Big Picture

Peak Oil, Sustainability and Economic Collapse – Oil Zenith resources

I’ve just been made aware of this new website which offers a collection of some of the best resources on the web about peak oil, sustainability and economic collapse. I’ve already included some of these links in my resources list, but this website is something else altogether. I think I could get lost in there for days. Check it out –>

Oil Zenith

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The Perfect Storm: Six Trends Converging on Collapse

I have an uneasy feeling lately. Everywhere I look I see signs that all is not well. Of course, I’ve been seeing those signs for a couple of years, but things seem to be speeding up and now more and more people appear to be noticing. What interesting times we live in.

There are dark clouds gathering on the horizon. They are the clouds of six hugely troubling global trends, climate change being just one of the six. Individually, each of these trends is a potential civilization buster. Collectively, they are converging to form the perfect storm–a storm of such magnitude that it will dwarf anything that mankind has ever seen. If we are unsuccessful in our attempts to calm this storm, without a doubt it will destroy life as we know it on Planet Earth!

There is a popular saying that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting a different result.” If we keep doing business in the same way as we have for the past century, each of these six trends will continue their steep rates of decline, collapsing the natural systems that form the foundation for our civilization and the lifeblood of the global economy. Perhaps the current Gulf oil spill is the wake up call that mankind needs to snap us out of our complacency, realize that we are soiling our nest and that continuation of “business as usual” will destroy the world as we know it? Time will tell whether we heed this warning, go back sleep once the oil spill is contained, or simply tire of the endless media coverage, numb ourselves, and set these critical issues to the side.

We already have the technology and the means to turn this dark tide, but we lack the commitment to make the hard choices and sweeping changes that are necessary for shifting the future of our world from its current course of collapse to a new course of sustainability.

The following six trends are converging to form the perfect storm for global destruction, each of which is a potential civilization buster in its own right, if left unchecked:

1. Climate Change

2. Peak Oil

3. Collapse of the World’s Oceans

4. Deforestation

5. The Global Food Crisis

6. Over Population

Read more from Matthew Stein

Photo by: Madeira

Lest We Forget

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.
Lest We Forget

April 25th is ANZAC Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand, so name for the men of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey in World War I.

In 1915, Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of an Allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli Peninsula, under a plan by Winston Churchill to open the way to the Black Sea for the Allied navies. The ANZAC force landed at Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Turkish Army. What had been planned as a bold strike to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. News of the landing at Gallipoli made a profound impact on Australians and New Zealanders at home and 25 April quickly became the day on which they remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in war.

Every year, all around the world Aussies (Australians) and Kiwis (New Zealanders) will pause for a day and remember the sacrifice made by those who have gone to war. Many people make something of a pilgrimage to the site of the original battle in Turkey. As suggested on Sam in Oz’s blog, it would be like the descendants of the Japanese pilots who bombed Pearl Harbor holding an emotional service beneath the Japanese flag in Hawaii each year.

For me, ANZAC day is profoundly sad. The dawn service is haunting, but meaningful. It is a day that people of all generations come together. You’ll see old diggers (soldiers) sharing a beer with younger people and later in the day, a rowdy game of two-up will begin. ANZAC day then becomes a celebration of mateship, something the Aussie culture values over most everything else.

Having lived in California for the last few years, I witness many of the cultural differences between America and Australia. One of the most obvious is how each country remembers war. American will remember the grand victories and the war heroes. Australians will commemorate a massive military defeat where mateship and courage are more important than the winning. One of Australia’s most remembered war heroes was Simpson, the man with a donkey. At Gallipoli he used a donkey to carry wounded soldiers to the dressing station and gained a reputation for being undaunted by enemy fire. On 19 May 1915 he was killed, and though he was mentioned in orders of the day and despatches, he received no bravery award. The myth-making began almost immediately after his death, and he soon became one of the best-known images of the ANZAC experience.

Here in San Diego we will be holding a service for ANZAC day and we will be heading to the pub for two-up afterwards. I will be giving my thanks to those men and women who died in the service of their country, and I will be hoping that we never have to witness the horrors of war again. Unfortunately, that is not how human nature is.

