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  • Showing only topics in ~talk with the tag "collapse". Back to normal view / Search all groups
    1. Do you feel like many systems are on the verge of collapse?

      My post will be US-centric, because that's where I live, but obviously you're welcome to talk about your own location as well. With this new COVID-19/Omicron surge, strange things are afoot....

      My post will be US-centric, because that's where I live, but obviously you're welcome to talk about your own location as well.

      With this new COVID-19/Omicron surge, strange things are afoot. Specifically, those in charge of our systems and government have chose to ignore it, rather than institute more shut downs, mandates, stimuli, etc. It appears as though the plan now is to let it burn through the population and see how that shakes out.

      But if you peruse r/nursing and r/teachers like I do, you can really see how deep the cracks are becoming. Infections are up, as are hospitalizations, and with more and more professionals out sick, we're seeing huge staff shortages in both education and health care. These industries in particular are essential, and the professionals in these jobs are on the front line of our problems. Health care professionals obviously need to be there to help the sick. And teachers need to be there not only to teach, but so that parents can go to work. They're being sacrificed to our economy.

      But as teachers, for example, get sick or get burned out and quit, it puts continued strain on the education system as a whole. We're already seeing staff shortages in other areas of education, such as food service, bus drivers, substitutes, paraprofessionals. With how contagious this variant is, it's only a matter of time until school systems collapse in on themselves due to a lack of people running the show. And when kids have no place to go, parents will have to figure something out or stay home themselves, pulling them away from their jobs and their income.

      With all help being pulled away from Americans--help such as eviction moratoriums, financial stimulus, unemployment benefits--what might happen if these things begin to cascade? There are already plenty of anecdotal reports from those in health care that hospitals are full, short staffed, and falling (and you can check here to see hospital status in your state). It can take hours, if not days, to find a bed for someone in the ER. As for education, increasingly both teachers and students are out sick with COVID, yet administrations are fighting tooth and nail against any kind of remote learning, only exacerbating the problem. Remote learning, as you know, requires a parent to be home with the child, which takes them away from work, income, and economic productivity.

      And meanwhile, the media seems mostly quiet about how things are actually going. The line is that Omicron is "mild" but if you look at hospitals and schools, it seems like that might just be verbiage to reduce panic in the populace. Omicron isn't mild for the health care system. Better hope you don't get in a car accident. And in medical terms, "mild" is a pretty broad thing. It could mean you're home sick for two weeks, feeling like death, but not bad enough to be hospitalized.

      And then there are other front line workers, grocery stores, supply chain, all experiencing similar sickness and staff shortages. But I haven't been keeping up with that as much lately as I have been with education and health care. If anybody has information about these sectors, I'd love to hear it.

      My gut feeling is that the economy is actually on the verge of collapse, and this "let it rip!" strategy is a hail mary to see if the status quo can be maintained by sacrificing the health and well-being of a lot of people. Any other mitigation efforts could topple the economy as we know it (and as those at the top benefit from it), so the people in charge of our systems have decided that we're not going to try to fix things, we're just going to hope it works out in the end and deal with the death and illness. For me, the proverbial canary in the coal mine for this was the recent extension of the student loan payment pause. Borrowers had been blasted for months, both phone calls and emails, telling them that loans would need to be paid after January 31st, it was happening, get ready for it. And then poof... nope. Extended. The government knows. People are stretched thin as it is and restarting loan payments could be the thing that triggers the economy to tumble. Even if borrowers can pay, it sucks money out of the consumer economy which can have far-reaching effects.

      Many, if not most people are absolutely fatigued by this pandemic. I am, you probably are. But it has revealed so many cracks in our flawed system and it really feels like the people in charge of things--whoever that is--are gripping on for dear life, just hoping the flaws can remain because it benefits them, praying that the system holds. I just don't see it. I don't see how we make it through this without some kind of major fall. People want to ignore it all, because it's frightening and it's negative, but it's happening right in front of our eyes. Our most important systems are broken and those with the power to fix them aren't doing it.

      I'm curious as to what Tildes thinks.

      31 votes
    2. What are the primary pressures leading us towards collapse?

      I’m trying to organize a series of statements which reflect the primary pressures pushing civilization towards collapse. Ideally, I could be as concise as possible and provide additional resources...

      I’m trying to organize a series of statements which reflect the primary pressures pushing civilization towards collapse. Ideally, I could be as concise as possible and provide additional resources for understanding and sources in defense of each. Any feedback would be helpful, as I would like to incorporate them into a general guide for better understanding collapse.

      We are overwhelmingly dependent on finite resources.

      Fossil fuels account for 87% of the world’s total energy consumption. 1 2 3

      Economic pressures will manifest well before reserves are actually depleted as more energy is required to extract the same amount of resources over time (or as the steepness of the EROEI cliff intensifies). 1 2

      We are transitioning to renewables very slowly.

      Renewables have had an average growth rate of 5.4% over the past decade. 1 2 3 4

      Renewables are not taking off any faster than coal or oil once did and there is no technical or financial reason to believe they will rise any quicker, in part because energy demand is soaring globally, making it hard for natural gas, much less renewables, to just keep up. 1

      Total world energy consumption increased 15% from 2009 to 2016. New renewables powered less than 30% of the growth in demand during that period. 1

      Transitioning to renewables too quickly would disrupt the global economy.

      A rush to build an new global infrastructure based on renewables would require an enormous amount resources and produce massive amounts of pollution. 1 2

      Current renewables are ineffective replacements for fossil fuels.

