The Pentagong Show

The Pentagong Show
United State of Terror: Is Drone War Fair?

Thursday, May 7, 2015


The Carboniferous Error.

I watched a presentation by Guy Mcpherson the other day about the direction we all know that we are taking the planet in, yet all refuse to acknowledge, not only in our lives, but in our desires ... our dreams ... our hopes, for our own and our children's future, that last one bringing to mind how, here in San Francisco at least, parents sit in their running SUV's that snake around the block, waiting to pick up their children from school, sitting there burning up carbon, sending not only the fumes from their own machines into the atmosphere, but, just as in this medium here, the internet, the part of the CO2 equation represented by the end devise, be it car or PC, being only the tip of the iceberg, the part pictured above, reminding us of the Deepwater Horizon explosion, representing the vast, unacknowledged burning done in the background to allow us to do our own private combustion.

Because such accidents are only the more dramatic, photogenic burning of what is sent up in smoke everyday before you put a single drop of fuel into your automobile. So, back to those parents, they do what they do, why? Why, for their children's future, of course. They just figure everyone else is doing it, or, if I don't do it someone else will, so it might as well be me, and so we arrive at the place we are now, where no one really has to give a damn about their own actions, and can look at everyone else and think how thoughtless they are, but, since it is only by being thoughtless that you are able to survive and try to give those you love a leg up. the future you give them a leg up on is so frightening that most of us don't want to even think about it (hence one kind of thoughtlessness begets another kind of thoughtlessness).

In an article in Harvard magazine called, Altering Course, by Jonathan Shaw, he sets out to explain why the US may be on the cusp (I assure you we'll get no further, before this cusp runneth over) of an (other?) energy revolution, in which he starts the article with the salient fact (remembering those parents in their SUV's) that, "Of the 100 quadrillion BTU's of energy generated in the US, 61 are wasted." He then goes on to explain not only that the US economy is pretty much dependent on a heat engine (he serenely glides over the fact that civilisation itself is a heat engine), but that the generating capacity of that engine is bound, not just by the fuel available, but by the very law of thermodynamics (now you see why he peaked my interest ...someone talking reality about the economy and its relation to energy ... only in our capitalist society does such rational linkage seem to be all but banned from all public discourse  ... only one of many reasons Derrick Jensen referred to it as "The Culture of Make Believe") that results in an electrical power plant's efficiently being maxed out at 50% (what he refers to as its,"Carnot limit"). In real terms, that 50% limit, as atrocious as that sounds, is, as maximum implies, rarely, if ever, actually reached.

All this is preface to his explaining how Mara Prentiss, in her book, Energy Revolution: The Physics and the Promise of Efficient Technology, tells how we can, just by having the courage (she never mentions the trillions of dollars and the additional CO2, obtaining those trillions will entail, we just need courage) change our entire energy equation, so that, heaven forbid, we won't have to make any "sacrifices to Americans' lifestyle" (hallelujah Momma!). She naturally goes on to say just how we can manage this miraculous change , but the kicker comes at the end. Because the reason we're going to do all this, the motive behind it all, you may have inferred, was to be a reduction in the burning of fossil fuels; but you would be wrong. At the end of informing us how we can alter our way of producing our own energy from fossil fuel by switching to wind and solar, she exclaims triumphantly, "Such a  decrease in US demand for petroleum would allow Americans to substantially increase petroleum exports", in other words, considering what has enabled the increased oil production that would allow us to do so, we can substantially increase FRACKING. WHA?!

So the fact that now those SUV's you're all sitting in snaking around the block will be electric, makes not a single bit of difference in the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere (although it will dramatically increase the amount of methane being leaked  into the atmosphere), only the amount of CO2 you're putting into the atmosphere. Whereas this is a good thing for your local air quality, it is a bad thing, a very very bad thing, for those little ones for whom you wait so patiently to come screaming out of those schoolroom doors. Because by using solar and wind to drive our own energy infrastructure, it only enables us to make sure that CHina, that cares nothing about pollution (have you seen Beijing? Oh that's right's right, no one can see Beijing, least of all those who live there) can have all that oil, which, of course, they'.ll need, in order to manufacture all the parts that go into building that SUV you're sitting so smugly in.

