Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

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CS
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by CS » Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:15 am

@Jacob
Thanks for the reading tips. I'll followup on those. The fiction books you've recommend in the past were fascinating, although I need to recheck out Earth Abides since I only got halfway on that one.

I can see the dilemma on how to plan for.... for what, exactly? At least in roman times a gold coin was considered lucre. Now we have, what, paper and electronic bits, and all firmly needing an electric grid that might go poof. And still, after the roman collapse, no more running water for five hundred years. Far, far too complex.

@Quadalupe
It *is* hard to grok the gap between now and when few, if any, will travel the world... and probably by boat again. What is the meaning of a (electronic) portfolio when there isn't electricity to run the grid? Would it be too much to hope for that things would only fall so far back as to still have paper stocks (for what would be left of the stock market when right now it is so much Facebook and Amazon, two companies firmly based in ethereal complexity). I cannot think of a single industry not dependent on electricity and car/trucking/air supply chain. Who has enough horses to run even a small business? Or land to grow their feed, for that matter,

Forget about computers entirely - the complexity needed to make such a thing being far too high, much less what is needed to run an internet... Paper/stone copies are what little we have left from other civilizations. That might be the best hope for ourselves for preserving information. And each cache might need a picture book learner included if things get that bad (A is for Apple, B is for Boy...). The thinking that English (or language of choice) carries on might be the pinnacle of naiveté.

This might also bring up the question of "what is 'an apple?' " if 90% of the world's living things die.

And that is just the issue of money, which could be meaningless anyhow if no one has any excess energy over getting food. If some small store is all the food a person has left to hold them over until spring they would not willing trade it for any amount of other resources.

I would posit there is no small fraction of people eager and waiting for this, although this is the first time I've heard the good reason that the sooner the better for the rest of the ecology. Regarding people, there is always the 'I am special delusion' that the person will somehow escape the worse of it. The collapse can be seen as a proper escape (as opposed to anti-socially running away) from the societal rules that many feel suck their lives away. I'm guessing it is thought of as akin to going to summer camp - whee- you get to be a new person! I think this is the draw of post-apocalyptic fiction, a hugely popular genre.

The guns and preppers and land trusts... that works short term; Until the ammo goes bad and no more can be had (and someone will always have more guns), and the climate moves on and your once great land turns into a desert, and the government that once enforced your trust is an extinct species. I've tried to imagine what it would be like to have the tropics in the north pole (where they once were). Sweltering heat in months of near/pitch blackness. What life would thrive there? Would the plants go dormant in the winter? Would only the meat eating survive? (Assuming there is enough meat (animals) for something to make it to see the sun.) It is easy to think this is centuries in the future. What if it was only fifty years?

I'm probably rambling. Sorry. This is horrifying and fascinating all at the same time.

jennypenny
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by jennypenny » Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:53 am

To clarify my point about the ERE Achilles heel ... Smith had a graphic in his talk about how Grandma survived the depression because she knew how to do stuff. I think that's misleading leaning to flat-out wrong. Of all the people who were irretrievably crushed by the depression, most were 'grandmas'. The 'grandmas' who survived were people who had somewhere to go, or friends/family that were willing to help them out when circumstances overwhelmed them.

Knowing how to 'do stuff' isn't the sole answer for everyone and probably not a big part of the answer for most people. It's only a piece of a complicated, and very personal, answer.

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by Kriegsspiel » Sat Jul 20, 2019 11:43 am

