The apocalyptic answers forecast a collapse of our economies leading to a collapse of societies and possibly the collapse of civilization that ultimately could even possibly cause the extinction of humanity as a living specie (6). Even if I personally forecast the occurrence of a collapse of our societal arrangements, I do not bet on the demise of humanity because if I were convinced that we were doomed to disappear as a specie I would greatly prefer to enjoy myself doing something else than writing about it. But more importantly I think that humanity is a lot more resilient than what we imagine and this idea, even if the situation appears dire in our eyes, leaves open the possibility for the human genus to find its way through the cracks. This idea keeps optimism alive which reinforces the feeling that the principle of life is nothing short of beautiful.
Having said that the fact is that the collapsing process of our very complex societal systems is already well engaged. Collapse is indeed a process. It is not a one time event. A process is something that grows over time always reaching further and in the case of collapse reaching always further means that our complex societal arrangements are slowly but surely breaking down. Collapse is not the end of the world. It is an ending of a given societal arrangement that eventually will open the space to a newer arrangement. In other words Late-Modernity is the dieing of Modernity and simultaneously the emergence of what comes after Modernity (old yang dies while leaving the space to young ying). Presented like this collapse may sound like a benign phenomenon but it is not. It is indeed a process that will be experienced as being utterly traumatic by the whole of humanity. We know already with absolute certainty that the way of life we have been accustomed to under Modernity is not sustainable and by necessity will gradually be abandoned. I think everyone is able to observe that this is already happening nowadays in Northern countries. But hope keeps us from accepting the possibility that this downfall will grind always further. Hope, in our minds, substitutes reality with the illusion of a restart of the engine of economic growth. That illusion is unfortunately very dangerous because it distracts us from the necessary and urgent task of preparing ourselves to change our ways of thinking which is the necessary prelude to a change of our ways of living. The illusion that our societies will succeed to reignite the path to stable economic growth is dangerous because this idea is keeping us from changing our minds and ways and as a result when things will start to unravel more rapidly we will not know how to act to survive.
The optimistic views about the future of humanity are not unanimous about what exactly can possibly be done to answer the challenges that everyone accepts lay hidden behind the coming corner on the road (7). Generally speaking no one specialist is absolutely sure that technology is going to work. It's more like the optimists are in a state of mind characterized by sheer belief. Belief that technology finally solves all the problems we encounter. The problem with such a vision is that it looks like blind faith. In this case the faith is placed in science and technology. But there is unfortunately no guarantee that the faith will be fulfilled.
The optimists, for example, think that the peaking of fossil fuels will be answered in time, by renewables or another miraculous source of energy, to power the continuation of our present ways of living and most of them celebrate the feasibility of substitutes. But no one specialist can guarantee that substitutes are going to work or that they are going to be put in production in time and with sufficient output to avert a catastrophe. Optimists have no real answers to the arguments of the pessimists. Their optimism is indeed based on the belief that science and technology will be saving the day. But such a blind faith is called scientism. Scientism is akin to religious belief. It anesthetizes the mind to the existing problems by relying on belief in a positive outcome. Wild optimism is dangerous because it impeaches seeing the severity of the problems which then mitigates the absolute need to find solutions.
I'm not going to try to address here how optimists and pessimists address our present predicament (note 7 gives a succinct presentation of the leading thinkers representing the two sides of that coin). Instead I will concentrate on their positions relating to peak energy. Energy is what powers our industrial societies. Take it away and after a few days our societies grind to a halt and most individual atoms lose all life sustaining necessities like food, transportation, heating, bathrooms and so on. How many days without energy would it take for the majority of us to be gone? Assuredly not much more than a few weeks! Now energy will not disappear from one day to the next.
Peak oil does not mean there is no oil any longer. It means that the number of barrels extracted per day first plateaus and then slowly starts to decline and finally the decline is coming faster and faster while prices are ever shooting higher. The fact is that while the offer of oil plateaus and then decreases the demand for oil continues to increase principally due to the demand from emergent countries like China, India, Brazil, etc... (the rest of the world in Western eyes). This leaves only one direction for prices to go and that is up and up.
