söndag 30 november 2014

Books I've read (September)

The books I wrote about in my preceding blog post all treated the topic we have worked with in one of the courses I have given this autumn ("The future of the digital commons and the sharing economy"). The books below all treat topics related to my other course (Sustainability and Media Technology). The slant of the books below are somewhat sobering as they treat depletion, competition, scarcity and climate wars. I haven't read previous books by any of the four authors below. All the books below are really good - get a preview of the books by reading the quotes further below (each asterisk (*) represents one quote from the book).

****************** Ugo Bardi is a chemist by trade, but he has written about peak oil for a long time. I've read a few of his 51 texts on The Oil Drum forum about five or so years ago and I have also followed his blog, Cassandra's legacy (renamed "resource crisis") on and off. He is a good writer and I was happy to note that he had published a book earlier this year, "Extracted: How the quest for mineral wealth is plundering the planet" (2014). It's an excellent book - I would never have thought that it would be so interesting to read a book about minin, but Bardi can make it so. The book is divided into three parts covering the past (where minerals come from, the history of mining, the connection between empires, mining and wars), the present (depletion, pollution, climate change) and the future. It could have been a book with lots of charts and data - and it is. But it is also a book that gave me a lot of unexpected insights about the connection between mining and culture and about the role of mining in history and in our present. From the book cover:

"As we dig, drill, and excavate to unearth the planet's mineral bounty, the mineral resources we exploit - those least expensive to extract and process from ores, veins, seams, and wells - are becoming exhausted. Mineral treasures that took millions, even billions, of years to form are being squandered in decades. ... Bardi delivers a sweeping history of how minerals formed; the empires, wars, and civilizations they inspired; and the gigantic global industry that grew up around them - one that is increasingly showing signs of strain as pollution increases and economic returns diminish. Extracted also explores mining's dark side: altered landscapes, poisoned ecosystems, and a key role in exacerbating climate change. Having thoroughly plundered planet Earth, we are entering a new world"

The book's message is stark; we have been using more and more of just about everything and something will eventually (not too long from now) have to give. We have to spend more energy, more effort and more money to maintain - too say nothing of increasing - current levels of production of uranium, gold, silver, nickel, zinc, copper, lead, lithium, platinum, rhodium, palladium, cadmium, molybdenum, chromium, titanium, tin, aluminum, steel, phosphorus, oil, coal, gas and so on. As if this was not enough, mining also produces a lot of pollution both in terms of greenhouse gas emissions (climate change) and spreading around dangerous waste like heavy metals and radioactive materials. Still, it's a very good book. If you are still not convinced, you might still want to have a look at this interview (questions and answers) with Ugo Bardi about his book

**************** The premise of Canadian journalist and author Andrew Nikiforuk's (webpage) book "The energy of slaves: Oil and the new servitude" (2012) was very very promising. Almost all empires in history have seen slaves as a regrettable but necessary arrangement. The modern world got rid of slaves (with the US civil war as the final cataclysmic event) just as, and as an effect of machines and fossil fuels making human slaves "unnecessary". From the back of the book:

"It took the energy of slaves to plant crops, clothe emperors, and build cities. And in the early nineteenth century, the slave trade became one of the most profitable enterprises on the planet. Yet when the abolition movement triumphed in the 1850s, it had two invisible allies: coal and oil. Fossil fuels replenished slavery's ranks with combustion engines and other labour-saving tools. But we still behave like slaveholders in the way we use energy. Today, many people in industrialized countries enjoy lifestyles as extravagant as those of Caribbean plantation owners. We feel entitled to surplus energy and rationalize inequality, even barbarity, to get it. But endless growth depends on cheap energy, and our primary slave fuels are getting more expensive by the day."

The part of the book that treats the role of slavery in history, the transformation from human slaves to invisible fossil-fueled "energy slaves" and the future of this new servitude are really interesting. You can read a little more about the basic concepts Nikiforuk uses in this 2011 article "You and your slaves". That part is unfortunately the smaller part of the book and the major part did not really bring anything new to the table (for me). 

Just as slavery encourages many bad habits among slave-owners, so does the fact that we all have many dozens of invisible energy slaves working tirelessly on our behalf 24/7 (to transport us, to light up our houses and cities, to heat our food and our apartments, to power our entertainment etc.). Nikiforuk's conclusion is that we need to go on an energy diet and learn to use energy on a human (moral) scale.

************ Michael Klare (webpagehas written several books in the intersection of geopolitics and energy ("Rising powers, shrinking planet", "Blood and oil", "Resource wars"). "The race for what's left: The global scramble for the world's last resources" (2012) is his latest book. The book is packed with information but Klare's style of writing is a little wooden, piling up facts (there are more than 50 pages of notes), but not managing to shape those facts into an interesting, captivating narrative. His book is thus one of those books that it is good to have read, but it is not necessarily a very pleasurable experience to read it. From the back of the book:

"With all of the Earth's accessible areas already being exploited, the desperate hunt for supplies has now reached the final frontiers. The race for what's left takes us from the Arctic to war zones to deep ocean floors, from a Russian submarine planting the country's flag under the North Pole to the large-scale buying up of African farmland by Saudi Arabia and other food-scarce nations. With resource extraction growing more difficult, the environmental risks are becoming increasingly severe - and the intense search for dwindling supplies is igniting new conflicts and territorial disputes.

A strong and very scary part of the book describes the ongoing jockeying for position between the countries that have access to the arctic and that wants to cash in on fossil fuels reserves there (Russia, Canada, the US (Alaska), Norway and Denmark (Greenland)). Despite the fact that we know that we should decrease our use of fossil fuels, the very machinery of looking for and extracting such resources seems to have a dynamic of its own (tightly interlinked with the current global economic system that demands growth and that has an insatiable hunger for energy). Other chapters describe mounting tensions in the South China Sea and other up-and-coming hotspots. Reading Klare, it's not hard to see that these tensions can, though an inner dynamic of their own, escalate to limited or to full-scale wars at some point in the not too remote future. Scary stuff indeed.

