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Samenleving en economie

Voorkant Heinberg 'Powerdown - Options and actions for a post-carbon world' Richard HEINBERG
Powerdown - Options and actions for a post-carbon world
Gabriola Island, Can.: New Society Publishers, 208 blzn.; ISBN: 08 6571 5106

(1) Introduction

De grote problemen zoals weergegeven in de Introduction:

" • Resource depletion ()
• Continued population growth ()
• Declining per-capita food production ()
• Global climate change and other signs of environmental degradation ()
• Unsustainable levels of US debt and a potential dollar collapse ()
• International political instability ()
These problems are related to one another in complex, often mutually reinforcing ways. Taken together, they constitute the most severe challenge our species has ever faced."(3-5)

(17) Chapter One - The End of Cheap Energy

"These suggestions describe a fundamental change of direction for industrial societies — from the larger, faster, and more centralized to the smaller, slower, and more locally-based; from competition to cooperation; and from boundless growth to self-limitation."(22)

"Since economic activity requires work, and since energy is the capacity to perform work, energy is therefore necessary for economic growth. Thus it comes as no surprise that the oil plateau represents a period of slower economic growth as compared with the preceding decades of increasing energy abundance. "(37)

"It is our reluctance as a species to undertake demand-side solutions to the ecological dilemma — and not merely our inability to find a suitable substitute for oil — that is leading us toward collapse. Yes, we need to make the transition away from fossil fuels, but we must do so in the context of a concerted effort to reduce the size of our population, the scale of our economic processes, and our impacts upon the biosphere. Otherwise we are merely briefly forestalling the inevitable."(54)

(55) Chapter Two - Last One Standing - The Way of War and Competition

"In his authoritative study, Warless Societies and the Origin of War, anthropologist Raymond C. Kelly notes that, in even the simplest human societies, wars are often fought over resources. "(56)

"Consider the example of India. Prior to its colonization by Britain, India was an exporter of fine muslins and luxury fabrics. The British invaded, banned textile imports from India, and heavily taxed the textile trade within that country. As a result, British cloth came to dominate the Indian market. Other industries were dealt with similarly. Under British rule, India produced only cheap raw materials such as indigo, jute, and poppies, while being forced to import manufactured products its citizens were prevented from making for themselves. "(60)

"I believe that the neoconservatives now in power are extraordinarily dangerous people, by any historical measure. I do not say this as a political partisan; in my view, the opposition Democrats are for the most part themselves corrupt and incompetent. I hold little hope that they, or the Greens, could fully solve the immense problems facing the US at this point. However, it seems to me that the current administration goes far beyond the levels of corruption and incompetence that Americans have come to expect from their elected leaders in recent decades. "(67)

[Ik denk dat hij dan nu - met Trump als de volgende president - helemaal slecht zal slapen ...]

"Neoconservatism is the intellectual offspring of Leo Strauss (1899-1973) ... He believed that:
-A leader must perpetually deceive those being ruled.
-Those who lead are accountable to no overarching system of morals, only to the right of the superior to rule the inferior.
-Religion is the force that binds society together, and is therefore the tool by which the ruler can manipulate the masses (any religion will do).
-Secularism in society is to be supressed, because it leads to critical thinking and dissent.
-A political system can be stable only if it is united against an external threat, and that if no real threat exists, one should be manufactured.(...)

In her essay The Despoiling of America investigative reporter Katherine Yurica explains how a dominant faction of the Christian Right, which she calls dominionism has found common cause with the neoconservative movement. Dominionism arose in the 1970s as a politicized religious reaction to communism and secular humanism."(68-69)

[Neoconservatisme wordt gelabeld als macchiavellisme.]

"In my previous book I resisted taking a clear public stand regarding government complicity in the 9/11 attacks, but, after spending countless hours sifting the evidence, I find the conclusion inescapable: persons within the US government had clear foreknowledge of the attacks, and efforts to prevent those attacks were systematically thwarted on orders from higher levels.(...)
And finally, the administration has engaged in public — and largely successful — efforts to prevent or limit any serious inquiry into the 9-11 attacks. In short, lines of evidence point to foreknowledge, complicity, and cover-up at the top levels of government. These are extraordinary assertions, and they require extraordinary evidence to support them. The detailed presentation and discussion of that evidence is beyond the scope of this book; however, I have appended print and online resources. See especially David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor (Interlink, 2004), and Michael C. Ruppert’s Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age of Oil (New Society Publishers, 2004). "(70-71)

[Wauw, dat hij dat zo durft te stellen is opvallend. Maar ik geloof het direct.]

