Dystopia 20: Tendo

“It turns out, money is power…”–Tim Garrett discussing his  revolutionary equation linking GDP growth to global warming.

Dystopia:  Tendo

Jack  regained consciousness in stages, at first unable to comprehend where  he was or why he hurt so much. He was covered in bruises and lying on  the floor.  Everything  ached but no place hurt more than his face.  He coaxed the  less swollen of his two eyes open so he could see, then he slowly  turned his head to get a better view of the room.  His abused neck  muscles screamed their dissent.

In the corner of the room was a  bucket and next to that a plate with cold beans and a piece of bread.  Water! Jack was unbelievably thirsty.

He dragged himself up until he  was propped on his elbows.  When the dizziness cleared he was able to  drag his body. He stuck his face in the bucket and began to lap like a  dog.

The water cooled the  fire in his throat. In fact it was the best water Jack had ever tasted.  But he had to struggle to keep it down as his stomach protested its  recent abuse. When he had consumed about a third of the bucket he  slumped back down to the floor to rest.  In time his one good eye  drifted to the food.  He pulled the plate towards his face then he  scooped up the beans with his hand and licked them off of his fingers  wincing as one of his fingers touched the new jagged hole in the row of  teeth. His jaw would only open enough to admit one finger at a time. The  beans were of the South American variety and did not require him to  chew. He broke off a small piece of bread and maneuvered it past his  swollen lips. He could not chew this either, so he waited for the bread  to become saturated with his spit and then he swallowed.  The next piece  he dipped in the water before putting it in his mouth.  When he had  finished all of the beans, half of the bread and another third of the  bucket, Jack fell back to sleep.

He was awaken by a boot kicking his foot.

“Get up.”  Jack recognized Larry’s friend and  co-torturer, Stan.

Not  having the energy for a futile altercation with this man, Jack struggled  to comply.  Stan lost his patience and grabbed Jack to yank him to his  feet.  He and another guard then escorted Jack back to the interrogation  room, which Jack now thought of as the “hurt room”.

They strapped Jack into the chair and he  leaned forward waiting for the punishment to begin again.  

To Jack’s surprise they brought in a second  chair with straps and placed it about 6 feet from his own.  Jack tilted  his head to eye it with morbid curiosity.

Two guards burst into the room with a woman  struggling and screaming between them.  She kicked and spat and at one  point almost managed to bite one of them but eventually they wrestled  her into the chair and began strapping her in.  It was Tendo!

A shiver passed over Jack’s skin.  All was  lost.  The plan, the locations of the cameras, none of it had made it to  Callum.  They were utterly lost and he had completely failed the  Jaguars and Laissi.

“Tendo.”   He whispered in despair. The utterance was laced with tenderness and  loss.

“That’s right DJ.  Your girl  friend.”  Mr. Teeth was not smiling today.  “Is this piece of ass what  you betrayed us for?”

Jack  was about to clear up their misconceptions about Tendo’s ass when Tendo  caught his eye.  She was staring directly at him and shaking her head  very slightly.  Her eyes were wide with fear but she was not looking at  the men who were busy tying her down.  She was looking at him.  Afraid  of what he might say.  With Tendo it was always in her eyes he thought.  So he took her lead and said  nothing and after a pause she seemed to relax a little.

So she wanted them to think that he was with  her.  That they were a couple.  Why?  Did she have something to  protect?  Someone she cared about?  But what did it matter if she  protected someone in the Village as he did?  They could not reach the  Village.

Then it hit Jack.   What Tendo protected was not at Jaguar Village.  Tendo protected something they could reach.   Something here.  No.  Someone here.  Another spy.  Someone she cared for  more than Jack.  Jack’s eyes drifted back to hers.  She was staring at  him with her deadpan manner she always used on him.  Realization passed  over his own face and her eyes confirmed all he was guessing at.   Perhaps then it was not all lost.  Perhaps the information had been  passed.  Perhaps there was hope.  And perhaps Jack and Tendo’s only  mission now was to buy that person time.

“Good morning,  Tendo.”  Mr. Teeth began.  “I don’t suppose you are willing to cooperate  with us and tell us where the rest of your rats nest?”

“Go to hell.”  Tendo commanded.

Stan back handed her and Jack jumped and braced against his  restraints.  “Stop!”  he shouted.

“What’s that DJ?  You have something to say?”

Jack glared at him, unable to come up with a  reply.  Mr. Teeth waited for a moment and then nodded to Stan again.   This time Stan hit her with his fist and her head lolled to the side.

“Stop it!”  Jack shouted in desperation.  He  had never liked Tendo but he had respected her and he could feel every  blow she took.  His mind whirled, trying to think of a way out of this.

