Sunday, April 27, 2008

System Collapse

Reading in the paper about how plastic made from corn-starch is having a detrimental impact on the climate and global food prices just goes to show how we can't consume our way out the problems we face. Perhaps this is why environmental writers like Paul Kingsnorth are sanguine about global warming, arguing it is too late to change the massive momentum of the capital-consumption machine. It is also compounded with the recent strike by the Grangemouth refinery workers about how the 'just-in-time' system is so vulnerable that the temporary closure of one plant threatens the whole UK system - there is no resilience in the system - and now it looks like it is inevitable;

DOOMSDAY. The end of civilisation. Literature and film abound with tales of plague, famine and wars which ravage the planet, leaving a few survivors scratching out a primitive existence amid the ruins. Every civilisation in history has collapsed, after all. Why should ours be any different?....Lester Brown [of the Earth Policy Institute in Washington DC] thinks we are fast running out of time. “The world can no longer afford to waste a day. We need a Great Mobilisation, as we had in wartime,” he says. “There has been tremendous progress in just the past few years. For the first time, I am starting to see how an alternative economy might emerge. But it’s now a race between tipping points – which will come first, a switch to sustainable technology, or collapse?”

Tainter is not convinced that even new technology will save civilisation in the long run. “I sometimes think of this as a ‘faith- based’ approach to the future,” he says. Even a society reinvigorated by cheap new energy sources will eventually face the problem of diminishing returns once more. Innovation itself might be subject to diminishing returns, or perhaps absolute limits.

Couple of other links worth reading;

- Who to Vote for by the Green's Charile Bolton, a study in why our political system is crap and full of lying politicians.
- The Pointy Heads, Ian Bone's attack on those who preach while not doing.

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