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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thoughts for 2014

Thoughts for the New Year, 2015
By Denis Frith
This is an update of the essay I produced for 2014. Before presenting an update on background and recommendations, I will comment on the impact of what has happened in 2014 on the premises I put forward. The global awareness of  the deleterious impact of climate change and some remedial measures have grown during the year but, surprisingly, Australian 'leaders', still consider the pursuit of economic growth to be more important! Economic growth has slowed down in many countries due to the combination of a number of economic, social, political and ecological reasons accentuated by conflicts in a number of regions, particularly the Middle East, together with the common financial market games played by powerful interests in Eastern as well as Western countries. The recent drop in oil price will hit many economies (particularly Russia and Iran) and industries (including shale oil producers) hard although the masses here will welcome the cheaper fuel for a while only. This oil price hiccup is bound to lead to tumultuous events in the coming year that will have an impact in this country. The lowering price of iron ore is also going to hit the budgets of industry and government hard in the coming year.Unfortunately, there are no signs that our federal and state politicians have a clue about about how things really work. Employment, health and education are important issues but the holistic one is that the technological systems are irreversibly using up natural resources, producing irrevocable waste and devastating the environment. A commentator blamed the loss by the Liberals of the Victorian election on the failure to emphsise liberal values of small government, individual liberty and personal responsibility. His attitude sums up the reason why civilization is doomed. People do not really have the liberty to consume irreplaceable natural resources and produce irrevocable waste. Responsible people do their utmost to live sustainably with what nature provides but the majority irresponsibly consume. Wise government would seek to provide sound leadership rather than promote economic growth without paying the ecological cost as governments worldwide are doing.
I entered an essay " " in a global competition " " without any success even though a Russian anthropologist gave it ten out of ten because the novel points in my essay were consistent with those raised by  some past authorities with out having any impact on the decisions being made by the powerful. I have now offered a prize for the student of my old school, Launceston Grammar, who provides the best response to the challenges raised in my ELAM essay. The intention is to encourage the students to think about the reality that is occurring rather than the delusion fostered by the mainstream. Maybe in 2015 I will have some success in improving understanding of reality by focusing on novel, unrecognized.basic scientific principles.
In my retirement I have researched what civilization has done to its life support system, the environment and the underground material bounty. I have used the internet to gather information and evidence and to peruse the views of informed people in many fields. I now know the fundamental physical principles governing the operation of all the technological infrastructure of civilization. This operation is an unsustainable process that uses up the limited natural material wealth while producing irrevocable material waste in providing the goods and services that society has become so dependent on.  The harm that this process is doing to the environment is another deleterious consequence of this lust by society for a high material standard of living regardless of the real ecological cost. The fact that the marine ecosystem is also being devastated does not receive the warranted consideration, as yet. The billions who rely on fish for protein are striving to ineffectively cope with this marine predicament. Although climate change is causing widespread concern, little effective adaption is being implemented. These examples are only symptoms of the stark reality, but society does not understand the fundamental physical principle that the operation of the systems of civilization is unsustainable. And there is no reason to believe that the powerful or the masses will take this reality into account until it hits home hard in coming years due to numerous deleterious effects. The impact of climate change is only one symptom of the holistic malaise. Many others are being assessed by scientists in their specific fields. Knowledgeable people talk in terms of the collapse of our civilization. They are referring to a process that is under way now and will take place relatively slowly over the coming decades.  ‘Black swan’ events may precipitate local catastrophes that will hasten the demise. The current population is beyond the carrying capacity of Earth so a horrifying die off is certain this century. Ironically, the inevitable demise of the infrastructure (the cities, roads, ports, sewerage systems etc.) will also be a problem that the coming generation will have to face. How will they cope as the availability of food, fuels, electricity and many other services declines?
Individuals, families and even communities can do very little to ameliorate the inevitable powering down of society as a whole. But they can ease the situation for themselves and associates by making sound decisions and by adopting worthwhile practices. My objective in writing this essay is to pass on useful facets of the knowledge I have gained in my research. Many informed people around the globe have put forward sound proposals. I summarize these below to the best of my ability as I want this to be a useful legacy.
I list below issues you will some time address and I then follow with comments on them if I believe I can provide sound insight.   
