Do What Thou Wilt…

i made this

i made this


No. It’s not all our fault. We’re not all sociopaths. We are indoctrinated, acculturated, infected by a culture that is ruled by essential psychopaths.


Their narcissistic self-importance and deviant psychology have a traumatizing effect on normal people, greatly diminishing their victims’ common sense to the point where they become infected by pathological thinking.

If you are born into a dominator culture, a Pathocracy, a society with norms that favour those without compassion, conscience or remorse, you must adapt to those norms or suffer extremely negative consequences.If you are a member of a society wherein the most self-interested, conniving, manipulative, callous and deceitful individuals are “successful” out of all proportion, while honesty, compassion and integrity are rewarded with failure or, at best, a Life of mediocrity, it behooves one to be self-interested, conniving, manipulative, callous and deceitful.

I certainly don’t expect anyone to simply accept what I offer as gospel. Nor will I expend inordinate amounts of time trying to “convert” anyone.  I am not a missionary.

It doesn’t matter anyway.

The human race is locked onto a course that will not be altered. The Rubicon has been crossed. The best case scenario is a total collapse of industrial civilisation; leading to exactly what is anyone’s guess. The worst case, from the human point of view, is near term extinction of the species. Of the two, I am forced to say that I’ve come to accept the latter as being the most advantageous to the continuation of Life on Earth.

There are a few things I’ve learned over the years and I offer them up to any who wish to partake. Having partaken, it is the business of the reader to do what they will with what they have gleaned. I try to provide adequate links and sources for those who truly want to know more. I am neither teacher nor leader. I am a student, an autodidact. I can only point in a given direction. Whither thou goest only thou may divine.

Kim Hill: A Sustainable Population

Deep Green Resistance News Service

Source: Kim Hill: A Sustainable Population

Kim Hill: A Sustainable Population

by Kim Hill / Deep Green Resistance Australia

A sustainable population ensures that the population of all other species who share the land where they live is also sustained.  A population that causes the extinction of another species is not sustainable.  Earth’s current human population causes the extinction of 200 species per day.

A sustainable population can endure indefinitely.  This is the definition of sustainability.  The number of people that can truthfully be called “a sustainable population” is not something that can be decided by popular vote, by argument, by economics, or by force.  It is decided by the carrying capacity of the land on which it lives.

Ninety per cent of large fish in the ocean are gone.  Ninety nine per cent of old growth forests, gone.  That’s ninety nine per cent of the habitat that can sustain a human population.  This means that as of now, a sustainable population of humans on this planet is one per cent of the population that a pre-industrial planet has sustained.

The civilization that most humans currently live in is not a sustainable habitat, as it requires stealing from the surrounding land to maintain itself.  And as the civilized area grows to take over everything, and the land left available to steal from therefore shrinks to nothing, the whole project inevitably dies.

And the maximum possible population for any piece of land is not desirable for that population, as there is no chance for that population to survive in the face of disaster, environmental change, flood, or drought.  An optimal population allows for some redundancies in providing for its needs.  A population below carrying capacity will also be more peaceful, as it has everything it needs, and some to spare for others travelling or migrating.  An optimal population doesn’t need to be constantly on guard to defend its landbase.  Although this is conditional on the populations of surrounding areas also being optimal for their own landbases, rather than expanding and colonising.

A population’s ability to sustain itself isn’t a function of the number of people, but the relationship between the people and the land they live on.  If the people exploit the land, taking more from it than they give in return, then regardless of the number of people, they will soon reach a point where the land no longer sustains them, and they either move on or starve to death.  And in the present world, moving on means forcefully invading the land of others.  Causing them to starve to death.

A population that has reciprocal relationships with the land, plants and animals that provide for their needs, and takes responsibility for the wellbeing of these others, may not even need to consider the question of population, or population may be regulated by an intuitive understanding of these relationships.

In the current context of global population overshoot, any strategy that addresses population as an isolated issue is bound to fail.  Putting the cart before the horse.

It isn’t possible for a government that exists within the paradigm of economic growth to effectively address the issue of population.

Economic growth leads population growth.  More people buy more stuff.  Even if economic growth is possible without population growth, the economy still undermines its own foundations (quite literally in the case of mining taking over agricultural land) and will lead to whole populations of humans collapsing, regardless of the number of people.

So to see population as an issue that needs addressing is to miss the point.

Sustainability is not an abstract concept, or an optional extra for rich people to feel good about.  Sustainability is by definition the capacity to continue to exist.  If something is not sustainable, it will soon cease to exist.  Any policy or argument that claims sustainability as a virtue without understanding this core meaning will benefit no-one, and only lead to a more chaotic collapse.

Often at policy discussions, someone will mention population and use the phrase “the elephant in the room” as if they’ve said something terribly clever and important, and done their bit to address the issue.  I’ve never heard a proposal for any real action to either reduce global population or stop it from growing.  Here’s some policy options: mass murder, forced sterilisation, a deadly virus, one-child policy, withhold food so that people starve.  I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be on the receiving end of any of these, although there may be willingness to accept a one-child policy.

Stopping population growth is not in the interest of any government, especially not one elected on four-year term.  Governments want as many people as possible – to grow their economy, fight their wars, work their industries, buy products, pay taxes.

Attempts to influence governments to instate policies on population are unlikely to be effective.  Governments need to act in the interests of their corporate investors (or employers, or shareholders, depending on how you look at it).  To influence a government requires influencing the corporations that control it.

A corporation has profit-making as its core business.  No matter how convincing an argument may be, a corporation won’t act on it if its not profitable.  And reducing population, the market for their products, can never be profitable.

Corporations can’t be challenged by legal means, as they have power over the legal system.  So anyone wanting to challenge a corporation can only do so illegally.

By thinking strategically, and having the goal of preventing a corporation from doing business, its not all that hard to bring it down.

A corporation is a vulnerable thing.  It can’t work without electricity, internet, phone connections, transport systems, workers, and money.  If the supply of any one of these things is cut off, business stops.

By refusing to acknowledge the underlying causes of population growth, the debate on population is feeding and breeding the metaphorical elephants it so loves to talk about.

What I see is an overpopulation of elephants in the room.

 

Editor’s Note: Originally published March 7, 2013 on Stories of Creative Ecology


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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, and so on. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Kim Hill: What’s Wrong with Renewable Energy?

fallacy of green energy


Many technophiles, some Utopians and a lot of people who are just plain delusional (i was once one of them) still cling to the fallacy that “renewables” will save us.

Get over it.


Deep Green Resistance News Service

Source: Kim Hill: What’s Wrong with Renewable Energy?

Kim Hill: What’s Wrong with Renewable Energy?

By Kim Hill / Deep Green Resistance Australia


Ten things environmentalists need to know about renewable energy:

1.    Solar panels and wind turbines aren’t made out of nothing. They are made out of metals, plastics, chemicals. These products have been mined out of the ground, transported, processed, manufactured. Each stage leaves behind a trail of devastation: habitat destruction, water contamination, colonization, toxic waste, slave labour, greenhouse gas emissions, wars, and corporate profits. Renewables can never replace fossil fuel infrastructure, as they are entirely dependent on it for their existence.

2.    The majority of electricity that is generated by renewables is used in manufacturing, mining, and other industries that are destroying the planet. Even if the generation of electricity were harmless, the consumption certainly isn’t. Every electrical device, in the process of production, leaves behind the same trail of devastation. Living communities—forests, rivers, oceans—become dead commodities.

3.    The aim of converting from conventional power generation to renewables is to maintain the very system that is killing the living world, killing us all, at a rate of 200 species per day. Taking carbon emissions out of the equation doesn’t make it sustainable. This system needs to not be sustained, but stopped.

4.    Humans, and all living beings, get our energy from plants and animals. Only the industrial system needs electricity to survive, and food and habitat for everyone are being sacrificed to feed it. Farmland and forests are being taken over, not just by the infrastructure itself, but by the mines, processing and waste dumping that it entails. Ensuring energy security for industry requires undermining energy security for living beings (that’s us).

5.    Wind turbines and solar panels generate little, if any, net energy (energy returned on energy invested). The amount of energy used in the mining, manufacturing, research and development, transport, installation, maintenance and disposal of these technologies is almost as much—or in some cases more than—they ever produce. Renewables have been described as a laundering scheme: dirty energy goes in, clean energy comes out. (Although this is really beside the point, as no matter how much energy they generate, it doesn’t justify the destruction of the living world.)

6.    Renewable energy subsidies take taxpayer money and give it directly to corporations. Investing in renewables is highly profitable. General Electric, BP, Samsung, and Mitsubishi all profit from renewables, and invest these profits in their other business activities. When environmentalists accept the word of corporations on what is good for the environment, something has gone seriously wrong.

7.    More renewables doesn’t mean less conventional power, or less carbon emissions. It just means more power is being generated overall. Very few coal and gas plants have been taken off line as a result of renewables.

8.    Only 20% of energy used globally is in the form of electricity. The rest is oil and gas. Even if all the world’s electricity could be produced without carbon emissions (which it can’t), it would only reduce total emissions by 20%. And even that would have little impact, as the amount of energy being used globally is increasing exponentially.

9.    Solar panels and wind turbines last around 20-30 years, then need to be disposed of and replaced. The production process, of extracting, polluting, and exploiting, is not something that happens once, but is continuous and expanding.

10.    The emissions reductions that renewables intend to achieve could be easily accomplished by improving the efficiency of existing coal plants, at a much lower cost. This shows that the whole renewables industry is nothing but an exercise in profiteering with no benefits for anyone other than the investors.
Further Reading:

http://theenergycollective.com/gail-tverberg/330446/ten-reasons-intermittent-renewables-wind-and-solar-pv-are-problem

http://thebulletin.org/myth-renewable-energy

http://docs.wind-watch.org/ProblemWithWind.pdf

Zehner, Ozzie, Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism, http://www.greenillusions.org/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1350811/In-China-true-cost-Britains-clean-green-wind-power-experiment-Pollution-disastrous-scale.html#ixzz32e4D227e

 

Originally published June 25, 2014 on Stories of Creative Ecology

September 1, 1939

W. H. Auden, 19071973

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade:
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright 
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night.

Accurate scholarship can 
Unearth the whole offence
From Luther until now
That has driven a culture mad,
Find what occurred at Linz,
What huge imago made
A psychopathic god:
I and the public know
What all schoolchildren learn,
Those to whom evil is done
Do evil in return. 

