Posts Tagged ‘Ecology’

Cities Forever

September 17, 2021

In the wealthiest countries, many fled to nature and the Internet during the pandemic, and came to question the existence of cities. However, more than half of humanity lives in cities. Thus the question is: why do we have cities?

We have cities because they are the easiest and used to be the only way, to expand the essence of humanity, which is intelligence. Cities enabled people to meet, face to face, and thus debate. From debate spring more clever solutions to any problem.

Yes, many of our fasciscizing leaders say we do not need a face, we just need a mask. Wrong is their ways, heavy will be their punishment in the light of history. It is not just chords and tongues which speak, but also faces and expressions, including body language.

Cities also enable to assemble manpower at high density, thus high impact. After the collapse of the Roman state, cities rose again, because they enabled to gather, and hence exponentiate, expertise: as early as 1200, the greatest industry in Paris, then Europe’s largest city, seems to have been the university. 

Now one can debate over the Internet, zooming in from afar, so it would seem one of the main advantages of cities was lost. 

But maybe not. Maybe new ways of interacting can be found. In Paris, Europe’s densest city, 300 lives were recently rescued from cardiac arrest, including a 12 day old baby, by an Internet application which can teach any citizen to become a rescuer in the few minutes before professional rescuers arrive on the scene. So the Internet can find new ways to bind and facilitate human contacts in a way only high density living provides…. In Paris again, more than 100 large museums enable you to go around and learn, as no Internet can provide. Thus cities, to survive will have to become more livable, and when they do, nothing can beat them. New York has splendid natural assets: the beaches, rivers and the Palisades, which could be more integrated in city life.  

Cities also provide more efficient ecology, a must considering the climate catastrophe. The newest buildings can be made energy positive. The entire population of the planet cannot live US style, in a median house 2,500 square feet (~ 230 square meters)… and moreover poorly insulated, because energy is cheap in the world’s biggest producer of fossil fuels.

As Augustine pointed out, there are two cities: the physical city, and the city of the mind. But the latter owes nearly everything to the former.

Patrice Ayme

Gargoyle of Notre Dame, determined to learn more, reflects upon the city.

Understand, Predict, Innovate Judiciously or Die: Why The Maya Collapsed

May 12, 2021

Civilizations are dynamically technological, or they are not, and they fall, like a cyclist trying to stand on just two wheels without moving. It is actually worse than that: the man-made ecology, the bicycle any civilization is riding, is always changing, as the civilization depletes whatever it is exploiting.

And the more successful it is, the more the ecology a civilization depends upon gets depleted. It is not just a question of having limits to growth in general, but of a progressive collapse of the particular type of growth which brought success… to a given civilization, so far. When old growth is sick and exhausted, one has to get a divorce, and adopt a new growth model which is smarter. Staying faithful to an ecology one has killed, brings only more killing. We will focus here on the Mayan collapse which overall, lasted three centuries, and was characterized by a megadrought. Changes of Mayan behavior occurred during the collapse, but they proved insufficient to stop it. One can compare with other (partial) collapses, the most famous being that of the Roman empire in the Fifth Century.

The change from the Latin-Roman Catholic civilization to the Latin-Frankish civilization which succeeded it was primarily a change of growth model: the basic law, the spirit of Roman Republican law, was unchanged. The Franks adopted a superior growth model (in this order: religious tolerance, more secular education, no more slavery).

Eurasia and the “West” provide many examples of this, changing growth models in a smart way. This is why and how “the West” and East Asia came to dominate the world. A case in point is the contemporary rise of China, which, in light of full Chinese history and the secular technological-legal mood which often drove it, is more of the same “socialism with Chinese characteristics”… which is at the core of the Western success too.

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The Maya provide a warning of what happens when one succumbs to hubris while lacking long duration smarts:

The Maya did not understand, predict, and innovate in a timely manner, and hubristically adopted an erroneous growth model, making a bad situation worse. By the Eighth Century, around 750 CE, Mayan society had thrived for more than 2,000 years. The population was at an all-time high: high-tech mapping suggests that at least 10 million people may have lived within the Maya Lowlands alone. 40 major new stone buildings were built every year (it used to be 10, it would fall back to zero after 900 CE). Mayans were experts in astronomy, mathematics, architecture, with a complex language of written symbols. The city-state of Tikal comprised more than 61,000 stone buildings.

Then a megadrought struck. It was the worst drought in 7,000 years, it lasted more than two centuries, and became terrible after 1000 CE (when most of the Mayan civilization had already disappeared). That megadrought was partly a consequence of human, Mayan, activity (greenhouse warming plus deforestation so drastic fundamental some raw materials were gone). Devastating wars of cities against cities, rebellions, killing of the incompetent elites, and the burning of cities followed.

Population collapsed. Less than 200 years later, the core of the Maya civilization (the southern lowlands) was no more (most of the rest would progressively go down in the next two centuries, as the drought kept on going). A civilization that had stretched across southern Mexico and Central America was nearly completely gone (the Conquistadores would meet its haggard remnants). 

The Mayan collapse was not caused by invasion (Toltec influence or not)… whereas Athens, Rome, Constantinople, the Xi Xia, and of course the Mexicans, fell partly, mostly, or completely, from invasion, the Mayan collapse is a study in self-generated devastation. (It is not that the Mayans were particularly stupid; just the opposite: they succeeded to create a massive civilization in an unlikely place, thanks to advanced technology, massively deployed; but that civilization was vulnerable: there had been a first collapse after a megadrought around 200 CE; see graph below.)

There are a number of theories to explain what happened to the Maya. However, from my point  of view it is possible to gather all these theories in just a single logic. The Mayan collapse was greatly an implosion of a highly technological society from ecological collapse with population, war and hubris loss of control as triggers: the social and religious implosions are consequences of the technological implosion

Graph from Professor Kennett, expert of the subject. Several things from it. Around 200 CE there was a first drought, and a first collapse. It is imaginable that the causes were the same, and that the absence of books and a strong intellectual class led to a repeat. When the late classic collapse started the drought was not that bad and just reflected poorly from the wet 2 centuries prior. However, the wars and the ecological devastation this relative difficulty caused made the situation way worse. Then the terrible drought after 1000 CE prevented any recovery.

There is evidence that the fall of Rome shares some of the elements of the Maya collapse:

Let me repeat this slowly: the Mayan ecological collapse started before the full impact of the mega drought. It was obviously caused by a population explosion in combination with mismanagement (namely Mayan wars; in the Seventh Century, Tikal lost its prominence thanks in part to an uppity warrior queen from a lesser city; Tikal would regain the upper hand, but with a mood that had changed towards more hubris than the climate could take).

Europe would experience something similar around 1300 CE. In the last two decades before 1300 CE, there were a few severe winters (foreshocks of the Little Ice Age). At the time, ushered by a technological and rational revolution, the European population was exploding, severely stressing the ecology. Successful intense agriculture and construction devoured the forests (a bit like Brazil nowadays)…

However, instead of sitting on their hands or going to war against each other, the European governments took ferocious countermeasures around 1300 CE, outright banning people from some mountainous regions to limit erosion and deforestation (Japan did something similar at the same time). When the Little Ice Age struck, followed by the Plague of 1348 CE, half of the population was killed, but society itself, give or take a few roasted noble families, and a few thousands peasants butchered, in the Jacqueries… society itself survived intact. Actually the economy rebounded and the Franco-French and Anglo-French gaily persisted into fighting each other for the control of France and Britain.  

Rome is another case of ecological implosion: clearly the metal mining of Rome collapsed a full century before the empire started to collapse socially, financially, militarily, and into barracks’ emperors anarchy. We know that Roman metal mining went down before anything else went clearly very wrong, by studying traces of metal in Greenland ice cores.