1.      Attitude
2.      Outlook
3.      Environmental  issues
4.      Family
5.      Residence
6.      Diet
7.      Health issues
8.      Education
9.      Skills
10.  Technology
11.  Life style
12.  Social issues
13.  Career
14.  Retirement
15.  Communication
16.  Relaxation
17.  Traveling
18.  Managing financial affairs
19.  Prognosis
I will not deign to say much on many of these items.  The search mechanisms on the internet can easily provide back up material for these items. I only provide advice where my research provides understanding of details of how the future will be different to what has happened in recent times and, often, what is the general misleading view portrayed by the powerful in society, governments and the media. I want this understanding to help people cope with the inevitable powering down of Australian society by making sound decisions on the issues listed here.  We live in the lucky country but that does not mean that we can look forward to continuance of the economic growth so beloved by politicians – for now. You cannot expect to have a major impact on what happens overall, but you can influence the prospects of family, friends and your community by your behavior and the understanding you promote.
I find it useful in making points to differentiate the common view of what is happening and why from the reality of what is happening to the physical world. I call the former Myopia while the specialists in affected fields and the few realists understand what is actually happening in the Real world. It is becoming increasingly common in learned circles to regard the natural world as being a great organism, termed Gaia, that has slowly evolved and will continue to do so despite the damage that industrial civilization is now doing to it.  Knowledgeable people are calling our times the Anthropocene Era due to what we are doing to our life support system.  I find it useful to term the temporary inanimate organism that is the infrastructure of our civilization (cities, roads, power stations, etc.) Tityas. Tityas is feeding off Gaia for operation and maintenance in an unsustainable process. It is entering its senescence as the natural resources it thrives on decline. Its decline will ensure the end of the Anthropocene Era and will be causing society to power down.
Now for comments on the items listed above.
1.      The current Myopic attitude of most people in Australia is that they strive to make enough money so that they and their family can enjoy a high material standard of living. As the economy contracts in coming years, smart people will embrace an improved life style with less accent on having things and more on worthwhile activities. They will have a real, progressive outlook rather than being conned by the Myopic illusions thrown up on TV and the conditioning they have been given during the years of economic growth. Smart people will employ the precautionary principle because they understand that the boom this century is unsustainable, so living standards will decline even here in Australia. Only time will answer the question of how rapidly, although sound advice can be found on the internet by carefully sorting the wheat from the chaff. The media hype will be of no assistance! And governments will, as usual, respond belatedly to rising predicaments. The slow, belated and misguided response to climate change is but one current example of their ineptitude. The current  crisis in many manufacturing industries is largely due to financial issues but the impact on the workers in these industries and their families is indicative of what  is bound to be a growing problem as the economy contracts due to Real factors.
2.      The general outlook now in Myopia is for continuing progress. Most people hope that the situation for their family will improve. This hope is based on failure to understand that the operation of the technological systems of civilization is an unsustainable process. They do not understand how the Real world operates. This process that uses up limited stored natural resources, produces irrevocable material wastes and degrades the environment in an unsustainable process that contributes to food production, population and infrastructure growth and consumption that cannot last. Toxic wastes are polluting land, sea, air and all organisms, including humans. Knowledgeable people have tagged this as the Anthropocene Era because human decisions in recent times have had such a devastating impact on how the environment operates that it cannot continue and the era will end. Those who understand the stark reality of what is happening will adopt a cautious outlook and accept a prudent policy based on the precautionary principle. They will go to the trouble of taking into account what experts are saying about what is happening in their fields rather than believe the hype of the mainstream media. They will strive to understand how the Real world operates. The collapse of numerous civilizations in the past three thousand years for a combination of ecological, economic, social and political reasons provides only some indication of what lies ahead for the current industrialized civilization because the giant rapacious Tityas now exists. Ironically, a number of authors have published over the years realistic appreciations of what has gone wrong in past and current civilizations without having any impact on the policies of the public and the ‘leaders’ of society. However, these sound views tend to focus on why societies have gone down a path rather than on what consequently irreversibly happened to the supporting structures and environment. The global dependence on using irreplaceable natural resources adds to the problems that previous civilizations were unable to cope with. They did not have a hungry giant Tityas. The nature and rapidity of the gradual collapse of Tityas will vary spatially and temporally during the remainder of this century. The global financial crisis of 2008, the impact of climate change on typhoons, storms, wild fires, floods and droughts, the health crisis afflicting billions of the young and aged and other creatures, the desperate efforts of the oil and gas industry to supply energy by fracking despite the ecological cost are just some of the symptoms of the holistic malaise of this civilization and its spoilt offshoot, Tityas. Smart people will obtain a more realistic outlook by obtaining understanding of what is actually happening from the experts in the various fields by using the search facilities on the internet rather than the Myopia delusion fostered by government, industry and the main stream media. They will realize that symptoms of the collapse of this civilization and the mass extinction are there for those prepared to look – and think. They will embrace the Real view. They will realize that society is facing a dilemma with regard to supply and demand. The current civilization is demanding the consumption of natural resources at an increasingly high rate as the supply declines. Smart people will cope with the inevitable powering down by being frugal as there is little they can do to ameliorate the holistic malaise.