Of all the scary books I read in September, social psychologist Harald Welzer's "Climate wars: Why people will be killed in the 21st century" (2008 in German/2012 in English) was probably the scariest. He notes that almost all book about climate change are written by people in the natural sciences. But what will happen - this is, how will people react - when the effects of climate change (that the natural scientists describe so dispassionately) start to make themselves know? Having studied the effects of living in Nazi Germany on ordinary Germans, e.g. what they thought and what they were willing to do, Weltzer is not very positive about the human outcomes of global warning. Some of the titles of the chapters are in themselves chilling; "The past and the future of violence", "Killing yesterday", "Killing today", "Killing tomorrow: Never-ending wars, ethnic cleansing, terrorism, shifting realities", "The revival of old conflicts: Faiths, classes, resources and the erosion of democracy" and "More violence". From the back of the book:

"Struggles over drinking water, new outbreaks of mass violence, ethnic cleansing, civil wars in the earth's poorest countries, endless flows of refugees: these are the new conflicts and forces shaping the world of the twenty-first century. They hinge no longer on ideological rivalries between great powers but rather on issues of class, religion and resources. The genocides of the last century have taught us how quickly social problems can spill over into radical and deadly solutions. Rich countries are already developing strategies to garner resources and keep "climate refugees" at bay. ... Climate change has far-reaching consequences for the living conditions of peoples around the world: inhabitable spaces shrink, scarce resources become scarcer, injustices grow deeper - not only between North and South but also between genrations - giving rise to new social tensions and leading to violent conflicts, civil wars and massive refugee flows."

Despite this supremely gloomy outlook - there is hardly even a "happy chapter" that concludes the book with a perfunctory "...unless we..." - I really appreciated the book. Here is a guy (Welzer) who does not shy away from the really really hard and troubling topics that everyone else politely refrain from discussing and who actually also contributes with some insights into the human psyche and the group psychology of people living under strain. Again, it is not a pretty picture. Welzer definitely belongs to the school that assumes that civilization is only skin deep - when push comes to shove.

Despite having published more than half a dozen books (in German) during the last 15 years, Harald Welzer is quite anonymous in the English-speaking parts of the web. I did however just now find a 30-minute long talk of his on the web. I haven't watched it yet but it was apparently recorded and published online just about the time I finished his book and it treats how is thinking about climate wars has changed since he wrote his book in 2008.


  ----- On the finiteness of mineral resources on the Earth  -----

"we cannot forget that the Earth is a finite planet, as are the veins, the ores, the seams, and the wells from which we are extracting minerals. It is legitimate to ask how long these supplies can last. It is also legitimate to ask how the gradual depletion of mineral ores will affect the economy - even long before we actually "run out" of anything.
We all know, at some level, that it cannot last forever. We live on a finite planet. Even so, people, industries, and governments that rely on finite resources are often loath to take a true, hard look at just how plentiful or scarce certain resources are ... We remain, as a society, reluctant to accept natural limits, particularly when those limits challenge the notion that we can continue on with business as usual."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.xv.

  ----- On The Limits to Growth report making predictions that seem to be coming true  -----

"The publication of the book [The Limits to Growth in 1972] generated a hot debate that, in some years, degenerated in all-out smear campaigns aimed at destroying the credibility of the study. Eventually the public became convinced that the Limits study had been nothing more than a series of wrong predictions prepared by a group of deluded scientists ... But the public perception of the Limits message was wrong.
In fact, various studies have shown that the trajectory of the world's economic parameters has followed the base-case model rather closely. That "base case" scenario estimated that pollution and depletion together would start becoming a stumbling blog to economic growth sometime between 2000 and 2020, and that may explain the turmoil in the word's economy that we are seeing nowadays"
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.xvi-xvii.

  ----- On our ancestors' conception of the underworld  -----

"For our ancestors of long ago, the depths of the Earth must have been a source of great fascination. Volcanoes, earthquakes, geysers, hot springs - all were manifestations of the powers residing underground. Clearly, the Earth ... must have seemed to be somehow "alive". But what exactly was the source of that power? The lack of suitable tools to dig to any significant depth left our ancestors without clues to the features of the underworld, except for what they could observe by exploring natural caves. Those explorations must have stimulated their imagination. It is no surprise that in the late Palaeolithic period caves were used for rituals and for creating those paintings of hunting scenes that we can still admire today.
a dark world of caverns populated by mosters, demons, and unfriendly deities. Such underworld stories are rife with souls of the dead wandering forever in the obscure landscapes of the depths below. In an early Mesopotamian story, the dead dwell beneath the Earth, "eating clay and drinking dust."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.1.

  ----- On plants mining the earth  -----

"All living creatures are miners.
Land plants appeared only around 350 million years ago. Their roots were a major evolutionary innovation that allowed the plants to mine the ground, absorbing from it the minerals they needed. As miners, land plants never went to great depths, limiting their actions to the layer of fertile soil, at most a few meters thick, from which they could absorb mineral ions dissolved in water.
Today, it is estimated that the land biosphere produces 56 billion tons of new biomass every year. Of the elements that are part of this mass, most come from the atmosphere, but about 1 percent must be extracted from the ground. Therefore, plants are mining about half a billion tons of materials from the crust every year."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", pp.29-30.

  ----- On bronze weapons and the first swords  -----

"bronze came to be used for much more aggressive purposes after it was discovered that it was an excellent material for weapons. ... The first bronze swords arrived with the second millennium BCE. Their blades were leaf-shaped and up to 90 centimeters long. With sharp points, they seem to have been mainly thrusting weapons designed to puncture the enemy's body.
Thus dawned a new age of war that pitted professional fighters, clad in heavy armour and using deadly weaponry, against all those who couldn't afford this kind of equipment. It was perhaps the start of the distinction between nobles and commoners, which didn't exist in ancient tribal societies."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.42.

