Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How Fast Are Things Falling Apart

To be honest, there are disagreements among energy and economic scholars about the pace of the breakdown of the over-industrialized era (and its dependence on cheap energy) but not the inevitable results.
There simply won’t be money enough to pay for further growth – nationally and individually! Countries burden by too many debts will go bankrupt and who will bail nations out in the long run – when our tax money is depleted?

The time margins now discussed are, however, just one decade, for some scholars just one or two years, but we are facing it.
And what we build and construct now has a lifespan (on paper) for more than 50 years! All development plans I have been involved in, talk about a 25 years lifespan. So called “blind” futurology (rather with blinkers) – extrapolating unsustainable trends into the future! We should know better...

Why am I writing about a bleak future? Well, having survived a number of smaller bursts, I have to prepare myself and my colleagues for what’s coming – it will be worse and we in the profession must prepare!

Let me for short give you some quotations from my internet sources:

·        Massive worldwide economic growth of the past two centuries was enabled by the newfound ability to exploit cheap, abundant energy of (finite) fossil fuels – Heinberg  (www. post carbon institute)

·        The oil world has changed – and this means a power shock to the energy system, coinciding with a seismic shift in the world’s economic and financial systems – Heinberg

·         If the oil stops flowing in recent quantities, global trade as we know it grinds to a standstill – Heinberg

·         Unfortunately, there is a desire to hope for the best but we have to prepare for the worst – Hugh-Smith (www.oftwominds.com)

·         Growth depends on energy but we are learned that it solely depends on capital, production and labour – forgetting resources –Martenson  (chrismartenson.com)

Indeed - Thing’s ain’t what they used to be!

A few voices among many on the net! Others are “Chomsky.info” and John Michael Greer on “www.The Archdruid Report” – read them!

Yes, there are some whistle blowers! Seldom any official, government based reports, though. No, actually, there are even a few such ones but never quoted in the papers, as media today are “privatized” and reluctant to upset us. They are more for scandals around “the dolls in their strings”!

BUT – this year the International Energy Agency (IEA), the adviser to both OPEC and about 23 major governments around the world, had to admit:

“Crude oil output reaches an undulating plateau of around 68-69 mb/d (million barrels per day) by 2020, but never regains its all-time peak of 70 mb/d reached in 2006” – So it goes and IEA has for many years tried the best to keep consumers and nations sleeping nice, a fact according to whistle blowers from IEA.

Following graph is the “most optimistic scenario” for the coming years from IEA – note that it is basing the outlook on the fact that OPEC, the owners of the oil, will cut down their own use to a high degree – is that why Western countries are implementing the Carter Doctrine (securing oil for the West – Libya, Egypt, Iraq and Iran are OPEC members).

So, yes, its pretty much expected that China and India, et al., will increasing their consumption by rates much (much) higher than 0.5%, which means, logically, that some other countries will have to consume at negative rates in order for the equation to balance.

And this is exactly what the IEA has modeled and proposed: 

And, honestly, our current global free trade system needs an increase to more than 90 mb/d in the next yrs to keep the current (2010) growth.

So, why do I bother to mention this? I feel that - Now’s the time – to
adjust to new facts.

I’m not a self-torturer – but I want to know what’s behind the bend of the road!  How can we as architects and town planners prepare for an era of scaling down growth expectations and save energy?

We have to discuss this in all sincerity and I will start in next column.

(Continuation > click HERE to read  What can we learn from our predecessors?)

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