Cue the Methane?
Oct 13, 2013. Article Viewed 1482 Times
The Permian Extinction took 95% of all living species. It is thought to have been caused by the release of a great store of methane from its oceanic vault, following volcanic activity in Siberia, powerful enough to warm the seas sufficiently to trigger this momentous killing event. Being subjected to natural forces this significant is impossible to avoid completely since we are simply temporary boarders here not the hoteliers. Voluntarily bringing about a catastrophe of this magnitude though, which is widely predicted to mirror the former calamitous scenario, is beyond madness. Yet, this is the path we have been put on, and we ought to be a lot unhappier about it than we are.
Ward McAllister, a social chronicler of the late 19th century, calculated that 400 of the most important swells of the time could fill Mrs. Astor’s ballroom and this became known as the ultimate measure of status, not dissimilar to the Fortune 500 perhaps. I suppose the same tiny number of exceptionally privileged people are the very ones who will be invited onto the Heavenly Biosphere, ready to re-populate the earth and assert their ultimate superiority by surviving the catastrophe that all of them have been so strategic in bringing about. A few may suspect, between cocktails, that this was the plan all along.
The US is now the world’s top energy producer, according to the WSJ and MSNBC’s caffein-addled Joe expects the effect of this is going to be “staggering”. No doubt he means that we are in a stronger and better situation, no longer completely at the mercy of some sheik in sheep’s clothing or Russian oil Czar. Missing from the equation is the contribution made to the total by human energy, hands, and fingers, human power, muscle power, fueled by calories from food instead of barrels of oil or tank-loads of liquid gas or rail cars of coal. Every time something is lifted, or pulled or pushed or bent or chipped or scraped by hand, energy is expended and even in a world that has been industrialized to its limit, there is still a huge proportion of “work” performed by mere homo sapiens using their bodies and sweat to bring about the needed result. When energy sources are measured, nuclear, petroleum and coal with a few renewables thrown in, is all that is spoken of, although all of our original arts and crafts are still alive and essential in the mix. Deep down we know that human transport, by walking our 10,000 steps a day or pushing the pedals on a bike is an essential aspect of preserving and enhancing our lives, not a cumbersome burden. Ease beckons though, and we vegetate.
When analyzing economic data a good deal is made of the cost of materials and the cost of labor. Factoring in the cost of the education of the people doing the work or their degree of satisfaction with their lives and their efforts is seldom mentioned, even though it might be, in the final analysis, the most important element of all. Human-powered equipment, designed to be operated on the human-scale, like bikes, some farm equipment, for that matter most kinds of computer and assembly work, comprises a huge proportion of the work being done every day around the world. While there are other power sources being used, electricity, animal, water, etc. the indispensable element has always been and remains, for the moment, the human one.
Regardless, since the trend over time has been to replace the human-powered with the mechanical or electronic, we have now reached the point where we can automate so deeply that the danger is that we are seemingly running out of the need for people altogether. Unemployment is not just a feature of an economy not operating at full speed, it is a permanent condition since we are no longer in need of very much maintenance and supervision for these machines. They are even being taught to repair themselves. It is not just factory workers, even doctors and lawyers are being rendered less useful by the day as every task, no matter how complex or difficult, is being assigned to an app or mechanical robot to deal with. Meanwhile, we busy ourselves with the increasingly trivial, social networking that concentrates on keeping you in close touch with your host of friends while the rest of the population learns to ignore you as well as you ignore them. Is this still a society, or just a bunch of random pieces of the flesh who have lost interest in forming themselves into a picture, who have learned to love their fragmentation as much as they once reveled in their connectedness?
Meanwhile, water downstream from a fracking operation in Pennsylvania is showing alarming levels of radiation, 200 times the normal. This is a minuscule problem of course compared to what is happening in Fukushima Japan, where water containment vessels are springing leaks and an immense pile of still radioactive material is perched precariously atop destroyed reactors and the government is having as much trouble containing the information about the risks which are now growing more treacherous continuously, as the engineers are having to try to do the seemingly impossible task of cooling off this hellacious fire. I thought that conservative politicians and political conservatives, in general, were risk-averse, eager to protect their treasures from eroding in value or putting their lives and futures in jeopardy. Actually, science-denial, the foundation of any belief system that relies upon magic and superstition, is essential to most myth-making institutions, be they religion-based, profit-making, pleasure-intoxicated or simply power-addled and unable to let go.
If the price of oil goes down sufficiently, this form of extraction, currently destined to destroy a serious portion of our dwindling clean groundwater supply, is no longer viable. So here is another powerful reason for one arm of the energy industry to keep oil prices as high as possible to protect its other arm. Can’t let the price get too high of course or too many people will switch to electric or hybrid cars and damage the market. These calculations are crucial to the foreign policy and economic decisions of scores of nations including “Superpowers” like Russia and the US. It is a mystery to me, why we would let a small handful of self-centered interests dominate our common interests, except that they’ve been doing it for what seems like forever. They spend a lot of money to convince us that they are our friends and appear to do a simply terrific job of doing that, but innumerable Gulf of Mexico critters would strongly disagree with their campaign of self-congratulation. Melting the Arctic so that a fleet of oil tankers can shave some miles off their long journeys is easily the worst bargain in the history of the planet earth, and we are being told that we are the “beneficiaries” of this chilly gift. Hardly.
Since energy is so important in the production and movement of foodstuffs, the consequences of price manipulation affect the price of other necessities as well. It is no wonder that people feel powerless in the face of forces so strong and seemingly uncaring. It is not just foreign policy and other great matters that seem beyond our understanding or influence, it is even the skies above our heads that are filled with mysteries. Rumors of such dangerous and secret practices as climate manipulation through the seeding of clouds with aluminum and other potential toxins swirl about, still considered unproven but with more convincing evidence accumulating daily. The undeniable loss of the livability of the breathable portion of the atmosphere to pollution and political and economic expediency, begs the question, “Who is watching the store?” and how come the back door got left open and the shelves are bare?
Frankly, I don’t think we can solve this problem through more talking and petitioning and complaining. If we have the capacity, species-wide, to take on these challenges by applying our creative talents to the case, there is some possibility of emerging bruised but intact. Look at SharingUmbrellas.org and let me know what you think. There are artists and craftspeople and designers and builders who can bring some new thinking to the fore and raise our aspirations sufficiently to make a difference. I fear that unless we are able to provoke the makers and the dreamers to enter the fray and deploy their talents, we are destined to tumble over the cliff we are being led to, clutching our smartphones to our breastbones and screaming “No bars, no bars, no bars”.
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