  ----- On being clean-shaven as a warning to enemies  -----

"The Romans' warlike society grew by gobbling up its neighbors one by one. Soon they became experts in iron metallurgy. The fact that Romans would not normally sport a beard was a fashion, in part, but also a message about their technological ability to make steel. For the Romans, being well shaved meant saying to their enemies, "Be careful, we have sharp blades!"."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.46.

  ----- On King Coal ruling the 19th and 20th century  -----

"William Stanley Jevons wrote in 1865, "Coal in truth stands not beside but entirely above all other commodities. It is the material energy of the country - the universal aid - the factor in everything we do. With coal almost any feat is possible or easy; without it we are thrown back into the laborious poverty of early times."
Coal was perhaps the first important mineral resource of modern times to show depletion problems. England's production peaked in the 1920s and was soon followed by Germany's ... Coal had created the European world empires; its decline was to spell their demise."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.49.

  ----- On the connection between mining, metel, money and war in prehistoric times  -----

"Metal currency brings us back to the early times of civilization. The specific characteristics of agricultural civilizations made the trade of metal especially important. The fertile alluvial plains that made agriculture possible had formed from the sedimentation of the silt of rivers. In this kind of terrain, easily reachable metal deposits cannot exist. To find exploitable ores, there needs to be the kind of erosion that can be typically found in steep mountain ranges. So agriculture and metal mining don't match, geologically.
With the second half of the 2nd millennium BCE we being to see a new development: large-scale clashes between different civilizations. In earlier times there had been little incentive for societies to raise up armies and send them beyond their fertile valleys ... Most likely the Sumerians didn't have much that the Egyptians couldn't manufacture themselves, and vice versa. Besides, most of what could be bought or seized by such an expedition was perishable: grains, sheep, cattle, and even slaves would have been difficult to transport over long distances on land."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.80.

  ----- On gold mines and empires  -----

"If precious metals made empires, where exactly did those metals come from? it is tempting to assume that the control of gold mines drove the expansion of most major historical empires. Unfortunately, we usually don't have quantitative data on the yield of ancient mines - only very uncertain estimates. so it is impossible to know for sure how much gold each empire produced itself, and how that correlated to political and military power. There are enough hints though, to suggest the correlation was strong.
Egyptian gold mines never were productive enough to propel Egypt to the status of world power, but those of Zarshuran may have been the origin of the Persian Empire, one of the largest that history has ever seen."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.92-93.

  ----- On the balancing act of establishing Empire in the age of cannons and galleons  -----

"The buildup of the global empires that started with the Portuguese and Spanish was based on the availability of a combination of resources, not just gold and silver. With precious metals troops could be paid, but troops needed firearms to be effective. To make firearms metals were needed, but also wood to make ships and the charcoal needed to smelt and cast metals. "No wood, no kingdom," said Arthur Standish in The Commons Complaint of 1611. So the management of forests became a crucial strategic priority for the new maritime powers. But if states needed wood and iron for their warships and their weapons, they also needed food for their troops and their population. For that, it was necessary to clear as much land as possible for agriculture. It was a difficult strategic choice: how to keep a county's forests and at the same time feed its population?

Eventually these mutually incompatible needs put a halt to the expansion of the Portuguese and Spanish empires, even though both had plenty of gold to pay their troops. Neither Spain nor Portugal had enough fertile land to feed its population and, at the same time, grow the forests needed to obtain enough wood to support the military needs of a world empire."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.103.

  ----- On the mining industry's energy footprint  -----

"The limits to mineral extraction are not limits of quantity; they are limits of energy. Extracting minerals takes energy, and the more dispersed the minerals are, the more energy is needed. Today, humankind doesn't produce sufficient amounts of energy to mine sources other than conventional ores, and probably never will.
the world's production of steel alone requires 24 exajoules, equivalent to about 5 percent of the world's total primary energy production ... the total energy used by the mining and metal-producing industry might be close to 10 percent of the total world energy production
In its early history, mining required only minimal amounts of energy, as it was mainly provided for free by geochemical processes of the remote past."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.113-114.

  ----- On mining other planets  -----

"The idea of mining other planets ... turns out to be little more than a dream. Even assuming that astronomical objects contain mineral deposits, the energy cost needed to reach them, mine ores, and then bring back the mined materials to earth is truly out of this world.
In terms of mining ... there remains the fundamental problem that most bodies of the solar system just don't contain useful minerals. Earth's ores come from processes generated by a living planet, but most of the astronomical objects we can consider as mining targets are dead, both geologically and biologically."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.134.

  ----- On mining and waste  -----

"Coal is just one of the mineral commodities that generate vast amounts of solid waste that must be disposed of. Copper is another example. Today we produce some 15 million tons of copper per year from minerals that contain it in a fraction of about 0.5 percent. ... To visualize this amount, imagine that you were asked to take care of the mining waste created by the copper contained inside your new car. An average car contains about 50 kilograms of copper, mainly in the form of wiring. So, on your way home from the dealer, you would be followed by a truck that would then proceed to dump about 1 ton of rock in front of your door."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.176-177.

  ----- On mining, concrete and land use  -----

"Once extracted, minerals are processed and transformed into marketable products. These products are then "consumed" - that is, destroyed and discarded. All the stages of the process generate waste ... waste is the ultimate product of mining. To do damage, the products of mining don't have to be poisonous or reactive; in some cases sheer volume is enough to create damage. One example is concrete ... We don't have precise data on the fraction of the worlds land surface now covered with concrete  in the form of roads, parking lots, buildings, commercial centers, and all the rest. However, recent studies are starting to converge on reasonably consistent values ranging from about 0.5 percent to about 3 percent. ... such building take place mostly in flat and fertile areas."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.178.