Exiled Thucydides knew
All that a speech can say
About Democracy,
And what dictators do,
The elderly rubbish they talk
To an apathetic grave;
Analysed all in his book,
The enlightenment driven away,
The habit-forming pain,
Mismanagement and grief:
We must suffer them all again.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse:
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire 
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are,
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

The windiest militant trash
Important Persons shout
Is not so crude as our wish:
What mad Nijinsky wrote
About Diaghilev
Is true of the normal heart;
For the error bred in the bone
Of each woman and each man
Craves what it cannot have,
Not universal love
But to be loved alone.

From the conservative dark
Into the ethical life
The dense commuters come,
Repeating their morning vow;
"I will be true to the wife,
I'll concentrate more on my work,"
And helpless governors wake
To resume their compulsory game:
Who can release them now,
Who can reach the deaf,
Who can speak for the dumb?

All I have is a voice
To undo the folded lie,
The romantic lie in the brain
Of the sensual man-in-the-street
And the lie of Authority
Whose buildings grope the sky:
There is no such thing as the State
And no one exists alone;
Hunger allows no choice
To the citizen or the police;
We must love one another or die.

Defenceless under the night
Our world in stupor lies;
Yet, dotted everywhere,
Ironic points of light
Flash out wherever the Just
Exchange their messages:
May I, composed like them
Of Eros and of dust,
Beleaguered by the same
Negation and despair,
Show an affirming flame.

Devolution, the Progress of Modern Civilisation – Part 3

And the liars that spin the myth of our perfect modern civilisation, the one right way for all people to live, have the temerity to tell us that “primitive” man always has and always will live in terror, squalor, poverty and filth.


https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/5e/8e/b3/5e8eb3ea89ad2b85c9642b895cd6ab4b.jpg

Hattusa, Hittite Empire, circa 1300 BC.


More excerpts from “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn.
The third installment in a condensed version of the history of the rise and fall of the human empire.
In some of these posts I have taken the liberty of adding a few illustrations that were not part of the book.

Signs of distress: 1400-0 B.C.E.

The fire burned on under the cauldron of our culture, and the next doubling of our population took only fourteen hundred years. There were two hundred million humans now, at the beginning of our “Common Era,” ninety-five percent or more of them belonging to our culture, East and West.

It was an era of political and military adventurism. Hammurabi made himself master of all Mesopotamia. Sesostris III of Egypt invaded Palestine and Syria. Assyria’s Tiglath Pileser I extended his rule to the shores of the Mediterranean. Egyptian pharaoh Sheshonk overran Palestine. Tiglath Pileser III conquered Syria, Palestine, Israel, and Babylon. Babylon’s Second Nebuchadnezzar took Jerusalem and Tyre. Cyrus the Great extended his reach across the whole of the civilized west, and two centuries later Alexander the Great made the same imperial reach.

It was also an era of civil revolt and assassination. The reign of Assyria’s Shalmaneser ended in revolution. A revolt in Chalcidice against Athenian rule marked the beginning of the twenty-year-long conflict known as the Peloponnesian War. A few years later Mitylene in Lesbos also revolted. Spartans, Achaeans, and Arcadians organized a rebellion against Macedonian rule. A revolt in Egypt brought Ptolemy III home from his military campaign in Syria. Philip of  Macedon was assassinated, as was Darius III of Persia, Seleucus III Soter, the Carthaginian general Hasdrubel, social reformer Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, the Seleucid king Antiochus VIII, Chinese emperor Wong Mong, and Roman emperors Claudius and Domitian.

But these weren’t the only new signs of stress observable in this age. Counterfeiting, coinage debasement, catastrophic inflation—all those nasty tricks were seen regularly now. Famine became a regular feature of life all over the civilized world, as did plague, ever symptomatic of overcrowding and poor sanitation; in 429 B.C.E. plague carried off as much as two thirds of the population of Athens. Thinkers in both China and Europe were beginning to advise people to have smaller families.

Slavery became a huge, international business, and of course would remain one down to the present moment. It’s estimated that at the midpoint of the fifth century every third or fourth person in Athens was a slave. When Carthage fell to Rome in 146 B.C.E., fifty thousand of the survivors were sold as slaves. In 132 B.C.E. some seventy thousand Roman slaves rebelled; when the revolt was put down, twenty thousand were crucified, but this was far from the end of Rome’s problems with its slaves.

But new signs of distress appeared in this period that were far more relevant to our purpose here tonight. For the first time in history, people were beginning to suspect that something fundamentally wrong was going on here. For the first time in history, people were beginning to feel empty, were beginning to feel that their lives were not amounting to enough, were beginning to wonder if this is all there is to life, were beginning to hanker after something vaguely more. For the first time in history, people began listening to religious teachers who promised them salvation.

It’s impossible to overstate the novelty of this idea of salvation. Religion had been around in our culture for thousands of years, of course, but it had never been about salvation as we understand it or as the people of this period began to understand it. Earlier gods had been talismanic gods of kitchen and crop, mining and mist, housepainting and herding, stroked at need like lucky charms, and earlier religions had been state religions, part of the apparatus of sovereignty and governance (as is apparent from their temples, built for royal ceremonies, not for popular public devotions).

Judaism, Brahmanism, Hinduism, Shintoism, and Buddhism all came into being during this period and had no  existence before it. Quite suddenly, after six thousand years of totalitarian agriculture and civilization building, the people of our culture—East and West, twins of a single birth—were beginning to wonder if their lives made sense, were beginning to perceive a void in themselves that economic success and civil esteem could not fill, were beginning to imagine that something was profoundly, even innately, wrong with them.

 


 

FAIR USE NOTICE:
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, and so on. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Kim Hill: Sick

Kim says: “With a collective effort, the sickness can be eradicated, and we can all recover our health.”

What do you say?


Sydney through the haze

Kim Hill: Sick

Devolution, the Progress of Modern Civilisation – Part 2

And the liars that spin the myth of our perfect modern civilisation, the one right way for all people to live, have the temerity to tell us that “primitive” man always has and always will live in terror, squalor, poverty and filth.


https://i0.wp.com/vina.cc/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/krishna.mahabharata.jpg


More excerpts from “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn.
The second installment in a condensed version of the history of the rise and fall of the human empire.
In some of these posts I have taken the liberty of adding a few illustrations that were not part of the book.

Signs of distress: 3000-1400 B.C.E.

The fire burned on under the cauldron of our culture, and the next doubling of our population took only sixteen hundred years. There were a hundred million humans now, at 1400 B.C.E., probably ninety percent of them being members of our culture. The Near East hadn’t been big enough for us for a long time. Totalitarian agriculture had moved northward and eastward into Russia and India and China, northward and westward into Asia Minor and Europe. Other kinds of agriculture had once been practiced in all these lands, but now—need I say it?—agriculture meant our style of agriculture.

The water is getting hotter—always getting hotter. All the old signs of distress are there, of course— why would they go away? As the water heats up, the old signs just get bigger and more dramatic. War? The wars of the previous age were piddling affairs compared with the wars of this age. This is the Bronze Age! Real weapons, by God! Real armor! Vast standing armies, supported by unbelievable imperial wealth!

Unlike signs of war, other signs of distress aren’t cast in bronze or chiseled in stone. No one’s sculpting friezes to depict life in the slums of Memphis or Troy. No one’s writing news stories to expose official corruption in Knossos or Mohenjo-Daro. No one’s putting together film documentaries about the slave trade. Nonetheless, there’s at least one sign that can be read in the evidence: Crime was emerging as a problem.

Looking out into your faces, I see how unimpressed you are with this news. Crime? Crime is universal among humans, isn’t it? No, actually it isn’t. Misbehavior, yes. Unpleasant behavior, disruptive behavior, yes. People can always be counted on to fall in love with the wrong person or to lose their tempers or to be stupid or greedy or vengeful. Crime is something else, and we all know that. What we mean by crime doesn’t exist among tribal peoples, but this isn’t because they’re nicer people than we are, it’s because they’re organized in a different way. This is worth spending a moment on.

If someone irritates you—let’s say by constantly interrupting you while you’re talking—this isn’t a crime. You can’t call the police and have this person arrested, tried, and sent to prison, because interrupting people isn’t a crime. This means you have to handle it yourself, whatever way you can. But if this same person walks onto your property and refuses to leave, this is a trespass—a crime—and you can absolutely call the police and have this person arrested, tried, and maybe even sent to prison. In other words, crimes engage the machinery of the state, while other unpleasant behaviors don’t. Crimes are what the state defines as crimes. Trespassing is a crime, but interrupting is not, and we therefore have two entirely different ways of handling them—which people in tribal societies do not. Whatever the trouble is, whether it’s bad manners or murder, they handle it themselves, the way you handle the interrupter. Evoking the power of the state isn’t an option for them, because they have no state. In tribal societies, crime simply doesn’t exist as a separate category of human behavior.

Note again: There’s nothing cyclical about the appearance of crime in human society. For the first time in history, people were dealing with crime. And note that crime made its appearance during the dawning age of literacy. What this means is that, as soon as people started to write, they started writing laws; this is because writing enabled them to do something they hadn’t been able to do before. Writing enabled them to define in exact, fixed terms the behaviors they wanted the state to regulate, punish, and suppress.

From this point on, crime would have an identity of its own as “a problem” in our culture. Like war, it was destined to stay with us—East and West—right up to the present moment. From this point on, crime would join war as a measure of how hot the water was becoming around our smiling frog.

 


 

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, and so on. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

REVERSE TERRAFORMING

Manhattan Island before and after reverse terraforming


terraforming(ˈtɛrəˌfɔːmɪŋ)
n
1. (Astronomy) planetary engineering designed to enhance capacity of an extraterrestrial planetary environment to sustain life

[C20: from Latin terra earth + forming]

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


As any science fiction fan would know, we’ll soon be terraforming Mars into an Earth-like paradise (muffled sounds of people rolling on floor laughing hysterically), which we can then proceed to destroy just like we’re doing with the place we’ve already got. A place which, by the way, would support human Life in relative comfort for a good two or three billion years more if we would live with it instead of waging war against it. If memory serves, which is certainly no certainty, it will be around five billion years before the sun starts getting a little uncooperative and transforms into a red giant.

But hell, if we had a couple billion good years to work on it, as an actual civilised race, we might be able to work something out. But no worries. We won’t make it another two hundred years, never mind two billion. What we’re doing here is quite literally the reverse of terraforming. Rather than “enhancing” the conditions here, were totally fucking them up. By the time we’re done, it’ll be a miracle if anything can survive here!