He didn't actually say how to enjoy the downslope. He spent the entire lecture describing why we should give up hope (here). Why would one give up and live a subsistence farmer-lifestyle now, when one could enjoy the fruits of the fossil fuel economy as long as it's possible. Especially since "we've got, at best, 10 years to wean ourselves off fossil fuels" (here). Since all signs point towards humanity not doing that, "at a minimum the remaining ecosystems will collapse, most species will go extinct, and it's questionable whether humanity will survive in any form much beyond the century. And even if it does, there will be no resource base from which to make a new civilization; possibly for millenia. And we can't change course." (here) I think he agrees with me, since he's obviously enjoying the food surplus of our current system and drives a 20mpg truck.
CS wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:15 am
I would posit there is no small fraction of people eager and waiting for this, although this is the first time I've heard the good reason that the sooner the better for the rest of the ecology. Regarding people, there is always the 'I am special delusion' that the person will somehow escape the worse of it. The collapse can be seen as a proper escape (as opposed to anti-socially running away) from the societal rules that many feel suck their lives away. I'm guessing it is thought of as akin to going to summer camp - whee- you get to be a new person! I think this is the draw of post-apocalyptic fiction, a hugely popular genre.

The guns and preppers and land trusts... that works short term; Until the ammo goes bad and no more can be had (and someone will always have more guns), and the climate moves on and your once great land turns into a desert, and the government that once enforced your trust is an extinct species.
Well, first, you have to survive the short term to make it through the long term. Second, ammo can last for a long time. Third, you will want to have the best weapons, and the most of them, in the event that the climate renders your area uninhabitable, because then you're either going to go conquer someone else's good land or die. Lastly, when there is no government/Leviathan, you have to defend yourself, ergo, guns. And when guns aren't possible anymore because "there will be no resource base" as Smith said, we'll be back to bows and handheld weapons and horses and shit.

He finishes saying "As the collapse unfolds, we can enjoy a new freedom to be resilient, to adapt, and to have agency to reorganize the elements of our world. . . I see it as the opportunity we've been waiting for. We will have less, use less, watch less, travel less. But we will do more, say more, see more, give and receive more. This is when we begin to write and inhabit a new story." (here). This is straight up hippy bullshit.

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by jacob » Sat Jul 20, 2019 2:07 pm

@Kriegsspiel - I think it's one of those:

Step 1) Population 7-9 billion people with growth in the face of limits resulting in depressing doom and gloom.
Step 2) ?????
Step 3) Population <1 billion people with some hopeful sustainable possibly kumbaya behavior.

Lovelock, for example, is "hopeful" in the sense that he sees step 1+2 as a brief transition period lasting two-three centuries total after which the residual human population will figure out the next step of human ... advancement. Once one takes the very long view, it's easy to be hopeful for the far future.

The population reduction used to (until just a few years ago) be one of those "ohh and by the way, there's no way to calculate it, but we'll probably end up with a final world population in under 1 billion, but nobody knows the details, so we'll just ignore that part"-throwaway sentences. Ignoring step 2 allows one to skip ahead to step 3 which might be wonderful. Step 2 is getting a bit more attention now, but not in this talk.

One of the reasons I'm not sold of the current "solutions" is that they seem to want to skip directly ahead to "step 3" and start building "the ideal society" while not dealing with "step 2". Also, not sure that that version of "step 3" is what the step 3 that follows immediately after step 2 is actually going to look like.

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by jennypenny » Sat Jul 20, 2019 3:37 pm

@j -- Preppers tend to focus on step 2 and transition town/resilience people tend to focus on step 3. The problem is that preppers won't have enough social capital to deal with step 3 and rebuilders won't survive until then for their knowledge to be useful. An uneasy alliance will have to be constructed.

Of course, it depends on how the herd is culled. If it's something biological or issues of scarcity or health, an alliance might work. If things go nuclear, we'll go back to living like a few millennia ago, not a few centuries ago.

Either way, individuals will be very vulnerable.


@K -- You can be happy regardless. My grandparents and their siblings came of age during the great depression, getting married and starting families and doing lots of other 'normal' things. They often talked about how they ate lard sandwiches and took turns eating meals, yet they all say they were happy and photos show smiling, happy people. As I said, I think it's all about expectations.

suomalainen
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by suomalainen » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:00 pm

So, basically, any focus on SWR (for which there is no "S" "WR" over a time frame of 60?, 80?, 100? years, more?]) and investment returns is utter delusional bullshit because ANY investment in any financial asset that is remotely tied to a thing of complexity is fucked? Yes, people will always want hammers as MMM once wrote, but if you cut the number of people by 70% (or more), that's a lot fewer hammers being sold. Unless, you know, Home Depot sells a shit tonne of hammers to be used in step 2...

