Saturday, 24 March 2012

Hello World

This quick note to welcome anyone who stumbles here, to my brand, spanking new blog.
I'm not a writer. I haven't had a burning desire to write since I left journalism school back in the late 1980s, in the middle of a very bad recession, and found no jobs available. By the time I might have taken up a career writing, I'd moved on to physics and computer science.
I do not have a single main passion -- aside from horse training -- but that's not what this 'blog is about. This is about all my other interests.
We are in a time of massive changes.
Oil production has peaked in the world -- it hasn't increased since 2005 -- while the price of gasoline has trebled in the past ten years. People run around blaming Government taxes, blaming greedy Big Oil, blaming Arabs, whatever. Everything except face the fact that we are running short. Our mainstream economists, the ones who taught all our business leaders and MBAs and politicians everything they know, the ones who insist that the only way for us to be wealthy is through growth economics (yeah, like that's worked so well), insist that, because the price went up, more supply must come online. Oh? Then where is it? This is where our economic theories smash headlong into reality: there is no more cheap, easy-to-get oil out there. We've already bagged it and what happens now is we put more and more effort into extracting less and less. With less energy to spare, we cannot expand our economies and so growth only happens on paper. Since most people do not understand that their wealth comes from almost-free energy, they do not understand the deeper cause of why we have the economic crises we have now.
The climate is changing rapidly. We may already be past the tipping point. Yet for 20 years and more, we have allowed well-funded climate change deniers to create a fake "scientific debate" that allowed our politicial leaders, who, because they must worry about re-election, are restrained from doing something useful but unpopular until forced to. The deniers have obfuscated public debate and ensured that industrial capitalism, that they love and believe in with the fervour of religious fanatics, can remain safely in power... much the same way antebellum slave-owners in the southern U.S. argued in favour of slavery, or the Catholic church fought against the Reformation. But the climate is disrupted, the vast majority of reputable scientists agree it is due solely to our (ab)use of fossil fuels and we have no idea of what is going to happen to the ecology in which our species has evolved for the past million years. What happens to our food-sources. GMO crops aren't going to be of any use, especially now that it is becoming evident that they are not really edible.
The financial fraud that is the inevitable result of unrestrained "free market" economics that has nearly wrecked the global economy and is, I'm quite sure, due for yet another radical "correction" (i.e. a really good smack-in-the-face, wake-up from Reality), has allowed quite a few countries to believe that they could spend more than they really could. Now we have the political crises: if the governments do not pay up, all the investors (speculators) lose their "savings" and huge numbers of people who believed themselves to be comfortable and well-off will suddenly not be, if the governments do knuckle under to the bankers, then the populations who depend on government services will suddenly find themselves much poorer than they think THEY ought to be. Greece has already experienced rioting, Italy looks to be next, and civil war or revolution is not beyond imagining.
Water shortages will start to appear around the world, in the most populated places that depend the most on artificial irrigation to feed their booming populations. Almost everyone, certainly every mainstream publication, either completely overlooked or just glossed over the fact that the Arab Spring was not an uprising against crushing oppression by brutal dictators, it was triggered by rising food costs. Food production is down, but population is up. Reality is winding up to deliver humanity another good body-blow. Indeed, water shortages will occur everywhere, and here in Canada, we have a government led by a True Believer in industrial capitalism, who sees no particular reason why we ought to protect our water supply from his fellow religionists to the south who have already used up and wasted most of their freshwater and who are looking hungrily north. Anyone care to guess how much our human rights will weigh in their calculus compared to their thirst? We can extrapolate by looking at how they have behaved in the past. Hmm. Now that it's legal again, I may go buy a rifle...
We have the grossest disparity in wealth since the Middle-ages. Even in pre-revolutionary France the aristocracy accounted for 5% of the population, whereas, in the U.S. fewer than 1% control 90% of all the wealth. In Canada,  the numbers are different, but still sickening: the wealthiest 10% own half the wealth. The wealthiest 20% own three-quarters of all the wealth of the country. Now, if two people owned a sailboat, half and half, but only one put in the time, effort, and money on upkeep, yet both got equal time to sail in it, everyone can easily see that this is not an equitable arrangement. However, we have professional economists and newspaper pundits who endlessly explain to us that it is perfectly fine that people who own half our country do not pay half the bills. The "occupy" movement almost grasps this idea, but cannot distinguish between money and wealth and so miss the mark, as have all social reformers since Henry George died over 100 years ago. In fact, only the Green Party in Canada has active members who understand this, but even so the majority of members do not understand the flaw in their thinking, present the same spurious and distracting hot-button emotional counterarguments about children, hospitals, and little-old-lady pensioners in reaction to proposed changes. Really, if you cannot distinguish between widows with pensions and land speculators, you shouldn't be in government. But then, politics is only about rational thought in theory. In practice, it's about emotion and belief.
I'll continue this screed when I have more time.

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