Re: Lester Brown’s “THE FLAWED ECONOMICS OF NUCLEAR POWER” Circulated by Charlie Hall to his “peak oil’ list for comment. Lester has been among the most farsighted observers of the collision between man and earth.
Lester does his usual great job, and makes everyone’s usual great error.
He expertly addresses a part of the puzzle without mentioning the whole puzzle that all the alternates look as bad.
I think the lack of solar and wind development at scale is fairly obvious, and the same as the reason he points to for the lack of new nuclear power plants. It’s not really economic. The same has been true during the whole 40 year vigorous search for alternative fuels.
Still, he allows it to seem that there are good alternates when the problem is that we’ve been very creatively looking for them and can’t find them. It think the simplest true way to describe the problem is as declining ROI for every system and resource as we run into multiplying complications in approaching common limits for the whole system that bounce all through the links of the system, making real growth unprofitable. http://www.synapse9.com/issues/ResourceNet.pdf
Thanks for the proceedings of ASPO Conference Barcelona 2008 … mostly looks great. [Can be found by googling ASPO Barcelona and clicking on my talk on day two –CH] Your talk is good, but does not mention that “peak oil” is part of the “peak everything”. That’s the same omission as Lester was making.
That’s what the diagram of the linkages is about. Why a system of self interests becomes so self-defeating needs to be addressed better too. The environmental signals of impending major change are often “anti-signals”, like things remaining the same, for example. Knowing which things signal change when they don’t change makes what nature tells us is quite tricky, till you learn which.
“Peak everything” is experienced as *general* diminishing returns for everything, so the most important signal tends to be invisible. It’s experienced only as every task getting a little harder in the same way. That gets hidden by our constant effort to keep changing techniques an improving our skills.
We just don’t see it as signaling a whole system loosing battle, though it really is. If anything, we just see griping about it as a personal failing. That’s a mistake, to accept constantly working a little harder on more complicated things. That it also means working to systemically accelerate diminishing resource availability is a mistake we should point out.
Then there’s the constancy of growth itself, the illusive constant proportional increase that we built all our institutions around. Human imagination is not self-limiting, but physical systems are. “Constant proportional change” is a mental constant corresponding to both exploding physical scale and complexity.
It also signals approaching whole system diminishing returns that could have been seen a long way off. The “constant stabilizing” of investments for highest compound returns then directly necessitates approaching collapse. We’re missing all the physical system signals… because most people are only thinking in terms of mental systems.
These problems of forecasting change are part of the puzzle I’ve done some of my best work on, that may the first really useful result of non-deterministic physics. It think you should use them. Thanks for the notes & question, hope you can use my comments…
My comment below was one of sixteen, but got a couple very nice complements, to whit:
“Wow is right. Charlie, I can’t believe what an erudite group you communicate with! What a grasp of the English language. Who is Phil Henshaw? That man can write so beautifully. Thanks for sharing, this was SO interesting to read.”
“Charlie, thanks. That was valuable. BTW, the other response which most closely matches my outlook both of what is actually happening, how we must think about it and hence what we should do about the overall situation is that of Phil Henshaw. That’s not only the single best summation I’ve read in a long time, but also fits the knowledge of human behaviors in crisis. The last time I read anything close was Dr. Kenneth F. E. Watt’s THE TITANIC EFFECT: PLANNING FOR THE UNTHINKABLE.”