But the universe is really big and I just don’t see this one rock as the only place that chanced to produce Life. So fuck it! Party like it’s 4,000,002,015!


So, some really smart people, we call them “scientists“, got together and figured this stuff out. Funny thing. There’s a few of us who have been saying pretty much the same thing, without all the weird math and hieroglyphic charts, for years now.

Just sayin’.

Anyway, came across this link a few days back. It’s a paper from PNAS, (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) and if you want to get it from their site you’ll have to pay for it. But that link is out there and I stumbled upon it so here it is, with a few annotations and a few emphases here and there.

I transposed the information from the PDF format the link provides because it’s a lot easier to read like this. The PDF document has the text in 3 columns with the graphs breaking them up annoyingly into scattered sections. The single column format is much more readable. I also left out the little banner ad for PNAS that ran all down the left side, the link for updates, which you couldn’t get unless you paid for the perspective and the little notice informing the reader that this is a PERSPECTIVE.(that’s how they put it. bold, red, all caps.)

You’re welcome.


Human domination of the biosphere:
Rapid discharge of the earth-space battery foretells the future of humankind


John R. Schramskia,1, David K. Gattiea, and James H. Brownb,1

aCollege of Engineering, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602; and bDepartment of Biology, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131

Edited by B. L. Turner, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, and approved June 8, 2015 (received for review May 4, 2015)


Earth is a chemical battery where, over evolutionary time with a trickle-charge of photosynthesis using solar energy, billions of tons of living biomass were stored in forests and other ecosystems and in vast reserves of fossil fuels. In just the last few hundred years, humans extracted exploitable energy from these living and fossilized biomass fuels to build the modern industrial-technological-informational economy, to grow our population to more than 7 billion, and to transform the biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity of the earth. This rapid discharge of the earth’s store of organic energy fuels the human domination (word says volumes it does) of the biosphere, including conversion of natural habitats to agricultural fields and the resulting loss of native species, emission of carbon dioxide and the resulting climate and sea level change, and use of supplemental nuclear, hydro, wind, and solar energy sources.The laws of thermodynamics governing the trickle-charge and rapid discharge of the earth’s battery are universal and absolute; the earth is only temporarily poised a quantifiable distance from the thermodynamic equilibrium of outer space. (that means if we keep up this shit, pretty soon there won’t be any difference between the environment on Earth and outer space. got it? – WP) Although this distance from equilibrium is comprised of all energy types, most critical for humans is the store of living biomass.With the rapid depletion of this chemical energy, the earth is shifting back toward the inhospitable equilibrium of outer space with fundamental ramifications for the biosphere and humanity. Because there is no substitute or replacement energy for living biomass, the remaining distance from equilibrium that will be required to support human life is unknown. (emphasis added –  WM)

energy | evolutionary biology | earth-space battery | sustainability | thermodynamics


battery 1

As depicted in Fig. 1, earth is a battery of stored chemical energy where the planet is the cathode (stored organic chemical energy) and space is the anode (equilibrium). We call this the earth-space battery. It took hundreds of millions of years for photosynthetic plants to trickle-charge the battery, gradually converting diffuse low-quality solar energy to high-quality chemical energy stored temporarily in the form of living biomass and more lastingly in the form of fossil fuels: oil, gas, and coal. In just the last few centuries—an evolutionary blink of an eye—human energy use to fuel the rise of civilization and the modern industrial-technological-informational society has discharged the earth-space battery, inducing flow between the terminals, degrading the high quality biomass energy to do the work of transforming the earth for human benefit, and radiating the resulting low-quality heat energy to deep space.
(when major changes happen in a “normal” fashion, on the geologic or cosmic scale, they usually take place very slowly over very long periods of time. when they happen suddenly and catastrophically the results are usually… well… catastrophic – WM)

The laws of thermodynamics dictate that the difference in rate and timescale between the slow trickle-charge and rapid depletion is unsustainable. The current massive discharge is rapidly driving the earth from a biosphere teeming with life and supporting a highly developed human civilization toward a barren moonscape. (like i saidup above) Consider as an example that the energy state of the earth is akin to the energy state of a house powered by a once-charged battery supplying all energy for lights, heating, cooling, cooking, power appliances, and electronic communication; as the battery discharges, these services become unavailable and the house soon becomes uninhabitable (duh). (emphasis added-WM)


Energy in Physics and Biology

The laws of thermodynamics are incontrovertible; they have inescapable ramifications for the future of the biosphere and humankind. We begin by explaining the thermodynamic concepts necessary to understand the energetics of the biosphere and humans within the earth-space system. The laws of thermodynamics and the many forms of energy can be difficult for nonexperts (ahem). However, the earth’s flows and stores of energy can be explained in straightforward terms to understand why the biosphere and human civilization are in energy imbalance. (human civilisation is at war with the biosphere! -WM) These physical laws are universal and absolute, they apply to all human activities, and they are the universal key to sustainability.

Energy is how far a property (e.g., temperature, chemical, pressure, velocity) is from equilibrium. This distance, or gradient, can be harvested to perform work, in the process moving the property closer to equilibrium. Thus, whereas the capacity to perform work is often used as the simplest definition of energy, ultimately this capacity requires an out‐of‐equilibrium system, a gradient, which is available to be harvested. For example, the earth is out of chemical equilibrium with respect to nearby space; as we burn fossilized chemical energy to get work output, the earth loses the resultant heat and moves closer to equilibrium.  Similarly, when we burn living biomass faster than the earth can replenish it, the earth again moves closer to equilibrium. The first Law of Thermodynamics assures that, although  energy is transformed between solar, chemical, work, and heat in these transactions, it is neither created nor  destroyed; it changes forms, but the total quantity is conserved. The Second Law of Thermodynamics assures that as  energy changes forms, all of this energy is eventually degraded to low-quality heat energy and lost from the planet.  These physical laws not only have allowed the evolution of life, they also have allowed the development of human  civilization. Living things use photosynthesis to convert diffuse but reliable sunlight into energy-rich organic  compounds, and they use respiration to break down these compounds, release the stored energy, and do the biological work of living (1, 2). For humans this means consuming food and respiring to fuel biological metabolism. However,  humans also use technological innovations to burn organic chemicals and use this extrametabolic energy to do the  additional work of fueling complex socioeconomic activities.

Over the millennia of evolutionary time, as living things evolved, they gradually transformed the earth from a barren  planet into a biosphere teeming with life.(and we are determined to reverse that process-WM) Until the origin of life, there were no significant stores of organic chemical energy, and the surface of the planet was not far from the chemical equilibrium of the adjacent outer space. Then, as living things evolved and diversified, they developed new biochemical pathways for converting solar energy into biomass. It took on the order of 1 billion years for the first photosynthetic and chemosynthetic prokaryotes to exploit the small energy gradients available and synthesize enough biomass to begin to charge the earth‐space’s chemical battery. Ancient unicellular organisms created a modest chemical energy gradient that persisted for billions of years. Then starting about 600 Mya, with the Cambrian explosion of diversity of large multicellular organisms and the subsequent colonization of land by plants, the biosphere acquired a large store of living biomass, mostly in the form of forests (3). In the Carboniferous, Permian, and Jurassic periods (350–150 Mya), remains of dead plants and animals were preserved in the earth’s crust to create the reserves of coal, oil, and gas. Since then, the earth has mostly been in an energetic quasi‐equilibrium, continually perturbed by asteroid impacts, tectonic activity, glaciations, and climatic fluctuations, modestly adding to or subtracting from the stores of fossil fuels, but always returning to an approximate balance between solar input and heat loss, photosynthesis, and heterotrophic metabolism.

Everything changed when anatomically modern humans appeared and expanded out of Africa to colonize the entire  Earth. The most important milestone was the development and spread of agriculture, which began about 12,000 y ago. Before this, hunter-gatherer societies had been in approximate equilibrium, relying on photosynthetic energy to supply plant and animal foods and fuels for cooking and heating and barely altering the Earth’s surface. With the advent of agriculture, humans began systematically to harvest the stored biomass gradient and to increase chemical energy discharge. Initially, human and animal labor and fires of wood and dung were used to do the work of manufacturing tools, clearing land, tilling fields, and harvesting crops. However, ever more inventive societies developed new technologies based on harnessing new energy sources. Most importantly, the industrial revolution used wind and water mills to do work and burned first wood, then charcoal, and finally fossil fuels to mine and smelt metal ores and to manufacture tools and machines. These developments led to ever larger human populations with ever-more complex economies and social systems, all fueled by an ever-increasing rate of chemical energy discharge. (emphasis added-WM)

The Paradigm of the Earth-Space Battery

By definition, the quantity of chemical energy concentrated in the carbon stores of planet Earth (positive cathode) represents the distance from the harsh thermodynamic equilibrium of nearby outer space (negative anode). This energy gradient sustains the biosphere and human life. It can be modeled as a once-charged battery. This earth-space chemical battery (Fig. 1) trickle charged very slowly over 4.5 billion years of solar influx and accumulation of living biomass and fossil fuels. It is now discharging rapidly due to human activities. As we burn organic chemical energy, we generate work to grow our population and economy. In the process, the high-quality chemical energy is transformed into heat and lost from the planet by radiation into outer space. The flow of energy from cathode to anode is moving the planet rapidly and irrevocably closer to the sterile chemical equilibrium of space.


Fig. 2. Earth chemical and nuclear energy storage (distance from equilibrium) (10, 11, 38, 39). Where necessary, biomass is converted to energy assuming 1 t carbon ∼35 × 109 joules. ZJ = zeta joules = joules × 1021.

Fig. 2. Earth chemical and nuclear energy storage (distance from equilibrium) (10, 11, 38, 39). Where necessary, biomass is converted to energy assuming 1 t carbon ∼35 × 109 joules. ZJ = zeta joules = joules × 1021.

Fig. 2 depicts the earth’s primary higher quality chemical and nuclear energy storages [sic] as their respective distances from the equilibrium of outer space. We follow the energy industry in focusing on the higher-quality pools and using “recoverable energy” as our point of reference, because many deposits of fossil fuels and nuclear ores are dispersed or inaccessible and cannot be currently harvested to yield net energy gain and economic profit (4). The very large lower-quality pools of organic energy including carbon compounds in soils and oceanic sediments (5, 6) are not shown, but these are not currently economically extractable and usable, so they are typically not included in either recoverable or nonrecoverable categories. Although the energy gradients attributed to geothermal cooling, ocean thermal gradients, greenhouse air temperatures, etc., contribute to Earth’s thermodynamic distance from the equilibrium of space, they are also not included as they are not chemical energies and presumably would still exist in some form on a planet devoid of living things, including humans. Fig. 2 shows that humans are currently discharging all of the recoverable stores of organic chemical energy to the anode of the earth-space battery as heat.

