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Friday, April 28, 2017

indispensable


INDISPENSABLE
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note: Damn, Homey got paid this week!  J.W in KY and J.S. in ID, many thanks for the generous donations.  J.F. in GA, your CD is in the mail today, thanks for the order and the extra donation.
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Indispensable items are things that you shan’t be able to duplicate once the collapse occurs.  Ever.  Never, ever, never.  The Oil Age was a One Off event and since the economic component of that beneficial energy dump has already started to falter due to the lack of required growth, you can bet your last rimfire shell that once that underpinning shears off the last of the fracking oil, tar sands and deep water oil will be left underground for the rest of mankind’s existence.  Just because you have the knowledge doesn’t mean you have the resources to apply the knowledge, a sad fact few wish to acknowledge, thank you very much stupid science fiction story ( sci-fi was itself a product of the Oil Age, and the early masters had the vision to see what an exponential increase in energy could lead to.  I mean, voyaging to the bottom of the sea wasn’t a huge leap of imagination.  The Revolutionary War had a tiny pedal powered submarine.  The genius lay in imagining how large the ships could grow to and what they were capable of doing.  At the time, few had the vision of how unlimited energy would work, just as now how few can grasp how less energy could possibly be.  That sci-fi story on the priesthood that uncovers old tech and eventually duplicates it completely missed the need for another unlimited energy age being impossible ).

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Indispensable items are things such as plastic, antibiotics, precision firearms and non-corrosive ammunition, light bulbs, artificial fertilizer, synthetic rubber, carbon fuel ore smelters and advanced chemistry.  None of those was possible prior to oil and natural gas because they are not cottage industry capable.  Even if cotton nitrate smokeless powder can be duplicated, there isn’t enough natural fertilizer available to produce it.  Nor can primers be made unless one has access to the surface ore to produce mercury.  Nor can brass be produced after the surface copper is gone ( underground mining is of course still feasible but most man and draft animal powered mining spots are already played out globally ), and not only that you don’t have a tool and die industry, nor the machinery to produce cases.  And that is trying to duplicate 125 year old technology. 

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Artificial fertilizer is really nothing more than natural gas feeding the billions, but it requires more than just the gas supply that is dwindling ( Lancaster Ohio became the glassware capital of the world because it was located atop a huge reservoir of gas which was a nearly free municipal provided energy source.  That lasted less than a century.  Gas is no more infinite than any other supply ).  The catalyst for the gas alone used in the transformation is high tech and the industrial machinery depending on cheap steel and coal fired electricity is immense.  Tolerances are exact and the pressure containing equipment needed utilizes exotic metals and techniques.  Like everything we depend on today, the infrastructure and energy behind that is beyond duplication.  To think that you can, using dams and mules, windmills and muscles, is idiocy.  All the primitive ancestors of today’s indispensable items are so inferior as to be nearly worthless.  The idea of them needed liberal applications of carbon fuels to gain widespread use and utility.

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The 1990’s prosperity wasn’t just from Siberian oil and the last of the easy oil from Saudi Arabia, it was also from applying that one last energy cornucopia to extracting heretofore unreachable ores.   We had already by that point long ago striped the surface ores and only by applying huge energy inputs could we extract deep or diffuse ores to continue to sell disposable items ( as Kuntsler has pointed out, we are mining tar sands using giant trucks to haul earth only marginally containing any fuel.  Those trucks can change tires five times a year and each giant tire is $40k each.  Then heat the earth with lots of natural gas.  That is our imported Canadian oil.  Gold and silver and copper extraction is similarly energy intensive).  That is our remaining ore and the extraction process cannot be duplicated on a lower technological scale.  You can approximate the process but never duplicate, and you must duplicate it to once again have the global process that makes it all possible. 

