This is the face of the failure of globalisation

Written By: - Date published: 10:12 am, August 14th, 2016 - 272 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, Economy, Globalisation, human rights - Tags: , ,

 

Mohammad Jamal

This man, Mohammad Jamal, like many others in proto-industrialised countries, is a support worker for the West.  He works in a, to Western eyes, make-shift aluminium processing plant. According to this photo essay in the Guardian, he last saw his 2 day old daughter four months ago and doesn’t know when he will see her next. He and his fellow workers travel far from home to work 12 hour days melting down aluminium cans, industrial ash, and medicine blister packs into raw aluminium. They work in dangerous conditions with minimal health protections. Please look at these images to understand.

This is what globalisation does. We in the West have the rhetoric that eventually free trade will lift Jamal out of his poverty, but I think what we really mean is that we want him working long hours in a better aluminium factory than the one he is in now. We think that if we just keep on with the Project that Jamal will get workers’ rights, a decent wage, and time with his family. But in the meantime, we are willing and happy to live off his sweat and blood. We also tell ourselves that if it weren’t for free trade then people in Jamal’s position would die. TINA is a fiction someone created that we now use to avoid facing our true responsibilities in the suffering of others.

I don’t know where the waste Jamal is processing comes from, but I do know that in NZ much of our recycling is shipped overseas to be processed in places where it is more ‘economic’ to do so. Because this is what the market dictates. It also dictates that most of us don’t have to look at what really happens to that plastic bag we threw out this morning, and who is going to be handling it in the end.

I also don’t know much about Bangladesh, or the region where Jamal lives. Google tells me that the river beside which the aluminium is processed ‘bleeds black’ from pollution. But history shows us that humans have lived good lives before industrialisation, and that the things that make life worth living aren’t cars and iPhones but instead are things like enough food and nutrition, good shelter, time for play, and the ability to have relationships with the people we care about. There is also the satisfaction of making a living, not measured by abstract global income rates, but by how well we can live as we ourselves determine that. To that end, I am one of the lefties who doesn’t believe in free trade, but who instead believes that wellbeing is at core dependent on self-determination. That’s the missing conversation.

I was going to try and write a post in which I didn’t mention climate change, but it is the elephant in the neoliberal living room. On a finite planet, with now increasingly limited time to reduce consumption, the idea that Jamal can join us in our standard of living is a blatant lie. There are definitely ways in which the lives of many many people can be improved, but some of us are going to have to surrender our privilege for that to happen.

272 comments on “This is the face of the failure of globalisation”

  1. Ad 1

    We’ve been smelting for a while though right?

    Did people have more time to play with children in pre industrial society?

    We’ve never had it so good.

    • weka 1.1

      “Did people have more time to play with children in pre industrial society?”

      Yes, they did. Go look it up. And bear in mind that the man in the article isn’t being prevented from playing with his baby, he’s being prevented from living with her and having any contact at all.

      “We’ve never had it so good.”

      Speak for yourself Ad and I’ll agree with you.

      • Ad 1.1.1

        It’s your assertion.
        Provide a link.

        • weka 1.1.1.1

          Actually, it’s your assertion initially (that we are better off, that people in the past had less time). But the whole nasty, brutish and short meme that seems to underpin your view has been thoroughly dealt to many times. It’s hard to know where to start because there are so many historical human experiences that one can look at for that.

          Some starting points (just pulled off google).

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Original_affluent_society

          http://rewild.com/in-depth/leisure.html

          It’s also complicated by the fact that industrialised societies need wage slavery that splits families, whereas many other societies don’t separate work/play like that and children are integrated into all aspects of life.

          I’ll also just pre-empt the argument from anyone about the Noble Savage. I’m not suggesting that non-industrialised cultures were/are perfect. Just that they demonstrate that some of our believes are erroneous.

        • ianmac 1.1.1.2

          Medieval life was hard but families stayed together and the workday was according to season, weather, and Lordly demands. Often the workday was very brief especially in winter. The Industrial Age demanded very long hours and appalling work/living conditions.

        • adam 1.1.1.3

          Ad have you never read any anthropology texts?

          Some great work on pre-industrial societies are mentioned in introductory texts. Which can lead you onto other readings. I’m sure you can pick up some in your local op shop – unless the government cuts more funding to the arts ?

    • Do you mean we in New Zealand, or we around the world?

      Because I imagine people in poverty in developing countries probably have in at least some cases had it better, back when they were agrarian societies and would face similar hardships but at least they’d have a secure housing, would be able to afford food and basic goods and services, and would likely see their family more often.

      • weka 1.2.1

        A prime example is communities that have been forced into cash cropping instead what they were doing before, growing polycultures to feed themselves. The idea being that they can sell their cash crops and buy what they need, because having money and a globally measured income lifts one out of poverty right? Until the cash crop fails. Multiple years in a row. Then farmers start drinking their roundup.

        • Indeed. And also because even if the cash crop succeeds, sometimes what started off as a very lucrative crop becomes less so by the time it’s harvested, (for any number of reasons from inflation, exchange rates, recessions, demand changes, or simply the variance of the market) and it turns out whoops, you’d have been better farming food all along because now it’s even harder to feed yourself on that small amount of cash.

          The global poor are not yet significantly better off due to globalisation. They might have new amenities like basic cellphones they didn’t have before, but generally their working situation, housing situation, and food situations have increased selectively, for those who are success stories, but a lot of other measures have declined. (such as free time or not being able to live with their families) So some do better, and some do worse. Overall the improvement might be significant, so if you look at economics as a maximax equation, you’re ecstatic, the rich section of the population are doing better everywhere. But if you look at economics as a minimax equation, it’s a disaster, because in many areas the poor are a lot worse off, when these are the people who desperately needed good opportunities the most.

          And that’s accepting that life is all about economics, which it isn’t, it’s merely a very important factor. There are intangibles like the afforementioned time with your family, or stress levels, or security of necessities. A lot of these intangibles have suffered to improve that economic situation when we should in fact be aiming that everyone gets a better life, with those on the bottom getting enough of the pie that they only go backwards if we all go backwards.

          • Bill 1.2.1.1.1

            About that cell phone and the five hour walk to find a socket to plug the charger into…

            • Draco T Bastard 1.2.1.1.1.1

              Solar chargers

              • Bill

                You think there’s many of them for sale in the middle of Tanzania or wherever? I almost expected a better link than that. Like to some info on how people in remote places are ‘renting to buy’ solar chargers that power up their phones as well as a torch so the kids can do homework without exposing themselves to the irritation of relatively expensive kerosene.

                But no. Just another “we have the technology” with no thought put into what would have to underpin or support its application.

                My point, a relatively simple one, was that currently, many people walk many, many miles to find a place to charge their phones because there is sfa in the way of infrastructure available to them.

                And you suggest they jump on e-bay or trade me.

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Did people have more time to play with children in pre industrial society?

      Indications are that people did so before the advent of farming. With the advent of farming came the imposition of ownership which allowed a few people to work less because they could then force others to work hard.

    • Siobhan 1.4

      Tell that to Mohammad Jamal.
      Though on a historical note we could have an interesting conversation about how Britain’s Industrial age was built on the Capital, resources and market provided by owning India.

      • Bill 1.4.1

        …Britain’s Industrial age was built on the Capital, resources and market provided by owning India.

        And shoving Indian labourers underground to dig out the coal that would steam the ships back to Britain, where people like my great grandfather were shoved underground to dig out the coal to power the factories that produced the finished goods….

    • maninthemiddle 1.5

      The other question is, what was Mohammad Jamal’s standard of living before? And if it was better, why doesn’t he simply return to that and escape the conditions that are described as so bad? Is someone forcing him into this work?

      • Siobhan 1.5.1

        The fear of starvation is quite a good motivator.
        And yes, it would be interesting to know what he did before, and his father’s generation.
        I would guess maybe farming or local level industry, say making shoes or pots, weaving etc…..all jobs that have been destroyed by industrial farming and the wonders of the free market.

        • maninthemiddle 1.5.1.1

          “The fear of starvation is quite a good motivator.”

          So, without this job, he would be starving. And do you have any evidence that the free market has destroyed “farming or local level industry, say making shoes or pots, weaving” in Bangladesh? My understanding is that shoe manufacturing in Bangladesh is thriving.

    • miravox 1.6

      “We’ve never had it so good.”

      Yes. The rich and the middle-classes have never had it so good. Although some in the middle-classes are looking back a generation or two asking if that statement still holds.

      Good living on the backs of the poor. In the past is was the local poor who cleaned up after us, now it’s the global poor. However, I’m reasonably certain cleaning up the rubbish of the toffs back in the day was a lot healthier (personally, socially and environmentally) than cleaning up the waste of rich countries today.

      • maninthemiddle 1.6.1

        “According to the most recent estimates, in 2012, 12.7 percent of the world’s population lived at or below $1.90 a day. That’s down from 37 percent in 1990 and 44 percent in 1981.”

        http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/poverty/overview

        The number of global poor is reducing, thanks to globalisation and trade. There is so much more to be done, but spouting false narrative like your diatribe above will achieve nothing.

        • weka 1.6.1.1

          Did you read the post? I think you missed the point.

        • miravox 1.6.1.2

          You can slice and dice the numbers in various ways, but my comment was not on numbers. It was reflecting on the pay and condition of workers who clean up rich people’s waste. In this case workers in proto-industrialised countries cleaning up the waste from industrialised rich countries. I’m surprised a mildly-written comment seems like a diatribe to you.

          Have the people who clean up this hazardous waste “never had it so good?”

          Do rich countries export their hazardous waste because they are concerned about poor countries? Nah not really. Or because it’s cheaper than processing it in their own countries? Not necessarily a bad thing (it increases the wealth in the receiving country), but why is it cheaper? It’s not just the pay, is it? It’s the working conditions and a permissive regulatory environment that allows this to happen.

          For as long as multinational corporations can exploit workers and environments in proto-industrialised countries this will be a failure of globalisation (and corporations working damn hard to even the playing field by reducing regulations in old industrialised countries is not the right solution, no matter how much they want that).

          …he last saw his 2 day old daughter four months ago and doesn’t know when he will see her next. He and his fellow workers travel far from home to work 12 hour days melting down aluminium cans, industrial ash, and medicine blister packs into raw aluminium. They work in dangerous conditions with minimal health protections.

          Never had it so good?

          If workers rights and local social and physical environments were taken into account and protected when transferring jobs to proto-industrialised nations, I too would love to be talking only about the numbers.

          • maninthemiddle 1.6.1.2.1

            “I’m surprised a mildly-written comment seems like a diatribe to you.”

            Because it was. You continue with a left wing narrative that the middle class and rich benefit while the por suffer…a narrative that is discredited daily as global poverty reduces, and the living conditions of the poor improves due to globalisation and trade.

            • miravox 1.6.1.2.1.1

              You need a dictionary. You also need to read the post.

              Then I’d be more interested in your views on safe working conditions and environmental protection, as they pertain to global trade in waste product that seem to have been set aside in the face of cheaper costs of doing business, particularly, as this post points out, in dealing with waste product from the industrialised nations.

              Global trade can be a good thing (I’m not a denier) but it also has its failures, don’t you think?

              • maninthemiddle

                Global Trade is not a panacea for all evils, it is a mechanism that contributes to the betterment of the world, rich and poor. According to Siobhan, the subject of this article would be starving if not for the job he has. I’ll leave it to you to break it to him that he has to go back to his previous life style so you can enjoy a feel good factor from the comfort of NZ.

                • miravox

                  So in short, your view on safe working conditions and environmental protections is they can take it or leave it.

                  Right-oh

                  • maninthemiddle

                    Not at all. My view is that I consider not starving to death an improvement on the alternative.

                    • miravox

                      Because death by starvation is so much more visible that disablement and death by toxic and other industrial hazards. I mean even modified trade laws, regulations and enforcement that can ensure safe working conditions and prevent environmental toxicity is out of the question.

                      People in proto-industrialised countries don’t warrant the protections of developed country workers even if they’ve been written into international law e.g. for ship breaking and e-waste two major waster processing industries in Bangladesh.

                      http://www.scmp.com/news/asia/south-asia/article/1922881/adult-and-underage-workers-risk-their-lives-bangladeshs-rising

                      https://ejatlas.org/print/dirty-and-dangerous-shipbreaking-in-alang

                      Best we do nothing and let those profiting from this trade carry on as they are. Regulation is just a trade barrier.

                      There is no globalisation failure.

                      Now that is a diatribe.
                      I’m done.

                    • maninthemiddle

                      Oh I’m not suggesting we do nothing. Plenty is being done to improve standards for workers in Bangladesh, much by corporation who no doubt you despise. But you seem content to let someone starve to further your ideological bs. You’re done all right.

  2. Indeed. This is why we need fair trade, not free trade.

    Free trade says “hey everyone, drop your tariffs, the market will sort it all out in the end!”

    Fair trade says “You know the market doesn’t care about human beings, right? Maybe they deserve some labour standards and a minimum wage in those less-developed countries, so that everyone gets a share of the globalisation pie.”

    Both philosophies want tariffs restricted to justifiable edge cases at best, immigration freed up, and increased global trade with less barriers. But it’s worth considering if we shouldn’t be acting to put in place protections for those working on a low wage, whether that would mean less jobs for people like Jamal, (I highly doubt so, they’d still be such comparatively cheap labour that it would make absolute sense to employ them for anyone with the resources to do so) or whether it would make sure they can live decent lives when they do get a job, while simultaneously also meaning that workers in Western countries don’t get pulled into so much of a temporary race-to-the-bottom until wages rise in developing countries.

    • weka 2.1

      I think that’s still predicated on globalisation though right? I’m arguing that globalisation is inherently a failure. It can’t be made right. Yes, we should have fair trade as the default position. And we need countries to work together to lift standards around human rights, worker rights, environmental rights etc. But as soon as the countries with more power start saying ‘we want this for ourselves (goods and services)’ there is a problem because the more powerful countries will dictate conditions.

      Shipping goods internationally in the way we do is not going to survive in a post-carbon world either.

      Self-determination needs to happen at the community level and move out from there. I don’t feel qualified to suggest what could happen in Bangladesh other than broad strokes stuff, but if I imagine what would need to happen in NZ it’s easier. If the global economy collapsed in the next 6 months, what would we do and what could we do? We have enough housing, albeit some people would have to move. We could probably manage to shift to local food production (depending on the time of year and how the climate was). So the issue then becomes how would we make a living? Relying on globalisation for that makes us complicit in the suffering of others, but it’s also pretty unstable for us here.

      • RedLogix 2.1.1

        Shipping goods internationally in the way we do is not going to survive in a post-carbon world either.

        Without looking to quibble, it’s worth noting that modern diesel-engined container ships are remarkably efficient machines. And while there is scope to hugely reduce the sheer volumes of unnecessary crap currently being moved, in the long-run I suspect there will remain a residual global shipping trade.

        It’s just too useful in some respects to be entirely killed off.

        • Andre 2.1.1.1

          We’ve already got plenty of examples of zero-carbon small, compact power sources in the 10MW to 100MW power range suitable for powering ships. They’re just more expensive than fossil-fuel powered with zero-cost waste disposal of their polluting CO2, particularly in up-front capital cost. I’m referring to nuclear.

          Now, when the world finally goes zero-carbon and has to make the choice between not shipping mountains of useless tat around the world, or using nuclear power to do that shipping, what do you think the decision will be?

          • weka 2.1.1.1.1

            Nuclear isn’t zero carbon. I’m pretty sure that in NZ we will not build any nuclear power plants, so the question becomes what would we do. A decision has been made in California recently to decommission the last one over the next few decades. It’s uneconomic, but I suspect that Fukoshima has a lot to do with it.

            Nuclear isn’t renewable either, because of the waste. Cradle to grave, closed loops, the not so new emerging concepts around resource management. So no, I don’t think we will support $2 shops with nuclear powered ships.

            • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.1.1.1.1

              Nuclear power is comparibly low-carbon over its lifecycle to wind and solar.

              The problems with it are more around its nonrenewable status, its poor safety record, and the economics. (many nuclear plants are heavily subsidised in order to produce “cheap” energy)

              I actually have no philosophical objection to nuclear energy, it’s just the technology is nowhere near clean, safe, or cheap enough to compete with renewables overall. Its main advantage is that it’s been more portable than renewable electricity to date, but if we can sustainably improve our batteries, shipping will continue on a low-carbon basis, likely with some emissions capture to offset it down to being zero-carbon.