The organism-generated earth-space battery consists of two kinds of organic chemical compounds. The first are fossil  fuels. These fossil fuels are primarily hydrocarbons, containing mostly carbon and hydrogen, almost no oxygen, and often small but significant amounts of other elements, such as sulfur, vanadium, iron, zinc, and mercury, which can be toxic when released into the environment and taken up by humans and other organisms. The reserves of fossil fuels, most deposited hundreds of millions of years ago, are finite and rapidly being depleted. Oil, gas, and coal, which account for more than 85% of current global human energy consumption, are burned to produce the goods and services for our industrial-technological-informational economy. Despite some excellent sobering analyses of the present use and future prospects of fossil fuels (4, 7, 8), the magnitude of the remaining economically recoverable hydrocarbon energy store is subject to much debate. In Fig. 2 we acknowledge the uncertainty by assigning a conservative value of <40 zeta joules (ZJ).

The Critical Importance of Living Biomass

Here we focus on the second kind of chemicals comprising the earth-space battery, the organic compounds in living biomass. Our work suggests that the two smallest values, 19 and 2 ZJ, on the bar chart in Fig. 2 are the most important. The 19 ZJ represents the current chemical potential energy stored in the form of living biomass, most of it as phytomass in terrestrial plants and most of that in forests. These chemicals are the carbohydrates, lipids, proteins, cellulose, lignins, and other substances that make up the bodies of living organisms. Unlike fossil fuels, the magnitude of this energy storage gradient (i.e., its distance from equilibrium) is maintained by a steady flow of solar energy (9). The 2 ZJ is the energy flow due to the net annual primary production (NPP) of the planet, which is the quantity of energy converted each year from solar energy to biomass by the process of photosynthesis. Global NPP is the Earth’s  yearly renewable energy budget within which all living things operate and within which our hunter-gatherer human ancestors previously operated. Therefore, an input of 2 ZJ/y of photosynthesis maintains a standing stock of 19 ZJ of stored biomass.

This stored biomass is essential to modern humans, because its chemical energy sustains a habitable biosphere away from the chemical equilibrium of space. The NPP and stored living biomass of the biosphere maintain biodiversity and regulate climate and biogeochemical cycling. The metabolic energy that powers our bodies and sustains our population is derived from NPP, because all of our food is living biomass produced by the plants and animals in the earth’s diverse ecosystems: agricultural fields, grazing lands, oceans, and fresh waters. Furthermore, biomass is essential for humans to access all other forms of energy, including wind, hydro, fossil, nuclear, etc.

Living Biomass Is Depleting Rapidly

Fig. 3. Global phytomass stores. Calculated from table 2 of Smil (11), assuming 1 t carbon ∼35 × 109 joules. ZJ = zeta joules = joules × 1021.

Fig. 3. Global phytomass stores. Calculated from table 2 of Smil (11), assuming 1 t carbon ∼35 × 109 joules. ZJ = zeta joules = joules × 1021.

At the time of the Roman Empire and the birth of Christ, the earth contained ∼1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass (10), equivalent to 35 ZJ of chemical energy, mostly in the form of trees in forests. In just the last 2,000 y, humans have reduced this by about 45% to ∼550 billion tons of carbon in biomass, equivalent to 19.2 ZJ. The loss has accelerated over time, with 11% depleted just since 1900 (Fig. 3) (11, 12). Over recent years, on average, we are  harvesting—and releasing as heat and carbon dioxide—the remaining 550 billion tons of carbon in living biomass at a net rate of ∼1.5 billion tons carbon per year (13, 14). The cause and measurement of biomass depletion are complicated issues, and the numbers are almost constantly being reevaluated (14). The depletion is due primarily to changes in land use, including deforestation, desertification, and conversion of vegetated landscapes into barren  surfaces, but also secondarily to other causes such as pollution and unsustainable forestry and fisheries. Although the above quantitative estimates have considerable uncertainty, the overall trend and magnitude are inescapable facts with dire thermodynamic consequences.

The Dominant Role of Humans

Homo sapiens Is a Unique Species. The history of humankind—starting with hunter-gatherers, who learned to obtain useful heat energy by burning wood and dung, and continuing to contemporary humans, who apply the latest technologies, such as fracking, solar panels, and wind turbines—is one of innovating to use all economically exploitable energy sources at an ever increasing rate (12, 15). Together, the biological imperative of the Malthusian-Darwinian dynamic to use all available resources and the social imperative to innovate and improve human welfare have resulted in at least 10,000 y of virtually uninterrupted population and economic growth: from a few million hunter-gatherers to more than 7 billion modern humans and from a subsistence economy based on sustainable use of plants and animals (i.e., in equilibrium with photosynthetic energy production) to the modern industrial-technological-informational economy (i.e., out of equilibrium due to the unsustainable unidirectional discharge of the biomass battery).


Fig. 4. History of global growth in per capita energy consumption, population, and total energy consumption. Reproduced from ref. 30, with permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, Nature.

Fig. 4. History of global growth in per capita energy consumption, population, and total energy consumption. Reproduced from ref. 30, with permission from Macmillan Publishers Ltd, Nature.

Fig. 4 depicts the multiplier effect of two large numbers that determine the rapid discharge rate of the earth‐space battery. Energy use per person multiplied by population gives total global energy consumption by humans. According to British Petroleum’s numbers (16), which most experts accept, in 2013, average per capita energy use was 74.6 × 109 J/person per year (equivalent to ∼2,370 W if plotted in green in Fig. 4). Multiplying this by the world population of 7.1 billion in 2013 gives a total consumption of ∼0.53 ZJ/y (equivalent to 16.8 TW if plotted in red in Fig. 4), which is greater than 1% of the total recoverable fossil fuel energy stored in the planet (i.e., 0.53 ZJ/40 ZJ = 1.3%). As time progresses, the population increases, and the economy grows, the outcome of multiplying these two very large numbers is that the total rate of global energy consumption is growing at a near-exponential rate. (emphasis added)

To put these numbers in perspective, consider a point of reference. An individual human requires on average 8.4 MJ/d (2,000 kcal/d) in the form of food to support a biological metabolic rate of about 100 W. To fuel their diverse activities, contemporary humans supplement biological metabolism with extrametabolic energy derived from other sources, principally fossil fuels. Therefore, the current per-capita consumption of 2,370 W identified above for an average person is about 24 times that of a hunter-gatherer ancestor. Furthermore, this average value does not indicate the wide variation in per capita energy consumption as a function of socioeconomic conditions, which ranges from only slightly more than the biological metabolic rate in the poorest developing countries to more than 11,000 W in the most developed countries with their energy-demanding industrial-technological-informational economies (8, 17). Compared with humankind’s metabolic needs and the remaining chemical stores in the earth-space battery (distance to thermodynamic equilibrium), the rate of net discharge is very large and obviously unsustainable. I (emphasis added)

The earth is in serious energetic imbalance due to human energy use. This imbalance defines our most dominant conflict with nature. It really is a conflict in the sense that the current energy imbalance, a crisis unprecedented in Earth history, is a direct consequence of technological innovation. The detrimental effects of discharging the organic chemical energy stored in the battery extend far beyond the depletion of stored living phytomass and fossil fuel energy. Consider minerals. Energetically overpowered humans have discovered and mined most of the richest deposits of copper, iron, zinc, gold, and silver, used these metals to support the industrial economy, and dispersed the unused “wastes” to landfills and unrecoverable pools. Consider nitrogen and phosphorus, critical ingredients of fertilizer because they are essential for plant growth. Global deposits of nitrate and phosphate have been drastically depleted. Nitrogen fertilizer can be synthesized from atmospheric nitrogen gas, but this chemical process requires a large input of exogenous energy, usually in the form of fossil fuel (18). More ominously, there is no substitute for or  mechanism for artificially synthesizing phosphorus. Consider water. By damming rivers and streams and digging wells into subsurface aquifers, humans currently use more than 56% of all accessible fresh water. Most of this water is used for irrigation of crops, so that human activities account for about 26% of the water lost by evapotranspiration from terrestrial ecosystems (19, 20). Consider impacts on global ecosystems (21) and biodiversity (22). To produce plant and animal products for human consumption and to house our growing population, we have transformed ecosystems and landscapes on approximately 83% of Earth’s ice-free land area. We have replaced forests and other native ecosystems with agricultural crops, pastures, forestry plantations, buildings, and pavement, pre-empting about 40% of terrestrial NPP and reducing the standing stock of living biomass on the planet by an estimated 45%. Additional human-caused changes have substantially reduced the stocks of ocean fisheries, altered global biogeochemical cycles and climate, and caused extinction of species at 100–1,000 times the average prehuman extinction rates. Finally, consider that 15–30% of current global energy consumption is used to simply supply food for 7.2 billion people (23, 24). Most of this energy comes from fossil fuels and is used for the supplemental inputs of water, fertilizer, pesticides, and machine labor that enable modern agriculture to achieve high yields (25–27). Therefore, the human population is sustained by the NPP of agriculture, but the capacity of this agriculture to feed the global population requires massive discharge of the earth-space battery. (emphasis added)

The unidirectional dissipation of living biomass and fossil fuel energy from the battery has provided our species unprecedented powerful domination over the biogeochemical cycles and other organisms of the planet. Others have chronicled these changes and their consequences (18–22, 28–30), but their warnings have failed to arouse sufficient public concern and motivate a meaningful response. Ironically, powerful political and market forces, rather than acting to conserve the remaining charge in the battery, actually push in the opposite direction, because the pervasive efforts to increase economic growth will require increased energy consumption (4, 8). Much of the above information has been presented elsewhere, but in different forms (e.g., in the references cited). Our synthesis differs from most of these treatments in two respects: (i) it introduces the paradigm of the earth‐space battery to provide a new perspective, and (ii) it emphasizes the critical importance of living biomass for global sustainability of both the biosphere and human civilization. (emphasis added)