“Its one thing to take the punishment  yourself, DJ.  Its another to watch your woman take it.”

Jack stared at Tendo horrified.  But Tendo  recovered and returned his gaze with eyes as hard and bright as onyx.   They conveyed their meaning wordlessly but she spoke directly to him,  “Tell dem noting!” she said through lips that were already starting to  swell.

She grunted as  Stan’s fist came down on her again and Jack struggled against his  bindings.  But her eyes opened and the hard steel of her soul showed  through. “Tell dem nothing!” those eyes said.  And Jack would not.  He would not because there  was another spy.  Because there was hope.  Because Callum needed time  and every blow bought the Jaguars that time.  He would not because as  much as he did not want to see Tendo beaten, he wanted to protect Laissi  and the baby more.  But by God if he ever got loose from this chair  they would pay…

Another  blow hit Tendo and she grunted and did not open her eyes this time.

“You can stop this DJ.  I’ll let you both  go.  You can have a nice little hut in the desert some where, and we  won’t bother you.  All you have to do is tell us where the rest are.   This is the one you want.  Give the rest away, DJ.”

Tendo’s head was leaning back against the  chair and blood ran down her neck to her shirt from a split in her lip.   Jack watched it soaked into the fabric leaving a red stain over her  heart.  “No.”  was all he could manage.  And for a second a  brief defiant smile flitted over Tendo’s face before it faded and she  continued to pant.

“Well  that’s too bad.   But good for Stan.”  Mr Teeth began.  Stan gave Jack a  leering smile.  “You see DJ, Stan likes desert rat.”  Mr. Teeth nodded  to them and  Larry and Stan began to undo her bindings.

“Where are you taking her?”  Jack demanded.  As  much as he did not wish to see Tendo beaten he was even more terrified  of what they would do when she was out of his sight.  He strained  against his own bindings.  “Where are you taking her?”

“Do you have something to say, DJ?  I’m  listening, DJ.  You can stop this any time.”


“Where  are you taking her?” he shouted the question now as they removed her  limp body from the room.

Jack  screamed at them to bring her back and jerked against his bindings.   But when he heard the screaming from the adjacent room start, he stopped  struggling and tears of rage and impotence ran down his cheeks.

The Concepts  behind the Fiction:

1.   Thermodynamics

“As we see the effects of climate change … we’re  going to have to become even more cognizant of our relationship with  land, water and wildlife,”--Ken Salazar

I found  myself traveling again for work and so I had a USA Today at my  doorstep the other day.  Normally I would not even waste my time, but  the front page grabbed my attention:  On  the Plains, concern about another Dust Bowl.  On the front page mind  you.  I thought, “Finally it starts getting some attention.”

It  appears Ken Salazar, Obama’s Sec of the Interior, is  worried about another mass relocation if the drought in the interior of  the country persists.  During the last Dust Bowl 2.5 million people  relocated, mostly to California.

The article goes  on to discuss how climate change is expected to dry this region further  and how dire the warnings are.  The large Ogallala Aquifer that  supports the area is getting lower and lower.  Some wells have now run  dry leaving the farmers in those regions to adapt dry land farming  techniques to rely on the 17 inches that falls from the sky alone.  
But  it also discussed the attitude of the people that would be most  effected.

Asked whether  locals worry about global warming, Thornton shakes his head and says,  “Let’s put it this way: Rush Limbaugh has a  lot more fans around here than Hillary Clinton.”

Recent  studies indicate that even if the most ambitious pledges made by  politicians at Copenhagen are kept, our globe will heat up 6.3 degrees  Fahrenheit.  Well past the point where scientists warn us about tipping  points.  What makes facing the facts so hard?  Why can’t we face our  current problems even when they are staring us in the face?  If we can’t  even face them, how are we to overcome them?

2.   Acceleration
The idea that we should put limits on growth because of  some natural limit is a profound error, and one that, were it ever to  prove influential, would have staggering social costs.–Larry Summers, Obama’s Chief Economic Adviser

I have spent a great deal of time in this venture discussing the  connection between economics and global warming.  I have tried to  convince you that we must sacrifice capitalism in order to save  ourselves.  Now a prominent physicist has actually proven mathematically  what I and others have said.  But before I get to his proof let me  review the arguments I made based on history.

[Note to  economists:   This is very simplified for the average person to  understand conceptually.]