(87) Chapter Three - Powerdown - The Path of Self-Limitation, Cooperation, and Sharing

"If population pressure and resource depletion are predictable causes of antagonism between and within societies, then avoiding deadly competition would seem to require low population levels relative to the available resource base. Peacemaking would thus entail not only negotiation, but resource and population management on a global scale. In short, Powerdown would mean a species-wide effort toward self-limitation. "(88)

"However, other people are quite uncomfortable with the Powerdown scenario, precisely because it would threaten economic growth. This view is also expressed in moralistic terms: our only hope of supporting our large and burgeoning population (its advocates say), is to grow the economy and to invest heavily in new technology and scientific research. To limit scientific progress would be to crush the human spirit and doom millions to poverty; while to limit population growth would require trampling on the most basic of human rights — the right to reproduce. The ethical case for continued economic growth is compelling if we ignore certain uncomfortable facts — that is, if we assume continued, uninterrupted resource streams. Once the processes and implications of resource depletion are understood, the moral grounding of the pro-growth argument crumbles. "(88-89)

"In fact, rather than having been refuted or debunked, the LTG [Limits to Growth van de Club van Rome] study has withstood the test of time quite well and is widely regarded as an early landmark in the literature on sustainability. "(94)

"A lesson we might take away from the example of Cuba is that people can do extraordinary things if motivated by a strong and clear appeal to a developed sense of ethics. Most people (though certainly not all) are ethically motivated; they want to believe that what they are doing is good. Ethical systems appear to be an evolutionary mechanism for coordinating human behavior for collective survival, and it is through ethical systems that traditional societies internalize imperatives toward self-limitation. If people feel that a particular behavior is right, and are offered cultural support for that behavior, they will do the thing even if it is highly inconvenient or uncomfortable and involves considerable self-sacrifice. "(109)

(117) Chapter Four - Waiting for the Magic Elixir - False Hopes, Wishful Thinking, and Denial

"In the end, self-limitation is the only answer that counts, but that is the answer that no one wants to hear. So we sit, and wait, and assume, and deny. And as we wait, the signs of depletion worsen and global resource wars loom. If we refuse to take the hard Powerdown path, after a while we will simply have no choice: we will compete for what is left (whether for oil, natural gas, water, or phosphates) or we will die. Plan Snooze simply leads us back to Plan War. "(137)

(139) Chapter Five - Building Lifeboats - The Path of Community Solidarity and Preservation

"If resource the aim depletion of the Last from One the Standing most strategy militarily is powerful to shift the countries pain of onto others less formidable so that an affluent industrial lifestyle can be preserved for at least a few people; if the aim of Plan Powerdown is to avert collapse globally by voluntarily cutting back on levels of population and resource consumption; then Plan Snooze merely hopes that the problem, if ignored, will take care of itself. "(139)


"Perhaps, as I have indicated already, the collapse of industrial societies is at this point unavoidable. Still more distressing is the likelihood that the collapse will not occur in a measured, controlled manner. The managers in charge of the world’s economic, political, and military regimes are immensely powerful within the context of the present world system, but they may be utterly incapable of preventing the disintegration of that system, since the only actions they can take that will be significantly effective toward that end will also tend to undermine their own power and authority vis-à-vis competing regimes and managers. Thus, the system actively discourages steps toward its own preservation. "(140)

[Heel goed geformuleerd. Dat is precies het ding: macht in plaats van verstand. En de meeste machthebbers zullen hun macht nooit ondermijnen. De enige hoop zou zijn: dat er machthebbers naar boven komen drijven die hun macht gebruiken op een andere manier en in staat zijn daarmee alle domme agressievelingen te 'overwinnen' door overduidelijk betere resultaten. Ik vraag me af of dat wel kan ...]