Humans and Phytomass

We can be more quantitative and put this into context by introducing a new sustainability metric Ωbattery_formula 1which purposefully combines perhaps the two critical variables affecting the energy status of the planet: total phytomass and human population. Eq. 1 accomplishes this combination by dividing the stored phytomass chemical energy P (in joules) by the energy needed to feed the global population for 1 y (joules per year; Fig. 5). The denominator represents the basic (metabolic) energy need of the human population; it is obtained by multiplying the global population N by their per capita metabolic needs for 1 y (B = 3.06 × 109 joules/person·per year as calculated from an 8.4 ×106 joules/person·day diet). The simple expression for Ω gives the number of years at current rates of consumption that the global phytomass storage could feed the human race. By making the conservative but totally unrealistic assumption that all phytomass could be harvested to feed humans (i.e., all of it is edible), we get an  absolute maximum estimate of the number of years of food remaining for humankind. Fig. 5 shows that over the years 0–2000, Ω has decreased predictably and dramatically from 67,000 to 1,029 y (for example, in the year 2000, P = 19.3 × 1021 joules, B = 3.06 × 109 joules/person·per year, and N = 6.13 × 109 persons; thus,Ω =1,029 y). In just 2,000 y, our single species has reduced Ω by 98.5%.(emphasis added – that is to say, the ability of the planet to feed, to sustain, it’s occupants has been slashed by 98.5% in a mere 2,000 years-WM)

The above is a drastic underestimate for four reasons. First, we obviously cannot consume all phytomass stores for food; the preponderance of phytomass runs the biosphere. Second, basing our estimate on human biological metabolism does not include that high rate of extrametabolic energy expenditure currently being used to feed the population and fuel the economy. Third, the above estimate does not account that both the global human population and the per-capita rate of energy use are not constant, but increasing at near-exponential rates. We do not attempt to extrapolate to predict the future trajectories, which must ultimately turn downward as essential energy stocks are depleted. Finally, we emphasize that not only has the global store of phytomass energy decreased rapidly, but more importantly human dominance over the remaining portion has also increased rapidly. Long before the hypothetical deadline when the global phytomass store is completely exhausted, the energetics of the biosphere and all its inhabitant species will have been drastically altered, with profound changes in biogeochemical function and remaining biodiversity. The very conservative Ω index shows how rapidly land use changes, NPP appropriation, pollution, and other activities are depleting phytomass stores to fuel the current near-exponential trajectories of population and economic growth. Because the Ω index is conservative, it also emphasizes how very little time is left to make changes and achieve a sustainable future for the biosphere and humanity. We are already firmly within the zone of scientific uncertainty where some perturbation could trigger a catastrophic state shift in the biosphere and in the human population and economy (31). As we rapidly approach the chemical equilibrium of outer space, the laws of thermodynamics offer little room for negotiation. (emphasis added)

Discussion

Fig. 5. Number of years of phytomass food potentially available to feed the global human population. Calculated from the total stored phytomass energy of the planet divided by the metabolic energy needs to feed the global population for 1 y (i.e., joules/joules per year = years) assuming an 8.4-MJ per capita daily diet for the entire year. Rapidly decreasing trend line indicates increasing dominance of phytomass by humankind. For reasons given in the text, these values are very conservative. Little margin remains to safely continue the current trend.

The trajectory of Ω shown in Fig. 5 has at least three implications for the future of humankind. First, there is no reason to expect a different trajectory in the near future. Something like the present level of biomass energy destruction will be required to sustain the present global population with its fossil fuel‐subsidized food production and economy. Second, as the earth‐space battery is being discharged ever faster (Fig. 3) to support an ever larger population, the capacity to buffer changes will diminish and the remaining energy gradients will experience increasing perturbations. As more people depend on fewer available energy options, their standard of living and very survival will become increasingly vulnerable to fluctuations, such as droughts, disease epidemics, social unrest, and warfare. Third, there is considerable uncertainty in how the biosphere will function as Ω decreases from the present Ω = ∼1,029 y into an uncharted thermodynamic operating region. The global biosphere, human population, and economy will obviously crash long before Ω = 1 y. If H. sapiens does not go extinct, the human population will decline drastically as we will be forced to return to making a living as hunter-gatherers or simple horticulturalists.(if we’re lucky-WM) Also, the earth after the collapse of human civilization will be a very different place than the biosphere that supported the rise of civilization. There will be a long-lasting legacy of altered climate, landscapes, and biogeochemical cycles, depleted and dispersed stocks of fossil fuels, metals, and nuclear ores, and diminished biodiversity. The most powerful species in the 3.5-billion-year history of life has transformed the earth and left a mark that will endure long after its passing. (emphasis added)

Many of the organizations and authors who have recognized the seriousness of the looming energy crisis are  suggesting the possibility of achieving some level of sustainability of the global population and economy by implementing renewable energy technologies (32, 33). We too recognize the importance of solar and other renewables in cushioning the ecological and socioeconomic consequences as the biosphere returns toward a steady state between  NPP and respiration. There is indeed a large supply of solar energy that has not yet been tapped for human use. As mentioned above, sunlight is highly dispersed low-quality energy. Consequently, current technologies rely heavily on fossil fuels to design, mine, build, and operate the collection and distribution systems (34) and expand the yet to be designed but compulsory large-scale energy storage systems. Moreover, whereas some deployment of solar systems (e.g., over roofs, roads, and parking lots) causes little direct reduction of biomass, greater deployment will undoubtedly result in increasing indirect biomass consequences to both fabricate and install solar collectors and other infrastructure. The earth-space battery paradigm clarifies why the total upfront and ongoing energy investments in  solar and other renewables need to be balanced with the energy produced, i.e., greater energy return on energy investment (4, 35), and why their production and installation must not negatively impact the remaining biomass budget of earth. (in other words, the so-called “green”, renewable energy sources ain’t gonna cut it-WM)

The logic presented above is indisputable, because the laws of thermodynamics are absolute and  inviolate. Unless phytomass stores stabilize, human civilization is unsustainable. The battery paradigm highlights the  need to continue to refine estimates of the global biomass degradation (13) and its corresponding chemical energy  contents and of recoverable fossil fuels. It emphasizes the need for greater recognition of the central importance of living biomass and the past, present, and future trajectory of decreasing Ω. History offers a mixed message about the capacity of humans to innovate and act in time to avoid collapse. At local and regional scales, many multiple past civilizations (e.g., Greece, Rome, Angkor Wat, Teotihuacan) failed to adapt to changing social and ecological  conditions and crashed catastrophically. At the same time, human ingenuity and technological innovations allowed  the global population and economy to grow at near-exponential rates. This growth has been fueled by exploiting new energy sources, transitioning among animal, hydro, wind, wood, coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, photovoltaic solar,  geothermal, and others. The implications of past localized collapses and global growth are of questionable relevance to the current situation, however, because now, for the first time in history, humanity is facing a global chemical energy limit. The earth-space battery paradigm provides a simple framework for understanding the historical effects of humans on the energy dynamics of the biosphere, including the unalterable thermodynamic boundaries that now pose severe challenges to the future of humankind. Living biomass is the energy capital that runs the biosphere and  supports the human population and economy. There is an urgent need not only to halt the depletion of this biological  capital, but to move as rapidly as possible toward an approximate equilibrium between NPP and respiration. There is  simply no reserve tank of biomass for planet Earth. The laws of thermodynamics have no mercy. Equilibrium is inhospitable, sterile, and final. (emphasis added)

Materials and Methods

To calculate omega in Fig. 5, we used the data on increase in population N from the years 0 to 1950 and from 1950 to 2000 from the US Census Bureau (36, 37). In all cases, if there was a variation in population estimates for a given year, to be conservative, we used the lowest. Phytomass energy content P required a continuous function to represent all years from 0 to 2000. We used second-order equations to fit the data points in Fig. 3. The first three data points (years 0–1800) were represented by phytomass energy = [35 − 1.70 × 10−6 (year)2 − 1.801 × 10−3 (year) − 1.8031 × 10−3] zeta joules. The remaining data points (years 1800–2000) were represented by phytomass energy = [35 − 3.386 × 10−5 (year)2 + 9.373−2 (year) − 67.770] zeta joules.

Now if you understand this math, good for you. Should make it easier for you to see the obvious validity of this study and the battery analogy. If you don’t get the math, and sure as hell don’t, it doesn’t matter. Just read and understand what the words are saying. The situation is totally FUBAR and our children and grandchildren, if they survive the collapse, will be living in a special hell that we created for them. Congratufuckinglations! Sincerely, WM


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. The University of Georgia’s Environmental Engineering students are gratefully acknowledged for persistent engaging questions and deep discussions that enhanced key points in this research. This work was funded in part by National Science Foundation Macrosystems Biology Grant EF 1065836 (to J.H.B.).


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June 26, 2015.
Schramski


Author contributions: J.R.S. and D.K.G. designed research; J.R.S. and J.H.B. performed research; J.R.S. and J.H.B. contributed new reagents/analytic tools; J.R.S., D.K.G., and J.H.B. analyzed data; and J.R.S., D.K.G., and J.H.B. wrote the paper.
The authors declare no conflict of interest.
This article is a PNAS Direct Submission.
1To whom correspondence may be addressed. Email: jschrams@uga.edu or jhbrown@unm.edu.

 

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Devolution, the Progress of Modern Civilisation – Part 1

And the liars that spin the myth of our perfect modern civilisation, the one right way for all people to live, have the temerity to tell us that “primitive” man always has and always will live in terror, squalor, poverty and filth.


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More excerpts from “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn.
The first installment of a very concise yet thorough history of the rise and fall of the human empire.
In some of these posts I have taken the liberty of adding a few illustrations that were not part of the book.

Signs of distress: 5000-3000 B.C.E.

It was getting crowded. Think of that. People used to imagine that history is inevitably cyclical, but what I’m describing here has never happened before. In all of three million years, humans have never been crowded anywhere. But now the people of a single culture—our culture—are learning what it means to be crowded. It was getting crowded, and overworked, overgrazed land was becoming less and less productive. There were more people, and they were competing for dwindling resources.

The water is heating up around the frog—and remember what we’re looking for: signs of distress. What happens when more people begin competing for less? That’s obvious. Every schoolchild knows that. When more people start competing for less, they start fighting. But of course they don’t just fight at random. The town butcher doesn’t battle the town baker, the town tailor doesn’t battle the town shoemaker. No, the town’s butcher, baker, tailor, and shoemaker get together to battle some other town’s butcher, baker, tailor, and shoemaker.

