Feeds:
Artigos
Comentários
Jan 27 · 57 min read

Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, able to enter and infect human cells’ ACE2 receptor via its spike protein.

The official story about Coronavirus 2019 nCoV is that it “appears to have originated in the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, a Chinese city about 650 miles south of Beijing that has a population of more than 11 million people.” This tale has been officially reported as early as January 9th by CCP’s state-owned and operated news channel, Xinhuanet, New-type coronavirus causes pneumonia in Wuhan: expert, reported by local Chinese authorities to the US National Library of Medicine database, Outbreak of Pneumonia of Unknown Etiology in Wuhan China: the Mystery and the Miracle and to the International Journal of Infectious Diseases database, The continuing 2019-nCoV epidemic threat of novel coronaviruses to global health — The latest 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Typically not included in most mainstream news stories, however, is the fact that the claimed epicenter of the outbreak is just 8.6 miles from Wuhan Institute of Virology, which houses China’s only P4-Level Biosafety Laboratory capable of storing, studying, or engineering Pathogen Level 4 microbes such as other coronaviruses, Ebola, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS, H5N1 influenza virus, Japanese encephalitis, and dengue. Bill Gurtz of the Washington Times reports, “the deadly animal virus epidemic spreading globally may have originated in a Wuhan laboratory linked to China’s covert biological weapons program, according to an Israeli biological warfare expert.” The journalist states that an unnamed U.S. official revealed that false rumors have been circulating for weeks on the Chinese Internet claiming the new coronavirus is “part of a U.S. conspiracy to spread germ weapons” — possibly preparing propaganda outlets to counter future charges the new virus escaped from one of Wuhan’s civilian or defense research laboratories.

The article refers to statements provided by Dany Shoham, a former Israeli military intelligence officer who holds a doctorate in medical microbiology, and served as a senior analyst with Israeli military intelligence for biological and chemical warfare in the Middle East and worldwide from 1970 to 1991.“Coronaviruses (particularly SARS) have been studied in the Institute and are probably held therein”, Shohan reveals, as has anthrax, adding that “certain laboratories in the Institute have probably been engaged, in terms of research and development, in Chinese [biological weapons]. Work on biological weapons is conducted as part of a dual civilian-military research and is “definitely covert.” Troublingly, even a State Department report issued last year raised suspicions that China has been engaged in covert biological warfare work. “Information indicates that the People’s Republic of China engaged during the reporting period in biological activities with potential dual-use applications, which raises concerns regarding its compliance with the BWC,” the report said, adding that the United States suspects China failed to eliminate its biological warfare program as required by the treaty.

Thus, it seems rather astute to examine the details of government- and media-disseminated reports in contrast to the background of activity conducted at Wuhan Institute of Virology, as well as look into the specifics of the new coronavirus in comparison with viruses already isolated, identified, stored, studied, and/or engineered at the Institute’s Biosafety Laboratory, in an effort to glean the truth.

Claims of surprise by Chinese scientists and State officials are arguably inauthentic

Let’s begin by examining the glaring discrepancies in the official story to the underlying and background reality of coronaviruses, especially in the SARS-scarred land of China. The Sun reports that the current consensus centers on the belief that the origin of the coronavirus outbreak is linked to bat soup sold at the market. However, the article states that experts “had thought the new virus wasn’t capable of causing an epidemic as serious as [previous deadly outbreaks of SARS and Ebola] because its genes were different,” something that simply isn’t true. In 2006, one of China’s preeminent virologists, Professor Zhengli Shi, co-authored the study, Review of Bats and SARS, concluding that “a SARS epidemic may recur in the future and that SARS-like coronaviruses (SL-CoVs) that originate from different reservoir host populations may lead to epidemics at different times or in different regions…. The recent discovery of a group of diverse SL-CoVs in bats support the possibility of these events….”

Bowl of hot, delicious bat soup served at Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, China.

A concurrent article published in the South China Morning Post on January 22, 2020, entitled Coronavirus weaker than SARS but may share link to bats, Chinese scientists say reports the latest findings on the coronavirus by scientists at China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “The scientists’ findings, published on Tuesday, suggested that the danger posed by the pneumonia-like virus may have been underestimated by the research community.” However, Prof. Zhengli and her co-authors published a study early last year on March 2, 2019 entitled Bat Coronaviruses in China which explicitly warned,

“During the past two decades, three zoonotic coronaviruses have been identified as the cause of large-scale disease outbreaks⁻Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Swine Acute Diarrhea Syndrome (SADS). SARS and MERS emerged in 2003 and 2012, respectively, and caused a worldwide pandemic that claimed thousands of human lives, while SADS struck the swine industry in 2017. They have common characteristics, such as they are all highly pathogenic to humans or livestock, their agents originated from bats, and two of them originated in China. Thus, it is highly likely that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks will originate from bats, and there is an increased probability that this will occur in China. Therefore, the investigation of bat coronaviruses becomes an urgent issue for the detection of early warning signs, which in turn minimizes the impact of such future outbreaks in China” (emphasis added).

The South China Morning Post article continues with the beguiling assertion, “Previously, most scientists believed the new virus could not cause an epidemic as serious as that of SARS because its genes were quite different. But the new study found that, like SARS, the virus targeted a protein called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2).” Apparently, the virology scientific community not only failed to heed Prof. Zhengli’s explicit, recent dire warnings about the “high likelihood” that future SARS- or MERS-like coronavirus outbreaks would originate from bats — they also ignored Zhengli’s incredibly pertinent report published ten years ago in July, 2010, Identification of key amino acid residues required for horseshoe bat angiotensin-I converting enzyme 2 to function as a receptor for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. The study’s abstract can’t be clearer on the immunological risks associated with protein ACE2, with its obvious liability for usurpation by viral agents with a little modified genome sequencing:

“Angiotensin-I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the receptor for severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) coronavirus (SARS-CoV). A previous study indicated that ACE2 from a horseshoe bat, the host of a highly related SARS-like coronavirus, could not function as a receptor for SARS-CoV. Here, we demonstrate that a 3 aa change from SHE (aa 40–42) to FYQ was sufficient to convert the bat ACE2 into a fully functional receptor for SARS-CoV. We further demonstrate that an ACE2 molecule from a fruit bat, which contains the FYQ motif, was able to support SARS-CoV infection, indicating a potentially much wider host range for SARS-CoV-related viruses among different bat populations.”

This old but remarkable study concludes that only a minor genome sequence change was required to convert a non-susceptible bat ACE2 protein into a functional receptor for SARS-CoV, something that could easily happen in nature. “Considering that there are more than 60 different horseshoe [bat] species around the world (Flanders et al., 2009; Rossiter et al., 2007), it is possible that one or some of them may serve as the natural reservoir of SARS-CoV and/or its progenitor virus(es).” Why is it that current State virologists are apparently ignorant of these essential discoveries of yesteryear?

The South China Morning Post article cited above summarizes two primary known facts about the new coronavirus: first, that a “virus found in fruit bats is [the] common ancestor of the two strains [Coronavirus 2019-nCoV and SARS],” and that this “new strain has [an] unusually high ability to bind to a human protein.” And the new study on Coronavirus 2019-nCoV by the joint research team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the People’s Liberation Army, and Institut Pasteur of Shanghai indeed found that, like SARS, the virus targeted the ACE2 protein. It’s just as Prof. Zhengli predicated a decade ago: “…the fact that an ACE2 protein from a megabat, the fruit bat Rousettus leschenaultia, can function as a receptor for SARS-CoV would suggest that the host range for SARS-CoV or SL-CoVs may be much wider than originally thought.”