Why would the collapse of metal mining bring Rome down? Rome high tech society was extremely dependent upon metals. No more metal, no more economy, currency, military… or even roofs (!) When one reads Viking sagas, one is struck by the importance of mining, swords and forging. Superlative swords had names and were passed over the generations, and between clans. Rome had, by far, the largest army in the world all equipped with swords, helmets, armor, and other metallic objects. A Roman emperor would come to Rome in the Seventh Century to strip the metallic roofs, to make weapons to resist the Muslim invasion.

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Often triumphant technology creates the conditions for its own failure. As shown by the Maya:

The Mayan irrigation system was gigantic. It used special materials. The Maya’s home was a tough environment plagued by droughts: what is called a seasonal desert. The land that they farmed was often porous limestone, rocky terrain with the water table often 100 meters below the surface, but also massive wetlands. How did they manage to feed their huge population in this chaotic environment?

It is estimated that the Mayan population may have been above 18 millions… Well, to start with, Mayans used the swamps, next to which their cities were located. About 40% of the Yucatán Peninsula is swamp today. The Maya mucked out the ditches, and tossed the soil onto the adjacent land, creating elevated fields which would kept the root systems of their crops above the waterlogged soil, while allowing access to the irrigation water. They also drained some land outright. That irrigated land is hundreds of kilometers across. Sixty or so cities each with a population of 60,000 to 70,000, sprouted during two centuries of abnormally wet weather, setting the Maya for a fall. 

On satellite pictures forests around Mayan sites look discoloured. On the ground remnants of orchards and edible plants are still in abundance.

Mayan lands are now a sea of green forest. However, their appearance in the Seventh Century was that of a man-made landscape. By 700 CE the Maya had completely run out of their main construction trees. It has been suggested that massive deforestation helped cause a megadrought. When the elites proved they had no solution but war of all against all, devastation followed.

The Mayan megadrought was caused mostly, or at least severely aggravated, by human ecological devastation. 

Not all megadroughts are that way. Across the Mediterranean and west Asia, the effects of the 4,200-3,900 years Before Present megadrought included synchronous collapse of the Akkadian Empire in Mesopotamia, the Old Kingdom in Egypt and Early Bronze Age settlements in Anatolia, the Aegean and the Levant. That megadought left marks all over the planet, including in Alaska and the Yukon. There was an estimated 30-50% reduction in precipitation delivered by the Mediterranean westerlies in the eastern hemisphere, where they provide for dry-farming and irrigation agriculture across the Aegean, Levant, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, and Iran. There was a synchronous disruptions for the Indian Summer Monsoon. That was clearly a larger scale disaster where the human influence is not obvious… keeping in mind that a greenhouse caused by the rise of human agriculture, and herding which may have prevented what would have been otherwise significant cooling, 8,000 Before Present.

The Mayan megadrought was roughly coincidental with the “Middle Age Optimum”, when a warmer clime enriched Europe as glaciers retreated spectacularly (and the Viking got to Greenland and America). the phenomena are probably related (science to come). But the point is that Mayan agriculture made a bad situation way worse.

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Agriculture Can Cause Ecological Devastation:

… This is something that the promoters of agriculture as a panacea keep on forgetting. Plants interact with the atmosphere and the climate. Large dark plants—such as dense tropical forest—absorb a lot of energy from the Sun. At the same time, they prevent much evaporation, thanks to their shade: a tropical forest is darker than a cathedral. Tropical forests restitute the sun energy, and the moisture, in the evening, making warm moist air rise high; it falls back as rain. 

Lighter colored plants (crops and dry yellow grasses like wheat) reflect some, and sometimes most energy. They act like snow, rising the albedo of the land, sending back sunlight energy to space. 

When a forest is replaced by thinner, less massive and less shady, lighter colored plants, the land reflects more sunlight, which cools the atmosphere (because the ground does not warm up, filling up with sun energy to give it back later). Cool air sinks, while water vapor needs to rise and condense to create a rainstorm. Without warm, unstable air rising into the atmosphere, rainstorms became less common. 

The lack of rain helps raise temperatures on land. When energy from the Sun reaches the ground directly, it either bakes the ground or it causes water to evaporate from the soil or transpire from plants. With forests producing less moisture and croplands holding less water, droughts deepened as more and more of the Sun’s energy heated the ground. Thus deforestation makes  droughts worse, and may even create a desert. An excellent example is an Hawaiian island which was deprived of its forest, and is now a baked red piece of land with low bushes, Kaho’olawe. 

In ancient times, the Maya had practiced good forestry management. They were not allowed to cut down the sacred groves. That changed during the Late Classic period with the adventures of Jasaw Chan K’awiil. The Tikal Maya had been defeated and had fallen to second-rate status prior to his ascendancy. Jasaw Chan K’awiil led an army to the competing city, Calakmul, captured its ruler, bound him, brought him back and sacrificed him. There was plenty of instability at the times, including the rise of ferocious warrior queens; one queen built the longest plastered white road going north among orchards and cornfields… to enable her army to go defeat a rising northern city, Chichen Itza.

In any case, Tikal had a one century hiatus characterized with neighboring competing cities having plenty of warrior-queens (at least ten). So agriculture can cause devastation and women can mean trouble… Queen Bathilde of the Franks outlawed slavery, successfully, not because she was weak, but because she was stronger than the (male) Chinese emperors who tried the same. Some of the pseudo-“woke” may be be rendered too awake from this essay….

Nice Quetzal hat… Maya Holy Snake Lord known as Lady K’abel who ruled El Perú-Waka’, a city-state one hundred kilometers west of Tikal…. for more than 20 years with her husband, King K’inich Bahlam II. She was the military governor of the Wak kingdom for her family, the imperial house of the Snake King, and she carried the title “Kaloomte,” translated as “Supreme Warrior,” higher in authority than her husband, the king. This representation is not a figment of imagination: we have actually ceramic figurines of her!… And much documentation besides. The exact chronology of what happened is not fully clear yet, but plenty enough for the theme of this essay!

After these wars between cities, the Maya rebuilt the city of Tikal in a way never seen before. They began building huge temples that required considerable resources, especially large, straight trees whose wood could withstand the weight of tons of stone. Their choices were limited to two types of strong trees.

Jasaw Chan K’awiil tapped into their sacred groves to do this. The stands of virgin timber were more than 200 years old in some areas. After building a few of the temples, the Maya ran out of timber from the Manilkara zapota (sapodilla) tree. That wood is easy to work, until it dries up and becomes very strong. It’s denser than water. Then they switched to an inferior tree —Haematoxylon campechianum, logwood or inkwood — which is found in swamps. This had adverse consequences on the maintenance or expansion of the irrigation system.

Tikal’s irrigation system was high tech. It contained at least eight large dams, the largest with 75,000 tons of water, was used as a causeway linking two parts of the city. Dams were equipped with filtration sand boxes, to produce clean water. The quartz sand is not found in the Tikal area; it was imported from more than 30 kilometers away.

How permanent was the change the Mayan civilization at its apogee inflicted on Yucatan? Climatologist Ben Cook from NASA compared climate conditions during the late Mayan era with conditions during the early colonial era (1500-1650 CE), when land use was at a minimum and forests had regrown over Central America. The warming and drying trend had disappeared. 

However the Mayan civilization had not recovered its splendor: after 1200 CE and until the Conquistadores appeared, it was a shadow of its former self, the population being perhaps just a tenth of what it used to be… But it was not for lack of aggressivity: a severe and vast ambush was set by Mayans for the Conquistadores who had to flee back to their boats… And the last free Mayan city, Nojpeten, would fall only in 1697. Some have suggested that the remaining Maya went to the coast, where the Spanish found them. It is fascinating to see that the Mayan civilization couldn’t get restarted: the numerous giant cities were gone for good. But this is often the case of civilizational collapses…

What probably happened is that the Mayan way of life was a huge system which needed a technological know-how which had been acquired during millennia, and then was lost. A broken system can’t be reinstated overnight: the system may have been elaborated over centuries (the case of Rome, Athens)… or even millennia: the case of Mesopotamia, Egypt… And the MesoAmerican civilizations. 