Some might be invoking the present fall in oil prices to contradict what I just mention but the fact is that this fall in price is only a temporary phenomenon that was unleashed as a result of:
- high oil prices during the last few years that motivated capital holders to invest huge amounts in drilling in order to catch a maximum of the high benefits generated by those high prices
- the economic contraction of the global economy accelerated in 2014 which resulted in a fall in the demand for oil. By the end of 2014 the total offer was 2-3 million barrels higher than demand (all liquids). Prices being formed at the margin the exceeding offer pushed the prices down and seen that nobody is willing to sacrifice his market position the prices are tanking. Falling prices in turn are drying up investment which means that the natural decline in conventional extraction that reaches approximately 7% a year is not any longer compensated by the production of new wells. The total increase in "all liquids" extraction along the last decade was nearly entirely due to fracking and other unconventional sources. Nearly a trillion dollars have been invested in fracking but this industry never generated any positive financial returns. At the present price levels (50$ or less a barrel) investments have totally dried up which means no new wells are being drilled any longer. The depletion rates of fracking wells being in the order of 70-80% at the end of the first year and no new wells being drilled the total volumes extracted by fracking are falling and very soon will collapse to a fraction of what they were just a few months ago. Numerous companies that invested in fracking will go bust. What is at stake here is nearly one trillion dollars in direct investment plus all the derivative contracts that have been concluded on the back of these investments. Taking into account these derivatives what is at stake is somewhere in the vicinity of 10 trillion dollars... When that comes crashing not only will the US economy choke but future investments in fracking will not be in a hurry to come back. That means that the offer of oil within a couple of years is going to be lower than demand and prices will sky rocket...
To come back to this idea that prices have only one way to go long term we have to be conscious that with very high prices societies and individuals limit all activities necessitating oil. Converting tools and equipment to another source of energy is only a short term fix because the market slowly equalizes the cost of all sources of energy. In economic terms high energy prices are reducing available personal incomes as well as the income of public institutions. Reduced incomes, + higher prices for energy and all other products, is going to weigh heavily on the brakes of economic activity which in turn will reduce incomes further and so on till the economy grinds to a halt. The more the energy crunch is biting the more the innovators are motivated to find substitute sources of energy. We'll then assist literally at a race for who will be the first to offer such substitutes to the consumers. This scenario is already taking place nowadays albeit at a slower pace than what I describe here.
The million dollar question here is “will substitutes reach the market in time and in sufficient quantity in order to avoid economic collapse?" Those who follow closely the technological breakthroughs taking place can only marvel at the pace new discoveries are happening. But simultaneously we observe that no miracle technological breakthrough is coming change the energy equation. At higher fossil fuel prices present wind and even solar technologies become competitive and will thus be booming but what is the real production capacity that can be expected from those sources? Most specialists calculate that wind and solar will take a growing share of the total energy production but their calculations also show that presently known renewable sources of energy don't have the physical capacity to produce anywhere near the total capacity generated by fossil fuels presently. In reality their total capacity is far lower which indicates that humanity definitely will have to contract its global use of energy.
Most oil experts forecast that oil (all liquids) is expected to peak between 2006 and somewhere around 2020. Force is to recognize that we are already approaching the end of that time-frame. “Conventional oil” production has still not exceeded its daily production of 2005 at 73 million barrels a day. The deficit between the peak of conventional oil and an increasing demand has since been remedied by non-conventional extraction methods like fracking and oil-sands. But the cost of extraction of such non-conventional methods is pushing prices ever higher. Furthermore the economics of those non-conventional extraction methods point to their non-profitability (according to an article in Bloomberg, at the time prices of oil were around 100 dollars per barrel, to a yearly income of 100 corresponded costs of 130). This raises the real possibility that the whole enterprise has been no more than a financial bubble. The present fall of oil prices is rapidly liquidating the position of fracking. In the process many investors will lose a bunch of capital and will thus become very cautious to invest in this sector in the future. What is even more frightening is that coal specialists are projecting that peak coal is not far away. With an annual extraction of some 4 billion tons of coal and growing China could reach its peak coal consumption around 2015. Coal being the biggest culprit in emitting CO2 and being also the most important source of air pollution in China the authorities decided to gradually substitute coal with less polluting sources. The recent gigantic gas contracts with Russia are meant to do just that. But while Chinese peak coal consumption should be celebrated for limiting the growth of CO2 the fact is that this will only transfer the Chinese energetic demand to another source of energy and drive them so much faster to their peak.
