Shuck and Jive

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The Meaning of Life, Part 9

"Sustainable growth is an oxymoron, because if you just look at the arithmetic of steady growth, the numbers become astronomically large in modest periods of time, so you can't have steady growth."
--Dr. Albert Bartlett

On the sidebar, I have two resources of interest.

  1. Chris Martenson's Crash Course.
  2. Dr. Albert Bartlett's Arithmetic, Population and Energy.
The first is a helpful summary of economics, energy, and the environment. It is done in a series of twenty lectures of varying length. To watch it all will take about three hours. Martenson is an interesting guy.

This is from his
web page:

First of all, I am not an economist. I am trained as a scientist, having completed both a PhD and a post-doctoral program at Duke University, where I specialized in neurotoxicology. I tell you this because my extensive training as a scientist informs and guides how I think. I gather data, I develop hypotheses, and I continually seek to accept or reject my hypotheses based on the evidence at hand. I let the data tell me the story.

It is also important for you to know that I entered the profession of science with the intention of teaching at the college level. I love teaching, and I especially enjoy the challenge of explaining difficult or complicated subjects to people with limited or no background in those subjects. Over the years I’ve gotten pretty good at it.

After I watched the first couple of segments, I skipped to number 20 What Should I do? He doesn't provide particulars, but he offers a commonsense way of evaluating your present situation so you can make decisions and begin the process of coming to terms with what we very well could be facing in these next twenty years.

After that, I went back to watch the rest of the presentation. Because it is divided into easy to navigate topics, you can go back particular areas. His website has many resources for you to discover more about an issue.

If you haven't heard of this guy before, I am glad to offer his crash course to you as a Christmas present as he has given it to us and someone gave it to me.

It may not be helpful for you. You may reject his information. You may accept his information but decide it is too bothersome and depressing and you would rather hope for a miracle. Or you may need to take time for it to sink in and take root. Whatever you decide, you will be making a wager. He explains that in chapter 20.

The second resource is a 70 minute lecture in eight nine-minute youtube videos by Dr. Albert Bartlett. You can read a transcript of Arithmetic, Population, and Energy as well. Dr. Bartlett taught physics at the University of Colorado. The lecture on YouTube is one he gave to college students. He offers information on population, exponential growth, and energy. It isn't hard to follow.

Again, you can argue with it and reject it. You can accept it and get depressed, or you can accept it and say, "Time for an adventure." Here is a nineteen minute video interview with Dr. Bartlett at the 2005 ASPO Conference (Association for the Study of Peak Oil and Gas). The real issue he is addressing is human population.

There are many, many resources regarding these issues on the internet. Martenson is a good place to start as he has taken the last four years to research and present this information in an easy to follow format. Bartlett's lecture has stood the test of time. He continues to present and update the lecture he first gave in 1969.

These two resources offer good basics. Again, Martenson's Crash Course takes a little over three hours. Bartlett's video takes a little over an hour. From there, we can explore all over. It is possible that you are way ahead of me on this and can offer resources and wisdom of your own. I welcome that.

What do I hope to get from blogging about this?

I have some beliefs. They include:

  1. We are in for massive change within the next few decades, in my lifetime.
  2. Our institutions (education, government, media, corporate, church) are in denial. Apparently, it is in their short term interest not to educate the public about what we are facing.
Those are two of my beliefs. I might be wrong. I could end up looking very foolish if none of the things Martenson, Bartlett, and others describe come to pass. It is possible that the invisible hand of economics and technology will allow us to consume and grow as we have been doing indefinitely. If I am wrong about my beliefs, I'll eat a crow and will gladly do so.

I have three more beliefs.

  1. Human beings are creative, compassionate, hopeful, and industrious. When they know what they are facing, they can deal with it.
  2. One hundred years from now, our descendents will enjoy a sustainable relationship with Earth if our generation doesn't destroy it because of ignorance and fear.
  3. The institutions I named above may implode or become severly weakened before they can help. It is wise for us to think in terms of lifeboats, both individually and socially.
Lifeboats are the commonsense actions we can take individually and collectively so that we can be supports rather than burdens or helpers for those who will need help.

I also have some spiritual beliefs and practices. I know this might sound spooky for my atheist friends, but I will try to put it in secular terms.

  1. Lightheartedness. Here is a wonderful definition: Lightheartedness is the ability to keep your sense of humor as you face life’s most difficult challenges. It is a spiritual quality associated with inner strength, faith, and the ability to face life’s adversities with a positive mental attitude. Finally, it’s a sign of courage and the ability to inspire others when, together, you are facing a difficulty that is overwhelming.
  2. Deep compassion. This is the quality that allows us to feel with others--to be present to those who are suffering. The Bodhissatva who refuses nirvana in order to serve others is a good example. Of course, Jesus is an example of compassion in the Christian tradition.
  3. Non-violence. This will be especially important as governments beat war drums over resources. It is also a personal discipline that refuses to harm in word or action other living things.
  4. Detachment. Also called letting go, this discipline allows us to accept change and not cling to old habits, beliefs, or entitlements. In the Jewish tradition it refers to making no idols out of impermanent things or ideas.
  5. Hope. This is the discipline to work toward a future we will personally never experience. It is to live and work for one's descendents seven generations in the future. It allows us to deal with reality while keeping us from self-concern for our own survival.
  6. Awe and Delight. Related to lightheartedness, this practice of being aware opens us to the joyous, unexpected, marvelous existence all around us.
  7. Creativity. Synergy may be another word for this. This allows for the possibility that we have strengths yet untapped and that together we can produce outcomes greater than the sum of our individual efforts.
Whew. Wordy today. Give a preacher a blog and the night never ends. I know I offer this a lot. But I never get tired of The Galaxy Song!


  1. I was with you until the lifeboats. In ethics, my experience has been that lifeboat thinking invariably leads to evil. That is, if we perceive ourselves as being in a lifeboat, then we have a hermeneutic of violent competition - there is only so much room, so many resources, and some of us are going to die.

    So, maybe I need to hear more of what you mean by "lifeboats". You might mean something different from the 'classical' lifeboat problems in ethics, or the lifeboat mentality as I think of it.

  2. Yeah, I do need to talk more about that and possibly question the use of the word "lifeboat."

    What I essentially mean is being personally prepared as well as having a local network, so that when a panic hits we aren't a burden. It isn't for one's survival as much as being in a position to be a help.

    For instance, some have advised that everyone should have three months of food on hand and a way to cook it without electricity.

    I mean by lifeboats being personally prepared.

  3. Three months of food is good.

    And a gun to protect it.

    I once read a sci fi story about the aftermath of an atomic attack. One of the things it featured was a massive mob of starving people abandoning the nearby city, and eating everything in their path. Including people.

    Myself, I am looking for a good plague to rid the earth of excess population. Much more humane than starvation.

  4. Harry points out the alternatives to family planning.

  5. Mmm...delicious clarification.

    I get more of what you mean now - what you mean is some redundancy, maybe, or just preparation for the Exponential-Function End-Times.

    Do we get a Rapture when that happens, or...?

    I think I'll just grab a gun and start eating people, personally, but y'all can do what you want.

  6. Hey Doug,

    I don't advocate guns and eating people, just for the record.

    I don't believe in a rapture either.

    I'll step back and simply ask what ought we do in regards to a possible collapse of our economy and our institutions?