Power Down by Richard Heinberg

Posted: February 23, 2010 in Book Notes
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There are six possible responses to the ecological dilemma.

  1. Move elsewhere (find territories that are under-exploited)
  2. Exploit existing resources more intensively (many human technologies, including fire and agriculture, provide ways of doing this)
  3. Discover new exploitable resources (uranium and so on)
  4. Limit population (tribal cultures have accomplished this in the past through sexual taboos, infanticide, prolonged lactation, birth control, or other measures)
  5. Limit resource usage (through ethical systems that valorize voluntary poverty)
  6. Die off (usually from famine, disease, or predation)

The first three options are “supply-side”, while the latter three focus on the “demand-side” of the survival equation. Because nature cannot tolerate the unlimited proliferation of any species, supply-side strategies are always temporary, and sometimes counterproductive, eventually resulting in spectacular population crashes in species that have momentarily benefited from them.

In four short years, Bush, Cheney, and company (Neoconservatism) have managed to do the following:

  • Steal an election.
  • Place criminals and human-rights violators in prominent policy-making positions.
  • Facilitate a terrorist attack on the US in order to consolidate political power.
  • Lie to the American people and the world in order to justify the illegal invasion of a sovereign nation.
  • Undermine the system of international law by proclaiming the validity of a policy of pre-emptive attack.
  • Use weapons that kill indiscriminately – i.e., “weapons of mass destruction” – in the invasions of both Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Subvert the US Constitution.

Random points:

  • For years, studies such as those by University of Massachusetts’ Center for Studies in Communication, have shown that people who get their news primarily from television are not only poorly informed, but often seriously misinformed.
  • Cooporative efforts are necessary to our survival.
  • A lesson we might take away from the example of Cuba is that people can do extraordinary things if motivated by a strong and clear appeal to a developed sense of ethics. Most people are ethically motivated; they want to believe that what they are doing is good.
  • We humans love to solve problems, and we love to see problems solved. Further, we like to think that every problem has a solution. That humankind has an immense problem that won’t easily be solved is a notion that most people would prefer not to entertain.
  • The Primitive Technology Movement
    • Primitive technologists tend to develop a profound respect for the natural world, and are practical conservationists.
  • Distinction between survivalist communities and preservationist communities.
    • Survivalist communities will need to protect themselves from the people around them
    • Preservationist communities will be protected by the people they serve
  • The elites – corporate owners and managers, governmental officials and military commanders – are people who have been selected for certain qualities: royalty to the system, competitiveness, and hunger for power. Often they are literally bred for their roles. Like George W. Bush, they are people born to wealth and power, and raised to assume that privilege is their birthright. These are people who identify with the system and the status quo; they are constitutionally incapable of questioning its fundamental assumptions. Moreover, the elites are guided day-to-day by a set of incentives that are built into the system itself.

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