So what happened — did the virology and surrounding scientific community drop the ball on these well-established findings and warnings, or what? After all, at least as February, 2008, they knew three key facts about ACE2:

  1. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) is caused by the SARS-associated coronavirus (SARS-CoV), which uses ACE2 as its receptor for cell entry. SL-CoVs and SARS-CoVs share identical genome organizations and high sequence identities, with the main exception of the N terminus of the spike protein, known to be responsible for receptor binding in CoVs.
  2. Whereas the SL-CoV spike protein was unable to use any of the three ACE2 molecules as its receptor, and the SARS-CoV spike protein failed to center cells expressing the bat ACE2, the chimeric spike protein the study created did gain its ability to center cells via human ACE, and
  3. A minimal insert region (amino acids 310 to 518) was found to be sufficient to convert the SL-CoV S from non-ACE2 binding to human ACE2 binding, indicating that the SL-CoV S is largely compatible with SARS-CoV S protein both in structure and in function.

We know they knew these facts way back in 2008 because Prof. Zhengli published the findings of these facts in her report, Difference in Receptor Usage between Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) Coronavirus and SARS-Like Coronavirus of Bat Origin. Therein the scientists concluded, “Knowing the capability of different CoVs to recombine both in the laboratory and in nature, the possibility that SL-CoVs may gain the ability to infect human cells by acquiring spike protein sequences competent for binding to ACE2 or other surface proteins of human cells can be readily envisaged.” Thus, it seems strange and perhaps even disingenuous that the new joint CCP government-joint Coronavirus 2019-nCoV task force is seemingly ignorant about coronavirus targeting the ACE2 protein, apparently pretending it’s only just now discovered this. After all, Zhengli’s 2008 report was quite clear about the role that this ACE2 protein would play in future pandemics: the study “strengthened our belief that ACE2 from certain bat species could be able to support SARS-CoV infection because of the predicted genetic diversity of bat ACE2 variants in different bat species.”

What is the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s National Biosafety Laboratory, where is it, and why is it pertinent?

Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory, the only P4 lab in China, headquartered at Wuhan Institute of Virology.

At any rate, the forgoing storyline is the official word on Coronavirus 2019-nCoV, manifesting itself somehow in a seafood market in Wuhan. But what else might be found in Wuhan? After all, Wuhan is the capital city of the Hubei Province, home to some 11 million Chinese citizens. Well, curiously underreported is the fact that China’s first high-level biosafety laboratory is located just 8.6 miles away. “Used to study class four pathogens (P4), which refer to the most virulent viruses that pose a high risk of aerosol-transmitted person-to-person infections,” Wuhan National Biosafety Laboratory is the darling, cutting-edge hi-tech baby of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, and is the only such lab in China where dangerous, highly communicable viruses such as Ebola, SARS, MERS, H5N1 influenza virus, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, and assorted coronaviruses can be “safely” toyed with.

China’s National Biosafety Laboratory, located at Wuhan Institute of Virology, is only 8.6 miles away from the claimed epicenter of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak. Do you believe in coincidences?

What’s odd is that despite completing the decade-long construction and having the official inauguration of this P4 laboratory on January 31, 2015 — announced by the General Office of Hubei Provincial People’s Government, it wasn’t until 2 and 1/2 years later in January 2018, that the Chinese government announced that the lab was actually in operation. And ahead of the lab’s second opening in January 2018, biosafety experts and scientists from the United States expressly warned “that a SARS-like virus could escape,” much in the same way the SARS virus had escaped multiple times from a lab in Beijing.

UPDATE — JANUARY 29, 2020: What’s also odd, and outright suspicious, is that as of January 29, 2020, the location of Wuhan Institute of Virology (where the National Biosafety Laboratory is headquartered) on Google Maps has inexplicably moved since I first viewed it on January 24, 2020 and published this article on January 27, 2020. Its new location is now over twice the distance from the claimed epicenter of the novel coronavirus, Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. Even its satellite imagery of the original site has been altered as well. Good thing I took screenshots.

A Google Map Image captured Jan. 24, 2020 of Huanan Seafood market 8.6 miles distant from Wuhan Institute of Virology, where China’s only Level P4 Biosafety Laboratory is headquartered.

Another Google Map Image captured Jan. 29, 2020 displaying Wuhan Institute of Virology now strangely moved approximately 15 miles southwest of its original location. What a difference five days make, eh?

Side-by-side comparison of original Google Maps location of Wuhan Institute of Virology, captured by screenshot on Jan. 24, 2020, and its altered location as of Jan. 29, 2020. What’s going on here?

A Google Maps Satellite Image captured January 24, 2020, clearly showing the urban Wuhan Institute of Virology situated across the street from the humongous China Earthquake Administration building.

Another Google Maps Satellite Image captured January 29, 2020, now showing the Wuhan Institute of Virology completely camouflaged in a patch of forest in a rural area 15 miles southwest. What gives, Google?

Whether Wuhan Institute of Virology actually remains at its original location displayed a few days ago — or has suddenly packed up and is now holed up in the nearby woods like a crouching tiger or hidden dragon — former Israeli military intelligence officer and microbiologist, Dany Shoham, exposes the institute as “one of four Chinese laboratories engaged in some aspects of the biological weapons development.” He adds that although the institute is under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it has certain laboratories within it that are linked to the Chinese defense establishment. Indeed, the annual State Department report on arms treaty compliance stated last year that China engaged in activities that could support biological warfare. In fact, in 1993, China declared a second facility, the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products — located 21.6 miles away from Wuhan Institute of Virology, and only 9 miles away from Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market — as one of eight biological warfare research facilities covered by the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC) which the communist country joined in 1985. “This means the SARS virus is held and propagated there, but it is not a new coronavirus, unless the wild type has been modified, which is not known and cannot be speculated at the moment,” Shoham explains.

Wuhan Institute of Biological Products — a known biological warfare research facility — is located just 9 miles from Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market, the claimed epicenter of the Coronavirus 2019-nCoV outbreak

Wuhan Institute of Virology is also connected with the recent, major scandal in Canada where two Chinese virologists working at Canada’s only Pathogen Level 4 virology laboratory, the National Microbiology Lab (NML) in Winnipeg were caught stealing and smuggling some of the most deadly viruses on earth, including the Ebola virus, back to China. The suspects — a Chinese couple, virologist Dr. Xiangguo Qui and biologist Dr. Keding Cheng — are now believed to be connected to China’s biological warfare program. Her husband, Dr. Qiu, was head of the Vaccine Development and Antiviral Therapies Section in the Special Pathogens Program at the NML. Dr. Keding Cheng, also affiliated with the NML, specifically the “Science and Technology Core,” is primarily a bacteriologist who shifted to virology. According to ZeroHedge, “the couple is responsible for infiltrating Canada’s NML with many Chinese agents as students from a range of Chinese scientific facilities directly tied to China’s Biological Warfare Program, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Chengdu Military Region.

And guess what one of the stolen viruses was? Yup, coronavirus. On May 4, 2013, NML’s Scientific Director Frank Plummer received a shipment of coronavirus from a Dutch virologist, who in turn had received it from an Egyptian virologist treating a Saudi Arabian who contracted it. The Canadian lab grew stocks of the virus, and then experimented upon animals to see what they could infect with it. It is from this stash of reserves that the coronavirus was stolen and smuggled by Dr. Qui, Dr. Cheng, and by alledged Chinese Biological Warfare Program agents recruited from the Wuhan Institute of Virology who were disguised as virology students at the University of Manitoba.

Continuar a ler »

3 x Pixies

Norman Pagett

We — -humankind that is — -decided millenia ago that the world which temporarily tolerates our existence should become “property” and as such, divided up and bought and sold.

