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The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil

 
nerak
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The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Published on 12 Jan 2006 by Energy Bulletin. Archived on 12 Jan 2006.

The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
by Shepherd Bliss


A famous story that has endured through the centuries is recorded in the final pages of the Bible, Revelation 6. It may have relevance to our time and provide images for us to understand our historical reality. I am not totally satisfied with this tale, but it has merit: the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The figures are interpreted variously. Some describe them as War, Pestilence, Famine, and Death.

Given my firm belief in free will and choice, I think that we can influence history, even individually, so I do not subscribe to a deterministic or apocalyptic view. We are not doomed, unless we remain passive and inactive in the face of these threats. Many direct actions are and can be taken to keep the thundering horsemen at bay. Consequently, this article will also indicate efforts occurring at local levels, especially with respect to transforming Peak Oil from a threat into a potential opportunity.

If we take this ancient allegory and apply it to this beginning of the 21st century, what might we see through this old lens? Perhaps we could translate the story to our time as the Four Horsemen of Industrial Society.

War seems to lead the charging Horsemen—be it tribal, religious, nuclear, or high-tech conventional. The ritual warfare of primitive people—in which often there were few or even no deaths—has developed into modern barbaric practices of torture, genocide, ethnic cleansing, and now the real possibility of global annihilation by an intended or accidental nuclear exchange.

Human Over-Population would be my candidate for the second horseman. It worsens the other three conditions, driving them to fiery extremes. The growing number of humans already consume more than our fair share of the globe’s limited and non-renewable resources, without adequate consideration of the consequences to other creatures, life forms, and the elements that sustain human and other forms of life. We continue our expansion without a sense of the finiteness of resources and the limits to growth.

Climate Change follows closely and gets bolder each day with the multiple ways in which we alter and spoil our soil, atmosphere, and water. Fortunately, an increasing number of people are working on global heating, understand how burning fossil fuels that release greenhouse gases relates climate change to oil depletion and are building a science-based mass movement to deal with this horseman. However, the majority of corporations and individuals continue deadly consumptive practices that change the planet’s climate.

Moving up fast in the passing lane, from this reporter’s observation post, is Peak Oil. Combined with the other three--which provide a hazardous context--it may be the soonest to visibly hit industrial societies hard, while the others continue their increasingly threatening happy_bunnying. One blogger, Steve Lagavulin, has already predicted that 2006 may be labeled the “Year of Peak Oil” because of the tremendous media and public attention that he expects it will get (deconsumption.typepad.com).

Hurricane Katrina was an example of how Climate Change and Peak Oil can work together as a team. Fired by a warmed Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico it hit the center of America’s domestic oil supply and refining operations, revealing how vulnerable they are. The centralization and complexity of industrial society makes it easily wounded by the fully-armed Four Horsemen and other threats following close behind them. Peak Oil may soon impact oil-dependent societies in catastrophic ways and cause considerable chaos, as suggested by various authors, including James Howard Kunstler in his book “The Long Emergency” and his recent “Predictions for 2006” at www.energybulletin.net. Or some foolish world leaders might push their nuclear buttons, causing even greater destruction.

Peak Oil may be riding what the Bible describes as the white horse, since it is both a threat and an opportunity. It depends on how we respond--the sooner the better, thus minimizing damage and maximizing the opportunities. Some people are already preparing for a post carbon society by conserving energy, being more efficient in its use, and shifting to renewable, non-polluting energy sources, such as solar, wind, and waves.

Peak Oil differs from War, Over-Population, and Climate Change because we can transform it to our advantage. It can be a wake-up call to wean ourselves off the addictive burning of fossil fuels and high-energy cultures. Sustainable responses to Peak Oil could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and eventually even the possibility of global warfare, which runs on huge volumes of oil.

At least one prominent Peak Oil theorist, Kenneth Deffeyes, author of “Beyond Oil” and retired geology professor from Princeton, has used the Four Horsemen image to talk about oil depletion. As the supply of petroleum diminishes and its demand heightens, it will send the prices of gasoline, heating oil and other petroleum-based products soaring. “The least-bad scenario is a hard landing, global recession worse than the 1930s,” Deffeyes is quoted in the Oct. 16 USA Today as saying. “The worst-case borrows from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: war, famine. pestilence, and death.”