3.      Environmental issues are receiving more attention for good reason. Society is used to coping with the occasional natural disasters such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, hurricanes, storms, floods and droughts. These are actually becoming more common due to climate change despite the denial of this aspect of Real by some prominent Myopians and very little remedial action. However, this issue is being compounded by the occurrence of unnatural disasters due to the failings of technological systems in Tityas. Often natural and unnatural disasters combine to provide a catastrophe. The tsunami combined with the ineptitude in the design of the Fukushima nuclear power station has produced on ongoing catastrophe for the Japanese and countless others as the toxic radioactive waste streams away in ocean currents. The Chernobyl nuclear plant failure was another unnatural disaster that had grim consequences for many in various countries for a long time. The precautionary principle has not been applied to the numerous nuclear power stations in the US and European countries. So a number of unnatural disasters of this type are possible as these plants age. Safe disposal of the vast amount of nuclear waste that has accumulated is swept under the carpet by the governments simply because they have no sound disposal plan. The disasters due to radioactive nuclear wastes are building up. Greenhouse gases are already causing atmospheric and ocean disasters. But disasters are not the only environmental issues causing increasing concern. Deforestation, desertification, loss of aquifer water and soil fertility, devastation of the marine ecosystem are some of the growing problems that are being compounded by climate change. Australia is particularly vulnerable as it is the dry continent with a small proportion of fertile soil. All one can do is be aware of what is happening to the environment so one can contribute a little to society coping with the ongoing devastation.
4.      The mutual support within a family and local community has been one of the most beneficial factors in many societies for a long time. This has tended to decline in recent times in most countries, partly as the young have adapted to a progressing economy. Changing values have also had an impact with marriage and having children losing its attraction for many. The unsustainable growth in the global population will exert growing pressure on society as a whole but there is no reason for a couple to take it into account in deciding the size of their family. But they should consider whether they will be able to foster a sound upbringing of their children as times inevitably become more difficult and values change. The increasing alcoholism and drug abuse amongst the young is just a symptom of what is coming as the bewildered lose hope of a prosperous standard of living. An additional problem is that people are living longer while the coming contraction of the economy will place an increasing load on medical and care services. Those families and communities that cherish the values of resilience and compassion and embrace sound living will be in a better position to face these challenges. And understanding of what is really happening will reduce the bewilderment.
5.      When considering moving to another abode bear in mind the following issues:
·         Those homes that are very dependent on heating and cooling appliances for comfort in summer and winter will become most unattractive as energy costs more while climate change increases the demand for comfort indoors. Look for homes that are orientated to take advantage of sunshine, no larger than necessary and also have good insulation.
·         The advantages that apartments may seem to have now will dissipate when inevitably power supply declines.  Imagine what it will be like when residents have to walk up many flights of stairs!
·         Suburban sprawl has become endemic in the major cities and has fostered the growing dependence on the car just as the availability of fuel noticeably declines. Regional cities will become more attractive where there are adequate employment options.
·         Buying a home by getting a large mortgage has become a sound financial move in recent times. Those days are coming to an end as economic growth peaks and can become disastrous for many as the decline sets in. Renting may not be financially attractive but the only possibility. Young couples moving in with parents is becoming increasingly common as the financial situation deteriorates.

6.      Mainstream media provides a confusing mix of dietary and cooking information combined with the promotion of fast foods. The very real problem with obesity is already receiving due attention and that will increase as it is now an endemic problem. However, advice about the emerging danger of eating sea foods should also be taken seriously. Radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear accident seems to be combining with ocean acidification due to fossil fuel emissions to deleteriously affect many varieties of fish by altering the marine eco system. There are alternative sources of proteins. Growing your own fruit and vegetables will help ease the diet problem significantly, especially as transportation problems will reduce the convenience of conventional shopping malls. Eating out will become less popular so cooking skills will again be a worthwhile acquisition in households.