              • Andre

                The problems with it being a finite resource become much smaller if we get smarter about how we use it, instead of throwing away 99% of it’s available energy as hazardous waste. Monbiot covers it pretty well in http://www.monbiot.com/2012/02/02/nuclear-vs-nuclear-vs-nuclear/

                Come to think of it, Monbiot’s collected writings on nuclear are worth reading as a whole. http://www.monbiot.com/category/nuclear/

                At the moment, yes nuclear energy does have CO2 emissions associated with plant construction and mining the fuel. But all of those are technically feasible to eliminate using electricity as the energy source for the machinery and process heat required rather than fossil fuels. It’s just that fossil is cheaper.

                • Yeah, I think we were making the same point- technically with the current energy mix even renewable power is “low-carbon” over the lifecycle as opposed to zero carbon because carbon is emitted to build them, because industrial vehicles and trucks don’t use electricity as of yet, and because the energy used to manufacture the parts isn’t entirely renewable, either. In the long term all current “low-carbon” options will essentially become close to (or actually) carbon free, as the relevant bits and pieces of the process become powered by renewable electricity.

                  The technology will improve if people keep subsidising enough nuclear plants and research into it, so as someone who came into being green primarily because of the urgency of going carbon-zero, I actually theoretically support nuclear energy overseas if the plants are operated safely and economically. It’s just that the current generation of reactors aren’t going to start making any economic sense in New Zealand unless our energy usage per person dramatically increases, as we’re already at carrying capacity, so we don’t really want to significantly increase our population the way we’d need to in order for nuclear energy to become viable.

                  I suppose later technology might make nuclear reactors which can economically generate power at a slower rate, but we’re not there yet so any debate on nuclear energy to combat climate change at this stage boils down to New Zealanders speculating on what other nations should do to solve their energy problems. 🙂

                  • weka

                    I have no problem whatsoever speculating on what other countries should do regarding nuclear power generation, given the risks to the biosphere at large.

                    In the long term all current “low-carbon” options will essentially become close to (or actually) carbon free, as the relevant bits and pieces of the process become powered by renewable electricity.

                    I’m remain unconvinced that this is possible in the real world (obviously it’s possible theoretically), given the time contraints and the economics. Peak Oil theory, while it was wrong in its predictions of timeframes, is still sound in terms of the relationship between fossil fuel supply peaking and economics. There was a window in which we had the time and cheap enough fossil fuels to transition, but to me it looks like that window closed some time ago.

                    That’s if we’re talking about replacement (keeping industrial civ the same with different fuel sources). If we want to power down, the possiblities look much better.

                  • Foreign waka

                    I actually moved to NZ for the very reason that the country has no nuclear plants and hence does a/ not contribute to the ever increasing waste that is stored underground and in containers on the seabed and b/ there is no danger of having an accident that basically contaminates at least half of the country for hundreds of years.
                    You are completely out of your mind in my view if you want to have on on a couple of island on the pacific rim called he pacific ring of fire no less nuclear plants build.
                    Sun and solar more like it.
                    And just make a note that 25% (!!!!) of the total electricity generated is being used by 1 smelter in the SI. Whist I support maintaining the jobs, it seems to be futile as we seemingly importing cheep steel from China.

                    • lprent

                      It is a smelter for aluminium, not a smelter for iron.

                      As it stands at present we’d need considerable investment in transmission lines to send that power north to the demand in Christchurch (and power from Otago/Canterbury further north), and the transmission loss rates will be considerable. Becomes 50:50 on if it is cheaper to simply shut down a lot of the generating capacity in the deep south.

                    • Nuclear power is not practical in New Zealand, and especially not in any the pacific islands, even if the waste issue is solved. It generates too much power at once, and there’s no economic way to scale down the power generation. Thus you’d need to dramatically increase energy consumption before it’s a conversation we should even consider, and even then there would be efficiency issues with transmission because it would essentially be powering the entire country. Realistically the only nuclear anything that would ever enter New Zealand are nuclear-powered ships, or nuclear weapons, so the ban is essentially a moral issue rather than a pragmatic one. (well, arguably nuclear disarmament is a pragmatic issue, but you get my point I hope)

                      Carbon change is such an imminent threat that I do regard the waste issue as less important, but the safety and economic drawbacks of nuclear power are enough that I feel current-generation reactors don’t make sense to fight climate change.

            • Chuck 2.1.1.1.1.2

              “Nuclear isn’t zero carbon”

              Correct weka, but neither is Solar PV, Hydro, Wind.

              You need to factor in the full life cycle of each (extraction, construction, maintenance and decommissioning).

              If you do then Nuclear has less CO2 emissions than all of the others above. Solar PV is the worst.

              • I’ve seen very different analyses on nuclear, some of which place it at the back of the pack of low-carbon options, others of which place it comparable to them. Generally only people outright advocating for the current generation of nuclear reactors say they’re lower-carbon than renewables, so I’m a little suspicious of that claim. Did you have a source for it? I’d be curious to know if there’s good reason to believe it. 🙂

                • Chuck

                  Yes I will have a look for the source and post it.

                  It was from – UK Analysis of CO2 Emissions From Common Fuels.

                  At one end of the scale was coal at the other nuclear (with wind and hydro neck and neck with nuclear).

                  Pyrolysis with carbon capture was the only “system” that was carbon negative.

                  • right, that’s more in line with the other sources I’ve read, there seems to be a bit of disagreement on precisely how low-carbon both Solar and Nuclear options are, although most seem to agree that Wind and Hydro comparable and usually in joint first place, regardless of where they place the other two.

              • Pat

                “Solar PV is the worst.”

                you have any data to back that claim?

          • RedLogix 2.1.1.1.2

            Agreed .. by far the biggest opportunity here is simply cutting down the ‘mountains of useless tat’ being shipped.

            I’m not especially anti-nuclear, but my observation is that while it does have specific CO2 advantages, it’s whole of life costs does tend to be rather higher than it’s proponents like to imply.

          • weston 2.1.1.1.3

            When fukishimas been sorted we’ll let you know andre

          • Daveosaurus 2.1.1.1.4

            If nuclear power is so wonderful, then why is there so much angst about Iran using nuclear power?

            • Andre 2.1.1.1.4.1

              Because for really stupid misanthropic reasons at the dawn of the nuclear power age it was decided to pursue the variant that produced large amounts of fissile material that just happened to be very easy to divert to military purposes. And all of a sudden that decision looks a lot scarier when others make it too.

              To be clear, my enthusiasm for light water nuclear (by far the most common technology) doesn’t extend beyond “it’s not as damaging to the planet as burning fossil fuels”. I’m a tiny bit more enthusiastic about some of the better technologies, such as fast neutron, thorium, pebble beds etc that aren’t a military or meltdown risk. But only as a bridge to full renewables. Overall my views are pretty close to Monbiot’s, as expressed in http://www.monbiot.com/category/nuclear/

        • Not to mention that inevitably some form of electrification or at least hybrid technology will be applied to ships and aircraft.

        • weka 2.1.1.3

          “It’s just too useful in some respects to be entirely killed off.”

          I agree. It’s interesting to me that whenever I make that comment about shipping people assume I mean no shipping at all, but I didn’t say that. I said the way we do it now (in this context, global economy, high volume export/import economies).

          Residual makes sense. Coffee, cacao, medicines we can’t make here, aid, etc, I can see lots of areas where we will keep shipping. But probably in NZ we will go back to printing books again instead of having them shipped from the US. And yeah, huge drop off in the unnecessary crap.

          • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.1.3.1

            I highly doubt we’ll go back to printing books in the long-run. We’ll likely be reading on our phones.

            • weka 2.1.1.3.1.1

              You know James Lovelock says we have to start putting our knowledge into safe hard copy if we want reliable access in the future.

              • Yes and no.
                Right now, printing books is a more reliable way of archiving information in the long-term than storing them digitally in a single place. It’s a much poorer way of distributing information to the masses, of course. So short-term information like a magazine or a paperback novel of no significant cultural value makes far more sense to be completely digital even right now, it’s just a question of people continuing to demand dead tree books because they dislike reading on the current generation of screens.

                I don’t think in the long run it’s going to remain economical to print a lot of the things we currently print, so I think it won’t really make sense to revive a local printing industry, even though it absolutely is a better way to archive information long-term. That said, distributed backup systems may mitigate that issue to some degree, because a large part of the issue with digital archiving is that most people doing it want to store so much data that they don’t want to commit to redundant storage on different sites.

                For the consumer the long-term issues with ebooks and similar are backwards-compatibility (which at this stage doesn’t seem to be a problem for electronic media, as all the software involved supports reading older versions of the same formats) and account death. (aka “what happens if amazon shuts down its servers”) Of the two, account death is the more relevant concern, but also relatively unlikely to be a problem for anyone unless they’re purchasing ebooks from smaller online retailers.

                Unless you’re predicting that war and strife is going to destroy the infrastructure for the internet, I don’t foresee anyone having any issue with ebooks in the future.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Right now, printing books is a more reliable way of archiving information in the long-term than storing them digitally in a single place.

                  That’s simply not true:

                  Photographs fade, books rot, and even hard drives eventually fester. When you take the long view, preserving humanity’s collective culture isn’t a marathon, it’s a relay — with successive generations passing on information from one slowly-failing storage medium to the next. However, this could change. Scientists from the University of Southampton in the UK have created a new data format that encodes information in tiny nanostructures in glass. A standard-sized disc can store around 360 terabytes of data, with an estimated lifespan of up to 13.8 billion years even at temperatures of 190°C. That’s as old as the Universe, and more than three times the age of the Earth.

                  Books and paper are simply obsolete and I really have NFI WTF people are still hanging on to it.

                  Unless you’re predicting that war and strife is going to destroy the infrastructure for the internet,

                  One of the defining points of ARPANET was that it could survive damage to infrastructure. To stop the internet you’d have to destroy every single computer, router and line and do it all at the same time.

                  • TheExtremist

                    I like books for the same reason as I like buying vinyl. There is just something more tangible about it (plus I have a nice wee collection of both rare books and records)

                  • weka

                    The thing about putting human knowledge into hard copy was something specific Lovelock was saying some years ago. It was based on his understanding of the distruptions likely to happen to industrial civilisations, and that we risked losing critical knowledge if it was only digital. I can’t find it online now, but from what I remember he saw climate change as a catastrophe that would mean things like electricity couldn’t be taken for granted.

                    From a sustainability perspective, we should use multiple systems for storing knowledge, because that gives us the best resiliency: digital, hardcopy, oral tradition. We know that civilisations fail, it’s hubris to think that that can never happen to us.

                  • Jones

                    The internet might not be destroyed in its entirety but we may certainly be looking at a fracturing of some description with some areas no longer accessible. With that in mind the rush to cloud computing and the storage of data remotely in other countries may not necessarily be a good idea.

                    All forms of archiving come with technical challenges and limitations and i don’t believe that the books and paper are obsolete. They offer an alternative form of redundancy to powered methods of archiving. But because of capacity issues we might have to be more considered about what we choose to archive.

                  • One Two

                    I really have NFI WTF people are still hanging on to it

                    NFI would be the ignorance resulting from a misplaced belief in technology

                    Attachments lead to predjudice

                  • Anno1701

                    “Books and paper are simply obsolete and I really have NFI WTF people are still hanging on to it.”

                    you must live a joyless existance….

                    • How would consuming your books electronically instead of on paper make your existence joyless?

                    • weka

                      Draco appears to believe that our bodies are unimportant and that we can just make a rational decision to use ebooks and all will be well and better.

                      For many people reading is a kinesthetic experience that includes the physicality of the book. I described one of the dynamics upthread, and Draco wrote it off because he knows better 🙄

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      For many people reading is a kinesthetic experience that includes the physicality of the book.

                      Read an e-book on your cellphone and you’ll find it just as kinaesthetic as a paper book while also being far more user friendly and easier to handle while taking up less space and weighing less than a paper book.

                      I personally prefer e-books because they allow me to sit more comfortably. They also allow me to do research at the same time/place that I’m working without having to juggle the bloody book.

                    • Yeah I have to agree with Draco- right now ebooks are a tradeoff between being much easier to hold and not requiring a light source, and being a bit harder on your eyes (if you’re using a phone as opposed to a dedicated e-paper display) and having to worry about battery charge.

                      They’re significantly more comfortable to read while lying in bed.

                    • weka

                      I think you are both missing the point. Some people like paper books better than ebooks. Irrespective of how you two personally feel about ebooks and paper books, you can’t extrapolate that to the general population. Not everyone is the same.

                      I use both. As I said upthread, I sometimes find a paper book easier to look up things in because of the kinesthetic experience that triggers memory. I don’t get that with ebooks. I’m not going to go look up the science on that to back that up, because I think it’s completely reasonable for people to report their experience, but I also think that we know enough from science now about how people engage with the world for my statement to not be nonsense.

                  • Uh, no, current methods of digital archival are absolutely less reliable than books. Your technology is in testing atm and isn’t a current method. Once it’s actually available to libraries and archives things might change.

                    But right now, digital is less permanent.

                    Otherwise I pretty much agree with you.

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.3.2

            But probably in NZ we will go back to printing books again instead of having them shipped from the US.

            You’re concerned about carbon emissions and yet think that we’re going to go back to printing books?

            No, we’re going to be going to e-books. Far cheaper, far less carbon emissions and far more portable.

            • marty mars 2.1.1.3.2.1

              “No, we’re going to be going to e-books. Far cheaper, far less carbon emissions and far more portable.”

              Simpler is the way not more complicated – books have a historic track record of hanging around – not so much e-books.

              We are never going to agree – perhaps you’d agree that books don’t need electricity unlike e-books so that must be a positive for the old tech.

              • Draco T Bastard

                books have a historic track record of hanging around

                They’re nowhere near as good at storing information as electronics. They take up more room and use far more resources in care and maintenance.

                perhaps you’d agree that books don’t need electricity unlike e-books so that must be a positive for the old tech.

                Electricity isn’t going away so that’s not a viable positive.

                You’re holding onto to the delusion that old ways are always better when they’re really not. If they were then we wouldn’t have developed other ways.

                • No we have not developed new ways because the old ways didn’t work or the new ways are ‘better’ – that is false. It is the cult of progress coupled with capitalism and exploitation that can take the bow for that.

                  Your description of books is really laughable.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    No we have not developed new ways because the old ways didn’t work or the new ways are ‘better’ – that is false.

                    No, that assertion is the false one.

                    It is the cult of progress coupled with capitalism and exploitation that can take the bow for that.

                    Capitalism holds a lot of responsibility for doing things the wrong way. Cars really are better than the horse and cart but capitalism got everyone to have one rather than limiting them to only those who needed them and otherwise continuing development of public transport for everyone else.

                    Your description of books is really laughable.

                    No, it’s accurate. Your belief in books being better than e-books is actually a serious problem brought about by pure bloody ignorance. An ignorance that will have us using more resources than necessary and thus making society unsustainable.

                    • Cars are NOT better than a horse or cart if, for instance there is no fuel for the car, or the pathway is too narrow for a car, or the car mechanically breaks down.

                      Cars may be better sometimes depending upon what the objectives of a car or horse and cart are – for instance about equal with carrying loads, cars much quicker on suitable roads, cars more expensive and don’t repopulate themselves, cars win if the objective is to be made of metal and plastic (and oh we won’t talk about the sustainability of those products will we) and so on and on to infinity.

                      Your e-book idea is so preposterous that it is a good example of the folly of too much thinking and not enough braining 🙂

                    • weka

                      I often find a hardcopy book better than an ebook if it’s a reference I want to look up. Yes, even with the advantage of digital searching. Sometimes the thing you want to find isn’t able to be defined by key word searches. We are visceral beings with body memory and searching manually can trigger memory connections in ways that digital doesn’t. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

                    • Bill

                      Some few thousand years ago some folks popped some scrolls into some earthenware storage jars. They were found much, much later, and the writing deciphered by people using their eyes and brains.

                      In the 1980s, a whole heap of ‘time capsules’ were buried, to be dug back up at the turn of the century. In those time capsules were things like floppy disks or whatever – and the info they held couldn’t be accessed.

                    • TheExtremist

                      @Bill – +1

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      @marty mars

                      Cars are NOT better than a horse or cart if, for instance there is no fuel for the car, or the pathway is too narrow for a car, or the car mechanically breaks down.

                      You haven’t considered how much land it takes to maintain a horse and cart have you?
                      Nor the health concerns of having them going through cities.
                      And, yes, the cart can have mechanical failure as well and if the path is too narrow for a car then it’s too narrow for a horse and cart as well.

                      Cars may be better sometimes depending upon what the objectives of a car or horse and cart are – for instance about equal with carrying loads, cars much quicker on suitable roads, cars more expensive

                      And all of that happens to be wrong. A horse and cart can’t actually move the same mass as a car. Suitable roads are also needed for the horse and cart – the same roads as the car in fact. And, no, cars aren’t more expensive. Horses require a huge amount of land to maintain and fuel whereas cars don’t.

