Last week was slow in terms of good articles to link to, so I decided to combine it with this week. I’m still going to keep the list short, however, because I haven’t caught up on all my reading for this week.
- Visions of a Biofuel Future (Jeff Vail) – On the humanitarian crises starting to stem from biofuel production.
“Indentured servitude, a workforce confined to the borders of the plantation by armed guards, being ‘paid’ by being allowed to live in unlit huts and drink water from the pig trough. Violations punished by summary execution and burial in an unmarked pit. This sounds like a historical account of life on a colonial plantation of the 18th century, but is actually the description of the sugar industry, today, in the Dominican Republic… Of course, the larger issue here is that biofuel production is dependent on exactly this industry… It may be quite some time before Americans are enslaved in the production of fuel for other Americans’ cars, but are we so racist/nationalist/blind to accept the enslavement of others to these ends?”
- Toward An Ecotechnic Society (The Archdruid Report) – More on the ecological succession model of human civilizations.
“As it exists today, the industrial economy can best be described in ecological terms as a scheme for turning resources into pollution at the highest possible rate. Thus resource exhaustion and pollution problems aren’t accidental outcomes of industrialism, they’re hardwired into the industrial system: the faster resources turn into pollution, the more the industrial economy prospers, and vice versa. That forms the heart of our predicament. Peak oil is simply one symptom of a wider crisis – the radical unsustainability of a system that has evolved to maximize resource consumption on a finite planet – and trying to respond to it without dealing with the larger picture simply guarantees that other symptoms will surface elsewhere and take its place.”
- October 6 – When One Planet Was No Longer Enough (iNSnet.org) – This is an interesting idea – the Global Footprint Network calculated how many Earths we would need to support our current levels of consumption (the answer right now is 1.3). Based on that, they determined the day of the year on which we began living off “ecological debt”. That day is getting earlier and earlier each year.
“‘Humanity is living off its ecological credit card,’ said Dr. Mathis Wackernagel, Executive Director of Global Footprint Network, ‘Just as spending more money than you have in the bank leads to financial debt, ecological overshoot, or using more resources than the planet can renew in a year, accumulates an ecological debt. This can go on for a short time, but ultimately it leads to a build up of waste and the depletion of the very resources on which the human economy depends.'”
- Of Doomers, Realists, Powerdowners and Fantasists (Energy Bulletin) – This is a good article discussing Peak Oil “doomers” (i.e. people who believe we are in for a hard crash) and “powerdowners” (people who believe we are in for a gradual, soft landing). Which side is being most realistic?
‘Doomers’ in the article are also used in an analogy with religious fundamentalists, people normally charged with being (as Sinclair Lewis put it) superbly trained in reconciling contradictions. But in my opinion, anyone who maintains that biofuels will save the day, that voluntary simplicity is a feasible solution to Peak Oil, or that energy can decrease and population stay the same, is hard at work at contradiction reconciling.
- Barack Obama’s Plan to Make America a Global Energy Leader (via Gristmill) – I’m not posting this in order to advocate voting for him (he’s not even my preferred candidate), but I was pleasantly surprised by his new energy plan. It seems to be quite good in most respects, from what I can make of it. I’m not impressed by his advocacy of biofuels, coal, and nuclear energy, but he does say that these energy sources should only be utilized if the numerous issues surrounding them can be resolved. Whether he’ll stick by that statement down the road when we’re desperate for energy is another matter… I do really like that his plan includes a restructuring of our communities to support a more sustainable transportation infrastructure, as well as an emphasis on higher efficiency.