Deckchair fight on sinking Titanic
Yesterday, on Learning from Dogs, Paul Handover re-published an essay by Gail Tverberg, who writes the Our Finite World blog. On her About page, Gail describes herself as… “an actuary interested in finite world issues – oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change.”
The post in question, on Gail’s Our Finite World blog is ‘Climate Change: The Standard Fixes Don’t Work’. It is quite long but well worth a read because, as I have myself commented (on her blog):
It is nice to see someone not shying away from the inconvenient truth that all our environmental problems can be boiled down to Limits to Growth phenomena. A frontier mentality was OK when early European settlers spread out across the New World; today it is not. When you live alone in a wilderness, it is safe to use a passing river as a source of water, a washroom, and a toilet; but when you live in a Mumbai slum, it is not. Over-population is not a magic number; it is a function of our environment. One person per sq.km probably makes a desert over-populated.
To understand why I said this, you could do a lot worse than read the short series of posts I made on this blog, starting exactly a year ago today, regarding the 1996 book by Paul and Anne Ehrlich, entitled The Betrayal of Science and Reason. It could just as easily have been written today because, sadly, very little has changed (apart from our problems have grow far more acute as a result of their generally having been ignored).
With the benefit of her actuarial expertise, Gail summarises all the reasons why our politicians need to wake up; because they (and most of humanity with them) are in the middle of sleepwalking us all into an ecological catastrophe.
- In 1992, the World got together and agreed to start trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We failed. Since 2002, global emissions have accelerated.
- For decades, people have dismissed the idea that oil production might peak soon as foolish nonsense. It is not dismissed as such today. Today, Peak Oil is a reality; one that is driving global economic stagnation.
- Echoing the points made by Dr Samuel Alexander of the Simplicity Institute, Gail highlights the Perfect Storm of problems arising from the urgent need to decarbonise our economies; and the fact that many of the things we need to do to achieve that ultimate goal will require fossil fuel to be used.
- Echoing the points made by Garrett Hardin in his 1968 ‘ Tragedy of the Commons’ paper, Gail highlights the essential need for a global solution, globally implemented (because otherwise those who do not implement the solution will gain an economic advantage over those that do).
And so Gail goes on…
I suspect my pessimism is an artefact of my being unemployed and – seemingly – unable to challenge the collective hypnosis with which our politicians (and most people) seem to be afflicted.
Accusing someone of “re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic” is a grossly over-used analogy but that is not what we are doing. Humanity today has gone way beyond just re-arranging the deckchairs. As more and more of them float off into the icy water, like people involved in some insanely short-sighted game of musical chairs, many of us seem determined to fight over the dwindling number that remain.
I will close by quoting the words of Film Director James Cameron (for context see my post in April this year):
The human population of the Earth today is analogous to the passengers on the ‘unsinkable’ Titanic. Due to a combination of arrogance and hubris it was considered ‘too big to fail’; and where have we heard that before?… Firstly, the big machine of the Titanic is like the huge system that is modern civilisation today. The Titanic had huge momentum and could not quickly turn away from disaster [even if the wheel was turned the right way]. Secondly, it carried First, Second and Third Class passengers, which are analogous to citizens of Developed, Emerging, and Less Developed economies; wherein the poorest will be the worst affected by climate change [only 25% of Third Class passengers survived - compared with 60% of First Class]. Thirdly, we can now see the iceberg [i.e. anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD)] very clearly but, even so, we cannot turn away from it because of the political momentum of our fossil fuel based systems. There are too many people making money out of the system the way the system works right now. Those people are in control and until they relinquish control and/or turn the wheel [the right way] we are not going to avoid hitting the iceberg… When we hit it, the rich will still maintain their access to land, food and water; whereas the poorest will lose it… This story [of the Titanic] will always fascinate people because it is such a perfect analogy for our current predicament.