Joules and the Knowledge Economy
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Chapter Six - Land of the Lost Trace Gases -Life and Death in the Waves.
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Blog by Dave McArthur 9 June 2009
Even the bloody
school janitors have been warning them. Statements by our politicians,
economists and journalists that “no one did or could have predicted
our current economic malaise” are garbage. The truth is they were told
it would happen and they did not want to know.
It is true that
the “experts” they preferred to listen to could not have predicted
the current economic implosion. We are all subject to a continual
barrage of predictions from this wide range of highly paid
“experts”. Most fail to withstand scrutiny and form a litany of
failure. By comparison here
are the predictions of a low paid janitor.
The advantage a
school janitor has is that he or she is not beholden to sector
interests. Our income is derived from our labour cleaning scunge off
carpets and scrubbing stained S-bends. Our insights are not bound by
status and career imperatives. The dominant prophets in our media are representatives of the
money trading sector and the universities while speculators, fossil fuel
exploiters and money traders essentially control the media itself.
All have to serve the short-term interests of their employers
whereas school janitors are free to gaze to the horizons of reality and
to contemplate the simple and the absurd.
In my case I
entertain the simple notion that our economy is based on the destruction
mineral oil and that it is absurd to value its capacity for doing nearly
all our pushing, pulling and lifting at a mere 0.1 cents a man-hour of
labour, which is its energy equivalent.
I entertain the
simple notion that, whether we like it or not, we are stewards amidst
the flux of the universe(s) and we go to absurd lengths to deny both
change and our roles as stewards within change.
I also entertain
the notion that the above absurdities combine to make it eminently
possible that our current behaviour make it very likely that we will do
the complete absurd, which is to generate a truly catastrophic global
war by about 2013. The odds are now very high that soon billions of
humans will perish amidst appalling misery because of our absurd
behaviour. No one will be immune or safe.
My prediction is
awful and is not inevitable. I remain with hope. I am aware that
societies can make abrupt changes in behaviour into profound harmony
that lasts centuries just as they can erupt in sustained warfare.
I draw hope from, for instance, the wonderful story of King Asoka
the Cruel who
became transformed into King Asoka the Kind, thus transforming the Asian
continent for millennia.
We human beings
are similar to cats in that they live a trace existence on the edge of
being domesticated and being feral. One moment the cat is purring with
contentment as we scratch its belly and the next microsecond it is
hissing ferociously and its teeth and claws are violently imbedded in in
our hand. Trust has evaporated into mistrust in an instant. Next moment
the cat is purring again. Trust is manifest again as though it is
incapable of vanishing.
Similarly we live
a trace existence on the edge of being civilised and being barbaric with
some societies being more honest about this reality than others. New
Zealanders are practically oblivious to this reality and thus easily
slip into barbarism.
If we measure
civilisation by a nation’s tendency to conserve and share the
resources of this planet equitably and by the pollution the nation
creates then countries like New Zealand rate among the most barbaric on
Earth. In this context the
rating of New Zealand this week as “the
most peaceful nation on Earth” by the Institute for Economics
and Peace in its Global Peace Index indicates a vast denial of reality.
It is absurd.
Why this is so
will become apparent as I catalogue my predictions.
predictions that I can recall occurred in the late 1960s.
I wrote an
article “Blessed are the Barren, for they shall inherit the Earth”,
in which I argued that we should treasure all those who remain barren
for in their generosity they provide salvation for humanity. All
countries, like New Zealand, which based notions of economic wellbeing
on continually expanding populations doomed humanity.
*I myself did not
remain barren and have a beautiful daughter. However the prediction that
the continuing growth of the human population would prove unsustainable
affected my life. The decision to have even one child was so traumatic
that I became ill so that a doctor said there was nothing medicine could
do to help me. How I survived is another story. My refusal to have more
than one child made life very difficult for me.
Fact: New Zealand
- 1900: 823,000 - 1950: 1,908,000 - 2000: 3,802,000 - 2009: 4,213,000
population of 4 million destroys resources more resources daily than do
nations of 50 million people.
destroy our global mineral oil resource at the rate of 38.48
barrels a day per 1000 people compared to say, Bangladesh
(0.63 barrels) or the Congo (0.17 barrels) – a nation from
which we extract so many of our most vital minerals.