I'm having a hard time taking anything positive out of this idea. But, you know, I guess I'm not worried about [fixing] climate change so much any more because we're fucked anyway, so there's that...

Quadalupe
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by Quadalupe » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:12 pm

@jp, I agree with you that a very important part of a resilient ERE strategy should also be focusing on social capital. Just financial or 'prepper' aspects probably won't be enough
jennypenny wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 6:40 am
...in the discussion afterward that appears in another video...
Which video is this?

@cs: the surreal thing is that I'm talking about optimal portfolio allocations in one thread, and TEOTWAWKI in others. This is a dissonance that I experience periodically. It ebbs and flows, and mostly pops up again when I read a depressing book (overshoot/uninhabitable earth)...
CS wrote:
Sat Jul 20, 2019 10:15 am
I would posit there is no small fraction of people eager and waiting for this

Why do you think this? Did you actually meet people irl with this opinion?

@jacob:
Exactly! The step 2 is the biggest question mark. Will the collapse be like 'decline and fall of the roman empire', slowly and pretty hard to notice, or will it be fast&gruesome? It's hard for me to form adequate images of what it will actually look like and what can be done to partially mitigate my personal suffering (other than the things mentioned above). Of course, I coulda/shoulda spent more time on investigating things like this, but the ostrich effect ('I don't want to think about it') can be quite strong.

Kriegsspiel
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by Kriegsspiel » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:27 pm

jacob, Genghis Khan and Christopher Columbus took a shit ton of carbon out of the atmosphere with war and pestilence.

jenny, no need to worry about me, I'm very happy; I was critiquing the guy in the video.

chenda
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by chenda » Sat Jul 20, 2019 4:36 pm

FWIW, see 'The Fall of Rome and the End of Civilisation' by Bryan Ward-Perkins. And 'The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire' by Kyle Harper. Basically, Rome was resilient and withstood numerous crisis, but when it fell it was fast and sudden and gruesome for all concerned.

CS
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by CS » Sat Jul 20, 2019 8:51 pm

@chenda
Thanks for the book recommendations. I'm extremely curious to read these now.

@Quadalupe
Mostly because of comments I read online, and the popular fiction along those things. I could be entirely wrong and it is 'just talk'. I think it is akin to the cries of 'burn it all down' - with a similar understanding of just what that would mean.

stand@desk
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by stand@desk » Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:17 am

I read the comics and watched the video. Great resources and material. True Education.

I wondered to myself if this built a strong case for investing in reliable, low debt, conventional oil companies? These things will need to be protected at any cost and are one of the truest froms of wealth in the world.

The other interesting thing to me was the risk of nuclear war. Might it severly alter the roller coaster track acutely? I suppose almost anything is possible with speculation.

This also throws a lot of water on the Green Parties of the world, suggesting the switch to a "green economy," which they leave out so many important details about how inferior that method of energy generation and storage truly is. And how living in a green economy will dramatically alter our standard of living for the lucky that get to survive in it.

It's just such a perfect storm of upcoming realities we face in this world. As the speaker said, "Things are about to get a lot more interesting."

7Wannabe5
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Mon Jul 22, 2019 12:45 pm

Don't worry guys. It will all be okay because:

https://medium.com/@adeolaadesina/data- ... 47ed8804f6

Quadalupe
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by Quadalupe » Mon Jul 22, 2019 2:07 pm

Heh. You sure it isn't nuclear waste?