Photo by: State Library of Queensland

How Will We Cope When Systems Begin to Fail?

First of all….let me say Wow! Thanks to everyone for the illuminating discussion on my previous post. I’m still digesting all of your comments and haven’t had the chance to add my two cents worth yet because today has been ‘one of those days!’ Prepare for me to vent.

On Friday my work computer came down with a symptom I like to call The Blue Screen of Death. It was taken away to whereabouts unknown and then returned to me today. I eagerly booted it up, keen to recover the ever so important essay I had been working on like a crazy woman for the last few weeks. It was at that point that I discovered that everything is gone….lost….deleted. I could have cried (in fact I might have a little). I’m ok (sort of) losing the everyday work stuff because I can ask people to resend me everything I lost. I am however, devastated to lose the essay I had put long days into researching. All that research is gone and I have to start again.

But that is not what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about my reaction to losing EVERYTHING on my computer. After a couple of glasses of wine and a few hours of hindsight, I’m prepared to dissect it.

So….. I lost all the data on my computer. Nobody died. I didn’t lose a limb. A piece of technology failed me…..That is all. So why did I react like my world was coming to an end?

This got me to thinking.

How would we react if all the bank’s computers died? How would we get our money? How would we know how much money we had? Where does our ‘wealth’ go?

How would we react if we had rolling electricity blackouts in our district? How could we pump gas (petrol)? How would water get pumped to our house? How would our effluent get pumped away and treated? How would we cook our food?

How would we react if a foreign country denied us access to oil? How would we get food from the supermarket if the trucks don’t come? How do we get to work to earn our money if we can’t fill the tanks of our cars?

It got me to thinking….We are so reliant on ‘the system’. The system is so reliant on technology. Technology is so reliant on energy.

It got me to thinking….How will we (as a society) cope when systems begin to fail?

Photo by: StarrGazr

What on Earth is to Become of the Next Generation?

Photos collated by pardeshi on flickr

I discovered this essay on Automatic Earth yesterday. The author is VK, a 23 year old man who lives in Nairobi, Kenya. I found his essay to be interesting because it is indicative of the generational rift that is forming. It’s something I’ve been observing and began commenting on it in my post on Baby Boomer retirement. He says a lot of things the Millennial’s (born 1982-200?) and younger Gen X’s (born 1961-1981) are obviously feeling. While it is just words for now, I do wonder how angry this young generation might get when they realise they’ve been dealt the scraps of industrial civilisation.

VK: I was thinking of writing something about the age of consequences that we have entered. With the world going all topsy turvy and unending chaos. I wanted to write something about the decline of complexity, an age of payback or blowback but before I do that, I reckon I want to thank the old farts who got us here. I mean the baby boomers -and gen X’ers to some extent-. No really, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart from Gen Y. It is not even conceivable how ridiculously spoilt the boomers and Gen X’ers are.

You had everything, and you give us nothing. Now that’s a gift worth giving isn’t it?

Where to begin on the gifts that just keep taking from us. You saddle us with your debt burdens, your legacy costs. You use our names and paint little bullseyes on our dreams and hopes and shatter them with the gift of debt. Trillions upon trillions you’ve saddled upon us to save your McMansions, your stocks, your portfolios and your yachts. Thanks for that.

Youth unemployment across much of Europe and the US is hovering between 20-25% with Spain at 45%. This doesn’t even count underemployment, where the youth have been even worse hit. Unemployment and underemployment among young people could be as high as 40-50% in much of the world. So you gift us with debt as well as with no jobs and low wages!

Why do I feel like a PhD in Greece who’s serving fat tourists on a beach earning €700 a month, or maybe the Italian kids who can’t afford to buy their own house or maybe the Australian kid who was sold out by his government into buying houses that (s)he can’t even afford, in an effort to prop up ridiculously over-valued home prices. Or maybe it was the American kid who got out of college with a huge debt burden and now can’t find a job or even get a start in life because of your reckless greed and exuberance to party. Thank you, you’re so kind and gentle and giving.