Moreover books are important, as they store information, and not just the concept of the proverbial wheel. This has long been known: when Rome annihilated Carthage, all Punic books were destroyed. Except one: a treaty on agriculture. And indeed the Romans would make Africa a Roman granary, the region became more productive than it would be until the arrival of French. 

The Greek dark ages after the adventures of the Trojan War lasted 4 centuries. However, Western Europe and China have proven quite collapse resistant, probably for having cultural systems smarter than most, thanks to all the books… and aware of collapse, thus keen to take resistant measures. For example when the “First” Qin emperor ordered books to be destroyed, especially of the 100 philosophical schools, many Chinese knew what to do: they copied and buried the books. 

In the 1970s, most Maya scholars concluded that the demise of the Classic Period Lowland Maya was the result of complex systems interactions. Another way to put it is that a civilization has a mind of its own

A civilization doesn’t truly collapse until its culture and know-how have been eradicated. In the case of the Maya remnants of the culture survived (they still knew how to write codices)… but what did not survive was how and why to make Yucatan work, as it did at the apex of civilization.

Could the Maya have prevented their collapse? Some will shake their heads and observe that Mayans would have had to understand science we are barely establishing now pertaining to drought and deforestation. Some of the conclusions above have a fair amount of guesswork, philosophy and modelling, and a few obstinate ones would disagree. However, this guesswork, this philosophy was done in Europe in 1300 CE, and a terminal ecological crisis avoided.

So let me tell a personal anecdote: the philosophical method rises the personal and anecdotal to the general and systemic. When I was in Africa I saw municipal authorities cut a number of magnificent trees. Apparently, inspired by a devious sense of esthetics, they had decided an immense plaza looked even better by making it more desolate. I was shocked, and revolted. How could Senegalese, in a country that was obviously desiccating, cut trees which provided shade, cooling and moisture? Tropical trees can have these huge, incredible thick oily leaves which block sunlight. For me it was glaring that this policy favored desertification, and I had seen many examples of it around Senegal already, so I viewed it as a systemic policy symbolizing a perverse mentality. I was ten years old. So if a ten year old can figure out, that cutting trees dries the climate, and causes a desert, no wonder more ancient Mayans protected sacred groves. And then the question becomes how come Tikal changed ecological policy? The answer is the war mood and the hubris it brings: flushed by taking enormous risks defeating their enemies, Tikal leaders kept on taking risks, this time with the ecology, flaunting, to themselves and others, their covenant with god(s). 

Human reality works that way: exaggerated behavior, thanks to hubris and provocation, fail, fix it, fly again. This is how humanity learns… in a tribal setting. Civilizations can also learn that way. In the best places of Eurasia, like the Fertile Crescent, the Latium, India, China. In such places of Eurasia, the collapse of one civilization taught others nearby: this is the story of the Middle East where civilizations kept on crashing and rising again, until the double headed shock of Islam, followed by the Mongols (after that it was pretty much all the way down)…

But it’s not how all civilizations can learn. A civilization can become such an immensely complicated systems, that, once broken, it can’t be readily reconstituted... Such is the sad story of the Maya.

Patrice Ayme

New Green Deal is Nuclear, Or Is Not! Mass Murder the Alternative!

April 7, 2019

Combining evidence from various sources, it’s obvious that fossil fuels kill directly more than ten million people, a year. So why the negative obsession with nuclear? Have We The Sheeple been programmed to love the tar, breathe it all day long?

Enough with the hypocrisy of Communal Wisdom! Today we celebrate! The New York Times just aligned itself on one of my most ancient positions, so I shall reiterate, and celebrate this sudden Enlightenment of the old gray lady (nickname of the NYT).This is not an original essay: most of what’s below, I have said again and again, even 10 years ago. However here is the refrain again:

90% of humanity’s worldwide energy comes from burning fossils (even more than 90% of energy comes from burning, once one integrates the burning of forests).

We burn, therefore we are. Only one emergency solution to decrease dependency on burning fuels: nuclear energy.

Yet, all too many of the haggard populations, soon to be devoured by the climate catastrophe, hate nuclear energy, that is, they hate the Sun, our nuclear Sun, and they hate the Earth, our nuclear Earth, and don’t even know it.

The world International Energy Agency just revealed that CO2 emissions from burning fossils augmented nearly 2% in 2018, up to 33 gigatons of CO2. (Total emissions of CO2 are much higher from other human activities, like pouring concrete, deforestation, etc.)

Says IEA: “Coal-fired power plants were the single largest contributor to the growth in emissions observed in 2018, with an increase of 2.9%, or 280 Mt, compared with 2017 levels, exceeding 10 Gt for the first time.” I guess pseudo-ecologists like Angela Merkel loves that. Merkel closes nuclear, because she is an ecologist, she says, while opening full up on the world’s dirtiest coal, lignite… First used by Neanderthals 80,000 years.

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Germany Climate Mass Murder, and Its Wind Illusion:

Wind illusion? In case of massive greenhouse, winds will go down. Renewables provide 40% of German power, and government propaganda emphasizes this with relish, reminding me of “Arbeit Macht Frei” at the entrance of Auschwitz (namely a misleading slogan covering up mass murder). Although Germany has one of the most advanced renewable energy systems in the world thanks to its Energiewende (energy transition) policy, it has not reduced its emissions since Angela Merkel’s decision to phase out nuclear power following an enormously murderous tsunami in Japan from a 9 Richter quake (that’s what is called logic; at least Angela didn’t accuse the Versailles treaty: progress!)

Coal, the most CO2 emissions productive fossil fuel, now provides more than 42% of Germany’s power according to the International Energy Agency – a proportion that has been growing since the nuclear decision. The result is that Germany’s carbon emissions have been growing, since Germany’s horrendously selfish decision… while the neighbors’ CO2 emissions have been declining. France, in particular CO2 pollutes less than half of Germany per capita… due to nuclear.

Not happy with digging grand canyon sized craters in Germany, to extract “brown coal”, Germany is importanting gigantic amounts of gas from the Russian dictatorship next door…. While complaining about Trump’s strong man rule, to cover its own Putin puppet status…

Notice France is just at world average… The less polluting wealthy country in the world. Clearly, except for massive nuclear right away, the world’s total CO2 emissions will climb spectacularly as two-thirds of humanity catch up in energy utilization.

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I denuclearize, therefore I mass murder:

Renewable energy won’t change make enough energy to do without getting 90% of our energy without burning fossil fuels. Massive nuclear and hydrogen are needed, right away. Who disagrees with this is morally indifferent, ignorant, misinformed, cruel, & will help kill 6 billions.

I could go on like that: fossil fuel burning kills at least ten million a year, probably more than a million a year in Europe (looking at the latest numbers).

How many did nuclear energy kill?

In Fukushima, the unimaginable happened: four nuclear reactors, terribly located, without back-ups, or sea wall, crushed by giant waves. And, yes, there was no back up for the cooling systems. Back-ups were in Florida. Three reactors blew up and melted down. Result? Nobody died, and the beach is reopened for babies, 15 years later.  

In other words, those who oppose nuclear energy are the lowest of the low, the sleepiest of the sheep. Let me buttress these cogent observations, in full metal jacket complement to:

Nuclear Power Can Save the World

Expanding the technology is the fastest way to slash greenhouse gas emissions and decarbonize the economy.

[By Joshua S. Goldstein, Staffan A. Qvist and Steven Pinker

Drs. Goldstein and Qvist are the authors of “A Bright Future: How Some Countries Have Solved Climate Change and the Rest Can Follow.” Dr. Pinker is a psychology professor at Harvard. Yes, usually I criticize Pinker for finding everything pink… But here he focuses on the biggest, blackest problem…]

Young people rightly bleat in unison to mitigate the man-made climate catastrophe. However the young sheep should be advised that the question is not what to do — eliminate fossil fuels ASAP, and by 2050 at the latest— but how. It’s impossible to achieve this by ill-informed, however well-meaning, bleating.