Whatever the disagreements between specialists about the time peak oil and peak coal materialize one thing is for sure; we are on the verge of a worldwide energy crunch. What this implies is twofold:
Table of content
3.1. Financialization and total corruption of the elites
3.2. Globalization and supranational institutions
3.3. The great convergence
3.3.1. Population explosion
3.3.2. The trap of debt and economic corruption
3.3.3. Peak energy and resources
3.3.4. Side-effects of Modernity
3.3.5. Societal atomization & loss of societal cohesion
3.4. A collapsing Modernity
3.5. A painful transition
3.5.1. Facing a new economic reality
220.127.116.11. The population time bomb
18.104.22.168. Making do with the available (peak resources)
22.214.171.124. Integrating the cost to fight climate change
126.96.36.199. Integrating the cost of land, water, and air poisoning
188.8.131.52. Humanity in necessity of healthier food
3.5.2. Adapting the political decision making process to the new reality
184.108.40.206. Faced with the urgency for answers democracy takes 2nd stage
220.127.116.11. Impossible solutions to the intractable problems inherited from modernity
3.5.3. A cultural shift
18.104.22.168. The urge for societal cohesion grows exponentially
22.214.171.124. Societal fragmentation and atomization
126.96.36.199. Individuals search for sense and the comfort of belonging
188.8.131.52. Competition between worldviews for eyeballs
184.108.40.206. Visual art in search of meaning and societal sense
3.5.4. A painful transition
220.127.116.11. Rebalancing of economic might in the new “economy-world”
18.104.22.168. Radical reshaping of the economic working of societies
22.214.171.124. World population peaks then dwindles and stabilizes
126.96.36.199. Emergence of the building blocks of the future worldview
188.8.131.52. Elimination of societies that can't adapt to the coming changes
184.108.40.206. Out of decadence are popping sprouts of an Artistic Renewal
To limit the size of my posts the total content of this section about Late-Modernity is given in 4 or 5 installments. The table of content relating to the present post is given in purple.
220.127.116.11 Faced with the urgency for answers democracy takes second stage
As long as our knowledge snowball is not heavy enough to start rolling the snowy slope is accumulating ever more snow and risks of avalanches are increasing that could take everything on their paths. Our situation is thus increasingly precarious. We are stuck, as observers of the first signs of a societal cataclysm in the coming, without being able as individuals to do anything about it. Our only consolation is that ever more people are become aware that something big societally is on the way. But politicians are stuck in their bubble and first lack the knowledge about what is really going on and secondly if they had such a knowledge they clearly are lacking the imagination to do anything meaningful about it. From their side corporations and finance are not a bit interested to deviate from the status-quo that serves them so well for now.
This is the perfect condition for uncommon outcomes and in the situation of Northern countries, where decision making is at the antipodes of the street's sentiment, it becomes more and more evident each passing day that what is going to break first is democracy. Till now there is still a democratic varnish that tries to hide what goes on at the deeper levels where what really matters takes place. I mean where the real decisions are being taken. It is not as if our political world was inactive. On the contrary it is in a mode of hyper-activity. Politicians are frenetically legislating rules that become ever more difficult to comprehend for the common man in terms of the lawyerly language and in terms of the number of pages to read and in doing so they find the perfect perch to give their friends who finance their campaigns what they want in all impunity.
But among the conscientious observers some become restless and can't accept any longer that their society would go down the drain. This is true on the right with the tea parties in the US that since then have been recuperated by opportunistic politicians and corporations financing them but this has only amplified their founders' anger and they are waiting the first opportunity to come up with their next initiative. The same goes in Europe with extreme right parties and groups gaining ever wider popular support. The same goes on the other side of the political spectrum that is presently actively engaged in what seems to be a more promising venture than the US tea party. I mean the Greek Syriza and Spanish Podemos new left parties which, at the image of the active and militant component of the Arab spring, is attracting the Western Youth that is the biggest loser of the present great depression. After studying the kids are being thrown on a job market where job opportunities are inexistent and they are thus unemployed in their great numbers. Trying to understand what are the causes of their plight they become aware of the swindle that the present adult generation practiced at their expanse and they are starting to wonder why they should be obliged now to toil their whole life in order to pay debts that financed stuff they did not get an iota to benefit from. They are right. Why should their generation need to toil to pay for the consequences of their parents' hubris and stupidity? The question that arises now is will Syrisa be able to implement policies that bring about changes that satisfy the street? One thing is already known. If Syrisa was not successful the neo-fascists of Golden Dawn are ready to take over. If that was ever to happen all hell would break loose and Europe would definitely re-enter barbarity.
