Originally Posted by Agatha
I believe that the massive expansion in the human population since the start of the industrial revolution is almost
entirely due to the technological advances that have allowed us to make such good use of fossil fuels. It is true that there are all sorts of secondary reasons why the population is soaring out of control (e.g. improvements in medical knowledge) but when you think how many of these secondary factors would never happened without fossil-fuel-based industrialisation I think it is clear that the Industrial Revolution was primarily driven by fossil fuels. That's pretty much what "Industrial" means
- doing stuff with machines powered by something other than humans/animals. Most importantly, agricultural industrialisation has allowed us to increase crop yields by several multiples since the start of the IR.
We are now facing multiple crises caused by our industrialised way of life, and the scale upon which humanity now influences the global ecosystem. Climate change is probably the scariest of these, but the really bad stuff is still a few decades away in that case. But Peak Oil is the most important threat from the point of view of the existing economic system and industrial base. That's because oil is (by far) the most important and useful non-renewable natural resource. And I am increasingly confident that the peak in global oil production has already happened in the period of 2005-2008. We are right now entering the start of the downslope. We are at the point where global supply can just about
keep up with demand, and that's after taking into account the "demand destruction" that has already happened because of persistently high oil prices.
Also, our monetary system is broken. This is partly because of poor regulation of the banks and unethical/illegal behaviour by the banksters, but there's even more serious problems than that. Firstly the system requires infinite growth but the world is finite. Secondly we are using a global "fiat" currency system and history shows us that all fiat currencies eventually collapse, usually after about 40 years. Ours is 41 years old (since Nixon cut the last link between the dollar and gold.)
So we have a fundamental resource/population problem, a broken monetary system, an economic system which is not fit for purpose, a political system which is incapable of delivering long-term results because all democratically-elected politicians can't see past the next election, and a general public in the western world, especially the US, which don't really have the first clue what is actually going on (although many of them must surely be beginning to wonder how bad this is going to get...?)
Put the whole picture together and what we've got is not lots of separate crises but a fundamentally broken global economic/political system and an underlying physical resource
problem which would still be terrifying even if we could sort the economic/political system out (and we can't.)
There's only one way this story can end now, and it is with some sort of systemic breakdown. Literally The End Of The World As We Know It and the beginning of new and more difficult era that we might call "scarcity industrialism" or "de-industrialisation."
Underlying the whole sorry story is a basic fact about ecology. The rest of the Earth's ecosystem has not been able to respond quickly enough to the appearance of a creature with an entirely new survival strategy: pure brainpower. We have been so busy overcoming every obstacle nature could throw at us that we've taken over the entire ecosystem and now the obstacle we are faced with is ourselves.
It all boils downs to this: there's too many humans on this planet, and our political/social/cultural/psychological mechanisms are hopelessly ill-equipped to deal with this particular problem, because all of these things are naturally "pro-human*."
* Pro-humans-alive-today. Never mind the poor buggers who are going to have to deal with the long-term consequences (i.e. our children.)