Right now 90% of the world primary energy production is by burning fossil fuels. Repeat slowly, and try to understand what it means: we need a humongous source of energy, right away, to replace that.

Renewable energy will not change the 90% of fossil fuel burning except in a few special places such as California (a rare place with water, mountains, wind and sun).  Norway and New Zealand, full of water and mountain, get their electricity for dams. Yemen is also full of mountains, and had the first dam. However Yemen’s electricity will not come from dams. Yemen’s electricity will not come from Solar Photovoltaic, either, except for a few hours a day, because batteries hold at most 4 hours and are immensely expensive.

Ethiopia, on the other side of the Red Sea, is building a giant dam on the Nile. That enraged Egypt so much, at some point, it made military threats (those stopped, simply perhaps war with Ethiopia promises to be counterproductive). The fact is, the planet is dammed out. (One could build artificial lagoons and mountains to store energy as elevated water, but that would be expensive, and best done in places full of water…)

Humanity must provide for the fast-growing energy needs of poorer countries. It also needs to extend the grid to a billion people who now lack electricity. And our energy needs will only grow. One will need to more electricity to remove excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by mid-century, and stabilize the climate (the present CO2 density has launched natural self-feeding warming mechanisms with a life of their own…)

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Pinker and company now proclaiming the truth about nuclear power, of all places, in the New York Times (those knowing the NYT will appreciate the U-turn!):

Where will this gargantuan amount of carbon-free energy come from? The popular answer is renewables alone, but this is a fantasy. Wind and solar power are becoming cheaper, but they are not available around the clock, rain or shine, and batteries that could power entire cities for days or weeks show no sign of materializing any time soon. Today, renewables work only with fossil-fuel backup.

Germany, which went all-in for renewables, has seen little reduction in carbon emissions, and, according to our calculations, at Germany’s rate of adding clean energy relative to gross domestic product, it would take the world more than a century to decarbonize, even if the country wasn’t also retiring nuclear plants early.”

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One must with renewables is storage. But this massive storage we do not have yet in the present state of technology (but for a few dams where water can be lifted and turbined back down). Batteries are extremely far from being able to provide that mass storage, for months at a time (there are possible possibilities, for the future, but we aren’t there yet)…

There is only one way to store renewable energy which is affordable, and expendable on a huge scale : the hydrogen economy. That hydrogen economy has not been developed massively, yet. Although it’s feasible. It could be used in planes… This is the only way, in the foreseeable future, to get 100% CLEAN planes.

The hydrogen economy is so feasible, that the first thing Obama did, on the first day, arriving in the White House, was to destroy it, so that his friends in the fossil industry could prosper. And prosper they did… And reward him and his family, thereafter. Hey, Obama is a family man. So fracking and bituminous sands prospered , and the ill-informed populace bleated its approval, as Obama made plenty of seductive ecological noises, while hyenas laughed in the night.  

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So what energy source are we left with, if we want to decarbonize? Nuclear energy.

Fission now, which could be rendered rather innocuous, if Thorium reactors were developed. Fusion soon, which could bring reactors connected to the grid in ten years, if massive spending was engaged. Fusion brings neglectable pollution, and not at all if using Helium 3.  

The pseudo ecologists who refuse nuclear energy refuse the earth and the sky. In the core of the planet, a fission reactor generate plate tectonic and the magnetic shield which made life possible (by controlling CO2 and radiation). In the sky, that thermonuclear reactor known as the sun.

A further complicating factor is that massive ecological disruption always bring war.

Pseudo ecologists refusing nuclear energy condemn the biosphere to the Sixth Mass Extinction. They are the objective accomplices of fossil fuel fanatics. Just their propaganda angle is different. Instead of just being greedy to no end like the fossil fuel fanatics, anti-nuclear “ecologists” are, on top of that, completely irrational.

Anti-nuclear pseudo-ecologists do to reason what Jihadists do to faith in God.

Patrice Ayme

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Let me quote Pinker and Al in the Times again: such sweet revenge, I have been saying these things forever, and been called devil incarnated for them… By repeating them, I repeat myself…

Pinker and Al: Nuclear made France and Sweden clean:

…”we actually have proven models for rapid decarbonization with economic and energy growth: France and Sweden. They decarbonized their grids decades ago and now emit less than a tenth of the world average of carbon dioxide per kilowatt-hour. They remain among the world’s most pleasant places to live and enjoy much cheaper electricity than Germany to boot.

They did this with nuclear power. And they did it fast, taking advantage of nuclear power’s intense concentration of energy per pound of fuel. France replaced almost all of its fossil-fueled electricity with nuclear power nationwide in just 15 years; Sweden, in about 20 years. In fact, most of the fastest additions of clean electricity historically are countries rolling out nuclear power.

This is a realistic solution to humanity’s greatest problem. Plants built 30 years ago in America, as in France, produce cheap, clean electricity, and nuclear power is the cheapest source in South Korea. The 98 U.S. reactors today provide nearly 20 percent of the nation’s electricity generation. So why don’t the United States and other countries expand their nuclear capacity? The reasons are economics and fear.

New nuclear power plants are hugely expensive to build in the United States today. This is why so few are being built. But they don’t need to be so costly. The key to recovering our lost ability to build affordable nuclear plants is standardization and repetition…

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Worldwide CO2 emissions went down as China opened several new giant nuclear reactors(one French designed, but made so much faster than the French in Finland and France, that it is the only such EPR in use!). Pinker and Al.:

France has two types of reactors and hundreds of types of cheese, in the United States it’s the other way around. In recent decades, the United States and some European countries have created ever more complicated reactors, with ever more safety features in response to public fears. New, one-of-a-kind designs, shifting regulations, supply-chain and construction snafus and a lost generation of experts (during the decades when new construction stopped) have driven costs to absurd heights.

These economic problems are solvable. China and South Korea can build reactors at one-sixth the current cost in the United States. With the political will, China could replace coal without sacrificing economic growth, reducing world carbon emissions by more than 10 percent.

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Nuclear Power is safer, and less polluting, even when one is talking about second generation nuclear fission plants (now fourth generations plants are developed… Thorium would still be something else, much less polluting…). Pinker and Al.:

All this, however, depends on overcoming an irrational dread among the public and many activists. The reality is that nuclear power is the safest form of energy humanity has ever used. Mining accidents, hydroelectric dam failures, natural gas explosions and oil train crashes all kill people, sometimes in large numbers, and smoke from coal-burning kills them in enormous numbers, more than half a million per year.

By contrast, in 60 years of nuclear power, only three accidents have raised public alarm: Three Mile Island in 1979, which killed no one; Fukushima in 2011, which killed no one (many deaths resulted from the tsunami and some from a panicked evacuation near the plant); and Chernobyl in 1986, the result of extraordinary Soviet bungling, which killed 31 in the accident and perhaps several thousand from cancer, around the same number killed by coal emissions every day. (Even if we accepted recent claims that Soviet and international authorities covered up tens of thousands of Chernobyl deaths, the death toll from 60 years of nuclear power would still equal about one month of coal-related deaths.)

Nuclear power plants cannot explode like nuclear bombs, and they have not contributed to weapons proliferation, thanks to robust international controls: 24 countries have nuclear power but not weapons, while Israel and North Korea have nuclear weapons but not power.

Nuclear waste is compact — America’s total from 60 years would fit in a Walmart — and is safely stored in concrete casks and pools, becoming less radioactive over time. After we have solved the more pressing challenge of climate change, we can either burn the waste as fuel in new types of reactors or bury it deep underground. It’s a far easier environmental challenge than the world’s enormous coal waste, routinely dumped near poor communities and often laden with toxic arsenic, mercury and lead that can last forever.

