Do those pictures scare anyone else ? Do they look sustainable to anyone ? I’ll come back to this.
Back before Triathlon I would have classed myself as a capitalist, career minded individual pursuing personal wealth. I believed the profit motive would give better products and more efficiency. Someone that didn’t really question what I was told by the ‘experts’. I’m certainly not that now and find it interesting the flow of these changes and what may have allowed them to happen. I’ve always had a questioning mind and remember wondering from an early age what would happen after oil, what did economic growth mean … I accepted the answers I was fed but had a niggle that they didn’t quite make sense.
Triathlon gave me something that provided fulfilment outside of the typical thinking that you have to have a career to me fulfilled. I feel lucky it made me realise that pursuing a career was making me feel empty. Changing to part time was the beginning of having time to think.
I believe that a lot of people don’t have a chance to question whats happening in our world because they don’t have time to think. By the time they’ve done everything they need to do just to live there is no time or energy left for free thinking.
This free thinking for me first lead to a complete change in my view on nutrition. This has been documented here. I was shocked by how bad the advice is we are given through official channels. This lead to a huge skepticism in what we are lead to believe as health by the health industry and a firm belief that profit is a bad motivation for healthcare. Following this was a realisation of how bad the advice we’re given is about running footwear – again documented in this blog.
None of the above really needs much other than free logical thought to start having doubts about about what we’re given as advice.
Ultimately it has changed my political views on how our society should operate. I now don’t feel any political party offers anything like what I would like to see. I don’t really see there is a choice to chose what I would like, in fact I’m still trying to work it out. Profit motive is bad though in general. Profit above a level to maintain necessities is effectively greed. This greed promotes innovation and ‘progress’ that aren’t really making life better but are creating profit and waste and leading to an unsustainable future. It leads to building in obsoleteness. For sustainability surely we need to aim for products to last fore-ever, if not they must be FULLY recycled just like in nature. If this isn’t the case in a finite world it is not sustainable.
This leads me to the final and most profound change which has happened over this last nine months. It makes all the above seem irrelevant. I may blog further on this change at a later date but for now some comments to hopefully make you think.
-is population sustainable ? Go beyond the typical answer of we (ie the west) are not growing. In the west is our population sustainable ?
-how do we get our food? What is the impact on the land ? Many a vegetarian has suggested we stop feeding cattle so we can feed the world population – which do you think is causative – the world population creating the need for intensive farming or intensive farming allowing the population to grow ?
-It’s estimated that 10 cals of energy are required for every 1 cal or food we eat. Is that sustainable ? Think of it simply … if you were doing all the work yourself and spending 10 cals of your energy for 1 cal of food how long would you survive ? This is net energy
-Heard of Peak Oil ? Think about what happens not just when oil runs out (it probably never will as loads will be left in the ground) but when we start producing less each year. Some indications are the peak happened in 2005 (we’ve not produced as much as that since). Think about what’s happened since then.
-How do we do intensive farming without man made fertilisers ?
-What does sustainable really mean ?
-Does it make sense to have economic growth ? 2% a year (which is approximately the target in the UK) requires the economy to double every 35 years. Is that realistic ? So in 2046 it has to be twice what it is now, 2081 four times, 2116 8 times, 2151 16 times, 2186 32 times … get the picture ? What does growth actually mean ? Are we wealthier ? What creates wealth ? Are there limits on a finite planet ?
-ever wondered about the recent final shuttle mission. What does that mean about the USA now. Beyond the hype and spin what do really think it demonstrates
-Ever thought about the solutions offered up for oil running out ? How much oil is used in making your car? let alone fuelling it. Gallons of oil per tyre anyone ? Examples of alternative energies offered up:
*solar – whats it’s net energy ? Is it portable ? (ie can it be used to move stuff around)
*biofuel – what is it’s net energy ? What impact on food ? More intensive farming good ? How much land needed ? would the whole of the US corn crop fuel the US car fleet?
*Hydrogen – again what is it’s net energy ? What raw material do we use to get it (if you think all you need is water do some research). Even if it’s just fresh water do you think we have enough ? How would we build the infrastructure to distribute it ? Just think of the infrastructure around cars purely to get petrol to you. Can we rebuild all that for hydrogen ? If everyone from this point forward only bought electric, biofuel or hydrogen cars how long would it take for there to be no petrol cars on the road? If you get an indication of this you’ll see how the current alternatives are really just a bit of water vapour over the ocean
*Nuclear – can we sort out the waste ? Is it really sustainable ? How much uranium is there in the world ? Do we have enough resources / economic strength now to build the power stations even if we wanted them ?
*What about the other uses of oil and natural gas – plastics, fertiliser etc… what will replace them ?