  ----- On pollution from radioactive materials and heavy metals  -----

"We have, with all our mining, extracted from the Earth's crust substances that had been buried for millions - or even billions - of years ...
once extracted, processed, and concentrated in new chemical forms, these substances - never before seen in the modern global ecosystem - began creating a series of problems related to human health and to the general health of the ecosystem.
The problem is especially evident with radioactive waste. Many of today's radioactive elements never existed on the Earth's surface before humans began mining or creating them, and as a consequence living beings have evolved no mechanisms for dealing with them.
If managing radioactive waste is an extremely difficult problem, at least radioactive materials are created in small amounts and are easily traceable because of their radioactivity. A more general problem exists with heavy metals. Many of these are toxic, and all are alien to the ecosystem in the quantities in which they are being crated and dispersed today.
In many cases ... the chemical industry has exported its toxic waste to remote areas and dumped it there without much attention to the health and safety of the residents"
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.180-181.

  ----- On misunderstanding the need for change and "pulling the levers in the wrong direction"  -----

"We have been pulling the levers in the wrong direction. We are expending great effort to maintain things as they are, without realizing that the only way out of our predicament is to embrace change instead of fighting it. Many times our awkward attempts to solve problems are in reality just ways to postpone the need to face them.
The "drill, baby, drill" mantra made famous by former Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin gets cheers from those focused on short-term gains. But, obviously, drilling more leads to faster depletion; it is a classic case of pulling the levers in the wrong direction. At the same time, drilling more worsens the climate problem because it takes lots of greenhouse-gas-emitting fossil fuels to reach those hard-to-access reserves, and once the new oil is unearthed and burned, even more greenhouse gases are generated."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.208.

  ----- On depletion of minerals being solved by substitution  -----

"Substitution is a popular remedy for depletion. The idea is that, as we run out of a rare mineral resource, we can always substitute another, more abundant one. ... Those who follow this line of reasoning also normally propose that, soon, new technologies will bring down the cost of producing the new resource, making it more and more available. In this way, resources appear to grow as we consume them. ... And if we can substitute everything, why should we be worried about depletion?"
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.209.

  ----- On travelling to another planet while staying put  -----

"One day in the future, without veins, without wells, without ores, we'll see the disappearance of the mining machines, of the drilling rigs, of the offshore platforms.
It is the end of cycle that, in geological terms, was extremely short but that for us seemed to be the way things were to be forever and ever. ... We are leaving to our descendants a heavy legacy in terms of radioactive waste, heavy metals dispersed all over the planet, and greenhouse gases - mainly CO2 - accumulated in the atmosphere and absorbed in the oceans. The Earth will never be the same; it is being transformed into a new and different planet. It appears that we found a way to travel to another planet without the need for building spaceships."
Bardi (2014). "Extracted", p.241-242.

  ----- On using energy as slaves and on being slaves to energy  -----

"the story of fire tells us that not energy is clean, free, or unlimited and that the use of every Promethean tool must be carefully measured.
Both Aristotle and Plato described slaver as necessary and expedient. We regard our new hydrocarbon servants with the same pragmatism.
Once dependent on the energy of slaves, we are now slaves to petroleum and its masters."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", pp.xi-xii.

  ----- On the use of slaves in ancient civilizations  -----

"Before coal and oil, civilization ran on ... the energy of solar-fed crops and the energy of slaves.
Most ancient civilizations ... mobilized the muscle of slaves with no moral qualms. When Hammurabi, the king of Babylon, established the world's first legal codes two thousand years ago, he decreed death to any person who helped or sheltered escaping slaves. The Greeks called their slave andrapoda, or man-footed creatures. Many aboriginal societies around the world used captives as domestic servants. The prophet Mohammed had slaves too. But no other society employed slaves as greedily as the Romas. ... In 200 BC, the rising power boasted nearly 600,000 slaves. Two centuries later the numbers had swelled to several million, with anywhere from a quarter to a third of the population at any given time consisting of slaves captured in war or acquired through trade."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.3.

  ----- On invisible energy slaves replacing real slaves in the 19th century  -----

"By the 1880's, the output of the world's steam engines totaled 150 million horsepower. Running but a sixteen-hour shift, these machines collectively exerted the work of more than 3 billion humans. With the world population at slightly more than 1 billion ... In just one hundred years, cole-fired machines added 3 billion invisible slaves to the global economy.
And one of the most celebrated children of this radical new surplus of power was abolition. When James Watt began his tinkerings [with the steam engine], few British political or intellectual leaders questioned the slave trade."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.22.

  ----- On us living like plantation owners with slaves serving our every need  -----

"The easy living afforded by slavery explained this lack of conscience, just as the easy living afforded by petroleum might explain North American indifference today to the proliferation of inanimate slaves in our midst.
Noisy leaf-blowers, expensive SUVs, and glowing smart-phones dominate modern life as fully as did the servants in a nineteenth-century Brazilian "Big House". The average North American or European consumer thinks of these inanimate servants as entitlements. And although our comfort providers and labor savers number in the billions, we largely pretend that they do not exist. U.S. plantation owners at least earnestly debated the morality of living off the sweat of their shackled servants. Their modern descendants take immediate offense at any discussion about the carbon emissions of their mechanical servants."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.63.

  ----- Fossil fuel is ancient sunshine on steroids; energy from the sun that has been stored and buried in prehistoric plants and animals  -----

"Everyone knows that we should live on our [energy] income and not our savings account ... Jeffrey Dukes, an ecologist, ... calculated that every gallon of gasoline burned in a vehicle required the pumping or excavation of 98 tons of prehistoric buried plant material.
1997 U.S. coal and petroleum consumption ... amounted to 97 million billion pounds of carbon, a number that translates into more than 400 times "all the plant matter that grows in the word in a year." Every day, in other words ... American car owners used the fossil-fuel equivalent of all the plant matter that grew on land and in the oceans that whole year."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.69-70.

  ----- On our taken-for-granted exponential-growth culture  -----

"[Marion King] Hubbert ... would later [in 1976] reflect that the greatest obstacle to change was cultural: "During the last two centuries we have known nothing but exponential growth and in parallel we have evolved what amounts to an exponential-growth culture, a culture so heavily dependent upon the continuance of exponential growth for its stability that it is incapable of reckoning with problems of non-growth.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.99-100.

