28 thoughts on “First sandpit for 2011

  1. I think the general silence indicates people are all talked out and despondent in the blogosphere as in everyday political life. People are now realising a number of basic truths;

    1. Nobody cares about anybody else’s opinion.
    2. The bulk of people are confirmed in their (generally) prejudicial views.
    3. Logic is useless against the general stupidity, prejudice and venality.
    4. Corporate and monied interests do not care for people or the environment.
    5. Corporate and monied interests throught their suborned servants (the major political parties) are deaf to all scientific and citizen-informed debate.
    6. The whole system is programmed (by ignoring limits to growth, resource depletion and all concerns of the mass of the citizenry) to proceed to self destruction and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it.

    People can basically see there is zero chance now of making any changes to save our civilization and zero chance of convincing anyone in power.

  2. @Ikonoclast
    Agree..somewhat depressed…dont see much hope Ikono.

    I just see people running policy (working for the already rich and greedy) and I see politicians implementing policies that work for the rich and greedy and their own post political careers…and I dont have any hope left.

    We are already in dissarray on a global scale. We dont have the ability to solve the massive problems that the great age of oil and its accompanying overproduction has delivered.

    I fear for my childrens future. I would honestly like to shut the problems of the rest of the world out in all honesty (close the doors to the insanity of a global market place, silence the Murdoch international media, and try to make a decent sustainable domestic market here in Australia).

    Retreat from the lot of it.

    Id like to see the average man/woman here disconnect himself / herself from the power of global banks and sharemarkets and try to make an honest living, producing something real, and an honest retirement by saving something real.

    But its even too late to shut the door I think..

  3. You youngsters who hang out on the internet may not appreciate this, but I was born back in the 20th century when people were concerned not about how many animal and plant species we’d wipe out or what portion of the earth’s ecosystems would be irrevocably damaged, but about the survival of civilization itself. The environment didn’t get a look in except collaterally, as in will the environment allow the survival of human life after we nuke ourselves? So although things are far from perfect, and we still might wipe ourselves out with our own technology, things are looking up from my point of view. And if we do wipe ourselves out in the future it is much more likely to be in a fun way such as societal addiction to roboprostitutes rather than cancerous goiters. When the aliens from Arcturus sift through the ruins of our civilisation, I for one would feel much better about humanity if rather than saying, “This idiots nuked themselves,” they said, “These dudes pleasured themselves to death. Awsome!”

    I’m doing all right,
    Getting good grades,
    The future’s so bright,
    I gotta wear shades.
    (And avoid buying real estate near sea level.)

  4. I can see on myself how it can be difficult to lower the consumption of anything. We have a certain level of our lifestyles and to make some changes is getting harder and harder each day. I guess we all can clearly see how thing are developing. More people less food. We face higher energy consumption and lower stocks of fossil fuels. I guess we are on the crossroad now to make things to change. Well at least I believe that our children will pick up fruits from our seeds.
    Actually, yes, the prices for properties near the sea level are dropping… I have wondered why? lol

  5. @Ronald Brak
    The probability is higher that we will do it all.. nuke ourselve to death, fry ourselves to death all whilst pleasuring ourselves to death with a multiplicity of vegetable, chemical, hormonal or technological addictions…the way we are killing off every other moving species..we need at least a respectable predator so we learn to behave.

  6. Cal me a stodgey old stick in the mud, but I haven’t yet found a vegetable addiction that has come even remotingly close to pleasuring me to death.

  7. @Ikonoclast

    1. Nobody cares about anybody else’s opinion.
    2. The bulk of people are confirmed in their (generally) prejudicial views.

    Interestingly, this was pretty much Ken N’s opinion on AGW over at Catallaxy in their Natural Disasters thread.

  8. Ikonoclast

    Sadly I find it difficult to disagree with you either.

    Your comments remind me of the observations of Prof. Ian Lowe at a conference on planning and public consultation processes I attended years ago. He said that most engineers/scientists/economists made the mistake of assuming people became involved in public consultation on some issue so that they could gather information and form an opinion on the issue.

    We were wrong! (said Prof. Lowe) He said that most people had already made up their mind about the issue based on ther ideology/preferences at the start, and then spent the rest of the consultation process looking for information to justify it. Arguing with these people was futile. Even when confronted with information that proved their belief false, they were more likely to challenge the validity of the information, than change their belief.

    Changing peoples minds was a slow process that involves getting them to question their own attitudes. Some never will; some only after a jolting event involving personal loss, like the floods.

    I think this is true of as many people on the Labor side of politics as the Liberal, which explains why many kept voting for govts like NSW State Labor.