                      Your e-book idea is so preposterous that it is a good example of the folly of too much thinking and not enough braining

                      Well, I’m actually thinking and considering the resources needed while you’re blabbering on in pure bloody ignorance.

                      @weka

                      We are visceral beings with body memory and searching manually can trigger memory connections in ways that digital doesn’t.

                      Nope. We’re taught beings and beings of habit. So people who are used to books and using the contents and index prefer them to e-books whereas people who use e-books realise that they too have a contents page, an index and a search function all of which will take you to the place and back again at the click of a button.

                      @Bill
                      Yeah, there’s a very good reason why we no longer use floppy disks and have moved on. Even CDs don’t have that long a lifespan but those glass disk I linked to will last 13.8 billion years. How long does a book last? Couple of thousand under ideal conditions?

                      You’re all working under incorrect knowledge and assumptions.

                    • Yep we are all wrong and you are right – nah – you are disclaiming all of history where books were used and comparing it to the tiny slither of time e-books have been around.

                      Car and horses and carts DO NOT need the same roads – that is ridiculous and totally FACTUALLY incorrect.

                      You don’t need a huge amount of land for a horse and cart – where did you get that from? Have you EVER had a horse or know anything about them or a cart – I conclude you are just talking from gross ignorance.

                      Health concerns from horse shit??? – ffs have you heard of carbon monoxide?

                      YOU are a fantasy pusher and THAT is a bigger danger to humanity than any denier bullshit.

                    • TheExtremist

                      Those glass discs ain’t worth shit of there is nothing to run them on. Same as a floppy or a hard drive. Ain’t fuck all you can do with them without power.

                      Pretty illconceived point “Draco”

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You don’t need a huge amount of land for a horse and cart – where did you get that from?

                      From the fact that you need a huge amount of land to feed a horse.

                      Health concerns from horse shit?

                      Yep, having the streets covered in shit is most definitely a health concern.

                      Those glass discs ain’t worth shit of there is nothing to run them on.

                      True but the ability to run them isn’t going away and neither is power.

                    • weka

                      “Health concerns from horse shit?”

                      “Yep, having the streets covered in shit is most definitely a health concern.”

                      Why would streets be covered in horse shit?

                      Car emissions are most definitely a health concern too. In both situations risks need to be managed.

                    • Yep we are all wrong and you are right…

                      Well, it isn’t only him – I just haven’t felt the need to add anything.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Why would streets be covered in horse shit?

                      Where else are the thousands of horses going to excrete?

                      Car emissions are most definitely a health concern too.

                      Yep. Have you noticed that I’m not particularly keen on cars?

                      In both situations risks need to be managed.

                      What would you do to manage the excrement from horses? Have another horse drawn cart and driver go round all the streets once a day or more to clean up after them? Is that the best use we have for human skills?

                      Some of these won’t apply but cruelty to the animals is certainly something to be considered about horse drawn carts.

                    • Anno1701

                      “No, it’s accurate. Your belief in books being better than e-books is actually a serious problem brought about by pure bloody ignorance”

                      pfffttt

                      could you be any more pompous bro..

                  • Jones

                    It’s a capacity and capability issue. At its heart it has nothing to do with the cult of progress. Electronics enable us to store and retrieve more information quicker.

                    The cultish part of progress and capitalism is the apparent need to annually upgrade to the latest device and queue for days for bragging rights to be amongst the first.

            • mauī 2.1.1.3.2.2

              Really? How is equipping millions of people with e-books that have resource rich parts sourced from all over the world going to be light on the environment? Then there’s the need to replace thousands of these devices every year as they break or malfunction. I would much rather put my faith in wood and ink.

              • Draco T Bastard

                How is equipping millions of people with e-books that have resource rich parts sourced from all over the world going to be light on the environment?

                How many trees are going to be needed to provide everyone with access to books with all of the worlds information in them?

                I think you’ll find that it’s a hell of a lot more than the resources needed to provide everyone with a modern cell phone that only needs to be replaced every few years and can be fully recycled.

                Then there’s the need to replace thousands of these devices every year as they break or malfunction.

                And how many books are replaced every year due to damage?
                How much more room are these books going to take up?
                How many more people needed to maintain them in readable condition?
                How much more carbon emissions needed produce them and ship them around the world?

                People who think that paper books are better than e-books really haven’t got a clue as to the full resources needed to produce those books. And in today’s world, which isn’t going away, the production of the book is over and above the existence of the computer it was written on, the communications media that it was sent to the editor on and the server that it then gets stored on.

                • mauī

                  I can’t see every kiwi with a printed version of the internet in their garage, we’re more likely to ‘regress’ (I know that word probably isn’t allowed to be spoken) to where people travel to libraries to read new books. In that world, where you’re using local timber, a local mill to make paper, and a local printer to print books its a lot more efficient than the electronic device model, and probably indefinitely sustainable.

                  Mate, it’s a hell of a lot easier to rebind a book with hemp or whatever book people use than it is rewire an ebook with hemp.

                  • weka

                    That’s what I was thinking too mauī. The idea that we all have to have access to everything at our fingertips all the time is an incredibly modern idea that often gets confused with having access to knowledge as we need it.

                    We’re at risk of catastrophic loss of industrial tech (the Lovelock reference above), but even if that doesn’t happen, it’s likely that we will have increasing black outs and brown outs in power supply, and interruptions to the current flow of electronic goods consumption.

                    E-waste is a huge problem, and I’ll note the irony of this subthread given the post, and given how much of the West’s ewaste goes to poor countries to be dealt with by people like those in the Guardian article.

                    I think the potential to make modular phones/ipads etc is there (ie repairable and fully recyclable), but we are still so far from that happening it’s hard to see it as something to rely on given the timeframes. Getting NZ up and running to produce our own repairable electronics would be great, but has some significant challenges.

                    • whispering kate

                      Another thing Weka which I think will be a loss going into the long-time future – and that’s photographs. Old albums these days with their long-lasting black and white photographs are a revelation and hold their own for their long life. The time exposure of those old cameras guaranteed perfect clarity and are a joy to look at. These days digital photos are kept on disc or computer memory sticks. For the future they are stored on hard drives and have to be updated to keep them in their original condition. So many photographs are now not accessible to just look through with leisure and appreciate. Somebody mentioned that in a time capsule would these books/photos survive. I wonder.

                      I read somewhere a while ago that all the service records of NZ’s forces of the 1st and 2nd World Wars were sent to the US for storage on micro film – did NZ actually retain the original documents or were they sent over to the US and left over there. I remember there was a bit of an outcry from relatives of the men who had served as they wanted their original files kept in NZ.

                    • weka

                      That’s an interesting one about photographs. And drawings too, the ability to render what is important by other means.

                      I think the service records are held by Archives in Wellington (at least they were around ten years ago when my family needed to access something). Some are also available electronically in the regional offices.

                    • joe90

                      I read somewhere a while ago that all the service records of NZ’s forces of the 1st and 2nd World Wars were sent to the US for storage on micro film

                      In exchange for copies for Australian and New Zealand libraries Fairfax sent their archives to a US mob to be digitised.

                      It all went a bit pear shaped.

                      http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/69460354/fairfax-media-reaches-agreement-over-photo-archive-dispute

                      https://www.minnpost.com/media/2015/06/more-trouble-john-rogers-man-who-bought-photo-archives-pioneer-press-and-star-tribune

                      http://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2015/jun/08/20-newspapers-file-suit-against-nlr-archive-compan/

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    I can’t see every kiwi with a printed version of the internet in their garage

                    To simply store the internet will take millions of books taking up huge amounts of room, personnel to maintain them and nobody would actually be able to read any of it. To actually get it out to billions of people would require several billion copies of it.

                    In that world, where you’re using local timber, a local mill to make paper, and a local printer to print books its a lot more efficient than the electronic device model, and probably indefinitely sustainable.

                    No, it’s not. Not even bloody close. Even now it’s getting impractical to keep all of human knowledge upon books. And that’s just storing it. Getting out to everyone as the internet and e-books do is simply impossible to do via paper books. We simply do not have the resources to do it.

                    I’ve provided links – you’re talking out your arse as your last sentence proves.

                    • weka

                      “To simply store the internet will take millions of books taking up huge amounts of room, personnel to maintain them and nobody would actually be able to read any of it.”

                      You are confusing knowledge with data. We don’t need hardcopies of the internet (thank god).

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You are confusing knowledge with data. We don’t need hardcopies of the internet (thank god).

                      No I’m not and the reason why we don’t need hard copies of the internet is because it’s all stored electronically and is searchable by everyone connected to the internet. One copy rather than the billions of copies that we’d need if everyone was to have the same access to that information via paper books.

                    • weka

                      “One copy rather than the billions of copies that we’d need if everyone was to have the same access to that information via paper books.”

                      Everyone doesn’t need access though, that’s the point. Data isn’t knowledge, and not everyone needs access to all data or all knowledge. Your comparison is a false one.

                    • TheExtremist

                      And when the power goes out? What then, “Draco” the great?

                      You [RL: Deleted. Not needed.] fantasist

                    • Pat

                      “No I’m not and the reason why we don’t need hard copies of the internet is because it’s all stored electronically and is searchable by everyone connected to the internet.”

                      you forgot to add…. and 90% of it is useless bullshit in any case.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      And when the power goes out? What then, “Draco” the great?

                      Well, I spent an entire night happily reading on my cell phone when the power went out in a storm. Couldn’t do that with a book because it was, you know, dark.

                      you forgot to add…. and 90% of it is useless bullshit in any case.


                      The Amazing Thing About Bad Ideas

                      So, no, not useless.

              • I enjoy using the net to quickly find information, but when is enough enough? Balancing real life, outside of the office/house/car observation (The Book of Life etc) and interactions with it (make a clay bowl, take and strike a blackcurrant cutting, weave a backpack from something) The thing I like most about our oven, is that when it’s too old to operate efficiently, I will break it up and sprinkle it around the garden, it being adobe; clay, straw and sand (it’s not my only oven 🙂 So yes, paper is magic. Stone tablets though, eh! There’s the rub!

        • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.4

          Further to your comment it can be pointed out that we had global trade long before we had diesel-engined container ships.

          Thomas W. Lawson (ship)

          Thomas W. Lawson was a seven-masted, steel-hulled schooner built for the Pacific trade, but used primarily to haul coal and oil along the East Coast of the United States. Named for “copper baron” Thomas W. Lawson, a Boston millionaire, stock-broker, book author, and President of the Boston Bay State Gas Co., she was launched in 1902 and holds the distinction of being the largest schooner and largest sailing vessel without an auxiliary engine ever built.

          Of course, such ships would be prohibitively expensive to man and maintain but that’s to the good as well as it means that trade will decrease from that perspective.

          • Andre 2.1.1.4.1

            Do you really think the world will give up on shipping mountains of useless tat everywhere and go back to shipping only a few essential items with slow unreliable sail, or will they just start putting nukes into these? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CSCL_Globe

            Sure, right now nukes are prohibitively expensive. But if 70MW reactors started getting mass-produced by the hundreds in identical spec the cost will come down.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.4.1.1

              No, I’m pretty sure that people would demand nuclear powered ships but even nuclear power has limits and that’s mostly to do with availability of nuclear fission fuel. Fusion reactors don’t have that limit but they’re also safer and don’t have the same waste issues as fission reactors. Of course, they also may never work.

              A1B Reactor

        • Macro 2.1.1.5

          One of the undeclared pollutions from shipping is NOISE the increase in shipping is adding to noise pollution in the oceans by around 6db per annum.

          In an interview with Yale Environment 360, Clark explains how noise pollution, most of it from ship traffic, severely disrupts marine life, especially among whales, which communicate and orient themselves through sound. He laments what he calls the “acoustical bleaching” of the oceans, a human-made cacophony that can tear apart the social networks of whales, adversely affecting survival and reproductive success. Science is only just beginning to understand this threat.

          The clear fact is – western societies need to consume less

          • Draco T Bastard 2.1.1.5.1

            The need to consume less has been obvious for a while. At least since the 1970s.

            The problem is that there’s a hell of a lot less profit if we consume less and so our society has been configured to consume more. Personal cars instead of public transport, everyone owning a lawnmower instead of lawns being done by council, people going shopping instead of phoning in with an order and getting free delivery. There will be more that I can’t bring to mind ATM.

            All of these things add up to a huge amount of resource use. If we had an actual economic system a hell of a lot that we do today simply wouldn’t be done.

            • Macro 2.1.1.5.1.1

              Totally concur Draco. Our western economy is stuffed and based solely upon consumption. I see there are some beginning to wake up to all the planned obsolescence e.g. the petition to apple re the new iOS for instance, but really it is all too little all too late.
              The marketers have the majority in the palm of their hand and they play them constantly.

      • Fair trade accepts globalisation, yes, in the sense that it supports exchange of ideas, cultures, and international trade. I actually think that it has its upsides and its downsides, and many of the biggest downsides are that globalisation has been done in a way that hurts-while-helping, ostensibly being good for the poor but actually exploiting them but passing on a little of the savings from tariffs to them so that overall they feel better off economically. But there’s no going back from at the very least cultural globalism. Virtually every country has the internet to some degree, we’re going to trade information at the very least, and that’s a great thing that can only help. What absolutely can’t go on is capital-centred globalisation like we’ve been doing. We’ve seen that in the international revolt against the TPP even despite the extra-ordinary policy laundering measures they took to sidestep opposition. Globalisation has to happen because people around the world want to be closer to people like them in foreign countries, not because it helps a corporation skim more off the top.

        I actually disagree with you that shipping goods won’t survive. It won’t survive in the way we do it now in the long term, but it’s entirely possible it will be made more practical. In terms of zero net-carbon, that doesn’t mean there’s no space for long-distance freight. If a product has a cheap enough carbon footprint, it might actually be efficient to use carbon to ship it internationally and use up the capacity of our carbon sinks to do so, and as technology advances we will probably manage to electrify at least ship freight, and maybe hybridise air travel. A lot of freight moving through Africa, Asia, and Europe can be shifted by rail, as well, which we already know how to electrify efficiently. Globalisation to some degree is good, but you will also want local redundancies for resiliencies. (ie. what happens if critical goods we import fail? We need to keep the capacity to produce locally even if at the moment it’s too expensive to use much) I think what will end is the prevalence of carbon-based air travel, which will shrink the ability to send perishable goods internationally and end the international jet-setter class. I don’t foresee us sorting out batteries that will allow long-haul electric flights for quite some time, so we’d need to rely on carbon offsetting or sequestration in order to be able to do air travel significantly into the future.

        I completely agree with you that it will require powerful political movements emerging among the global poor to rectify the situation. Ironically the people at the low point of the elephant graph will probably help out there, as we want to protect Western jobs and working conditions, hence fair trade being the alternative, where we say that actually, those people who are being exploited need to get a minimum wage and working conditions, because even though it will make products more expensive, it’ll also mean that western workers will be in a better place to compete and less jobs will be outsourced. (or more will be insourced)

        • Andre 2.1.2.1

          To put some numbers to how much battery improvement is needed for electric long haul air travel to become viable, the energy content of liquid fuels is around 45 MJ/kg of which 30% to 50% actually gets turned into useful work. The best batteries now are around 0.88 MJ/kg, of which say 90% gets turned into useful work. So at least a 20 times improvement in energy density for batteries looks to be needed.

          • Matthew Whitehead 2.1.2.1.1

            Yeah, I think once we’re firmly into carbon zero territory we’ll be doing more short-hop air travel if any, (which will minimise carbon emissions and make them easier to offset) and an increased usage of long distance passenger train services to cut down on flights and ferries. (and who knows, maybe genuine maglev networks will become a thing if efficiencies can be made or the capital can be spared. Maglevs aren’t so far behind air travel in that it’s essentially a flying train on a magnetic track, it just has the disadvantage of needing to follow a track and thus not be able to travel as the crow flies. The only way to get any faster is to put the things in vacuum tubes)

            Basically trains and ships will be how cargo or people will move long distance in the future, because trains and ships can reasonably use some degree of electric power. (trains through lines, ships through renewable generation and batteries)

            You’ve made pretty clear that we’d need to revolutionise battery technology to do long haul flights like we currently do. (and that’s ignoring the issue of charging times, which would likely exceed current refueling times, increasing the logistical and economic difficulties of running frequent long haul services) But who knows where technology will go? It’s absolutely possible that long-haul flights will become a reality in the future. Much more likely than pure electric planes is some solution with either conventional fuel for takeoff or using some sort of wireless power transmission so that takeoff is largely “free” in terms of battery life. Once flight range starts getting into the 2000km ballpark short-haul flights such as between NZ and Australia become viable, and batteries are likely to continue improving enough for at least that, (really to date there’s nothing that suggests we’re likely to hit a wall in improving battery power any time soon, but fundamentally there will eventually be one because of the laws of physics) and that’s not including possibilities that will allow for extra battery mass, decrease weight, or increase aerodynamics.

