ColGlobe At The Spoof

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Gaia Theory, Closed Systems, and Humanity

Doomsday, 2012?
The ancient Mayans had one of the most advanced calendars ever created. But this cycle has a definitie end. No one knows why this is, for certain, but the Mayans were certain that the world as we know it will change in the year of 2012. Four years from now. On the surface, this appears to be the superstitious nonsense of savages. Hardly worth being mentioned at all, except that the population is getting too big, the metal is running out, the atmosphere is getting warmer, the primary human fuel source is going into decline, and all of these things fit very snugly and neatly into a mosaic that comes to a huge climax somewhere in the very near future. My guess is that 2012 is pretty close to the mark.

This blog, though, will look at things that you already know, as well as a few topics that you've never heard about, and how a great many aspects of modern life are approaching a critical point in the next 10 years or so. Hopefully, I am going to give you glimpses of connections you never thought of, and make you consider possibilities that are generally ignored.

"Do you believe in Global Warming?"
What does that question mean? And to hear it spoken in the same tone as "Do you believe in Santa Claus?" really scares the living daylights out of me. Let's be logical for only a short moment:
6+ billion bodies operating at 98.6 degrees is going to have an effect on the global temperature
I was a child in Basic Biology when I learned that the mouse under the jar HAS to have enough oxygen supply to live. If trees are to people what grass is to a mouse, then cutting down the trees will reduce the amount of oxygen we humans have to breathe. This is not difficult math. YOU require trees to keep YOU alive. Your car requires about 50 trees a year. Your house requires fifty. Roughly calculated, it is necessary for you to have the support of around 100 trees in the course of your daily life, every year. Plus paper products. Cool the planet. Plant a tree.

Truth to be told, the question of global warming is moot. And while just a quick look at the machine that is Gaia makes it plain that such a thing is a logical response in a closed system, it is but one of many problems coming to a climax in the 21st Century. Since this idea demands that we step outside of the human perspective to grasp, it is the easiest to shrug off as heresay and doomsaying. But Consider this:
A closed system regulates itself by balancing chemical reactions, molecular attractions,
and the actions of every miniscule part of the system

The Truth About Fossil Fuels
Regardless of global warming, carbon dioxide emissions, and economic impacts, the use of fossil fuels, specifically crude oil, are coming to an end. There were, after all, a finite number of dinosaurs 65 million years ago. And guess what? There is a defined peak production limit of crude oil, and from that moment onward the availability drops off sharply. Within the next twenty years, and some say it has already begun, oil drilling will begin to decline. This is a definite, unavoidable collapse of the oil-based fuel system. This is the first of many closed systems that humanity relies upon, and has over-exploited.

Regardless of what you do, start looking for ways to do it without using fossil fuels. Get a job within walking distance. Shop weekly, not daily. Turn off the lights/fans/TV/radio/anythingatall when leaving the room. Turn the water heater temperture down a couple of degrees. Take shorter showers.

"Sustainable Population Limits"
Scientists estimate the the planet's maximum sustainable human population is between 8 and 12 billion people. We are less than 10 years from reaching 8 billion people on the planet. Short of major catastrophe, there is little that can be done to prevent the population from reaching 12 billion within 25 years. This is within your children's lifetime, if not your own.

But being able to feed and water that many people in theory is not the same as doing it in the real world. Grain is rotting in shipping yards while villages are starving literally to death. It isn't economically feasible to get the food to where it is needed. Imagine adding another 5 billion people to the current total. The whole world would have to be brought into the industrial age in order to "sustain" the most populated regions.

What is industrialization, other than learning to rape the planet for fuel? And what do we gain from teaching third world nations to do that, when they'll only be fighting for the final dregs of black gold, and then left in a worse predicament? So we have to not only teach third world nations to use industry, but we have to teach them to use new forms of energy, which we advanced societies are still superstitious of. We have to teach them to be better at industrialization than we are.

At an upper limit, and likely to be much lower, the maximum sustainable population is going to be in the neighborhood of 9 billion people. Beyond that, humanity simply doesn't have the means to provide for everyone. And more than 90% of the current means of production and distribution require fossil fuels. As those decline, so does the sustainable maximum.

Here is a second closed system that we depend on coming to a threshold. And this system is our lifeblood. It is not enough to grow more food, we have to grow more food in new ways, and distribute it in still newer ways. The complexity of the situation is going to stump the finest minds in the world, to produce more, and yet use less of our primary fuel source to do it.

Precious Metals
This category frightens me the most, because it is the one that is kept out of the public eye. Most people think of precious metals as jewelry, but the fact is that less than a tenth of all precious metals are used for luxury adornment. On the other hand, these metals are as important and vital to humanity as electricity, not to mention irremovably entwined with its use. As with everything thing else on this planet, there is a finite amount of metals available.

