Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Falling Slowly

Does it matter? Sometimes I picture a future world where there are debates about whether the rich farmland, large cities, and rainforests seen in a few old pictures ever really existed, or whether they were imagined by prophets dreaming of heaven.

Via Contrary Goddess and Sharon (jewishfarmer):

ENVIRONMENT: Warming May Trigger Agricultural Collapse

The study referred to in the above article is reported in detail in William Cline's new book, Global Warming and Agriculture: Impact Estimates by Country. A look at the Peterson Institute's "In Brief" overview of the book shows that the more optimistic estimates of future agricultural production rely heavily on carbon fertilisation offsetting the negative effects of high temperatures (not to mention a fortuitous escape from all sorts of other harmful effects such as water shortages and severe weather events). Carbon fertilisation? I must look for an update on the dark side of that issue: hidden hunger.

Yes, the fall may be too slow for many to notice. And if so, the emotional suffering may be much less that we would expect, because few will know what has been lost. Even as they starve, people may not know that there was ever much hope of anything else.


Tim Hodgens said...


I'll comment on this post later, but in the meantime you may want to take a look at: posting on water use on 10/17/07.

Her farm is in Georgia and she's talking about the drought there and I know you think about that topic.


Tim Hodgens said...


This will be a long comment because I will insert some material I posted on in the comment section for: Prepping for peak: How fast can we change. (date 10/15/07)

The whole post is very lengthy and also quite interesting.

My first comment:


Thanks for posting this. It resonates with my thinking of the past year or so, and I suspect it is a background concern which many many more are wondering about.

The shape of the curve, i.e, the rate of decline of key resources is of the essence but unfortunately we can't clearly predict it. We just know that it's coming. It will not just be about oil, it will also be about water and food.

We have been blessed with abundance and we have been collectively extravagant with our consumption of that abundance. With that comes an expectation, especially for the younger generations, that it will continue the way it has "always been" based on their life experience. The shock involved will be enormous when things change in the availability of those supposedly bedrock substances, i.e., oil, water and food.

I sincerely hope that the shape of that curve is gradual so it will give more people, and yes, even societies the possiblilty of meaningful shifts in their ingrained life practises. If it is gradual the shock factor will be muted. If it is more abrupt, even regionally, it will have numbing effects, after the initial reactions of running and freezing.

Either way, coming to terms with habits of addiction to speed, excessive food consumption, to energy, to travel, etc., will be essential. And it is there which each individual can begin. As more engage in those practises, the potential of influencing more and more people towards similar actions increases. I also am of the mind that the hunkering down mentality of individual survivalism is not a meaningful strategy for even the intermediate term.

In our disconnected society we have lost contact with family and neighborhood and "clans." Those reconnections will become ever so important in the years to come.


Then there was a comment downthread from "Zeke" in which he said:

I've spent most of my life attempting to assist people with making major changes in their lives. Some things I've learned. 1. People do not make changes until a certain pain level is reached (different for different people)and then it's just enough change to ease the pain. 2. Prior to that pain level, people spend endless amounts of time with wishful thinking, fanciful solutions and talking which is never connected to the severity of their situation. 3. Rapid change is always chaotic and rarely voluntary. We are very "adaptable" if the change is slow and small. It's a rare person that "changes" their lifestyle overnight so to speak. 4. Change entails far more behavioral change that we can conceive when we begin. 5. The vast majority of us try one, or more, avoidance techniques such as drug usage, anger, blaming, pacification by authority figures, etc. 6. Just because something is "too horrible to comtemplate" doesn't mean it's not going to happen.

The only people with any pain regarding either energy or climate change are the worlds poor. The rest of us are still carrying on our lives pretty much as we always have. I'm an old man. Good luck to all of you.

Then downthread again I posted this:

Zeke and WestTexas,

Re. the shape of the curve of peak oil: If it turns out to be undulating then in a funny way that may both give people and society time to make the adjustments needed AND also during the more intense part of the undulation, will give the kick start called pain to those who are willing to make significant changes.


Later on in the comments someone spoke about the general level of awareness of most people about these issues. He proposed that everyone park in a walmart parking lot and watch people going in and coming out and ask yourself what percentage of those people ever give any thought to these things.

Interesting, to say the least.


arcolaura said...

Thanks Tim. I've been following the drought situation in Georgia a little through Wayne's blog, Niches. I am intrigued by his discussions of the cyclic and regional drivers of temperature and precipitation. One of my good intentions is to seek out information about the drivers of climate in our region, and begin to explore scenarios for probable change here. Garth figures that a discussion of how to adapt to probable change would engage more people than a lecture about the urgency of fighting debatable catastrophic change.

Zeke's comments grabbed my attention. I find his pessimism quite . . . contagious? Tempting? Discouraging, definitely. I have been thinking for some time that "assisting people with making major changes in their lives" is what I want to do. Oh, well, I guess I already knew it wouldn't be easy.

Anyway, I got thinking about the pain that people feel, flee, drug, or whatever. Watch the intensity of the response when environment is mentioned - whether it be antagonism, shutting down, or hand-wringing - and it is clear that there is a wound here. We are a wounded generation (or several), a wounded culture, raised with impossible expectations for comfort and convenience and security and control and ease and - I can't think of a word for it - freedom from guilt, from responsibility for anything unpleasant.

At a workshop on Monday about the United Church of Canada's campaign to connect with the 30-45-year-old generation (mine), in a discussion about whether local congregations can live up to the representation of our church in the ad campaign, I said I hoped that congregations could begin to ask, "How do we become the church that is needed in the world today?" And I think one of the things that is needed is to find and begin to heal that deep wound. To bring us to wholeness, so that instead of painful cringing, we can face our reality with openness, humility, gratitude, trust, and a peaceful, free willingness to help.

Tim Hodgens said...


Re Garth's quote: "Garth figures that a discussion of how to adapt to probable change would engage more people than a lecture about the urgency of fighting debatable catastrophic change."

I think that is a really solid strategy. It is possible for those who are so inclined to do that individually and/or in groups, and it also has the potential for larger groups to explore that.

I like his choice of word = probable since it has a tad more certainty to it and people will go towards certainty as a general rule.

(However, the word = possible should also be explored.)

I also think that it the strategy is imbedded in the context of humans have a hardwired process of going in the direction of survival and continuation of the species, then it will grab their interest and attention even more.

I could see it being explored in schools as part of educational training for real life.

Double scoops of ice cream for Garth for this and a solid scoop for you for putting it up here.


arcolaura said...

Mmmm - ice cream!

Ummm - would that be local ice cream?