Sunday, September 04, 2005

Nature, politics and disaster

A Failure of Initiative The chaos that befell New Orleans in the wake of hurricane Katrina is a foretaste of the calamity that will engulf thousands of cities around the world in the wake of peak oil.

The political failings that made worse the inevitable and predictable disaster in New Orleans, as in Iraq, are the very same flaws that will help ensure a much worse global catastrophe some time in the not too distant future.

These political failings range from permitting gross social disparities to ignoring human induced environmental harm, from denying the depletion of natural capital to wasting resources on weapons and war.

The combination of short-sighted profiteering, a reckless disregard for predictable risk factors and a refusal to consider the legacy we are leaving our descendents, constitutes a lethal political failing.

A few simple precautions and commonsense solutions could prepare us for the imminent global catastrophe, but politicians will continue to ignore the warning signs until a few days after disaster strikes.

That’s because their corporate task masters want to maximize profits from the dwindling resource base. Any reduction in consumption or demand will bring prices down and cut corporate profits.

The economy must continue to grow and devour more resources in order to increase wealth and prosperity, the economists preach. Natural limits are not permitted to interfere with this ideology.

Evangelical techno-optimists prophesy miraculous inventions to solve every problem, but their snake-oil cures and whimsical charms are comfort only for the ignorant and deluded.

The problems we face are wide ranging and far reaching. There is no quick fix, no simple solution to the problems of oil depletion, climate change, toxic waste, species extinction, mass starvation and war.

Our best friends are foresight, forethought and forewarning, which may enable us to take precautions and make preparations for the inevitable collapse of the global industrial economy.

In New Orleans, had thought been given to the likelyhood of massive flooding, effective preparations could have saved thousands of lives. So too, around the world, if thought were given to the prospect of global petroleum shortages, life saving preparations could be made.

But the task falls to the people, because our politicians are working for big business and the military industrial complex. We know the ruling elite will protect itself at any cost, even if that means marshal law, mass murder and environmental devastation.

Trusting governments, corporations and politicians is the worst mistake we can make. If we hope to survive the coming crisis, we must work toward local self sufficiency in food, fuel, fibre, basic services and security. If we wait for government to provide solutions, we’ll end up like those stranded in New Orleans.

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