Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Transition Towners and Lifeboaters; Part 2

 Before the events of 2008 demonstrated that the fragility of the global economy (debt bubble) will be the leading factor in impending events rather than environmental and resource depletion issues, Richard Heinberg, Hopkins, Kunstler et.al. were predicting a bumpy descent of economic activity as a result of resource depletion. However, to consider their writing to be permanent works like the Ten Commandments is to do a disservice to the authors themselves. Even the Transition Towns movement itself is not some church with an established Creed and Litany. Transition from what? The start point is now, and where we are now depends on our personal circumstances and changes on an almost daily basis in a manner that is almost completely outside our control. To what? Some want socialist utopia, others prefer libertarian freedoms, some might see a clan or tribal system as a desired outcome.
Do you even realise that today the US is only two weeks away from sovereign debt default without a Plan B? You have no idea of the global shockwave that will produce. If they manage to cobble together a rescue plan how long do you think it will work until they need a Plan C? QE1 cost the US taxpayer 70 billion dollars and has staved off collapse for two years. Yes- I said collapse, not crisis. Crisis is what they (which means "we" effectively in a globalised world) have already.
The reason Kunstler turned into a "ranting shock jock" is the realisation of the above facts. Are you one of those who still believe that peak oil and subsequent decline will cause the global economy to shrink 7% year-on-year? That's so old-school,-it was a best-case scenario. That's what would have happened if the global economy was fundamentally sound in all other respects. It turns out that since bank deregulation in the Reagan-Thatcher-Douglas era the jokers have created a house of cards(derivatives bubble)to inflate their own wealth with no underlying real asset value. The politicians could tear it down (mark banks "assets" to market value = almost worthless) if they wished, but they don't wish, because the politicians belong to the bankers (in NZ, it seems, they often are bankers!), bought and paid-for. Then we would be back to the managable 7% year-on-year decline that is the basis upon which a broad-based Transition programme might just enable us to avert civil chaos.
As it is, a disruptive global economic event will result in the investment required to extract the remaining resources even at the rate required for "only" a 7% year-on-year decline not being made. The situation will not be recoverable becaused the resultant decline in economic activity will result in fewer current resources being able to be bought to bear to extract the required future resources. Thus instead of the lovely peak, descending ramp and soft landing we see in conventional peak oil curves, we will see a nosedive. This is collapse. Go and find Joseph Tainter on Wikipedia. this guy is a heavyweight (but eminently readable) academic, not some "raving shock-jock doomer". He was writing well before peak oil awareness became mainstream and certainly well before the financial events of 2008 so this is not "cleverness with the benefit of hindsight". There is a book called "The Collapse of Complex Societies" but there are links to free papers at Wiki- check out his CV too whilst you are there.
 Have you ever heard the saying "hope for the best but prepare for the worst" this is such a truism it exists in every culture. Transition Towners and Lifeboaters may not be exactly the same thing, but neither are they mutually exclusive or in conflict. I really don't see why some TTers consider that lifeboaters are gleefully awaiting Armageddon or are doing anything that actually conflicts with the interests of Transition Towns. We actually are creating the world that we should have. Creating. Not "helping", actually flogging our guts sixteen hours a day doing. I'm sorry if we got bored waiting for the rest of you to get your finger out and actually take personal responsibility for your future well-being, but we are not going to let ourselves and our families suffer just so we can say "oh, we may be completely completely shafted but at least we didn't break with the concensus of the lowest common denominator".

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