EcoMash™: 3 Trillion Dollar Man Killed

All the pundits are out in force weighing in on the elimination of Osama Bin Laden, an achievement that is symbolic at best at this point, and that is still costing us money, with the final tab expected to be over 3 trillion dollars.

A few days after 9/11, I wrote a short essay on bicyclewire.com, my website at the time. This sentence provides a good segway to the rest of today’s EcoMash:

One of the scariest things about last Tuesday’s attack is the way it continues to reverberate through every aspect of our lives, reminding us just how complex the infrastructure of modern life is, and how we must continue to feed the never sated, never satisfied engines of commerce to keep it all standing.

Just imagine if, instead of searching for weapons in Iraq or trying to remake Afghanistan in our image, we spent all those billions on rebuilding our country: our railroads, our energy systems, our local economies.

Instead, ten years on, we’re all broke and more in need of fixing than ever. But don’t take my word for it. Here’s Jeremy Grantham, the Chief Investment Officer of GMO Capital, in an essay he wrote for his investment newsletter, Time to Wake Up: Days of Abundant Resources and Falling Prices Are Over Forever:

How we deal with this unsustainable surge in demand and not just “peak oil,” but “peak everything,” is going to be the greatest challenge facing our species. But whether we rise to the occasion or not, there will be some great fortunes made along the way in finite resources and resource efficiency, and it would be sensible to participate.

My italics: I appreciate Jeremy’s no-nonsense dedication to his occupation—it’s like setting up a lemonade stand on the Titanic as the decks begin to tilt. The piece is well worth reading for anyone interested in the future of the planet.

Meanwhile, the paper of record is still flogging growth and consumerism as the answer to our economic woes:

“The economy lost steam in the first quarter. Growth in personal consumption — the single largest component of the economy — slowed markedly…In all, economic growth slowed from an annual rate of 3.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010 to 1.8 percent in the first quarter of 2011.”

Contrast The New York Times promoting the idea that creating jobs for people so they can shop is the answer to what Mr. Grantham, in charge of over 100 billion dollars, has to say about growth:

Any improvement at all in lifestyle for our grandchildren will take much more thoughtful behavior from political leaders and more restraint from everyone. Rapid growth is not ours by divine right; it is not even mathematically possible over a sustained period….

He gives a great example of what would have happened if ancient Egypt had a compound growth of one percent:

In 3,000 years the original population of Egypt – let’s say 3 million – would have been multiplied 9 trillion times! There would be nowhere to park the people, let alone the wealth. …The bottom line really, though, is that no compound growth can be sustainable. Yet, how far this reality is from the way we live today, with our unrealistic levels of expectations and, above all, the optimistic outcomes that are simply assumed by our leaders. Now no one, in round numbers, wants to buy into the implication that we must rescale our collective growth ambitions.

Again I urge you to read the essay in its entirety on The Oil Drum. It’s well-written and not wonky.

But how could this all be true? Wouldn’t our leaders and our journalists let us know the real deal? Not according to James Kunstler, who, in his essay this week, Lying is the New Normal, also believes we ,the great triple-washed consumerist masses, are complicit:

…the odor of desperation all through our culture and economy is becoming a necrotic stench as we enter the warm seasons and the roadkill turns. Something tragic is going down in this land of ours and powerful people want to pretend powerfully that everything is okay. The public is not off the hook, either. They desperately wish to be gulled, snookered, distracted, played.

A very funny bonus is the paragraph Kunstler writes about Republican presidential frontrunner The Donald. Check it out.

To finish up this week’s Mash back on a more local level, the American Lung Association, as reported in the Poughkeepsie Journal, has given Dutchess County an F in air quality. Well thank you, but I’m not sure what to make of this. And how can Ulster County right across the river get a C? Is there some kind of county air barrier up there? What do these letters really mean, other than an opportunity for a local environmentalist to tell us to buy new boilers and drive less? I realize air quality is important, but to go back to the sinking ship for a moment, given climate change, aka global warming, isn’t handing out grades for air quality a bit like complaining about the carpet offgassing in your stateroom on the Titanic?

 

One Response to EcoMash™: 3 Trillion Dollar Man Killed
  1. Steve Knowles
    May 6, 2011 | 5:37 pm

    And yet our elected officials (except for one) voted in the ridiculous “recycling center” that will produced ridiculous amounts of diesel pollution, along with increased traffic problems, with a possibility of net LOWER tax revenue for the city, due to decreased property values near the facility, and possibly HIGHER taxes for everyone in Beacon if this facility results in the need for a new sewage treatment plant. With Beacon’s emphasis on the arts and tourism, I still can’t believe this thing got voted in, especially considering the company already has a facility across the river.

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