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The Wood Chipper Model

For those unable to understand the finer points of the malignancy model, I present The Wood Chipper Model. Imagine the wood chipper in the photograph above to be the sum total of industrial civilization. It runs on gas and emits CO2 into the atmosphere. Into the chipper are fed all kinds of resources, from forests to mined metals to soils, fish. You get the idea. Coming out the other side are all of the products of the resource chipper which is loaded into a truck and distributed to the Wal-Marts, gas stations, and various other retail establishments of the world. Humans want to grab as much of the stuff coming out of the wood chipper as possible, these are rewards. Once used, the products are carted off to a waste dump and piled high into giant civilizational dung heaps. It’s a one way street. Everyone wants to own a part of the wood chipper, because this allows them to lay claim to a greater share of the product coming out the far end of the chipper. The chipper gets bigger and bigger every year and everyone is grabbing whatever they can to feed into the chipper.

One day there’s not enough gas to keep the chipper going and it begins to sputter. There’s not enough gas for the truck either. The people are very worried, but not about the landscape denuded of resources or the atmospheric pollution. They’re worried about the amount of stuff coming out of the chipper. Extra effort is put into finding more fuel for the chipper and distribution truck. Things to feed into the chipper are running low too. Those that borrowed money to build the chipper can no longer obtain enough return to justify expanding the size of the chipper. The chipper stops growing, but the desires for its products never diminish. Gas becomes more scarce and some want to convert the chipper and distribution truck to solar power, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of not enough to feed into the chipper, even if a conversion were possible.

There is some question as to whether the chipper will run out of fuel first or run out of resources to chip into products. One day a crisis occurs and the chipper stops. There are desperate efforts to restart it, but one of the essential parts suppliers for the chipper went out of business from lack of profit. A careful examination would show that not only one but no less than two hundred parts suppliers had gone out of business while the chipper continued to operate with the last remaining stocks of spare parts. When the products stopped shooting out of the chipper, people panicked and began to hoard what remained, but that too eventually ended up in backyard waste piles as it could no longer be hauled to the central dung heap. The wood chipper of civilization, unable to provide enough returns to maintain itself, ceased to function. The inputs were too sparse, the fuel too scarce, the maintenance too high and the products too few. Plans to translocate the chipper to Mars along with the human population did not pan out. Survivors were bequeathed a despoiled landscape, wood chipper remains and numerous artificial mountains of wood chipper waste.

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