Imminent Peril (Part II)
by Dale Allen Pfeiffer, FTW Contributing Editor for Energy
Scientists are warning that we have only one or two generations to avoid global catastrophe.
Why aren't we heeding their warnings, and what can be done?
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[Having detailed a large body of scientific research over the course of decades that demonstrates the threat level posed by Peak Oil/Gas and diminishing energy resources, in the wake of an environment in near full revolt against Homo Sapiens, Dale Allen Pfeiffer looks at the ideological and economic barriers to implementing effective solutions. The chief culprits are a mindset locked in a belief that infinite economic growth is possible, and a sect of radical Christianity that is actively trying to bring about the "end of the world" - a sect to which George W. Bush belongs.
Beyond that, there are less offensive but no less dangerous belief systems widely accepted by liberals and progressives which do nothing to address the real problem or move to toward the only solution: sustainability, reduction in consumption and some drastic changes in the way we live our lives. - MCR]
Sept 2, 2003, 1200 Hrs (FTW) -- In the first half of this article, we reviewed the unprecedented warnings issued during the past decade by the world scientific community. And we summarized the results of the first global assessment studies that were issued in just the last couple years. We learned that virtually all of the planet's major ecosystems have been stressed to the brink of collapse. And we were warned that we have only one generation, or at most two, in which to deal with these impending crises.
Why are these issues not foremost in the minds of every human being living right now? Why are we not engaged in a global dialogue to seek a solution to these problems? Next, we will turn our attention to the answer to these questions.
The prevalent economic system is predicated on never-ending growth, where prosperity requires continuous growth in production and consumption. Under this system, this growth must take place on a planet with limited resources and carrying capacity.
Economists are completely blind to these limits. They illogically argue that as known reserves of vital resources grow short, the increasing value of the resource in question will spur the discovery of additional reserves and render previously uneconomical reserves economical. When cornered, economists point towards scientific and technological innovations that they are certain to come to our rescue. They ignore the scientists and engineers who warn that we cannot expect such breakthroughs alone to solve our problems, and argue that we need basic changes in our lifestyle. We need to wean ourselves from over-consumption, emphasizing sustainability instead.
Continuing overconsumption plays upon the intransigent nature of human behavior. Human beings are predisposed toward developing habits and comfortable patterns of behavior. That which is new is alien and suspect. Change is resisted until it becomes absolutely necessary, or until the benefits of change become obvious. Even when change is clearly beneficial or necessary, many resist, becoming obstinately and blindly reactionary instead.
The situation is further obfuscated by the media, which has tended to either ignore the scientific warnings or downplay the warnings and quickly divert the public awareness to more innocuous matters. There is a documented bias in the media towards positions favored by their owners and sponsors.1 Whether this media bias is deliberate or systemic, the effect is a public that is uninformed or-worse-misinformed.
The problem of disinformation is largely intentional. There is a powerful disinformation industry, the purpose of which is to produce conflicting studies attacking the veracity of information that may prove harmful to moneyed interests.
Many scientists are employed for no other purpose than to contradict the work of other legitimate scientists. This tactic was pioneered by the tobacco industry2, but has developed into a major industry of its own devoted to retaining the status quo in favor of major corporations. Yearly, corporations funnel millions of dollars into junk science, either directly or through conservative think tanks and foundations.3 4
Practitioners of junk science are closely linked to the public relations and advertising industries. Modern advertising developed out of research into brainwashing and psychological manipulation. Edward L. Bernays, the father of the PR industry, applied the work of Freud and other psychoanalysts to the task of swaying public opinion5. In the last few decades, military researchers have developed computer programs that utilize artificial intelligence to mimic basic personality types. These programs can then be used to determine how to manipulate people into doing and thinking as desired.6 The PR industries, as well as the major political parties and the military/intelligence establishment employ all of these techniques.7
Returning to the reactionaries, perhaps the worst of this breed are the Christian Zionists. They are Christian fundamentalists who are actively seeking to bring about their own vision of Armageddon. According to these fanatics, once Israel reclaims all of its former territory, a massive religious war will be provoked with Jews and Christians on one side and Muslims and other unbelievers on the other side. At that point, the true believers will ascend into heaven while the antichrist and the four horsemen of the apocalypse ravage the earth. Finally, Christ will return to vanquish the antichrist and proclaim a new kingdom of God, all people will be converted to fundamentalist Christianity, and the true believers will return to govern over the kingdom of Christ.8
Christian Zionists are not a fringe group. They are numerous, well organized, and influential. During the Reagan years, Christian Zionists were invited to present their interpretation of the Book of Revelation at the Pentagon. Among the most notable Christian Zionists are Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and George W. Bush. In spring of 2002, after Bush demanded that the Israelis pull back their tanks from West Bank refugee camps, Jerry Falwell led born-again Christians to flood the White House with phone calls, emails, and letters telling Bush to back off. Bush retracted his demand and the tanks rolled on.9
Christian reactionaries are a powerful group, and they stand opposed to the resolution of the environmental threats affecting the planet so obviously today.