“He’s not kidding,” reporter David J. Lynch adds. “Production of pesticides and fertilizers needed to sustain crop yields rely on large quantities of chemicals derived from petroleum. And Stanford University’s Amos Nur says China and the United States could ‘slide into a military conflict’ over oil.” The industrialization of China and India, with their huge populations, makes them a driving force in the increased demand for oil, as its supply simultaneously diminishes.

The Four Horsemen are indeed a team and ride together. They are connected at the neck. By working on any of them, one can potentially influence all four in positive ways.

Deffeyes, however, does not talk about how running out of oil could in fact turn us toward more sustainable practices that reduce damage to the Earth. An increasingly number of people are educating themselves about energy, developing energy literacy, and moving beyond studying it to taking direct actions to change their energy usages.

One area where such energy work is actively occurring is the San Francisco Bay Area. The author that most champions the development of a Peak Oil mass movement is Richard Heinberg. He lives in Sonoma County in the North Bay and has written “The Party’s Over” and “Powerdown.” Two active groups in the area are the successful Climate Protection Campaign (www.climateprotectioncampaign.org) and the new Beyond Oil Sonoma County. The mayor of the small town of Sebastopol in Sonoma County, Larry Robinson, has appointed a Citizens Advisory Group on Energy Vulnerability to deal with Peak Oil and related issues. He joined with others in the fall of 2005 to begin planning two bioregional gatherings on energy vulnerability, one scheduled for May 21 with elected officials and the other for Sept. 29.

The Post Carbon Institute (www.postcarbon.org) and Willits Economic LocaLization (WELL) (www.willitseconomiclocalization.org) in the small North Bay town are examples of other groups taking positive actions to organize communities to respond to Peak Oil and related threats. Post Carbon has helped organize “outposts” around North America. WELL is also organizing a bioregional gathering for the spring. Such groups can potentially transform Peak Oil threats into opportunities to build better living arrangements of humans more in harmony with nature and its environmental resources, including the climate within which we must dwell.

Such local groups advocate renewable energy resources such as solar, wind, and waves. Unfortunately, centralized, industrial corporations are currently promoting “clean coal” and nuclear energy with million-dollar advertising campaigns as the appropriate energy replacements for oil.

If there were to be an apocalypse, of any sort, what would end? I doubt that fundamentalist Christians are correct that everything would end. Oil-dependent, climate-changing industrialization would be most likely to end. What then?

Some societies, including indigenous ones, would survive and could even prosper, as would some individuals. Those who have already left water-scarce areas, big cities, and large metropolitan areas for rural areas where the climate is mild, water is abundant and growing food is easier, may be more likely to manage potential catastrophes. People who are off the electrical grid, get their water from catchment and/or nearby streams, and grow their own food are more likely to manage oil descent. Self-reliant people living in community with the skills to take care of themselves are more likely to prosper than those dependent upon centralized energy systems for their water, food, entertainment, and lifestyles.

The relationship of Climate Change and Peak Oil and work on them recently have become discussion topics. I wrote about this in a review of British geologist Jeremy Leggett’s recent book, called “Empty Tank” in the US and “Half Gone” in the UK. The review was published in various places under the title “Climate Change Expert’s New Book on Oil Depletion.” It can be seen at www.energybulletin.net and at www.climateprotectionblog.com, where one can add comments.

“Thinking about both climate change and peak oil requires new thinking and new mechanisms,” asserted permaculturist Rob Hopkins in a review of a booklet by British economist David Fleming. The review is available at www.energybulletin.net. This review and booklet offer non-apocalyptic, solution-oriented views, though they are somewhat idealistic, abstract, and impractical, in my opinion. The review suggests permaculture—a holistic system of design and agriculture with nature in mind--as one of the helpful things people can do to keep the Four Horsemen at bay. Rather than “new thinking,” perhaps what we need is different thinking, which might be a return to some old-fashioned local thinking and doing.

One group in Hawai’i that has begun to host Peak Oil gatherings is the permaculture La’akea Community (www.permaculture-hawaii.com). A participant in that process, Galen Kelley, commented on the Four Horsemen allegory as follows, “So, the four horsemen of the apocalypse are happy_bunnying into present time. Indeed. And it seems they have offspring. I would have to add the dark horse, the one we all have to outrun. It's cantering 'cross our psyches like necro-shadow, leaving a festering fear and an inert despair. It is that horse that must be lassoed and broken of its dark mission. From there the others may prove manageable.”

What do you think about the Four Horsemen allegory and applying it to our own historical moment?

(Dr. Shepherd Bliss, sb3@pon.net, writes for the Hawai’i Island Journal and owns Kokopelli Farm in Northern California.)