What will come out of those marginal movements that rapidly grow in political majorities is anyone's guess but what is for sure is that they will not go away if the status quo remains in place. What is also sure is that those movements could possibly be manipulated by smart populists who would find there the soil where their ambitions could flourish. It happened last century in between the last two world wars in Italy, in Spain, in Germany and in Japan. But what we experience today is not comparable to anything that happened in those times. Today the economic and social situation is far far worse. Our problem today is not only the Northern indebtedness and the Southern full steam economic build-up that are concluding in a worldwide redistribution of the cards of economic wealth. Our problem is primarily the great convergence, of those factors with a series of others arising as vast side-effects of modernity, that drives us towards disaster. So, in such a deeply destructuring environment, chances are that populism in our times could possibly wreck far more damage than its predecessors and Golden Dawn is a sign of things that might come to pass.
There is another category, of conscientious observers waiting in the shadows, and that category has the means to impose its will if its members decided to intervene. I mean the defense and police establishments of Western countries. In the US, more particularly, budgets devolved annually to the defense department are very consequential and budgetary austerity motivated cuts could possibly derange the normalcy of military life to the point that some officers could begin thinking to demote the civilian establishment from its control of the levers of state power. I don't think that it is so far fetched to think about such a scenario when we observe the melting legitimacy of the civilian establishment and the snowballing popular anger as a direct consequence of this deficit in legitimacy. Is the militarization of police services not a sign that this process is already rolling?
Democracy is in danger because it visibly can't cope with the mounting problems plaguing Northern countries. It seems even that often it is itself partly the cause of what is perceived as the inaction of Western state apparatuses and it becomes thus ever more tempting to compare their inefficiency with the efficiency of the Chinese government for example. Such a comparison leaves not an iota of a chance that people could continue to favor democracy for much longer. Nobody is blind here. On one side are extraordinary economic results that are now lasting for nearly forty years something the west itself never succeeded to achieve in its entire history and on the other side is the spectacle of inefficiency, incompetence, total absence of imagination and total absence of care for the citizen that are on display daily.
Democracy is definitely losing its luster. The benefit of having been there first in heading the statistics of the advancement of Modernity is fast fading away indeed and with this loss comes the diminishing prestige of the political system of Northern countries.
In light of all this it is high time that the world remembered the history of the emergence of democracy. It is not as if democracy was erected on day X as per the miracle of Western superior intelligence or exceptionalism. Democracy is the outcome of a very long process of arbitrage between 3 groups that fought for the control of state power. After having been the sole institution of power in the whole of Europe during nearly 1000 years of societal darkness following the fall of the Western branch of the Roman Empire the clergy opposed the expansion of power at the hands of the aristocracy that grew as a result of a population increase between 1000 and 1100 and the appearance of early cities as a consequence of increased local economic exchanges. Those economic exchanges furthermore saw the gradual rise of the 'burghers' or the citizens of those new cities who slowly imposed themselves as a 3rd branch of power to be reckoned with. The Magma Carta Charter was issued in 1215 as a consequence of such a fight between the English king and the aristocracy (1).
With the advent of long distance trade following the first crusades the more enterprising burghers (2) transformed into successful merchants who, exposing their wealth by building mansions and palaces, imposed the idea to the aristocracy, the clergy, and the populace that they were definitely to be reckoned with in matters of the cities' decision making. By the time of the industrial boom of the 18th and 19th centuries the merchants and other burghers had firmly established the primacy of the bourgeoisie in political matters by being recognized the right to vote for their representatives in parliament. That right to vote was attributed as a compensation for the poll tax which stipulated that those who paid over a certain amount of taxes could automatically vote. It is only following the mass production of socks and other textiles that the idea emerged that everyone should eventually have the right to chose, first from whom to buy socks, and later who would be their political representatives and so democracy was born.