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So once done is done, there are no do-overs.  We’ve talked extensively about ammunition and its inability to be replicated.  Once the reloads have gone you must devolve technologically.  The BEST you can do is flintlock black powder, with breech loading being as high tech as it gets.  And that goal is problematic not only from the surplus nitrates point but the ability to fabricate the arms.  Not just ore and energy wise but manufacturing ( the Firefox manual on building your own musket presupposed available finished barrels ).  Will there be suitable metal-or smelting fuel for recycling-not to mention the knowledge which is quite difficult even if THAT is the easiest resource to acquire in this scenario?  One should have serious doubts if one isn’t merely daydreaming but seriously planning.  One has to wonder how long, if long at all,  crossbows completely replace gunpowder weapons.  Indispensable but also irreplaceable.  Glass is easy enough to fabricate, but not only do you need the raw material but the energy also.  Raw material was a serious roadblock for five hundred years after Rome fell as trade was almost non existent as there was no agricultural surplus from the denuded colonial fields. 

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Knowledge is certainly NOT power without the infrastructure to implement its realization.  A great many things you can only resign yourself to its rapid demise and impossible return.  Continued tomorrow.

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8 comments:

  1. Natural fertilizers arn't really new a net gain in fertility, natural fertilizers are just trasfered fertility. For example, manure on a garden is only trasfering the fertility the cow collected from the pasture were it grazed to the garden. Do this long enough and the fertility of the pasture will decrease. So in effect your mining nutriants from the pasture to booste the fertility on your garden.

    Aussie

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    Replies
    1. Yes, which is what I mean about importing nutrients. Any system does the same. Sudan to Egypt. Chinese hills to paddy. If you range far enough for compost scrap hopefully you can go a very long time, but ultimately you mine the soil. You can only minimize rather than eliminate, damn that entropy.

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    2. Exactly Mr dakin. But you got to remeber that you have the rest of the planet under your feet. Deep rooted plants are very important as the drag up minerals from down deep and ultimatly deposit them on the surface were other plants can use them.

      Old village churches in England are said to apear to sink into the land scape but aparently what is happening is after 400yrs of burrying people in the church yard the ground has rissen up giveing the aperance that the church is sinking. With that in mind, one of the best ways to build up the fertility in a areas is to pick up road kill and dump it in the area you may intend to garden in in a couple of years time.

      Phosphate mines are often on small island in the ocean were for thousands of years sea birds have eaten fish and pooed on the island and built up a huge amout of phosphate. What took thousands of years to lay down has nearly all been dug up in the last 50yrs or so. Peek phospate doesnt get the attention of peek oil but the effects could be nearly as drastic.
      Aussie

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    3. Isn't Morocco and one other country the only other sources of phosphate on an industrial scale? We have so many Peak issues it is insane.

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  2. Reduce erosion, gather biomass into a pile, let the worms/bugs/bacteria work on it. The processed pile feeds your garden. Moss is the ultimate because they etch bare rock into dissolved sands and are greenery.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Isn't moss erosion on a centuries long scale, though?

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    2. Mere Decades depending on the depth and other weathering factors.
      But your point is taken.
      Holistic permaculture can in fact, given enough time (years not decades) produce new soil, not just move it.
      Plants do NOT decrease the soil directly their mass actually comes from the carbon (in carbon dioxide) in the air. So after the climate settles down a bit again, if people and weather allows it, plants will again draw down the atmospheric CO2 and use it to build soil. As a natural process this takes centuries, but human intervention can speed it up to good rich soil in only a decade or two. If the people can put aside the short term gains they want instead.
      So yeah, we are doomed in the short term.

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  3. Actually the crimp on bronze making will be when TIN gets hard to find. When you dissolve sugar in water at room temperature, you're obviously NOT melting the sugar - that happens at 366F. Same goes with dissolving salt - which melts around 1454F. Copper melts around 2000F, and making a fire and holding that heat will require coal or at least charcoal and some kind of refractory kiln, and blast air - which can be your buddy humping a goat stomach.
    But tun melts around 450F, which you CAN get to with wood campfires, and it will (*huzzah* music) DISSOLVE copper or copper bearing ores into it to make bronzes at much lower-tech temperatures than big-boy smelting or real foundry work.
    Tin trade routes are older than the Silk Road.

    ReplyDelete

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