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time flies in a linear mind
Optimistic Aussie from Perth

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01/24/2006 08:01 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
"Human Over-Population would be my candidate for the second horseman. It worsens the other three conditions, driving them to fiery extremes. The growing number of humans already consume more than our fair share of the globe’s limited and non-renewable resources, without adequate consideration of the consequences to other creatures, life forms, and the elements that sustain human and other forms of life. We continue our expansion without a sense of the finiteness of resources and the limits to growth."

Disinfo and crap. So easy to spot. the above is just one example.

The thread title is a dead give away. Bunk!

Malthusians! ie Prince Phillip and alike would be proud of this.
chook
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01/24/2006 08:11 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
""Human Over-Population would be my candidate for the second horseman. It worsens the other three conditions, driving them to fiery extremes.""

+------
i don't think there is "over-population" most of the people i know - in US, Japan, Korea, Australia/NZ , Europe are only having one or 2 kids at most. infact so many married couple are choosing not to have kids. in our grandma's days - they have 5 to 8 kids easy.

and in most african countries - people are being decimated by the millions due to AIDS and other diseases.

what over population?
nerak (OP)

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01/24/2006 08:37 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
I disagree.......Overpopulation 'is main threat to planet'

Source: Copyright 2006, Independent
Date: January 7, 2006
Byline: Steve Connor

Climate change and global pollution cannot be adequately tackled without addressing the neglected issue of the world's booming population, according to two leading scientists.

Professor Chris Rapley, director of the British Antarctic Survey, and Professor John Guillebaud, vented their frustration yesterday at the fact that overpopulation had fallen off the agenda of the many organisations dedicated to saving the planet.

The scientists said dealing with the burgeoning human population of the planet was vital if real progress was to be made on the other enormous problems facing the world.

"It is the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about" Professor Guillebaud said. "Unless we reduce the human population humanely through family planning, nature will do it for us through violence, epidemics or starvation."

Professor Guillebaud said he decided to study the field of human reproduction more than 40 years ago specifically because of the problems he envisaged through overpopulation.

His concerns were echoed by Professor Rapley, an expert on the effects of climate change on the Antarctic, who pointed out that this year an extra 76 million people would be added to the 6.5 billion already living on Earth, which is twice as many as in 1960.

By the middle of the century, the United Nations estimates that the world population is likely to increase to more than nine billion, which is equivalent to an extra 200,000 people each day. Professor Rapley said the extra resources needed to sustain this growth in population would put immense strains on the planet's life-support system even if pollution emissions per head could be dramatically reduced.

"Although reducing human emissions to the atmosphere is undoubtedly of critical importance, as are any and all measures to reduce the human environmental 'footprint', the truth is that the contribution of each individual cannot be reduced to zero. Only the lack of the individual can bring it down to nothing," Professor Rapley says in an article for the BBC website.

"So if we believe that the size of the human 'footprint' is a serious problem - and there is much evidence for this - then a rational view would be that along with a raft of measures to reduce the footprint per person, the issue of population management must be addressed."

Professor Rapley says the explosive growth in the human population and the concomitant effects on the environment have been largely ignored by many of those concerned with climate change. "It is a bombshell of a topic, with profound and emotive issues of ethics, morality, equity and practicability," he says.

"So controversial is the subject that it has become the Cinderella of the great sustainability debate - rarely visible in public, or even in private.

"In interdisciplinary meetings addressing how the planet functions as an integrated whole, demographers and population specialists are usually notable by their absence.''
Professor Guillebaud, who co-chairs the Optimum Population Trust, said it became politically incorrect about 25 years ago to bring up family planning in discussing the environmental problems of the developing world. The world population needed to be reduced by nearly two-thirds if climate change was to be prevented and everyone on the planet was to enjoy a lifestyle similar to that of Europeans, Professor Guillebaud said.

An environmental assessment by the conservation charity WWF and the Worldwatch Institute in Washington found that humans were now exploiting about 20 per cent more renewable resources than can be replaced each year.

Professor Guillebaud said this meant it would require the natural resources equivalent to four more Planet Earths to sustain the projected 2050 population of nine billion people.

"The figures demonstrate the folly of concentrating exclusively on lifestyles and technology and ignoring human numbers in our attempts to combat global warming," he said. "We need to think about climate changers - human beings and their numbers - as well as climate change."