***

Misinformation, intellectual laziness, and Pluto engineered tribal hatred explain the distaste for nuclear energy. People love to hate. When one is not officially a racist and hater of low lives, one has to invent new hatreds, and hatred for nuclear energy ecology comes, ready to wear. Pinker and Al:

Despite its demonstrable safety, nuclear power presses several psychological buttons. First, people estimate risk according to how readily anecdotes like well-publicized nuclear accidents pop into mind. Second, the thought of radiation activates the mind-set of disgust, in which any trace of contaminant fouls whatever it contacts, despite the reality that we all live in a soup of natural radiation. Third, people feel better about eliminating a single tiny risk entirely than minimizing risk from all hazards combined. For all these reasons, nuclear power is dreaded while fossil fuels are tolerated, just as flying is scary even though driving is more dangerous.

Opinions are also driven by our cultural and political tribes. Since the late 1970s, when No Nukes became a signature cause of the Green movement, sympathy to nuclear power became, among many environmentalists, a sign of disloyalty if not treason.

The hilarious, and very telling, part, personally, is that I was an early anti-nuclear activist… on some specific type of reactors (Plutonium surgenerators… I am FOR Thorium surgenerators, though…)

***

And Pinker and Al. to conclude:

Protecting the environment and lifting the developing world out of poverty are progressive causes. And the millennials and Gen Z’s might rethink the sacred values their boomer parents have left unexamined since the Doobie Brothers sang at the 1979 No Nukes concert.

If the American public and politicians can face real threats and overcome unfounded fears, we can solve humanity’s most pressing challenge and leave our grandchildren a bright future of climate stability and abundant energy. We can dispatch, once and for all, the self-fulfilling prophesy that we’re cooked.

There are lots of things which could have been done, since Sparta, financed by Persia attacked Athens in the Peloponnesian war, nearly 25 centuries ago. Hence many catastrophes, the worst of them all the collapse of Greco-Roman civilization which started with the condemnable Aristotle, and ended with a flood of barbarian tribes going through the Frankish military curtain at the Winter Solstice of 406 CE (nearly three-quarters of a millennium later).  Yes, bad philosophy was in the driver’s seat:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/09/28/aristotle-destroyed-democracy/

This time, though, collapse will be faster, fiercer… and nuclear bombs will be used. Thus it would be wiser to use nuclear energy in a civil manner….

 

Stoicism Is All Too Natural

October 6, 2014

All we animals have to be stoic, at one point or another, whether we like it, or not, whether human, or not. At some point we have to decide that, whatever it is, will be, and that’s fine. This maximizes happiness. Especially in dismal circumstances. It’s all the eudemonia the abyss offers.

Stoicism is evolutionary given. It would not help to sustain ecology if prey animals systematically fought beyond any hope of surviving, as it would hurt predators (and thus kill them, as the job of predator is highly demanding). Without predators around, there is no more ecology.

Thus animals come complete with endorphins, pain killing hormones related to morphine. When the fighting is hopeless, endorphins suddenly permeate the prey, and it accepts calmly to be eaten alive. That’s often a very long process. It is striking to see an antelope resting on the ground, alert, head high, standing perfectly still, while a lion is feasting deep inside its abdominal cavity.

Hence evolution itself has selected stoicism as a strategy to reach an optimal ecology.

Experiments in human ethology have shown moral monism is a no-go: not all morality comes from just one moral principle. Far from it. Instead, human beings travel a vast moral manifold, with many moral strategies, as opportunity and necessity arise. Thus the attached philosophies are to vary accordingly. Philosophical pluralism is fact and practice. Yet, stoicism will always be a part of the mix (as it is evolutionary given, it’s part of what we are).

***

But one has to be careful not to confuse appropriate stoicism, and amor fati, with gross selfishness. Marcus Aurelius, Roman emperor and author of the Meditations is a case in point. He claimed, in his Thoughts that one ought:

“Constantly regard the universe as one living being, having one substance and one soul; and observe how all things have reference to one perception, the perception of this one living being; and how all things act with one movement; and how all things are the cooperating causes of all things that exist; observe too the continuous spinning of the thread and the structure of the web.”

Strange mumbo-jumbo.

Although this train of thought seems to partly anticipate ecological balance theory, the emperor’s motivation, according to all appearances, from historical evidence, was most base. If true, this is extremely shocking: Marcus Aurelius is often viewed as the archetype stoic, in his full glory.

And this is a warning to all those who get carried away with Stoicism, Buddhism, Zen, and the closely related Confucianism and “Inch Allah” religion.

If it’s all one movement, one may as well leave it alone, and go along with the flow. Thus Marcus Aurelius opted to not go into a complicated process to select the next best future emperor, as had been the tradition under the Antonine emperors (and how he himself became Princeps, Imperator, Augustus and what not).

It was simpler, more craftily stoic, to make his son Commodus Caesar at the age of 5, the youngest Consul ever at the age of 15. Then Marcus made Commodus co-emperor at the precocious age of 16. That teenager became perhaps the worst emperor ever.

Why? First, out of apparent stoicism, not to say epicureanism, Commodus gave up territory dearly gained on the Marcomanni, and that it was crucial for Rome to keep (as history showed within a generation).

***

Stoicism is the acceptance of what cannot be avoided, surrender. It has its place, but only as a mean to not hurt higher values which a disorganized frenzy could compromise.

One should not surrender, especially to evil, in a hurry, affecting haughty indifference. Doing so makes one an accomplice, a collaborator of evil. Stoicism is a help in the abyss, when hope is forever gone, and only pain is left. But stoicism is also an invitation to the abyss, if used inappropriately.

This is not just a problem for those who abide by Stoicism and Buddhism. The religions of Abraham celebrate the submission of their hero (Abraham) to the most monstrous deity imaginable, the one who asks him to slit the throat of his son. In other words, if the boss asks you for the worst crime imaginable, stoically submit.

This is immensely unacceptable to those who have the religion of man, instead of the religion of the boss, fascism.

Stoicism is one misappropriation away from accepting fascism, infamy, or both.

***

Progress is a more human value strategy than stoicism. All animals are prone to stoicism, as they muddle along. Only humans wish to rise well above Prometheus, and smash fate into a better world.

We created god(s), and should act accordingly.

Patrice Ayme’

Indebted To Lies

February 12, 2013

LIVING IN DENIAL ABOUT DEBT A PLUTOCRACY MAKES:
Abstract: Too many illusions governing, and a civilization dissolution guaranteed. A vast conspiracy extending from the financial right to the self conscious “liberal” elite, including the honorable conscientious liberal, Paul Krugman, claims that there is not that much of a debt problem in the USA.

Yet, a careful examination of the numbers and concepts involved shows that the esteemed pundits who howl urbi et orbi that there is no debt problem, coolly propose to steal Medicare and the Social Security Trust Fund.

This is pretty typical of the eerie manipulations that the powers that be engage in. Official progressives living in mansions end up in total solidarity with the plutocracy. One shudders at the possibilities.

Servicing Our Lords

Servicing Our Lords


Servicing too much debt is servicing plutocracy too much, and denial is its prophet.
***

UNDERESTIMATING DEBT IS AN ECONOMIC DRAG:
Why did the presidency of Obama bring only change that we can’t see? Bush has been gone more than 4 years. Yet, the giant tax loopholes for the hyper rich are still in place (including “carry interest“!).

Not to worry, say many of the self proclaimed liberals and progressives opinion makers. In their latest tactic, they claim that there is no debt problem in the USA. They observe contently that interest rates have never been so low, that the deficit has disappeared from places such as the state of California, and that Obama’s reforms have been the “f… big deal“, as the robust Biden said, and Krugman confirmed.

What that self satisfied elite omits is that interest rates are low because the economy is not recovering. In a self amplifying loop, total debt (also called “leverage”), so easy to acquire with low interest, so stifling to serve later, is obviously a factor.

Because debt is accompanied with interest, too much debt means too much interest paid. At the limit, the debtor owns nothing, the debtor pays interest all day long, and the debtor becomes a serf.
***

WHEN DEBT EXPLODES INTO SLAVERY:
Servitude from debt did not just happen in the Middle Ages. And it does not just happen to individuals.