  ----- On "the Mother of all price signals"  -----

"Jeremy Grantham, a U.S. fund manage of much repute, reported in April 2011 that until 2002 all commodities except oil declined in price. After 2002 the prices of everything else, from coal to cotton, began to rise. This commodity prices surge was a paradigm shift, Grantham said: the era of abundance is over. The market is sending us "the Mother of all price signals ... From now on, price pressure and shortages of resources will be a permanent feature of our lives," he warnd. "The world is using up its natural resources at an alarming rate, and this has caused a permanent shift in their value. we all need to adjust our behavior to this new environment. It would help if we did it quickly.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.108-109.

  ----- On the modest role of the city in history  -----

"Historically, cities lived on the surplus wealth generated by natural flows of energy. ... the medieval city rarely extended half a mile.
For most of human history, the city held a modest place in the scheme of things. ... When it took 150.000 fertile acres to supply a largely vegetarian diet to 500.000 people, cities didn't grow much. Until the 1800s, less than 3 percent of the world's population lived in a city.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.114.

  ----- On the connection between energy and economic growth  -----

"All in all, the world's economy in the late twentieth century was 120 times bigger than it had been in 1500. This unprecedented eruption of consumption and spending correlated directly to increased flows of energy.
In 1800, the world consumed just 440 million tons of oil equivalents in the form of coal, horses, human slaves, and wind. In 1990, it gobbled 33.000 million tons, largely in coal or oil. ... Since the 1950s, study after study has shown that when nations spend oil, their GDP rises; when oil prices rise, their GDP falls."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.132-133.

  ----- On the dismal discipline of (neo-classical) economics  -----

"'In a 1982 letter to Science, Wassily Leontief expressed alarm at how insular his field was becoming: "Page after page of professional economic journals are filled with mathematical formulas leading the reader from sets of more or less plausible data but entirely arbitrary assumptions to precisely stated but irrelevant theoretical conclusions."
Perhaps no one has challenged the nostrum of neoclassical economics more cogently than Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen. ... much of Georgescu-Roegen's brilliant work, which appeared primarily in the 1970's and 1980's, was dismissed or marginalized by mainstream colleagues.
As for claims that scarcity could be dealt with by substituting "fewer resource-intensive goods and more of other things," Georgescu-Roegen just laughed: "He who does not have enough to eat cannot satisfy his hunger by wearing more shirts.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.145-150.

  ----- On Little Science and Big Science  -----

"Science ... mirrored exponential growth in the global economy and ... required bigger institution to manage its complexity.
Little Science, in the form of small independent labs, did not cost as much and worked agilely. It was also more responsive to community needs. Little Science could move fast and adapt to change. ... With its imponderable bureaucracies and its allegiance to Big Money and Big Government, Big Science often crushed innovative ideas and ignored simple solutions."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.163.

  ----- On the greatest oil spill the world has ever seen  -----

"A laptop requires 26.5 pounds of oil for every pound of computer. Given that most laptops don't last more than three years, the majority of energy consumed in a computer takes place during its construction in Asian factories operating under slave-like conditions. Technological obsolescence may represent the greatest oil spill the world has ever seen."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.165-166.

  ----- On Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS)  -----

"Why manage emissions when you can simply reduce them? asks Vaclav Smil. "Carbon sequestration," [CCS] he explains, "is irresponsibly portrayed as an imminently useful large-scale option for solving the challenge." Many low-tech alternatives exist. These, he says, include banning automobiles in urban cores, raising fuel prices, imposing carbon taxes, improving public transport, building renewable energy projects, and protecting tropical forests.
CCS would strengthen status quo ... Unlike renewable-energy projects, it would preserve the existing investments of multinational oil and gas companies in technology, know-how, and capital. ... CCS would "make the whole of humankind more dependent of fossil fuels, and thus make a change-over later more difficult.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.172-173.

  ----- On the worldview of US oilmen and the evangelical right  -----

"David Gushee, a professor of Christian ethics, summarized the views of many contemporary oilmen and evangelical protestants ... "God is sovereign over creation and therefore humans can do no permanent damage. God entrusted the earth to human dominion and we should not be afraid of economic development or other uses of human creativity. God established government for very limited purposes such as providing for the common defense - government should not intervene much in the workings of a free market economy. ... The media is overplaying climate change worries, at the behest of scientists who cannot be trusted anyway; it may all be a conspiracy to limit our personal and business freedoms and tax us even more. The environmental movement is secular/pagan and has always been a threat to American liberties and has always been anti-business and exaggerated environmental problems.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.196-197.

  ----- On the grip of oil over petrostates  -----

"More than thirty countries around the world now derive at least 30 percent of their income from oil and gas production. ... even in the few nations that discovered oil as secure democracies, oil wealth has eroded institutions and principles. ... Ten percent of global GDP now flows to an economic sector that provides highly specialized jobs for less than 0.1 percent of the world's population."
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.199.

  ----- On fishing boats as floating tanks fighting a war  -----

"What was once "a little boat bobbing in the water" now comes equipped with fish finders, sonar, scanners, electric winches and satellite feeds. "[These boats are] using technology designed to hunt submarines," explains Pauly. "We are using war technology against fish and the outcome is preordained. A modern fishing boat is a tank.""
Nikiforuk (2012). "The energy of slaves", p.209.

  ----- On going to the ends of the world to find more oil and gas  -----

"the Arctic is attracting immense interest from the world's major energy firms ... Driving all of this interest is the release of geological studies indicating that the Arctic may contain some of the world's largest untapped reserves of oil and natural gas. Until recently very little was known about the region's hydrocarbon potential, but a few years ago the U.S. Geological Survey undertook a systematic assessment of oil and gas reserves in the land and sea areas north of the Arctic Circle. The results, published July 2008, were nothing short of astonishing: this region, which occupies a mere 6 percent of the earth's surface, was said to account for 22 percent of the "undiscovered, technically recoverable [oil and gas] resources in the world.""
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.6-7.