      Energy can only be substituted by other energy. Conventional economic thinking on most depletable resources considers substitution possibilities as essentially infinite. But not all joules perform equally. There is a large difference between potential and kinetic energy. Energy properties such as: intermittence, variability, energy density, power density, spatial distribution, energy return on energy invested, scalability, transportability, etc. make energy substitution a complex prospect. The ability of a technology to provide ‘joules’ is different than its ability to contribute to ‘work’ for society. All joules do not contribute equally to human economies. 1 2 3

      Best-case energy transition scenarios will still result in severe climate change.

      Even if every renewable energy technology advanced as quickly as imagined and they were all applied globally, atmospheric CO2 levels wouldn’t just remain above 350 ppm; they would continue to rise exponentially due to continued fossil fuel use. So our best-case scenario, which was based on our most optimistic forecasts for renewable energy, would still result in severe climate change, with all its dire consequences: shifting climatic zones, freshwater shortages, eroding coasts, and ocean acidification, among others. Our reckoning showed that reversing the trend would require both radical technological advances in cheap zero-carbon energy, as well as a method of extracting CO2 from the atmosphere and sequestering the carbon. 1

      The speed and scale of transitions and of technological change required to limit warming to 1.5°C has been observed in the past within specific sectors and technologies {}. But the geographical and economic scales at which the required rates of change in the energy, land, urban, infrastructure and industrial systems would need to take place, are larger and have no documented historic precedent. 1

      Global economic growth peaked forty years ago.

      Global economic growth peaked forty years ago and is projected to settle at 3.7% in 2018. 1 2 3

      The increased price of energy, agricultural stress, energy demand, and declining EROEI suggest the energy-surplus economy already peaked in the early 20th century. 1 2

      The size of the global economy is still projected to double within the next 25 years. 1

      Our institutions and financial systems are based on expectations of continued GDP growth perpetually into the future. Current OECD (2015) forecasts are for more than a tripling of the physical size of the world economy by 2050. No serious government or institution entity forecasts the end of growth this century (at least not publicly). 1

      Global energy demand is increasing.

      Global energy demand has increased 0.5-2% per year from 2011-2017, despite increases in efficiency. 1 2 3

      Technological change can raise the efficiency of resource use, but also tends to raise both per capita resource consumption and the scale of resource extraction, so that, absent policy effects, the increases in consumption often compensate for the increased efficiency of resource use. 1 2 3 4

      World population is increasing.

      World population is growing at a rate of around 1.09% per year (2018, down from 1.12% in 2017 and 1.14% in 2016. The current average population increase is estimated at 83 million people per year. The annual growth rate reached its peak in the late 1960s, when it was at around 2%. The rate of increase has nearly halved since then, and will continue to decline in the coming years. 1 2

      Our supplies of food and water are diminishing.

      Global crop yields are expected to fall by 10% on average over the next 30 years as a result of land degradation and climate change. 1

      An estimated 38% of the world’s cropland has been degraded or reduced water and nutrient availability. 1 2

      Two-thirds of the world (4.0 billion people) lives under conditions of severe water scarcity at least one month per year. 1

      Climate change is rapidly destabilizing our environment.

      An overwhelming majority of climate scientists agree humans are the primary cause of climate change. 1

      A comparison of past IPCC predictions against 22 years of weather data and the latest climate science find the IPCC has consistently underplayed the intensity of climate change in each of its four major reports released since 1990. 1

      15,000 scientists, the most to ever cosign and formally support a published journal article, recently called on humankind to curtail environmental destruction and cautioned that “a great change in our stewardship of the Earth and the life on it is required, if vast human misery is to be avoided.” 1

      Emissions are still rising globally and far from enabling us to stay under two degrees of global average warming. 1 2

      Climate feedback loops could exponentially accelerate climate change.

      In addition to increased atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, many disrupted systems can trigger various positive or negative feedbacks within the larger system. 1 2 3 4 5

      Biodiversity is falling rapidly.

      The current species extinction rate is 1,000 to 10,000 times greater than the natural background rate. 1 2

      World wildlife populations have declined by an average 58% in the past four decades. 1

      The marginal utility of societal complexity is declining.

      Civilization solves problems via increased societal complexity (e.g. specialization, political organization, technology, economic relationships). However, each increase in complexity has a declining marginal utility to overall society, until it eventually becomes negative. At such a point, complexity would decrease and a process of collapse or decline would begin, since it becomes more useful to decrease societal complexity than it would be to increase it. 1 2 3

      25 votes
    3. Open scientific research is a foundation of our age, but do you think that we may be coming to a time where it may become an existential threat to humanity?

      Openly published research makes science advance at a wonderful rate. In my experience scientists and researchers support open research in a nearly dogmatic fashion. Personally I am generally for...

      Openly published research makes science advance at a wonderful rate. In my experience scientists and researchers support open research in a nearly dogmatic fashion. Personally I am generally for it. However here is my concern.

      I believe that humanity is in a terrible race. One of the competitors is the advancement of science, which of course can sometimes be used in a dangerous ways. The other competitor is our society moving towards murder and war becoming obsolete. The science is obvious and needs no examples. Societies move towards the sanctity of life is shown here.

      "Violence has been in decline over long stretches of time", says Harvard professor Steven Pinker, "and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence."

      Now to get to my point. In the past scientific advancement has created some really scary things. Atomic weapons, bio and chemical warefare, etc. However, those weapons took a lot of people and capital to produce, and had relatively un-scalable effects. Now with open research on advancements like CRISPR, we are nearing a time where in the near future a smart high school biology student with a few thousand dollars and an internet connection will be able to create self-replicating custom viruses that could kill millions. The asymmetric threat has never been greater.

      Do you agree with my assessment and concerns?

      If so, do you believe that there should be limits on publication of research in certain areas?

      Edit: I should have said CRISPR and gene drives. Here is a TED talk on how gene drives can change and entire species, forever.

      7 votes