Some environmentalists have argued that is not human numbers that are important, but the relative use of natural resources and production of waste such as carbon dioxide emissions. They have suggested that the planet can sustain a population of nine billion people or even more provided that everyone adopts a less energy-intensive lifestyle based on renewable sources of energy rather than fossil fuels.

But Professor Guillebaud said: "We urgently need to stabilise and reduce human numbers. There is no way that a population of nine billion - the UN's medium forecast for 2050 - can meet its energy needs without unacceptable damage to the planet and a great deal of human misery."

Crowded Earth

* The human population stands at 6.5 billion and is projected to rise to more than 9 billion by 2050.

* In less than 50 years the human population has more than doubled from its 1960 level of 3 billion.

* China is the most populous country with more than 1.3 billion people. India is second with more than 1.1 billion.

* By about 2030 India is expected to exceed China with nearly 1.5 billion people.

* About one in every three people alive today is under the age of 20, which means that the population will continue to grow as more children reach sexual maturity.

* Britain's population of 60 million is forecast to grow by 7 million over the next 25 years and by at least 10 million over the next 60 years, mainly through immigration.

* This is equivalent to an extra 57 towns the size of Luton (pop 184,000)

* By the time you have finished reading this column, an estimated 100 babies have been born in the world.


Originally posted at: [link to news.independent.co.uk]



More Information on "population over" - ClimateArk web page search results | Eco-Portal site link search results [link to www.climateark.org]
time flies in a linear mind
Optimistic Aussie from Perth

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01/24/2006 08:41 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
"An environmental assessment by the conservation charity WWF and the Worldwatch Institute in Washington found that humans were now exploiting about 20 per cent more renewable resources than can be replaced each year."

...Sigh, did you know?

[link to www.larouchepub.com]

[link to www.larouchepub.com]

etc etc.
nerak (OP)

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01/24/2006 08:45 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Im afraid people just don't look at the big picture, can't see whats right in front of their eye's. Things will change, one way or the other.
time flies in a linear mind
Anonymous Coward
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01/24/2006 09:06 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Over population IS the root of all other problems.
Play Civilization III, once you figure it out, you will have a much better understanding why governments act the way they do, especially America.
It is about growth, placating the population, and controlling resources.
"As numbers (of people) increase, quality (of life) declines." -Socrates
Anonymous Coward
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01/24/2006 09:56 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Yep. Take out over-population and the other 3 bad guys disappear.
W
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01/24/2006 10:41 AM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Thank you Nerak,

Solutions have existed for decades. As my grandfather would say when I was a child, "Greed and Self-Interest Will Return Mankind to Pre-history". It is those who control, manipulate, create and exploit the fabric of modern existence for personal benefit to the exclusion of the greater good who wittingly and unwittingly are leading this world to catastrophe. Morally bankrupt politicians, governments and their wholly owned legal/judicial minions selectively construct and apply laws based on preservation of existing power and interest structures. These often brilliant people squander and betray their intellectual gifts by concentrating their creative abilities in continuous efforts to effectively short-circuit the intuitive and intrinsically well-intended minds of intelligent people. The true masters are incredibly gifted when it comes to dressing up their connivances in the guise of nobility and propriety. The resulting confused and often divided masses are left to depend on self-styled intellectuals/scholars/ theologians who feign understanding and regurgitate some convoluted explanation that serves to convince people that eating excrement is actually good for them and doesn’t really smell so bad either. There should be no mistake, the true monsters among us are those charged with the moral and material welfare of this beautiful planet and their systematic conversion of this greatest of gifts into a wasteland. What is being preserved now is the existing planetary power and interest structure at the expense of the planet itself. One thing we have all experienced and come to know very well is that if a resource can not be controlled, metered and capitalized on by those who perceive planetary resources to be their exclusive domain, it will not be allowed. Don’t know if my commentary pertains to a horse, however, if it does, that poor bastard is going to have a mighty large load of miscreants upon its back as it descends into darkness.

Upside Note: I believe a new day is coming. I direct my waking efforts toward doing my part in assuring that The Next Turn of the Cosmic Wheel Is for Positive Rectification!

Nerak, I always enjoy your contributions and perspective.

Very Best,
W
W
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01/24/2006 12:17 PM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Bump/Merit!
Nerak
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01/24/2006 12:30 PM
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Re: The Four Horsemen of Industrial Society: War, Over-Population, Climate Change & Peak Oil
Thanks W. Sometime I wish I could just turn a blind eye and pretent that everythink is OK just because at the minute I am. I can't.

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