The history of the emergence of democracy leaves no doubt whatsoever that it was the result of an evolving process and this shows the sheer absurdity to impose this system upon populations whose history did not prepare them for such a system. Force is also to recognize that 'the 3 estates', or the three groups that fought for political power in Europe, were a strictly European particularity. No other country experienced the presence of 3 such groups that bargained over a period of hundreds of years for the sharing of political power. From this I induce that it is highly improbable that any other country would have bargained its road to a similar political system.
The question that I want to address here does not figure in the repertoire of political correctness. It's a question that relates to the inherent natural right of all countries on earth to let their social groups bargain the political path of their own choosing. Europe bargained its own political path over a period of many centuries so why should the system it ended up with be imposed on anyone else? Democracy has long been presented as the best of all possible political systems. The difficulties it experiences presently in all Western countries is simply contradicting that belief. Now is the time to recognize that most fundamental among people's rights which is the right of the people to shape their political system in the way of their own preference. Imposing one's own political system upon others should be recognized for what it is: grand totalitarianism.
We have to come to terms with the fact that the idea of democracy, as practiced by Western countries, is not necessarily the best possible political system. The idea that Western democracy is the best of all possible political systems is no more than an ideological reliquary of Western domination of world affairs during the last 500 years or so. In the face of its presently observed high inefficiency Western countries will soon be confronted with the necessity to evolve their system not only to gain in efficiency but also to re-legitimize a system that has totally lost the trust of its citizens.
In light of this it is my opinion that the emergent countries that are industrializing have the natural right to reform their political system and adapt it to their own internal conditions in whatever way they see fit. For sure Western type democracy has been imposed through the colonial period to many of these countries and some of them have continued to live with a variant or another of that system thereafter. Democracy is now also part of the universal landscape and will inevitably reverberate in the future constructs of all countries but this does not imply that democracy, in its western form, is necessarily the best way forward for all countries.
China, for one, has a very long history of state decision making going back to its early emperors some 5000 years ago. Over the last 2000 years the country also put in practice a political philosophy dating from the years 500BC that is ascribed to Confucius. The Chinese nation-civilization succeeded a feat no other country or civilization was able to attain. Through ups and downs it succeeded to reproduce itself to this very day. This is proof enough that there is definitely something working well in the Chinese traditional system of societal governance:
3.2.2 Impossible solutions to the intractable problems inherited from modernity
Economic problems will always find an answer in one way or another or through conscientious decision making or through natural evolution. Northern countries are unfortunately in a weak spot today and their answers are not auguring well for their future positioning in world affairs. As a natural rule of competition the void left by some is the gain of others. Other countries are thus advancing and taking the seats left open by lagging Northern economies. All in all economic problems are not really a drama for humanity. They are only a problem for these societies that are losing at the game of economic competition but in the meantime the broader game of societal evolution continues.
The same can't be said of the consequences for humanity of the convergence of the following factors:
All those factors have worldwide implications for the principle of life and are slowly impacting the economies of all societies around the world. Starting with the peaking of resources prices are climbing unrelentingly and in a gradually increasing fashion (the present fall in prices is the consequence of the economic crisis and is momentary). This is not inflation as we know it. It is more akin to a bottleneck in the economic activities of the human race that is necessitating structural changes in our economies. To make matters even worse there is no unanimity about the gravity of the problem nor about the answers to tackle the problem.
First about the problem. The resources our economies are using and that are listed, by geologists and other specialists in the field, to have peaked or to peak in the near distant future are numerous indeed. There is not a
100% unanimous agreement among those specialists about when exactly the peak is occurring for each of those resources but there is a quasi unanimous agreement that all these resources will peak indeed. The following graph is given by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and titled "Mineral commodity summaries 2008” (5)
World oil (all liquids) consumption
China Coal consumption. Peaking?
Peak oil is thus inevitably going to challenge humanity to find alternative sources of energy within a record short time to power its car, bus, train and plane fleets, its industrial equipments and all the appliances equipping peoples homes. In theory, I mean hypothetically, the mission is not impossible but promises to be challenging for the least and is going to necessitate a smart and voluntary political elite at the helm of power. But the reality of the matter is that replacing the world's use of fossil fuels by renewables or other miraculous sources is going to necessitate a lot of fossil fuels and other resources to build this new infrastructure which will reduce by as much the available energy to power life as usual which brings us to the Energy Return On Investment (9) that overturns the hypothetical possibility to convert the use of fossil fuels by renewables. This appears indeed to be an hypothesis that is not corroborated by the facts and the conclusion is that humanity will face a global energy crunch that will limit global economic activities at a far lower level.
