Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Cave of our Fears

Here is an oldie for the weekend.

Howard T. Odum (1924-2002) was one of the godfathers of sustainability and Peak Oil thought. He was an early ecologist, an analyst of energy flows, and a visionary.

He influenced many thinkers and planners and urged that energy systems be evaluated fairly by considering the energy needed to produce the energy compared to the the energy it would ultimately produce. He also helped develop understanding of the external costs that skew market decisions and often confuse policy makers who cannot, or will not, discern between "price" and "cost".

His 1974 article "Energy, Ecology, & Economics" is one of the more understandable presentations of his ideas.

Late in his life, he co-authored The Prosperous Way Down with his wife. This excerpt comes from the opening summary.

The Prosperous Way Down
by Howard T. Odum and Elisabeth C. Odum

"Let's start with the premise that resource scarcity and rising costs cause the global economy to contract. Let's not be concerned here with the timing, but consider what can be expected and what our adapting strategies should be to conditions that force descent.

There are many new words being used for this future scenario, such as decession, the opposite of succession.

The expectation of general systems concepts of self organization for any system is a rhythmic alternation between slow production, growth and succession followed by a pulse of consumption, descent and decession. Pulsing on each scale is an accumulating build up of products converged to centers, followed by descent with sharp, short diverging dispersal.

Many assume that the only way down is to crash and restart. But many systems program orderly descent and decession that is followed later by growth and succession again. For example, in the past, ecosystems and human cultures in northern latitudes expanded and contracted seasonally. They decreased populations, stored information, and reduced function with such mechanisms as spore and seed formation, hibernation, migration, and staging inactivity and rest."

And here is the last part of Chapter 9:

"As the growth melee strips the remaining natural capital of the Earth and civilization reaches its zenith, the exclusive dominance of large-scale capitalism can be replaced with an emphasis on cooperation with the environment and among nations. International trade and loans can be made equitable with emergy evaluations.

Increased efficiencies are likely to limit tourism, international waste disposal, and extremes in the distribution of real wealth.

A major change in mechanisms for international order is evolving that can replace the old system of territorial defenses.

Global sharing of information and increased trade are joining the centers of civilization on common enterprise. Declining resources diminish nations' inclinations and military capacities to encroach on others.

Providing that the remaining fuel resources are shared in open markets, great wars of national competition, growth, and conquest may be history. Small conflicts and boundary disputes may be within the power of international organizations to limit.

For a peaceful transition we need to share information internationally rather than sell it, arrange trade and loans with emergy-based equity, and substitute environmental mutualism for resource exploitation."

The authors close their summary with these words:

"We expect much of the culture and public policy appropriate for the growth period to be replaced with a new set of ethics and policies affecting each scale of time and space during descent.

Decisive changes in attitudes and practices can divert a destructive collapse, leading instead to a prosperous way down."

Last night, I was discussing earthfamilyalpha and I offered that one of the keywords for this blog is cooperation. It is one of the earthfamily principles that

The Earthfamily embraces cooperation over competition.

Although I don't agree with Odum on some issues, I most certainly agree that "Decisive changes in attitudes and practices can divert a destructive collapse."

These changes must occur in our minds and in our cultural super ego.

But truthfully, these changes will not occur

until we reach some tipping point,

some point that shakes our confidence in this present belief system

to the core.

Only then, will we re-evaluate the mind forms that have led us

to the moment that awaits,

in the cave of our fears.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the rate I'm tipping my cap to you, I'm gonna have to invest in a toupe.

9:54 AM  
Blogger oZ said...

Thanks magmak1, tipping is greatly appreciated.

12:58 PM  

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