7.      Concern about health issues is biased by the impact of commercial presentations on medications and announcements of advances in treatment of such problems as breast cancer, diabetes and alzheimer’s disease. Emerging problems due to the increasing contamination of bloodstreams due to the toxic materials in the air, food and water do not yet receive the mainstream attention that is warranted. Radioactive waste from the Fukushima nuclear disaster can well be a major contribution to the impact of toxic materials. Fracking to extract shale oil and gas is contaminating groundwater yet some state governments are supporting proposals for industry to make money by providing energy by this process.  There is little you can do about pollution other than take into account that it is worse in some overseas regions, including many cities. However, you can enjoy the health benefits of sound food and physical activities. The common obesity indicates how many in society have given in to fast food and sedimentary activities. Watching TV and playing video games is a common ailment now but it will decrease in due course as these facilities become rarer. Ironically, the decrease in these distractions will force people to adopt a healthier life style. There is concern that a plague may occur that will have a devastating impact on the global population. The current bubonic plague in Madagascar is an indication that humans are still susceptible to a problem that led to the Black Death in the Middle Ages. Hygienic practices in developed countries lessen that possibility here but bugs like international travel too!
8.      Education will become increasingly important as the values in society change from the emphasis on increasing material standard of living to improving life style with less damage to the environment and a reduction in consumption. The current trend in fostering living with nature will continue to increase in schools. The courses available in universities are bound to focus more on means of adapting to what civilization is actually doing rather than innovative technology and economics. However, the increasing dependence on information technology is a worrying tendency as it is not sustainable. Smart people will be selective about their learning activities so they will have the resilience to cope with trends not foreseen in the mainstream. There will be reversion to many simpler past practices.
9.      Technological developments have greatly reduced the demand on people to have many fundamental skills. The current throw-away society will be replaced by a society facing the challenge of making do with a much lower material standard of living without having adequate coping skills. Fixing things rather than replacing them will again become the norm, where that is practical. But many items are now so constructed that they cannot be repaired. Gone are the days when car owners could maintain their cars for years. Nevertheless, going to the trouble of learning basic useful mechanical, electrical and wood working skills will pay off in due course. This, of course, is in addition to the worthwhile gardening, storing and cooking skills
10.  Society is addicted to the benefits provided by technology without understanding that technology has never created anything! Society is conditioned to believe inventors have devised means to provide the goods and services that are so much a part and parcel of what happens. All technology has ever done is enable the use of natural forces to irreversibly consume natural resources and produce irrevocable material waste in the process of producing the goods and services so beloved by society. Society blesses (and pays well) inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs now but how will they be treated in the future after the peak of everything? Ironically, there is nothing you can do about this delusion. The role of technology will slowly decline as its sustenance, natural resources, become scarcer.
11.  For decades the powerful in society have promoted the view that the market economy will foster the trickling up of material standard of living so to an improving life style for the masses. That has happened to the middle classes in the developed countries and is happening now in the developing countries such as China and India. It is based on the ability of the systems of civilization to divest natural material wealth at a high rate. That rapacious process is coming to an end. Smart people will adopt a frugal life style based on doing rather than consuming while seeking the benefits of localisation. They will avoid the harshest aspects of the inevitable powering down that will infect most of society and they will also have the advantage that they understand why this decline is happening.
12.  Social issues have always been worrisome due to the actions of the repellent minority, often because they are disadvantaged or have unreasonable beliefs.  There is widespread concern at how criminal activities, domestic violence, alcoholism, drug abuse and other anti-social issues are escalating, especially among the young. This malfeasance is bound to grow rapidly as more people become disillusioned as the progress they have been conditioned to expect dies. Smart people will be able to do no more than promote understanding, especially amongst the young, that society will have to learn to live with nature. It is quite possible that many of the brightest youngsters will rise to the challenge of fostering a sound powering down. The least that the oldsters can do is to foster this positive movement among the smart young. However, that can only slightly ameliorate the disintegration of society as a whole.
13.  Choice of career has always been an important issue for the young but the pressures will be changing dramatically in the years ahead. The need to look ahead is becoming more difficult due to the inevitable ending of economic growth together with the declining material standard of living combined with the aging population. Many of the careers that are currently deemed as being worth striving for will turn out to be dead ends. Airline pilots enjoy an attractive image now but that will not last because airliners are a threatened species. The current chaos in the automotive industry in Australia will get no better even though the number of cars being produced globally is still going up. That production rate will peak shortly and then decline rapidly, mainly because the fuel is running out and the necessary materials becoming scarce. Considering a career in mining, manufacturing or marketing would be unwise. Professionals in the legal and financial fields will be under greater pressure to provide reasonable service at a competitive price. The demand for scientists and engineers will focus on maintenance and remedial activities. The demand for education, health, caring and security services will continue but budgetary constraints in a declining economy could reduce prospects. On the other hand, the demand for electricians, carpenters and other skilled tradespeople is bound to increase as people are forced by circumstances to power down.