There are many true believers in this world. When discussing nutrition you regularly get caught out by trying to debate with them. I’m aiming to learn that debating with a true believer is pointless they have no freedom in their minds to change… their belief is faith based, like a religion. Western society has a similar true belief which most people aren’t even aware of. I know I used to be a true believer in this but no longer. This utter faith is the faith of progress. We always believe that things will “improve” (whatever that means), technology will prevail. This is particularly true of the energy crisis and finding a solution. most people I speak to reel this out without a second thought without a hint of doubt that it will work. So…
-can you think of technology that has been developed to sort out an impending need?
-can u think of a technology that has solved an energy problem ? No solar has not solved our need for electricity it’s no where near providing what we currently use let alone the growth. There we go that damn thing called growth
Thinking is free. You don’t even need to change your world view or tell anyone. You can merely do a thought experiment. What if technology doesn’t provide a solution ? What will happen to our world ? Does endless growth make sense ? What has powered this unbeleivable growth ? What is truly sustainable ? In a finite space any waste ultimately means unsustainable ? Does nature create waste ? One creatures waste is another’s food ?
This true faith also limits our approach to solutions. We immediately look to technology. Look at carbon capture. So what we plan to do is use fossil fuels to pump carbon dioxide back in to the ground when nature has already provided us with awesomely good carbon capture tools. Anyone heard of trees? I also love (hate) the idea of someone mowing his lawn with one of those petrol powered lawn mowers (technology + fossil fuels) who then gets in his 4 wheel drive to drive to the gym (tech + fossil fuels again) where is hits a running machine (tech + fossil fuels) to get fit. Verses pushing a manual lawn mower (or not mowing at all) and running to and from the gym (not going in) which provides exercise and uses zero tech or fossil fuels and saves a gym membership. Erm… is it just me or is what that guy doing a little insane ? How many people in the west do you think more or less do the above on a weekly basis?
The scariest of all are the tech solutions being used to get oil and gas. Rather than work on (massively) reducing our reliance on fossil fuels we are doing some seriously scary things. If you’ve never heard of “fracking” or The Alberta Tar Sands do some research or watch “Gasland” and “H2Oil” – prepare to be horrified.
I’ve spent an awful lot of time thinking and reading about this since before the earthquake in Christchurch. Seeing the immediate impact of that really hit home a lot of my ponderings. I’ve thought lots about blogging on it. This has touched on it and at some point I may have the guts to really start articulating my conclusions. I have more reading and investigation to do but here are some of what I’ve done so far.
I fully recommend watching the Albert Bartlett lecture on uTube (the first of eight is here ) he clearly explains the arithmetic of growth and it’s implications. It will make you think.
I’ve read the following books in the past two weeks alone.
Confronting Collapse by Michael C. Ruppert. There is also a movie thats worth watching. This is very thought provoking and doesn’t pull any punches. Difficult to flaw his logic and his conclusions. Predicting the future is always a bit of a thought experiment and this certainly describes one of the more scary predictions
Reinventing Collapse by Dmitry Orlov. Americans take a deep breath before reading. The author lived through the Russian collapse and he draws comparisons with America now and does a great thought experiment of what could happen.
Beyond Oil by Kenneth S. Deffeyes. A great alternative perspective. This is written by a geologist who’s worked in the oil industry. It is quite technical about whats involved in extracting fossil fuels. Again he gives his views on where things are going. Gives the more optimistic end of the spectrum of views.
The Long Descent by John Michael Greer. Nice balanced booked. Looks at Peak Oil, the implications and ideas for how things will change and ideas on getting ready for it.
The past 9 months have had a profound impact on my life. It has completely changed my world view. My image of the future (in my lifetime) and beyond has completely changed. It has not fully formed yet and I will be reading, thinking and exploring more over the coming weeks months and years. Part of this is I am systematically making a point of talking this through with my friends and family. I feel it’s my duty. I am however being pragmatic in that after a certain period if people are still true believers there is little point in continuing the debate.
For me the changes are already happening. Like most people with my sort of background I went through education and a career with the standard outlook – work hard, good career, earn money, own your home and save for a comfortably retirement. I was lucky to follow that route and conclude it a few years ago getting myself in that financial security I’d had as my unspoken goal more or less all my life. Then in the last few months I have started giving up most of things I’d worked so hard for.
Suddenly to me Triathlon seems less important. It was the catalyst that has lead to an almost total change in my world view. I a thankful I found it as this change I am convinced is making my future brighter and me happier Triathlon is changing to something to keep some balance in my life but I’ve found something more important. Over the past five weeks it’s taken the backseat more than it has in over 6 years. This means my preps for Epic Camp are pretty poor (more on this in my next post) and currently I would rate my chances of a Kona slot at IM Wales as slim though I’m hoping to do something about that over the next three weeks. I see over the coming years that my focus becoming less so as I make further changes to my life.
I will leave a parting thought. The graph below is something I put together to try and help put The Oil Age in historic perspective and perhaps make us wonder whether we should have used this gift to establish sustainable comfortable life rather than sacrifice that future for our descendents by driving our kids to school in a SUV and the like.