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by jacob » Tue Jul 23, 2019 10:34 am

stand@desk wrote:
Mon Jul 22, 2019 8:17 am
I wondered to myself if this built a strong case for investing in reliable, low debt, conventional oil companies? These things will need to be protected at any cost and are one of the truest froms of wealth in the world.
This is really really tricky. It's true that such companies are potentially worth a lot. Liquid energy is a precious resource which can do things that other resources just can't, e.g. chemical feedstock, ambulance flights, ... or cruise missile fuel for that matter. However, as EROI decreases energy resources increasingl live in between a rock and a hard place. This is because the quantity of energy is consumed by the "most people" rather than the few "richest people"(*). Therefore prices DO have an upper bound---note this is in contrast to the naive beliefs of the peak oil community during the 2000-2010 era---because if they go too high, demand will fall off. Part of this is that energy usage in the western world is extremely inefficient and wasteful. Therefore, when prices go up, the biggest and most wasteful/inefficient consumers can easily use less.

(*) The people frying the world is essentially the global middle class (us) which comprise about 1B people. Not the rich, nor the multitudes of poor in the (non-)developing countries.

After the US discovered the technology to extract [tight] shale oil---not that other countries didn't discover it too, it's just they it's pretty much banned everywhere else. However, unlike other countries the US does not constrain itself over silly concerns like public health and wrecking its ground water resources, so ZIRP allowed (junior) oil companies to draw money from the rest of the economy for a while on the expectation that $100/bbl was supportable. This fantasy ended in 2015 or so when the oil price dropped and the energy sector crashed(+). While energetically possible, it was not financially viable to run a business like that. Consumers are still too inefficient in their energy usage.

(+) And I enjoyed a few instances of "I told you so".

Also note that the EROI of the alternative energy sources are not as bad as presented in the talk. PV is likely higher. An important factor is the implicit (oblivious!) assumption of meeting 24/7 demand. We can NEVER EVER design a solar/wind driven energy system like that ... that is, creating that is many times as expensive as it needs to be insofar we instead rearranged industrial and to some degree domestic demand to follow the supply as the wind was blowing ... as was the case 200 years ago.

So, the deep irony is that while there is more than enough carbon in the ground to fry the planet thoroughly, we're also at a historic extreme when it comes to the distribution of wealth between the rich and the poor. That is, the rich are sitting on a greater fraction of the wealth, so the poor simply have a harder time affording the oil... this then makes it a little bit more uncertain in terms of how fast we'll hit the catastrophic scenarios. In short, the current constraint are between climate change and relative poverty, not EROI. The inability of the masses to afford fossil fuels might push the worst case climate scenarios 20-30 years further into the future.

In summary: Yes, it makes sense that such companies exist. However, it's hard (for me) so see how they would respond relative to the rest of the economy. Big oil is currently doing an amazingly very difficult job of keeping the oil price stable at the $60-70/bbl range. I don't want to get burned playing that. My money is on wind and solar. Their EROI is ~ that of tight oil currently but a lot simpler to understand.

PS: The point the speaker made about looking at your current utility bill and putting a zero behind it was a good wake up call. How many of you guys would "survive" that?

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by bigato » Tue Jul 23, 2019 12:35 pm

My energy usage today is mostly my electric stove where I cook. I could survive with an additional zero but definitely would be looking into alternatives like a combination between some system of solar cooking and wood stoves, but for that I'd have to move to the countryside. Here in a small home in a big city, it is either electricity for cooking or some petrol-derived. Well, here in Brazil I also have access to fuel-grade alcohol, and actually I have experience cooking with that in the past.

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Wed Jul 24, 2019 7:25 am

@Quadalupe:

I don't think either analogy is very apt, but they are both interesting. Especially, if you combine them with the notion that "data science is the sexiest profession of the 21st century." Maybe data is more like sperm.

Circling back to relevance to topic at hand. In the comic, Buckminster Fuller is sitting in a traffic jam and considering the vast waste of energy. Traffic jams are exactly the sort of problem that data science is best able to solve. Your phone knows that you have a 7:30 date which you arranged through Bumble, so it gently buzzes to let you know that if you leave now, you can avoid the congestion building up on I-82, take the scenic route, and even make a stop for a Coconut Espressoda at cafe which it highly recommends you should try based on what it knows about your other purchases this month. So, Utility/Energy is clearly increased, if we assume free choice towards profit at all levels of this complex transaction.

