IT’S THE INFRASTRUCTURE
Since I’m one to gleefully throw cold water on everyone’s dreams, goals and aspirations, let’s talk about today’s and tomorrow’s infrastructure. It’s a good topic to bring up as yet another bridge collapses ( and more so since our crumbling infrastructure is so prevalent that it is barely newsworthy anymore. New Orleans still has blocks of rubble eight years later ). Since tomorrows infrastructure is the sum total of all work from the past, and since we are on a downward path with our current setup, you can’t predict that tomorrow will be better. It will be worse. When ZZ Top beard wearing tree huggers gleefully proclaim a future of eco-villages practicing permaculture, they are of course correct. What they conveniently leave out is the bloodshed needed to get there. What we have now, almost globally, is urban areas packed with the dredges of two centuries of overpopulation, being fed by farms long distances away. Oil keeps the whole thing together, in small part with the mechanized equipment on the farms and for the seed companies that feed us with FrankenFood, in most part as transportation fuel. And our oil supply is contracting ( and the US has been reduced to mostly importing fake oil. We get more tar sand oil than Saudi Arabian oil ). The roads and bridges that transport the food are crumbling as are the cities housing the multitudes. All this has been obvious for some time, recently sharpened in focus by recent events as Global Peak Oil races towards the end of its first decade.
What I would like to concentrate on today is our gleaming technological wonderland we all worship also being indicative of a crumbling infrastructure. Everything being turned into digital entertainment is not a replacement for our past industrial economy. It is not our CyberPunk future. All it is is the last proof that our resources have been depleted to the point we have no other choice than to embrace the facsimile. Digital has replaced gold. It has even replaced printed pieces of paper ( don’t forget how little actual paper cash is floating around this country. The debit card won’t work grid down ). Digital might have replaced roughly half of our military equipment, such as missiles or tanks or ships ( it might even be more than half- certainly our manpower is down under half or even more if you go by per capita population wise ). Which worked great for awhile, but keep in mind the strategic disadvantage. Now the enemy merely needs to only destroy half the targets. In effect we’ve centralized our equipment in fewer Hive Minds rather than kept it decentralized and dumb. When it all started, Israeli fighters shooting down decades old technology Arab/Soviet enemies by the score, we congratulated ourselves on our high tech military. This was reinforced by events such as the first Gulf War. But what we weren’t paying attention to was that none of our enemies had nuclear weapons. Those countries massing old dumb armies, with a nuclear umbrella, are the threat.
A less obvious digital replacement, one that will have unintended consequences, is women in the workplace. Slowly but surely, outside of un-Unionized dangerous underpaid grunt work, minorities and women are taking over the workplace ( you know, the one that has a third of a million less jobs every month while at the same time still seeing population and immigration growth ). They can push buttons and do it cheaper. The ladies stand up and applaud mightily, burning their bras and chanting Girl Power, and the family unit takes another body blow. By the time the traditional family has been destroyed, we will all be mindless cogs in the bankers paradise, chained to debt from birth to death. Hopefully the collapse will come in time, or no one will have a support group anymore. Turning everything digital is not an improvement. It is the only way to kick the can down the road as our resources run out. We no longer print paper, drive as far, use anything other than recycled plastic ( and that is becoming far more dear as fuel prices stay too high ), have as many jobs that burn fuel, etc. You can’t pretend a replacement is an improvement when its set of problems are worse than the ones they replaced.
History, since the Agricultural Revolution, has been one of progress in infrastructure ( okay, the Dark Ages halted progress but it wasn’t a set back other than the total elimination of transportation and trade [ a few camels carrying silk does not an economy make ] ). Look at the progression of metals that we based our activities on. We started at the most abundant and easiest to smelt and very slowly worked up the chain, using the old tools to build new ones. We built on a progressively advancing infrastructure. Today, our infrastructure is not advancing but contracting. We have used up most of the ores and fuels until we are now at the point of diminishing returns. We must burn far more energy to mine far less quality yielding materials. We must pump oil from miles under the sea and scrape the last of the ore from larger quantities of dirt. There is no where else to move up, as with iron to steel, from coal to uranium, from wood to oil. We have already moved down in oil, from sweet Texas crude to Canadian tar sands and corn ethanol. We have moved down from visible nuggets of copper on the surface to dozing off mountain tops to get microscopic flecks. We have moved from farming naturally fertile ground to harvesting dead soil soaked with artificial fertilizers. When all the last of the oil needed to keep our infrastructure moving is gone, we have no more choices. If you don’t have the surplus energy needed to keep the billions of urbanites alive now, how are you going to decentralize farming in the future? Utopian fantasies of bucolic farmers respecting the land and not over utilizing the soil don’t agree with ten thousands of years of history. And we’ve already used the last of the globes resources that can be captured by low tech. It is civilization collapse, not peaceful reset.
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