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Low Carbon Sustainable Means a Post Industrial Future

Politics / Global Economy Nov 25, 2011 - 02:33 AM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


Best Financial Markets Analysis ArticleThe chances of the long-term future being truly postindustrial is high: as Albert Einstein said on the subject of war, industrial civilization makes it certain the third world war will be nuclear - but the fourth world war will be fought with sticks and stones. By a lot less people.

Today, as a side dish to Europe's debt rout and imploding economy, and the USA's debt status as "Super Greece", we have the long term saga and media favorite of a so-called peacekeeping operation against Iran, to stop it menacing Israel and the oil-exporting absolute monarchies of the Gulf. Nuclear weapons would need to be used to "pacify" Iran, whatever the death toll among civilians. As we also know, any country with large-sized power generating nuclear reactors has equipped itself with Fukushima-sized "dirty bombs" able to force the evacuation of thousands of square kilometres of land, when a single one of these dirty bombs is exploded, either by enemy action or increasingly possible, during civil war among its own civilian society.

A large genre of literature, films, video games, musical and artworks testify to the rational fear that our civilization is the last: only the wasteland can follow it. Sticks and stones will be the weapons of mass destruction for the postliberal and postindustrial society using dried fish, glass beads and animal skins as money substitutes, in a post-Austrian subsistence economy. Only later on, much later on would it be possible to have another cycle of real civilization - and this type of Guns, Germs and Steel image is  flashed by government friendly media, as a not-so-friendly warning to all who dream of overthowing wasteland civilization. The warning is very clear: "apres nous le deluge".

Our one-size-fits-all urban industrial civilization is above all entirely industrial. Its no alternative Late Capitalist greed-is-good neoliberal economic doctrine was adopted by the so-called "old or mature democracies" from the early 1980s - along with the claim these societies are somehow "postindustrial".  In terms of production yes; in terms of consumption no.

The lifestyle of citizens in late stage consumer society is the most intensely industrial that is possible;  their consumption not only ranges through all forms and types of industrially-produced goods and services, but the vast and ever growing range of goods and services is sourced from all countries, all continents using exclusively industrial transport and communication systems. The myth of the "postindustrial society" is maybe the most stunning lie used to rationalise the fragile cultural web of myth, disinformation, distortion and negation that underpins our exclusively industrial civilization.

At this time, accelerated by debt, deficit and decline, the postliberal democracies are shifting to post-democracies: unelected National Unity all-party coalitions, or overnight elected new governments, called "Technocratic" are bundled into power, to operate across the board austerity programs. But our endgame civilization stays absolutely dependent on  24/7 industrial production, measured by energy and resource intensity or average consumption per capita. Our supposed last-best hope is to restore economic growth - that is more consumption.

Facts talk louder than words, and the richer the society, the more oil, electricity, steel, other metals, cement, plastic, bioproducts, food, water, and so on, each average consumer needs in the form of industrial goods and services. Most of the resource consumption and all of the energy consumption is one-trip. Wastes are dumped into the environment, with varying degrees of attention, care or concern, and varying degress of damage ranging down from absolute to only relative.

Official media tells us that consumer citizens are "terribly concerned" about climate change, global warming, the extinction of species, resource depletion, pesticide and PCB-contaminated foods. Official media also tells us the only way to pay down national debt is for consumer citizens to want new cars, new houses, new credit cards and cheap loans, and all-new lines of consumer goodies at the Eternal Supermarket. There is No Alternative.

The simplest and most basic analysis shows their extreme high rates of consumption - called "normal" average and typical in the "mature democracies" - is completely impossible to reproduce at the global or world level, with a current human population of 7 000 million. And growing. Adding 1 new USA to world population every 4 years shows this video game will Tilt in a forecastable future. Whatever the future is, it is poor.