            Or I suppose we could cross the Atlantic in battery-powered blimps, lol. 🙂

            • Andre 2.1.2.1.1.1

              Or maybe we’ll work out how to grow enough biofuels to cover the few things we can’t do with electricity.

              • Chuck

                Yep, second and third generation bio fuels hold great potential as a fuel for shipping and airfreight.

                Forestry wood waste is a feed stock available in large quantities within NZ. Work is currently being carried out to convert into usable bio fuels. The trick is to be able to do so on commercially viable terms.

              • Bill

                We can’t use any bio-fuels post (roughly) 2040 – 2050.

                You want carbon free ships and carbon free air travel? Whole post on that, including how to get there.

            • Draco T Bastard 2.1.2.1.1.2

              Yeah, I think once we’re firmly into carbon zero territory we’ll be doing more short-hop air travel if any

              Actually, it’ll be the other way around as long distance air travel is far more fuel efficient. 2000 to 3000 nautical miles seems to be the most efficient distance for flight ATM. Short distance is buses, trains and ship.

              You’ve made pretty clear that we’d need to revolutionise battery technology to do long haul flights like we currently do. (and that’s ignoring the issue of charging times, which would likely exceed current refueling times, increasing the logistical and economic difficulties of running frequent long haul services) But who knows where technology will go?

              IMO, About the only thing that could save flying is a working fusion reactor:

              American defense contractor Lockheed Martin has issued a statement declaring it has made a technological breakthrough in developing a power source based on nuclear fusion. It’s hoping to have a prototype ready in five years — and a small, functional unit ready by 2024.

              This brings problems though in that people will then expect to be able to maintain excessive consumption.

              Or I suppose we could cross the Atlantic in battery-powered blimps, lol.

              Solar powered.

              • Bill

                Commercial sized hydrogen powered aircraft were built as far back as the 1980s – the TU-155.

                Some people say that no-one would ever fly in a hydrogen powered aircraft, yet for some reason we’ll all be perfectly happy in driverless cars (apparently).

                Think of a plane crash. Imagine you survive the impact. You want a hydrogen fire sparking up in the wreckage or a kerosene one? I’d choose hydrogen if I had to make the choice – far better chance of surviving that.

                (2/3rds of the occupants on the Hindenburg survived. That due to hydrogen being so light? Possibly.)

                • TheExtremist

                  There is a big difference between hydrogen fuel cells and the Hindenburg, dude.

                  • Bill

                    Can you explain? Hydrogen being used as a fuel – as an alternative to kerosene – isn’t a fuel cell. In that respect, it’s volatility is reasonably (if a little too spectacularly) demonstrated by the Hindenburg which, as I noted, didn’t result in quite the tragic loss of life people assume it did.

                    • TheExtremist

                      The Hindenburg didn’t use hydrogen as fuel. It was filled with hydrogen to keep it afloat but now they use helium instead. The Hindeburgs engines were powered by your stock standard internal combustion

                    • lprent []

                      There is a helium price spike and it is likely to continue as the US stops subsidising the market.

                      http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21586840-americas-dominance-global-helium-market-ending-inflation-warning

                      While we aren’t likely to run out of helium any time soon, I suspect that it won’t be used in helium balloons for too long unless they figure out how to conserve it.

                      For the alternate viewpoint, read this. But remember that they are also effectively saying that higher extraction costs are going to make the price rise.

                      http://www.wired.com/2016/06/dire-helium-shortage-vastly-inflated/

                    • Andre

                      To get an explosion or even just a flame, you need a mix of fuel and oxygen. In the case of the Hindenberg, there were giant bags of unpressurised hydrogen so the flame would mostly be confined to an interface region where the hydrogen and air mixed. Furthermore, the fire was above the passengers and rising rapidly away from them. Contrast that with a jet of pressurised hydrogen escaping from a leak, turbulently mixing quickly with the surrounding air, at approximately the same height as passengers, or even into the passenger compartment.

                    • Bill

                      @ andre.

                      A burning plane. At what point do your survival chances alter in relation to the fuel that’s combusting? I’d say, only if the aircraft is on the ground. At which point you really, really want that fuel to be rising fast – as is the case with hydrogen. But really, when all’s said and done, burning airliners = dead people, whether we’re talking kerosene or hydrogen or anything else, yes?

                • Draco T Bastard

                  It would be interesting to see the size of the fuel tank of the TU-155, the extra complexities needed to maintain it and what its range is.

                  And I don’t think I would want to be anywhere near a hydrogen fuel tank when it ruptured as you’d have a high probability of an air/fuel explosion with a massive shockwave:

                  “There is a school nearby, there are multiple residences nearby, apartment buildings, office buildings,” Pryor said. “They were all in a half-mile blast radius, what was reported would be the blast radius of hydrogen.”

                  • Bill

                    From memory of the little reading I did while doing the post that included reference to it, the fuel tanks need to be larger (poorer liquid to gas ratio) and spread throughout the fuselage (something to do with icing?). So hydrogen planes would have a bigger surface area leading to more drag, but that’s off-set (either wholly or largely) by the greater energy that can be derived from hydrogen.

                    Explosions. That was why I linked to the Hindenburg. A huge amount of hydrogen was gone in about 30 secs and 2/3rds of the people caught up in it lived. I don’t think the same would happen in the case of kerosene.

                    • TheExtremist

                      Dude, the Hindenburg didn’t use hydrogen as a fuel source. Pretty hard to float an airship with kerosene

                    • Bill

                      Uh-huh. I didn’t say that it did.

                    • TheExtremist

                      So then why compare the Hindenburg disaster with anything to do with kerosene or fuel cells? There is no comparison.

                      How, pray tell, is the Hindenburg disaster relevant? Do you actually think the Hindeburg was safer because it was filled with Hydrogen rather than kerosene?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Explosions. That was why I linked to the Hindenburg. A huge amount of hydrogen was gone in about 30 secs and 2/3rds of the people caught up in it lived.

                      The difference that you’re missing is that the Hindenburg had the hydrogen in a large volume already. That meant that all the hydrogen did there was ignite. It didn’t explode.

                      A liquid hydrogen fuel tank has it in a small space that will turn into a large hot space in a few milliseconds after a rupture causing a massive explosion.

                    • Bill

                      I go through this. very. slowly.

                      People knee jerk to the idea of hydrogen because they think “bomb!” (as evinced by some of the comments.) The Hindenburg is the most known or infamous example of hydrogen igniting, and the popular perception is that “everyone died”. 2/3rds of the people on the Hindenburg survived. So I linked to the Hindenburg as a way to show that hydrogen isn’t as deadly as most people assume.

                      Fuel cells don’t come into any of it anywhere btw.

                    • Bill

                      @ draco

                      And kerosene held under pressure is different, how? Or different to compressed natural gas or liquified natural gas – both options having been considered by the aviation industry?

                      A plane burns and if it’s airborne, you’ll burn with it.

                    • TheExtremist

                      Still makes no sense. Hydrogen is very very very rarely used for fuel or otherwise so comparing one accident (the Himdenburg) with a disaster utilising petrochemicals is an irrelevancy.

                      It’s like saying eating peanuts is safer than crossing the road because many more people are run over by cars than are felled by peanuts.

                      Can’t believe I wasted my fucking Sunday arguing with a left wing poser such as yourself.

                      [if you are getting to the point where you feel the need to be abusive, perhaps you could take some time out – weka]

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      So I linked to the Hindenburg as a way to show that hydrogen isn’t as deadly as most people assume.

                      The Hindenburg doesn’t show what you think it does because of the different containment.

                      The Hindenburg gas containment would actually implode during burning whereas the stored liquid hydrogen will explode.

                • Andre

                  I’m somewhat skeptical that hydrogen will become a useful transportation fuel. First, by the time you include all the tanks etc needed to store the hydrogen, and the inefficiencies incurred in using the energy, hydrogen isn’t anywhere close to liquid hydrocarbons. Not much better than the best batteries currently available. So range will be limited. Second, it’s horribly energy inefficient actually separating out the hydrogen from whatever feedstock is used. Third, you ever been anywhere near a true hydrogen flame? It’s nearly invisible, explosive in air at concentrations between 4% and 75%. The idea of potential accidents involving large quantities of pressurised hydrogen scares the crap out of me. Fourth, material selection and treatment to avoid hydrogen embrittlement is critical. It’s not difficult to imagine that detail getting passed over every now and than in a penny-pinching mass-manufacturing environment.

                  • Bill

                    Two choices. Find solutions to the problems you high-light, or kill the aviation industry (with the exception of battery powered air ships or some such).

                    Not sure you’re correct about the amount of energy that can be derived from hydrogen btw, but that’s an aside that, if accurate, is overcome by simply doing shorter flights.

                    Three times more efficient than oil but four times bulkier – even in its liquid state – hydrogen already powers several prototype cryoplanes around the world.

                    And this link for more info

                    http://ec.europa.eu/research/transport/projects/items/h2aircraft___cryoplane_and_the_future_of_flight_en.htm

                    • Andre

                      That three times more efficient than oil does not include the tanks or whatever else is used to store it. That’s what really knocks down the net energy density of stored hydrogen.

                    • Bill

                      Use the links!

                      …owing to the larger exterior surface area needed to accommodate the fuel tanks; energy consumption would increase by 9% – 14%, as would the maximum take-off weight. Overall operating costs would increase by 4% to 5% due to the fuel alone.

                      Hardly a deal buster when the alternative is no aircraft in the skies.

                    • Andre

                      Or maybe there will be a collective decision that using biofuels will be a more acceptable zero-net-carbon-emissions solution than trying to solve all the issues around hydrogen.

                    • Bill

                      There is no bio-fuel option. We need zero carbon energy (not low carbon energy). You start playing around trying to off-set energy emissions against land use emissions and I think we can guarantee that the fudge will be used to justify inaction on the energy front.

                      Bio-fuels aren’t necessarily green or carbon neutral btw. And where do we get all that land to satisfy the demands of the power generation sector, aviation sector, the shipping sector, the chemical industry…they all want bio-mass and it adds up to something like one to three times the land area of India being planted, harvested and transported every year.

                      If you’ve the time, I’d recommend this doco – but take any necessary blood pressure meds first 🙁

                      https://off-guardian.org/2016/07/06/threatened-forests-a-new-look-at-green-energy/

                    • Andre

                      Electricity generation has easy non-fossil non-liquid-fuels non-biofuels options.

                      Shipping has easy non-fossil non-biofuels options.

                      The chemical industry has easy alternative options.

                      The alternatives to liquid fuels for long-haul aviation are really hard.

                      So it might just turn out that we choose to commit enough resources to supply long-haul aviation with biofuels, and the other potential users that have easy alternatives use something else.

                      And yes, most of the current “green electricity from biomass” schemes currently in operation (and planned) are really really dumb and a step backwards, not forwards. But that doesn’t mean that biofuel from algae or bacteria or agricultural waste is necessarily also that stupid.

  3. But history shows us that humans have lived good lives before industrialisation…

    …with much smaller populations, that could be fed from hunter-gathering or subsistence agriculture. A hundred years ago, Bangladesh had 30 million people living in it, now there are 166 million. They could go back to subsistence agriculture, and after 130 million or so people had died of starvation or whatever, things would be back how they were before industrialisation and who knows, maybe they’d be happier as ignorant peasants. The 130 mil or so who’d need to die wouldn’t go lightly, though.

    • weka 3.1

      Why would they have to ‘go back’? We know how to stabilise population (emancipate women, education, access to birth control). And there are ways of low-industrialised communities not only avoiding starvation but making a living and living well. See /a-tale-of-two-droughts/

      ‘Subsistence agriculture’ is an unhelpful Western meme that is part of the globalisation rhetoric. But we have more choices than our idea of what that is or the hell that globalisation is for so many.

      ‘Ignorant peasant’ is another meme, a particularly nasty one that apparently also serves the Western privilege. However when we actually listen to people who live those lives, we discover all sorts of intelligences that we don’t have. Maybe I’ll just shorthand to ‘ignorant industrialist’ now.

      • RedLogix 3.1.1

        A fine post weka, and very timely for me personally. I’ve just returned from a two week trip in SE Asia seeing pretty similar things with my own eyes.

        Many people may visit third world countries, but relatively few will spend time working in them and that’s were you get to see the appalling work conditions, total lack of safety (some of the things I saw were beyond parody, beyond absurd) and a heart-breaking destruction of local environments.

        Which ties into a theme I’ve often pursued here; that in essence the left needs to globalise and take it’s fight to capital wherever it’s harming people and degrading life anywhere on the planet.

        And while culture, nationality, religion and custom play a role … these for the most part are just social habits we’re attached to. What all humans share is the capacity to express core principles like justice, fairness, integrity, decency and compassion.

        When we abdicated the global domain to corporations and capital we kind of hoped the consequences would remain in someone else’s backyard. Well they haven’t; and the tide of these consequences, like climate change, mass migration and the destruction of the biosphere, will continue to rise and lap uncomfortably around our knees.

      • Psycho Milt 3.1.2

        Why would they have to ‘go back’?

        The “pre” in “pre-industrial” is there for a reason. Also, it’s going back in the sense that setting up a completely agrarian economy in Bangladesh would effectively be a return to how they used to live hundreds of years ago.

        We know how to stabilise population (emancipate women, education, access to birth control).

        Do we know how to do it in a population firmly gripped by religious superstition, according to which women are subordinate to their husbands and children are a blessing from God? It also wouldn’t help Bangladesh shed 130 million people.

        ‘Subsistence agriculture’ is an unhelpful Western meme that is part of the globalisation rhetoric.

        Subsistence agriculture is a useful descriptive term for agriculture in which your main goal for the year is to still be alive this time next year. It applies particularly when populations increase to the point where landholdings get too small, which I’m pretty confident would apply in trying to run an agrarian Bangladesh with 166 million people in it, and in places where weather variations can cause poor harvests (my own knowledge doesn’t get much beyond European history, in which the big question was always “Do we have enough to survive the winter?”, but Bangladesh has its equivalents (droughts, floods).

        ‘Ignorant peasant’ is another meme, a particularly nasty one that apparently also serves the Western privilege.

        Bollocks. A few hundred years ago the privileged West consisted mostly of “ignorant peasants,” and the reason for calling them ignorant is not that we, the privileged elite of history, enjoy looking down our noses at our forebears, but because they were ignorant. Ignorant doesn’t refer to some kind of defect of character or morality, it refers to a lack of education and therefore the knowledge that results from education. However, the fact that ignorance isn’t a moral failing doesn’t mean we should be encouraging its spread.

        • Pat 3.1.2.1

          remembering also that a return to subsistence farming would also have to deal (attempt) with changing weather patterns and extreme weather events (frequency of) unprecedented in human existence……which may or may not be able to be mitigated by increased knowledge/technology……dont even mention potential social breakdown and resource competition.

        • RedLogix 3.1.2.2

          @ PM

          Subsistence agriculture is a useful descriptive term for agriculture in which your main goal for the year is to still be alive this time next year.

          The big thing you are missing here is that education, science and technology when applied at an appropriate level can make an enormous difference to so called ‘subsistence agriculture’.

          A few of us here, Robert Guyton in particular, have considerable experience and knowledge of alternative forms of sustainable food production. From food forests, self-sustaining aquaculture, bio-dynamics and improved livestocking systems … there is a entire, intricate and complex body of knowledge we know have around intensive and sustainable living that transforms what you are somewhat sneeringly referring to as ‘subsistence’ living, into to something quite different.

          And all the people I’ve met who’ve mastered it seem very happy with their lives thank you.

          • Psycho Milt 3.1.2.2.1

            And good on them. But they have the luxury of first-world society, technology and infrastructure to provide an environment to operate in. People in Bangladesh lack that luxury – their environment consists of overpopulation, religious superstition, corrupt government and shit infrastructure. An agrarian economy with that starting point is going to look more like subsistence agriculture than anything else.

        • weka 3.1.2.3

          “Why would they have to ‘go back’?”

          The “pre” in “pre-industrial” is there for a reason. Also, it’s going back in the sense that setting up a completely agrarian economy in Bangladesh would effectively be a return to how they used to live hundreds of years ago.

          Sure, but why would you argue for that instead of moving forward to something better? You are assuming that there are only 2 choices, the global economy or what you call subsistence agriculture.

          Subsistence agriculture is a useful descriptive term for agriculture in which your main goal for the year is to still be alive this time next year. It applies particularly when populations increase to the point where landholdings get too small, which I’m pretty confident would apply in trying to run an agrarian Bangladesh with 166 million people in it, and in places where weather variations can cause poor harvests (my own knowledge doesn’t get much beyond European history, in which the big question was always “Do we have enough to survive the winter?”, but Bangladesh has its equivalents (droughts, floods).