  9. Well,…there is an absolute world record for opinion alignment, and in the sandpit no less.

    There has got to be a way to put that to good use.

  10. This quote from Dmitry Orlov is apposite.

    “People have this inflated picture of what policy can achieve that is not based on what policy has achieved in the past.”

  11. @Ronald Brak
    Oh come now Ronald – “you who have never found a vegetable capable of pleasuring you to death” there is nothing better than lightly steamed fesh asparagus – or for that matter piles of young rocket with grated romano…

    in addition, for the young, there are nasty substances they add to illegal vegetables…

  12. The other day I had snow peas lightly sauteed in fat squeezed from a cow’s breasts and it was absolutely delicious. However, is simply was not addictive. Nor was the pleasure gained in any way enough to pleasure me to death. For example, when the cow toppled off the kitchen bench where I had left it after squeezing its breasts, I did not pause to rescue my remaining snow peas before rolling out of the way.

  13. The other day I had snow peas lightly sauteed in fat squeezed from a cow’s breasts and it was absolutely delicious. However, it simply was not addictive. Nor was the pleasure gained in any way enough to pleasure me to death. For example, when the cow toppled off the kitchen bench where I had left it after squeezing its breasts, I did not pause to rescue my remaining snow peas before rolling out of the way.

  14. Sorry about the double post.

    Here are some reasons why the I’m pretty impressed with the way things have been going lately:
    -World life expectancy is now about 69 years

    Although Africa as a whole has only had about half the growth of China or India, this growth is still very heartening and when you look at the top ten countries (or edit out the bottom ten) it’s very impressive indeed.

    On the down side the US is much closer to being a facist dictatorship than I ever expected it to be at this point, but they did manage to elect a person of significant non European ancestry to be their temporary monarch, which was a pleasent surprise.

    Russia – yeah, it’s about where I expected it to be. A Russian’s life is very hard.

  15. @Ronald Brak

    Get ready for life expectancy, especially in those countries and continent you mentioned, to get rapidly worse. Mass famines will hit the world this decade as the oil/energy decline makes itself felt in food scarcity.

  16. Like a pendulum I swing from pessimism to optimism and back again. At the moment I’m more with Ikonoclast than Ronald. I think we really are pushing up against – and even past – the limits of our environment, such that we will soon have to acknowledge the end of decades of sustained growth of food production. Extreme weather events look to have done so within Australia although there could be some rebound as the temporarily replenished water supply situation carries SE Australia for a few years. So much of that growth of global food production relies upon fossil fuels and the vulnerabilities that come from fundamental reliance are not being faced square on.

  17. Currently world fertiliser production uses fossil fuels, but they aren’t a requirement for fertiliser production. Nitrogen fertiliser production currently uses natural gas, but as water electrolysis can be used instead there is a limit to how high natural gas prices can push the price of nitrate fertiliser, and currently there is no fracking shortage of natural gas. Very roughly I’d estimate the price limit to be about one third to one half more expensive than urea is now. That would on average add about one to two cents a day to our food bill. We wouldn’t even notice such an increase in the developed world and it would be piss easy for us to make up the difference for the world’s poorest people. In fact, it would be piss weak of us if we didn’t.

    Potassium and phosphate extraction currently use a lot of fossil fuel powered equipment, but that can be electrified and the cost of doing that is a wash as there is a gradual shift to electrified mining equipment due to its lower maintenance and operating costs. Fossil fuel price increases can push up the cost of transportation, but this will be a minor factor if ship or rail transport is used due to its high efficiency, and of course it is possible to electrify transportation and electricity can be produced from non fossil fuel sources by a variety of means. Phosphate and potassium may increase in price as cheaper to extract deposits are used up, but we are in no danger of running out any time soon.

    So increasing prices for fossil fuels are not likely to result in massive famine. The bulk of the world’s population lives on over $7,000 a year and so can cut back on things like DVDs, electricity and shoes in order to afford to eat. This won’t make people happy, but it won’t make them dead. Or at least, not many of them. And hopefully for most of the world’s population increasing oil prices will merely reduce economic growth rather than reverse it. Some people are at risk, but the world has the capacity to help them out. Let’s hope we’re not pricks about giving them a hand.

    What does have the potential to cause massive famine is environmental disaster. Major drought or floods can devastate food production over wide areas, potentially hemisphere wide or even world wide. History and climatic records such as tree rings and what not have shown that a disastrously bad string of seasons has always been a real possibility and now that we’ve mucked around with the atmosphere so much who knows what will happen.

