Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Earth

'Peak Wood' Offers Parallels For Our Time 604

Posted by kdawson
from the fell-baby-fell dept.
Harperdog sends in a piece from Miller McCune looking back at the history of mankind's relationship with virgin timber. Again and again, civilizations have faced a condition of "peak wood," and how they handled it (or failed to) illuminates the current situation with regard to oil. The piece ends with a quote from the 19th-century social scientist and communist theorist Friedrich Engels, who is not generally thought of as an environmental seer: "What did the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down the forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained sufficient fertilizer from the ashes for one generation of highly profitable coffee trees, care that the heavy tropical rains later washed away the now unprotected upper stratum of the soil and left only bare rock behind? ... Let us not flatter ourselves on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

'Peak Wood' Offers Parallels For Our Time

Comments Filter:
  • Engels (as in Marx & Engels) is one of the authors of the Communist Manifesto and largely a lot of the Communist doctrine. To use a quote from him and his research to debate oil usage would be pure suicide on a political realm because your opponent would have an easy time pointing out that a socialist -- possibly one of the earliest socialists -- did research to point out the horrors that Capitalism wrought upon the environment. The resulting suggestion for Cap and Trade or retarding economic growth in the name of environmental consciousness would be taken up by the opposition as the evil socialism from the old enemy of Communist USSR and readily gobbled down by the older American people. Because it's fairly common for the American people to choose to see things in black and white where someone is either 100% wrong or 100% correct. Complete and utter bullshit but that's the logic the summary will invoke and it would be impossible to use this logic in any sort of debate. To further this comparison in the United States at least, you'd do better to just re-research Engels' work looking at Peak Wood instead of trying to quote or cite him.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Homburg (213427)

      I don't think there's any point being scared of redbaiting - the US right already thinks climate change legislation is a socialist plot. If you're going to be accused of socialism anyway, you might as well see if there's anything useful to be salvaged from the early socialists.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by couchslug (175151)

        "the US right already thinks climate change legislation is a socialist plot."

        The proponents of such legislation haven't done a very good job of selling it, or selling the idea of local sacrifice while law-free zones of the world do what they will.

        There is the problem of climate change, and there is the problem of addressing it in ways that are not and are not perceived as "lawfare" against the US.

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:05AM (#32427998)

      This is where the expression, "even a broken clock is right twice a day" comes into play. Just because someone had some other ideas that were bad doesn't mean all their ideas are bad. America's founding fathers, who any true American patriot reveres, weren't exactly correct on the slavery issue, after all, but they were very wise about many other things. No one is right 100% of the time; we all have our failings, or certain ideas or principles that aren't correct.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tsm_sf (545316)
        America's founding fathers, who any true American patriot reveres

        I actually just finished sacrificing a goat to Jefferson. May he grant me a thousand blessings.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        This is where the expression, "even a broken clock is right twice a day" comes into play. Just because someone had some other ideas that were bad doesn't mean all their ideas are bad.

        You assume much, young Jedi. And you know what they say about "assume"...

        Everyone looks at Soviet Russia and says, "See? PROOF that Communism is bad!" when in fact the USSR was never a Marxist country. Lenin and crew used Marxist-sounding buzzwords to justify establishing a police state, which was certainly a dictatorship but by no stretch of the imagination could it be thought of as a dictatorship of the proletariat (which Marx himself said was only a temporary state). They also completely ignored Marx' te

        • by jabithew (1340853) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @02:27AM (#32428694)

          There's not much Socialism of a form Marx would recognise in Europe. There's a lot more Social Democracy. [wikipedia.org]

          I also dislike this argument "Oh, but we've never had true Socialism, just every single time someone tried to establish it it led to military dictatorship and starvation". It has a faint ring of no true Scotsman [wikipedia.org] to it.

          • by TheLink (130905) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @07:08AM (#32429736) Journal
            > just every single time someone tried to establish it it led to military dictatorship and starvation

            The reason why that happens is because the Communist Manifesto encourages violence (read it and you'll see it). This is the fatal flaw in their implementation plan.

            When you encourage violence as part of your "overthrowing", you'll have a violent revolution. In a violent revolution, the people capable and willing of exerting the most violence will normally get to the top. Most of the time the people that reach the top aren't benevolent and aren't going to give up their power. The American Revolution is probably a notable exception (perhaps someone who knows about it better can figure out why it ended up OK - but from what I see, the USA was lucky to have good leaders at that point).

