Monday, April 23, 2012
It Ain't No God Damned Daisy Farm
Being a peak oil crank is more than a little interesting. You see, every day brings new messages, many of them contradictory. Some messages say that we are like a racing car that has blown a tire and is about to hit the wall at 156 miles per hour, and other messages say that everything is fine, that the car has the latest technology and even as it is traveling towards the wall, top-flight engineers are swarming over the car putting in new technology that will not only save us all but is really cool.
Among the messages that seem to indicate that we are about to enter a new golden age of technology driven bliss, are burbling squeebot ejaculations for techno advancement: the 20-year light bulb that lasts for more than 25 years, the revelation that investing in solar power gives the highest return on investment, James Cameron, movie mogul, has decided to mine asteroids, and the lithium air battery that promises up to ten times more power. These are only a handful of announcements made over the past few days. There are literally hundreds more. These paeans of tech worship come whipping at you like baseballs in a demonic batting cage and are packed with freakish giggling for the ever-so-exciting world of "hey-look-at-this-cool-shit" teenage techno-lust. If one were not capable of the even the slightest discernment, it would seem that we were about to drown in an avalanche of new stuff that used less energy, solved all our problems, provided 3-D holographic touch screens, flying cars, and quantum super computers, and promised unlimited growth because we were just that fucking awesome.
The fact is, I've been reading these science sites for as long as they were hitting the computer screen and even before that when you had to subscribe to Science News, a weekly ten to sixteen page color magazine printed on actual paper to find out the latest geegaw about to change EVERYTHING. Week in and week out I saw the promises, the over-hyped bullshit, the self-promoting crap that was designed mostly to garner more research money. How much of this wonderful tech made it to the big time? Probably less than three percent. But no one seems to remember that awesome gadget that never arrives. You know why? The average industrial age human does not want to see old news. They want the newest cutting edge tech porn available. It is not the actual device that gets them revved up, it is their feverish imagination. People who are into Star Trek are worshipping a technology that does not and will not ever exist, but do so because they anticipate it. They dream of it. They stroke themselves gently into that good night while caressing their made-in-China tricorder.
As the old saw goes, "Be careful of what you want, you just might get it." Who hasn't bought some piece of technology, thinking "Now that I have this, my life will be perfect," only to have a much better, new and improved geegaw come out invalidating your life-perfecting device and putting a new device out there for you to get a hard-on for?
What people do not seem to see or seek with equal enthusiasm are all the messages that detail the damage that all this new and old tech is causing to the ecosystem at an ever increasing pace: rising sea levels threaten hundred of power plants, climate change is a grave threat to our food supply, rains not enough to end drought in England, and radioactive sewer sludge is dumped in the open next to a high school in Japan.
For every tidbit of techno-triumphilist news, there is a corresponding tidbit of "Oh, my fucking god" news that makes the trite consumerist techno-crap seem a bit disheartening to say the least.
My point is that even a hardened old skeptic like myself, immersed and trained in the ways of curmudgeonhood, can find himself, after a prolonged stretch of techno happy talk without a good leavening of counterintelligence from the dark side, sort of humming along with the happy harpies. "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day in the neighborhood..." I begin to think, hey, what if I'm wrong? What if they are solving all these problems? What if they postpone the collapse for my short remaining time on this earth? What if the collapse doesn't come and we all become miners for Cameron Co. flying our dirty little mining ships between asteroids for a few dollars?
Then, inevitably, I remember that we live ON A SPHERE IN SPACE. I remember that any continuation of a paradigm that insists on growth is inherently insane. We have only so much water, so much land, so much metal, so much fuel, so much clean air, and so much species diversity. It is all finite. To use it, is to lose it. The minute you begin burning oil, it is depleting. Ditto water, land, air, etc. The seductive siren call of the ongoing pogrom that is known as science/ engineering/ marketing/ economics/ entertainment asks us to believe, to lust, to give up reason and embrace their ten minute fix of endorphins that dissipates in a puff of ennui.
So, I shake my head vigorously and make that wob bah duh, wob bah duh, wob bah duh noise that cartoon characters make when coming out of a trance and the rose tint fades from view and I see once again that not so pleasant thing known as reality. As a good friend says, "It ain't no godamned daisy farm."
No, it ain't. But, at least it's real.