  ----- On the race for what's left and the scramble for the world's last remaining resources  -----

"with existing sources of critical material facing exhaustion, more and more of our essential supplies will have to come from places that are risky for reasons of geography, geology, politics, or some combination of all three.
The only way for countries to ensure an adequate future supply of these materials, and thereby keep their economies humming, is to acquire new, undeveloped reservoirs in those few locations that have not already been completely drained. This has produced a global drive to find and exploit the world's final resource reserves - a race for what's left. At stake in this contest is the continuation of the Industrial Age."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.11-12.

  ----- On the last frontiers of vital reserves and resources  -----

"the race for what's left is not simply the product of many individual actions - all those forays into the Arctic, Siberia, and elsewhere - but rather something far more calculated and organized. National and corporate leaders are painfully aware that existing reserves of many vital resources are disappearing and that urgent action is needed to ensure that *their* country or *their* company will have sufficient supplies to survive. They are determined, therefore, to put in place whatever measures are need in the coming decades to replace existing reservoirs with new sources of supply.
Several factors distinguish the current push from those of the past. To begin with, there are no other , as-yet-undetected frontier lying beyond those now under assault."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.14-15.

  ----- On the possibility of future military conflicts over scarce resources  -----

"once the development of these final reserves begins, their depletion could occur very rapidly - producing a sharp contraction in the global supply of many critical resources. Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to assume that the various consuming powers will seek to gain control over as much as possible of what remains of these materials, producing an intense competitive struggle. This could lead to territorial disputes in areas where boundaries or ownership rights are contested - as is already evident in the Arctic region. In the past, such disputes have often erupted in armed combat, and there is no reason to believe that this will not happen in the future; indeed, the countries involved are already preparing for such combat by beefing up their capacity to operate in the Arctic and other contested resource zones, such as the East and South China Seas. The pursuit of vital material in remote and marginal areas will also pose extraordinary environmental challenges, and will lead to intensified clashes between outside powers and the indigenous peoples who occupy these areas."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.17.

  ----- A summary of the biggest predicament of them all  -----

"Virtually all of the minerals and fossil fuels at the core of modern industrial civilization are finite materials that exist in deposits of varying degrees of size, richness, and accessibility. Almost always, producers begin by drawing on the deposits that are the easiest to find and exploit - typically, those that lie close to the surface, are located near major markets, and require minimal refining and processing. When these high-quality, easily accessed deposits are exhausted, resource firms inevitably must seek fresh reserves in places that are less convenient - usually deeper underground, farther offshore, in smaller or less concentrated deposits, or in far-flung areas of the globe. For a time, the development of new technology allows resources to be profitably extracted from these harsher, more difficult locations. But the logic of depletion is unyielding."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.22-23.

  ----- On space exploration vs oil exploration  -----

""deepwater" drilling, generally defined as drilling at depths greater than 1,000 feet, is a relatively new phenomenon, involving the use of sophisticated technologies that had to be developed specifically for this purpose. Even newer is the practice of drilling "ultra-deepwater" wells, lying at depths of over one mile. Producing oil at such depths requires highly specialized rigs that can cost hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars.
Extracting oil from ultra-deepwater wells is so challenging and expensive that it has drawn comparisons with space exploration. ... in 1996 - six months before NASA launched the celebrated Pathfinder probe to planet Mars - Shell had deployed an oil platform called Mars in the deepwater Gulf. "At a total cost of $1 billion, Shell's Mars was more than three times as expensive as the Mars Pathfinder, and its remote technologies and engineering systems were arguably more sophisticated""
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.44.

  ----- On the competition for energy resources heating up  -----

"Despite all the hazards described above, drilling for oil and natural gas in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic, and the Pacific is likely to accelerate in the years ahead, as other prospects diminish and the struggle to secure energy supplies intensifies. Even the ecological damage wreaked by the Deepwater Horizon disaster of April 2010 is not likely to slow this drive. With onshore and shallow-water reservoirs becoming increasingly exhausted, deepwater exploration provides one of the few remaining options for corporations and governments that seek new hydrocarbon sources.
an increase in deepwater drilling will bring with it much greater risk of environmental and political calamity. Thousands of feet under the sea, drilling equipment is exposed to exponentially greater underground pressures, increasing the risk of a catastrophic accident. As global temperatures rise, meanwhile, hurricanes and typhoons will become more frequent and severe, posing a growing threat to rigs in the Gulf of Mexico and off-shore Asia. Disputers over contested offshore boundaries are also likely to become more contentious, especially among fiercely nationalistic countries such as China, Japan, and Vietnam."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.68-69.

  ----- On drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic region  -----

"there is every indication that the major energy companies will persist in their drive to exploit the alluring hydrocarbon resources of the Far North [the Arctic]. With few other places to turn to, they are wagering ever greater sums in the development of these reserves. Progress may be gradual during the current decade, but the efforts are bound to gain momentum in the 2020s, as fields below the Arctic Circle become increasingly depleted. Political leaders may worry about the many environmental risks involved, yet feel compelled to allow increased Arctic drilling in order to satisfy national energy needs."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.99.

  ----- On the competition for mineral ores heating up  -----

"most of the world's mineral ores are still being extracted from mines that were established in the decades following World War II and, up to now, producers have been able to cope with depletion by digging deeper into existing deposits and by employing sophisticated techniques to extract valuable minerals from lower-quality ores. But boosting output at current locations is proving increasingly difficult, while global demand is growing by the day. Finding fresh sources of supply, therefore, is becoming essential.
As the struggle for untapped reserves become more intense, only the largest companies are likely to survive, and even they risk losing their investments to unscrupulous rulers or rival firms. The main victims of the contest, though, are likely to be indigenous peoples and pristine natural landscapes"
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.131-132.

