November 26, 2004
Responding to Goff (2 of 4)

2. We're going to run out of oil, and there will be--nay, already is--a global economic decline. This, also, has been discussed elsewhere. Goff spends far more time explaining the implications than he does laying out the evidence. Basically, there are finite resources and a system (capitalism) that has to grow. Both can't happen. The balloon has to pop.

Goff is adamant that the system will collapse under environmental catastrophe and resource scarcity, and it's going to suck no matter what. The status quo will keep cruising along until we drop off a cliff.

Goff doesn't make anything like a thoroughly documented case for this, but he seems reasonable and that he is convinced is enough to make me look at all those arguments a little more closely.

I'm interested in the ways that capitalism might or might not transform itself to deal with hitting the wall, energy-wise. Can alternate energy catch up? (Hydrogen? Biodiesel?) Can capitalism "complexify" (a la Kim Stanley Robinson's future) by turning in on itself and reusing its former waste as a source of replenishment? I certainly have no idea, but all these possibilities make me think that energy collapse is a bit more complicated than a simple story of decline. The question is one of timing, and speed. Energy might not disapear, but I don't see how the growth of business as usual is going to continue apace.

At the very least, Goff made me return to these problems and take them seriously. It is, after all, easy to forget that there even is a looming oil crisis. Goff's bottom line:

It is only metropolitan self-centredness that allows us to ignore (while we still take hot showers and and watch television) that for most of the world, the collapse has already happened.

posted by dru in war