In 2011 and 2012 Italy’s real economy was doing rather well: a bigger industrial sector than Great Britain, and no PRIMARY deficit (the USA primary deficit is 7% of GDP). Yet, Italy was engulfed in a catastrophic debt crisis.

How come? International investors asked for unsustainable interest to renew Italian debt.
Why they got in that mood, pouncing on Italy instead of Britain, say, is very complicated; but one of the factors is the madness of crowds; another, of course, is that the plutocracy has had a multi-generational conflict with France, and the Eurozone, or even the EU, is viewed as a dangerously French amplification machine.

During that crisis, Italian deficit (that is how much debt is added each year) came to be caused entirely by added interest on very old debt. (Total Italian debt was 121% of GDP when the interest rates charged to that country exploded.)

Greece went through something similar, just way worse (some Hellenic interest rates went above 100%).
Long ago, I advocated that Greece should default. This is what was done, in the end, because there was no other choice (although the default involved most of the governmental debt, Greece still owes hundreds of billions of euros, something that will have to be reduced further).

The European debt crisis abated in the second part of 2012 thanks to three factors. The most important factor was that unambiguous signals were given that France and Germany would do whatever it took to preserve the European banking system.

Thus the European Central Bank (ECB) was given a green light to stretch its mandate, and resort to USA style “Quantitative Easing” (QE). (The Europeans use another term than “QE”, in the hope that one does not feel they are just Americans infeodated to private finance as the government of the USA is!) QE consisted into sending a trillion euros to private banks, in the hope that they will show a profit. In the USA, QE has given to the banks more than 8 trillion dollars (about half of the yearly GDP). (See note on liabilities.)

The other cause of the abatement of the European debt crisis has been a ferocious crack down on deficits. Italy has no primary deficit, Germany has no deficit whatsoever. Even France is breaking hard to try to bring her deficit around 3% in 2013. Spain’s unemployment, now at 26%, keeps climbing, but the government helps ever less (after years of a delirious construction binge).

As Europe imports much of its energy, the climb of the euro, a consequence of these healthier finances, is viewed positively (it forces European industry to excell, a ball Switzerland and Germany got rolling, to great success.)
***

WHEN DEBT CUTS INTO THE BONE:
Many countries are overdoing the austerity: Germany has no deficit, but it’s interior demand has long been very weak, as it rested on the likes of Greek and Iberian madness. Now the German economy is contracting. In Great Britain, savage cuts are proving self defeating: the deficit is still above 7%, the country is rolling again in recession, with long term GDP numbers worse than in the depression of the 1930s.

David Cameron, an extremely rich scion, Britain’s chief, thinks smart to duplicate the degeneracy that afflicts the USA, ever since Reagan imposed Voodoo economics. Thanks to Cameron, it can cost 10,000 euros to attend public university in the UK. Such cuts, should they stick, guarantee that the historical strength of the West, intellectual power, will sink in England, as surely as the Titanic.

California does not have a deficit, Paul Krugman boasted. Sure. Because of horrendous cuts, through the muscles, into the bones. Say in education: the, supposedly public, University of California charges California residents more than $12,000 in tuition, about a quarter of the median USA family income. Another sneaky deficit fighting measure is to let children enter primary school a year later. Meanwhile health costs considerably more to the public, thanks to genial Obamacare.

No more education, no more health, while Paul Krugman, self proclaimed “conscience of a liberal”, extols California as an example. The hyper rich have something to celebrate, many of the richest of the elite still pays no taxes, thanks to loopholes that the media never talks about (while the working stiff pays nearly as much tax as in France, without any of the free stuff there).
***

LET’S LIE ABOUT FEDERAL DEBT: WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Paul Krugman, much of the New York Times and much of the official left, claim that there is no debt problem in the USA: the debt is only 73% of GDP (less than France or even Germany). This chorus has recently been joined by the Congress Budget Office (CBO) and the Wall Street Journal.

And yet… The debt ceiling has been broken through. The ceiling was at 16,4 TRILLION. Total debt is now crossing $16.5 trillion. The USA GDP is around 15 trillion. Thus the debt is 111% of GDP, as the IMF says, it’s not 73% as many democrats claim.

USA Debt/GDP Worse Than During WWII

USA Debt/GDP Worse Than During WWII

(The green line above depicts what would have happened if Reagan had balanced his budget instead of practicing the Voodoo Economics that debt did not matter.)

If one tried to point to that fact, the 111% debt, the New York Times censorship bureau was long in the habit to find such news unfit to print, and would censor them immediately. They did this to me, dozens of times. I amused myself seeing the liberally correct establishment crack down on this apparently anti-liberal notion. the real extent of the debt. Another trick was to publish unfavorable comments informing me that I “did not know what I was talking about”, and should “do [my] homework“.

The Economist, apparently recognized that there was something good in this conspiracy to underestimate the debt. So it nebulously recognized that the debt was “actually 25%” higher than 73%. That is 100% of GDP.
But, as I said, the total USA debt is above 111% of GDP, and growing by 1% every two months. Not exactly a viable proposition. Those who deny this are, on the face of it, just sycophants of the present economic-financial system. As it is, the USA cannot apply to the European Union, on financial grounds alone. Ironical.

Debt is not computed in the same way in Europe and the USA. First, one has to distinguish “gross” public debt and net public debt. Net public debt subtracts fiscal assets (cash, bonds, shares) owned by the government.

When Europeans talk about the debt their states owe, they talk about the gross debt. That makes a huge difference due to the many assets owned by European states.

The French government could argue French debt is not that bad, because it owns shares in Renault, EADS, etc. The Greek government is busy selling various assets it owns to reduce its debt (countless islands, etc.).

But this is not the mentality ruling the bean counters in the USA. There those who want to under-estimate the debt of the government of the USA, far from being rigorous as the Europeans, go to the opposite extreme. They do NOT take into account the money borrowed FROM Medicare and the Social Security “Trust” Fund. Those who want to underestimate the debt of the USA do not count government bonds owned by the Social Security Fund since it is seen as one arm of government having a claim on another arm of the government.

This sleight of hand reduces the debt/GDP of the USA from 111% down to 73%. In other words, according to this subterfuge, the government general fund does not have to reimburse the five trillion dollars it owes to Medicare and Social Security. Paul Krugman and many at the New York Times and the CBO find this conscientious and liberal.
***

LITTLE DEBT, IF WE STEAL SOCIAL SECURITY & MEDICARE:
The debt situation shows that many of the many prominent American liberals are actually not liberal at all. They just play one on TV. Because the most important message they have about the Federal debt of the USA is that, the money owed to Medicare and the Social Security TRUST Fund is actually ZERO.

It’s cool with the New York Times, Krugman and company, if the government stole five trillion dollars to We The People. How conscientious and liberal is that?

But why should we be surprised? Did not the same crowd embrace Obamacare’ public subsidies to private healthcare plutocrats?

Some say that there is no danger. They assume that government bonds will stay as worthy in the future as they are now. Yet this will happen if, and only if the Greater Depression we are in extends indefinitely. If the economy happens to improve significantly, there is no way that the present bonds, with their extremely low returns, would interest investors. So the bonds would lose most of their value.

As the money those bonds used to represent would still be due to Medicare and Social Security, it could either be stolen outright, from The People, or it could be raised from taxing The People once again, for the same thing as they taxed for, before.

Hence ignoring the part of public debt held by the… public, through public institutions is sustainable, if, and only if, the economy keeps on sinking. How progressive.
***

TAX FREE RIDERS, TAX CARBON, SPURN UNPRODUCTIVE DEBT, EMBRACE JOBS:
So? Are the loud progressives dominating the media actually regressive? Would that be, by any chance, entangled with their membership in the plutocracy serving oligarchy?