A few thoughtful individuals stop and realise that this is an ultimate nonsense, but the vast majority are convinced that it is the only means by which we can exist now, and run their lives accordingly. So we parcel up swathes of land and sell it, or tear it apart to dig out what’s below the surface, believing the myth of infinity.

Far from giving us universal freedom, this has locked humankind into a commercial prison that incarcerates all of us with work and wages. The Bushmen of the Kalahari or some as yet uncontacted tribe in Amazonia might be an exception to this, but no one else is. (they are the true ecosocialists and conservators of the planet).

this has become the reality of the everyday existence that governs the lives of all of us.

We should examine what those changes would mean, long term:

The (real) ecosocialists I have mentioned above take only what they need from the earth, and ultimately return to the earth what they take. (including themselves)
Are we prepared for that?

They practice true earth stewardship, while the rest of us remain convinced that prosperity is something that can be voted for, and despite our oil supplies fading to nothing, we can continue with BAU with no more than a few minor inconveniences.

We might agree that another world should be possible beyond the comforts we take for granted, provided I’m not called upon to surrender MY comforts. Which includes my heating system that protects me against a northern winter, and a car that means I dont have to walk or run to catch my food.

Those two seemingly simple “commodities” are a critical part of the work and wages system in which we find ourselves.
Dream of removing them if you wish, but be under no illusions as to the consequences of our situation when they are gone.

I do not dream of BAU forever, but neither do I harbour delusions about some benign form of government that will reorganise our lives for the common good, (check history for that one).

We are too many, demanding too much from too little, having invented gods to prove our immortality.

Fighting over what’s available is inevitable. Wars we see now are wars over resources, not ideologies. These wars will intensify as stuff we need for survival gets shared our in lessening amounts, divided up between the 80 million new mouths arriving each year, demanding food, water and shelter.

These conflicts will rebalance our existence, and reduce our numbers to a level the world can support, rather than the numbers that we say it must.

Michael Hudson

The mainstream media are carefully sidestepping the method behind America’s seeming madness in assassinating Islamic Revolutionary Guard general Qassim Suleimani to start the New Year. The logic behind the assassination this was a long-standing application of U.S. global policy, not just a personality quirk of Donald Trump’s impulsive action. His assassination of Iranian military leader Suleimani was indeed a unilateral act of war in violation of international law, but it was a logical step in a long-standing U.S. strategy. It was explicitly authorized by the Senate in the funding bill for the Pentagon that it passed last year.

The assassination was intended to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control the region’s oil reserves, and to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (Isis, Al Quaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control o Near Eastern oil as a buttress o the U.S. dollar. That remains the key to understanding this policy, and why it is in the process of escalating, not dying down.

I sat in on discussions of this policy as it was formulated nearly fifty years ago when I worked at the Hudson Institute and attended meetings at the White House, met with generals at various armed forces think tanks and with diplomats at the United Nations. My role was as a balance-of-payments economist having specialized for a decade at Chase Manhattan, Arthur Andersen and oil companies in the oil industry and military spending. These were two of the three main dynamic of American foreign policy and diplomacy. (The third concern was how to wage war in a democracy where voters rejected the draft in the wake of the Vietnam War.)

The media and public discussion have diverted attention from this strategy by floundering speculation that President Trump did it, except to counter the (non-)threat of impeachment with a wag-the-dog attack, or to back Israeli lebensraum drives, or simply to surrender the White House to neocon hate-Iran syndrome. The actual context for the neocon’s action was the balance of payments, and the role of oil and energy as a long-term lever of American diplomacy.

The balance of payments dimension

The major deficit in the U.S. balance of payments has long been military spending abroad. The entire payments deficit, beginning with the Korean War in 1950-51 and extending through the Vietnam War of the 1960s, was responsible for forcing the dollar off gold in 1971. The problem facing America’s military strategists was how to continue supporting the 800 U.S. military bases around the world and allied troop support without losing America’s financial leverage.

The solution turned out to be to replace gold with U.S. Treasury securities (IOUs) as the basis of foreign central bank reserves. After 1971, foreign central banks had little option for what to do with their continuing dollar inflows except to recycle them to the U.S. economy by buying U.S. Treasury securities. The effect of U.S. foreign military spending thus did not undercut the dollar’s exchange rate, and did not even force the Treasury and Federal Reserve to raise interest rates to attract foreign exchange to offset the dollar outflows on military account. In fact, U.S. foreign military spending helped finance the domestic U.S. federal budget deficit.

Saudi Arabia and other Near Eastern OPEC countries quickly became a buttress of the dollar. After these countries quadrupled the price of oil (in retaliation for the United States quadrupling the price of its grain exports, a mainstay of the U.S. trade balance), U.S. banks were swamped with an inflow of much foreign deposits – which were lent out to Third World countries in an explosion of bad loans that blew up in 1972 with Mexico’s insolvency, and destroyed Third World government credit for a decade, forcing it into dependence on the United States via the IMF and World Bank).

To top matters, of course, what Saudi Arabia does not save in dollarized assets with its oil-export earnings is spent on buying hundreds of billion of dollars of U.S. arms exports. This locks them into dependence on U.S. supply o replacement parts and repairs, and enables the United States to turn off Saudi military hardware at any point of time, in the event that the Saudis may try to act independently of U.S. foreign policy.

So maintaining the dollar as the world’s reserve currency became a mainstay of U.S. military spending. Foreign countries to not have to pay the Pentagon directly for this spending. They simply finance the U.S. Treasury and U.S. banking system.

Fear of this development was a major reason why the United States moved against Libya, whose foreign reserves were held in gold, not dollars, an which was urging other African countries to follow suit in order to free themselves from “Dollar Diplomacy.” Hillary and Obama invaded, grabbed their gold supplies (we still have no idea who ended up with these billions of dollars worth of gold) and destroyed Libya’s government, its public education system, its public infrastructure and other non-neoliberal policies.

The great threat to this is dedollarization as China, Russia and other countries seek to avoid recycling dollars. Without the dollar’s function as the vehicle for world saving – in effect, without the Pentagon’s role in creating the Treasury debt that is the vehicle for world central bank reserves – the U.S. would find itself constrained militarily and hence diplomatically constrained, as it was under the gold exchange standard.

That is the same strategy that the U.S. has followed in Syria and Iraq. Iran was threatening this dollarization strategy and its buttress in U.S. oil diplomacy.

The oil industry as buttress of the U.S. balance of payments and foreign diplomacy

The trade balance is buttressed by oil and farm surpluses. Oil is the key, because it is imported by U.S. companies at almost no balance-of-payments cost (the payments end up in the oil industry’s head offices here as profits and payments to management), while profits on U.S. oil company sales to other countries are remitted to the United States (via offshore tax-avoidance centers, mainly Liberia and Panama for many years). And as noted above, OPEC countries have been told to keep their official reserves in the form of U.S. securities (stocks and bonds as well as Treasury IOUs, but not direct purchase of U.S. companies being deemed economically important). Financially, OPEC countries are client slates of the Dollar Area.

America’s attempt to maintain this buttress explains U.S. opposition to any foreign government steps to reverse global warming and the extreme weather caused by the world’s U.S.-sponsored dependence on oil. Any such moves by Europe and other countries would reduce dependence on U.S. oil sales, and hence on U.S. ability to control the global oil spigot as a means of control and coercion, are viewed as hostile acts.

Oil also explains U.S. opposition to Russian oil exports via Nordstream. U.S. strategists want to treat energy as a U.S. national monopoly. Other countries can benefit in the way that Saudi Arabia has done – by sending their surpluses to the U.S. economy – but not to support their own economic growth and diplomacy. Control of oil thus implies support for continued global warming as an inherent part of U.S. strategy.

