DEFINITION OF INSANITY*
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I think the saying “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results” was attributed to Albert Einstein, but it could have been another notable. The same thing can be said as “when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing to do is stop digging”. And failing empires or civilizations are notorious for violating this simple rule. Rather than look back at obvious examples such as the Mayans or the Romans depleting their soil faster and faster to counter population growth and military decline, look at our present day with our Industrial/Petroleum Agriculture. Overly optimistic prophets of the Happy Future think because there is slight growth in organic farming we can all live happily ever after. But organic growth is driven by market demand which is driven by economic surplus and in a lot of cases organics aren’t even all that much organic other than by lawyer weasel wording and in 99% of the case they are mechanized farming and long distance hauling, so they are for all intents and purposes unsustainable.
And even if we all went Victory Garden and had the skills and time and space to grow our own stuff, which we don’t ( who is going to VG for the 8 million people in NYC? ) it would be salad produce with only a marginal amount of potatoes and eggs in a best case scenario. Most calories are missing, back there in Iowa in the corn fields. Most of our grocery spending is at restaurants, which means most of our calorie production is centralized in the Midwest AND most of the storage and processing and serving is centralized also. With 333 million legal and illegal citizens to feed, we MUST stay centralized all up and down the supply chain. We need the military to guard the shipping lanes to allow the ships to bring us our oil, from countries we occupy or lurk near with the threat of occupation, and we need oil to equip our military, from the Military Industrial Complex because colonizing the world takes a lot of ordinance, all powered by a central bank that needs a national economy to support it, and an economy that must perform enough activity to require loans that need interest to support the bank, and all THAT is required before you even can build equipment to farm, or ship fuel to farms, or import artificial fertilizers for the farms or ship and store and process and then ship once again to retail stops all the food. At what point in this tangled web can you go from centralization to decentralized, non-petroleum, organic permaculture? Without starving those millions for the transition period?
That is one example of why we can’t go from centralization, petroleum addiction, heavy handed political masters to anything approaching sanity and sustainability. The system only works the way it is already set up, and yet it is clearly failing doing things the way it was set up, so what choice do you have but to keep digging in your hole? For a hundred years the solution to any and every single problem was to apply petroleum to it for an answer. And obviously, to apply petroleum you had to keep centralizing ( the same worked with coal until the primacy of oil. The fact that China is trying to reconstruct a global empire on mostly coal doesn’t speak for its feasibility but of its desperate nature ) because to control the oil you needed the oil only sized institutions that enabled you to do so. It is a Catch-22 like needing money to make money. Like all things that start good and turn horridly putrid, wasting oil at first was a very good thing. It allowed a waste product to replace what was dear, from fertilizer to human labor.
But it didn’t take long to become an addiction and once the drug became scarce, a death warrant. But at the start, it was an intelligent addiction. The robber barons needed to invest all that coal wealth into other investments after the coal powered everything market was saturated, and oil was so much superior in every way, from compact BTU ratios to extraction ease to ( relatively ) clean burning that our entire economy went through a sort of extra wealth the Hollywood industry gets when going from VHS tapes to DVD’s. Everything old is destroyed and everything new and improved is a whole second set of profits, plus a whole lot extra ( going to DVD’s also generated digital content for TV and Internet viewing, for instance. Or, coal fired locomotives replaced by diesel pushers lead to more freight ). The central bank needed wars to generate demand. The military needed to become a colonizing force once again after demobilizing from the South’s Reconstruction fiasco.
Tremendous profits were realized from switching our entire nation over to oil use ( the CCC might have kept potential dissidents from rebelling but you know the corporations made lots of coin off public spending projects. How many millions in profits per drowned in cement worker at the Hoover dam, do you think? ) and that did include most of the population sharing in some of the profits, at least those who survived the wars of colonialization ( although their families did profit off of their deaths- the term “bought the farm” meaning “to die” was used when life insurance policies from military personnel dying were used by the parents to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. He bought the farm for his parents ). Who was there to oppose such an orgy of resource extraction and dependence? Nary a soul I would wager, until after it was a done deal. But once the system was installed, More Of The Same was the only solution for any problems because the existing system, Plan A, was the only possible plan.
Running out of metal ore? Use more oil extracting less productive ores. Except every year we need more energy to extract less ore. Running out of crap metal? Use oil derived plastics. If the parts break because they are plastic, use more plastic on replacements. Running out of plastic? Use oil to recycle plastic ( never mind no one recycles ). Roads crowded? Build more, wider. Then they fill up faster because we need more immigrants to buy more cars, so build even more roads. Running out of affordable gas for all those cars? Build an entire new fleet of lighter cars, with oil of course. Then keep replacing the entire fleet quicker and quicker as the cars become disposable when nobody can afford to replace the plastic on the car under the cost of another car ( or at least its equity ). Can’t afford an Industrial Army? Use lots of oil to replace with technology, which then uses less oil, until it doesn’t because we sent our high tech overseas and now must ship it home then ship it to war, but now the high tech doesn’t work at all because we went way past the point of diminishing returns. And etc.
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