We don’t have to see bodies lying in the field to know that this was the beginning of the age of war that has continued to the present moment. What we have to see is war-making machinery. I don’t mean mechanical machinery—chariots, catapults, siege machines, and so on. I mean political machinery. Butchers, bakers, tailors, and shoemakers don’t organize themselves into armies. They need warlords—kings, princes, emperors.

It’s during this period, starting around five thousand years ago, that we see the first states formed for the purpose of armed defense and aggression. It’s during this period that we see the standing army forged as the monarch’s sword of power. Without a standing army, a king is just a windbag in fancy clothes. You know that. But with a standing army, a king can impose his will on his enemies and engrave his name in history—and absolutely the only names we have from this era are the names of conquering kings. No scientists, no philosophers, no historians, no prophets, just conquerors. Again, nothing cyclic going on here. For the first time in human history, the important people are the people with armies.

Now note well that no one thought that the appearance of armies was a bad sign—a sign of distress. They thought it was a good sign. They thought the armies represented an improvement. The water was just getting delightfully warm, and no one worried about a few little bubbles.

After this point military needs became the chief stimulus for technological advancement in our culture. Nothing wrong with that, is there? Our soldiers need better armor, better swords, better chariots, better bows and arrows, better scaling machines, better rams, better artillery, better guns, better tanks, better planes, better bombs, better rockets, better nerve gas . . . well, you see what I mean. At this point no one saw technology in the service of warfare as a sign that something bad was going on. They thought it was an improvement.

From this point on, the frequency and severity of wars will serve as one measure of how hot the water is getting around our smiling frog.

 


 

 

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Devolution, the Progress of Modern Civilisation – Part 4

And the liars that spin the myth of our perfect modern civilisation, the one right way for all people to live, have the temerity to tell us that “primitive” man always has and always will live in terror, squalor, poverty and filth.


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Mosque of al-Hakim (Cairo, Egypt) 990-1013 c.e.


More excerpts from “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn.
The fourth installment of a very condensed version of the history of the rise and fall of the human empire.
In some of these posts I have taken the liberty of adding a few illustrations that were not part of the book.

Signs of distress: 0-1200 C.E.

The fire burned on under the cauldron of our culture, and the next doubling of our population would take only twelve hundred years. There would be four hundred million humans at the end of it, ninetyeight percent of them belonging to our culture, East and West. War, plague, famine, political corruption and unrest, crime, and economic instability were fixtures of our cultural life and would remain so. Salvationist religions had been entrenched in the East for centuries when this period began, but the great empire of the West still saluted its dozens of talismanic deities, from Aeolus to Zephyrus. Nonetheless the ordinary people of that empire—the slaves, the conquered, the peasants, the unenfranchised masses—were ready when the first great salvationist religion of the West arrived on its doorstep. It was easy for them to envision humankind as innately flawed and to envision themselves as sinners in need of rescue from eternal damnation. They were eager to despise the world and to dream of a blissful afterlife in which the poor and the humble of this world would be exalted over the proud and the powerful.

The fire burned on unwaveringly under the cauldron of our culture, but people everywhere now had salvationist religions to show them how to understand and deal with the inevitable discomfort of being alive. Adherents tend to concentrate on the differences between these religions, but I concentrate on their agreements, which are as follows: The human condition is what it is, and no amount of effort on your part will change that; it’s not within your power to save your people, your friends, your parents, your children, or your spouse, but there is one person (and only one) you can save, and that’s you. Nobody can save you but you, and there’s nobody you can save but yourself. You can carry the word to others and they can carry the word to you, but it never comes down to anything but this, whether it’s Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, or Islam: Nobody can save you but you, and there’s nobody you can save but yourself. Salvation is of course the most wonderful thing you can achieve in your life—and you not only don’t have to share it, it isn’t even possible to share it.

As far as these religions have it worked out, if you fail of salvation, then your failure is complete, whether others succeed or not. On the other hand, if you find salvation, then your success is complete —again, whether others succeed  or not. Ultimately, as these religions have it, if you’re saved, then literally nothing else in the entire universe matters. Your salvation is what matters. Nothing else—not even my salvation (except of course, to me).

This was a new vision of what counts in the world. Forget the boiling, forget the pain. Nothing matters but you and your salvation.

 


 

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Totalitarian Agriculture – Excerpts From “The Story of B” by Daniel Quinn

i made this

i made this


The following excerpts provide a good picture of what Totalitarian Agriculture is and does. They also give us a good idea of how well read and learned Daniel Quinn happens to be. There will be more excerpts from his work to follow that will address other areas of the Pathocracy we know as modern “civilisation“.

The point to keep in mind is this: It is the policy of totalitarian agriculture to wipe out unwanted species. If ancient foragers hunted any species to extinction, it certainly wasn’t because they wanted to wipe out their own food supply!

Q. Wasn’t agriculture developed as a response to famine?

A. Agriculture is useless as a response to famine. You can no more respond to famine by planting a crop than you can respond to falling out of an airplane by knitting a parachute. But this really misses the point. To say that agriculture was developed as a response to famine is like saying that cigarette smoking was developed as a response to lung cancer. Agriculture doesn’t cure famine, it promotes famine—it creates the conditions in which famines occur. Agriculture makes it possible for more people to live in an area than that area can support—and that’s exactly where famines occur. For example, agriculture made it possible for many populations of Africa to outstrip their homelands’ resources—and that’s why these populations are now starving.

The Boiling Frog

Systems thinkers have given us a useful metaphor for a certain kind of human behavior in the phenomenon of the boiled frog. The phenomenon is this. If you drop a frog in a pot of boiling water, it will of course frantically try to clamber out. But if you place it gently in a pot of tepid water and turn the heat on low, it will float there quite placidly. As the water gradually heats up, the frog will sink into a tranquil stupor, exactly like one of us in a hot bath, and before long, with a smile on its face, it will unresistingly allow itself to be boiled to death.

We all know stories of frogs being tossed into boiling water—for example, a young couple being plunged into catastrophic debt by an unforeseen medical emergency. A contrary example, an example of the smiling boiled frog, is that of a young couple who gradually use their good credit to buy and borrow themselves into catastrophic debt. Cultural examples exist as well. About six thousand years ago the goddess-worshiping societies of Old Europe were engulfed in a boiling up of our culture that Marija Gimbutas called Kurgan Wave Number One; they struggled to clamber out but eventually succumbed. The Plains Indians of North America, who were engulfed in another boiling up of our culture in the 1870s, constitute another example; they struggled to clamber out over the next two
decades, but they too finally succumbed.

A contrary example, an example of the smiling-boiled-frog phenomenon, is provided by our own culture. When we slipped into the cauldron, the water was a perfect temperature, not too hot, not too cold. Can anyone tell me when that was? Anyone?

Blank faces.

I’ve already told you, but I’ll ask again, a different way. When did we become we? Where and when did the thing called us begin? Remember: East and West, twins of a common birth. Where? And when?

Well, of course: in the Near East, about ten thousand years ago. That’s where our peculiar, defining form of agriculture was born, and we began to be we. That was our cultural birthplace. That was where and when we slipped into that beautifully pleasant water: the Near East, ten thousand years ago.

As the water in the cauldron slowly heats, the frog feels nothing but a pleasant warmth, and indeed that’s all there is to feel. A long time has to pass before the water begins to be dangerously hot, and our own history demonstrates this. For fully half our history, the first five thousand years, signs of distress are almost nonexistent. The technological innovations of this period bespeak a quiet life, centered around hearth and village—sun-dried brick, kiln-fired pottery, woven cloth, the potter’s wheel, and so on. But gradually, imperceptibly, signs of distress begin to appear, like tiny bubbles at the bottom of a pot.

What shall we look for, as signs of distress? Mass suicides? Revolution? Terrorism? No, of course not. Those come much later, when the water is scalding hot. Five thousand years ago it was just getting warm. Folks mopping their brows were grinning at each other and saying, “Isn’t it great?”

You’ll know where to find the signs of distress if you identify the fire that was burning under the cauldron. It was burning there in the beginning, was still burning after five thousand years . . . and is still burning today in exactly the same way. It was and is the great heating element of our revolution. It’s the essential. It’s the sine qua non of our  success—if success is what it is.

Speak! Someone tell me what I’m talking about!

“Agriculture!” Agriculture, this gentleman tells me.

No. Not agriculture. One particular style of agriculture. One particular style that has been the basis of our culture from its beginnings ten thousand years ago to the present moment—the basis of our culture and found in no other. It’s ours, it’s what makes us us. For its complete ruthlessness toward all other life-forms on this planet and for its unyielding determination to convert every square meter on this planet to the production of human food, I’ve called it totalitarian agriculture.

Ethologists, students of animal behavior, and a few philosophers who have considered the matter know that there is a form of ethics practiced in the community of life on this planet—apart from us, that is. This is a very practical (you might say Darwinian) sort of ethics, since it serves to safeguard and promote biological diversity within the community. According to this ethics, followed by every sort of creature within the community of life, sharks as well as sheep, killer bees as well as butterflies, you may compete to the full extent of your capabilities, but you may not hunt down your competitors or destroy their food or deny them access to food. In other words, you may compete but you may not wage war. This ethics is violated at every point by practitioners of totalitarian agriculture. We hunt down our competitors, we destroy their food, and we deny them access to food. That indeed is the whole purpose and point of totalitarian agriculture. Totalitarian agriculture is based on the premise that all the food in the world belongs to us, and there is no limit whatever to what we may take for ourselves and deny to all others. (emphasis added – WM)

Totalitarian agriculture was not adopted in our culture out of sheer meanness. It was adopted because, by its very nature, it’s more productive than any other style (and there are many other styles). Totalitarian agriculture represents productivity to the max, as Americans like to say. It represents productivity in a form that literally cannot be exceeded.

Many styles of agriculture (not all, but many) produce food surpluses. But, not surprisingly, totalitarian agriculture produces larger surpluses than any other style. It produces surpluses to the max. You simply can’t outproduce a system designed to convert all the food in the world into human food.

Totalitarian agriculture is the fire under our cauldron. Totalitarian agriculture is what has kept us “on the boil” here  for ten thousand years.

Food availability and population growth

The people of our culture take food so much for granted that they often have a hard time seeing that there is a necessary connection between the availability of food and population growth. For them, I’ve found it necessary to construct a small illustrative experiment with laboratory mice.