Our current form of capitalism is  debtor capitalism.  That means that money is loaned into existence.  If  the Fed loans you ten dollars it then charges you interest, so now you  have to pay them back say eleven dollars.  But where does that extra  dollar in interest come from?  More money must be loaned to someone else  and circulate to you in order for you to pay the debt.  The amount of  money in circulation must, therefore continually  increase.  This would  cause run away inflation if it was not for the fact that more stuff is  manufactured every year so that our national “value” increases every  year.  This is measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  The GDP  does not take into account anything bad that happens in the economy.  It  only looks at the amount of transactions within the economy and judges  all transactions as good.  So if you make bombs and blow them up, that  is good.  If you divorce your spouse and now both of you are buying  stuff to run separate households, that is still good.  If what you sell  creates so much toxic waste that you destroy the planet, that is also  good.

Another way to look at the GDP is that we are converting our  natural resources–trees, minerals, wild lands, air, water–into stuff  which can be sold or used as collateral for loans.  There is more debt  each year, so we have to do this at an ever increasing rate to stay  ahead of the debt.  If we are unable to do this, our economy will  “contract”.  Contraction looks like the Great Depression or worse.  Some  people lose jobs, some starve, all people do without.  Capitalist dogma  states that contraction should be avoided at all cost.

But what  happens  if our resources run out?  If we run out of oil, clean water or  air.  In a way global warming is running out of the Earth’s ability to  buffer the CO2 we put in the air.  What happens then?  The system grinds  to a halt.  We contract because there is no more “collateral” for the  debt.

That is why we can’t address this issue.  We have given a mandate  to those that govern us that we are never to contract and therefore our  economy is to continue to grow indefinitely.  Yet we are on a finite  world.  These two principles are on a collision course and we feel  powerless to stop the collision.

3.  E=MC2

[Note  to physicists:  This is very simplified for the average person to  understand conceptually.]

Enter Timothy Garrett, a young  physicist and associate professor of atmospheric sciences at University  of Utah.  Being a physicist he decided to view the world as a machine.   He theorized that a simplified view of the Earth could be achieved for  modeling purposes if you viewed civilization like a “heat engine”.   Civilization consumes energy to do work in the form of economic  production.  This production then allows civilization to grow and become  more complex which in turn spurs it to consume more energy.  All of  this energy consumption results in the waste product of CO2 and other  green house gases.

This view of the world is similar to our  understanding of a growing child.  A child consumes food (energy) which  he uses to play (do work).  But the calories are also used to make him  grow larger (growth).  This process releases heat (waste product).  As  he grows he is able to consume more, which makes him grow faster and  release more heat.

This model allows physicists to make predictions  without looking at complicated socioeconomic issues like population  growth or standard of living.  We can calculate the maximum amount a  child can grow based on the calories consumed.  We need not count his  cells or know exactly what each cell consumes to know the rate of his  growth based on how many calories he consumes.

What Prof.  Garrett found was that this model did indeed work.  The model accurately  predicted the relationship between global energy use and economic  production as given by the US Dept of Energy data on global consumption  and United Nations GDP.  Once it was successful with this data, Garrett  used it on other estimates of global economic production as far back as  2000 years.  The calculations accurately predicted the numbers given in  those studies.  He was able to consistently pin this to CO2 emissions.   In fact it was so exacting he came up with a constant–9.7  milliwatts/$.  That is 9.7 milliwatts of energy go into making every  1990 inflation adjusted dollar of the world’s GDP.

So what does  this view of the world say?  Civilization itself is in a spontaneous  feedback loop.  Civilization consists of energy consumption (calories  consumed) and incorporation of environmental matter (growth of the  body).  Our energy consumption, and therefore our CO2 emissions,  accelerate at a constant rate based on our past economic production.  In fact our  past economic production is an exponential of an exponential (known as a  super exponential) of future emissions.  That is because both the work  you do today and the growth of tomorrow and all that growth’s future  work contribute to the emissions that one dollar of energy today  creates.  Decreasing the energy consumed now is like trying to decrease  the calories an adult consumes to that of a small child.  The adult  eventually collapses but not before he fights to obtain more calories.   Therefore energy conservation will not be effective in reducing global  emissions.  
Increasing energy efficiency will only allow  civilization to grow faster and consume more.  This is known as Jevons Paradox and was discovered by William  Stanley Jevons in 1865 when he noted that when coal prices fell due to  improvements in the steam engine efficiency, coal consumption soared.

Civilization acts like an organism.  It seeks to maximize its growth  and thus its energy consumption.  If more energy efficiency is  introduced then civilization gets more growth for the energy it spends  and that makes it consume even more energy in the future.  If green  energies are introduced then both the old carbon energy and the  new green energy will be consumed to increase growth.