To make matters even worse peak energy will be accompanied by peak minerals and metals. Again taken on its own the peak of one mineral can be overcome with the production of new nano-materials like carbon and ceramics or other. But what about peak energy + peak resources interacting and reinforcing the impact of each other? And what about the side-effects of nano-materials that scientists are starting to warn about? Are we going to lose our mind as a specie in the coming frenetic rush and just care to produce the stuff at the expanse of any other costs?
As we have seen the peak of energy and resources is going to challenge humanity's resourcefulness. But it is going to get even worse when accounting for the impact of dieing oceans and the disappearance of sea life. Now add to that the observed increasing soil erosion that is washing into the rivers the topsoils that sustain the agriculture of large swaths of territories around the world. If not alarmed yet what about the desertification of the agricultural lands of the Northern hemisphere by mid century? You still did not get the picture? What about the disappearance of the biggest metropolises like New York, Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and so many more under sea levels sometime after the middle of this century? Still not enough? Ok it seems you got the picture.
The question that arises from this exercise is how many such challenges can humanity overcome before to be overwhelmed by them? There is no possible certainty to such a question. We know for a fact that humanity is resilient but we also know that there is a limit to that resilience. We just don't know where is the threshold when that resilience breaks down.
Whatever are the unknowns a picture of our future is emerging. Humanity is going to be confronted by an ever increasing number of challenges that it will succeed to answer till the load becomes too heavy and societies sink one after the other under the weight. The more resilient societies will survive for the only reason that the space will be cleaning up around them. What I hope to have conveyed here is this idea that the path of the transition from modernity to what comes after modernity is going to be fraught with immense difficulties.
At the term of the transition the world will have been cleaned up with or without the help of humanity. I mean with or without human decision making such a clean up is going to take place and as a consequence the total population will be radically reduced. This will be another place indeed!
What is uncertain is what is going to be remembered from modernity. Will scientific advancement and technology survive the chaos of the transition or will they be lost forever? To answer that question with some prospect of validation in the future we should need to know how humanity will act along Late-Modernity. Will it recognize our predicament and take a pro-active attitude? In other worlds will humanity drive the direction of transformations or will it be a passive observer that feels overwhelmed by the natural evolution taking place. If humanity succeeds to surf on the waves of changes and its pro-active vision is successfully retained by societal evolution then some of the achievements of modernity could possibly be integrated in the worldview of societies in the historical era that comes after Modernity. But if it fails to follow the natural current it will fall and be ground to pieces in the maelstrom of chaotic forces out of which will emerge a set of possible futures from which one will impose itself as the historical era of After-Modernity. In that last scenario there will be no place for any trace of Modernity and humanity could possibly vanish from the face of the earth.
The outcome of the transition ultimately depends on humanity's ability to live its dream of the future. If humanity fails to dream, and has thus no vision of what future it wants, it will assuredly turn in circles and the future will pass it by but this is the content of part 4.
1. Wikipedia gives the following description "Magna Carta (Latin: "the Great Charter"), also called Magna Carta Libertatum (Latin: "the Great Charter of the Liberties"), is a charter issued by King John of England at Runnymede, near Windsor, on 15 June 1215.[a] First drafted by the Archbishop of Canterbury to make peace between the unpopular King and a group of rebel barons, it promised the protection of church rights, protection for the barons from illegal imprisonment, access to swift justice, and limitations on feudal payments to the Crown, to be implemented through a council of 25 barons."
2. Bourgeois is a French word meaning 'one from the burgh' or 'bourg' in old French and by extension the term bourgeoisie refers to 'those from the burgh' which implicitly refers to the accumulated wealth and the power that such wealth confers to the bourgeoisie.
3. Kubilai Khan was at the helm of the whole of Mongolia when he conquered China. So the whole Mongolian territory became part of the Chinese empire. It is only in the 20th century when China was very week and attacked by Japan that the Soviet Union took control over what is now called “Outer-Mongolia” which represents also some 20% of the present Chinese territory. The Chinese communists never called for the reintegration of Outer-Mongolia within the borders of modern day China because they were a client of the USSR till their dispute with Khrushchev in 1960. But it is interesting to note that Taiwan never accepted the loss of Outer-Mongolia and still has a Mongolia Commission, as well as a Tibetan Commission, within its government structure that the Republic inherited from the Chinese empire.
