Monday, June 9, 2014

The Peak of Sanity - 7

The Peak of Sanity - Criminal Epoch
In this series we have taken a look at many facets of the social dementia which led to the peak of the sanity of our current civilization.

In the post today, I will attempt to narrow the discussion down so as to further support the notion about when the peak of sanity was reached.

But first, let's remember that we are talking about the peak of the sanity of civilization, our human culture, not the sanity of individuals:
In this series we have been discussing, not individuals, but current civilization, in terms of civilization having reached The Peak of Sanity.
(The Peak of Sanity - 3). This exercise of doing a psychoanalysis of a group as large as civilization was long ago recognized as a real need by "The Father of Psychoanalysis," but was never realized:
If the evolution of civilization has such a far reaching similarity with the development of an individual, and if the same methods are employed in both, would not the diagnosis be justified that many systems of civilization——or epochs of it——possibly even the whole of humanity——have become neurotic under the pressure of the civilizing trends? To analytic dissection of these neuroses, therapeutic recommendations might follow which could claim a great practical interest. I would not say that such an attempt to apply psychoanalysis to civilized society would be fanciful or doomed to fruitlessness. But it behooves us to be very careful, not to forget that after all we are dealing only with analogies, and that it is dangerous, not only with men but also with concepts, to drag them out of the region where they originated and have matured. The diagnosis of collective neuroses, moreover, will be confronted by a special difficulty. In the neurosis of an individual we can use as a starting point the contrast presented to us between the patient and his environment which we assume to be normal. No such background as this would be available for any society similarly affected; it would have to be supplied in some other way. And with regard to any therapeutic application of our knowledge, what would be the use of the most acute analysis of social neuroses, since no one possesses power to compel the community to adopt the therapy? In spite of all these difficulties, we may expect that one day someone will venture upon this research into the pathology of civilized communities. [p. 39]
Men have brought their powers of subduing the forces of nature
to such a pitch that by using them they could now very easily exterminate one another to the last man. They know this——hence arises a great part of their current unrest, their dejection, their mood of apprehension. [p. 40]
(MOMCOM's Mass Suicide & Murder Pact - 5, quoting Sigmund Freud). With that background, let's now focus on the graphic at the top of the post.

That graphic shows a bell curve with a peak curve shape that produces a dome, which is colored  purple on the upswing side, and colored red on the downswing side.

The colored dome begins circa 1900 and ends circa 1959, with two divisions.

The first division is purple and titled "The Peak of Sanity", while the second division is red and titled "Criminal Epoch."

One simple inference we can surmise from that graphic is that there was a process by which those in power during that time frame, made the decision to fully commit civilization to being / becoming utterly dependent on massive fossil fuel usage.

Regular readers know that Dredd Blog, in other posts covered the earlier and more embryonic phase of that emerging dependence, which was the decision to make military forces dependent on Middle East Oil (see e.g. Viva Egypt -2, The Universal Smedley - 2).

The result of the decision of captains of industry and government, when fully developed and delivered, was acknowledged by the U.S. Department of Energy statement: "Oil is the lifeblood of America’s economy."

And by extension, oil is also the lifeblood of civilization's economy.

With that preface, let's take a look at some of the evidence concerning when civilization went over the top, then entered downside of the curve, which is the Criminal Epoch.

The evidence is based on what they knew and when they knew it, concerning the affects of having a worldwide dependence, which some call addiction, to the burning of fossil fuels in order to avoid the collapse of civilization.

And by the same token, that evidence is also based on the reality that the same burning of fossil fuels to avoid the collapse of civilization is what will certainly cause the collapse of civilization.

That was pointed out by the recent scientific paper indicating that the human species, not just civilization itself, is facing extinction as a result of the fateful decision to become addicted to oil:
Despite the uncertainty in future climate-change impacts, it is often assumed that humans would be able to adapt to any possible warming. Here we argue that heat stress imposes a robust upper limit to such adaptation. Peak heat stress, quantified by the wet-bulb temperature TW, is surprisingly similar across diverse climates today. TW never exceeds 31 °C. Any exceedence of 35 °C for extended periods should induce hyperthermia in humans and other mammals, as dissipation of metabolic heat becomes impossible. While this never happens now, it would begin to occur with global-mean warming of about 7 °C, calling the habitability of some regions into question. With 11–12 °C warming, such regions would spread to encompass the majority of the human population as currently distributed. Eventual warmings of 12 °C are possible from fossil fuel burning.
Heat stress is already a leading cause of fatalities from natural phenomena. While fatalities appear associated with warm nights, hot days alter the lifestyles and work productivity of those living at low latitudes. Both impacts will clearly worsen in warmer climates, but most believe humans will simply adapt, reasoning that humans already tolerate a very wide range of climates today. But when measured in terms of peak heat stress—including humidity—this turns out to be untrue. We show that even modest global warming could therefore expose large fractions of the population to unprecedented heat stress, and that with severe warming this would become intolerable.
(PNAS, "An adaptability limit ... heat stress", emphasis added). Humans cannot adapt to the heat stress that is coming.