How a “democratic” nation can wage international war and terrorism

The Vietnam War showed that modern democracies cannot field armies for any major military conflict, because this would require a draft of its citizens. That would lead any government attempting such a draft to be voted out of power. And without troops, it is not possible to invade a country to take it over.

The corollary of this perception is that democracies have only two choices when it comes to military strategy: They can only wage airpower, bombing opponents; or they can create a foreign legion, that is, hire mercenaries or back foreign governments that provide this military service.

Here once again Saudi Arabia plays a critical role, through its control of Wahabi Sunnis turned into terrorist jihadis willing to sabotage, bomb, assassinate, blow up and otherwise fight any target designated as an enemy of “Islam,” the euphemism for Saudi Arabia acting as U.S. client state. (Religion really is not the key; I know of no ISIS or similar Wahabi attack on Israeli targets.) The United States needs the Saudis to supply or finance Wahabi crazies. So in addition to playing a key role in the U.S. balance of payments by recycling its oil-export earnings are into U.S. stocks, bonds and other investments, Saudi Arabia provides manpower by supporting the Wahabi members of America’s foreign legion, ISIS and Al-Nusra/Al-Qaeda. Terrorism has become the “democratic” mode of today U.S. military policy.

What makes America’s oil war in the Near East “democratic” is that this is the only kind of war a democracy can fight – an air war, followed by a vicious terrorist army that makes up for the fact that no democracy can field its own army in today’s world. The corollary is that, terrorism has become the “democratic” mode of warfare.

From the U.S. vantage point, what is a “democracy”? In today’s Orwellian vocabulary, it means any country supporting U.S. foreign policy. Bolivia and Honduras have become “democracies” since their coups, along with Brazil. Chile under Pinochet was a Chicago-style free market democracy. So was Iran under the Shah, and Russia under Yeltsin – but not since it elected Vladimir Putin president, any more than is China under President Xi.

The antonym to “democracy” is “terrorist.” That simply means a nation willing to fight to become independent from U.S. neoliberal democracy. It does not include America’s proxy armies.

Iran’s role as U.S. nemesis

What stands in the way of U.S. dollarization, oil and military strategy? Obviously, Russia and China have been targeted as long-term strategic enemies for seeking their own independent economic policies and diplomacy. But next to them, Iran has been in America’s gun sights for nearly seventy years.

America’s hatred of Iran is starts with its attempt to control its own oil production, exports and earnings. It goes back to 1953, when Mossadegh was overthrown because he wanted domestic sovereignty over Anglo-Persian oil. The CIA-MI6 coup replaced him with the pliant Shah, who imposed a police state to prevent Iranian independence from U.S. policy. The only physical places free from the police were the mosques. That made the Islamic Republic the path of least resistance to overthrowing the Shah and re-asserting Iranian sovereignty.

The United States came to terms with OPEC oil independence by 1974, but the antagonism toward Iran extends to demographic and religious considerations. Iranian support its Shi’ite population an those of Iraq and other countries – emphasizing support for the poor and for quasi-socialist policies instead of neoliberalism – has made it the main religious rival to Saudi Arabia’s Sunni sectarianism and its role as America’s Wahabi foreign legion.

America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing.

Already in early 2018, President Trump asked Iraq to reimburse America for the cost of “saving its democracy” by bombing the remainder of Saddam’s economy. The reimbursement was to take the form of Iraqi Oil. More recently, in 2019, President Trump asked, why not simply grab Iraqi oil. The giant oil field has become the prize of the Bush-Cheney post 9-11 Oil War. “‘It was a very run-of-the-mill, low-key, meeting in general,” a source who was in the room told Axios.’ And then right at the end, Trump says something to the effect of, he gets a little smirk on his face and he says, ‘So what are we going to do about the oil?’”[1]

Trump’s idea that America should “get something” out of its military expenditure in destroying the Iraqi and Syrian economies simply reflects U.S. policy.

In late October, 2019, The New York Times reported that: “In recent days, Mr. Trump has settled on Syria’s oil reserves as a new rationale for appearing to reverse course and deploy hundreds of additional troops to the war-ravaged country. He has declared that the United States has “secured” oil fields in the country’s chaotic northeast and suggested that the seizure of the country’s main natural resource justifies America further extending its military presence there. ‘We have taken it and secured it,’ Mr. Trump said of Syria’s oil during remarks at the White House on Sunday, after announcing the killing of the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” [2] A CIA official reminded the journalist that taking Iraq’s oil was a Trump campaign pledge.

That explains the invasion of Iraq for oil in 2003, and again this year, as President Trump has said: “Why don’t we simply take their oil?” It also explains the Obama-Hillary attack on Libya – not only for its oil, but for its investing its foreign reserves in gold instead of recycling its oil surplus revenue to the U.S. Treasury – and of course, for promoting a secular socialist state.

It explains why U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.

American politicians have discredited themselves by starting off their condemnation of Trump by saying, as Elizabeth Warren did, how “bad” a person Suleimani was, how he had killed U.S. troops by masterminding the Iraqi defense of roadside bombing and other policies trying to repel the U.S. invasion to grab its oil. She was simply parroting the U.S. media’s depiction of Suleimani as a monster, diverting attention from the policy issue that explains why he was assassinated now.

The counter-strategy to U.S. oil, and dollar and global-warming diplomacy

Continuar a ler »

Caitlin Johnstone

 

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe a mature worldview requires skepticism toward power.

Smart upstanding citizens believe the government is your friend, and the media are its helpers.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe that powerful people sometimes make immoral plans in secret. Smart upstanding citizens believe the TV always tells the truth and the CIA exists for no reason.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe that extreme government secrecy makes it necessary to discuss possible theories about what might be going on behind that veil of opacity.

Smart upstanding citizens believe that just because a world-dominating government with the most powerful military in the history of civilization has no transparency and zero accountability to the public, that doesn’t mean you’ve got to get all paranoid about it.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe it’s okay to ask questions about important events that happen in the world, even if their government tells them they shouldn’t.

Smart upstanding citizens believe everything they need to know about reality comes out of Mike Pompeo’s angelic mouth.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe the very rich sometimes engage in nefarious behavior to expand their wealth and power.

Smart upstanding citizens believe billionaires always conduct themselves with the same values that got them their billions in the first place: honesty, morality, and generosity.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe it’s important to remember the lies that led up to the invasion of Iraq, and the disastrous consequences of blind faith in government claims.

Smart upstanding citizens believe “Iraq” is a fictional land similar to Narnia or Middle Earth, from the writings of a fantasy author named George Galloway.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe Syria is fighting to avoid becoming another Libya in a war of defense against extremist proxy armies of the US-centralized empire, who were given billions of dollars in military support with the goal of toppling Damascus.

Smart upstanding citizens believe Bashar al-Assad is a real-life version of a cartoon supervillain who just started murdering civilians willy nilly in 2011 because he loves murdering civilians, then in 2015 his friend Vladimir Putin joined in because he loves murdering civilians also.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe the extensive history of US government lies means you should always demand mountains of independently verifiable evidence when they make claims about unabsorbed nations.

Smart upstanding citizens believe Russia literally committed an act of war on the United States in 2016, China is orchestrating a second Holocaust, Maduro is deliberately starving the Venezuelan people because he hates them, Assad is using chemical weapons but only when it makes no strategic sense, Cuban spy crickets are trying to assassinate US diplomats, there’s novichok everywhere, and every noncompliant party in the Middle East is secretly working for Iran.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe that it can be difficult to figure out what’s going on in a mass media landscape that is saturated with the propaganda of the US-centralized empire.