          And yet we’re not 15th Century Europe any more. I haven’t argued against all industrial tech, and I certainly haven’t argued that we should abandon the knowledge and experience we have now. You see subsistence agriculture as being inherently unstable, and yet there are plenty of examples of stable cultures, so why not look at those instead?

          As for resiliency in food production, see /a-tale-of-two-droughts/ We do have the ability to produce for our needs.

          Yes, population growth is an issue (as is sea level rise). Perhaps Bangladeshi people aren’t as ignorant as you make out. You appear to be arguing that they can only have what they have now or death by famine. I suspect that like other peoples they are smarter than that, and given the opportunity would make different choices.

          “Ignorant doesn’t refer to some kind of defect of character or morality, it refers to a lack of education and therefore the knowledge that results from education.”

          Not sure where your people came from, but mine came from Scotland and a few hundred years ago they placed a high value on education even amongst the ‘peasants’. Same time period, Māori had an intact, sophisticated system of knowledge development and sharing that enabled them to survive and create culture. Across the ditch, Aboriginal peoples have likewise had such knowledge systems for at least 50,000 years. To call them ignorant is well, ignorant. I think what you mean is that they didn’t have a certain kind of knowledge that the industrial cultures have now, but the reverse is true too.

          In the times ahead I’ll take the people who have enough intelligence to not only know how to grow food but be prepared for needing to over people who can build cell phones or send people into space. The West is starting to freak out about the increasing possibility that we won’t be able to feed ourselves if CC monkey wrenches the industrial agricultural system. That’s about as ignorant as we can get, given that we have the knowledge, tools and experience to change already.

          • Psycho Milt 3.1.2.3.1

            You are assuming that there are only 2 choices, the global economy or what you call subsistence agriculture.

            I’d say it’s more like I’m assuming two practicable choices. Also, I’m not sure we’re thinking of the same thing with “global economy.”

            I say a return to subsistence agriculture because Bangladesh has a huge population and doesn’t have the kind of administrative or technical infrastructure that we have to support an agrarian first-world economy. There are severe practical limitations on their ability to implement some better form of agriculture than traditional ones.

            Re the other choice, “global economy” doesn’t have to mean slave labour in unsafe working conditions. Cost of living in Bangladesh is a lot lower than in the West, which means a Bangladeshi smelter could be built to standards, operate safely, provide good working conditions and a living wage, and still produce cheaper aluminium than Western countries. Dealing with that isn’t straightforward, but it’s probably more straightforward than trying to turn a drastically overpopulated country agrarian.

            I think what you mean is that they didn’t have a certain kind of knowledge that the industrial cultures have now, but the reverse is true too.

            Meh. 2000 years ago my ancestors also knew plenty about running a tribal system in their local environment. Then they got creamed by people who knew a bit more than that. Multiple times. Knowledge is a good thing, and it’s not all created equal.

            • Robert Guyton 3.1.2.3.1.1

              Looking at “tribal” templates for small communities with the added benefit of experience and global transfer of information, a new, workable, resilient and sustainable, adaptable form could be generated, imo. Yes, dominant cultures/societies took advantage and overwhelmed others, but that was then. Nowadays, the root causes of expansionism, dominance over others and over the rest of creation is better understood, by some, and it’s from those germs that the new humanity will arise/is arising. The transition will be messy, most likely, but it’s possible that the generation and growth of a new form of organism, homo-whatever-we-call-us will occur in unexpected ways, perhaps surprisingly gracious ways. I heard that the human behaviour most seen in Lyttleton following the earthquakes was kindness – go figure!

  4. Pre-industrial?
    We need to look back much further to find humanity’s sweet spot. And there surely was one, lasting many, many times longer than this most recent phase of human development that began around the time we fenced off our first field, made our first silo and set the first guard.

    • RedLogix 4.1

      Yes. That echoes Jared Diamond’s comment, to paraphrase, “Agriculture may well have been humankind’s worst mistake, and remains to be seen if we survive it”.

      Yet as PM above makes clear, history is what it is and we cannot re-write it. Whether there is a future for so many billions to survive on the face of this limited planet is not yet clear.

      On the one hand it’s clear that our current system will collapse. And take with it billions of lives.

      On the other hand we are the first post-Darwinian species; we are the first to escape the mechanistic clutches of raw evolution and we do have the opportunity to forge a different system and an optimistic future.

      I claim no special knowledge about which future is more probable. I just don’t know. But in principle I prefer the optimistic one and I’m open to anything that might help bring it about.

      • weka 4.1.1

        “But in principle I prefer the optimistic one and I’m open to anything that might help bring it about.”

        If I’d had more time I’d have written a more positive post or at least posited some solutions 😉 But no reason we can’t have that in the comments.

      • Bill 4.1.2

        I prefer the optimistic one and I’m open to anything that might help bring it about.

        Hate to say this Red, but I doubt that. I mean sure, you’ll mean well and you’ll laud good ideas and whatever. But if a positive future entails you walking away from your comfort zone and abandoning the path you’ve walked for most of your life….then I’d reckon, that in line with most people, you’ll seek to cling to ‘the known’ and hang on to ‘the comfortable’.

        • RedLogix 4.1.2.1

          You make a perfectly fine point Bill.

          My response is that I am the only able bodied person in my family and it’s my responsibility to keep earning an income, and build sufficient investments that we can live decently as we get older. If I had the option to chuck it in and go bush the rest of my life I would. Trust me.

          I cycle to work most days, the car gets no use from one fortnight to another. We rent a small unit and live pretty modest lives. We shop local whenever we can and only buy what we need and think will last.

          The company I work for is a disruptor in the mineral processing space and in particular we specialise in designing and building plants that use much less energy, far less water, almost no environmental impact and cost significantly less to build. It’s a positive, innovative technology being made real and I’m making my own small contribution. Mining as an industry has a terrible history and these guys are changing that story dramatically.

          My partner is studying hard around sustainable agriculture and has attended several courses now. I think our dream is to be able to setup something like what Robert has achieved in a few years time.

          Yet of course it’s not enough. You’d argue our comfort zone is still too much and I’d not argue with you. But we are heading in the right direction and dealing with what is in front of us. And the way humans are so connected, the more people who join in the easier it all becomes.

          • Bill 4.1.2.1.1

            …to keep earning an income, and build sufficient investments that we can live decently as we get older.

            That, it seems to me, is the nub of the problem. Generally speaking, if people want to earn an income, then they are going to have to support carbon intensive activities one way or another. And for what?

            There is no “living decently” by dint of savings – not in a world where those savings have been reduced to zero because of the effects climate change has had on the structures capitalism relies on (power networks, road, rail etc) and then there are the consequences flowing from the wider environmental impacts (water supplies, food supplies etc).

            But, I know.

            Today, it still seems to make sense to save for (say) retirement and do do as was done yesterday. Today, the electricity grid is delivering electricity, the reticulated pipes are flowing with water and the dairy still has that chocolate bar on the shelves. Everything’s normal.

            So people get up and go to work, pay the bills and look to a future that’s essentially some linear extrapolation of today. And in doing that, they are absolutely guaranteeing that the future will be anything but a linear extrapolation from today.

            It’s something I’ve been pondering in terms of those who flee some, soon to be war zone, and those who tarry. Everything else being equal, why is it that some fail to act intelligently?

            I have no answer. Just the observation that in the war situation, it is only those who tarry who suffer, but with AGW it’s going to be all of us.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 4.1.2.1.1.1

              What can we do?

              Act according to our ethics, for one thing. There will most probably be far more people in need of help, so we must offer assistance.

              There’ll be the need for practical solutions to immediate problems: short term and long term electricity generation for example.

              Grabbing as much CO2 as we can and shovelling it into basalt makes sense if the infrastructure (easy) and political will (problematic) can be mustered soon enough.

              Looking for practical solutions for preserving our democratic heritage: cf: Rojava.

          • weka 4.1.2.1.2

            My partner is studying hard around sustainable agriculture and has attended several courses now. I think our dream is to be able to setup something like what Robert has achieved in a few years time.

            Nice one. Did you get to visit the Holmgrens’ place?

            • RedLogix 4.1.2.1.2.1

              Yes and I promised a post on it too.

              Actually I was a tad disappointed that when we visited three years of very low rainfall had clearly left their mark. The place was well short of it’s best. Also David’s mother had just passed away the day before and while it wasn’t obvious, quite naturally this was affecting them both.

              I think also the Holmgreens are spreading themselves a little thin these days, being involved in courses, consulting, a food forest and other significant enterprises in the area. Meliodora wasn’t maybe functioning as best it might at that time. But still we are glad to have made the visit. What he does have is a comprehensive model of permanent farming and the product of a lot of hard work, deep observation and intensive insights.

              Also we’ve had a much wetter winter since then, so I’d imagine a lot has bounced back.

              A day course is split into two parts, the morning looking at the house itself which is interesting, and the afternoon in the garden. He’s a great teacher and an inspiration. If there is one lesson I’ve taken away, is that no amount of reading books or videos is sufficient. Every location will have it’s unique aspects and I would certainly look to pay someone experienced to guide me through at least the first year or two.

              One aspect which is distinctly different to NZ, is just how much thought and planning anyone living in the Australian bush areas needs to put into a fire plan. Everyone was really interested in this, with lots of questions and discussion.

              And of course how absolutely critical water management is in this part of the world. Even after three years of sod all rain, his storage ponds had still not dried up. Which is a testament to planning and careful husbanding of resources.

              Holmgreen is one of those rare individuals who is more than just ideas; he’s put in the work and proven the ideas work in practise … even when the environment isn’t all that conducive..

      • ” we are the first to escape the mechanistic clutches of raw evolution” no we didn’t, we just frustrated it for a while, “and we do have the opportunity to forge a different system and an optimistic future”. Agreed, we do and we must (and we are 🙂

    • weka 4.2

      “We need to look back much further to find humanity’s sweet spot.”

      I don’t think I’m suggesting that we give up industrialisation (power down and make good use of what we have while we do that without creating any more harm is probably where I sit for the medium term), although that may be the next evolution. The post was more about how globalisation is broken and can’t be fixed.

      However if we were to look at where it all went wrong, what would we be able to do with that reflecting? We have too many people now to revert to pre-ag living. We could head in that direction with a graduated population decline.

      I really like Holmgren’s point that we don’t have to figure out how it’s all going to turn out, we just need to deal with what is in front of us. Subsequent generations will design the next set of solutions. But if this is more a visioning exercise, I’m also not sure whether it’s appropriate to see what should happen beyond the immediate crisis of the next few generations. Or at least I find some of those conversations too abstrate if they don’t take into account how we might get there. When the house is on fire, it’s better to attend to that than stop and talk about what house we will build afterwards. I could be wrong though, and would welcome your thoughts, especially along the lines of the new story (or stories).

      • Gosman 4.2.1

        Tell me how you propose to have a gradual population decline given the fact that the nation’s causing the increase in population now are not the developed ones but the less developed nations that would likely be most resistant to calls to radically cut back?

        • Robert Guyton 4.2.1.1

          Tell me! Tell me , NOW!!!

        • weka 4.2.1.2

          Tell me how you propose to have a gradual population decline given the fact that the nation’s causing the increase in population now are not the developed ones but the less developed nations that would likely be most resistant to calls to radically cut back?

          First tell me which nations you have in mind that would be most resistant to moving to a steady population that was within their ecological footprint? (and I didn’t say radically cut back, so please don’t misrepresent my argument).

          • Gosman 4.2.1.2.1

            Pakistan, Egypt, large parts of Sub Sahara Africa

          • Psycho Milt 4.2.1.2.2

            Any country with a majority-Muslim population will be very resistant to moving to no or negative population growth, because the main planks of it (emancipation of women, education of women and easy access to contraception) all go against Islam (and feel free to nitpick about “whose interpretation of Islam,” the fact is that mainstream Islam is opposed to those things). Probably the same for countries with a devout Catholic population, but I’m not sure those exist any more.

            • weka 4.2.1.2.2.1

              “One of Jordan’s most recent successes has been the acceptance of family planning by policy-makers and the public”, says Raeda al-Qutob, who heads the Higher Population Council, a specialized agency that deals with population and development policy and is chaired by Jordan’s prime minister. “Before, many thought such programmes came from foreign funding agencies trying to impose their views, but more and more see family planning as a tool to reduce fertility to help us achieve social and economic development”, she says. “Decision-makers are aware of the relationship between large family size and poverty.” She adds that, increasingly, Jordanians are recognizing the importance of family planning for women’s and children’s health.

              http://www.who.int/bulletin/volumes/89/11/11-021111/en/

              I’m not suggesting that Jordan has solved it, just that it’s not necessarily as difficult as you and Gosman seem to be suggesting.

              • An excellent example of how not having to be accountable to the country’s population really frees up a government to act. Just don’t expect to see prime ministers in Pakistan or Bangladesh adopt similar policies – they’d need to find bodyguards to protect them from their bodyguards.

                • weka

                  “An excellent example of how not having to be accountable to the country’s population really frees up a government to act.”

                  How so?

                  • Jordan’s a monarchy. Its government can get away with policies that contradict the voters’ religion because opposing the King’s government is opposing your country. In Kuwait, the Emir could also get away with this kind of thing. In places like Bangladesh or Pakistan however, politicians undermine Islamic teachings at their peril (literally, as well as in electoral terms).

                    • weka

                      Do you have evidence that the King/Queen of Jordan imposed contraception on the public against their will? I think you have a mistaken idea about Jordan simply because it’s Muslim. You also seem to think that a monarchy can’t be responsive to the people.

                    • The government of Jordan hasn’t imposed contraception on people against their will, it’s just set up family planning clinics encouraging people to use contraception. As someone points out in your linked article, this “used to be” haraam, but now people are more accepting of it. Well, they are with their King’s government backing it, but if the government of Jordan were an elected one the WHO would probably find contraception was still haraam as far as the majority of voters in the privacy of a voting booth were concerned. I expect it will improve over time as more women get educated, but it won’t improve quickly.

              • Gosman

                Jordan still has a birth rare much higher than most nations on r
                The developed World and will continue to see strong growth in population for decades.

                http://www.worldometers.info/world-population/jordan-population/

                You need a better example than Jordan.

                • weka

                  You missed the point. One is that there are Muslim countries working on birth control. The other is that the birth rate has been declining. PM seemed to think that all Muslim countries were incapable of change, I gave him an example of otherwise.

                  • Gosman

                    If you think we have decades to respond to the issues caused by over population then I see no problem and also no urgency dealing with other concerns either. Let’s take our time over things.

      • ” We have too many people now to revert to pre-ag living…”
        We have only one worthy choice and that is to re-create ourselves into that form we fear, “pre-ag living”. The great thing is, our natural human-ness is there, all we have to do is align with it. Fortunately, the frightening story we have told ourselves about that way of being human, is false. Those who can shed that fearful tale and weave one that fits us like a birthday suit will be best dressed to live in what is now the future.

        • weka 4.2.2.1

          I personally don’t fear that. It does raise some specific pragmatic issues though around population and land base and whether it’s possible now. It’s a fairly unique situation to be in (in human history terms). Our pre-ag ancestors didn’t have to deal with it.

          • Robert Guyton 4.2.2.1.1

            Our early people knew all about it, weka and dealt with it for millenia. That’s what their elders/tohunga/greybeards storied them about and that’s what their own personal observations of the world around them revealed to them. Then came a moment when some (one?) thought, “hey, what if I…” and what we’ve got now was spawned. Undoing that isn’t easy, but unavoidable,if we are going to have a future.

            • weka 4.2.2.1.1.1

              Can you name a time when the population was vastly beyond what the land base could support, and give examples of how that was managed? Because if it’s true that our popultion is beyond what the land can support, that’s a pretty distinct problem.

              Historically people have had to deal with an increasing population meeting the wall of resource limit, but that’s not what I’m referring to. I’m referring to fossil fuels having taken us much further into overshoot than we’ve ever been before. New territory. I think it’s solvable, but am ever looking for the how to back up the belief.

              Our pre-ag ancestors also didn’t have to deal with a large population that desparately needed to decolonise 😉

              • Because they had population control measures inculcated/en-cultured. On innumerable occasions the point you described would have been met (too many mouths, not enough food) and the cultural mechanism would have been activated. Modern man, of the sort we are now critical, dismissed those cultural processes in favour of that-which-we-have-now and as a result, we are facing total degradation of our imagined world.

                • weka

                  Yes, I understand that traditional cultures all had ways of dealing with too many mouths not enough food. But those were relatively small populations shifts. That’s different to having exponentially more mouths to feed and the prospect of what to do with all those people. If we created a post-agricultural situation, could we feed ourselves? If not, what would we do with the extra people?