  18. Yes, the greatest vulnerabilities for food supply due to fossil fuel dependence are the climate consequences – and when are we going to begin seeing serious policy that addresses that dependence? We still have a big section of the political mainstream that are vehemently opposed to doing so. And a possibly larger section that finds putting the hard choices off for later preferable to any kind of decisive policy. It’s not a recipe for optimism.

  19. I made a mistake in my previous comment. I should have said that I dont think the price of nitrogen fertilizer will will go more than one third to one half above its previous peak rather than its current price. I don’t even know what the price of urea is at the moment. This is of course a medium term thing. If the price of natural gas surges overnight then the price of nitrogen fertilizer can also surge.

  20. There is a partial solution to peak phosphorus at NASA Omega. This system recovers phosphorus from effluent as a by product of algal oil production.

  21. @BilB

    Im in self imposed exile until there really is some decent commentary on reversing the extraordinary growth towards inequality and the growth of the ideology of selling everything under the sum “publicly owned” for a song in Australia and refusing to invest in public infrastructure in any substantial way (not even maintenance), and unless we can “cost” the cost of the damage already done by the “lean government low tax” ideas, (yet another cost benefit analysis?? What a waste), and get to reversing some of the very generous tax concessions granted to the wealthy over the past 30 years and the policies that have increased inequality in Australia

    – what really is the point of discussing side issues?

    There are bigger fish to fry.

    Do we?…should we?…wait 30 years like the Egyptians before we too have our businesses and income destroyed to the poiint we will take to the streets?.

    Why isnt inequality reversal on any economists agenda right now in Australia??

    And with that I will take m self imposed exile.

  22. John, I am surprised at your remarks on Jack Strocchi in the thread on house prices.

    Is it offensive to refer to a racial group who are intelligent or high performers?

    How might you express this idea in a way that is not offensive or is that in your view impossible?

    I don’t like racism either but is Jack’s type of claim that?

    Genuinely puzzled.

  23. Harry, this is an idee fixe for Jack, as witness its appearance in a discussion about demand for housing. Other comments he’s amde, endorsing absurdities like The Bell Curve are worse. I’m sick of having my discussions disrupted by this sort of thing.

    Jack, no discussion or response on this please

  24. To Alan,

    First things first, I never said I was absolutely against Arab democracy, only that I had some concerns that I hope to be proven wrong about. My hope is that exposure to democracy will also produce a liberalising impulse, which would silence all my concerns.
    Secondly, I believe last time I responded to you (on the actual Arab democracy post) you didn’t challenge me. Why not? And why wait until now? Nevertheless, I’m not one to back away from an argument so i will take you on about this.

    By the way, the words I used were “ethically challenged,” not “charged.”

    Let me give an example of the sort of concerns I have with a radicalised arab muslim democracy. Take first the question of apostasy, the act of giving up one’s religious faith. Presently in Egypt this is not considered a crime by the state. However, 75% of people surveyed (in the recent Pew survey I cited) believe it ought to be a crime -indeed, one punishable by death. A fully democratic Egypt would duly change the laws to reflect this.

    If you are not a moral relativist and you are a westerner, you likely believe it is morally wrong to make this a crime at all, much less a capital one. Thus you morally disagree with the majority of people in this country. You ask Who authorises the minority to proclaim themselves ethically charged? (sic). Well sir, you do. What then? It seems to me you have three options.
    1 You can say: “It is morally bad for this to be a crime in most countries, but not Muslim ones” – a morally relativist position if ever I heard one.
    2 You can say: “Democracy is good, making apostasy a crime is bad, but democracy outweighs apostasy” – a defensible position in my opinion but not one which every person must agree with, or
    3 You can say: “Democracy is good, making apostasy a crime is bad, but apostasy outweighs democracy.”

    If apostasy were the only problem to be considered here, I might plump for option 2. However, there is also the problem of Muslim attitudes to women, “adulterers,” jews, homosexuals, and yes – Israel. On all five questions, Arab Muslims give consistently the wrong answer. By “wrong,” I mean they opt for a policy response which would dramatically increase the total suffering in the world, which is all that matters when one is discussing morality. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the wonderful carefree lives that women in Saudi Arabia live. No, that’s not a democracy, but it’s misogynistic policies enjoy very popular support. Look at the 13 year old boys hanged for homosexuality in Iran in 2005 to widespread acclaim. Look at the hugely popular Hezbollah movement, whose banner now depicts a mushroom cloud with an explicit written threat to the jews and Israel underneath. Look at all those things, and tell me as a moral absolutist, with a straight face, that these things are not to be worried about. Tell me that the moral good of democracy automatically trumps all these concerns put together, and that I have an “objective moral disorder” for raising them.

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