Smart upstanding citizens believe that all you need to do to ensure you’re getting all the facts is watch television and run screaming from the room if you accidentally flip past RT.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe the Gulf of Tonkin incident was faked, the “taking babies out of incubators” narrative was a lie, Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction, Gaddafi’s rape armies never existed and the Libya intervention was never really about humanitarian concerns.

Smart, upstanding citizens believe it’s better not to think about such things.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe the latest WikiLeaks publications of internal OPCW documents provide ample evidence that we were lied to about the 2018 Douma incident.

Smart upstanding citizens believe those documents aren’t real because The New York Times never reported on them.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe that increasing levels of government secrecy are making it easier for government agencies to do unethical things in secret.

Smart upstanding citizens believe that questioning your government makes you a Russian anti-Semite.

Crazy, stupid conspiracy theorists believe that the billionaire class which owns the mass media has a natural incentive to prop up the status quo upon which it is built, and so construct an environment where reporters are incentivized to always support the establishment line.

Smart upstanding citizens believe that if that kind of conspiracy were really happening, it would have been in the news.

Tim Morgan

 

THE SURPLUS ENERGY ECONOMY – CONTEXT AND CHOICE

One of the things that used to puzzle me, as a very small boy, was why the day after Christmas was called “Boxing Day”.

Did people in the classic “Dickensian Christmas” – in the era evoked by traditional festive icons like snow, holly and robins – really set aside a day for pugilism? It seemed even less likely that a day of fist-fighting contests formed any part of the first Christmas.

All became clear, of course, when it was explained to the very young me that this was the day on which Christmas “boxes” (gifts) were exchanged. In those times, people drew a distinction between the Christian celebration, on 25th December, and the giving and receiving of presents, on the following day.

This distinction is even more pronounced here in Spain, where the exchange of gifts is deferred to the “Night of the Kings”, two weeks after Christmas itself. The festive season is thus more protracted here than in, say, Britain or America, but it’s also markedly less frenetic, and culminates, in most towns and cities, with a thoroughly enjoyable Night of the Kings carnival.

Depending on where you are and how you look at it, the Christmas holidays end, and something like “normality” resumes, at some point between the 2nd and the 7th of January. My view is that the word “normal”, whose definition has, in economic and broader terms, already been stretched a very long way indeed, might soon lose any realistic meaning. A situation in which the Fed is in the process of injecting at least $1 trillion of newly-created money into the system typifies the extent to which abnormality has already become the norm.

In these circumstances, my immediate aim is to produce a guide, comprehensive but succinct, to the surplus energy interpretation of the economy.

This will cover the energy basis of all economic activity, the critical role played by ECoE (the Energy Cost of Energy), and the true nature of money and credit as an aggregate claim on the output of the ‘real’ (energy) economy.

It will move on to discuss how SEEDS models, interprets and anticipates economic trends, and to set out an overview of where we are in energy-interpreted terms. It might also – if space permits – touch on what this tells us about the false dichotomy between environmental challenges and the customarily-misstated concept of “growth”.

What I aim to do here is to close out the year with some observations about where we are as we head into the 2020s.

The best place to start is with the deterioration in prosperity, and the simultaneous increase in debt, that have already destroyed the credibility of any ‘business as usual’ narrative in the Advanced Economies (AEs).

Starting with Japan back in 1997, and finally reaching Germany in 2018, the prosperity of the average Western person has hit a peak and turned downwards, not in a temporary way, but as part of a secular process which conventional economics cannot recognise, much less explain.

This process is now spreading to the emerging market (EM) economies, most of which can expect to see prior growth in prosperity per person go into reverse within the next three years. The signs of deceleration are already becoming apparent in big EM countries such as China and India.

Thus far, global average prosperity has been on a long plateau, with continuing progress in the EM economies largely offsetting deterioration in the West. Once decline starts in the EM group, though, the pace at which the average person Worldwide becomes poorer can be expected to accelerate.

If deteriorating prosperity is the first point worthy of emphasis, the second is that a relentlessly increasing Energy Cost of Energy (ECoE) is the fundamental cause of this impoverishment process. ECoE reflects that fact that, within any given quantity of energy accessed for use, a proportion is always consumed in the access process.

ECoE is a direct deduction from the aggregate quantity of energy available, which means that surplus (ex-ECoE) energy is the source of all economic activity other than the supply of energy itself.

In other words, prosperity is a function of surplus energy.

In the past, widening geographic reach, economies of scale and technological advance drove ECoEs downwards, to a low-point (of between 1% and 2%) in the immediate post-1945 decades. The subsequent rise in trend ECoEs has been driven by the fact that, with the benefits of reach and scale exhausted, depletion has now become the primary driver of ECoEs in the mature fossil fuels industries which continue to provide four-fifths of global energy supply. The role of technology has been re-cast as a process which can do no more than blunt the rate at which ECoEs are rising.

By 2000, when World trend ECoE had reached 4.5%, Advanced Economies were already starting to face an insurmountable obstacle to further growth. Prosperity turned down in Japan from 1997 (when ECoE there was 4.4%), and has been declining in America since 2000 (4.5%).

SEEDS studies demonstrate that prosperity in advanced Western countries turns down once ECoE enters a band between 3.5% and 5%. EM economies, by virtue of their lesser complexity, are less ECoE-sensitive, with prosperity going into reverse once ECoEs enter a range between 8% and 10%. Ominously, ECoE has now reached 8.2% in China, 10.0% in India and 8.1% in the EM countries as a group.

The key point about rising ECoEs is that there is nothing we can do about it. This in turn means that global prosperity has entered de-growth. The idea that we can somehow “decouple” economic activity from the use of energy is utter wishful thinking – not surprisingly, because the economy, after all, is an energy system.

This presents us with a clear choice between obfuscation and denial, on the one hand, and acceptance and accommodation, on the other. Our present position is one of ‘denial by default’, in that the decision-making process continues to be based on the false paradigm that ‘the economy is money’, and that energy is “just another input”.

This leads us to the third salient point, which is financial unsustainability.

Properly understood, money functions as a claim on the output of the ‘real’, energy-driven economy. Creating more monetary claims, without a corresponding increase in the goods and services against which these claims can be exercised, creates a gap which, in SEEDS terminology, is called “excess claims”.

Since these “excess” claims cannot, by definition, be honoured, then they must be destroyed. There are various ways in which this “claims destruction” can happen, but these mechanisms can loosely be divided into “hard” default (the repudiation of claims) or “soft” default (where claims are met, but in greatly devalued money).

These processes mean that “value destruction” has become an inevitability. This may involve waves of asset market crashes and defaults, or the creation (through reckless monetary behaviour) of hyperinflation.

The likelihood is that it’s going to involve a combination of both.

These issues take us to the fourth critical point, which is the threat to the environment. Let’s be clear that this threat extends far beyond the issue of climate change, into many other areas, which range from pollution and ecological damage to the dwindling availability of essentials such as water and food.

Conversion to renewable energy (RE) isn’t the solution to these problems, if by “solution” we mean “an alternative which can sustain our current level of prosperity”. RE, despite its many merits, isn’t going to replace the surplus energy that we’ve derived hitherto from fossil fuels. RE might well be part of the solution, but only if we take on board the inevitability of degrowth.

This brings me to my final point, which is choice. For well over two centuries we’ve been accustomed to an energy context which has been so favourable that it has given us the ability both to improve personal prosperity and to extend those benefits across a rapidly increasing population.

With this favourable context fading into the past, we have to find answers to questions that we’ve never had to ask ourselves until now.