See Wikipedia: "The Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs Commission (MTAC; Chinese: 蒙藏委員會; pinyin: Měng Zàng Wěiyuánhuì) is one of two ministry-level commissions of the Executive Yuan in the Republic of China".
4. In 1577 the chief of the Tumet Mongols Al-than Khan conferred the honorific title "Dalai Lama" on Bsod-nams rgya-mtsho (Sonam Gyatso) who was one of the leaders of the Yellow school of Tibetan Buddhism ('Gyatso' translates to Dalai in Mongolian which means 'ocean' and Lama in Tibetan means "superior Man" or Guru). After Bsod-nams death a great-grand son of Al-than Khan was selected as the "soul-boy" or the reincarnation of Bsod-nams. This is how the title got institutionalized in Tibetan Buddhism and indicates the weight of political considerations in the designation of the soul boy. Yon-tan rgya-mtsho, the Great-Grand son of Al-than Khan was proclaimed the 4th Dalai Lama after the title 1st Dalai Lama had posthumously been conferred to Dge-dun Grub who was a disciple of Tsong-kha Pa the reforming monk who established Gda-lan (Ganden) as the first monastery of the Yellow school of Tibetan Buddhism. A disciple of Dge-dun Grub (1st Dalai), Dge-dun rgya-mtsho was conferred the title 2nd Dalai Lama also posthumously. Bsod-nam came to be known as the 3rd Dalai Lama.
In 1751 emperor Qianlong officially put the 7th Dalai Lama at the head of the Tibetan political administration. From that period dates the Dalai Lama's political leadership over Tibet (head of state). The Potala Monastery became the chief residence of the Dalai since the 5th Dalai Lama. It was also the main seat of political power of Tibet. The Gandan Tripa (abbot of Ganden monastery) is the nominal head of the Gelugpa school (Yellow hat) while the religious head of the school is the Panchen Lama who is also the abbot of the Monatery at Xigaze.
Because of his function as head of the Tibetan State the Dalai Lama became the most visible of Tibetan leaders and because of his visibility he became the most popular. It is a fact nevertheless that he is not the nominal nor religious leader of the Yellow school of Tibetan Buddism.
The power of the Panchen Lama is transmitted to his "soul boy" or the child in who that leader reincarnates. In practice a reincarnation is a decision taken by the surviving religious authorities in concert with Beijing that must affix its seal of approval on their decision.
Beijing has the 'control' over the 2 children who were presented as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama (one was designated by the Dalai Lama and the other by Lamas recognized by Beijing). The Ganden Tripa's function is elective and will side with the government in exile.
When the Dalai Lama passes away the search for his reincarnation will be decided primarily by the Panchen Lama, the Ganden Tripa, and Beijing. In other words the Panchen Lama and Beijing will carry the day with the Tibetan population.
Traditionally until the soul boy of the Dalai Lama reaches 18 years old and takes over his functions those are filled by a Regent. Historically, the designation of a regent has always been fraught with conflict. Not surprisingly the same will be the case when the 14th Dalai passes away. He has personally initiated the fight to come with his declarations about his reincarnation. The fact remains that most Tibetans live in Tibet China and with no strong popular leader in sight the authorities in Beijing will most probably have the last word in the designation of a regent who will be accepted by the majority of Tibetans. The Regent will then have more than 10 years to prepare the Tibetan population to the reign of the 15th Dalai.
5. United States Geological Survey (USGS) and titled "Mineral commodity summaries 2008”
6. Thinking about collapse (among the best):
- TOD or The Oil Drum is definitely one of the most authoritative sources about everything concerning oil and fossil fuels. TOD has put the key under the rug in September 2013. Here is how TOD presented itself in a last post: "These pages have hosted over 7,500 articles covering every aspect of the global energy system. It was not unusual for a post to attract over 600 comments, many of which were well informed and contained charts and links to other internet sources. The site would become known for a uniquely high level of discourse where armchair analysts of all stripes added their knowledge to threads in a courteous, and ultimately pro-social way that energy experts at hedge funds, corporations or universities might not have the freedom to do. It is this emergent property of smart people sharing knowledge on a critical topic to humanity's future that will be missed."