We can take the somewhat traditional and burning issue of oil supplies, a  subject good for generating wars, especially by the "mature democracies" (called "postindustrial") using the most developed-possible industrial weapons of mass destruction. We could for example fantasise on the theme of "postindustrial" cruise missiles, drone killer planes or depleted uranium munitions often used "by tragic error" against civilians in wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan - with the noble goal of helping oil supply security and fighting terror.

The official goal is "sustainability" but we have to know how The Shift (or WorldShift) will be operated. The real goal is survivability, and extending the predictable lifetime of our intensely industrial endgame civilization, despite the known fact it is endgame, because we cannot extend and englobe the world's present population into the resource and oil intensive consumption party called "postindustrial consumer civilization".

To many "mature democrats", even if their countries are no longer democracies and are run by an unelected caretaker government, the unhindered acces to all and any raw materials, oil and bioresources needed to maintain their consumer habit is treated by government friendly media as a birthright. If threatened, this birthright must be protected by their armed forces to ensure and secure the supply.

As resources diminish and deplete, despite the incantations and self-delusion that "better tech and human ingeuity" will somehow restore supplies of cheap throwaway resources to previous levels, usually through using more energy, our civilization will have to expand its war action worldwide, no longer hidden by figleaf trimmings of "peacekeeping action" or War on Terror. But bankrupt states are unsuited to waging long term, even permanent wars, to satisfy their resource greed.

More important than the effective bankruptcy and economic collapse of debt-strangled "mature democracies", their oil greed and oil waste will fatally place them in conflict with societies and countries fully able to hit them back so hard they will more than simply regret their arrogance. More precisely, the emerging industrial giant economies of China and India - pursuing a 'classic' and intensely industrial development strategy - can only replace and substitute, or supposedly "play locomotive" to the flaccid and failing postindustrial post-democracies, if China and India move up to current typical rates of oil and resource consumption in these late-stage liberal capitalist societies.

To do this, the Old Rich/New Poor societies will have to practically abandon their consumption of oil, copper, lead, tin, rubber, paper and so on. When or if the combined Chinese and Indian population of today acceded to the present OECD average oil consumption of 14 barrels of oil per person each year, world oil production would need to double from around 89 million barrels a day, today, to about 180 million barrels a day.

Despite the claim that Peak Oil is a conspiracy theory organized by Big Oil and Big Brother in the shape of the Davos Forum, the Rothschilds, Oppenheimers, Goldsmiths and George Soros, with bit-part support from Clinton and Gorbachev, Gore and the Climate Crazies, few persons claim that world oil production could be doubled. It might reach 92 - 95 million barrels a day before turning downward, forever. Another doubling of world oil production is not possible - like the last doubling of world population from 3.5 billion to 7 billion through 1969-2009.

To date, all we have on offer from our ruling elites and authorized intellectuals - who not only consume and live for us but also think and talk for us - is the entirely predictable, pathetic will-of-the-wisp called the Low Carbon Economy. From this shaky thing, there would arise an even more fragile thing called the Postindustrial Ecological Society.

This childlike fantasy will soon be re-engineered and relaunched as the Pure Austerity Model.

The basic goal of both models, both strategies is to make oil dependence and intense resource consumption magically disappear in a few decades.  The degreee of hype and guile, in selling poverty as progress, varies a little but not much. Showing that time is short, these wistful and pathetic fantasies are distilled and injected into the tame media of the "postindustrial deomcracies", with leaden and stoic determination. The reason is simple. Both China and India are equipped with nuclear weapons and geostationary satellite launching missiles. There is no question the "mature democracies" can operate their traditional strategy for pillaging and despoiling the natural resource endowment of other and smaller countries - war.

Any war against China and India for remaining natural resource supply will be the last industrial-type war in current human history and will be fought with nuclear weapons. The inability of the "mature democracies" to rein-in their oil greed and resource waste now places them in direct competition with two giant industrialising societies which can hit them back so hard they will be destroyed - and they know this.

How long we need to arrive at this countdown is the key question - and the countdown may be short, or even very short. Keep watching this space.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2011 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisors.

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