Something In the Air

World average GDP per capita 1500 to 2003. Dat...

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June 25, 2011

The sour-sweat odor of desperation seems everywhere.  Can you smell it?  It surrounds the ideological pissing contest between the Republicans and Democrats over debt reduction and whether (or not) to raise the debt limit.

It hovered in the room all through Mr. Bernanke’s dour, befuddled press conference last Wednesday and his admission that, “We don’t have a precise read on why this slower pace of growth is persisting …”, as the economic bad news continued to  pile up.

It filtered into our own and the world stock markets as the week and the guessing game went on.,

EvenPresident Obama’s announcement of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan had a strong scent of “gittin’ out while the gittin’s good” desperation about it.

The air over Europe reeks of it this weekend as the European Union waits to see if the Greek parliament will approve the Union’s latest generous offer to save Greece if only they will bend over and agree to “take one” for the European (and world) economy.

World oil markets reeled from its foul odor (and then, recuperated slightly) as the IEA announced a release of  60 million barrels of oil onto the market over the next six months from the reserves of 28 countries – including the 30 million barrels announced by President Obama from our own strategic reserves.  This, presumably, because high oil prices are now threatening the still tipsy world economy.  And the same IEA announced that it would do it again, if necessary.  “The International Energy Agency is ready to release more oil onto the market if necessary, Nobuo Tanaka, Executive Director of the agency, told CNBC in a first on CNBC interview Friday morning.

“We are ready to act at any time and if we have to we will continue,” Tanaka said. He added that the watchdog “sometimes had to bite”.”

(So, what happened to the Saudi promise to raise production to 10 million bpd and take care of that little problem for us?)

Even the staid, scientific IPCC seemed befouled by the stench as it sponsored a conference in Lima, Peru, last week on geo-engineering fixes for our increasingly dangerous global climate change.  “About 60 scientists and international relations experts gathered this week in Lima to contemplate the rapidly growing body of geo-engineering science and, in effect, consider a once-unthinkable question: Should the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, which oversees Kyoto (and its eventual successor), seriously consider geo-engineering as part of its arsenal for fighting global warming?

The meeting in Lima is an indication that the science of geo-engineering is gaining a new aura of legitimacy on the world stage, even though few would dispute that it represents a drastic response to arresting climate change. Not only is it rife with complicated legal and ethical questions, there is also the terrifying prospect of what could happen if one of these global-scale interventions fails or has unforeseen consequences …

This week’s session was different, however. Hosted by the UN-chartered Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the meeting marked the first time the Nobel Prize-winning organization has turned its scholarly attention to a set of ideas many critics dismiss as fanciful, and possibly destructive ..”

Desperate times call for desperate measures, indeed.  Everywhere one looks, it seems, the world’s movers and shakers are in a frenzy to preserve business as usual and all its perquisites, without any real sacrifice on their part.  And most of the rest of us seem paralyzed into inaction by the sheer, chaotic lunacy of it all.

Economies need two things to continue growth – an increasing supply of energy (mainly cheap oil) to make things and an increasing supply of consumers to buy the things made.  As the production of cheap, easy to reach oil diminishes, with nothing that can fully take its place, and the costs – both human and financial – of ignoring environmental destruction and climate change grow worldwide, both energy and consumers are in increasingly short supply.

The laws of nature and the equations derived from them are unyielding, no matter how hard we try to find a way around them.  I think that, unless world leaders recognize and accept this – and are honest with their people about it – the odor of desperation will only grow stronger, their responses more frenzied, as they realize that the something in the air is the accelerating rumble of collapse.

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2 Responses to Something In the Air

  1. Bill Hicks says:

    The world “leaders” will not recognize or accept it until they have no other choice, and perhaps not even then. They essentially can’t, for if they did the world would quickly fly apart in frenzied panic.

    The visionary novel, Random Acts of Senseless Violence, features an America undergoing rapid economic and political collapse. Markets are crashing, citizens are rioting everywhere, presidents are being assassinated in rapid succession–but the media continues its happy talk as all is normal.

    That book was published in 1994, and every day I become a little more convinced that we’re heading towards the future it portrays.

    • theozarker says:

      I’ve heard so many media people and guest “experts” casually mention that the empire is in decline, I can’t help but think they know, but just can’t accept the reality of it. It’s incomprehensible to them that it could be any other way but business as usual. Or maybe they kid themselves that we can go into a “gentle” decline like the British Empire did, but peak oil and climate change have made that impossible.
      I don’t know if that book will be our particular fate, but I agree we’re headed for an unbelievably hard landing unless something changes quickly.


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