The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Open Thread

Use the comments to discuss topic unrelated to the Ukrainian/Russian war.

(I’m afraid that for a while posts will probably be mainly or entirely about this war because it matters and also illustrates a lot of very important things.)


Putin Looks to Win Both the War & the Peace


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – February 27, 2022


  1. Trinity

    The greed/insanity playbook seems to be based on the assumption that resources will somehow remain essentially the same so that the Big Steal can carry on forever. Richard Heinberg interviewed Dennis Meadows (Limits to Growth) for the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication.

    Here’s a Heinberg quote and a link to the entire article:

    “Generally, when it comes to discussions about environmental impacts on society, resource depletion gets a lot less attention than pollution. Nearly everybody talks about climate change these days, but the background assumption seems to be that, if we reduce emissions to “net zero,” we can continue living essentially as we do now—with a consumer culture, 8 billion people, and cruise ships (hydrogen powered, of course). There’s very little discussion in the mainstream—even among most scientists, it seems to me—about how growing population and consumption will lead to a series of depletion crises even if we somehow avert the worst climate impacts. ”

  2. KT Chong

    You should create a separate weekend’s “Open Thread” topic for the Russo-Ukrainian war, titled “This Week’s Hot Topics,” or something like that.

  3. Haydar Khan

    Larry Wilkerson and Paul Jay on the Ukraine situation:

  4. bruce wilder

    The most critical depletion crisis revolves around the depletion of the earth’s capacity to assimilate the waste products of energy consumption.

    On a deeper level, collectively if not always individually, people are remarkably stupid about every issue of how the natural and social systems around us work. Everyone tends to simplify, to condense, compress and distill information into bite-size nuggets in order to communicate and then pretty soon all people have in their brains are these little, disconnected meme nuggets. The part we have to master is manipulating the levers to get our share of cheese and plenty of people cannot manage that reliably, but understanding the design of the machinery, the principles that govern the design — oh, please!

    When the subject of resource depletion comes up, I am convinced most people are quietly applying as metaphors their personal experience of running out of milk in their refrigerators. That’s it. You go to the store and get milk. Really alarming is you go to the store and there is no more milk. That is their understanding of “resource depletion”: whatever resource-product is available and then it is not. The earth store has no more.

    Basic principles like the conservation of matter do not affect their understanding of the issue without a lot of education.

    The ideas that resource extraction processes gradually run into decreasing yields and increasing waste, exacerbating the problems of polluting the natural world — these ideas come later if they come at all. And, when they do come, they may be abstracted into money expense (which is misleading at best).

    The idea that there is some ideal, perfect solution is perennial, because it offers cognitive economy. Yesterday, I read an article about a promising advance in nuclear fusion technology, an article that carried the rote proclamation that energy from fusion would be “clean” — I forget the exact cliche. The next article I read was about the French regulator holding up the world’s largest scale fusion research project over concerns about their safety design and how they would handle the radioactivity of containment structures exposed to the fusion reaction.

    “Peak oil” was the term applied to the depletion of exploitable petroleum some years ago. That extraction would get dirtier was the real message, not that the world would “run out” like a grocery runs out of milk. We have to understand that, with rare exceptions, “running out” is not the big problem, the big problem is poisoning the natural environment.

    The remedies would be self-restraint: constraints on energy use and on consumption and attention to easing recycling materials routinely. But, the combo of greed and stupid keeps winning.

  5. anon y'mouse

    one may not agree with the rest of the info in this “forum” (i’m having many problems with it, inconsistency being one) but this specific talk is extremely interesting and pertinent to almost literally everything.

    it is essentially about control of worldwide markets and “mindspace” via the City of London, established at the end of the 1800s.

  6. Trinity

    Bruce, I think Heinberg is pointing out that resource depletion isn’t really talked about compared to all the other problems we face. I’m not a huge fan of H’s, but I loved this interview. Dennis set him straight. As I see it, the oligarchs believe that Mars and the asteroid belt will solve any resource problems (hence the rocket fantasies). But I would argue all our problems are intertwined, which is also what most people really don’t understand. Or maybe that’s where I begin, on this topic.

    “people are remarkably stupid about every issue of how the natural and social systems around us work”. Totally agree, but it’s not an accident. Earth Science is not a required class, but Government is, so the future slaves understand their place. Fox News isn’t ever going to talk about realities, such as “we are all interconnected with nature”. I found my way to complex systems work in grad school, but it still is described in terms of advanced math (slowly changing) despite knowing that the Native Americans did not know calculus or partial differential equations, yet still did (and still do) a better job of land management. Even worse (to me) is that kind of local knowledge that the old timers, who could and did stay in place, is now lost to us just when we need it most.

    But you are absolutely right, the Earth is turning into one big landfill, and human and other bodies are chock full of micro plastics and other nasty things. I remember seeing a CSI episode 10 or 15 years ago where they found the body of a teenage boy. The autopsy revealed he did NOT have all the usual chemicals the rest of us carry around. He was Amish, or similar.

  7. Trinity

    Also meant to mention briefly: I was watching an NBA game last week when a commercial came on, one I had never seen before.

    It was an ad for Moderna and their vaccines. Yup, that Moderna. I read the related article over at NC with great interest.

  8. different clue

    Since this is an open thread, meaning open to ” something completely different” as well as the expected, let me note that I saw a turkey vulture soaring around yesterday. And turkey vultures are considered a very early sign of pre-spring on the way.

  9. anon y'mouse

    we could have easily solved the overpopulation problem back when Limits to Growth was published.

    just pay people a yearly stipend not to have children. slightly more than we pay people who have children. offer free birth control and management of that for life, and free higher ed. (which should already be free for everyone, but we can’t do anything in this country that doesn’t make new special classes of people with special privileges—see the military) and guaranteed SSI at retirement no matter what you do or where you work.

    some would have taken that bet. every few years they poll parents and find that their little screech mongers are not as fulfilling as they though they would be but they spend their time putting on a brave face and lying about it, essentially otherwise they’d look like monsters. and those are the good (as in non-abusive) ones.

    i once told my grandmother that she (absolute lacking all mothering instinct plus saddled with a drunken abusive husband) should never have had kids. she said “well, where would you be, then?” and i responded “i wouldn’t exist, so i wouldn’t care, obviously.” she was appalled, even though she didn’t really like her own kids at all. having them was just the way of the world, and in her time there wasn’t really an alternative except to live as a nun.

  10. different clue

    @anon y’mouse,

    In a perfect world we could go even further. All the rich countries could make the following offer to the young and the child-free people of all the poor countries: we will let you into our countries IF! . . . you will first agree to be provably and irreversibly sterilized and demonstrate that fact to our satisfaction. That way the rich countries could turn themselves into irreversible population shrink-sinks and black holes for an overcrowded world.

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