"The Oil Drum writers: Where are they now?"
- "Nature Bats Last" the blog of Guy McPherson. Guy is Professor Emeritus in Biological Sciences at the University of Arizona Tucson. His thesis is that near-term human extinction is guaranteed. Check his extensive presentation at “Climate-change summary and update”
- "Question Everything" the blog of George Mobus. George is Associate Professor in Computer Science & Systems, Computer Engineering & Systems, at the Institute of Technology, University of Washington, Tacoma. George is one of my preferred contemporary thinkers. He states that "We have so damaged the Earth's systems already, and there is high momentum in causing further damage due to the long-term lags in the kinds of impacts we have had, that some estimates for the future carrying capacity of the planet may be in the tens of millions." George nevertheless tirelessly pursues his interest in presenting "...a comprehensive introduction to systems structure, function, and modeling as applied in all fields of science and engineering." In other words he is on a quest for knowledge. Check his new book on systems.
7. Thinking about progress.
- Ray Kurzweil is one of the most famous among the many who trust blindly our common future to science.
- A one-go website where to get a collection of links about the optimistic vision of scientism: "Dealing with the transition to the information age" is a compilation of links by Jeff Burdges on 'Metafilter'
8. Oil and Coal in China:
- Oil1: "Global crude oil + condensate (C+C) production as reported by the EIA  less Canadian syncrude  (oil sands) and N American light tight oil [3, 4] (Bakken and Eagleford). Chart not zero scaled. Note how conventional C+C production (blue) rose to 73 million barrels per day in May 2005 but has since been following a bumpy plateau. It remains to be seen if 73 million barrels per day will emerge as the peak in cheap conventional oil production. All growth in global liquids supplies has come from unconventional oil, biofuel and natural gas liquids."
- Oil2: "Global total liquids production now stands at 90.2 million barrels per day . Since May 2005, all growth in liquids production has come from NGL, unconventional oil and bio fuel"
- Oil3: " Global liquids excluding conventional crude and condensate. Note that the energy content of NGL is about 70% of crude oil and that significant energy is required to produce syncrude from oil sands and to produce biofuels. Refinery gains represent volume expansion of liquids during the refining process."
- Coal1: "it’s far from agreed upon that coal consumption has peaked in China. The International Energy Agency does not expect Chinese demand to peak this decade. The US Energy Information Administration projects Chinese coal consumption rising through 2035. Wood Mackenzie expects coal consumption in China could double by 2030. And Bloomberg New Energy Finance, despite a bullish posture towards renewables, expects China to add between 340 and 450 gigawatts of coal-fired power plants over the next 15 years – an addition larger than all of America’s coal plants combined."
- Coal2: The Clean Air Task Force's "depiction of China’s projected power generation by source in 2030, based on installed capacity figures contained in Bloomberg New Energy Finance, “The Future of China’s Power Sector: From Centralized and Coal-Powered to Distributed and Renewable?” (2013). Assumed capacity factors: Wind (onshore and offshore): 40%; Solar (utility and distributed): 25%; Gas and coal: 80%; Nuclear: 90%; Hydro: 40%. Fuel types excluded due to data unavailability from the source: geothermal, waste, biomass, solar thermal, oil. The share of offshore wind in the generation mix was estimated visually due to data unavailability from the source."
9. Energy Return On Investment = EROI.
The Encyclopedia of Earth gives these excellent definitions of EROI:
- Energy return on investment (EROI) is the ratio of the energy delivered by a process to the energy used directly and indirectly in that process.
- EROI is defined as: quantity of energy supplied / quantity of energy used in supply process
For more about EROI:
- Collection of articles on The Encyclopedia of Earth
- Collection of articles on The Oil Drum (TOD)
Video of the week
Articles of the week
"The Broken Template" by Jim Kunstler on Clusterfuck Nation
"Democracy-loving media’s misleading coverage of Hong Kong protest" by Ivy Lee in EastAsiaForum
"Confronting the Technological Society" by Samuel Matlack in 'The new Atlantis'
"As inequality soars, the nervous super rich are already planning their escapes" by Alec Hogg in 'The Guardian'
"The One Percent’s Great Escape" by Robert Parry in 'Consortium News'
"Abrupt Climate Change is Here" by Robert Hunziker in 'Counterpunch'
Artist of the week
Steven Hirsch (photographer)