Archive for the tag “William R. Catton”

News update

Fossil fuels subsidised by $10m a minute, says IMF
The Guardian UK
Fossil fuel companies are benefitting from global subsidies of $5.3tn (£3.4tn) a year, equivalent to $10m a minute every day, according to a startling new estimate by the International Monetary Fund. The IMF calls the revelation “shocking” and says the figure is an “extremely robust” estimate of the true cost of fossil fuels. The $5.3tn subsidy estimated for 2015 is greater than the total health spending of all the world’s governments. The vast sum is largely due to polluters not paying the costs imposed on governments by the burning of coal, oil and gas.

The IMF Tells a Half-Truth
Richard Heinberg
It’s certainly helpful to have an accounting of the externalities of our collective fossil fuel consumption. But the choice of the word “subsidies” over the more precise “externalities” makes a difference: governments can cancel subsidies in the forms of tax breaks and gifts, but they can’t so easily cancel fossil fuel externalities without curtailing fossil fuel consumption—and that’s a big job, if they’re to do it in a way that doesn’t entail the rapid, uncontrolled collapse of society.

Can the world economy survive without fossil fuels?
Larry Elliott, The Guardian UK
In terms of reducing global poverty capitalism has been a success, but this growth has put pressure on the planet. The question, therefore, is whether it is possible to marry two seemingly contradictory objectives. Can we imagine a future that is cleaner, greener and sustainable – one that avoids climate armageddon – without abandoning the idea of growth and, thus, forcing living standards into decline? The answer is that it will be hellishly difficult, but it is just about feasible if we make the right choices – and start making them now.

Seven Surprising Realities Behind The Great Transition to Renewable Energy
Earth Policy Institute
The global transition to clean, renewable energy and away from nuclear and fossils is well under way, with remarkable developments happening every day. The Great Transition by Lester Brown, Janet Larsen, Matt Roney, and Emily Adams lays out a tremendous range of these developments – here are seven that may surprise you.

How Sustainable is PV Solar Power?
Low Tech Magazine
Its generally assumed that it only takes a few years before solar panels have generated as much energy as it took to make them, resulting in very low greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional grid electricity. A more critical analysis shows that the cumulative energy and CO2 balance of the industry is negative, meaning that solar PV has actually increased energy use and greenhouse gas emissions instead of lowering them.

The Counterfeit Shale Revolution (pdf)
Arthur Berman
The shale revolution is counterfeit. Tight oil and shale gas are imitations of something valuable and shale promoters intentionally deceive the public about their true value. It is counterfeit because the cost of produc4on is more than the global economy can bear. Producers and analysts deceive the public with misleading and incorrect break-even prices that exclude important costs or are based on exaggerated reserves. There is no shale revolution: it is a final, desperate effort to squeeze the last remaining petroleum from the worst possible rock.

Are we approaching peak population growth?
Max Roser
Since the 18th century, the world population has seen a rapid increase; between 1900 and 2000 the increase in world population was three times as great as the increase during the entire previous history of humankind – in just 100 years the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion. But this development is now coming to an end, and we will not experience a similarly rapid increase in population growth over the course of this century.

Book Review of Overshoot by William R. Catton Jr.
Craig Straub, The Social Contract
Catton concludes that the human community is condemned to bet on an uncertain future. Misperception of the human situation will motivate efforts to pursue solutions which make matters worse. An ecological understanding of the human predicament will help avoid constructing the road to hell paved with good intentions.

News update

What is Saudi Arabia not telling us about its oil future?
Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
What if the Saudis are acting now to undermine U.S. and Canadian oil production because they realize that Saudi production will soon reach a peak? What if the Saudis fear that energy efficiency, fuel substitution (say, toward natural gas), and mandated greenhouse gas emission reductions will inevitably diminish their oil revenues beyond the next decade? What if this coming decade will therefore be the best time to maximize Saudi revenues per barrel?

The worlds energy information duopoly comes to an end
Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
Until now most energy price and supply forecasts and analyses were based predominately on information from the globes two leading energy information agencies: the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and the International Energy Agency (IEA). Recent developments are beginning to undermine the supremacy of the worlds long-running energy information duopoly and its perennially optimistic narrative.

The Year the Dam of Denial Breaks on Climate Change
Paul Gilding, Cockatoo Chronicles
This is the year the “dam of denial” will break and the momentum for climate action will become an unstoppable flood. It will be messy, confusing and endlessly debated but with historical hindsight, 2015 will be the year. The year the world turned, primarily because the market woke up to the economic threat posed by climate change and the economic opportunity in the inevitable decline of fossil fuels.

A clash of epistemologies: why the debate on climate change is going nowhere
Ugo Bardi, Resource Crisis
Scientists know how much work and study is needed to understand climate science and resent what they saw as superficiality and approximation in the debate. The result is the kind of clash we saw on the SCI blog. It was, if you like, a clash of epistemologies: rhetoric against the scientific method.

William Cattons warning
Kurt Cobb, Resource Insights
Overshoot
 may stand as the central text of the 20th century about the ecological fate of humankind. The book represents a missed opportunity in that so few people were able to hear what Catton had to say in 1980, and so few want to hear it noweven as the headlines are filled with the very precursors of the bottleneck he laments in his last major piece of writing.

Extinct—Extincter—Extinctest
Dmitry Orlov
The current low prices are not high enough to sustain this new, expensive production for much longer, and the current glut is starting to look like a feast to be followed by famine. The direct cause of this famine will not be energy but debt, but it can still be traced back to energy.

Utopians are ruining everything
Leaving Babylon
Utopian memes have misled people into thinking that top-down design of ideal societies is the right strategy for creating a better world. Even permaculture has been infected, imposing top-down landscaping designs upon the land with predictably disappointing results. (Also see the follow-up post: Generating a future that works)

A Moral Code For The Post-Collapse World
Zero Hedge
Popular media today, including television and cinema, are rife with examples of what is often referred to as moral relativism — the use of false and fictional moral dilemmas designed to promote the rationalization of an “ends justify the means” narrative.

Obituary: William R. Catton Jr. (Jan 15, 1926 Jan 5, 2015)

When William R. Catton Jr., American sociologist and author of Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change, passed away on January 5th, it went unnoticed by the mainstream media, or even the alternative press. This was expected, too. His work shaped the views of many activists and writers on issues like Peak Oil, resource depletion etc, but remain largely unknown outside these circles.

Catton’s primary contribution is the trailblazing articulation of an environmental sociological framework that challenged existing sociological theories in general from a completely different tack: by synthesizing sociological and ecological theory. He argued that a prevalent idea of human control over nature, instead of being a great achievement, might be only be a reflection of exploitation of natural resources that were actually finite.
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