This is why I call it Carbongeddon. Because the Car, the Automobile, the personal transport vehicle, that we don't even want to drive ourselves, apparently, as the first driverless truck has been given the go ahead to ply the highways of Nevada, is all that matters to us. It is the lynchpin from which all the rest depends: our economy, our American way of strife, that tantalizing modernism that has become our main export, our prodigious crime rate, our consumption of fully 25% of the world's resources despite our measly 5% of the worlds population ...

And speaking of that driverless, truck I will end with this anecdote, derived from a Facebook interchange on that very subject. While discussing the driverless future of  motoring in the US, a reader, a very Portland reader, so much of a vegan, nature-loving, pot-smoking, Capitalist-hating, Corporations-ruin-everything and Noam Chomsky-is-a-hero-working-against-the-system-from-the-inside Portland denizen, that you could use her as the prototype for a Portlandia inaction figure, flannel shirt and all, bemoaned the nascent technology that was making the driverless car possible, because, "I'm glad I wont' be around then, because I cannot imagine a future where I wouldn't be able to floor it down a lone country road", speeding through the blur of nature, so to speak.

That has got to be one of the most depressing things I've ever heard. Because it truly implies there really is no hope. A future constrained by rising oceans and a desertified arid West, constant warfare and starving millions as industrialised civilisation goes through its death throes? No problem. Being unable to drive? Put me in my grave now. Wow. It is really that pervasive, that desparate, our lives are that empty, that to consider a future without auto mobiles is worse than considering the extinction of mankind itself. That is the state we are in. But you know what? The way that Mr. Mcpherson ended the speech he was giving, with which I opened this essay, which answered the silent question I had posed during his presentation: "How does he manage to get people to pay to listen to his Cassandra-esque prognostications?", was by telling his audience that the way to go about their lives, given the knowledge of what just going about their lives was doing to the climate was, "Just go about your lives." But knowing what we now know about Ms. Portlandia up there, just what kind of advise is that, when the main ingredient of living those lives is the vehicle used for driving through them? If someone as far to the left as Ms. Porltlandia is such an auto-phile, what makes Guy think all those people, "Just going on with their lives", aren't going to be making that journey via automotive transport? Like every other step taken to purportedly alleviate climate change, Guy Mcpherson, with all his good intentions and all his erudite assemblage of the facts, simply by the extra energy he burns to bring people the data about climate change, yet then giving them nothing in actionable items to do, is making the problem worse, not better.

But even though we deserve exactly what's coming to us, it's still such a horrendous waste of all the gifts we've been given that I can find no sustenance in that fact. That we simply threw it away for the thrill of speed with no physical effort, when life - intelligent life: literary, musical, theatrical, family life, all the wonderful poetry of existence that artists down through the centuries have worked so hard to produce for us, all thrown by the wayside, for one thing, one carbon spewing machine to hasten us to our demise while giving us the illusion of speed, an illusion that's so bewitched us that we don't care there's no longer any destination, just a conveyance, now pilotless, to, distract us from the fact that our journey goes nowhere. But all we can think to do is speed it up. It's as though we feel we can only change direction after we've had a crack-up, only then can we pull something from the wreckage that may be viable, as though as long as it's motorized, a horrendous accident itself has become the Destination.

However many people thought the same thing about the economy, that only after it crashed could they hope to change it. But, having brought it to its knees, those who did so only gained more power, because while everyone else was in deer-in-a-headlight mode, those who brought about the crash and most vociferously claimed that no one could see it coming are exactly the same people who indeed saw it coming, and so were prepared with a ready-made plans to rob you and aggregate even more resources under their control.  And people say they're insulted when told we're descended from apes? Our intelligence is pulp.

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