There are many who view the Bush family as the ultimate cynics and argue that the Bushes may well have no God other than power. That would make Bush's "use" of these zealots even more distasteful. Yet Bush himself has demonstrated in his speeches, an outlook that he may well believe, he is "chosen". In a recent story published in Ha'aretz, Bush was quoted as telling Palestinian Prime Minster Mahmoud Abbas that God had instructed him to strike at Al Q'aeda and Saddam Hussein. 10
Coup and Empire
In 2000, the moneyed interests backing the George W. Bush presidential bid pulled out every stop in order to install their candidate. They outspent every other candidate from both parties. In Florida, George's brother Jeb rigged the voter lists in an effort to disenfranchise minorities and others who vote predominately democratic. As the election came down to only a few thousand votes, and Al Gore appeared likely to win in a recount, the U.S. Supreme Court-dominated by Reagan and Bush Sr. appointees-ordered that the recount cease, handing the presidency to George W. Bush. In their decision, the Supreme Court-which is supposed to set precedent in matters of constitutional law-stated that this was a one-time decision which could not be used as a precedent.11
In the months following his inauguration, Bush made very clear that he had no interest in resolving environmental and social problems. His administration was packed with oil, pharmaceutical and defense industry executives. Practically the first action of his administration was to back out of the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming. In the months ahead, he also backed out of a biological weapons treaty and sought to weaken or overturn a variety of environmental laws and legislation on everything from water and air quality to opening the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.
He refused to do anything about the California energy crisis, even when it became apparent that corporations such as Enron had largely contrived the situation. Instead of launching an investigation, he and Vice-president Dick Cheney had Enron President Ken Lay and other industry insiders submit a wish list, which then served as the basis for the presidential Energy Plan.
I do not wish to imply that the situation would have been much better had Al Gore been sworn into office. Though Gore has gone to great lengths to present himself as an environmentalist, his record as Vice-president was full of compromise and watered down legislative efforts. Witness his performance at the first Kyoto conference, where he lobbied to weaken the resulting treaty on global warming. In context of the scientific warnings issued over the past decade, Al Gore appeared to be the spokesman for big business with a conscience, seeking a compromise that would not penalize the ability of corporations to generate profit by exploiting the earth's resources, nor hamper economic growth or the right of the affluent to over-consume. Cast in this same light, George W. Bush was the candidate of big business without a conscience.
By fall of 2001, the Bush administration had earned the animosity of most of the international community, and his popularity at home had plunged to record lows. The Democrat-controlled Congress was successfully fighting many of his proposals. His administration was dead in the water; it appeared unlikely that any of his goals would come to fruition. Had things gone on this way, in all likelihood George W. Bush would soon be facing impeachment.
There is a mountain of evidence suggesting that the Bush administration had complete foreknowledge of the attacks of 9/11. That aside, it is certain that the Bush administration, and business interests tied to it, were the big winners in that catastrophe and the subsequent anthrax attacks. Bush himself was heard to quip on the day of the attacks, "I hit the trifecta!"12 As a result of 9/11, Bush's popularity surged to unheard-of heights. He and Dick Cheney declared a never ending "terror" war and ramrodded legislation through Congress that negated civil liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Whatever their connection to the 9/11 attacks (and whatever the attackers might ultimately be shown to be), the Bush administration has obviously capitalized on them to push ahead a fascist and imperialist agenda both at home and abroad.
Within a month after the attacks, Bush launched a war against one of the poorest countries in the world, though a country in a commanding position with regard to the potentially energy-rich Central Asian region. This gave him command of a vital strategic position at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Military units poured into the surrounding countries, as did exploration teams from the various oil majors. Yet, as the oil prospects were toned down, so was the military presence.13 The US had already turned its attention to the Middle East.