"A possible scenario for the collapse of our own civilization might go something like this: Energy shortages commence in the second decade of the century, leading to economic turmoil, frequent and lengthening power blackouts, and general chaos. Over the course of several years, food production plummets, resulting in widespread famine, even in formerly wealthy countries. Wars — including civil wars — rage intermittently. Meanwhile ecological crisis also tears at the social fabric, with water shortages, rising sea levels, and severe storms wreaking further havoc. While previous episodic disasters could have been dealt with by disaster management and rescue efforts, by now societies are too disorganized to mount such efforts. One after another, central governments collapse. Societies attempt to shed complexity in stages, thus buying time. Empires devolve into nations; nations into smaller regional or tribal states. But each lower stage — while initially appearing to offer a new beginning and a platform of stability — reaches its own moment of unsustainability and further collapse ensues. Between 2020 and 2100, the global population declines steeply, perhaps to fewer than one billion. By the start of the next century, the survivors’ grandchildren are entertained by stories of a great civilization of the recent past in which people flew in metal birds and got everything they wanted by pressing buttons. "(149-150)

"One book that comes to mind is The Coming Dark Age: What Will Happen When Modern Technology Breaks Down?, by Roberto Vacca, published first in Italian in 1971, and in English in 1973. Vacca’s book caused quite a stir in the early 1970s, as oil prices soared during the Arab oil embargo, but it is scarcely remembered today. (His subsequent novel, The Death of Megalopolis, described in fictional terms the terrifying scenario of the downfall of the US.) "(154)

"Perhaps the single most important thing to conserve for future generations would be the moral lesson inherent in the growth and collapse of industrial civilization. Nature is teaching us once again, this time in as dramatic a fashion as it is possible to imagine, that we must keep our population and per-capita drawdown of resources well within the regenerative capacity of our ecosystems. It is a simple lesson, but one that we seem apt to forget. "(160)

(163) Chapter Six - Our Choice

"The elites — corporate owners and managers, government officials, and military commanders — are people who have been selected for certain qualities: loyalty to the system, competitiveness, and hunger for power. Often they are literally bred for their roles. Like George W. Bush, they are people born to wealth and power, and raised to assume that privilege is their birthright. These are people who identify with the system and the status quo; they are constitutionally incapable of questioning its fundamental assumptions.
Moreover, the elites are guided day-to-day by a set of incentives that are built into the system itself. Managers who pursue immediate gain get ahead, while those who make short-term sacrifices in order to preserve long-term stability are often at a disadvantage. Likewise, managers are rewarded who keep up appearances, who generate good news, and who exude confidence. Confessing errors accrues no benefit; instead, managers are encouraged to deny shortcomings and to blame competitors or subordinates.
Such conduct is hardly unique to the elites; everyone behaves in this fashion from time to time. But the system, in grooming its most prominent caretakers, selects for these behaviors; it carefully fosters some personality types and excludes others: assertive individuals who think concretely come to the fore, while creative dreamers fall by the wayside. "(168)

"The Movement’s response is not to give up, but to push harder, while maintaining the moral high ground. The task of changing the direction of events may appear hopeless; nevertheless, in the view of Movement leaders, opposing war and oppression is the right thing to do, regardless of the odds. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King confronted entrenched patterns of social inequity, and at first their efforts to change these patterns seemed hopeless to many. But by perseverance, and by moral example and persuasion, they prevailed. The leaders of the Movement take the same attitude today: however daunting their undertaking may appear, the alternative — allowing the world to slide further into war, tyranny, and environmental ruin — is simply unacceptable. "(173)

"Lifeboat builders will face their own challenges. The elites will see them as outsiders and therefore as potential “terrorists,” while the Movement will view them as self-absorbed survivalists (which, in some instances, will likely be true). The lifeboat builders will be trying to construct small, local, sustainable social systems in the context of a world that is tearing such systems apart in its futile attempts to push the strategy of globalization to its bitter conclusion. They will have only a small constituency of supporters and will have to overcome tendencies toward cynicism. But they will get to keep their realism, their creativity, and their autonomy. "(183)

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