I thank you also for the environmental gifts you have given, pollutants, CFC’s, methane and carbon. Dirty rivers and smogged-up cities. Dead babies and frankenseeds. Thank you so much, we’re well past the climate change tipping point at 350ppm, the permafrost meltdown will come to us, from Russia with love, adding god knows how much methane into the atmosphere.

Thanks for the making Australia potentially uninhabitable in a few decades thanks to your desire to garden your quarter acre of suburbia, thanks for ripping Alberta apart, thanks for damming the rivers, for the need to wear face masks in cities just to breathe and turning the Pacific and the Atlantic into great big giant garbage patches.

The rivers will dry, the seasons will alter, add on top of that top soil depletion, phosphate production decline and a smattering of freak weather incidents and we’re all set to have a rocking good time. Thanks. It’s great to know that because you couldn’t live without your iPhone, your double cheese burger and holidays to Florida, you have given a gift that will just keep on giving for multiple centuries.

It’s also great to know that since you couldn’t understand urban planning and build right rail and tax people for driving cars and provide subsidies and incentives for bicycling. You were just too hard headed and stubborn, you wanted it all. You still are and you still do.

No limits, fast muscle cars and cruising to your local drive-in with that hot guy/ gal who turned fat 3 years or 3 decades later on a steady bloated diet of fructose syrup and is kept alive seated, forget standing, with prozac and cialis. You wanted it all! You didn’t want to understand either peak oil or its effects on generations ahead. Let me say it simply, the world is finite. Hence logically it has finite resources. Technology can only do so much, without hitting the brick wall known as the laws of thermodynamics.

You came up with all sorts of excuses, in the 1970’s it was,”This is bullshit, there are no limits”, in the 1980’s you said, “there might be limits, but the market will solve them”, in the 1990’s you said, “markets can be inefficient, but technology will save us, magic bullets people!” and in the naughties you said, “Do I look like I care about you? we’ll all get rich selling houses to each other and stealing our kids futures, they suck anyway”

So thanks, for this gift, you used up the easiest and most precious finite resources discovered by man in about 1000 years, the last 50 have seen you grab and squabble harder than ever before. Thanks for leaving us with all the hard to find, tough to extract energy sources with such low marginal rates of return that civilization might not survive. You’re all heart and a bag of gold to boot.

So thank you really, you had a blast, a great time. You had Elvis, the Beatles, Dylan, free love, cheap oil and free money. You leave us a bitter ponzi scheme. A world burdened with nearly 7 billion people as you couldn’t stop shagging each other now could you? You leave us a world so polluted and so close to the edge that we’ll wonder where to get our next meal from. A world so saturated with debt and bleak employment outcomes, we’ll be servicing your debts forever and then some more.

You’ve sent your kids to die. In wars where rich men argue. You’ve sent your kids to the abyss. With environmental recklessness and greed. You’ve sent your kids to the house of pain and broken dreams. With your ponzi finance schemes. You’ve sold us off to satisfy your strange urges and feelings, your own inadequacies and insecurities and misgivings. Thanks a quadrillion for that! I know you did it all for us, to make us feel better and to give us a bright promising future!

Now please, let the kids sort things out. You geezers should take a hike. Quite literally, go to a park, go trekking, like try the Great Beyond. You’ve done enough damage as it is.

Pessimism; Optimism; Realism

“The pessimist complains about the wind;

the optimist expects it to change;

the realist adjusts the sails.”

~ William Arthur Ward

I came across this quote the other day and thought it explained perfectly how I see my view of the world. People often think I’m a pessimist because I talk and write about unpleasant things. I guess they think the way to deal with unpleasant things is to ignore them, and ‘hope’ they go away. Unfortunately, expecting the woes of the world to be magically fixed is not necessarily the best way to deal with the predicaments we are facing. I think that a better solution would be to acknowledge the situation as it is, and then work towards living a life that will be rich and meaningful even if these events do come to pass.