The US has not focused much attention on Saudi Arabia, the country of origin for Osama bin Laden and most of the attackers, and the country from which Al Qaeda receives much of its financial backing. Nor has the US turned its attention to Pakistan, which has very strong ties to both Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Instead, the US has turned its attention to the one Middle Eastern country without ties to Al Qaeda; a country which is, in fact, reviled by Al Qaeda for its secular government. It is, however, a country that holds 11% of the world's proven oil reserves: Iraq.14
Clearly, the United States is not fighting a war on terrorism. It is fighting a war of imperial conquest aimed at dominating the world through control of its energy resources. Witness the Bush administration's lack of interest in capturing Osama bin Laden. Witness the Bush administration's insistence on a war with Iraq on the basis of falsified and exaggerated "evidence". Witness that Bush has done nothing about North Korea, even though they admit that they are actively seeking nuclear weapons and will use them preemptively. Witness the Bush administration's efforts to destabilize Venezuela and support a coup in that country, though the only offense of democratically elected President Chavez is to use a portion of oil profits to help alleviate poverty within his country. Witness the Bush administration's inclination to label, as international terrorists, one faction of a long-standing civil war in Colombia, while sending military aid and military advisors to that country in an effort to beef up the policing of oil pipelines that the rebels have damaged.
What's To Come
The Bush administration is not interested in a war on terrorism. The elite interests behind the Bush administration seek to ensure their continued dominance in a world of shrinking energy resources and looming environmental catastrophes. Comparing US policy over the past decade to the four strategies analyzed in GEO-315, it would appear that the US has been pursuing a Markets-First strategy, while giving a nod to the Policy-First strategy. However, since George W. Bush moved into the White House-and certainly since 9/11-the US has given up any pretense of a Policy-First strategy and is currently moving away from a Markets-First strategy to a Security-First strategy.
A Sustainability-First strategy has never received any serious consideration.
If the US continues to pursue its current strategy, then this country will become even more of a police state in every sense of the word. The privileged classes will complete their flight to guarded and gated communities, while the rest of the population will be left to contend with a collapsed economy, energy impoverishment and starvation. Civil liberties will be dismissed and the constitution retired. Anger and dissent will be met with overwhelming repression. A massive military organization will take command of the world's resources while forcing the world population to accept a harsh military justice.
As burgeoning personal debt comes crashing down on the citizens of the US, it is likely that new laws will force them into debt servitude. Indeed, as energy production diminishes some form of slavery will have to be instituted in order for the elite to retain their accustomed lifestyles. As rates of imprisonment skyrocket, prisons will be transformed to work camps where the remaining industries will have access to abundant free labor. As for the masses, both within the US and throughout the world, they will be faced with unparalleled levels of starvation and suffering.
Or, if some alliance is formed in opposition, the Christian Zionists might just get their conflagration. It is doubtful, however, that it will be the apocalypse they are seeking.
It doesn't have to be this way. We still have the time and resources to build a better world for all of us. Compromise is not the answer, nor is a cosmetic change in the prevailing economic system. It is doubtful that regulation of market-based capitalism is viable over the long-term. Experience has shown that eventually capitalism will find some way of nullifying any imposed restrictions, and then the maximization of profit will regain preeminence over environmental and social considerations.
A sustainable society must be focused on the small scale, based on strong local communities, most likely functioning on principles of direct democracy. Local communities require localized and self-contained economies. Such economies would not be measured by growth and profit, but by sustainability and quality of life. Local transportation would return to the basics: foot, bicycles and horses. Intercommunity transport would likely consist of high-speed monorails. Intercontinental transportation would return to the high seas. Housing would be restructured for energy efficiency, possibly in conjunction with the recycling of industrial waste heat. Communities would be supported by a local agricultural base, utilizing organic and permaculture techniques. There are already working models for sustainable communities, and the movement toward sustainability is growing.
We cannot depend on our political leaders or our business leaders to walk us safely through this minefield. We need to educate ourselves and we need to organize. We must take back the reins into our own hands, and we need to move fast.
1. Manufacturing Consent, Herman, Edward & Chomsky, Noam. Pantheon Books, 1988.
4.Trust Us, We're Experts: How Industry Manipulates Science and Gambles on Your Future, Rampton, Sheldon & Stauber, John. Tarcher/Penguin.
7. Toxic Sludge is Good for You!: Lies, Damn Lies, and the Public Relations Industry, Stauber, John C & Rampton, Shelton. Common Courage Press, 1995.
10. "Roadmap is a Lifesaver for us". Ha'aretz, August 31, 2003.
11. The Best Democracy Money Can Buy, Palast, Greg. Plume, 2002, 2003.