The October Thing #10 – The Peaks – September 25, 2011

The Peaks

Most of you know that world-peak-oil production has probably already occurred and that the World Model Standard Run shows aggregated-industrial-production (yes, including China) peaking within ten years. This means a reduction in industrial throughput, financial investment, and many forms of pollution. Recall that reduction of throughput is one of the two criteria (the other is population reduction) necessary for a stabilized world economy. Hopeful as these developments are, remember that resources are very badly distributed and that bioregions such as Africa must endure large scale famines and local wars during the decades of transition to stability. This is sadly inevitable since African soils can’t produce sustainable food for more than about 300 million people maximum. Africa has 1 billion+ in 2011. The result of an African population reduction will be a resurgence of natural ecosystems which are necessary for a stable population. (See paper on pathogens)

Other bioregions are more complex, but will also experience the trauma of contraction. Particularly worrisome are the hundreds of millions of unemployed young men whose problems have always been solved in the past by sending them to make wars in other countries. However, instant cell phone communication makes it a whole new ball game. War avoidance? More coordinated warfare? Comments?

3 thoughts on “The October Thing #10 – The Peaks – September 25, 2011”

  1. On September 27 at 5:27 p.m. CDT J. Kiersten Ellis posted the following comment:

    A step in the right direction: The unemployed young men volunteering for
    the peace corps. The volunteers going to places like Africa to help in
    reforestation in deserted areas…it can be done, but it takes time,
    succulents, & resources. The Peace Corp is a volunteer organization that
    is on the rise now that the American economy is down. In the peace
    corps., the US govt. provides volunteers with a meager living stipend,
    including health insurance, transportation to/from “home” a few times,
    and after a 2 year service they give volunteers around a $10,000 stipend
    to help with readjustment to the states or where ever. In addition, the
    Peace Corps is a considered a government job, so when volunteers get out
    and apply to other jobs, the applications are sent to the top of the
    application pile and then immediately moves to the interview pile. I
    still wonder…how do we know that oil production has peaked? The oil
    companies aren’t necessarily honest with their information, nonetheless,
    who else would know how much oil truly exists? Can we really trust
    sources regarding energy production information at all? I myself and a
    skeptical…

  2. Kiersten, I think you’re right to be skeptical about whether we’ve actually reached the peak in world oil production; we won’t know when we did until several years later when we’re looking at it in the rearview mirror. However, I’m not sure it matters. We reached the peak in global oil exports (the amount available to nations like the US after the oil exporting countries have withdrawn for their internal consumption) in 2006, and world exports have shown no signs of returning to growth. And even if exports haven’t peaked, does it matter much if the peak was five years ago, now, or five years from now? The effect is the same: a profound and disruptive series of changes in the way we travel, eat, and live.

    Ed, those unemployed young men about whom you speak are going to be angry indeed when they finally figure out that the two generations before them have systematically looted their birthright and torched their inheritance. They may lash out against any vestiges of authority in a fit of vengeance and fury. It’s also possible – and this is a long shot – that the generation now in school may find themselves part of a second “Greatest Generation,” as they struggle to cope with the effect of the decline or collapse of the industrial civilization they now think is their birthright. They may learn to fend for themselves and become the first generation in 70 years that actually cares for others. Wouldn’t that be a kick?

  3. On September 27, 2011 at 11:12 p.m. CDT Byron Moffett posted the following comment:

    http://media.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/OI_AgriSol_Brief.pdf

    [See Figure 1, “Value Chain Capture of Tanzania’s Agricultural Sector”]

    Wow! – what a timely topic Ed…Tonight, a story premiered on HDNET titled, “Trouble on the Land.” It’s about the recent surge of foreign investors flocking to Africa who are promising to agriculturally develop land in Africa (the story is based in Tanzania) and help the Africans provide their own food sustainably for the first time in recent history. However, as the reporting shows, there are problems, such as companies renting the land for 25 cents / acre, as well as demands from the developing companies (Agrisol from the U.S for example) that
    “…even if there is food shortages in any of the regions of the country, (Agrisol) should be able to export food and by the way that’s one of the clauses that most of the foreign investors ask for.”
    —(a direct quote from an interview of a critic of the investing.)
    What is very troubling is this: U.S. colleges may also be involved in this potential “land-grab” scheme. For example, Iowa State University is involved. In February 2010 the CEO of Agrisol, Bruce Rastetter, asked for Iowa State University’s help to join his investment project in Tanzania. In a recent press release, Agrisol stated they would be partnering with Iowa State University, and that the University would help ensure the project would “…effectively and efficiently serve the interests of the local communities and the country,” suggesting an oversight and endorsement role by the University. The catch? The CEO of Agrisol also happens to be a major donor to the University (in the millions) and is now a senior member of the board of regents that oversees the University. If the University of Iowa (a premier agricultural school) tells Tanzania that Agrisol has their endorsement, then Tanzania is much more likely to see the deal in a positive light, as it would not just be a private company favoring the deal, but a premier U.S. agricultural school.
    Is this another possible “land-grab” by foreign investors, looking to continually repeat the history of exploitation (minerals, diamonds, etc.) and plunder this continent for cheaply earned but highly valued resources.
    By the way, Agrisol has planned to displace local refugee farmers who grow a variety of crops, and what crops does Agrisol plan to grow? Corn and soybeans. I did a little research and it turns out that Rastetter also happens to be the former CEO of Hawkeye Holdings, one of the largest ethanol producers in the U.S. I wonder what all the grown corn would be used for? I wonder why Agrisol wants the right to export that corn even if there are local food shortages in Tanzania?
    Since I’m a stickler for references, here are mine:

    – Here’s a link to HDNET’s website, where short segments of the show can be seen half way down the page on the left:
    http://www.hd.net/programs/danrather/

    -Here is Agrisol’s info on their current projects in Tanzani:
    http://www.agrisolenergy.com/projects/

    – Other reporting done on Agrisol’s venture in Tanzania:
    http://farmlandgrab.org/post/view/19259
    http://media.oaklandinstitute.org/sites/oaklandinstitute.org/files/OI_AgriSol_Brief.pdf

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