Is this the pinnacle of progress?

July 20th, 2012 atam Posted in Climate change, Food, General, Peak oil | 1 Comment »

Now that we’ve gone through the agricultural revolution and, for most of those in the developed world at least, no longer have to worry about having enough to eat; and now that we’ve gone through the industrial revolution and no longer have to put up with the physical drudgery of the past, what’s next?

Here’s what’s next: Sheldon Adelson is looking to expand his empire in Spain and finally break down Japan’s resistance to casinos. Singapore, once so strait-laced, decided to host casinos in order to keep on growing its economy. And residents of Matsu county in Taiwan have apparently voted in favour of hosting a casino.

Yes that’s right: we’ve arrived at a stage of development where we’ve got nothing better to do than kill time gambling away – often other people’s savings, as one recently-sentenced addict did of his parents’ and former colleague’s funds. One techie once even tried to persuade me to do some publicity for a Macau casino from the IT angle, saying how fantastic its ICT provisions were, so there you have it – all these technologies and all these building materials ripped from the earth to create monstrous spectacles, the better to squeeze money out of people who don’t really know right from wrong.

Using fossil fuels, which take millions of years to form in the Earth’s crust, to increase crop yields may be justified in the name of feeding humanity, but so twisted are our sense of morality in today’s world, we are now doing it the other way round – growing crops to feed our addiction to fossil fuels.

Peak oil sceptics are popping the champagne because the environmentally devastating technique of fracking has released so much oil that they no longer fret about production failing to meet demand, forgetting that the carbon emissions associated with fossil fuel use will now catch up with us sooner than the exhaustion of oil fields.

Much has been said of the effects of fracking on the environment surrounding the affected sites, but little attention has been drawn to the process itself – which requires the use of a gelling agent derived from guar, a hard bean predominantly grown in northern India. OK, so with guar gum prices going up by 800%, some farmers no longer have to go hungry, but what about the millions in India alone that don’t get enough to eat, who could do with a bit more land assigned to food crops?

During its Wild Wild West days, America lost much of its topsoil growing tobacco for export – and so many think smoking is just a personal health problem. Now the abuse continues to a stage where we have the most vicious of cycles: a crop grown to facilitate the extraction of fossil fuels to be processed into chemical fertilisers that degrade the land and release heaven knows how many tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

Isn’t it wonderful what advanced technology and world trade can do to us?


One Response to “Is this the pinnacle of progress?”

  1. I’d go even further in the absurdity of the situation:

    We have “a crop grown to facilitate the extraction of fossil fuels to be used to power farm machines to grow and reap a crop grown to faciliate the extraction of fossil fuels to be used to…”

    Put the production and consumption in a loop, and the economy just keeps growing.

    You just have to not look at how absurd the situation is of course.

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