Which brings me
to another early prediction: I predicted that the predictions of the
Club of Rome would be proven correct if current patterns of
consumption of minerals continued. So it is. We are now at high risk as
our access to cheaply accessed minerals ceases.
*I decided to
live without a passport come what may and I have.
My prediction was
China would become a very powerful nation within a generation.
Understand the People’s Republic of China was then commonly portrayed
as a destitute nation and was not even allowed into the UN until 1971. I
figured its adoption and promotion of family planning policies,
culminating in the 1979 “one child” policy plus its use of bicycles
would see it far surpass nations such as the USA in influence. And so it
is coming to pass.
*I went out and
bought a book on “Teach yourself Mandarin” but never mastered the
phonetics of this language. I did attempt to understand the works of the
great Zen Chinese scholars.
About 1987 I
predicted to Hon Roger Douglas that the Labour Government’s Economic
Reforms would work directly against their stated objectives of
increasing the wealth of the average New Zealander and, specifically,
they would result in a doubling of the prison population within a
decade. This came to pass.
I was belated in
coming to this accurate prediction of Rogernomics. The first person I
know who predicted the failure was my neighbour and retired
“wharfie” (stevedore). Early in 1985 within months of the election
of this Labour Administration he told me he was not renewing his
membership of the Labour Party, something he had proudly maintained
since the early1930s. He accurately predicted the new Labour
Administration could not be trusted as far as he could kick them - they
would sell off our national assets to rich people and leave New
Zealanders debt ridden. Our national statistics prove I was utterly
wrong to attempt to convince him otherwise and I owe people like him a
big apology for not listening to and acknowledging their wisdom.
*I have never
voted Labour since.
Watching the CNN
24 hour coverage on the new “private channel” TV3 in New Zealand of
our invasion of Iraq I predicted that our abuse of our carbon potential
would put humanity at catastrophic risk and the brief twenty years in
which New Zealand had enjoyed a relatively independent media was at end.
Within two days
our State-owned channels had given away any pretence of reflecting the
needs and aspirations of our sovereign nation and now both state and
privately owned channels are simply large sewer pipes pouring images of
violence in the form of criminality, corporate greed, housing
speculation, wasteful consumption and degradation into the nation’s
We now face
massive challenges from our wasteful combustion of mineral fuels, both
from their depletion and from pollution.
*I have never
bought a car since and refuse to fly, despite being heavily penalised by
the Government and women of New Zealand. I have also devoted tens of
thousand of my “spare hours” exploring ways that promote sustainable
uses of carbon.
I predicted at considerable personal cost that the TransAlta structure that replaced the community owned electrical networks in the Wellington region would collapse within a decade. I worked for this structure and perceived it as profoundly corrupt and violent. I predicted it would cost New Zealand dearly and cause much misery. It rapidly grew to be the largest “energy company” in New Zealand, controlling one third of all households. It collapsed in 2001 within weeks of Enron, a mirror corporation in the USA. Its existence formed a lasting blight on the communities it directly affected, destroying many billions of dollars of wealth.
I also publicly
predicted that the NZ Electricity Industry Reforms will work directly
against their stated objectives of providing more intelligent uses of
our electrical potential. A
consensus now exists that this is true.
* In 1997 I
“ceased” my twenty-year career in the Bulk-gen electricity industry.
My family and I became subject to constant threats of violence because I
dared to blow the whistle on risks to the public good. The photo
essay of the collapsing grid in my street is symbolic of the
evil nature of TransAlta-OnEnergy and its destructive impact on New
I predicted the
popular use of “greenhouse”, “global warming” and “carbon
trading” symbols would be proven dangerous. I predicted that carbon
trading would actively promote carbon pollution and unsustainable uses
of fossil fuels. The vast bulk of the evidence since supports these
Already tens of
billions of dollars have been transferred from communities to private
corporations via taxes, Bulk-gen electricity charges, etc while air
pollution and deforestation have increased.
In 2006 Frameworks
Institute research of the “greenhouse = atmosphere” equation
strongly supports the prediction that this use of the “greenhouse”
symbol is unsustainable.
In May 2009 the
New York Times reported that consultants to the Obama Administration now
advise against the use of the “global warming = bad” symbol, again
because this use is found to be unsustainable.