By underestimating the debt problem, the problem of the present economy can keep on being underestimated. A huge deficit can insure that money can keep on been thrown at the People. And that the free riders will keep on riding for free.

Whereas what we The People need, to be fully satisfied, is jobs. Jobs don’t just bring money, but empowerment, pride, satisfy the instinct of utility, mental, and physical activity. A society where People work is fully human, a society where People don’t work, is not.

By realizing how severe the crisis is, jobs can be brought over to bear on the peoblem. Just to make sustainable energies work, millions of jobs have to be created.

Because those jobs would be profitable by definition, they are worth getting indebted for.

Take for example power lines. Power lines are needed because sustainable energy tends to jump around in space and time; lots somewhere sometimes, and then somewhere else, another time. Germany has wind in the north, sun in the south. Washington State has much hydro power in early summer, and not enough power lines to get it out. Much power line work is needed all over.

Windmills work. Especially the latest types, offshore. A problem, though, is that the wind does not blow all the time, or when needed. The same problem affects solar energy. Power lines cannot solve it all. But dams can remedy the rest.

In the case of offshore wind, the solution is obvious: artificial, multibillion dollars islands, to turbine up water in artificial reservoirs, when demand is slack. To build all these islands will surely be a lot of work.

Mandated weatherization of homes and buildings is another obvious target (that is done in some European countries such as France, but not in the USA, where the Obama administration just gave subsidies to weatherize one million homes; a completely different activity, as it redistribute taxpayer money, instead of leveraging private economic activity… without using any taxpayer money).

So here we are: face the debt problem. It’s enormous. Debt ought not to be used for everyday expense, but only for worthy investments, as used to be the case.

And if there is too much debt, the solution is not crushing taxes on salaried people (top tax margin in California is 52%, although the truly hyper rich still pays nought, as they are not salaried…) Nor is the solution savage cuts. Instead the tax system ought to be overhauled: make the richest individuals and corporations pay tax, and make the richest economic activity pay tax too (for example financial transactions ought to pay tax, like all other transactions do; 11 countries of the Eurozone have decided to do so.

Another obvious revenue generator is a worldwide carbon tax. If the USA cooperated with the European Union there, instead of opposing it ridiculously, the tax would become reality so fast it would have a positive economic effect right away. Verily the least carbon burners can do is to pay for the damage they are causing to the biosphere.
***

SERVICING CAPITAL IS LESS IMPORTANT THAN SERVICING NATURE:
On the most macroscopic scale, debt services the most wealthy persons, those who have the capital. That’s OK, civilization needs capital. For worthy investments. It’s not OK, when it gets out of control, and debt becomes a way of life.

By insisting that Federal debt of the USA is only 73% of GDP, one lives in denial. One more denial in a web of illusions. Too many illusions governing, and a civilization dissolution guaranteed.

At this point, we can emulate the immense Khmer empire around 1300 CE. We can refuse to change so long, that we cannot change when we are forced to. With one million inhabitants, the capital, Angkor, was perhaps the world’s largest city, larger than China’s Hangzhou. However, the Khmer devastated their ecology, precisely by doing as we do now: using up all the carbon around. That deforestation caused a massive drought, combined with intense floods, and the combination killed the capital of Angkor.

Maybe the Khmer were paralyzed by the debt they were servicing, and, certainly, they were paralyzed by the plutocracy that they were servicing.
What they needed to do was to repair the giant reservoirs they depended upon, that were fillong up by debris from the floods. And stop the deforestation. And they needed to do this in timely manner, when they still had the power. They waited too long, weakened, and were invaded.

The Maya also waited too long in a huge ecological crisis they contributed to, along the same lines. So it was with Sumer: deforestation, drought, salination, biblical (literally!) flood…

Rome went through something similar, long enough to debate the problem. However, the plutocracy barred the way to go further than that.

It’s always the same pattern: not working hard on the ecological problems, when they could still be solved, because one is paralyzed by a self obsessed plutocracy.

Why underestimate the debt difficulties of the USA, while maximizing bad rhetoric about those of Europe? Is there a pro-American cult out there? Not really. It is more a cult of capital, and underestimating the debt one owes to capital is part of it.
***
Patrice Ayme
***

Note on liabilities: Liabilities are more general than debt. Although this is too arcane to deal with here, QE extends the liabilities of the central banks, and one can view it as augmenting considerably, maybe 50%, German or French debt… But of this no one never talks. For example although USA debt is nearly $17 trillion, all the liabilities of the government of the USA go beyond $62 trillion…

Why Austerity?

June 10, 2012

AUSTERITY IS PLUTOCRACY’S BEST FRIEND.

We are in a giant ecological crisis, the collapse of the biosphere. That’s new. We are also in the midst of the silent coup of global plutocracy. That’s nothing new, plutocracy has ravaged many a civilization.

Collapse and plutocracy are entangled, they always have been. The economic crisis is only an appendage of a catastrophe of antediluvian proportions.

Krugman pointed out in Reagan Was A Keynesian, that, by the fourth year of Ronald Reagan’s presidency, because the economy had faltered, total government spending was augmented 130% more than in the comparable period under Obama. Thus confirming that Obama is to the very far right of Reagan (especially considering that the economy is now in a grave depression, the Greater Depression, not just a Federal reserve engineered recession, as it was under Reagan!)

President Ronald Reagan caused in part, through his military built-up, a built-up in high tech. That was highly profitable, in the end. The ecological and energy crises can be solved by such a technological built-up. They can only be solved by such a much greater built-up. Such a built-up would then prove very profitable. For all of humanity, yet again.

Austerity is the enemy of technology. Superior technology asks for a measure of irrational exhuberance, as does, even more, its fertile ground, new science. Indeed, if we knew how it worked already, it would not really be new.

So why all the austerity now? Why undermining what can save the biosphere, and us?

Because austerity advantages the plutocrats, in the coup they are conducting, silently.

Such a phenomenon, a coup by the richest, under other guises, happened several times in Roman history: the situation was dire, and the plutocrats in control of the Senate tried their best, including sometimes mass assassinations, to reduce spending. In the end, austerity reigned, and reigned so much that plutocracy killed Rome.

Why is austerity favorable to plutocrats? Because, when one has it all, as plutocrats do, the best way to keep it, is to make sure that the others get ever more impotent. And when one has it all there is to be had, one can only get more, if one makes sure that others get less.

***

Here are a few elaborations on the preceding, justifying the aphorisms above:

AUSTERITY IS THE ENEMY OF TECHNOLOGY:

Time and time again, Roman inventors, under the empire, presented drastic inventions, which could have changed the flow of history. They were squashed. Because plutocracy has no interest to change the flow of history, or even to have one. (As imperial Rome did not progress technologically, but the barbarians and the ecological difficulties did, irresistibly. The plutocrats heading the Roman state, cornered, became weirder and weirder, calling ever more to the fascist instinct to enforce a fanatic war against imaginary enemies, while, naturally, ignoring the real ones, namely themselves.)

***

THE BIOSPHERE IS APPROACHING A TIPPING POINT:

An article in 07 June 2012 issue of Nature considers that the entire planetary biosphere may be close to a “tipping point”. Indeed. The two essential observations are that;

a) the biosphere has undergone dramatic “phase shifts” in the past, and

b) that the present stresses on the biosphere are the greatest in at least twenty million years.

In a phase shift, typically the gas content (more or less CO2 or oxygen, O2), or the temperature change abruptly, and for many million years. Such events seem to be associated with ultra-massive volcanic events (core volcanism, for want of a better expression: Dekkan, Siberian Traps), or possible asteroid impacts (Yucatan, Chesapeake Bay, Siberia events).

The article concludes:”It is also necessary to address root causes of how humans are forcing biological changes.” “Root causes” have to be addressed. If they are not, the problems fester. Rome did not address the “root cause” of its problem, so the Roman empire went through a succession of catastrophic tipping points. See below.

