Policies Appropriate During Growth

Thelma and Louise . . . . Could there be a more apt analogy for the eventual results of autocatalysis and hierarchy? Baby blue 1966 Thunderbird convertible . . . zoom, zoom!

Policies that favor accelerated resource use favor the general economy and become accepted policy. Governments offer free lands, give tax breaks to mining of fuels, subsidize transportation systems that help the use of fuels to stimulate an area’s economic development, encourage more children, and help immigrant colonization.

  • Maximize empower through low-diversity overgrowth
  • Reproduce
  • Encourage immigration
  • Compete, displace
  • Borrow and loan
  • Permit large differences in income and wealth
  • Minimize regulation
  • Emphasize increasing wages by labor unions
  • Maintain defense forces, expect war with other expanding centers
  • Increase money supply
  • Build temporary-quality construction rapidly
  • Allow growth to absorb unemployment
  • Encourage stocks, bonds, and other unearned income
  • Couple environment to fuel-using economic production
  • Set priorities for development of fuel, transportation, and water resources
  • Accelerate centers of development with unequal exchange (Odum, 2007, p. 388)

Policies for Sustaining Climax of Civilization:

  • Maximize empower through high-diversity, efficient cooperation**
  • Change industries concerned with new construction to maintenance**
  • Reduce borrowing to that concerned with replacement (not growth)**
  • Hold money supply constant
  • Don’t expect much unearned income from interest and dividends**
  • Adopt a zero population growth rate
  • Replace low-quality growth structure with structure of lower depreciation
  • Provide incentives to eliminate luxury use of fuels, cars, and electric power**
  • Regulate foreign exchanges for energy equity between nations**
  • Provide public works programs for the unemployed
  • Provide part-time jobs for the retired as long as health permits**
  • Place a ceiling on individual income**
  • Share information without profit**
  • Develop a national campaign to respect people by their service, not income

     (Odum, 2007, p. 388)

**Policies to continue during descent

HTO-Departmental Picnic

Surplus energy and rapid growth can cause many problems in systems, especially when they result in overshoot. When well-organized systems are disrupted and regulating controls are destroyed, imbalances and pathological growth can occur through the development of competitive exclusion. Examples of this at different levels of scale include cancer, financial derivatives, climate change and population growth. As power levels during growth increase, problems with excess power develop:

    1. Opportunistic circuits may develop and develop wasteful energy discharges from storages. Protection may be necessary
    2. Energy transformation may be stalled if overloaded
    3. Heat releases from dispersal of energy may become concentrated, causing eddies, short circuits, structural damage, or work done on the environment
    4. In human systems, this heat dispersal may occur as disorder such as unrest, mob actions, irresponsible reproduction, and social eddies, when support is provided  without work being required in return (Odum, 2007)
Ortega, Gusman, Borelli & Salek, from 7th Biennial Emergy Conference Jan. 2012

The energy diagram above illustrates the amazing power of autocatalytic feedback loops over the passage of time. Each successive expansion of our industrial system multiplies the impacts through positive feedback loops causing increasing iterations of  frenzied economic activity, increased structure and storages, increased entrainment of resources into the system, increased complexity, increased territory, size of centers, transformity, and empower. The “unpackaged” systems diagram below illustrates the same process through a flywheel analogy.

Flywheel from MT Brown 2004 Picture Worth a Thousand Words (from Odum, 1976)

Uninhibited autocatalysis as a result of surplus energy results in exponential growth and eventual disaster. Here’s yet another flywheel/car analogy in the brief Youtube video below representing a model run of the diagram above over time, this time using an RX7’s flywheel. Let’s step on the gas?

Round and round we go, revving the engine in successively grander iterations over time, until eventually the flywheel explodes. Let us refresh our memory about the problems of excess power described above; did the RX7 flywheel analogy fit the bill?

  • Wasteful Energy Discharges-√ Check
  • Overloaded, Stalled Energy Transformation-√ Check
  • Heat Releases from Dispersal of Energy Causing Short Circuits, Structural Damage, & Work Done on the Environment-√ Check
  • Disorder Causing Unrest & Mob Actions-√ Check
We can take the analogy of our economy as a car even further. How long can we keep revving the engine on our global economy before the flywheel explodes? Will the flywheel blow up or will we just run out of gas first? Is the choice up to us as people? How do we take our foot off of the gas pedal both individually and collectively? Should we be worried about the oil-burning fumes coming out of the tailpipe as our biggest priority, or should we be worried instead about running out of gas? Which problem is more catastrophic to our economy, and which problem is more imminent?
Hunger Games Katniss District 12 Salute to Rue

We are slaves in the sense that we depend for our daily survival upon an expand-or-expire agro-industrial empire—a crackpot machine—that the specialists cannot comprehend and the managers cannot manage. Which is, furthermore, devouring world resources at an exponential rate. We are, most of us, dependent employees. –Edward Abbey

The Purse Seine (Robinson Jeffers, 1937)

I cannot tell you how beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible. I thought,
We have geared the machines and locked all together into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now
There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable of free survival, insulated
From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
Is being hauled in. . .

. . . I cannot tell you
How beautiful the scene is, and a little terrible,
then, when the crowded fish
Know they are caught, and wildly beat from one wall
to the other of their closing destiny the
phosphorescent
Water to a pool of flame, each beautiful slender body

http://deathstarpr.blog spot.com/2011/07/ death-star-for- america.html

sheeted with flame, like a live rocket
A comet’s tail wake of clear yellow flame; while outside
the narrowing
Floats and cordage of the net great sea-lions come up
to watch, sighing in the dark; the vast walls
of night
Stand erect to the stars.
Lately I was looking from a night mountain-top
On a wide city, the colored splendor, galaxies of light:
how could I help but recall the seine-net
Gathering the luminous fish? I cannot tell you how
beautiful the city appeared, and a little terrible.
I thought, We have geared the machines and locked all together
into inter-dependence; we have built the great cities; now
There is no escape. We have gathered vast populations incapable
of free survival, insulated
From the strong earth, each person in himself helpless, on all
dependent. The circle is closed, and the net
Is being hauled in. They hardly feel the cords drawing, yet
they shine already. The inevitable mass-disasters
Will not come in our time nor in our children’s, but we
and our children
Must watch the net draw narrower, government take all
powers–or revolution, and the new government
Take more than all, add to kept bodies kept souls–or anarchy,
the mass-disasters.
These things are Progress;
Do you marvel our verse is troubled or frowning, while it keeps
its reason? Or it lets go, lets the mood flow
In the manner of the recent young men into mere hysteria,
splintered gleams, crackled laughter. But they are
quite wrong.
There is no reason for amazement: surely one always knew
that cultures decay, and life’s end is death.

NASA 2007 http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap001127.html

And Gary Snyder (1975) said, “The poems will leap out past the automobiles and TV sets of today into the vastness of the Milky Way (visible only when the electricity is turned down), to richen and humanize the scientific cosmologies.” The electricity of our cities of light crowds out the view of Nature. Are we omnipotent and in control of Nature with our complex, transformed civilization built from technology bred of fossil fuel?

Can Emergy Evaluation/Synthesis help us make choices on the best course of action? How does that work? We invite posts on the consequences of surplus energy? See following page for Policies Appropriate During Descent.

How Do We Slow This Thing Down?

Our civilization can thrive in a future where we live with less