and manpower to draw upon and change the face of our culture very quickly IF IT CHOOSES TO DO SO. But it PROBABLY won't.
If the stock market dies tomorrow (which I suspect it is close to doing), then perhaps enough of the banking and financial systems will melt so that people get pissed off enough to eat the rich. But that's only a hope. Hope is what got the Jews on the trains to Auschwitz. Hope is why the pig goes up the ramp to the kill floor.
Hope is what makes people think that churches are useful. We need less hope and more reality.
In reality, the energy being used is for things we don't need. 2400 sqft houses are heated for 2 people. Dishwashers swirl water around and heat up dishes while those 2 people leave the decorative lights on outside and sit in a lighted room watching a lighted television to give them something to do. Transportation energy is mostly used to transport vehicles, not people. Even on my farm, where I haul cargo, my truck still far outweighs the cargo I'm hauling most of the time.
Our culture is so unbelievably wasteful with all energy forms that it is amazing our cities haven't melted into puddles of fat and plastic. If it wasn't for the airconditioners running 24/7, they would, from the heat of all those internet servers churning out porn videos and stupid pet tricks emailed around the world 4 million times a day from each spam-infested Windoze machine.

auntiegrav said...

As Derrick Jensen puts it: What if aliens came to earth and were bribing the government to let them cut down trees, poison the rivers from factories to make products that were completely useless, took over our food system and put poisons in the food and produced food that didn't have nutrition? What if those aliens started wars in other countries so that they could get access to resources like tantalum and cobalt and petroleum? What if they dumped dioxins into the air and water so that it showed up in every woman's breast milk?
How far would we let aliens go before we picked up the AK's and started fighting them?
Why do we let artificial 'persons' do these things and then willingly work for them and buy their products?

auntiegrav said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.