The Madness at the Center of the World

March 30, 2013tarsandsflickr1

The snow and cold at the beginning of the week turned to rain and, with only partial sunshine, gradual warmth over the rest of the week. Perhaps that explains why, over the last two warm and sunny days, the inertia of the previous few days overcame me and I did not, could not, haul those forty-pound bags of manure out to the backyard and work on my garden.

Instead, I stayed inside and, between intermittent bouts of boring housework, tried to keep up with world news while pondering that growing madness at the center of the world, that news describes.

I’m not thinking here of the natural world, the closed system that meets the momentary madness of a species which grows beyond its food supply with die-off and, in doing so, tends back toward equilibrium within the system.

What I’ve been thinking about is the world of seemingly open, non-linear systems created by the madness of a species which believes it exists outside that closed system of the natural world – receiving (taking, really) energy and mass from the external environment, moving them through the various systems and exporting the spent energy and waste back into the environment without consequences.

Where did that madness come from? At the beginning of our evolution as a separate species, distinguished from our ape ancestors by the ability to walk upright and our opposable thumbs, we lived within the natural world. When did that change?

Perhaps the seeds of that madness were planted with the realization that, with our opposable thumbs we could create tools superior to those primitive twigs and stones and branches used by other big-brained species. Or, that animals we found and ate when they’d died could be hunted and killed for food. That they provided other useful items such as furs for warmth, bone for needles, or could be harnessed for load hauling or travel.

Perhaps it came later, as we learned we could gather seeds and plant them for a more permanent supply of food, or domesticate other animals. I wonder if the need to stay in one place and tend to our food supplies led us to settle in groups, build sturdier homes and enclosures, better weapons for protection – not only from other small groups of humans, but from nature, itself – infected us with the madness.

However the infection came about, since the dawn of the fossil fuel era we have exponentially expanded the systems and spread the infection worldwide. Because these systems are non-linear, they are sensitive to small changes occurring along the “edges” of the system. These changes can amplify and reverberate through the various systems because they are co-dependant. Over the last forty years, one such change has been the “usefulness” of the energy entering the system. Production of cheap, high EROEI crude oil has declined and is increasingly replaced with less “useful” oil and fossil fuels. Another change might be in the usefulness of the information transmitted through and among the various systems. In 2008, the unreliability of information transmitted through these various systems from the financial system sent reverberations throughout the various systems, “crashing” the aggregate (pushing it into a “phase change”). What happened in Cyprus may very quickly push it into yet another phase change which will reverberate through the aggregate systems. Because the decreased amount of useful energy entering these systems is pushing them toward a drop to a much lower energy state, at some point these systems will not recover.

And we cannot make up for that drop in EROEI needed to maintain them in their current state with renewables. (Which, the longer we wait, require increasing amounts of that less useful energy to make the equipment to use renewables – which are themselves sources of less useful energy.) So, the madness continues.

I wish I could believe, we’d stop the madness before these various systems collapse, but I do not. Tomorrow when my son comes over to help me carry the manure to the backyard, I will spend the day getting my early garden in. I’ll continue to repeat this process of relearning my place in nature as long as I am able. That is my stand against the madness.

We have trashed our natural environment with the waste we’ve exported from these systems, but only in the sense of its usefulness to us.  Nature continues to fight back.  Whether, in our madness, we will trash our usefulness to nature remains to be seen. I am not hopeful.

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8 Responses to The Madness at the Center of the World

  1. cactus wren says:

    I hear you loud and clear,L.

    I`ve been in the same state of do nothingness. My SIL built me a couple more boxes this week. They sit,with nothing in them. My pile of well-rotted manure is sitting about 60 feet from them. I did decide where I want them moved, but didn`t do a damn thing. Well, not technically correct. I did put dishes in the dw, and swabbed off the counters and cabinets.

    The weirdness in the world, money wise and politics are all disturbing. But, it`s the Arctic ice thing that has me the most upset.

    I`m expecting 2 new great-grands this year. One next month, and 1 in the Fall. I dearly love those babies, but I am so fearful for their future. Will they even have one?

    • theozarker says:

      Hi cactus wren, good to know I’m not the only one suffering from do nothingness. 😀 The changes to climate patterns and melting of sea ice has me worried too. Congratulations on the coming GGBs. I worry about the coming generations’ future, too. Sigh.
      Well, my son is definitely coming over tomorrow to haul the manure out to the garden, so he’ll keep me on the straight and narrow – haha.

  2. witsendnj says:

    After much wonderings along those lines, I decided the madness began when we discovered we could make and control fire. So I blame Prometheus:

    About 3 weeks ago I got inspired to garden again after a couple of years of letting things get compeltely out of control, and went outside and cleared out weeds and even planted some peas. Then winter came back! I bet we have two weeks of spring and then go straight to broiling summer. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is the year all hell breaks loose and we have megafires all over America. So I’m trying to appreciate every moment that remains even though I too have do-nothing-ness.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Wit, liked the blog post on Prometheus. My son did come over yesterday and help me haul the manure to the garden. Last night another cold front moved through and we’re back to late winter again. Hopefully I can get back to the garden by Friday. We’re out of the drought for now. We’ll see what April and May bring, as far as rain goes. But summer may go droughty again. Just don’t know anymore.

  3. zeke says:

    Like you, I watch the madness, almost, with awe. It’s amazing how many millions (billions?) can go on as though the future is assured. I follow economics, energy and climate changes as I have for decades. I read utterly senseless blogs/comments that are in clear defiance of the world I can see happening around me. More and more, I feel like I’m a participant in a science fiction movie. Virtually nothing on TV has any meaning for me and the news certainly doesn’t. Most people call my reality too depressing as they talk of Idol, Survivor and million dollar homes on HGTV talking the “don’t worry, be happy” mantra. I stay to myself which fits well with my PTSD.

    I press on with my daily life. Taking my old truck/camper on a trip next week. I’ve got out my ancient Honda motorcycle and cruise the back roads this summer. Some cords of wood to cut and split. I remember a line in a Kurt Vonnegut book “and so it goes”.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey Zeke, it does sort of boggle the mind sometimes, doesn’t it? I guess I’m lucky, I learned pretty early on that the future is never assured. Having worked through the emotional repercussions from that, I can kick back and watch the sideshow until I kick off this mortal coil. 😀
      Have a good time on your road trip.

  4. graveday says:

    Enjoyed the Prometheus piece too. Sitting in upstate Calif. it was informative to hear all the views about a popular repugnican. We’ve pretty much left Sweatygrabber in the dust of his lust. He should have stayed in his smoking tent.
    There wasn’t much blow back from the notion it doesn’t matter who is prez, and that Obama bin Lyin broke all his promises and looks more and more like Bush with a briefcase. And nobody picked up the thread that Sandy was just the first shot across the bow.
    Ah well, got some old beets to dig up and put in the compost. Sigh.

    • theozarker says:

      Hey grave. Doesn’t seem to matter who thinks they are in control these days. They can push this way or that, trying to get these systems to do what they want, but I think things has escaped their manipulations and are headed for a showdown with nature’s reality. Cold and rainy today here. But headed for warmer days. Hang in there, good buddy.

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