In 2007 I
formulated the Sustainability
Principle of Energy, which provides a scientific basis
underpinning these predictions.
* I now predict
if carbon trading is ratified on scale at Copenhagen in November then
catastrophic global war will almost certainly occur with 5 years as the
negative consequences of our vast undervaluation of mineral oil/gas are
I predicted the
Day After Tomorrow would destroy the communal science of
atmospheric processes and dis-empower people. I had analysed both the
work of the Potsdam Institute’s work (a prime consultant to the movie)
and the book it was based on, The
Coming Global Superstorm. Subsequent Potsdam audience
research in 2004 after the movie release failed to support their central
hypotheses and instead supported both my predictions.
In web postings
and letters to media in New Zealand I predicted the price of mineral oil
would be close $US80 a barrel in 2008 and this would result in the
collapse of global credit systems. This made me a subject of ridicule as
the price was under $US40 and so-called energy experts were predicting
similar prices till after 2020. In particular I predicted the motor and
air travel industries would become sunset industries with the high
mineral prices putting corporations like GM and the USA in general at
risk of bankruptcy.
in The Cook Strait News
* I pray to the
wisdom of the universe(s) for guidance.
premier in New Zealand I predicted that the Al Gore movie “An
Inconvenient Truth” will result in increased car use and jet
travel while all notions of stewardship as manifest in carbon taxes
would be rejected in New Zealand in favour of psychopathic structures
such as carbon trading. This would happen despite my accurate prediction
of sharply increasing mineral oil prices. Subsequent to the movie’s
general release new car imports reached record levels, New Zealanders’
use of jets increased over 14%, deforestation increased, as did our gas
pollution while the Carbon Trading ethos was enshrined in legislation by
an almost unanimous Parliament. The Carbon Tax ethos was dismissed as
* Again I pray to
the wisdom of the universe(s) for guidance.
I predict that
the advent of the privatised KiwiSaver superannuation scheme will mean
the end of Universal Superannuation in New Zealand and that it will
siphon away the remaining wealth of the many into the pockets of a rich
few. It will act essentially as a subsidy for the money traders and most
account holders will inherit valueless accounts.
is being fulfilled with funds that could provide for the real needs of
elderly people –insulated homes, quality electrical products, mass
transit systems etc – being siphoned off to support the profoundly
destructive lifestyles of the money traders.
Just as the age
of entitlement to NZ Universal Super was raised from 60 to 65 now there
is talk of extending it to 67 and beyond, which means for those whose
lives are shortened by a lifetime of labouring for an income will now
find their superannunation may be halved yet again.
* I pray I die in
I predict that if
Barack Obama becomes president he will invade Pakistan. Invasions take
many forms and soon after his inauguration in 2009 he invaded Pakistan
using drones etc to terrorise and radicalise the population. This
prediction was easy to make –
Barack said he was going to and his use of symbols revealed he
fundamentally represented the US status quo.
* I have now
cancelled all but one of my subscriptions to traditional New Zealand
media and invest those funds in Internet based news systems
This is the first
record I can find of my long-standing predictions that the NZ Green
Party and NZ Greenpeace will reject the Carbon Tax ethos (acceptance of
stewardship) and endorse the Carbon Trading ethos (denial of
stewardship). What is interesting is that after the Green Party made its
pivotal and extremely powerful endorsement of the NZ Emissions Trading
Strategy in Parliament in September 2008 the Green Party co-leader
objected strongly to a Radio NZ reporter’s statement, “We all knew
you were going to support the legislation”. The language of both the
Green Party and Greenpeace made their final decision inevitable, even
though it is clear that members did not know how they would vote.
* I realize the
Sustainability Principle may well be a powerful predictive tool that
allows us to transcend our vast capacity for denial of
In my submission
to the Great Wellington Regional Council I stated my belief that Matt
Simmons is correct: mineral oil prices would rise to about $US150 a
barrel. They had just breached the US100 mark and I predicted they would
plummet towards Christmas and begin rising again steadily about May
2009. I explained my simple calculation: the price of mineral oil has no
relationship with the value of the resource and factors such as the US
election, product marketing, short term profits etc dictate the price.