The faculty of choice requires knowledge of the options, and this we cannot have whilst we persist in the delusion that “the economy is a financial system”. It isn’t, it never has been, and it never can be – but our ignorance about this fundamental point has been one of the many luxuries afforded to us by the largesse of fossil fuels.

This seems pretty depressing fare to put before readers at the start of the festive season. The compensating thought has to be that the connection between prosperity and happiness has always been a falsehood.

A lack of sufficiency can, and does, cause misery – but an excess of it has never been a guarantee of contentment.

In the coming days, Christians will recall with renewed force that Jesus was born in a humble stable. He went on to throw the money-changers out of the Temple, and to instruct people to lay up their treasure, not on Earth, but in Heaven. I hope it will be taken in the right spirit if I add that He never earned an MBA, or ran a hedge fund.

The single most important challenge that we face isn’t deteriorating prosperity, or the looming probability of a financial catastrophe. Rather, the great challenge is that of how to jettison the false notion that material wealth and happiness are coterminous.

‘Value’ may indeed be heading for mass destruction.

But values are indestructible.

Gail Tverberg

Most people seem to think, “The difference between models and myths is that models are scientific, and myths are the conjectures of primitive people who do not have access to scientific thinking and computers. With scientific models, we have moved far beyond myths.” It seems to me that the truth is quite different from this.

History shows a repeated pattern of overshoot and collapse. William Catton wrote about this issue in his highly acclaimed 1980 book, Overshoot.

Figure 1. Depiction of Overshoot and Collapse by Paul Chefurka

What politicians, economists, and academic book publishers would like us to believe is that the world is full of limitless possibilities. World population can continue to rise. World leaders are in charge. Our big problem, if we believe today’s models, is that humans are consuming fossil fuel at too high a rate. If we cannot quickly transition to a low carbon economy, perhaps based on wind, solar and hydroelectric, the climate will change uncontrollably. The problem will then be all our fault. The story, supposedly based on scientific models, has almost become a new religion.

Recent Attempted Shifts to Wind, Solar and Hydroelectric Are Working Poorly

Of course, if we check to see what has happened when economies have actually attempted to switch to wind, water and hydroelectric, we see one bad outcome after another.

[1] Australia’s attempt to put renewable electricity on the grid has sent electricity prices skyrocketing and resulted in increased blackouts. It has been said that intermittent electricity has “wrecked the grid” in Australia.

[2] California, with all of its renewables, has badly neglected its grid, leading to many damaging wildfires. Renewables need disproportionately more long distance transmission, partly because they tend to be located away from population centers and partly because transmission must be scaled for peak use. It is evident that California has not been collecting a high enough price for electricity to cover the full cost of grid maintenance and upgrades.

Figure 2. California electricity consumption including amounts imported from out of state, based on EIA data. Amounts shown are average daily amounts, by month.

[3] The International Rivers Organization writes that Large Dams Just Aren’t Worth the Cost. Part of the problem is the huge number of people who must be moved from their ancestral homeland and their inability to adapt well to their new location. Part of the problem is the environmental damage caused by the dams. To make matters worse, a study of 245 large dams built between 1934 and 2007 showed that without even taking into account social and environmental impacts, the actual construction costs were too high to yield a positive return.

Developed economies have made hydroelectric power work adequately in areas with significant snow melt. At this point, evidence is lacking that large hydroelectric dams work well elsewhere. Significant variation in rainfall (year-to-year or seasonally) seems to be particularly problematic, because without fossil fuel backup, businesses cannot rely on year-around electricity supply.

The Pattern of Overshoot and Collapse Is Well-Established

Back in 1974, Henry Kissinger said in an interview:

I think of myself as a historian more than as a statesman. As a historian, you have to be conscious of the fact that every civilization that has ever existed has ultimately collapsed. [Emphasis added.]

History is a tale of efforts that failed, of aspirations that weren’t realized, of wishes that were fulfilled and then turned out to be different from what one expected. So, as a historian, one has to live with a sense of the inevitability of tragedy. As a statesman, one has to act on the assumption that problems must be solved.

Historians tend to define collapse more broadly than “the top level of government disappearing.” Collapse includes many ways of an economy failing. It includes losing at war, population decline because of epidemics, governments overthrown by internal dissent, and governments that cannot repay debt with interest, and failing for this reason.

A basic issue that often underlies collapse is falling average resources per person. These falling average resources per person can take several forms:

  • Population rises, but land available for farming doesn’t rise.
  • Mines and wells deplete, requiring more effort for extraction.
  • Soil erodes or becomes polluted with salt, reducing crop yields.

One of the other issues is that as resources per capita become stretched, it becomes harder and harder to set aside a margin for a “rainy day” or a drought. Thus, weather or climate variations may push an economy over the edge, as resources per person become more stretched.

Scientific Models Too Often Prove Whatever the Grant Provider Wants Proven

It is incredibly difficult to figure out what the future will hold. Our experience is almost entirely with a growing economy. It is easy to accidentally build this past experience into a model of the future, even when we are trying to make realistic assumptions. For example, when making pension models in the early 1980s, actuaries would see interest rates of 10% and assume that interest rates could remain this high indefinitely.

The question of whether prices will rise to allow future energy extraction is another problematic area. If we believe standard economic theory, prices can be expected to rise when resources are in short supply. But if we look at Revelation 18: 11-17, we find that when Babylon collapsed, the problem was low prices and lack of demand. There were not even buyers for slaves, and these were the energy product of the day. The Great Depression of the 1930s showed a similar low-price pattern. Today’s economic model seems to need refinement, if it is to account for how prices really seem to behave in collapses.

If there is an issue that is difficult to evaluate in making a forecast, the easiest approach for researchers to take is to omit it. For example, the intermittency of wind and solar can effectively be left out by assuming that (a) the different types of intermittency will cancel out, or (b) intermittency will be inexpensive to fix or (c) intermittency will be handled by a different part of the research project.

To further complicate matters, researchers often find that their compensation is tied to their ability to get grants to fund their research. These research grants have been put together by organizations that are concerned about the future. These organizations are looking for research that will match their understanding of today’s problems and their proposed solutions for the future.

A person can guess how this arrangement tends to work out. Any researcher who points out endless problems, or says that the proposed solution is impossible, won’t get funding. To get funding, at least some partial solution must be provided along the lines outlined in the Request for Proposal, regardless of how unlikely the proposed solution is. Research showing that the grant-writer’s view of the future is not really correct is left to retired researchers and others willing to work for little compensation. All too often, published research tends to say whatever the groups funding the research studies want the studies to say.

Myths Are of Many Types; Many Are Aimed at Giving Good Advice

The fact that myths have survived through the ages lets us know that at least some people found the insights that they provided were worthwhile.

If an ancient people did not know how the earth and the people on it came into being, they would likely come up with a myth explaining the situation. Most of us today would not believe myths about Thor, for example, but (as far as we know), no one was being paid to put together stories about Thor and how powerful he was. The myths were stories that people found sufficiently useful and entertaining to pass along. In some sense, this background gives these stories more value than a paper written in order to obtain funds provided by a research grant.

Some myths relate to what types of activities by humans were desirable or undesirable. For example, the people in Uganda have traditional folklore about a moral monster that is used to teach children the dangers of craftiness and deceit. My sister who visited Uganda reported that where she visited, people believed that people who stole someone else’s crops were likely to get sick. Most of us wouldn’t think that this story was really right, but it has a moral purpose behind it. There are no doubt many myths of this type. They have been passed on because passing them on seemed to serve a purpose.

