Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wednesday Links

  • The end of the world isn't as likely as humans fighting back.  Always worth remembering.
  • The agricultural sector in the US uses less than 2% of total energy usage.  Also worth remembering.
  • Sounds like Saeed Jalili is Iran's next president (I'm pretty convinced after 2009 that Iranian elections are effectively fixed).  Doesn't sound like relations with the rest of the world are likely to improve much: "The goal of Iran and its allies, Mr. Jalili said, is to 'uproot capitalism, Zionism and Communism, and promote the discourse of pure Islam in the world.'"
  • China shipping too many crappy solar panels?  Caveat emptor!


Aaron said...

Regarding the post "The end of the world isn't as likely as humans fighting back. Always worth remembering." - I disagree. Yes, humans are resilient. As a species we're going to make it. But civilization isn't resilient. The author of the article absurdly claims: "... remember that human civilization has been through calamitous events in the past, and has continued on."

Human civilization has been around for a mere 10k years. That's far too short a time for any so-called calamitous events.

The marked difference between human civilization and human-existence-prior-to-civilization is that prior-to-civilization we were all in a daily struggle against thermodynamic reality - trying to collect more calories then we expended. That struggle is no longer so immediate and is measured in years and decades as we plant crops and store grains.

The apocalypse is as simple and boring as a reversion to the mean. Whatever the mean is, it isn't easy to characterize since it's pre-historical - but it certainly doesn't include civilization.

Alan Post said...

I've started chasing down the notion that a resource-limit triggered world war, in the United States, could look an awful lot like a Second American Civil War.

I've been trying to determine how plausible such a thing is, and I'm still undecided.

The right kind of financial crisis--one that wipes out significant future social standing but retains access to the physical resources/supply chains could trigger and sustain a war.

But I don't know nearly enough to say whether that is more plausible than the state collapsing but largely retaining internal cohesion. That any resistance/succession movement could fail to rise above the level of criminal infighting.

I wish I had a better sense of what major factors to consider, but this scenario isn't attracting much attention right now.

Stuart Staniford said...

Alan - the thought has crossed my mind that if the US ever came under enough stress to break-up, the fault line might well be pretty close to the Mason-Dixon line. I don't think it's a particularly likely near-term outcome though - although looking at this kind of thing might give one pause to be completely dismissive of the idea:

jemand said...

I'm not so convinced a split north vs south along the Mason-Dixon line is as likely now as some other option, possibly east vs west over water, or something else, even. And even if it was north vs south, I'd think the west STILL may go separately, possibly even as a third faction.

Manolo said...

Hi Stuart! God, I always like your underlying optimism! ;)

Now please de-riddle me this if you can: 400ppm and consequences, especially in the light of this:

When the Arctic was 8 °C warmer:

(pretty sure you must have seen it...)

One of the dire consequences, at 8 degrees warmer in the Arctic, will be the release of
nearly all the frozen CO2 and Methane Hydrates within the arctic circle, on land and underwater.
We are already at 400ppm NOW. Talk about a lot more ppm to come our way, and soon.
And it already started: for beginners search under "Arctic emergency"

This whole thing is on an exponential progression, mother nature is playing "catch-up"
trying to follow our Turbo charged emissions. The climate system will eventually catch up,rather sooner than later. The video explains a lot, but definitively not all the
unimaginable consequences.

Humanity needs to understand what we are facing, or not ?

Pls give me your thoughts ;)

Cheers, Manolo

sunbeam said...

Stuart, things related to this idea have been published.

My recent favorite is "American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America," by Colin Woodard.

This isn't the place for a book review but I will tell you that the book is very strong. Honestly it owes a whole lot to the previous "Nine Nations of North America," but Woodard goes into the history of how these regions developed. Plus he has 2 more areas. One I can't remember, and the other addition was breaking Dixie up into two cultural areas, Tidewater Virginia, and Charleston SC.

As a southerner I think he nailed it.

Weaknesses of his book are:

1) The 20th century is awful. Just awful. He has the attitude that New Englanders (just like him) == GOOD, everyone else, particularly southerners, misguided at best.

But we all know they are pure EVIL, wink* wink*.

I could go on about it, but it is kind of what you would expect from the busybodies of North America, and it isn't confined to the slavery issue.

2) Immigration is changing the nature of the regions he discusses. I don't know how long it takes, but eventually the whole West Coast is going to be majority hispanic (with strong asian admixture). This includes the liberal paradise of the Pacific Northwest.

Just saying his breakdown of American voting blocks isn't going to last. I don't pretend to understand the Mexican heart, but I feel it safe to say they are not Boston Liberals by temperament or inclination. Actually California and LA in particular are thin layers of elites, "Liberal" in outlook, that run everything currently, over a much larger population of Latinos.

Don't get the idea I'm a conservative. I loathe Limbaugh as much as you do probably. But if you divorce sentiment from reality, what's left isn't something that exists to validate the things people want to believe.

This is a long winded way to say that any breakup of the US is probably not gong to be some Neo Confederacy and the rest of the country. I would expect the US to break up into numerous entities. Might take a few years though.

Sam Penrose said...

I didn't see any accounting of energy expenditures on irrigation. I suspect that would materially affect the "2%" estimate.

russell1200 said...

With Sam above:

It is all in the counting.

Pimentel, et al in Reducing Energy Inputs in the US Food System, 2008 puts it at 19%. The 2% might work if you count growing crops in a field, the 19% breaks down as (14% ag production plus food processing and packaging and 5% is transportation and preparation).