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