Continuar a ler »

Original Sin

Megacancer
(Can you recognize the real culprit in this painting, the one responsible for original sin against God?
I’ll give you a hint, it’s not the snake or humans.)

I’m not sure any organism, if capable of pondering the question, could give an adequate reason for staying alive. It’s never a choice, being alive, but is simply the tail-end of a long autocatalytic, self-organizing process. This question is only entertained occasionally in the human mind and the typical answer might include the recall of rewarding dopamine-intensive activities that somehow make life worth living. Most animals get along fine without any reason for existence, they’re simply prewired to behave in such a way that results in another life cycle, no questions asked. Humans are mostly like that too, although they sometimes wonder about the purpose of life as if it is a tool that needs to be applied to a substrate, and indeed it is. The entire human brain and psyche is a homeostasis enabler. Behaviors and activities that enhance personal and/or multi-generational homeostasis are the brain’s reason d’etre. Overall, maintaining homeostasis is the process of maintaining “comfort” and distance from any dangers or threats that could result in equilibrium with the environment. Moving from cold to warm, hot to cool, enough food, enough shelter, enough sex, children thriving, a large savings that can be converted into “homeostasis” when necessary.

It’s all automatic, let comfort and safety be your guide. But there is and always has been an intense competition for the energy and resource means to “comfort”. Humans hoard resources and wealth as a means to insure continued homeostasis and to allay their insecurity. One current strategy is in accumulating shares in a technological system that seems to deliver cornucopia-like comfort but with each passing day it consumes a little more of its irreplaceable elixir of life – fossil fuels. Recently most members of society have found it difficult or impossible to achieve their comfort goals. It has become impossible due to wages inadequate to maintain the dissipative needs of a vehicle, home and ones’ own body after contributing taxes and interest to the maintenance of dissipative structures like government in its many manifestations, the financial system and the education and medical systems. In other words, most citizens of the world are being pushed farther and farther out of their comfort zones (if they ever had one) towards equilibrium (insolvency, starvation and death) and they’ve begun to protest. Having a long string of dopamine wins, like trips to Disney World, is no longer the issue. The issue is simply continued existence. The vacations and consumption that provided the dopamine hits and memories of yesterday are replaced with the less costly numbing agents of alcohol and heroine as life becomes an exercise in hanging-on to a bleak and hopeless future with regular beatings provided by more powerful entities that demand their tithes.

Unfortunately the infrastructure of the existing technological metabolism (homes and businesses separated and accessible only by car), is perfect for rapidly eliminating the fossil fuel gradient, and is thermodynamically sanctioned, but does not lend itself to a “Plan B” that uses significantly less energy. Moving large masses (cars/people/resources) around the metabolic circuit (flow) will simply cease in many instances as the energy budget is cut.

“We are swimming upstream against a great torrent of disorganization, which tends to reduce everything to the heat death of equilibrium and sameness described in the second law of thermodynamics. What Maxwell, Bolzmann and Gibbs meant by this heat death in physics has a counterpart in the ethic of Kierkegaard, who pointed out that we live in a chaotic moral universe. In this, our main obligation is to establish arbitrary enclaves of order and system. These enclaves will not remain there indefinitely by any momentum of their own after we have once established them … We are not fighting for a definitive victory in the indefinite future. It is the greatest possible victory to be, to continue to be, and to have been .. . This is no defeatism, it is rather a sense of tragedy in a world in which necessity is represented by an inevitable disappearance of differentiation. The declaration of our own nature and the attempt to build an enclave of organization in the face of nature’s overwhelming tendency to disorder is an insolence against the gods and the iron necessity that they impose. Here lies tragedy, but here lies glory too.” – Norbert Wiener – The Human Use of Human Beings

In other words it’s the plant’s fault (that we be). Humans in their present form are here to undo what the plants have done. The earth intercepts a tiny fraction of the sun’s energy which is meant for the great void of space and the plants use the energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into glucose and oxygen. Glucose is the food for the ATP energy system and keeps the plant metabolism humming. Plant-eating animals evolved to consume the plants and burn them with oxygen to once again release carbon dioxide, water and heat which is released back into space, the same place the sunshine should have gone in the first place. Humans can either eat the plants directly or they can eat the animals that eat plants. Did plants commit the original sin? Not likely. Chemotrophic sinners existed before the plants and used other gradients (sub-sea vents?) to temporarily thwart the natural order. So what is the purpose of life? To eat the plants and the assorted animals that also eat the plants. Anything else is extra and indeed we have extra in the form of fossil fuels. We’ve also found a way (civilization/technology) to burn plant tissues sequestered millions of years ago – fossil fuels. Of course we do this at our own peril as carbon dioxide builds in the atmosphere and oceans.

The original sinner (or similar chemotrophic metabolism).

The Universe doesn’t really want us around but uses us to undo what the plants have done. And we’ve found so many things to do to get rid of plants and fossil fuels. Just look around at the kaleidoscope of wonders the humans have made. We even take over plant territory and grow our own edible plants to satisfy the human RNA that are busy using their technological tools to excavate old plant remains to burn. We even use old plant remains to fertilize new edible plant growth as we burn-up the Amazon Rainforest. We also use edible plants(ethanol) to feed our cars. It’s incredible, this frenzy of activity. But what to do when all of the old sequestered plant material is nothing more than heat on its way to a distant galaxy and the soils are depleted and ecosystem wrecked? We will no longer have a purpose for living but rather a reason to die.

And in additional news:

I’ve posted a link to Francois Roddier’s paper, “The Thermodynamics of Evolution: An Essay of Thermo-Bio-Sociology” previously and it’s well worth reading several times.

Here are a few interesting passages:

“ The chemist Frederick Soddy (36) seems to have been the first to link the laws of thermodynamics with economy. In his book ” Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt, “written in 1926, he explains that money is only a virtual wealth. True wealth is the daily amount of energy which is available to us, that is the power one can dissipate. He proposes to get rid of the gold standard and to link money to energy dissipation by calculating an index of consumer prices. He explains that as long as investments are profitable, energy dissipation increases and society becomes richer. When they cease to be profitable, society becomes endebted. This is how Soddy predicted the crisis of 1929.”

And indeed the gold standard was eliminated and money was linked to energy dissipation (oil) allowing unfettered growth and debt creation into the future – until now. Investments have ceased to be profitable and society is certainly becoming more and more indebted. The anchor of the gold standard was eliminated so we could hit the wall of limits at full speed in a car stuffed with debt instruments. What year should we consider for our collapse? Not until everyone is sucked into the illusion of continued profitability and those in the know having left the stage, then the trapdoor will be sprung.

Roddier sums-up organic – technological analogs as follows:

• DNA : culture. All the information stored in books and transmitted through generations.

• RNA : knowledge. Cultural information stored in brains (42).

• Messenger RNA : General education. Knowledge transmitted through education.

• Ribosomal RNA : Know-how. Allows to apply knowledge to specific needs.

• Transfer RNA : Technical instruction. Transmission of know-how.

• Hormone: Media. Information disseminated to the whole society.

• Enzyme: Invested money. It catalyzes production. Like any catalyst, it is given back to the lender at the end of the contract. An autocatalytic structure generates its own funding.

• ATP: standard currency. Biologists themselves compare ATP to a currency. In each cell ATP is generated by mitochondria who play the role of banks.”

I think the above points are basically correct. My blog has only expounded upon a few of them, especially how humans from the ecological system were transformed into the new RNA of the technological system.