And while all of that is well and fine, did you know that we passed the peak production point of copper between 4 and 10 years ago? That means that we are using stockpiles of copper now, increasingly more and more of them, because there isn's enough copper being mined. Copper is used in almost all electronic devices.

Silver is in danger of a production deficit. Gold may already be in decline, as well as
platinum. But all metals are on a dead-end course of extraction. There is no way to avoid this. The planet only contains a limited supply of available metals.

When In Rome...
Society itself is a closed system, though it is not widely accepted as such A city is only able to grow so large before it suffers internal collapse. As a population center gets more crowded, abnormal social behavior becomes more common, and more brutal, and more diabolical. People being what they are, any large establishment is going to have a caste system of some sort, where those who are able to acquire power are elevated above those without power, leading to various levels of dominance.

Attitudes towards sex become tolerant as population increases. Simply put, every living person is a potential source of more power and production for the upper class. As inflation goes up, the need for more taxpayers goes up as well, which creates an imaginary appearance of increasing the coffers. But this is not a real increase, merely a redistribution of growing costs among a larger number of people who pay that cost, while using the resources.
The end result is an unsustainable population, followed by a collapse of the system.

History shows again and again how this happens. To date, there is no civilization which has been able to survive the stress of population explosion. Plagues have provided relief in the past.. A rampant, fatal disease reduces the population quickly. Before the effect of a reduced population can affect the supply line, overall production appears to increase, leaving those who survive the epidemic more available everything, and providing for a marked and dramatic overall improvement in daily life.

Welcome To Planet Earth
Think of a 50 trillion piece jigsaw puzzle. Over 6 billion people want to see what it looks like when it is completely put together. But you can't open the box and hand a few million pieces to this group, and a few million to that group, and expect anything to happen. Group A has pieces that Group B has to have to do their part, and it never occurs to them that group C is searching valiantly among their pieces for that funny looking piece that no one can make heads or tails out of in groups A or B. In the end, we end up with a bunch of tiny little portions of the big picture, and an imcomprehensible number of pieces that don't seem to fit anywhere. There simply isn't a unified science, and even the primary fields are fragmented.

And fifty trillion is a small number. The Gaia system is huge. The periodic table is only a small portion of the vast options on a global scale. Rocks age to release chemicals into the atmosphere which bind to other chemicals to perform specific tasks. Humanity doesn't even know what all of the systems that make up the one system of Gaia are. We don't even really understand the interactions that keep the food and atmospheric cycles going. We have a few guesses that sound good, but without putting all of the pieces together, we will never understand the big picture. The atmosphere cannot make sense without all the little variations from the earth. The earth doesn't make much sense at all without understanding the complexities of the atmosphere. And nobody gets to the full truth of their particular field because, simply put, none of the fields can operate independently.

For instance, if you see the letter A, you have no idea that it is mixed in with other letters to form the word AND, and still there's no indication that AND is mixed up with other groups of letters that form other words, to become the sentence IT'S UP TO YOU AND ME, which offers no clue that the sentence is mixed up with other sentences (also comprised of letters which form different words), to form a paragraph, which is connected to many other paragraphs to form a chapter, and by this time the first reality we had of the letter A has become so trivial as to be ignored completely a very long time before we have finished the first volume of a collection in a library. Never mind that all of the libraries are connected. Hopefully, this illustration offers at least a glimpse of the overall complexity of the system of the thing called writing. Even though it says nothing at all about how such writing happens to begin with. That requires other volumes to be mixed into the group. As you see, to fully understand that very first letter, we have to know everything about every facet that it may relate to.

The Important Conclusion
Somehow, in all the positive talk of things that haven't happened, the definition of "sustainable" seems to have changed. Obviously, if there is not enough metal being mined, sustainability has already failed. If people are starving, sustainability has already failed. Ditto for water. So if there are so many failures in sustainability, why isn't everyone becoming frightened and worried? Because instead of addressing issues, our attention, in masse, is drawn to the people talking about whether there is a problem at all. We become dulled to the issue before we are ever fully aware of what the issue may be, and by the time society as a group realizes that something has to be done, it's too late.

Another reason is that greed is a mathematical function of capitalism. In business, greed is termed profitability, and it requires that as much profit as possible is produced from anything that is produced. To migrate away from fossil fuels means that existing high profit markets are lost to emerging markets. Conversion will be expensive. These are not items which encourage business to attempt the switch. "Wait a little longer, and see what happens."

What happens is that as the systems collapse, the economic advantage of those systems becomes too expensive to continue using. Consumers become overburdened as the cost of production and distribution increase. This results in a decline of product consumption, ultimately bankrupting a system that has left itself economically unable to convert to alternate fuels when there is no longer any choice but to do so.

It is up to you, and I, and everyone we know to prevent this.
If not for our ourselves, then only so our children will not suffer.