Imagine if you will a cage with movable sides, so that it can be enlarged to any desired size. We begin by putting ten healthy mice of both sexes into the cage, along with plenty of food and water. In just a few days there will of course be twenty mice, and we accordingly increase the amount of food we’re putting in the cage. In a few weeks, as we steadily increase the amount of available food, there will be forty, then fifty, then sixty, and so on, until one day there is a hundred. And let’s say that we’ve decided to stop the growth of the colony at a hundred. I’m sure you realize that we don’t need to pass out little condoms or birth-control pills to achieve this effect. All we have to do is stop increasing the amount of food that goes into the cage. Every day we put in an amount that we know is sufficient to sustain a hundred mice—and no more. This is the part that many find hard to believe, but, trust me, it’s the truth: The growth of the community stops dead. Not overnight, of course, but in very short order. Putting in an amount of food sufficient for one hundred mice, we will find—every single time—that the population of the cage soon stabilizes at one hundred. Of course I don’t mean one hundred precisely. It will fluctuate between ninety and a hundred ten but never go much beyond those limits. On the average, day after day, year after year, decade after decade, the population inside the cage will be one hundred.

Now if we should decide to have a population of two hundred mice instead of one hundred, we won’t have to add aphrodisiacs to their diets or play erotic mouse movies for them. We’ll just have to increase the amount of food we put in the cage. If we put in enough food for two hundred, we’ll soon have two hundred. If we put in enough for three hundred, we’ll soon have three hundred: If we put in enough for four hundred, we’ll soon have four hundred. If we put in enough for five hundred, we’ll soon have five hundred. This isn’t a guess, my friends. This isn’t a conjecture. This is a certainty.

Of course, you understand that there’s nothing special about mice in this regard. The same will happen with crickets or trout or badgers or sparrows. But I fear that many people bridle at the idea that humans might be included in this list. Because as individuals we’re able to govern our reproductive capacities, they imagine our growth as a species should be unresponsive to the mere availability of food.

Luckily for the point I’m trying to make here, I have considerable data showing that, as a species, we’re as responsive as any other to the availability of food—three million years of data, in fact. For all but the last ten thousand years of that period, the human species was a very minor member of the world ecosystem. Imagine it—three million years and the human race did not overrun the earth! There was some growth, of course, through simple migration from continent to continent, but this growth was proceeding at a glacial rate. It’s estimated that the human population at  the beginning of the Neolithic was around ten million—ten million, if you can imagine that! After three million years!

Then, very suddenly, things began to change. And the change was that the people of one culture, in one corner of the world, developed a peculiar form of agriculture that made food available to people in unprecedented quantities. Following this, in this corner of the world, the population doubled in a scant three thousand years. It doubled again, this time in only two thousand years. In an eye blink of time on the geologic scale, the human population jumped from ten million to fifty million—probably eighty percent of them being practitioners of totalitarian agriculture: members of our culture, East and West.

The water in the cauldron was getting warm, and signs of distress were beginning to appear.


Post Script

It occurred to me, while pasting the above excerpts into this post, that I had written about Totalitarian Agriculture a couple of years ago without realising it, before having read the work of Daniel Quinn.

From “THE AGRIBUSINESS JUGGERNAUT; ASSAULT UPON NATURE, THREAT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL” February 01, 2013

Monsanto, the giant in agricultural biogenetics and holder of patents on several genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is working to corner the global market on Life. Their genetically modified (GM) crops, some complete with suicide genes which render their seeds infertile and others genetically resistant to herbicides, are intended to ultimately overrun all natural crops making Monsanto quite literally the sole owner of all food crops on Earth.

These GM crops will ultimately be the only game in town and, therefore, every vegetable, fruit or grain you eat will be genetically modified. The same will apply to every form of feed used for livestock, poultry and any creature whatsoever that is raised as a source of food for humans.

It’s even quite certain the animals we use as food sources will be subjected to the same sort of genetic manipulation that is now being used on crops.

In fact, genetically modified salmon could be available at a supermarket near you sooner than you think.

 

 


 

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The Chalice and the Blade by Riane Eisler

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The Chalice and the Blade

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This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, and so on. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.

Stone Age Economics by Marshall Sahlins

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Sahlins – Stone Age Economics

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Ishmael: An Adventure of the Mind and Spirit

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Ishmael_by_Daniel_Quinn

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Corporate Developers Seize Indigenous Lands in Brazil and Hire Hit Men to Murder Residents


A Xucuru dancer in front of the National Congress in April 2015. The indigenous Xucuru people from the state of Pernambuco are from one of the best-organized groups in Brazil. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.) Copyright Truthout.org

Corporate Developers Seize Indigenous Lands in Brazil and Hire Hit Men to Murder Residents

By Renata Bessi and Santiago Navarro F., Translated by Miriam Taylor / Truthout

In an effort to make way for new investment projects, the Brazilian government and transnational corporations have been taking over ancestral indigenous lands, triggering a rise in murders of indigenous people in Brazil.

According to the report, “Violence Against Indigenous People in Brazil,” recently published by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI by its Portuguese initials), the number of indigenous people killed in the country grew 42 percent from 2013 to 2014; 138 cases were officially registered. The majority of the murders were carried out by hit men hired by those with economic interests in the territories.

The states of Mato Grosso del Sur, Amazonas and Bahía figure heavily in the statistics. An emblematic case was the brutal killing of the indigenous woman Marinalva Kaiowá, in November of 2014. She lived in recovered territories, land that for over 40 years has been claimed by the Guaraní people as the land of their ancestors. Marinalva was assassinated – stabbed 35 times – two weeks after attending a protest with other indigenous leaders at the Federal Supreme Court in the Federal District of Brasilia. The group was protesting a court ruling that annulled the demarcation process in the indigenous territory of the Guyraroká.

For four days and three nights, more than 1,500 indigenous individuals filled one of the gardens in front of the National Congress with colors, music and rituals. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

For four days and three nights, more than 1,500 indigenous individuals filled one of the gardens in front of the National Congress with colors, music and rituals. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

In addition to this, there has been a steady flow of people forced to move to small territories after being displaced by economic development projects, as in the case of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, where the majority of the population – over 40,000 people – live concentrated on small reservations. These are communities that are exposed to assassinations by hired hit men, lack education and basic necessities, and endure deplorable health conditions. Infant mortality rates in the community are high and rising: According to official statistics, last year 785 children between the ages of 0 and 5 died.

“We, the Guaraní, principally from Mato Grosso do Sul, have been the greatest victims of massacres and violence,” the Guaraní Kaiowá indigenous leader Araqueraju told Truthout. “They have killed many of our leaders, they have spilled much blood because we are fighting for the respect for and demarcation of what is left of our territories that the government does not want to recognize.”

Indigenous women leaders were also present for the taking of congress to denounce violations of human rights suffered by indigenous people. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Indigenous women leaders were also present for the taking of congress to denounce violations of human rights suffered by indigenous people. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

The rise in the rate of violence is related in large part to the development policies of the Brazilian government – policies that have been denounced by the Indigenous Missionary Council. Another report, titled “Projects that impact indigenous lands,” released by CIMI in 2014, revealed that at least 519 projects have impacted 437 ancestral territories, directly affecting 204 indigenous groups.

The energy sector has most deeply affected indigenous people; of the 519 documented projects, 267 are energy-related. In second place is infrastructure, with 196 projects. Mining is third, with 21 projects, and in fourth place, with 19 expansive projects, is agribusiness. Ecotourism comes next with 9 projects.

“In the Amazon region, the region of the Tapajos River, we are being fenced in,” João Tapajó – a member of the Arimun indigenous group – told Truthout. “The Teles waterway is being constructed and the BR163 highway widened. This is being done to transport the transnational corporations’ grain and minerals,” added Tapajó, who is part of one of the groups that make up the Indigenous Movement of the region Bajo Tapajós, in the state of Pará. “We live under constant threat from agribusinesses and lumber companies. There is a construction project to build five hydroelectric dams on the same river. To top it off, our region is suffering from a process of prospecting for the exploitation of minerals, by the companies Alcoa y Vale do Rio Doce.”

The military police were constantly present, protecting the headquarters of Brazil’s three branches of government from the indigenous protesters. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

The military police were constantly present, protecting the headquarters of Brazil’s three branches of government from the indigenous protesters. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Similarly, a report produced by the Federal Public Ministry, based on its own evaluations and carried out by anthropologists María Fernanda Paranhos and Deborah Stucchi, shows that the processes of social change generated by these projects principally affect those who live in rural contexts. This includes many groups living collectively who are relatively invisible in the sociopolitical context of Brazil.

“The evaluations provide evidence that the intense social changes, the possibility of the breaking up of productive circuits, the disappearance of small-scale agriculture, fishing, and forested areas, a reduction in jobs, and the impoverishment and degradation of material and immaterial conditions of life … have led to strong reactions and an avalanche of social conflict,” according to the ministry’s report.

Indigenous people of ethnic Pataxo struggle to return their lands. In October 2014, they closed the highway to pressure the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Indigenous people of ethnic Pataxo struggle to return their lands. In October 2014, they closed the highway to pressure the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Hydroelectric Dams in the Brazilian Amazon

The government’s Ten-Year Plan for energy expansion – 2023, which projects for the period of 2014 to 2023 an expansion of over 28,000 megawatts of energy generation by way of hydroelectric dams, claims that none of the 30 hydroelectric dams projected for construction in this country during this period will have any direct effect on indigenous lands.

Data from the Institute of Socioeconomic Studies, through an initiative called Investments and Rights in the Amazon, tells a different story. According to research carried out by Ricardo Verdum, a PhD in social anthropology and member of the Center for the Study of Indigenous Populations at the Federal University in the state of Santa Catarina, of the 23 hydroelectric dams that will be built in the Amazon, at least 16 will have negative social and environmental effects on indigenous territories. They will destroy the environmental conditions that these indigenous groups depend on to live and maintain their way of life.

“The difference in results is due to the way the idea of ‘impact’ or ‘interference’ is defined conceptually and materially,” Verdum told Truthout. “According to current legislation, interference in indigenous lands occurs when a parcel of land is directly affected by the dam itself or the reservoir. The territorial and environmental criteria do not consider the human and social aspects of the interference, or influence of the project on the population.”