“It is unrealistic to try to predict exactly what will happen. What is clear, is that major crises will affect the whole mankind. Because they are the most developed, the United States and Europe will be the first to be affected. The more advanced is their economy, the more rapidly other countries will be affected. Still asleep and little aware of the realities, the global brain of mankind will inevitably go through a period of nightmares. The depletion of our mineral and oil resources imply that it will be increasingly difficult to maintain the complex structures of our societies. The ruling classes will do anything they can to maintain their standard of living. In many countries, an increasingly restricted number of ever richer people will monopolize all power, impoverishing the population. Social upheaval will multiply. They will be repressed by ever less democratic, possibly totalitarian governments. The heads of State will be increasingly discredited. Countries that are rich, or in the way towards enrichment, will help each other and form coalitions, creating multiple conflicts. New wars as short as they may be devastating may arise. On the one hand, U.S. and the European Union talk about forming an atlantic alliance. On the other hand, Brazil, Russia, India, China and even South Africa (BRICS) are planning joint agreements. Will both sides come into conflict? Assuming wars are avoided, a plausible scenario could be the following. Let us assume that an atlantic alliance is formed. Faced with a stagnant economy and an increasing debt, the alliance decides to adopt a single currency, the Euro-dollar. After a brief respite, given the absence of any other measure, the situation continues to deteriorate. Some States of the alliance then decide to resume independence, causing a series of scissions both in Europe and in the USA. A return to protectionism reduces air and road traffic, even faster as the cost of oil continues to increase. Automotive and aerospace industries go bankrupt. The economy is in freefall. It is the collapse. Being economically dependent of the alliance, the BRICS countries, including China are, in turn, in trouble. The Heads of State meet. Liberal economy is questioned. A single world organization is given the responsability for creating and controlling money. It attempts to solve a crisis that has become global.

Two opposite tendencies come into conflict: the globalization of the economy with the creation of a single world currency and its regionalization with the creation of regional currencies. From a global economy, one return to a multitude of local economies, each seeking its independence. One recognize here the characteristic of collapse processes. Large structures are replaced by small ones: large trees are replaced by low vegetation, dinosaurs by small mammals. This is the melting phase of the simulated annealing algorithm that is looking for a new optimum that will dissipate energy, still more efficiently.”

Francois Roddier

It seems the attempt at superorganism status has already failed with Brexit and the permanent interruption of the trade occurring between China and the United States (it will be permanent because there won’t be enough energy to feed it). It remains to be seen how much energy there will be for dissipation in the future as things begin to unravel. It seems likely that personal vehicles will be cut-off from fuel first and this will make many of the technological cells obsolete (too isolated to make adequate metabolic connections). It will likely be a problem maintaining enough cells (homes) as dissipators to justify economically the large centralized utilities that depend upon economies of scale to operate. Many humans will eventually be cut-off from the energy they need to maintain their own bodies and they will starve to death or at least undergo a substantial trimming. Maintaining homeostasis by whatever means possible will be a full time job. You’ve probably heard that there’s plenty of food for everyone but the only reason some people are hungry is because of a distribution problem. The distribution problem will get worse.

Will it end with a bang or will we simply run out of fuel on a lonely stretch of track.

Peter Sloterdijk

Gail Tverberg

The world today has a myriad of energy policies. One of them seems to be to encourage renewables, especially wind and solar. Another seems to be to encourage electric cars. A third seems to be to try to move away from fossil fuels. Countries in Europe and elsewhere have been trying carbon taxes. There are alsoprograms to buy carbon offsets for energy uses such as air travel.

Maybe it is time to step back and take a look. Where are we now? Where are we really headed? Have the policies implemented since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 had any positive impact?

Let’s look at some of the issues involved.

[1] We have had very little success in reducing CO2 emissions.

CO2 emissions for all countries, in total, have been spiraling upward, year after year.

Figure 1. Carbon dioxide emissions for the world, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy.

If we look at the situation by part of the world, we see an even more concerning pattern.

Figure 2. Carbon dioxide emissions by part of the world through 2018, based on BP’s 2019 Statistical Review of World Energy. Soviet Empire is an approximation including Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, based on the BP report. It would not include Cuba and North Korea.

The group US+EU+Japan has been able to reduce its CO2 emissions by 5% since 2005. Emissions were slowly rising between 1981 and 2005. There was a dip at the time of the Great Recession of 2008-2009, followed by a downward trend. A person might get the impression that CO2 emissions for the EU tend to rise during periods when the economy is doing well and tend to fall when it is doing poorly.

The “star” in emissions reductions is the former Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. I refer to this group as the Soviet Empire. Emissions fell around the time of the collapse of the central government of the Soviet Union in 1991. This big decrease in emissions seems to be related to huge changes that took place at that time. Instead of one country with a single currency, the individual republics were suddenly on their own.

The high point in CO2 emissions for the Soviet Empire came in 1990, the year before the collapse of the Soviet Union central government. By 1999, emissions had fallen to a level 37% below their 1990 level. In fact, even in recent years, emissions for this group of countries has stayed low. Much industry collapsed and has never been replaced.

The group that has more than doubled its emissions is what I call the Remainder Group. The group includes many countries, including China and India, that ramped up their manufacturing and other heavy industry in the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the World Trade Organization added members. The Remainder Group also includes many countries that suddenly found new export markets for their raw materials, such as oil, iron ore, and copper. The Remainder countries became richer; they became more able to pave roads and build more substantial homes for their citizens. With all of this GDP-related activity, CO2 emissions increased rapidly.

[2] Population growth has followed a pattern that is in some ways similar to CO2 growth. 

Figure 3. Population from 1965 to 2018, based on UN 2019 population estimates.

In Figure 3, we see that population has been virtually flat in the former Soviet Empire (2% growth between 1997 and 2018). With the economy not doing well, young people emigrate to countries that seem to provide better prospects.

Population in the US+EU+Japan Group grew by 11% between 1997 and 2018.

The group that is simply outstanding for population growth is the Remainder Group, with 35% growth between 1997 and 2018. A big part of this population growth comes from improved sanitation and basic medical care, such as antibiotics. With these changes, a larger percentage of the babies that are born have been able to live to maturity.

It is hard to see any bend in the trend lines, showing that recent actions have really changed the course of activity from the way it was headed previously. Of course, the trend is only “linear,” implying that the percentage growth is gradually slowing over time.

This rapidly growing population feeds into the CO2 problem as well. The many young people would all like food, homes and transportation. While it is possible to obtain some version of these desired products without fossil fuels, the version with fossil fuels tends to be vastly improved. Most people prefer homes with indoor plumbing and electricity, if given an opportunity, for example.

[3] Deforestation keeps growing as a world problem.

Figure 4. Chart showing World Bank estimates of share of world forested by economic grouping.

High Income Countries keep pushing the deforestation problem to the poorer parts of the world. Heavily Indebted Poor Countries are especially affected. Worldwide, deforestation continues to grow.

[4] With respect to fossil fuels, there is a great deal of confusion with respect to, “What do we need to be saved from?” 

Do we have a problem with too much or too little fossil fuel? We hear two different stories.

Figure 5. Author’s image of two trains speeding toward the world economy.

Climate modelers keep telling us about what could happen, if indeed we use too much fossil fuel. In fact, the climate currently is changing, bolstering this point of view.

It seems to me that there is an equally great danger of collapse, accompanied by low energy prices. For example, we know that energy production of the European Union has been declining for many years, without the countries being able to do anything about it.

We also know historically that many civilizations have collapsed. The Soviet Empire collapsed in 1991, illustrating one type of collapse. The Soviet Union was an oil exporter. Its collapse came after oil prices were too low to allow adequate investment in new oil fields for an extended period of time. The Great Recession of 2008-2009 offers a much smaller, temporary version of what collapse might look like.

 

Continuar a ler »