                  Very few people are willing to talk about this in a proactive way (I’m excluding the die off tribe for obvious reasons). Even amongst permies I don’t see a lot of work being done on how much land is needed to feed what population without fossil fuels.

                  Do we even know if in NZ we can feed 4.5 million people (and clothe and shelter)? The pre-industrial population here was something like 200,000 right?

                  • “Do we even know if in NZ we can feed 4.5 million people (and clothe and shelter)?”

                    I think, easily.

                    “The pre-industrial population here was something like 200,000 right?”

                    That population didn’t have the range of food plants, fibre plants and medicinal plants we now have access to, for starters.

                    • weka

                      “I think, easily.”

                      Based on?

                      I would guess we can, but when I talk to people about it they measure calories and not much else.

                    • Based on my thinks 🙂 There’s a lot of soil here, a multitude of plants to choose from, more coastline-per-square kilometre than anywhere else on the planet, rain, wind, sun and 4.5 m is not a big number. Mind you, there’d have to be some changes 🙂

                    • weka

                      The need for changes is a given at this point 🙂

                      I’m not sure I’m that comfortable with the guessing though (even educated) 😉 and given what is at stake, it’d be good if at some point someone figured it out. Would help with town planning, land use planning etc as well. Not that we’re at that point yet, but by the time we get to that point the population will be larger.

                    • I doubt we will ever know – this is one for trying it out and adjusting as we go. Too much waiting for some numbers (which are representative of something) – much better to get into the something.

                      I also believe that we could sustain our current population and many more, if we wanted to. Just think about the wide range of fruit and nuts available now – no eating people though – that is too far imo.

                    • weka

                      I completely agree, we just need to keep on with it. I also think that at some point we’re going to need to pay attention to not the maths so much as the physics.

                      “I also believe that we could sustain our current population and many more”

                      Ae, but belief is not enough. I believe differently, and until we start apply our beliefs in the physical world, we’re putting ourselves at risk. By applying I mean testing out how much land can sustain how many families.

                      We need more to live on than fruit and nuts (and veg gardens), especially if we want to reproduce.

                    • Gosman

                      The pre-installed dust rial population was unlikely to be 200,000. More likely half that.

                    • “Do we even know if in NZ we can feed 4.5 million people (and clothe and shelter)?”

                      I think, easily.

                      How about 166 million people?

                    • Calculating the pre-installed dust rial population is always going to be problematic, Gosman, but your guess is as good as any comment you’ve ever made here 🙂

                    • @weka

                      ‘Belief is not enough’ – we both believe different things and the numbers will not tell the whole story or even a major part of it. The map is not the territory and the realities of the situation demand action.

                      not sure what the reproduce line means – are you saying people need meat to be able to have babies or something?

                    • weka

                      @marty, populations need certain levels of nutrients to reproduce over time. Pregnancy and breastfeeding are hugely demanding on women’s bodies, and that shows up over generations. It’s (probably) technically possible for a culture to be vegan and reproduce itself, if one looks at RDAs and the nutrient content of food, but there are two problems with that.

                      One is that it’s very hard to be vegan without relying on industrial agriculture, so we hit the CC wall immediately.

                      The other is that there are no examples of human vegan societies which IMO is for this reason, it’s just too hard to do if you want to keep people healthy over generations.

                      Further to my point, we can say that individuals and families currently grow most of their own food. But when you look at that you see that essential nutrients are usually being imported from somewhere, and that those things are available because of industry and the global economy. IMO it IS possible to have a local food economy, but I don’t think it’s as simple as just people growing stuff. Doubly so if we want to take into account crop failure, and triply so once the worst of CC extreme weather events kick in.

                      I’m not suggesting that the numbers will tell the whole story or a major part of it, so please stop responding as if I am. I’m saying that we need to look realistically at how we can grow food and other resources locally.

                      And sure, we will figure things out as we go, but oops, we just figured out we don’t have enough food this winter, now what are we going to do?

                      Re the numbers, British traditions a few generations back did in fact calculate quite clearly how much land was needed to grow how much food for how many people, or how many rows of onions they needed to sow etc. It’s a necessity when you don’t have a supermarket/globalisation as a back up. I haven’t looked at this but I’d be very surprised if most if not all traditional cultures didn’t have systems for tracking upcoming food supplies.

                      “The map is not the territory and the realities of the situation demand action.”

                      I’ve already said that we have to be acting already. Again, can you please stop responding as if I am saying things I am not.

                      It’s completely fine if you personally are uninterested in the physics of relocalising food production. I’m not suggesting that you have to go out and measure anything. I’m suggesting that in general this is something we (humans) need to pay attention to 🙂

                    • I wasn’t talking about veganism so the first half of your answer isn’t relevant to what I asked.

                      “Again, can you please stop responding as if I am saying things I am not.”

                      I didn’t do that and I’m surprised and disapointed you would say that to me.

                      you said
                      “I believe differently, and until we start apply our beliefs in the physical world, we’re putting ourselves at risk. By applying I mean testing out how much land can sustain how many families.”

                      I think working all that out is irrelevant (the map) because we have to start doing it anyway (the territory).

                      “It’s completely fine if you personally are uninterested in the physics of relocalising food production.”

                      Please don’t put words into my mouth.

    • Bill 4.3

      Pre-industrial? We need to look back much further to find humanity’s sweet spot.

      Some sort of post-modernism meets primitivism, Robert? I’ll pass, thanks.

      There are countries today that occupy a ‘sweet spot’ in terms of human well-being as it relates to energy use and such things as land use – think “Cuba”, think “Sri Lanka”…there are apparently about 20 odd such countries.

      In essence, there’s nothing wrong with much of what we do – the problem lies with how we do it.

      Agriculture doesn’t have to lay environments to waste. Industrial processes don’t have to be an exercise in ‘rip, shit and bust’ either.

      • “Agriculture doesn’t have to lay environments to waste. Industrial processes don’t have to be an exercise in ‘rip, shit and bust’ either.”
        Have you some examples you’d like to put up, Bill? I’d love to explore those and test your belief in them.

        • Bill 4.3.1.1

          Do organic based poly-culture agricultural systems trash environments or simply alter/bend them?

          Is the extensive evidence of pre-Roman tin and gold mining in Britain and Northern France evidence of ‘rip, shit and bust’ industry, or just evidence of people accessing useful materials for some productive processes?

          • Robert Guyton 4.3.1.1.1

            If whatever you choose to do increases life and vitality to an environment, I’d think you are on the right path. Conversely, systems that reduce liveliness are a poor path to follow. All mining activities could be described as productive but have to be viewed in terms of the final result; continued productivity can result in system collapse.

          • weka 4.3.1.1.2

            @ Bill, you should have used the Riverton Food Forest as an example 😉

            We probably need to define agriculture at this point. I think the ‘agriculture was a mistake’ argument is talking about farming that includes grain growing and tilling the soil. It’s not about food growing per se. Hunter gatherers had varying degrees of food growing too. But yeah, there is a line or gray area there.

            Is the extensive evidence of pre-Roman tin and gold mining in Britain and Northern France evidence of ‘rip, shit and bust’ industry, or just evidence of people accessing useful materials for some productive processes?

            To the extent that it was used in expansionism, then it’s a problem. But I don’t think that’s what was meant by ‘industrial’ in this conversation (at least not by me).

            eg industry = economic activity concerned with the processing of raw materials and manufacture of goods in factories

            • Bill 4.3.1.1.2.1

              I don’t believe the Celts were expansionist – that were them bluddy empire building Romans 😉

              And sure, all industry would have been what we might call ‘cottage industry’ I guess. But a hell of a lot can be produced by cottage industries – just ask an Indian cotton weaver of the 1700s (if you can find one)…or a pre-colonial Chinese maker of silk fabrics…or one of those stone masons of medieval Europe or the builders of pyramids…the ship builders of Ancient Greece…the furniture makers and jewelers… those peeps who transported and erected all those standing stones…

              • The answer to the “industry” question is a matter of scale, I believe, but don’t have a pithy explanation of. Something to do with the human body and what it can comfortably carry, bend, break or tip over, I don’t know how to express the details of something that I feel is important – a sort of ‘rule of thumb’ for human industry. I’m sure some early cultures knew this. I note the Kai Tahu ‘rule’ around found pounamu – you can take from a beach what you can carry yourself, or something like that. It’s a modern version, true (and may be redundant) but similar to our ‘rule’ that anyone visiting our orchard parks can take home as much fruit as they can carry in their cupped hands. It’s arbitrary but effective.

      • weka 4.3.2

        Not sure what you are meaning there Bill. I think Cuba’s carbon emissions are on the increase again. I’m pretty sure that Sri Lanka is dependent on the global rip, shit and bust economy, including industrial agriculture.

        • Robert Guyton 4.3.2.1

          Anyone would be hard pressed to find significantly sized examples of societies/communities that are functioning in a way that isn’t heading for the brink, weka. The disease is well advanced and ubiquitous but in pockets here and there, in every society, there are blooms of thought and action that could develop into healthy communities, if fortune favours them. I’ve read comments here on TS from people who are healing themselves of the illness 🙂

        • Bill 4.3.2.2

          There’s a correlation that exists between energy use and human welfare/well being. At low levels of energy use human welfare/well being isn’t that great. As energy use increases, so does general welfare/well being. But after a certain point, no matter how much more energy is used, there is no more increase in welfare/well being.

          Maybe think of it in terms of “can’t heat my home” versus “can heat my home” versus “can heat my home and open the windows at the same time”.

          The sweet spot is the “can heat my home”. I’m only talking of energy use or access to energy and not about the source of that energy (CO2 generating or whatever). The point is that we, the profligate users of energy in ‘the west’ can reduce energy consumption without impacting on our well being or general welfare.

          For land use, I’d say there are many examples world wide and I should definitely have decoupled that from the named countries. That was slack.

          • weka 4.3.2.2.1

            “At low levels of energy use human welfare/well being isn’t that great.”

            Can you be more specific? Because many of the accounts of indigenous peoples suggest that their pre-industrial lives did have welfare and wellbeing.

            “For land use, I’d say there are many examples world wide”

            You’d still have to give some examples, because I’m not sure what you are referring to.

            • weka 4.3.2.2.1.1

              https://kupumamae.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/the-lost-world-of-maori-wealth-abundance/

              The picture was painted by Cuthbert Charles Clark, at a hakari (feast) held in the Bay of Islands in 1849, it is an enormous erected structure of a stage, where massive amounts of kai (food) were stored. Each section is about the height of a person and the hosts were effectively showing their generosity to their guests.

              Why this picture is so important is because it gives us an indication about how well our economic system and way of living was for us. It signals the abundance by which we were living by. It signals an era of wealth.

              What a lot of people don’t realise or give credit to, was just how well the Māori way of doing things provided sustenance for Māori. An economy is basically understanding how a society produces stuff and who benefits from that stuff. The Māori had a koha economy, or a gift economy. It centered on giving, exchange and reciprocal relationships. Everything produced came to a central place and then it was redistributed. Kai was the main currency.

              The system we have today is based on accumulating as much as you can, as fast as you can, for yourself. This system is what causes Māori poverty, not Māori laziness, violence or being uneducated, but a system that was not designed to suit our relational way of being. We had a brilliant system that knew how to look after us and each other, where no one hungered.

              Ranginui Walker, tells us that prior to pakeha arrival, no one hungered, there was no such thing as poor people. And in actual fact Māori didn’t even have a word for poverty.

              I don’t take that last bit as an absolute (there were lean times). But I think what she means is that in that ‘subsistence’ system, people were looked after and had wellbeing.

              • Bill

                The well-being referred to in that excerpt is material well-being as a result of distribution only (or so I read it). And I’m sure that many other types of well-being besides material well-being, diminish with the introduction of capitalist economic relations.

                But since I was referring specifically to well-being that comes from access to energy, that’s kind of beside the point. Access to energy to (say) work land or materials, or to provide infrastructure that in turn supports movement, or the creation of health care facilities or educational facilities, or simply means that water can be piped or pumped or treated, or that waste doesn’t just accumulate – eg, the ‘flying toilet’ phenomenon in parts of Africa where the idea is that you shit in a polythene bag and throw it flying.

                Hell. Energy to charge that cell phone or that LED light for the kids to do homework by (darkness falls at about 6 O’Clock in the tropics). Energy so that there’s no need to walk 20km to find fuel for a fire to cook from, or to hike 10km to a well for water…

                • weka

                  By energy to you mean any source that can be utilised eg the energy in a human body to dig a garden?

                  I think this takes us back to the original point, and what Robert has just said up (or down) thread. That so long as the system or activity is increasing vitality within the system, it’s going to be ok.

                  Re toilets, why put in infrastructure that is reliant on industrial (fossil fuel) tech when you can use localised, closed loop systems eg composting toilets that provide fertility?

                  Once you get to energy that is inherently reliant on industrial tech, then the EROEI changes and that decreases vitality (as a generalisation). We can get away with that to an extent, but there is a limit and I suspect it’s much lower than what you are suggesting.

                  • Bill

                    There is not a single piece of industrial technology that I can think of off the top of my head that is dependent upon fossil fuel – not one. eg – if we want cars, there is no locked in requirement that says they must be driven by an internal combustion engine, let alone an internal combustion engine running on fossil.

                    How does the EROEI work if the sun is utilised by solar panels that then convert the sun’s energy to a form (electricity) required to produce hydrogen (say)? And if the raw materials needed in the manufacture of those panels are mined(?) and processed using techniques or technology that are completely fossil free and carbon free?

                    And sure, we can’t jump straight to that scenario, but then what’s so wrong with using fossil intelligently and frugally in the short term if the express intention is to use it to develop in a way that eliminates its use entirely?

                    • weka

                      It’s probably about time I refreshed my memory around Peak Oil theory and EROEI…

                      This guy is saying that civ needs an EROEI value of 5 – 7 to prevent collapse. Photovoltaics are around 5 currently, so sitting on the edge of viablity.

                      http://euanmearns.com/eroei-for-beginners/

                      Oil sits at 20, and is dropping (when first discovered it was much much higher). The crucial point here is time. The sooner oil gets to the edge of 5 – 7, the quicker we lose the window to convert to say solar.

                      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Energy_returned_on_energy_invested

                      Then there is economics. I can explain that (it does my head in) but as I understand it, it’s the third complicating factor. Part of that is that we’ve used all the cheap to extract oil, so at some point it will get more expensive, but given the way oil prices work it’s not that straightforward. At some point it becomes uneconomic, and so production falls at the same time as the EROEI decreases.

                      But even if we left the economcis out of it, it’s still a problem. People in this thread have been talking about the transition to solar as if the time factor is irrelevant, but it’s critical. The question is, can we do an organic shift, allowing industry to replace itself with non-FF tech over time as economics allows, or even if we pushed it via politics? I don’t think so, and all the Peak Oil theory I read ten years ago was raising this very issue.

                      Hence my belief that we need to power down. If we power down, the whole ball game changes, because now we don’t need as much energy to transition. Where that line is (between what we have to give up and what we can keep) I don’t know, which is why I also go to sustainability principles, because we already know that they work over extremly long periods of time and variable circumstances. Robert’s theory about increasing vitality being one.

                  • Stuart Munro

                    Victor Hugo had a big spiel in Les Miserables, that the sewer laid out the death of Rome by wasting fertility. He was concerned that the Parisian sewer augured the same kind of failure for his people.

                    If our society were designed for sustainability from the ground up, it would probably be characterised by solid cellulose waste closets rather than water closets.

                    Robert is right about our ability to grow food – a well run organic garden of the size possible on most NZ sections will provide the greater part of a rich and varied diet – year round with some preserving. Our grandparents knew this, and we have extra technologies like hydroponics on top of a global variety collection. It is the supermarket that has killed this resourcefulness, that and rented ground.

                    • weka

                      Great Les Mis story.

                      When my grandparents were raising their kids on a farm in the 1930s/40s the population of NZ was 1.5 million. They were largely self-sufficient, but still bought in grains I think (wheat and oats). Given they were exporting off the farm too, maybe you are right. Home gardens at that time weren’t producing all their protein and fat needs, that was being bought in. If we want to produce the range of nutrients we need locally, it would be good to look at how much land we need.

                      Then there is the land needed for other resources (shelter, clothing, fuel etc).

                    • Stuart Munro

                      Although he didn’t spell it out, Hugo was no doubt aware of the shift from peasant small holdings to Sicilian grain corporations employing slaves. The former were much more productive per unit of land, and provided new soldiers for the legions. But political influence allowed the large scale slave agriculture to dominate, destroying the value of small holdings as well as the fertility of the corporate farms. It is a very similar thing that NZ is experiencing with the corporatising of our agricultural sector, and the import of cheap labour to subsidise it.

