Human damage to environment is real, and one of the best examples is the following story from Bloomberg -
For decades, only a few features punctuated the vastness of the Saudi desert: oil wells, oases – and wheat fields.
Despite torrid weather and virtually no rain, the worlds largest oil producer once grew so much of the grain that its exports could feed Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Yemen. The circular wheat farms, half a mile across with a central sprinkler system, spread across the desert in the 1980s and 1990s, visible in spring to anyone overflying the Arabian peninsula as green spots amid a dun sea of sand.
To summarize, Saudis had an aquifer with water filled over centuries, and they pumped all water out to grow wheat in the desert. As a result, they now have nine times as many people as in 1960, but the aquifer is gone. Countries they were feeding also have huge populations and it is an utterly unsustainable situation.
That does not mean ‘green energy’ and various government-funded ‘green’ projects are the solutions. In another fascinating story, acting-man blog wrote about Spain’s ‘green energy’ scam and recent collapse of government- subsidized Abengoa leading to the largest bankruptcy in Spain.
People often forget that it actually costs energy to produce solar panels. Whether they will in turn produce enough energy during their lifetime to make this investment viable remains questionable. It remains questionable precisely because so many companies in the sector depend both directly and indirectly on a vast variety of government subsidies (including the introduction of inane trade barriers to the detriment of consumers).
With the subsidization scam in Spain reaching its limit, it turns out that not even sunny climes can keep solar boondoggles afloat. In the current case, a cool $29 billion (27.3 bn.) in liabilities have just been exposed to intense vaporization danger, as green energy company Abengoa has finally filed for bankruptcy.
It is the by far biggest bankruptcy in Spains history. 24,000 employees will have to look for a new job. The sovereign wealth fund of oil junkie Norway holds 2.7% of the companys shares, an investment it will now have to write off. More than 200 banks are creditors of Abengoa, with total exposure of 20.2 billion. Abengoas business activities are described as renewable electricity generation, converting biomass into biofuel and desalination of seawater practically a whats what list of businesses that cannot possibly survive without subsidies.
Abengoa incidentally provides an excellent illustration of Austrian Business Cycle Theory, as more than 20 giant ongoing construction projects the company has initiated will remain incomplete. These empty shells are testament to the fact that there is a big difference between money and real capital. Banks and investors had no problem providing the company with money (much of it created from thin air), lending it huge sums. But the economys pool of real funding has proved unable to support the companys investments.
An alternative approach has been proposed by Russian president Putin in his recent UN speech.
Ladies and gentlemen, one more issue that shall affect the future of the entire humankind is climate change. It is in our interest to ensure that the coming UN Climate Change Conference that will take place in Paris in December this year should deliver some feasible results. As part of our national contribution, we plan to limit greenhouse gas emissions to 7075 percent of the 1990 levels by the year 2030.
However, I suggest that we take a broader look at the issue. Admittedly, we may be able to defuse it for a while by introducing emission quotas and using other tactical measures, but we certainly will not solve it for good that way. What we need is an essentially different approach, one that would involve introducing new, groundbreaking, nature-like technologies that would not damage the environment, but rather work in harmony with it, enabling us to restore the balance between the biosphere and technology upset by human activities.
I hadn’t heard the phrase implementing naturelike technologies before, so I Googled it and Yandexed it, and came up with nothing more than Putin’s speech at the UN. He coined the phrase. As with the other phrases he’s coined, such as sovereign democracy and dictatorship of the law, it is a game-changer. With him, these aren’t words thrown on the wind. In each of these cases, the phrase laid the foundation of a new philosophy of governance, complete with a new set of policies.
In the case of sovereign democracy, it meant methodically excluding all foreign influences on Russia’s political system, a process that culminated recently when Russia, in tandem with China, banned Western NGOs, which were previously making futile attempts to destabilize Russia and China politically. Other countries that find themselves having trouble with the Orange Revolution Syndicate can now follow their best practices.
But before we get too far, let us look at where we are going. What is naturelike? Some readers proposed biomimetics, which is a newfangled rebranding of the old process of looking at nature in search of promising mechanisms: airplanes have wings like birds; scuba divers and snorkelers wear fins like fish; chairs and tables have legs, walls have ears and so on. It all started a few million years ago when some hominid picked up a pointy rock and called it a claw or a fang. No, that’s not it at all.
Other readers chimed in to say that perhaps this is about permaculture. Now, permaculture is actually quite interesting. The term spans the range from general design principles to specific ways of dealing with the landscape, specifically to grow food. Most of the technology this involves is nonindustrial, and is thought-heavy rather than energy-heavy, which is a good combination. Permaculture probably has a role to play, if a way can be found to teach it to people who are too busy simply surviving to attend pricey courses in exotic locales.
To be naturelike, technologies must restore the balance between the biosphere and the technosphere (as Putin put it at the UN). Why is this necessary? Well, human populations that fail to do so exhibit a marked tendency to go extinct. This is something that has happened quite a lot. The Greenland Norse are often held up as a particularly stark example of such failure: they settled Greenland during a relatively short climatic period when it was green rather than white, and when it anticlimactically reverted to a barren wasteland they died out. This was unnecessary: they were survived by the native tribes, which continued to fish and hunt on the ice. But the Norse wanted to eat pork and beef, refusing to go native, for such was their culture and sense of identity.
Cultural change, of the sort that was expected of the Greenland Norse were they to survive, is very difficult. It does occur, but on its own it tends to proceed far too slowly to make a difference in a crisis. Changes that force people to change their lifestyles in ways that contradict their physical habits and their sense of identity are particularly difficult, and are often met with resentment or hostility.
For example, it would make perfect sense to introduce a few small changes in the US that would serve to substantially lessen the impact on the environment. Here are three simple examples:
1. Ban lawns. Grass can only be mowed once it has gone to seed and must be used to make hay.
2. Ban beef and pork. No more hamburgersrabbitburgers! Everyone eats locally raised, grass-fed rabbits.
3. Mandate hitchhiking. If there is a free seat, you must stop for hitchhikers, or face a steep fine.
Of course, people would be up in arms about such measures. They would feel that their rights are being violated and their culture destroyed. This brings up another small but important measure:
4. Confiscate all the arms.
Note, however, that people are not the least bit up in arms about the following quite successful initiatives:
1. Force people to constantly mow their lawns, damaging their health with the very considerable air pollution from the dirty two-stroke lawn mowers, water pollution from runoff of chemical fertilizers and exposure to toxic herbicides such as Monsanto’s carcinogenic glyphosphate (Roundup).
2. Force people to eat factory-farmed beef and pork, which is laced with growth hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals, by depriving them of any other affordable source of animal protein. Also, be sure to lace all their food and drink with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, so that they get as fat as pigs and can’t walk any great distance, but have to drive everywhere.
3. Force everybody to own their own car in order to be able to get around, even though most cars sit idle most of the time, and even though there is plenty of unemployed people who would be only too happy to give them lifts for a tiny fraction of what it costs to own, insure and operate a car.
These measures create a social environment that is so alienated, riddled with hostility and unhealthy that nobody feels particularly safe within it. This brings up another small but important measure:
4. Force everyone to think that they need to own a firearm (or two or three) in order to keep themselves and their families safe; then step back and watch the fireworks. Arrest those who run afoul of the many contradictory firearms laws, and sell them as slaves to private prisonswhile everyone cheers, because they have been told that this makes them safer.
What is the difference between these two sets of initiatives? Both seem like they should be quite unpopular. The first set would be beneficial, in terms of its impact on both public health and the environment, while the second is manifestly harmful. But the first is politically a nonstarter, while the second sells rather well.