17 August 2019

We're not all going to make it.

I mean, ok, sure, one birth is one death; life has ending.

There's still this concept of excess deaths, people dying where they wouldn't have if something had been different.  It gets applied to things like air pollution (not less than ten thousand a year in Ontario) or asbestos, and sometimes influences policy.

One reason, if you're an existing plutocrat, to want very much that there should be no electric surface transport revolution whatsoever is that you can keep the studies from being done in the present, but it's nigh-impossible to keep people from finding the correlations after the thing stops.  This is what happened with leaded gasoline (and hasn't happened with non-stick cookware coatings based on fluorine compounds); if you stop, the harm stops, too, and becomes obvious.

Switching to electric surface transport improves air quality, and people are going to notice.  They might even notice the consistent paucity of studies for such a long time, too, and reach conclusions.  One of the obvious conclusions is that pretty much all of the "lifestyle" issues around health are noise; we're living in a high volume varied flow of industrial effluent.  This is relentlessly ignored in favour of magical thinking around individual control.  (The vaccine not only doesn't cause autism, there isn't anything you as an individual can do about the rate of autism.  That second part gets missed; people are medium-desperate for a world view in which their personal decisions control their specific lives, and this is utter nonsense.)


We're headed into a major recession, mostly because various political actors have decided to break the mechanisms of international trade but also because the economy goes right on doing the wrong things in the wrong way.  (You don't care about price, you care about value, and you don't want to try to do anything for value if the economy is structured to concentrate money.  That's roughly equivalent to building an irrigation system using criteria to maximize the size of holding ponds.)

It takes a long time to come out of recessions these days; it's not like everybody's actually recovered from 2008 here in 2019.  In 2029, it'll be obvious agriculture is in terrible trouble.  (That was obvious in 2009, and is certainly obvious today in 2019; most farmers have side jobs to subsidize their farming hobby.  Pretty much none of them have adequate capital to consider doing anything different.  Then we get into the "slather the landscape with bioaccumulating and persistent toxins for yield" aspects of the system.)

You got any confidence that the present crop of politicians has a plan for addressing a persistent recession during a period of crop failures, actual dearth -- I think the "we might have to eat ugly fruit" folks are charmingly naive -- and in the awareness that the available infrastructure is all wrong and failing under the hammer of the rain?  That the "you know, it'll get lethally hot here sooner than anybody emotionally expects" projections will result in orderly migration, useful infrastructure, or effective planning?

I certainly don't.

Given those things, yeah, we're not all going to make it.

It matters a lot how we don't all make it.  "Kill everyone who might compete for resources" is better understood as "if we get the skills pool small enough, fast enough, we guarantee human extinction".  (Which is about what you'd expect from a death cult, really.  Even if it's a death cult with peculiar habits of rationalization.)

Now's not the best time -- it turns out sometime in the 1970s would have been the best time -- to be thinking about this, but it's the time we have.  What do you want to happen when it gets obvious we're not all going to make it?


Anonymous said...

Hanging the kakistocrats - the 0.1% and their enablers - from lampposts sounds like a good plan. A couple of problems: (1) Killing them won't bring back a stable climate; (2) Murder is wrong generally.

Another problem: the kakistocrats have sophisticated tools (Facebook and Twitter) can (and are) being used to persuade people that it's immigrants, Jews, leftists, and the Other that are to blame. Not everybody goes along with this, but as history shows, it is remarkably easy to persuade a large number of turkeys to vote for Christmas. So the 99.9% fight each other, while the 0.1% skate.

I don't have much hope, either.


Tim McDermott said...

There a branch of the open source / maker crowd that are working on open designs for 3D printers and a set of 3D printable tools that would let a village support itself. I ran across them three or four years ago, and don't remember the URL.

Graydon said...

+Tim McDermot A good-enough-for-anesthetized-dentistry-and-vaccines zero-fossil-carbon toolkit, probably glass and aluminium for the most part, would be an excellent thing to have. (There should be a lot of government money going in to just that, with urgency.)

Anything as computerized as 3D printers probably won't make it; chip fabs are these utter marvels, and it doesn't take much to break the value chains that create them and operate them. A small-scale means, something like the old iron-on-sapphire chips for satellites, is still thousands of people embedded in a big economy. (I kinda expect we're going to see economies with around a million people in them and erratic trade for a fair while.) DARPA is reported to be working on direct electron beam lithography; the US DOD often wants a small run of chips, and that's brutally expensive using current manufacturing methods. A small-economy direct-electron-beam chip manufacturing capability able to build the machines it needs itself would be an excellent thing, but I am not especially hopeful.

Harold Henderson said...

Way optimistic, but perhaps a message in a bottle, protected, chiseled in a resistant substance, and widely duplicated and distributed -- telling briefly where we went wrong and what not to do. Oops, almost forgot, it should include some unimaginable-to-me Rosetta stone equivalent, so that the finders, if any, would have a shot at puzzling it out. (Could it be whittled down to ten commandments?)

Moz said...

"we're not all going to make is" has to be the understatement of the year. At this stage it seems as though the plan is for somewhere less than a billion in 2100, and it seems increasingly likely that we're going to get the start of the fast decline around 2040-2060. I'm personally betting on the collapse of a major ice mass, 5m of sea level rise in a decade and the associated collapse of value of waterfront property. But even if it's just a minor nuclear conflict when 100M Bangladeshis walk into India, there's going to be a lot of dead people. Don't bet on other countries to take that many Bangladeshis, let alone all the other climate refugees once populous areas start flooding. Internal displacement will be bad enough - look at how poorly the "global superpower" handled a couple of hundred thousand after Katrina hit New Orleans.

It's not that I *want* that, you understand, but that I fear that's the most likely outcome.

Also, "value of waterfront property" here means utility value, not monetary. When you have to rebuild every port in the world in a decade in order to stop first world countries having violent revolutions money stops being a useful measure. Like the pretty lady says "you can't eat money".

Graydon said...

+Moz -- I think you're optimistic about when the fast decline starts. Agriculture's getting much iffier than people are paying attention to.

Also, Eemian warming -- about as warm as today, see http://kanata-forum.ca/ice-melt.pdf for Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 15, 20059–20179, 2015 -- produces such paleoclimate indicators as:

The remarkable size of the boulders in north Eleuthera becomes more comprehensible upon realization that numerous boulders larger than 10 m3 have been thrown up on Eleuthera Island by storms during the Holocene (Hearty, 1997). The mass and volume of the Holocene boulders (the largest ∼ 90 m3, Table 4 of Hearty, 1997) are about 10× smaller than the MIS 5e boulders (Table 2 of Hearty, 1997),

The material ability to accept half the global population as refugees doesn't exit, and that's the minimum expansion of the lethal heat event zone. So, yeah, I'm understating.

And, yes, waterfront is going to matter because we're not looking likely to keep much heavy land transport. Knowing how to build boats or boat-stuff (sails! cordage!) is likely to be important.

Moz said...

There's a wee rock off Bondi Beach that was moved in a surprisingly small storm a few years ago. It was a 'big storm' but not out of the historical size range.


When we get really big storms that stuff will get quite exciting, especially for places that are exposed to big oceans. Manly in Sydney might go back to being an island, just from the sea washing away the sandspit that it's built on. A really big storm could see waves breaking over the heads at Valcluse and Manly and oh boy wouldn't that see some expensive houses suddenly plummet ... and lose value too.