  ----- On rare earth elements and clean energy systems  -----

"China's rare earths embargo [in 2010] brought to the forefront a different aspect of global resource scarcity: the coming battle over access to vital minerals. Exotic elements such as rhodium and niobium, lanthanum and samarium may not be as familiar as oil and gas, but their absence would wreak havoc with much of modern industry, and governments around the world are taking urgent measures to ensure that their countries will not be left without these indispensable materials (p.153).
Many of these minerals [indium, gallium, lithium, niobium, palladium, tantalum, and vanadium] are used as additives in making specialized steel and aluminium for applications that require great heat resistance and durability ... Other critical minerals are needed for building clean energy systems: gallium and indium, for instance, are used in making photovoltaic solar cells, while lithium is a component of advanced motor-vehicle batteries. Any given application might require only a relatively small quantity of these materials, but it is often impossible to achieve the desired results without them (p.164)."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.6-7.

  ----- On securing farmlands and food  -----

"Around the world, countries flush with cash but poor in arable land are now rushing to secure vast amounts of acreage in land-rich but underdeveloped nations. In theory, of course, such trades could benefit both sides, but in practice they usually raise extraordinarily troubling ethical and political questions..
The drive to secure cropland abroad has been especially pronounced among the nations of the Persian Gulf, which see such acquisitions as the only sure way to guarantee adequate food supplies for the years ahead. The combined population of Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is expected to jump from 27 million in 2000 to 62 million in 2050, an extraordinarily increase that is unlikely to be accompanied by any increase in domestic agricultural output. At the same time, international food markets are becoming less reliable; as global warming disrupts agricultural production, exporting countries are liable to impose restrictions of food shipments just as they did in 2008."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.185-187.

  ----- On race to adapt  -----

"The is, however, another path that humanity could take. Instead of rushing to extract whatever remains of the earth's vital resources, major political and corporate powers could engage in a race to adapt: a contest to become among the first to adopt new materials, methods, and devices that will free the world from its dependence on finite resource supplies. Such a race would be motivated by the realization that, sooner or later, all countries will be forced to adjust to a life of extreme resource scarcity - and that whoever can make this transition early will reap significant advantages. The race to adapt will reward the governments, companies, and communities that take the lead in developing efficient, environmentally friendly industrial processes and transportation systems, and it will punish those that persist in clinging to existing habits. Ultimately, power and wealth will come not from control over dwindling resource supplies, but from mastery of the new technologies."
Klare (2012). "The race for what's left", p.227.

  ----- On the connection between climate change and violence  -----

"This book is concerned with the question of how climate and violence go together. In some cases, such as the war in Sudan, the link is direct and palpable. In many other contexts of present or future violence - civil wars and simmering conflicts, reigns of terror, illegal migration, border disputes, unrest and insurgency - the connection between global warming and environmental conflicts is only indirect
But, whether wars in the twenty-first century are directly or indirectly due to climate change, violence has a great future ahead of it. We shall see not only mass migration but also violent solutions to refugee problems, not only tension over water or mining rights but also resource wars, not only religious conflicts but also wars of belief. A hallmark of the violence practised by the West is an effort to delegate as much of it as possible to mercenaries or private security companies, or, in the case of border control, to agencies operating in economically and politically dependent countries that are the source of likely immigration ."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.5-6.

  ----- On how to frame an extremely bleak view of the future  -----

"this book will not so much speculate on possible futures as analyse how and why violence has been exercised in the past and present, in order to gauge what future lies in store for us in twenty-first century.
The book naturally ends with a consideration of what might be done to prevent the worst from happening ... Chapter 11, the first concluding chapter, examines the possibilities for cultural change that might permit an escape from the deadly logic ... Optimists should stop reading at the end of this chapter ... The second concluding chapter, chapter 12, outlines my own view of how things will shape up in the wake of climate change - a rather bleaker view, it must be said. The consequences will ... also spell the end of the Enlightenment and its conception of freedom. But some books one writes in the hope of being proved wrong."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.6-7.

  ----- On social scientists taking a stand to not study the effects of climate change  -----

"we should study not only what holds societies together but also what makes them fall apart. ... Social and cultural theory is fixated on normality and blind to disasters ... The fact is that a considerable part of the world's population will face increasing difficulties in the future, as desertification, soil erosion and salination, oceanic acidification, river contamination, aggradation and overfishing limit their survival chances.
nearly all academic studies, models and prognoses regarding the phenomena and consequences of climate change have been in the natural sciences. In the social and cultural sciences, it is exactly as if such things as social breakdown, resource conflict, mass migration, safety threats, widespread fears, radicalization and militarized or violence-governed economies did not belong to their sphere of competence."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.26-27.

  ----- There is no discernible 'we' in "we must limit CO2 emissions"  -----

"no one makes more use of the first person plural than the authors of books on climate change and other topical environmental questions. 'We' have caused this or that; 'we' must stop doing such and such if 'our' world is to be saved. But no one knows who lies behind this 'we'.
No socially identifiable 'we' links together a landless Chinese farm labourer and the chairman of a multinational energy corporation; they inhabit completely different social worlds, each with its particular demands and, above all, its particular rationality.
The use of 'we' assumes a collective perception of reality that does not actually exist, even in relation to a global problem such as climate change. For global warming affects people very differently: while some have long-term fears for the future of their grandchildren, others watch their own children die here and now."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.28-29.

  ----- On IPCC erring on the conservative side  -----

"the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), ... were subject to pre-publication policy debates that filtered out anything thought to be exaggerated. As is well know, such negotiations among governments are concerned less with the truth than with interests - for example, with the obligations that a particular finding might entail for individual countries. What emerges at the end of theis process .... is therefore the most conservative imaginable assessment. Since the policymakers are engaged in warding off obligations and constraints, the analysis is geared to that which is virtually beyond doubt and contains the least possible speculation."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.33.

  ----- Is love or hate the typical relationship to your neighbours?  -----

"Studies of mass violence and genocide have shown little or no understanding of what happens when people begin to attack or kill their neighbours - as if it were normal for them to love, or to have a close relationship with, their neighbours under peaceful circumstances. In fact ... close proximity may well be a source of violence rather than an obstacle to it; you can end up hating the people you have to live beside."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.47.