4.   Gravity
“Ultimately,  it’s not clear that policy decisions have the capacity to change the  future course of civilization.”–Tim Garrett
Well I must  admit that I was surprised that conservation will be like throwing  kerosene on our already lit bonfire, but the rest of it does not  surprise me.  I am glad that someone finally was able to prove what so  many of us could deduce by observation.

Since  population growth and standard of living are both results of past  economic growth and fall out of the equation, Prof Garrett believes  there are only a few ways to get out of this deadly loop.  Uncouple CO2  emissions from the equation by converting all energy use to non-emitting  energy sources, or economic collapse.

If we  switched to energy sources that don’t emit CO2 and continue on the same  course of constantly accelerating energy consumption what would happen.   Prof Garrett did some calculations and discovered that it would take a  rate of conversion for our energy sources of 2.1% a year just to hold  our emissions steady.  That is 300 gigawatts of new non-emitting power  annually or the equivalent of one new nuclear power plant a day!

He also did  some calculations with economic collapse.  The economy would have to be 0  to stabilize the carbon at 450 ppm.  This would mean complete economic  collapse in my lifetime and that does not even get us to the 350 ppm  James Hanson says we need.  What does collapse look like?  Ask Zimbabwe:
Since 1994,  the average life expectancy in Zimbabwe has fallen from 57 years to 34  years for women and from 54 years to 37 years for men. Some 3,500  Zimbabweans die every week from the combined effects of HIV/AIDS,  poverty, and malnutrition. Half a million Zimbabweans may have died  already. —CATO
Hyperinflation  took Africa’s strongest economy and turned it into a country with a 94%  unemployment rate and the lowest GDP in the world.

5.   Entropy
Physically,  there are no other options without killing the economy.–Tim Garrett
So should we despair??  Is our only way economic and  then societal collapse??  Yes and no.
Yes, if we are unable to think outside  the box.  If we must remain debtor capitalists.  If we must have the  same or better standard of living.  If we must organize our society into  winners and loser then yes…we are doomed to economic collapse, food  shortage, population collapse and an increase in global temperature of 6  degrees Fahrenheit.

We need to drastically reduce the consumption per  person globally.   In capitalist lingo “reduce consumption” is the same  as economic collapse.  In a capitalist system reducing consumption can  be achieved by killing off some of the population or decreasing the  standard of living for many (the road we are currently on).  But there  is another way.  We could uncouple the economy from growth and  therefore  future emissions.  This has been done before but not for a  very, very long time.

If someone puts a gun to your head and says, “Its  capitalism or your life.”, could you give up your way of life?   Garrett’s equations let us see the gun for the first time.  It really is  capitalism or your life.  Well capitalism or your children’s lives.   Given that choice could you do it?  Could you give up everything you  were taught?  Change what you think about society?  Change society?   Change what you value completely…in order to save your own child?

We could stop  having a capitalist system.  We could abandon the one system that  demands ever increasing consumption in order to remain stable.  Pick  another system.  Pick one that is stable, just, and fair as consumption  contracts.

6.  Inertia

“I will give no deadly drug to anyone, though  it be asked of me, nor will I counsel such, and especially I will not  aid a woman to procure abortion.”  Hippocratic Oath

The  biggest argument against change is that those who long for change are  dreamers.  They are not

“realistic”.  The change they long for would  never succeed.  Because the human heart is too dark.  Because people  need to be controlled.  Because some are too lazy, brutal, stupid to  allow change to work.  Because the forces that keep us here are too  strong.  Yet, this argument offers little proof.  Just the assertion and  nothing else.   And so we continue to follow the same path…even when  we know that the path leads either no where or somewhere we don’t want  to go.

When we look back at history the lessons it  teaches us about change contradict this stance completely.  Lets take infanticide for example.  There is something most  of us can agree is amoral and should remain illegal.  Yet it was neither  for the Romans or the Greeks, the supposed inventors of democracy.   They had several Utopian thinkers whose prose are still read today.   Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle considered infanticide to be part of  utopia.  It is not that they relished a parent killing their own  offspring, it is that they did not think a working society could be  achieved without infanticide.  They could not imagine a world without  infanticide.  Only Heroditus, and his student Hippocrates, disagreed.

Now we live in a world where infanticide is universally seen as  abhorrent.  Slavery, even though still existence, is universally  outlawed, and self governance at least on the surface is the rule rather  than the exception.  All major changes in the world and the way the  world is run.  And all at some time seen as impossible.

We  are at a cross roads.  Consider the impossible or die.  No…make the  impossible happen or die.  Can we do it?  Do we have the intestinal  fortitude to change everything?  Everything we think we know?  Are we  worthy of the challenge that lays before us?