14 August 2012
Norman Pagett writes:
Much is written about the gradual decline of our industrialised society, into something perhaps more pastoral and self supportive. I rather think much of it hinges on people being nice to each other in the face of economic collapse. Don’t forget economic collapse means food and energy collapse too, collapse of one will instantly trigger the other two and there are numerous circumstances where that could happen literally overnight, rather than some kind of gentle downslope that some wishful thinkers and daydreamers imagine.
For example: Iran may or may not have nuclear weapons, but if they have, and if their lunatic rulers (as opposed to our lunatic rulers) are pushed to the limit by sanctions etc., they might just use them to wreck the world economy (Saudi oilfields and the Gulf of Hormuz right next door). Nuke the Saudi oilfields and the Saudis go back to being camel traders and goat herders; that will happen anyway when the oilflow stops.
Or maybe it’s just empty threats and posturing. Let’s hope so, but in the history of mankind, somebody has always blinked first, then all hell’s been let loose.
Then we get onto ‘alternative energy sources’. While many people are aware that energy comes in different forms, the vast majority imagine that because windfarms and solar panels produce energy, it’s the same as fossil fuel energy . We are media-fed all this ‘alternative’ stuff, but our brains don’t take in the alternative bit, they just read the word ‘energy’, that somehow if we build enough windmills, our need for oil will diminish and life can go on as ‘normal’. All nonsense of course. Our factories, infrastructure and modern society flourished because we found creative ways of burning coal oil and gas. But more than that, the products of those factories also needed hydrocarbon energy inputs to use them. So we burned energy to produce ‘stuff, then burned still more energy in order to use it. But that’s what our consumer economy was: making stuff, using it, then trashing it. Producing wind turbines just gives you —wind turbines, it doesn’t restart the consumer economy, it just pays wages while wind turbines are being built, and then, nothing. Same thing applies to solar collectors. You can’t eat electricity. In order to sustain our society, we must have constant inputs of fossil fuel energy. When it stops, we stop.
A gradual downturn and de-industrialisation? Fine. Then one day you get sick and turn up at the hospital. Except that a hospital is one of the biggest energy sinks ever devised by man. You’re told that its now closed, and the doctors and medical staff have all decided to deskill and grow medicinal herbs instead.
Our economic system has been built by using energy, (that’s the free stuff we dug out of the ground) and converting it into different forms, oil into plastic and so on. We didn’t build our infrastructure by farming energy. Unfortunately people confuse the two, and think of them as the same thing.
I hate the truth as much as anybody, but this is what we face in our immediate future