            • Bill 4.3.2.2.1.2

              I didn’t suggest there was no welfare or well being, merely that welfare and well being increases with access to energy and then plateaus. And many pre-industrial people had access to energy.

              Made a stab at land use in my reply to Robert – but I’m sure others beside me can give ample examples of sustainable land use as practiced by, for example, many pastoral societies or/and gatherer societies.

              • weka

                ” And many pre-industrial people had access to energy.”

                Ok, I’m having trouble following what you are meaning. Examples would help.

                • Bill

                  Fire? Water wheels? Animals? All forms of energy that can be utilised and make life easier – increase well-being.

                  • weka

                    Ok, I think I get the gist now. In that case all humans cultures have always had access to ‘excess’ energy (since we’ve had fire anyway). Which does take us back again to the original point. Growing grains gave us excess energy, which increased wellbeing, but it also ultimately enabled AGW (and the other catastrophes). That’s the theory, which I think has a lot of merit, and some unexplained bits. But the gist I think is that once you start increasing wellbeing beyond the vitality of the system you have problems. Some of those you can accommodated, for a period of time, but eventually the system collapses (that’s partly Robert above, and partly my understanding).

                    • Bill

                      What enabled AGW? The growing of grains? I’m not following.

                      AGW at the extent it is today is caused only and solely by the burning of fossil fuels. The emissions from agriculture don’t stack up to result in anything like the level of AGW we have – ie, the level where we’re looking at some post Holocene climate.

                      If you’re saying, on the other hand, that the growing of grains was a step down a path that led to today, well yes and no. There was nothing inevitable about it. We could have chosen any number of energy sources at a fair number of junctures and not wound up where we are now.

                      Take coal. Waterwheels were far more efficient and cheaper at the beginning of the industrial revolution in England. Not as bloody portable as coal though. With coal you could choose where to locate your mill – and that had a whole load of consequences with regards enclosure. Nobody bar a few industrialists wanted the stuff and people had to be compelled to mine it.

                      We could have stuck with water. The diesel engine could have been run on bio-fuel as per its design. Ships could have been powered by wind (sails, kites, Flettner rotors etc) or even nuclear (not a fan). Electricity could have been and can be generated in any number of ways apart from burning fossil.

                      Yeah. Long bow to draw it back to wheat – basically it’s an argument rooted in historical determinism.

                    • weka

                      “What enabled AGW? The growing of grains? I’m not following.”

                      There is a whole theory around the advent of agriculture and what it has led us to (beyond ideas of choice). It’s inherent in some of the arguments made by myself, Draco too I think, Robert, others. I think we’ve all come at it from different angles, which suggests that the theory has multiple sources now. Maybe someone can suggest some reading (is it in Jared Diamond’s work? Michael Pollan?).

                      It goes like this. Once the people in the Mesopotamian/Eastern Europe area figured out how to grow grain, they settled. Once they settled, this necessitated the need for permanent land, which had to be defended. This is the advent of war theory. Prior to this nomadic tribal cultures fought, but the boundaries around what was needed or was acceptable was different and generally didn’t involve armies.

                      From that point, the need to defend a settled population and its food source, a number of things happened. One was the increase in fertility and population. This and the need for armies led to the need for heirarchy, which eventually led to the patriarchy (and patriarchal religion) ie the shift from egalitarian to domination cultures. The theories I know about come from archaeology and feminist scholarship, and via studies of the evolution of mythologies (you can track the patriarchy that way over time).

                      The thing about agrarian cultures is that they breed out beyond their landbase, and thus they need to expand. I don’t think choice is relevant here, because there is still a survival imperative to have children to produce more workers to farm and so on. But then the children grow up and need their own land for their own families. Now we have colonisation of hunter-gatherer territories. This works at small and large populations.

                      This is still thousands of years ago, well before the decisions to make about coal and water wheels.

                      Then you have 5,000 years of practice of domination cultures, and their expansion outwards. By the time we get to Europe in the middle ages and the development of ideas around domination of nature, we’ve had a lot of practice and a long slow build up to it. But by this point the drive is still the one that originated with settling to grow grains. The need for protected land, and all the things around that, and the need to expand. Plus the force to do that.

                      By the time we get to inventing Western science and industrial civilisation, this is the mindset we are operating within. So yes, I think the decisions being made at that point were not so much predetermined as just being the most likely.

                      eg In the 1800s in NZ there were conservationists trying to save native bird species. They had little support from the wider society , because the culture was locked into being a domination culture. The dominant attitude was to capture and kill remaining specimens so that they could be put in museums for people to see what used to exist.

                      There is nothing wrong with burning coal (or oil). The problem comes when we need to burn so much because we are expanding and not willing to live within our means. It’s also a problem because this is the first time we’ve hit a final limit in 10,000 years. We are deeply enculturated into domination and expansion, so of course we are going to do with coal and oil what we have done. The reason that industrialists got their way was because of the domination structures within that society.

                      That’s the link from wheat to climate change. A big part of that is looking at the cultures that didn’t follow that path and what they did instead. My own reading has been around indigenous peoples and hunter/gatherer societies, from within those cultures and from anthropologists. This gives a starkly different view on cultures and they evolve and what happens outside the patriarchy (or whatever we call it).

                    • Think, Cain and Able.

                    • Bill

                      I’ve heard that type of explanation often enough – but it’s more descriptive, with many, many assumptions built in, than it is analytical. It’s also horribly deterministic “a” happened, therefore “b” happened and “c” was inevitable.

                      A few questions. If land is settled by a culture or group of people and treated as ‘the commons’, then where does the supposed inevitable need to defend it come from?

                      In an agrarian society, where do the standing armies come from? My understanding is that very few societies had standing armies – the Romans were apparently a bit unique on that front.

                      Why is it assumed that old societies had no means to control birth rates? Straight off the bat I’m thinking lemon peel (as a type of dutch cap it’s apparently very effective) and penny royal…and I dare say there are many other herbal preparations that would lessen the chances of conception or encourage a mis-carriage. Then there are all types of cultural measures – such as encouraging bestiality (N. Columbia offers an example of that), celebrating and promoting homosexuality in times of population stress (the Greeks), seeing sex as something much broader than and not focused on vaginal penetration (would the temple carvings at Angkor Wat maybe signpost such a thing?). Then the Romans just abandoned unwanted children outside the city walls (perhaps they told themselves that if Romulus and Remus could be adopted by wolves, then…). Cultural taboos on sex outside of committed or sanctioned relationships…and probably a heap of other stuff that just isn’t crossing my mind.

                      Why is there a need for hierarchy when lands are used in common? It could happen, but it doesn’t just follow as a matter of course.

                      China and India – huge populations and all fed from highly developed agricultural systems. I’m not sure that either China or India did much in the way of empire building off the back of population stress. I could be wrong.

                      As I’ve said before, I reckon patriarchy (at least in ‘western’ cultures) arose when some men got away with promoting the idea that a god had made them just like him – eg, Roman Emperors…Popes…Kings of England…

                      Domination of nature might be peculiar to or particularly heightened in European cultures – they had a religion that went on about god given dominion and then they had that ‘black death’ episode that might have been construed as nature (ie, the Devil) being ‘out to get them’ – so all of nature then becomes viewed as a wasp as it were… stamp, stamp stamp (disclaimer: I haven’t stamped any wasps of late)

                      I’ll happily go with western religion informing western economic systems and “rationalising” the whole power and domination trip – colonisation of “lesser races” and exploitation of all of nature including other people.

                      At the end of the day, we can back-track through fragments of historical knowledge and impose our own prejudice on those fragments as we attempt to join them up. It’s fun.

                      But history isn’t linear – progress is a myth that only seems obvious and evident because of that retrospective, descriptive thing that we do (eg – these particular comments from me and you).

                      Nothing in history has been inevitable (it only sometimes seems so from the vantage of hindsight) and so nothing about where we are today is inevitable.

                      Where were we? What was the point of these comments again? Hell. I wandered away somewhere – enjoyed the wander and the thoughts anyway 😉

                    • weka

                      I’m dropping the conversation to the bottom of the thread so we get reply buttons again.

    • The lost sheep 4.4

      We need to look back much further to find humanity’s sweet spot

      Where exactly was that Robert?

  5. “History is what it is…” I doubt that.” History” is written by the victors, isn’t it? There are multiple ways to view past times and there are many ways to make real future ones.

  6. Pat 6

    Good post and observations

    “I was going to try and write a post in which I didn’t mention climate change, but it is the elephant in the neoliberal living room”

    Can sympathise with that elephant….the reality is there can be no discussion that doesn’t emphasise everything must be predicated on the impact of CC but ironically CC impacts almost make any discussion outside of CC irrelevant…..hmmmm.

  7. Gosman 7

    How would you suggest Mr Jamal looks to improve his lot then given you don’t think he should work to do so?

    • Garibaldi 7.1

      Why Gosman he should get a loan and buy a Maserati ! Surely you’ve done enough damage over on open mike so how about pissing off?

      • In Vino 7.1.1

        How convenient that the system allows all us well-off people to prosper from the penury of people like Jamal – yet Goosy Gosman looks on the bright side of penury. Oh how generous we are to give Jamal the option of penury! I am surprised that Jamal has not sent us all a letter of thanks by now.
        He just does not know how lucky he is, does he?
        I like the idea of taking a loan and buying a Maserati. If Jamal made the right choices, he could work his way up your rungless ladder, couldn’t he Gosman?

    • weka 7.2

      “How would you suggest Mr Jamal looks to improve his lot then given you don’t think he should work to do so?”

      I haven’t said that Jamal should or shouldn’t do anything, but since you raised it, I think he should do whatever he can to make his life better. The post I wrote is about you Gosman, not Jamal. What are you willing to do?

      That’s the second time in a few minutes that you have misrepresented my points, and this time a direct lie about a post I have written. Up your game substantially or I will be getting out the moderator’s bold marker. That’s my only warning.

    • Pat 7.3

      If you believe the way to improving the lot of the poor in developing countries is to allow them to compete with western workers then perhaps the playing field should be levelled in terms of employment conditions, H&S regulations and environmental controls….then at least some of the true costs will land where they should….with those who profit from the use of the resources…both natural and human.

      • Gosman 7.3.1

        By doing that you will have disadvantaged workers in places like Bangladesh and likely cause higher unemployment. This is because workers in developed nations tend to be more productive as a result of a number of things like beeter infrastructure, higher education and capital expenditure. What workers like Mr Jamal have in their favour is their cost. Remove that and you remove the incentive for jobs to be created there. You could avoid that if you were willing to spend trillions on capital development in developing nations but it is likely much of that would be wasted due to the nation’s having insufficiently robust internal governance structures.

        • Pat 7.3.1.1

          ” What workers like Mr Jamal have in their favour is their cost. Remove that and you remove the incentive for jobs to be created there. ”

          and there you have it…..the bullshit about globalisation has nothing to do with improving the lot of Mr Jamal, but making profits for the wealthy elites……you may wish to consider that as such a system progresses that elite shrinks.

          • Psycho Milt 7.3.1.1.1

            What workers like Mr Jamal have in their favour is their cost. Remove that and you remove the incentive for jobs to be created there.

            That is pretty much it, yeah. Give these guys health and safety protection, and pay them enough to live on, and shit – consumer goods might end up as expensive as they were 30 years ago. The horror! The horror!

          • Gosman 7.3.1.1.2

            You just need to look at Zimbabwe to see the alternative. Many people in Zimbabwe think the World owes them a living. That they have the resources so the World should be happy to stump up resources to allow them to utilize them. Unfortunately for them the World does not respond well to such views.

  8. Cinny 8

    Mass consumerism which leads to slave labour is a topic of conversation I have with my children. So much suffering out there due to label bashing and glamour. Eldest child wants pair of Nike’s, sorry darling I don’t subscribe to brands, I subscribe to quality, then I show her about the slave trade surrounding the fashion industry.

    Some would rather just tune out to globalisation and the resulting mass human consumption that goes with it. I say educate the children, The Simpsons is banned in our house, but am quite happy to show them a ‘food sequence’ from Samsara, cartoons or reality, some of my friends think I’m strange and find it disturbing what I show my kids, but at least they will have a grasp on reality instead of ignorance and fantasy.

    Educate the kids, it’s up to all of us to do so. Something has to change, and nothing will if we all pretend that some things aren’t happening.

    Mr Robot sums it up nicely…

    “What is it about society that disappoints you so much?”

    “Oh I don’t know, is it that we collectively thought Steve Jobs was a great man even when we knew he made billions off the backs of children?

    Or maybe it’s that it feels like all our heroes are counterfeit; the world itself’s just one big hoax. Spamming each other with our burning commentary of bullshit masquerading as insight, our social media faking as intimacy.

    Or is it that we voted for this? Not with our rigged elections, but with our things, our property, our money.

    I’m not saying anything new. We all know why we do this, not because Hunger Games books makes us happy but because we wanna be sedated. Because it’s painful not to pretend, because we’re cowards.

    Fuck Society.”

    Great piece Weka, well written.

    • Gosman 8.1

      You don’t seem to want to educate your kids. You seem to want to restrict and censor what they view if it doesn’t match your own world view. For example you ban them from watching The Simpson’s yet that programme is probably one of the best satires on the ills of society that is around. People like you are dangerous to an open and free society.

      • Cinny 8.1.1

        No, I’m anti violence. TV has conditioned so many in to a false sense of reality, it does ones head in. In fact one of my children did a speech on the effects of TV on the human brain when she was 10. They choose to watch DIY shows, nature etc, something they can learn from. Switched on they are, restricted they are not, however violence is not their norm, favourite satire for them is Jono and Ben on a Friday night. They are well informed kids.

        You are wrong in your comment, actually the reason i don’t let them watch the simpsons is because it is violent, demonstrates drinking alcohol as cool, and bullying as well, and strangling a child as normal. Sure it’s a cartoon, but much behaviour is learned from what one is exposed to.. hows NZ’s rate of child abuse? Did you see that kid in the playground last year whom choked another kid till he turned blue just like Homer does to Bart? Nah i guess you weren’t at school that day… cause that kind of thing is not normal, was just part of a game they said… learned behaviour… mhm

        There are better things to learn than that and funnier things to laugh at than the simpsons, donald trump parodies on the youtube are far more entertaining for my girls. Their idea, because they have their own ideas, freedom of thought is encouraged here.

        “Because a child watches over 1500 murders
        before he’s 12 years old
        And we wonder how we’ve created a Jason generation
        that learns to laugh rather than abhor the horror”

        ‘The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy’ – “Television” Lyrics

        They see enough real violence on the news, they don’t need the simpsons.

        I’d say that people whom expose their children to violence on a daily basis as a means to entertain them or electronically baby sit them are dangerous.

        But hey everyone is different. My kids are being raised to be aware of globalisation and consumerism as well as been given some tools to change it, and the courage and encouragement to find their own ideas. Will let you know how it works out in a decades time, it’s going great so far.

        • Psycho Milt 8.1.1.1

          …the reason i don’t let them watch the simpsons is because it is violent, demonstrates drinking alcohol as cool, and bullying as well, and strangling a child as normal.

          I think the show’s mostly gone over your head. But yeah, if you think that’s what it’s telling you, best not to watch it.

          • CInny 8.1.1.1.1

            lololz I think my comment has gone over your head.

          • One Two 8.1.1.1.2

            Nah that’s exactly the message its telling an overwhelming majority of the shows viewers , because that’s the target audiences level

            If you think there are masses of discerning simpsons viewers registering any suble clever messaging, then you likely missed a point Cinny may have been making

  9. Bill 9

    Can I suggest that anyone who hasn’t seen Edward Burtynsky’s “Manufactured Landscapes” gets access to a copy, sits down and watches it?

    Then come back here and wax lyrical about how great free trade is.

    Jennifer Baichwal’s cameras follow Edward Burtynsky (1955- ) as he visits what he calls manufactured landscapes: slag heaps, e-waste dumps, huge factories in the Fujian and Zhejiang provinces of China, and a place in Bangladesh where ships are taken apart for recycling. In China, workers gather outside the factory, exhorted by their team leader to produce more and make fewer errors. A woman assembles a circuit breaker, and women and children are seen picking through debris or playing in it. Burtynsky concludes with a visit to Shanghai, the world’s fastest growing city, where wealth and poverty, high-rises and old neighborhoods are side by side

  10. Macro 10

    Excellent post weka – thanks for highlighting just what it is for the majority who support our western lifestyle

  11. Ch-ch Chiquita 11

    People in the developed world are not willing to give up their privilege and pay the actuall cost of things. We are blinded by consumerism that makes us feel we are wealthy, we are encouraged to consume more and more to chase after the latest gusget, buy more shoes and cloths we don’t really need, have a house makeover every season.
    Happily we look the other way and not face the reality of how all of this consumer goods are getting cheaper all the time. Part of it is advance in technology but a lot of it is simply shifting manufacturing to countries that has hardly any laws or regard to human life and employ modern slaves. We used to fix things, now we simply buy new.
    Hand in hand we turn the other way as we don’t want to see what this globalisation of manufacturing is doing to our own people. How the shift of manufacturing is making our poor poorer and higher unemployment. We blame the poor for the globalisation we have created so that we can buy everything cheaper as if they were the ones to decide about it.
    I’m willing to go back to the days when things were more expansive but stood the test of time and people had the skills to repair. Only when there will be enough of us willing to do so that things will change.

