The Long Emergency. By tim
Hot on the heels of last night's Jared Diamond talk, a link to this Rolling Stone article by James Howard Kunstler showed up on Dave Farber's IP list. Entitled The Long Emergency,
it makes the argument that world oil production is very close to
peaking, and what the consequences of that will be for modern
civilization. Unfortunately, the picture Kunstler paints is bleak.
While the dire conditions foretold in the article may be overdrawn, it
is thought-provoking in the context of the many collapses of
civilization that Diamond documents in his book.
A large proportion were triggered by environmental factors. In the
dinner conversation for the sponsors after the talk, Diamond said that
he believed that there were any of a dozen environmental changes, from
oil or water shortages to global warming, that could lead to a
potential collapse of modern civilization. But Diamond ended on a
positive note: there are cases, also documented in his book, where a
civilization was able to foresee and reverse a possible decline. Easter
Islanders cut down their last tree in 1650, entering a downward spiral
of civil war and cannibalism, but about the same time, the Tokugawa
Shogunate in Japan, faced with precipitous deforestation, restricted
the use of wood, and started an aggressive reforestation program,
entering a long period of peace and prosperity
All of this points up the importance of “the long view”, which is, of course, the focus of the Long Now Foundation.
Understanding consequences, and taking action, can make a difference.
Whether you're an environmental Cassandra or believe that technology
can solve all our problems, it's folly to believe that things will
always go on just as they are. Live like a surfer: watch the patterns,
and be ready to ride the next big wave. [O'Reilly Radar]