It could remain absurdly undervalued to near depletion point of
* I predict to
our councils that every dollar invested in new motorway structures will
destroy at least $5 in jobs.
I predict Sarah
Palin will win in the USA and New Zealand elections later that year.
the essence of our psychosis. As Governor of the exotic dreamland of
Alaska where infinite quantities of mineral oil abound Sarah is the
personification of our delusions abut this resource. Our critical votes
occur not at the ballot box but at the petrol pump, the food bazaar, at
the airline counter and at the electrical points in our dwellings.
candidates in both countries fell over each other in their attempts to
be seen as the main upholders of the delusion that cars and trucks are
forever. Both new administrations have committed record billions of
dollars to motorways to abysses.
2009 8 June
sparkles. The new washed leaves glisten glowing green. I breathe
champagne air enlivened with the tang of the salt-spiced southerly
zephyrs and sharpened by a shining frost that is now fading from the
sunlight into the shadows. The roar of the surf from the departing
southerly storm fills the stillness of the atmosphere. The clouds are
motionless, rock-solid as the land’s shores are with the seas and
skies. Within those shores the earth constantly shifts within itself as
the shadows in its valleys and upstands dance with the movement of the
sun. I feel a profound sense of privilege to be alive, to be able to
experience this. Thus I have a thorough sense of the absurd when I
restate my prediction that if we continue with our current abuse of our
carbon potential then catastrophic warfare is inevitable.
As I said, the
calculations are simple. When the price of mineral oil went from $US25
to $US50 a barrel the wealth in economies whose systems are based on
$US25 were set to shrink by nearly a half over the next few years. This
is the physical reality of the “credit squeeze” that our bankers
deny with their Fiscal Speak. The “green shoots” they talk of are
actually shredded dollar notes as the real value of these certificates
of wealth evaporates.
The real value of
mineral oil is $US thousands a barrel and until we place that truer
value on it then our wealth will continue to evaporate. As predicted,
demand for mineral oil remains strong and even at just $US60 a barrel I
predict another wave of credit contraction and new demands from the
world’s rich for a new round of subsidies (stimulus packages) to
sustain their violent lifestyles. This could be any day now. And general
civil unrest will grow. It really is a hopeless spiral of activity.
remain with hope and as part of that optimism this week I posted an
inventory or guide of symbols uses, categorised as to whether they are
hopeful or hopeless.
The guide is an
illustration of the Sustainability
Principle of Energy at work and I am now confident of the
enormous power of this principle to sustain us. It contains the wisdom
that can enable us to avoid the catastrophic warfare I write of. It can
be a source of immense wonder and beauty.
Do I predict it
will prevent the catastrophic collapse of civilisation? You know I have
no idea. I can only put it out there so the sustainable use of symbols
has the potential to enhance our capacity to enjoy peace and harmony.
You and your friends are the ones who decide whether acceptance of its
wisdom generates a wave of prosperity or denial of its insights
generates a wave of misery.
I do predict one
thing. Our children will look back and realise that in particular it was
the Green Movement (Al Gore, Greenpeace, Consumer’s groups, the Green
Party, WWF, and other caring Environmental Educator groups) that most
put their generation at the great risk they are now in. If they do not
learn from the Sustainablity Principle to realise to why the Green
Movement fails them so then our children will not survive as civilised
beings at all.
And I should say
this prediction is inconvenient for me because I love the well-meaning
intent and passion of these folk. Indeed they are all terribly
inconvenient for me in many ways. However the inconvenience always fades
into insignificance as I become more mindful each year of of wonderful
insight in the John Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn”:
truth, truth beauty,-that is all
cartoon that accompanies this blog is serendipitous. Bonus Joules and
the Knowledge Economy was first published several years ago now. In
this strip Bonus Joules is exploring the nature of our atmosphere and
attempting to show how our “greenhouse” vision of it fails to evoke
the awesome thermo-dynamism of Earth’s systems. The strip is prescient
of recent discoveries that solar activity may directly impact on the
distribution of the potent Warmer Trace Gas, water vapour, in our
My commentary is
now dated in that while it hints at the physical nature of knowledge my
use of the term “just an idea” reveals I was not truly aware of the
probable reality that “Information is physical.” To put it another
way, these thoughts, these words, these symbols are essentially the same
as speeding bullets and the seeds of a forest.