Knowing which way the wind is blowing and having an idea of where it will be blowing in the future allows us to adjust our sails so we are productively moving in the right direction, no matter what.  If we simply sit by and complain about the wind or hope that it will change, we risk being buffeted by the enormous storm coming our way. So, plot your course, keep an eye on which way the wind is blowing,  set your sails and enjoy the ride.

Photo by: wili hybrid

Perspective

“We have not inherited the earth from our parents;
we have borrowed it from our children.”

I don’t have any children yet, but many of my good friends have recently brought a member of a new generation into the world. I guess we are of that age.

Often when I have the time, I navel-gaze and give some thought to future generations and what history might say about us and how we now live. Some days I think we are all screwed; perhaps it would be a good thing for humans to drive themselves extinct. Why would any sane society pollute drinking water, fill the oceans with plastics or pump so many toxins into the environment that they end up in breast milk?

As supposedly intelligent animals it’s hard to understand how we’ve managed to create a society where we are so far removed from nature that we as individuals can no longer feed ourselves, where few people have enough time to stay home and raise their young, where young girls die because they don’t think they measure up to society’s idea of beauty? What on Earth are we doing? Honestly, how can we hand this life to our kids and say, “This is the best we could do!”

Photo by: JohnB49

Get out into nature

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Photo by: Mara ~ earth light

Last weekend Brendan, Zoe dog and I went for a hike out at Mt Laguna. We used to go hiking all the time, but life has been so busy lately and the last time we went hiking locally was in June. That’s over four months ago! In that time we have been out into nature, but that’s been mostly a quick walk in a National Park as we passed through. I didn’t realise until last weekend how much I was missing it.

As we sat on a log that was once a giant tree, overlooking a grassy meadow on a bright, sunny Autumn morning, I got to thinking. If everyone made the effort to spend more time in nature, maybe people would feel more empathy with their environment. Getting out in nature connects us to our planet and its inhabitants in a way that reading blogs or watching TV cannot do. Stepping out of that everyday rut of work, TV watching, eating and shopping gives us a sense of belonging to something much larger than ourselves. I imagine that it’s much easier to dismiss environmental concerns when you don’t spend any time experiencing and enjoying the outdoors.

Have to ever been to a place where there is no light pollution and you can lie on your back and stare up at the Milky Way and ponder the sheer magnitude of the universe? I have… in the middle of Australia, not far from Ulura.  A magical, sacred place which leaves goosebumps on your skin.

Have you ever fallen asleep to the sound of humpback whale song? I have… in the hull of a tall ship. Whale mothers singing to their new calves in the dark depths.

Have you ever climbed a mountain just so you can sit at the top while the sun drops below the horizon? I have… up the 3,750 “steps of penitence”at Mt Sinai where according to Bedouin tradition, God gave laws to the Israelites. The sun a giant, red disk dipping behind black mountains.

Anyone who has the opportunity to experience the natural wonder that our world delivers in abundance cannot help but care about what’s happening to our planet. So if I have one suggestion to anyone, it’s this: Get out into nature.

World-Changing Wednesdays

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Photo by: Norma Desmond

Since I started this blog I’ve really been focusing on what we’ve been doing to live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. I have mentioned Voluntary Simplicity and given some broad reasons about why we are changing our life, but today I really want to jump right in and outline some of the big issues I see impacting us in the not too distant future.

In short, I think the world as we know it is coming to an end. I’m not talking the Apocalypse, but I am talking about the way of life enjoyed by the majority of people in the Western World. We simply can not keep living the way we do without coming up against some very finite limits. Each week, I’m going to start addressing one topic which sometimes keeps me awake at night. Because it’s a catchy phrase I’m going to call this series ‘World-Changing Wednesday’s, however I don’t want people to think I’m a complete doomer. I am in fact a very optimistic person, I just choose to see the world as it is and adapt to reality rather than living in fantasy land. I hope you tune in on Wednesday’s to learn a little more about some of the most important issues which will affect us during our lifetime. To quote Dr Chris Martenson, “I believe the next twenty years will be completely unlike the last twenty”.