  12. Jones 12

    Excellent post Weka and as much as we’d like to i don’t think we can avoid recognising the environment’s capacity for sustaining western lifestyles. Ultimately it come comes down to this and an economic model that is not not harmony with its environment.

  13. b waghorn 13

    http://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/countries/bangladesh/top-10-richest-people-of-bangladesh-with-pictures/32229/

    The left in the west likes to load its self with guilt, if you believe this link then you will see that its their own greedy scum keeping them down in bangladesh

    • weka 13.1

      As far as I can tell that article is saying that there are a handful of extremely wealthy people in Bangladesh. Nothing about how that creates poverty there, or absolves the West/global economy of responsibility.

      I don’t feel guilt per se, but I do think that feeling bad about the fact that my wellbeing is directly dependent on someone else’s suffering is an entirely reasonable, sane and humane response.

      • b waghorn 13.1.1

        When you’ve got billionaire politicians you can bet they are not the type of leader that’s going to push for workers rights and the environment.
        Most of the blame for the young man Jamals position must be laid at their feet.

        • weka 13.1.1.1

          I’m not saying that the people in power in Bangladesh don’t have a large responsibility. But I think you are saying that the West is somehow not complicit because of that. Behind that is the idea that if we just all did the right things then everyone would benefit from globalisation. But the point of the article is that in the meantime we in the West are quite happy to live off the backs of people in desparate situations. There is no absolving that.

    • BM 13.2

      When you have a country full of so many people, life becomes very cheap.

      • b waghorn 13.2.1

        Only to the scum at the top who think they are better than the rest.

        • BM 13.2.1.1

          Just the way it is, not going to change anytime soon.

          I think everyone just accepts their place in society and gets on with life.

          • b waghorn 13.2.1.1.1

            Hell no if this country was being run by corrupt money grubbing scum bags we’d kick them out quick smart, hhmmm wait on we are being run by corrupt money grubbing scum bags , maybe you’re right.

  14. Rae 14

    When you have corporations basically writing the rules in the forms of ftas then you know you need to go back to the drawing board and start afresh.

  15. Nelson Muntz 15

    So you’re basically making an argument against globalisation based on one of the world’s most poorest countries?

    Ohhhhhkay…

  16. weka 16

    @Bill from here /this-is-the-face-of-the-failure-of-globalisation/#comment-1218885

    I’ve heard that type of explanation often enough – but it’s more descriptive, with many, many assumptions built in, than it is analytical. It’s also horribly deterministic “a” happened, therefore “b” happened and “c” was inevitable.

    Not sure what you mean by all that. It’s not deterministic. It’s an explanation of what happened historically. Which is obviously going to be academic to an extent because of the time. But it’s not saying all humans would do this. It’s saying that this is what actually happened at that point in time, for a variety of reasons (some still unexplained IMO).

    A few questions. If land is settled by a culture or group of people and treated as ‘the commons’, then where does the supposed inevitable need to defend it come from?

    In the area in question, there was a dynamic to do with the tribes further north (in colder climates with more limited or harder to access food sources) raiding. For them, having a permanently settled, raidable food source would have been a boon. Hence the need to defend. Read Marija Gimbutas.

    In an agrarian society, where do the standing armies come from? My understanding is that very few societies had standing armies – the Romans were apparently a bit unique on that front.

    I don’t know what ‘standing’ means there, but go read the history of the time in that place. The Romans were much later, and I suspect you are using a more modern idea of what an ‘army’ is. There is at some point a clear shift from warrior cultures to those with armies. There are reasons for that.

    Why is it assumed that old societies had no means to control birth rates?

    It’s not. I think that’s your assumption that that is somehow in the argument.

    Straight off the bat I’m thinking lemon peel (as a type of dutch cap it’s apparently very effective) and penny royal…and I dare say there are many other herbal preparations that would lessen the chances of conception or encourage a mis-carriage. Then there are all types of cultural measures – such as encouraging bestiality (N. Columbia offers an example of that), celebrating and promoting homosexuality in times of population stress (the Greeks), seeing sex as something much broader than and not focused on vaginal penetration (would the temple carvings at Angkor Wat maybe signpost such a thing?). Then the Romans just abandoned unwanted children outside the city walls (perhaps they told themselves that if Romulus and Remus could be adopted by wolves, then…). Cultural taboos on sex outside of committed or sanctioned relationships…and probably a heap of other stuff that just isn’t crossing my mind.

    Why would you kill a born child if you didn’t need to? Try getting populations to have non-penetrative sex in a patriarchal world 😉 Plant and herbal contraception has side effects and failure rates. Yes it was used, and yes different cultures managed population in different ways. But why would you limit the birth rate if having children increased your ability to grow food? That’s a pretty common dynamic not just from the birth of patriarchy, but over time for the subsequent cultures that developped. They all expanded so long as they had enough food and there was land they could take.

    I also think that this idea of choice applied over long periods of history doesn’t really work. People didn’t sit down and go ‘let’s bring in the patriarchy now’. It’s completely different than what we do here discussing abstract ways to reorganise. However to use a recent example, the neoliberal revolution happened in NZ without people realising what was going on or the medium or long term implications. Yes, some people saw the problems and fought it, but many people just got on with their lives. The advent of the patriarchy happened over multiple populations over a much long period of time. Being able to ‘choose’ out of that just doesn’t seem real.

    Why is there a need for hierarchy when lands are used in common? It could happen, but it doesn’t just follow as a matter of course.

    You need a hierachy to run an army. Once you have the patriarchy, you need a heirarchy to control women’s fertility (no more sleeping with whoever you like because then you don’t know who the father is). There’s also a need for a heirarchy in religion at that point, but I don’t know if it’s a consequence of the other things, or an imperative.

    China and India – huge populations and all fed from highly developed agricultural systems. I’m not sure that either China or India did much in the way of empire building off the back of population stress. I could be wrong.

    Yes, but see my original paragraph re time and place historically, what I described is the birth if ‘the West’. China certainly has a history of expansion however, and I would guess it’s off the back of the same increase in population that comes from settling and growing food. Lots of cultural differences thought that would account for things developping differently.

    As I’ve said before, I reckon patriarchy (at least in ‘western’ cultures) arose when some men got away with promoting the idea that a god had made them just like him – eg, Roman Emperors…Popes…Kings of England…

    The patriarchy predates the Romans, and Kings by a long long period of time. What I described above comes from the work of many feminist scholars and others expert in their field. Your theory might be interesting, but it would need to be backed up somehow, and you’d need to also understand what the other theories of the patriarchy involved are and have a way to refute them. Saying ‘I reckon…’ doesn’t really stand up once you’ve read the other theories and seen the back up for them.

    Domination of nature might be peculiar to or particularly heightened in European cultures – they had a religion that went on about god given dominion and then they had that ‘black death’ episode that might have been construed as nature (ie, the Devil) being ‘out to get them’ – so all of nature then becomes viewed as a wasp as it were… stamp, stamp stamp (disclaimer: I haven’t stamped any wasps of late)

    Yes, and the god the father thing comes as a consequence of the agrarian settlements. You don’t see it in other places, and you certainly don’t see it in hunter/gatherer societies. It’s unique to that situation that happend with the birth of agriculture. Prior to that time, in that place, there were religions that promoted egalitarianism. That changed.

    At the end of the day, we can back-track through fragments of historical knowledge and impose our own prejudice on those fragments as we attempt to join them up. It’s fun.

    But history isn’t linear – progress is a myth that only seems obvious and evident because of that retrospective, descriptive thing that we do (eg – these particular comments from me and you).

    I’m only describing it because I’m pulling some stuff out of my head. If you want to dismiss the theory, I think you need to understand it from the people who developped it. It’s not about fun, or imposing prejudice.

    Nothing in history has been inevitable (it only sometimes seems so from the vantage of hindsight) and so nothing about where we are today is inevitable.

    I think you’ve gotten stuck on the determinism thing. The theory describes a set of circumstances and proposes a way of understanding them. It’s not saying that anyone who grows grain will automatically become a tyrant. It’s saying that there were good reasons for why this came about, and we need to pay attention to them.

    Where were we? What was the point of these comments again? Hell. I wandered away somewhere – enjoyed the wander and the thoughts anyway 😉

    Lol, I know. I think it was that someone said the whole agriculture thing was a mistake and I tried to explain why in a historical context.

    • weka 16.1

      Re birth control, when you have a high level of infant and child mortality and that is unpredictable then having more kids makes sense. That’s a general comment, I don’t know what the child mortality rate would have been in the old Europe scenarios.

    • Bill 16.2

      Ah well. I was speaking in general terms because it wasn’t clear to me from your original comment that you wanted to refer to a specific time and place. I haven’t read any Marija Gimbutas, but I’m now aware (thanks to Wiki) that she proposed something called the Kurgan hypothesis based on the roots of language, that she envisaged the existence of a peaceful matriarchy before the rise of the patriarchal Kurgan, and that her broader view is contested. For example –

      David Anthony has disputed Gimbutas’s assertion that there was a widespread peaceful society before the Kurgan incursion, noting that Europe had hillforts and weapons, and presumably warfare, long before the Kurgan

      Ucko, for example, notes that early Egyptian figurines of women holding their breasts had been taken as “obviously” significant of maternity or fertility, but the Pyramid Texts revealed that in Egypt this was the female sign of grief

      The 2009 book Knossos and the Prophets of Modernism by Cathy Gere examines the political influence on archaeology more generally. Through the example of Knossos on the island of Crete, which had been misrepresented as the paradigm of a pacifist, matriarchal and sexually free society, Gere claims that archaeology can easily slip into reflecting what people want to see, rather than teaching people about an unfamiliar past

      All that being as it may, she sounds interesting enough. And like I say, I think it’s fun to construct possible narratives or to read other people’s…

      A standing army is a permanent army as opposed to one that comes together on a temporary basis to defend a society against some threat. An advantage of a standing army is the fact that they don’t have to quit any campaign to plant crops or whatever.

      You commented that fertility and population grew with the advent of agriculture. I took that to mean you were suggesting an inevitability about population growth – hence my reference to possible birth control measures and the possibility of maintaining a steady population.

      Why would you kill a born child if you didn’t need to?

      You wouldn’t.

      Try getting populations to have non-penetrative sex in a patriarchal world?

      Why? No need. I didn’t suggest that should be done. Penetrative sex in a world, whether patriarchal or matriarchal is all the same from a population and resource perspective…the balancing of one with the other.

      Plant and herbal contraception has side effects and failure rates.

      As to most (all?) forms of contraception, but we use them regardless.

      But why would you limit the birth rate if having children increased your ability to grow food?

      Because, for one thing, you have to feed them for several years or more before they can make any meaningful contribution on the growing food front – it’s a question of resource management.

      That’s a pretty common dynamic not just from the birth of patriarchy, but over time for the subsequent cultures that developped. They all expanded so long as they had enough food and there was land they could take.

      I can’t see how it’s known how common or uncommon it was to maintain a steady population. Many, many cultures remain unknown to us and many others that are known left only very scant evidence of their existence. But common sense would suggest that decisions around child birth would involve a communal element in instances of communal resources.

      People didn’t sit down and go ‘let’s bring in the patriarchy now’.

      Yup. I didn’t mean to imply it happened over-night. It didn’t.

      You need a hierachy to run an army.

      No, you don’t. There are even recent examples of horizontal organising with regards fighting forces – elements that fought in the Spanish Civil War being one. Possibly the units fighting in Rojava are another.

      Once you have the patriarchy, you need a heirarchy to control…

      First you need the framework that will provide the asymmetry of power (hierarchy) – then (eventually) fully formed patriarchy or matriarchy gets hung from that framework.

      The patriarchy predates the Romans, and Kings by a long long period of time.

      In some parts of the world, yes, and in other parts, no. Maybe you’re suggesting that patriarchy has a singular origin in place and time? I’d doubt that, if that’s the suggestion that’s being made.

      Yes, and the god the father thing comes as a consequence of the agrarian settlements. You don’t see it in other places, and you certainly don’t see it in hunter/gatherer societies.

      Those are big, bold statements. I’d have intuitively thought that agrarianism would have lent itself to religion revolving around female fertility, but hey. All I do know is that around 500 or 1000 BC, some peeps started writing stuff down in a shift away from oral culture and that some time later, some of the stuff was picked up from ‘on high’ and used to belt ingrates over the head and keep them in their place.

      And sure, before any Old Testament books, Pharaohs were doing the whole “I am God” thing for some thousand years or so. Maybe civilisations in Mesoamerica were up to the same hi-jinks? Maybe the Holy Roman Empire borrowed (via ‘The Book’) the god thing from the Pharaohs, just like they nicked a load of stuff from just about everywhere. Maybe the Pharaohs got the whole idea from some Kurgan thing – the timing’s about right – or maybe they got it from somewhere else.

      It’s all stories. All we have is a preserved word here or a preserved phrase there (as it were), and we try to fill in the blanks and create a continuity (a story or a book wif chapters an’ eferything) between the fragments, using our own words and the speculative ideas we have about their words.

      It can be fascinating and fun…and tends to tell us more about the speculator than the things being speculated about.

      And none of it’s worth dying in a ditch over. 😉

      • Psycho Milt 16.2.1

        An advantage of a standing army is the fact that they don’t have to quit any campaign to plant crops or whatever.

        We have an excellent local example in the New Zealand Wars – the poor sods fighting the British Army had to do it in-between planting, harvesting etc, while the Brits could just continue operating. It’s a huge advantage.

    • Bill 16.3

      You suggested that I read Marija Gimbutas on the theory of how agrarian society led to defending land and to war and also (presumably) how agrarian settlement was responsible for the the “God the Father” thing.

      So I found some stuff and it seems to me that she’s not saying anything like that at all. In fact, quite the opposite. Her view seems to have been that “Old Europe” was agrarian, matri-focal (I think that’s the right term), worshiped goddesses and was essentially quite peaceable.

      Then, over a period of time, Krugans (pastoralists) moved across Europe and “Old Europe” gave way to more patriarchal societies.

      Whether that displacement was due to actual invasions or just movements of people seems to be somewhat contested – as is the notion that there could ever have been societies that were non- hierarchical.

      That and more is discussed in the article linked below if you’re interested. It’s a good read.

      https://goddessdocumentary.wordpress.com/marija-gimbutas/

      • weka 16.3.1

        Thanks for the link.

        My reference to her work was specifically about who agrarians would have needed to defend themselves against. It’s been a while since I looked at her theory, and I could have to wrong, but from what I remember she was looking at settled peoples and the more mobile people to the north. Those civilisations lasted quite a long time, and then things changed. It’s an essential dilemma that we still have today. How do you be peaceable when your neighbours go to war.

        Her work sits within a greater time span and other theories. We talk about agriculture arriving 10,000 years ago, but I think that happened over a long period of time (1,000 years?). We might say that the patriarchy was established by 5,000 years ago, so there is a long transition time for the changes in culture, religion, governance etc.

        Other theories look at why the changes happened (I don’t remember if she does).

        And yes, her work is very interesting, and one of the main sources I use to rebut the ‘we’ve always been dominating societies’ thing.

  17. Great meanderings, Bill. I hope it’s still here when I get back from pruning. I’d like to have a go at what you’ve said 🙂

Recent Comments

Recent Posts

  • Swiss tax agreement tightens net
    Opportunities to dodge tax are shrinking with the completion of a new tax agreement with Switzerland, Revenue Minister Stuart Nash announced today. Mr Nash and the Swiss Ambassador David Vogelsanger have today signed documents to update the double tax agreement (DTA). The previous DTA was signed in 1980. “Double tax ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Maintaining momentum for small business innovation
    Small Business Minister Stuart Nash says the report of the Small Business Council will help maintain the momentum for innovation and improvements in the sector. Mr Nash has thanked the members of the Small Business Council (SBC) who this week handed over their report, Empowering small businesses to aspire, succeed ...
    3 weeks ago
  • Seventy-eight new Police constables
    Extra Police officers are being deployed from Northland to Southland with the graduation of a new wing of recruits from the Royal New Zealand Police College. “The graduation of 78 constables today means that 1524 new constables have been deployed since the government took office,” says Police Minister Stuart Nash. ...
    3 weeks ago