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View Diary: Why is our society contracting? (55 comments)

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  •  I Think... (8+ / 0-)

    ...the underlying reason is economic.  John Stossel, of all people, betrayed some actual thought this summer in the middle of a rant about current economic policy.  He dropped this nugget: "The era of shared prosperity ended in the 70's!"

    There's something to that.  In the 70's the world woke up to the reality of limited oil supplies.  Jimmy Carter made energy conservation the centerpiece of his economic agenda and was drummed out of office by Mr. Sunny Obliviousness, Ronald Reagan.  But ignoring the problem simply made it worse.

    We live in the era of peak oil.  We aren't running out--not by a long shot.  But the supply, the daily rate of production, has stagnated and will likely start shrinking.  I think the leaders of industry--this includes the likes of the Kochs--see this very clearly and it's exactly why they're fighting so desperately to own as much of the economy and government as they can--to insulate their positions as the global economy shifts into reverse.

    Because peak oil means peak economic activity and peak wealth--not all at exactly the same time, most likely, but no less inevitable.

    An economy starting to shrink means less opportunity for just about everybody, and less surplus time and wealth to support creative activity.  This is our new world.

    •  I Think.. (4+ / 0-)

      The contraction I was speaking off definitely extends to energy and peak oil. The big problem is are we are training young people to solve these problems; or only make money?

      •  Reverse the problem. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        pengiep, Pilgrim X

        Diminishing oil supply and contracting economy are driving all other forms of contraction, including education.  The pie is not getting higher.  It's getting thinner.  For educational contraction to stop, those with superabundant wealth would need to start letting it trickle down in much greater amounts.  That's not likely to happen.

    •  Patience (4+ / 0-)

      We're living through the end of the coal/oil age, which like Charles II is taking an unconscionably long time a-dying. But once we kick these corpses out of our way, there is virtually unlimited potential in renewable energy. Too many people on the left are treating the upcoming shift to renewables as a chance to force their own slender lifestyles on other people. Now, one has a certain sympathy with this. But it pisses ordinary people off no end. And to no purpose, since renewables will provide us with not less but considerably more power than we have today. Since that power will be almost entirely electrical, adaptations will have to be made in some areas (an electrical passenger plane is a long way off). But I still think that the age of wind and sun power would be more enthusiastically welcomed by Joe Public if he were reassured that he wouldn't be forced into a monastic mode of existence. Such modes are probably healthier and more "reasonable," but we live in a democracy, and most people find them remarkably unattractive.

      "They smash your face in, and say you were always ugly." (Solzhenitsyn)

      by sagesource on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 03:22:06 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I Wish... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bmcphail

        ...I could agree with you, but solar, wind and any other (geothermal?) renewables are a long, long way away from assuming any meaningful share of world energy consumption, particularly in the area of transportation, where oil is especially important (and farthest away from being replaced--electric cars are still not practical, to say nothing of air travel).  The age of fossil fuels is far from over--they still provide over 80% of our energy.

        We'll need to keep looking for other sources of energy, but the main focus of our efforts should be to create a robust, much less energy (and wealth)-intensive culture.  And I suspect that, as in most other things, education will become far less centralized.

      •  I hate to be the bearer of bad news but....... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bmcphail, qofdisks, shaharazade

        humankind, from what I can see, is on it's way to a quite miserable future.  As a single species we have overwhelmed the planet, overpopulated its environments, polluted its waters, ravaged it's native rainforests, reduced its wild habitats, polluted its atmosphere with greenhouse gasses and greatly diminished its biodiversity.  And this assault is continues.  This simply cannot be sustained without meeting dire consequences, yet I see nothing in the way of ability, power or even will of the worlds leaders to head off an inevitable slide into oblivion.  It's a shame.  We were given such a beautiful planet but the exceptional abilities and intellect that evolved in our species will be the cause of it's destruction.

        You mention that  "a monastic mode of existence", (a sort of simple restrained  life with an elevation of purpose) is "probably healthier and more reasonable" ... "but most people find them (such modes of living) remarkably unattractive."  That may be very true but it may also be the only way to survive and live a reasonably satisfying and sustainable mode of existence.

      •  What you consider "monastic" most people (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade

        would consider peaceful and fulfilling.  Society needs to slow down and take better care of each other.  People need to get back in touch with the earth and it's cycles of provision.  
        There needs to be far fewer people on the planet by human will rather than waiting for nature to impose correction upon us.  That imposition of a correction will be far worse than any sustainable lifestyle that we could impose.
        You propose that we live like there is no tomorrow in an exponentially run away state that is about more, more, more.

      •  An electrical airplane may not be needed. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        JeffW
        (an electrical passenger plane is a long way off)
        The Navy may have found a way to use electrical power (from atomic powered aircraft carriers' reactors) to synthesize jet fuel from carbon dioxide and hydrogen extracted from water.  It would cost about $6 per gallon, but for the Navy it could be cheaper than shipping jet fuel from the US to wherever the carrier is operating.  As oil supplies dwindle, it may be cheaper for civilian use also.  The electricity to do this could come from renewable sources.  
        But I still think that the age of wind and sun power would be more enthusiastically welcomed by Joe Public if he were reassured that he wouldn't be forced into a monastic mode of existence.
        Seventy-five percent of Americans want clean renewable energy now.  How much more enthusiasm do we need?  

        Renewable energy brings national global security.     

        by Calamity Jean on Thu Nov 29, 2012 at 11:47:53 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  economic, yes (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      shaharazade, Calamity Jean

      The diarist is obviously advocating education as a way out of this, which always reminds of Keillor's "... and all the children are above normal." The college system, and underlying assumption that livable income is only due to the well-papered, may very well be more disease than symptom.

      But that's not the point I wanted to make, which is more that simple greed is behind this. Or perhaps, lack of self-discipline. "Let them eat cake" is where we are at, and speaking of other centuries, this is how Hobson put it in The Industrial System, in 1910:

      ... This argument of of the effects of transferring private income by means of taxation into expenditure on public relief cannot be dismissed as a vague hypothesis. Every financier and business man is aware that, during a prolonged depression, quantities of loanable capital stand out of all new industrial uses awaiting an opportunity to operate productively. It is hardly disputable that a process of taxation which should arrest some of these stagnant savings, and apply them to production through public expenditure, would secure an earlier demand for labour than would otherwise have occurred. Workers would have in their hands wages which they would apply in consumption at an earlier date than if they had to wait until some bank felt justified in making an investment in a loan which depression there is no motive to apply savings in demand for labour because such application implies the further congestion of a market already congested. ...
      "... Every financier and business man is aware ..."

      Yet they cannot help themselves. The ownership class in America have become the silly, snuffling, pompous asses who promenaded through Louis XIV's garden.  

      and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

      by le sequoit on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 08:58:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  ran two sentences (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        shaharazade

        together there at the end of the quote, but the point remains.

        and I wait for them to interrupt my drinking from this broken cup

        by le sequoit on Wed Nov 28, 2012 at 09:03:49 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  agree (0+ / 0-)

        At this point, we have to fix the education system that is broken by  education bureaucrats making money at the expense of students learning. The latest bad example is in Florida as usual, calculus teachers can get fired for their students bad test scores on reading! They are punished for how their students do in classes they don't teach!

      •  follow up (0+ / 0-)

        I think my point is more than just fixing the education system. By making education so costly, it is an extremely low probability that people can improve their lot in life in our society anymore?

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