14.  Retirement is unlikely to be as comfortable and pleasing as retirees are enjoying now. Superannuation is most unlikely to provide adequate finance for the touring that most people look forward too, especially as cars and airlines will no longer be affordable for many. The aging of the population will put pressure on the governments to fund pension, health and caring services as their budgets are hard hit by reduced taxation income as industry fades combined with the cost of debt servicing rising. Smart people will adopt a frugal outlook now so that their retirement will not be stressful.
15.  Society is happily embracing the information revolution without giving any thought to how long it will be possible for industry to manufacture the vast number of computers, smart phones and other electronic devices by using up the depleting rare earth minerals and other irreplaceable materials. They do not understand that it is an unsustainable process that will be entering its senescence shortly. Banking, on-line shopping, social networking, searching for information, entertainment, learning, education, promoting views and stimulating activities are some of the activities  that people around the globe have become addicted too because they have not been educated about reality. How will they cope with the gradual withdrawal of these facilities in the decades ahead? How long will the National Broadband Network be operational? Most people will say that such a situation cannot occur. They will say that science and technology will come up with solutions but that is because they do not understand that technology has never done more than use natural forces to consume natural resources  while producing irrevocable waste material just to provide humans with goods and services for a while. Most people will find it hard to cope with the decline in the availability of these services and they will not be able to expect much help from governments or industry.
16.  Stress will become an increasing problem as people find it hard to accept that the good times are becoming fanciful images. The ability to relax will, consequently, become a more useful therapeutic measure. But the current emphasis on relaxing by watching TV, playing video games or other measures depending on technological systems cannot continue. There will be a reversion to focussing on artistic pursuits, hobbies, sporting endeavours, games such as chess and social discourse for relaxation. Ironically, the conversion of many redundant shops in shopping malls to meeting places will foster the social discourse that used to be so common in many countries.
17.  The current trend on travelling around the world for pleasure as well as business is built on the facility of airliners. And that will not last. Those who have the desire or need and the means should do it in the near future as the ability to do so will decline rapidly. It would be unwise to put such a move on the agenda for retirement. The Boeing Dreamliner, Airbus 340 and other airliners consume vast quantities of jet fuel during their limited lifetimes. There is not enough acreage for biofuels to meet more than a small proportion of the insatiable appetite of armada of airliners. Land and sea transports will continue to demand their share of this scarce natural resource.
18.  Managing financial affairs will change profoundly in the coming decades. Society has become conditioned by the rapid economic growth of recent times to make financial decisions that they could rue in the not too distant future. The investment boom will have encouraged them to fallaciously believe that their superannuation will finance a pleasant retirement while being able to support the pretensions of their family. The equity in their home will be supporting that unwise presumption. Financial managers will have to become more circumspect in their advice as money loses its potency.
19.  Society has become very dependent on the services provided by the systems of industrial civilization. This particularly so in the cities. The gradual withdrawal of these services in the decades ahead will have a profound impact on many people. The rich elite will have the monetary leverage to cope with the powering down. The smart people will use their knowledge to make sound proactive decisions. But the overall situation will be catastrophic. That is the prognosis based on the understanding of how the Real world operates.
The understanding that I have embodied in this essay is grim but based on the reality of what happens rather than what people want to believe. So let the points I have made here provide you with guidance in the years ahead.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I am commentator 'colinc' on The Daily Impact (Tom Lewis') blog. I've chosen to respond to your query here, rather than the aforementioned, as I am less than happy with Tom's reply to my comment there. As a "disclaimer" I will admit I have not read your article (above) but have scanned it and a few others on your (this) site as well as your "main page" on wikispaces.
    Now to "business," per se. First, thank you for your query and kind words. However, to answer your query, I will have to disagree, somewhat, with Tom's reply to you. You ask "how do we get governments and the powerful in society to understand the reality...?". There is no need. They ALREADY DO understand and believe their wealth and/or connections to those with wealth will somehow "save" them while the rest of us perish. That's not to say that there is not a preponderance of ignorant, irrational sycophants in my government or yours. They, too, are "irrelevant" to the wealthiest power brokers of the planet. Why do you think there has been such a huge transfer of wealth to those assholes, globally, over the past 3 or 4 decades?
    Alas, the real crux of the problem is that we have all, every person on the planet to one degree or another, been "programmed, pigeon-holed and played" since birth and since before you or I were born, (I am 60, btw.) "Leadership" of any kind at any level is irrelevant and far, far too late.
    If you wish to discuss this further, you can reach me (golfwalker) via hotmail [dot] com. Otherwise, I bid you a kind and heartfelt "g'day, mate" and hope you are not too inconvenienced by the heat, fires and deluges in the land of Oz.