Nor are we inclined to adapt to what we must do, that is, give up our addiction to fossil fuel usage.

Moving on with this post, here is the concept expressed ~six decades ago, in 1957, a la "the first one is free," that got us hooked:
Whether this Golden Age will continue depends entirely upon our ability to keep energy supplies in balance with the needs of our growing population. Before I go into this question, let me review briefly the role of energy resources in the rise and fall of civilizations.

Possession of surplus energy is, of course, a requisite for any kind of civilization, for if man possesses merely the energy of his own muscles, he must expend all his strength - mental and physical - to obtain the bare necessities of life.

Surplus energy provides the material foundation for civilized living - a comfortable and tasteful home instead of a bare shelter; attractive clothing instead of mere covering to keep warm; appetizing food instead of anything that suffices to appease hunger. It provides the freedom from toil without which there can be no art, music, literature, or learning. There is no need to belabor the point. What lifted man - one of the weaker mammals - above the animal world was that he could devise, with his brain, ways to increase the energy at his disposal, and use the leisure so gained to cultivate his mind and spirit. Where man must rely solely on the energy of his own body, he can sustain only the most meager existence.


I think no further elaboration is needed to demonstrate the significance of energy resources for our own future. Our civilization rests upon a technological base which requires enormous quantities of fossil fuels. What assurance do we then have that our energy needs will continue to be supplied by fossil fuels: The answer is - in the long run - none.

The earth is finite. Fossil fuels are not renewable. In this respect our energy base differs from that of all earlier civilizations. They could have maintained their energy supply by careful cultivation. We cannot. Fuel that has been burned is gone forever. Fuel is even more evanescent than metals. Metals, too, are non-renewable resources threatened with ultimate extinction, but something can be salvaged from scrap. Fuel leaves no scrap and there is nothing man can do to rebuild exhausted fossil fuel reserves. They were created by solar energy 500 million years ago and took eons to grow to their present volume.

In the face of the basic fact that fossil fuel reserves are finite, the exact length of time these reserves will last is important in only one respect: the longer they last, the more time do we have, to invent ways of living off renewable or substitute energy sources and to adjust our economy to the vast changes which we can expect from such a shift.

Fossil fuels resemble capital in the bank. A prudent and responsible parent will use his capital sparingly in order to pass on to his children as much as possible of his inheritance. A selfish and irresponsible parent will squander it in riotous living and care not one whit how his offspring will fare.
(Adm. Rickover 5/14/1957 - Energy History - Collapse, emphasis added). There it is, our sophisticated civilization is dependent on fossil fuels, but those resources are finite.

Sanity dictates that we must have used them only to create, build, then transfer our dependence to renewable sources of energy.

The captains of industry and government knew the situation, the great risk of becoming dependent on a finite resource, but risked it anyway, while knowing that their time to convert to renewable resources was limited:
Current estimates of fossil fuel reserves vary to an astonishing degree. In part this is because the results differ greatly if cost of extraction is disregarded or if in calculating how long reserves will last, population growth is not taken into consideration; or, equally important, not enough weight is given to increased fuel consumption required to process inferior or substitute metals. We are rapidly approaching the time when exhaustion of better grade metals will force us to turn to poorer grades requiring in most cases greater expenditure of energy per unit of metal.

But the most significant distinction between optimistic and pessimistic fuel reserve statistics is that the optimists generally speak of the immediate future - the next twenty-five years or so - while the pessimists think in terms of a century from now. A century or even two is a short span in the history of a great people. It seems sensible to me to take a long view, even if this involves facing unpleasant facts.

For it is an unpleasant fact that according to our best estimates, total fossil fuel reserves recoverable at not over twice today's unit cost, are likely to run out at some time between the years 2000 and 2050, if present standards of living and population growth rates are taken into account. Oil and natural gas will disappear first, coal last. There will be coal left in the earth, of course. But it will be so difficult to mine that energy costs would rise to economically intolerable heights, so that it would then become necessary either to discover new energy sources or to lower standards of living drastically.
(ibid, "Adm. Rickover 5/14/1957 - Energy History - Collapse", emphasis added). The entry into the Criminal Epoch began when the captains of industry and government knew the consequences of not beginning to develop and use renewable resources way back then.

Their decision to never-the-less go down a path that would bring collapse of civilization was criminal and was psychopathic (The Peak Of The Oil Wars - 9).

In this post we have not considered their knowledge about the environmental consequences of using fossil fuels, which includes human extinction as was mentioned above.

So, in the next post of this series we will consider their knowledge of the environmental consequences as well as the criminal ramifications of that knowledge and subsequent behavior.

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.

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