I have read "Energy and the Wealth of Nations" by Charles Hall (coined the term EROEI in paper having to do with the energy dynamics related to the ecology of fish migration) , "Energy and Civilization" by Vaclav Smil and a good variety of other associated titles, and I find their arguments for the most part very convincing. However, one thing that troubles me is that this view of civilization growing upon energy reserves does not do a very good job of explaining trends in women's fashion. Are yoga pants really an improvement over bloomers? It seems to me that Greenspan and gang should still be granted maybe 5% credence due to this puzzle and other such discontinuities.

Also, in response to the linked video, the fact that succession towards climax will likely result in the static maximum of stored carbon is not very relevant to a species such as ours which has thrived, embodied maximum kilo-calories, at the chaotic margin. Slash and burn is what we do best. It's thoroughly encoded in every system and every cell of our bodies. So my partner firmly binds the lower limbs of the fruit tree down to the stake, in hope that the chemical message encoded in the sap will bring forth more fruit. I drum my 10 fingers on a keyboard, sending sparks outward,calling to the cloud which is most pregnant with potential and most seeded with patent. And, this is how we live today.

bigato
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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by bigato » Wed Jul 24, 2019 12:56 pm

Ok, so I received my first electricity bill accounting for the new place/habits/appliances(or lack of) and I correct my statements above. At 33kWh, an additional zero at the price would make it about what I would spend to eat out cheaply 10 times at a restaurant where you can eat as much as you can for a fixed price. So, even with an additional zero, the impact for me would not be huge.

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by 7Wannabe5 » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:21 am

bigato wrote:So, even with an additional zero, the impact for me would not be huge.
Except for the fact that our entire civilization will collapse long before your electric bill gains an extra zero. The 1:1 EROEI of biofuels is kind of misleadingly low for the same/opposite reason that the EROEI of PV is misleadingly high. It's essentially a very low tech fuel being produced by high tech humans in high tech civilization. If there were human laborers available who were willing to work for just enough food to feed them, the EROEI could be much higher depending on environment. Simple example being that gathering enough wood to make a fire in Northern Michigan requires much less energy than it produces, especially if burned in stove of modern, efficient design.

So, I would suggest that for purposes of long-term ERE expense calculations inclusive of collapse, the ratio of your own time/energy to provide yourself with heat/electricity vs. that necessary to provide yourself with food would be the worst-case scenario. No matter what is going on around you, if you can still "afford" to devote half of your vigor/time to education/arts/leisure/romance/gossip/play etc. then your lifestyle will still be high civilization. Otherwise, not so much.

Obvious note being that if you can't/don't do it now, that is a signal (maybe a low decibel high pitched whine) that our civilization has over-extended itself; maintenance costs have become too high, and collapse is imminent.

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by jacob » Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:32 am

7Wannabe5 wrote:
Thu Jul 25, 2019 8:21 am
Simple example being that gathering enough wood to make a fire in Northern Michigan requires much less energy than it produces, especially if burned in stove of modern, efficient design.
Until everybody starts doing it, picking up all the fallen wood and cutting down the remaining forest. Similar dynamics why going deer hunting isn't a good survival strategy. Currently, the woods stay up because of the availability of fossils. This is why I've been looking for a goldilocks lattitude---not too cold to requiring heating, not too warm to requiring cooling or watering. Probably the PNW, which has its own problems, but there is unfortunately no ideal geography in the US.

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Re: Buckminster Fuller's Energy Slaves [Comic form]

Post by chenda » Thu Jul 25, 2019 9:16 am

@jacob - Have you looked at fringe areas of the southern hemisphere, like Tasmania or New Zealand ? Perhaps the scarcity of land and its relative isolation might be advantageous at a micro level 🤔

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