  ----- climate wars can masquerade as ethnic conflicts:
"the high toll of the brutal fighting in Darfur has all the characteristics of a climate war  -----

A study published in June 2007 by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) summed up the situation as follows. In Darfur environmental problems, combined with excessive population growth, have created the framework for violent conflicts along ethnic lines - between 'Africans' and 'Arabs'. So, conflict that have ecological causes are perceived as ethnic conflicts, including by the protagonists themselves. The social decline is triggered by ecological collapse, but this is not seen by most of the actors."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.64.

  ----- Life is supremely unfair  -----

"The consequences of climate change are unfairly distributed, because those who bear the largest responsibility for it are likely to suffer the least harm and to have the greatest opportunity to benefit. Conversely, those parts of the world which have scarcely yet added to the emissions that cause global warming will be the ones hardest hit. The industrial countries emit an annual average of 12.6 tonnes of CO2 per capita, while the poorest countries limit themselves to 0.9 tonnes."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.81.

  ----- On never-ending low-intensity wars  -----

"Extreme violence establishes forms of behaviour and experience for which the largely peaceful Western hemisphere of the post-Second World War period offers no frame of reference. Thus, any analysis should start by recognizing that much about extreme violence is unintelligible from the outside and cannot be explained in conventional theoretical terms.
in the last thirty years, especially in Africa, a type of organized violence has taken shape in which no sharp boundary can be drawn between war and peace, still less between legitimate and criminal violence. ... fighting ... takes place not between opponents of equal status but between semi-state or private entrepreneurs and populations. Private warlords, close to the government or the opposition, organize violence that helps groups with financial muscle to maintain power and furthers the criminal exploitation of raw materials such as diamonds, precious woods and oil or the production and export of drugs. As a result, the warlords actually have an interest in the continuation of war rather than its conclusion."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.95-98.

  ----- On war as a business opportunity for an immoral "entrepreneur"  -----

"Never-ending wars generally involve heterogenous, fragmented groups of players, which ... use less violence against other such groups than against the civilian population. ... the lack of a stable monopoly of violence [i.e. a strong state] offers niches and opportunity structures for the private deployment of violence.
handguns, Kalashnikovs, simple rocket launchers and light trucks do the brunt of the work ... low-tech means, which have the advantage of costing little and requiring no special operational skills. ... The fact fact that violence is directed less against another armed party than against civilians is one of the key features of never-ending wars. The unleashing of refugee flows, the speedily erected camps and the ensuring relief operations by the international community are important resources for the economy of violence. Relief convoys can be used to supply one's troops with weapons and food ... Considerable sums can also be raised in tolls and protection money for allowing aid convoys to pass unhindered, and almost intact, along the road to a refugee camp."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p. 100-101.

  ----- On international intervention in crises as a limited resource  -----

"It is already likely that international troops and special forces will be unavailable on a sufficient scale. For intervention itself is a scarce resources, which, reason tells us, can be distributed only in the interests of those who intervene. Or, to put it more simply, if such interests are not affected - if people fight among themselves and power politics, strategy or resources are not the issue - then the countries in the grip of violence will be left to get on with it.
Any moral dissonance related to this can be reduced in many different ways. It can be argued that it is wrong to meddle in the internal affairs of another country, that it is more important to play an active role in other crisis regions, that the risks for one's own troops are too high, that intervention might lead to 'mission creep', that local forces on the ground are better able to handle conflicts, that mistakes can be made, as in the past, and the wrong groups supported, and so on."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.105-106.

  ----- On cultivating the illusion of having clean hands  -----

"The outward projection of borders seems the most effective way of keeping undesired immigrants at a distance - and also the least conspicuous.
the number of existing and planned camps indicates a determination to meet the coming surge of refugees by means of indirect violence, which does not pit refugees and European security forces against each other but delegates the responsibility for handling the problem to authorities in North Africa or elsewhere. Political and economic power is being deployed to make countries like Morocco or Libya partners in this displacement of violence. Legally and morally, this frees the EU of responsibility for violence. For if the Moroccan or Algerian authorities abandon refugees in the desert, this takes place far outside the competence of European security agencies; the EU can even lodge a complaint about human rights violations. [This will] allow the use of violence to be invisible and unidentifiable on European soil. The visible players the refugees, 'smuggling gangs' and 'human traffickers', the African authorities, and perhaps the families who put up money for the journey. The EU's border security officials appear mainly as a humanitarian force doing their utmost to reduce the suffering on the high seas."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.128-129.

  ----- On the connection between perceived threats and changing values  -----

"How will conceptions of a normal and measured response to external threats change if growing numbers of environmental refugees pose security problems at state frontiers? How will the trade-off between freedom and security develop if terrorist attacks become more frequent and more violent? What calls for orientation and stability will appear if a catastrophe hits European cities? There is much historical evidence that unsatisfied expectations of stability and security lead to outbreaks of violence, and that a sense of increased population pressure can turn against refugees or other who are held responsible for it. ... Radical consequences of climate change may bring a radical value shift in their wake. Real or perceived threats from outside generate a deeper sense of internal belonging; the terrorist threat is thus conducive to the strengthening of we-group identity, which in turn involves establishing who 'the others' are."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.154.

  ----- On the consequences of 'business as usual'  -----

"To go on as usual means a policy of securing supplies through agreements with countries that neither respect human rights nor observe environmental standards.
Negative developments ... will unfold not in the public spotlight but in backstage departments that contain no potential for scandal and raise no obstacles to action. Such a strategy may thus seem rational, until the painful consequences of climate change spread to initially unaffected regions - either directly or in the form of economic shockwaves from other countries' wars and conflicts, terrorism or migration pressure; or else in the form of social conflict between new generations who have no chances in life and older generations responsible for the effects of past pollution who did enjoy many opportunities. Nevertheless, things might go on for a few more decades, during which 'business as usual' might seem the most rational strategy to today's middle-aged, the core group of the functional elites."
Welzer (2012). "Climate wars", p.164.

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