The atmosphere grew tense as Federal Police came in, although this was no surprise to the Pataxo. They have been long been rejected by cattle farmers, businessmen and people living in cities close to Monte Pascoal–one of the richest areas in terms of flora and fauna in the world. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

The atmosphere grew tense as Federal Police came in, although this was no surprise to the Pataxo. They have been long been rejected by cattle farmers, businessmen and people living in cities close to Monte Pascoal – one of the richest areas in terms of flora and fauna in the world. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

A Militaristic Approach to the Economy

Brazil’s development model – a model adopted by most countries in Latin America within the old international division of labor – leads the country to specialize in the export of raw materials or basic products at a low cost in relation to the import of final products that return to Brazil at elevated prices. This is a logic that is based on the colonial model, according to Clovis Brighenti, a professor of history at the Federal University of Latin American Integration. “It is an entry into the globalized world by way of intense exploitation of the environment with few results,” Brighenti told Truthout. “What’s more, these results are in exchange for high investment costs, made with public resources and subsidized interest rates, concentrated in a tiny group of beneficiaries. It is a dried-up model but in its death throes, it causes irreversible damage to the environment and for the people that depend on these ecosystems.”

The design of this development model, according to Brighenti, is connected to the modern myth that an economy needs to grow rapidly and continuously to satisfy the material necessities of society. “However, behind this myth, is hidden the essence of the capitalist system: the need to guarantee a logic that is based on consumerism, and in this way, guarantee the accumulation and the benefit of the elites and the privileged sectors of society.”

In Brazil, the belief is that material happiness is connected to the search for new spaces for development expansion. “In other words, it is searching for constant advancement into ‘new’ territories, where there is still a natural environment to be explored and appropriated,” Brighenti said. “Thus, capital’s interests revolve around indigenous and traditional territories, as ideal spaces for the execution of these projects.”

He added that in Brazil there is a continuity of a militaristic mentality, due to the fact that the country was shaped by a military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985. During that time, the United States was involved through a program called Operation Brother Sam.

The objective was to remove peasants and indigenous people from their lands to concentrate territories in the hands of businesses that currently produce soy, sugar cane and eucalyptus. These companies include Monsanto, ADM, Cargill, Bunge, Louis Dreyfus Commodities, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and Ford. In this sense, current governments did not inherit just the military structure but also a business platform that dominates production and the raw materials market. “The principal similarity between the military government and what we are currently living is the development perspective, which means thinking about natural resources as infinite and readily available. In order to make a country grow economically, the amount of territory that is occupied for economic projects must increase,” Brighenti said.

Another similarity is the relationship that they establish with communities. “It could be said that there is no dialogue,” Brighenti said. “The government makes a decision and all that is left for the communities to do is to hand over their territories in the name of these initiatives. Trying to keep indigenous communities quiet is a recurring action in the sense that these populations are seen as barriers to the establishment of these projects … thus, the continuance of a militaristic mentality is explicit – proceed with development and stop the protests of those who are affected.”

An essential point that sets the period of the dictatorship apart from progressive governments is the source of financing for the projects. “Today the works are financed with public resources, through the National Economic and Social Development Bank, which is the principal funder of these megaprojects, while under the military dictatorship they were financed by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank,” he said.

In 2013, the Brazilian government published an order that allowed the intervention of the Armed Forces in protests against development projects. That same year, the military police in southern Brazil killed an indigenous Terena man and wounded others in the fulfillment of an order to re-take the land that the Terena had reclaimed as part of their ancestral territories. This was disputed by Ricardo Bacha, a former congressman from the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, who said that the lands had belonged to his family since 1927.

Similarly, at the request of the ex-governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner, who is the current defense minister of Brazil, President Dilma Rousseff signed in 2014 an authorization by the federal government to dispatch close to 500 military personnel to the Tupinambá territory, alleging that his objective was the “guarantee of law and order” and to “pacify” the region. To this very day, the Tupinambá region continues to be militarized.

Since 2010, indigenous people have intensified the re-taking of their lands in a process of self-demarcation. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Since 2010, indigenous people have intensified the re-taking of their lands in a process of self-demarcation. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Institutional Violence Against Indigenous Communities

The assassinations are just the tip of the iceberg. Among the constitutional amendments that are being debated in Brazil’s Congress is PEC-215, which transfers the power to decide the demarcation of indigenous territories to the legislative branch, when it has historically been in the hands of the executive branch. The amendment would leave indigenous people in the hands of Congress and the Senate, which are primarily made up of the family members of large businessmen and the owners of huge extensions of land.

“These proposed constitutional amendments favor a group of 264 parliamentarians of Brazil’s Congress, who have received campaign financing from multinational corporations, such as Monsanto, Cargill, Bunge and Syngenta. PEC-215 favors the expansion of big agriculture, using the discourse of food production, but Brazil’s food is produced by small-scale producers,” Lindomar, of the Terena people, told Truthout.

The principal cause of the conflicts, according to the Indigenous Missionary Council, is the negation on the part of the Brazilian government to recognize and demarcate indigenous territories. In 2014, of the almost 600 indigenous territories currently claimed by different groups, only two were recognized (Xeta Herarekã, in the state of Paraná, and Xakriabá, in the state of Minas Gerais) and one was approved (Paquicamba, in the state of Pará). The current government of the Workers Party, led by Dilma Rousseff, is that which has demarcated the fewest indigenous lands since the end of the military dictatorship in Brazil.

In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the state with the highest rates of violence against indigenous people, communities live on the edges of highways, in precarious living conditions. The recognition of indigenous territories was outlined in an agreement that was signed in 2007 by the National Indigenous Foundation, a government agency, which later broke the agreement. Even if the demarcation had gone into effect, indigenous people would only occupy 2 percent of the state, in one of the regions of Brazil where the largest number of indigenous people reside.

Resisting the Old Development Model

According to Brighenti, since the start of the Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula) administration, indigenous people have expressed to the government that they wanted to share their knowledge and practices with the new administration. “But the government ignored them, and what’s worse, Lula declared that Brazil needed to overcome three great obstacles to development, including indigenous groups, environmental laws and the Federal Public Ministry,” he said. “Thus, since the beginning, he made it clear that for the indigenous movement and its allies, the government had chosen a different model and aligned himself with other sectors that are unfortunately at odds with indigenous groups, big agro-industry.”

Indigenous people realized that they needed to come together to avoid losing their rights. “Few social and union movements supported them. Each social movement defined its relationship with the government and indigenous people were many times criticized for their radicalness,” Brighenti added.

Indigenous lands in Brazil, as recognized by the federal government, are property of the government. Indigenous people can possess and use the land, with the exception of the subsoil and water resources. “It is necessary to advance in the sense of constructing autonomous communities, which does not mean independence, but the freedom to decide their own future,” Brighenti said.

Even with the demarcation of indigenous territories, there is no assurance against intervention in indigenous lands, since the law allows for the intervention of the federal government at any time because the lands are considered property of the government.

“All the government projects are threatening to us and the entire Amazon,” María Leus, an indigenous Munduruku woman, told Truthout. “We do not accept any negotiation with the government, because we cannot make negotiations regarding our mother and because we do not accept any of these projects that are going to affect us. We have always been here: These are the lands of our ancestors, and today we continuing fighting for the respect for our way of life, because governments have never respected how we live, and today they are devastating what is left of our lands in order to continue with their projects.”

Copyright, Truthout.org.  Reprinted with permission.

SANTIAGO NAVARRO F.

Santiago Navarro is an economist, a freelance journalist, photographer and contributor to theAmericas Program, Desinformémonos and  SubVersiones.

RENATA BESSI

Renata Bessi is a freelance journalist and contributor the Americas Program andDesinformémonos. She has published articles in Brazilian media: The Trecheiro newspaper magazine, Página 22, Repórter Brasil, Rede Brasil Atual, Brasil de Fato, Outras Palavras.


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You May Touch Anything Else In The Room, But, Do Not Press That Button!

So Saith the Great and Powerful Wizard of ODD!


A recent comment on one of my posts invoked a memory regarding a book I’ve not read in some time. The work to which I refer is “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn.

At one point in the story, the teacher, Ishmael, gives his student, Alan Lomax, some valid information and then asks a question. I thought it might make for an interesting poll to create that same scenario here. However, like any poll, it won’t mean much without a large number of responses. Therefore I would ask that you, if you’re so inclined, try to get a few folks you know to contribute to the experiment.

Here is the germane portion of the exchange that took place between teacher and student:


Teacher: “In other words, hunter–gatherers lead a very grim life.”

Student: “Yes.”

Teacher: “And why is it grim?”

Student: “Because it’s a struggle just to stay alive.”

Teacher: “But in fact it isn’t anything of the kind. I’m sure you know that, in another compartment of your mind. Hunter–gatherers no more live on the knife–edge of survival than wolves or lions or sparrows or rabbits. Man was as well adapted to life on this planet as any other species, and the idea that he lived on the knife–edge of survival is simply biological nonsense. As an omnivore, his dietary range is immense. Thousands of species will go hungry before he does. His intelligence and dexterity enable him to live comfortably in conditions that would utterly defeat any other primate.

“Far from scrabbling endlessly and desperately for food, hunter–gatherers are among the best–fed people on earth, and they manage this with only two or three hours a day of what you would call work—which makes them among the most leisured people on earth as well. In his book on stone age economics, (recommended reading – WM) Marshall Sahlins described them as ‘the original affluent society.’ And incidentally, predation of man is practically nonexistent. He’s simply not the first choice on any predator’s menu. So you see that your wonderfully horrific vision of your ancestors’ life is just another bit of Mother Culture’s nonsense. If you like, you can confirm all this for yourself in an afternoon at the library.” (emphasis added)

Student: “Okay,” I said. “So?”

Teacher: “So now that you know that it’s nonsense, do you feel differently about that life? Does it seem less repulsive to you?”

Student: “Less repulsive maybe. But still repulsive.”

Teacher: “Consider this. Let’s suppose you’re one of this nation’s homeless. Out of work, no skills, a wife the same, two kids. Nowhere to turn, no hope, no future. But I can give you a box with a button on it. Press the button and you’ll all be whisked instantly back to prerevolutionary times. You’ll all be able to speak the language, you’ll all have the skills everyone had then. You’ll never again have to worry about taking care of yourself and your family. You’ll have it made, you’ll be a part of that original affluent society.” (please note that “prerevolutionary times“, in this case, means before the Neolithic Revolution or the establishment of the first “civilisation“, whichever came first WM)


Given that the information provided by the teacher is accurate in all regards, which is a condition anyone responding to this poll must accept for the experiment to be meaningful, the question, which Ishmael asked his student and now asks you, is:


I should add here that I would indeed accept Ishmael’s proffered version of a “that was easy” box, even at my advanced age, and have voted accordingly.


FAIR USE NOTICE:
This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, and so on. It is believed that this constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond ‘fair use’, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.