There are quite a few issues I’m going to discuss and instead of jumping around all over the place, I intend to approach my discussion in three specific areas:

Economy

Firstly, at a high level I’m going to talk about how money comes into existence and outline the fundamentals of the major Western economies. I promise not to make it boring, but having a good understanding of the basis for our way of life is critical to understanding some of the other problems we are starting to see such as recession, increased debt, failure to save, housing bubbles, disappearing retirement benefits, unemployment etc etc. I’m also going to touch on the increasing wealth gap and demographic issues and how this will affect our lives in the years to come.

Economy#1: How Money is Created

Economy#2: Is a housing bubble looming in Australia?

Economy#3: How the Credit Crisis Happened

Economy#4: The Debt Trap (Our Economic System is not Sustainable)

Energy

Energy is the source of all economic activity in our current civilisation. Cheap energy is absolutely fundamental to our current way of living. Continued growth based on ever increasing levels of cheap energy is not possible and when growth can no longer occur, the whole system will be forever changed. I’m going to spend some time discussing Peak Oil and then look as some of the ramifications of reduced energy on our way of living.

Energy#1: What is Peak Oil?

Energy#2: The Economy and Oil (The Long Decline)

Environment

I know climate change gets all the headlines these days but there are so many more environmental issues that need to be discussed. I’ll talk about exponential population growth and how that relates to resource depletion, including food, water and clean air. I also want to touch on pollutions and toxins and how they might affect us and those we love.

Environment#1: The Issue of Human Population Growth

Environment#2: Resource Limitations ~ Water

Environment#3: Resource Limitations ~ Food

All three of these broader issues (The Three E’s) are closely related and stresses in one area will begin to impact the other two. Over the next few months, I hope to show that there is a Perfect Storm brewing. There are a massive set of challenges converging within a short window of time. Any one of these events will be difficult to deal with, but we are starting to see that they will all start impacting us within  the short space of a couple of decades. Given that no real discussion or planning is yet happening at the national and global levels, these will be interesting times indeed. We are going to be living through one of the defining times of human history and it’s going to be one heck of a ride.

Please tune in next Wednesday for the first in the series, and if you have any recommendations for other topics I should discuss, please leave me a comment.

Home

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Brendan and I watch a lot of documentaries, but last night we watched what I consider to be the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Home takes viewers on a ride around an Earth put in dire peril by its most adaptable life form, humanity.

The shot-from-above cinematography is simply stunning. French photographer Yann Arthus-Betrand has managed to turn the most dismally wasted landscapes into abstractions of color and form. One of the disturbing discoveries of “Home” is that there is beauty to be found even in environmental devastation, if you film it from far enough away. As a photographer I found the entire movie one of the most visually beautiful productions I’ve ever seen. The cinematography is second to none.

Anyone who appreciates beautiful and stirring music will also love the soundtrack. It’s extremely emotive. The script is exceptionally well written and powerful. It is narrated by Glenn Close.

Home2

A review from Change.org

Hopping quickly over the first four billion of the Earth’s Arcadian human-free early years, we arrive at the latter 200,000. Humans hunt and gather, discover agriculture, build cities, burn fossil fuels for energy, fill dismally dusty feedlots with corn-fattened beef cattle, over-consume resources, shatter the food chain with pesticides. They waste their minds on television, isolate themselves in suburbia, create sterile monuments to modernity, overfish the oceans, desertify the plains, deplete fresh water supplies, promote a wrongheaded “western model of development,” use up most of the oil, and refuse to own up to any of it.

And that’s just the first hour.

By the time we arrive at film’s end, where the narration exhorts us that “it’s too late to be a pessimist,” we’ve also depleted the soil, chopped down tropical forests for palm oil plantations, triggered the Sixth Great Extinction of animals and plants in the Earth’s history, hoarded wealth, built crowded megacities, left most of the swelling human population of six billion plus in poverty and environmental injustice, and tipped the climate’s delicate balance toward runaway global warming.

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Throughout the movie I had goosebumps and by the end I had tears in my eyes. Not just from the message but from the beautiful way it is portrayed. This movie is simply a masterpiece. Please set aside a quiet hour or two to watch it. You will not regret it.