***

THE GIANT COUP BY THE LORDS OF FINANCE: has been made possible by its stealthy character. The flies have not seen the spider web in which they are englued.

The civilization sized coup of the Lords of Finance, has been in the making for at least half a millennium, ever since bankers financed Francois I and Charles V, so that they could ostensibly make war against each other (circa 1520 CE). At least, so it looked, officially. War is a reason that gives plutocracy meaning.

Well financed war between France and Spain, for 150 years or so, allowed oligarchies of the splendid, on both sides, to have an excuse to make said war. War was a distraction, that diverted the People from revolution. The exploits of the knight Bayard may still mesmerize the naïve, but when men of war turned their traditional expertise to religious wars, it was distinctly less funny.

The silent coup, has thus unfolded over five centuries. It has consisted of several phases and elements:

a) LEVERAGING THE WAY MONEY IS CREATED PRIVATELY. Money mostly created by credit lines made possible by the fractional reserve system (privately managed, but set-up by the public government).

The fractional reserve system is highly technical and non linear. It allows private individuals, the bankers, to create 99% of the money. The complexity of the fractional reserve system hides it from democratic scrutiny. However, president Jackson, a great, extremely brutal and macho general and duelist, understood enough of fractional reserve and bankers to prevent its establishment in the USA in connivance with the state. Jackson called that his proudest achievement. On his deathbed.

Jackson’s  hostility to the Rothschild was amply justified by fact and theory. The Rothschilds (Red Shield in its original German) were feeding both sides of the so called Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon certainly did not start them: the Rothschild were out there financing wars, even before Napoleon was born. Maybe the Napoleonic wars should be called the Rothschild wars.

Alluding to the fractional reserve system, the Rothschilds had been crowing about their control of nations:

Mayer Amschel Rothschild: Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes the laws.” 

(In other declarations, Rothschild boasted that he “issued” the nations’ money.)

Tellingly the theoreticians of class struggles of the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries missed out that angle entirely. Marx vaguely complained about the banks’ “monopoly”. He forgot to say that it was monopoly in money creation. That private individuals could monopolize money creation would have floored the leaders of countless polities in passed millennia. Leaders, in the past, knew that striking coinage, that is, in practice, Fiat Money, was the prerogative of the state. That state monopoly was backed-up by military force.

However, president Roosevelt was not fooled: he “welcomed the hatred of money changers“.

(“Money changers” was the old derogatory term for financiers used during the Middle Ages’ great age of independent republics and cities: Roosevelt knew history.)

b) THE METASTATIC RISE OF FINANCIAL DERIVATIVES under Clinton and complete deregulation of finance (London’s “Big Bang, etc.) Derivatives were initially a way to insure farmers (say rice farmers in Japan 16C, or corn growers in Illinois 19C). They have their place as a form of insurance for commercial operators. But a distinction ought to be drawn between those and speculators. Moreover, when there is no insurance connected to the bets (as has been the case with CDS), then one obtains A CASINO INSURED BY THE PUBLIC, ALBEIT OWNED  BY SHARKS. Thus a welfare system for plutocrats set-up by the public.

c) MAKING THE STATE SERF TO PLUTOCRACY: The French law of 1973 passed by Rothschild banker Pompidou forbade the state to create money. Instead the state had to ask the richest men for money, and they were free to make as much money as they wanted from this begging. It was generalized to all of Europe by dim witted or treacherous socialists (Delors and his crew).

d) THE BANKERS STOLE THE ECONOMY, GIVE THEM MORE: The crisis of 2008 (Subprime, etc.) was “solved” by throwing trillions of public money (“monetary base”) to (private) banks. The bankers had lost that money, to themselves, and their friends.

That “solution” made private financiers more powerful than ever. The same is done in Europe, with the same result. The 100 billion euros “rescue’ for Spain is more of the same. Breaking up Europe would make the financiers even more powerful, that is why they are trying their best to do so.

***

SUSTAINABLE ENERGY IS UNSUSTAINABLE WITHOUT STORAGE:

Only very much higher technology will solve the present crisis. Sustainable energy, in particular could work, with storage systems… That we do not have: the best are dams, but dams cannot go in every backyard. (Dams allow to recover 80% to 90% of the energy, by working turbines in reverse to bring the water up, when there is excess energy; the method was inaugurated to serve nuclear plants, which never stop producing, night and day, month after month…) -Denmark better start building dams, to stop depending upon coal (as it does now). In the case of Denmark, a flat country, that means elevated lagoons.

More advanced storage are possible. Fuel cells have high efficiency (but they have proven finicky, expensive, and even dangerous). On the island of Corsica a private-public partnership with the local university, is building fuel cell systems connected to the grid.

***

ROMAN PRECEDENTS:

Roman history is very instructive, and deserves much better, to be so instructed, than the parody of it taught right and left (last example: the May 2012 book “Why Nations Fail“).

Rome knew several plutocratic and debt crises. The first one, the rise of plutocracy, put an end to the republic; the next one was solved radically by Tiberius, by massive public refinancing; the following one set the roots for the collapse of the Principate, and even the empire: the plutocrats refused to pay enough taxes to keep the barbarians off the gates… Already under Marcus Aurelius! It got only worse and worse in the following three centuries, or until Roman armies were replaced by Frankish armies… Which were paid by Frankish taxes… Or nationalizations.

The present crisis is a combination of the three Roman financial, economic and social crises.

Europe, always more inventive, has found still another crisis to add to the mix.

***

EUROPE, OR WHEN THE STATE ENTRUSTS THE COUNTERFEITERS WITH CREATING MONEY:

Europe has entrusted the plutocrats with money creation. In ancient Rome, as in any state worth this title, it’s the state that created money. It is still like that in the USA, Japan, China, Britain, Mongolia, or Argentina. But not in Europe’s European Monetary Union.

Part of the problem of Late Third Century Rome was that, precisely because the plutocrats refused to pay taxes, and they had the means to refuse, the Roman empire ran out of money. Diocletian corrected that with an economic command and control system that worked obviously very well, and was sustainable…

Until the Vandals cut the food line between Africa and Rome in the Fifth Century: there had not been enough money to pay a sufficient army, or navy to stop 10,000 or so Vandal warriors!

Thus command and control in the economic realm, had not fixed the fundamental problem, the disconnection of the plutocrats, and the resources they commanded, from the rest of society. The plutocrats could afford (private) armies, precisely because the state could not afford the PUBLIC army. Plutocrats did not care that cities needed walls to protect themselves; they had their own armies to defend themselves.

Present day Europe has hyper linked to that condition of the Later Roman Empire, at warp speed.

***

HOW ROME FELL, SHORT VERSION:

Plutocracy makes stupid, and stupidity was the proximal reason for the fall of Rome. Rome swung from general to general, as a gibbon from branch to branch, and finally the fiercest of them all, Constantine, allied himself with the army of the Christians, a state within the state, resulting in the establishment of full blown theocracy.

Plutocracy, plus theocracy, makes for a doubly stupid leadership, hence really stupidly conducted wars, and the consequence was the successful invasion of the Roman empire by the Goths. In comparison with the Franks, who were deeply romanized, the Goths were savages. It took 130 years for the Franks to beat the Goths, and re-establish a military successful Roman state (the Imperium Francorum, which took officially the title of Imperium Romanum, “Roman empire” only in 800 CE, when both the Pope and the Roman imperial state in Constantinople agreed).

When Rome fell, that means, when the giant Roman socio-economy collapsed, most of the population could not get to food, nor even drinkable water. Most people died. We are even more vulnerable now.

The mushrooms of plutocracy, such as austerity, can appear beautiful, but they are most venenous…

***

Patrice Ayme


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GrrrGraphics on WordPress

www.grrrgraphics.com

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because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

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Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.

ianmillerblog

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

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Military and general security

RobertLovesPi.net

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an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

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SoundEagle 🦅ೋღஜஇ

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in truth, only atoms and the void

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Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

www.grrrgraphics.com

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because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

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Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

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