            In summary: the popular Communism/Socialism Implementation Plan is easy for Dictators to hijack into starting their own Dictatorships.

            This "design flaw" does look rather obvious to me, but I'm "just an EE" working in an IT line so it's really out of my field of expertise. Thus I'll be happy to see good arguments on why I'm wrong :).
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by jafac (1449)

              I think the reason the American Revolution didn't end up as badly as it could have, is because the commanders of the Continental Army were trained and educated former British Officers, who were trusted by the peasants, because they knew how to fight the occupying Red Coats. And the peasants knew that, implicitly. They acted as a rather civilizing force, and that's largely why US law is based on British "Common Law" - even if our governmental structure is not based on the British hybrid royal/parlimentary

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Abcd1234 (188840)

            It has a faint ring of no true Scotsman [wikipedia.org] to it.

            Except it's not, so... nice try.

            If someone says "some triangles have four sides" and then point to a square, and I say "that's not a triangle, you fucking idiot", that's not a "No True Scotsman" fallacy.

            Similarly, communism is *defined* by the works of Marx. He invented it, ffs! So if someone goes and claims the USSR was an example of communism, and I say "no, that's not communism", that's a valid argument because we *have* a complete definitio

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by phlinn (819946)
              But the dictatorial power is an inherent flaw in any attempt to implement Marxism. Ignoring the flaws in the labor theory of value for the sake of argument, here is a simplified explanation why that is.

              In any large enough collection of people, there will be some who don't choose to co-operate. If you don't accept some form of property, than there is no such thing as theft, and them taking enough to live without producing it themselves is legitimate. So someone somewhere has to produce more. But again
        • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:11AM (#32428876)

          While it is somewhat true to say that the USSR was never a true communism, that is more or less the same as the "No true Scotsman" fallacy. You are right in that it didn't function precisely how it should on paper. However, it is in fact how all communisms implemented in the real world have ended up.

          The reason is because communism does not take real people in to account. Real people are lazy and greedy. There are exceptions to this in various circumstances and for various people but over all, yo find this is true. As such, any economic/social system has to take this in to account. If you give everyone free choice to do whatever they want, and have all their needs met, well then many will choose to do nothing.

          The only solution in a communist system is to force people to do what is needed. You tell them "You must work or the state punishes you." Then, to make them work hard you tell them "You must meet these quotas or the state punishes you." Net effect? Low personal liberty, low motivation, and the perfect environment for a police state to grow in. The government has to be involved in everything since the state owns everything and has to keep tabs on people. In that controlling environment, a dictatorship/police state is easy to grow.

          So sorry, communism may sound nice on paper but it has never worked in the real world on a large scale. As such, without evidence to the contrary, I'd say it is pretty safe to say it won't work. Capitalism, at least when subject to some regulation and control, works. It allows for societies with high individual liberties and where most people have their needs met. It's not perfect, but no endeavor involving humans will ever be.

          Also if you really think that social class per Marx exists in America today, it tells me you spend far too much time absorbed in a philosophy you want to be true, and not enough time examining the evidence. The biggest difference is that there is complete class mobility. Nobody tells you that you are limited to the class in which you are born. Doesn't mean you can move up the economic ladder with ease, but it does mean you can. There are countless examples. This is far different from the system of nobility you saw in places like Czarist Russia where if you were born a noble, you were one and could more or less do nothing to lose it, and if you were born a peasant, you could never rise above that. In the US people can move up and down depending on what they do in their life. You can go from living on welfare to super rich, and indeed it has happened.

          Another difference is that there is not a "rich/poor" divide. For sure there are rich people, who can have a kind of life normal people cannot, and there are poor people, who lack basic necessities. However most people are neither, they are somewhere in the middle. They have their needs met, have some autonomy and independence, but still work for a living. The middle class is where most of America is. You can also further divide that middle class in terms of how stable someone is in it, how many assets they have and so on. It is not a bourgeoisie / proletariat divide.

          Finally there is the simple issue of definitions of rich, middle, and poor. What they talked about when they talked about poor was abject poverty, lacking in even the barest essentials. That is exceedingly rare in the US. Our poor are not, by the standards of much of the world and history. They do not have everything we consider essential, and they must rely on help, but they are not attempting to live through subsistence farming (which happens in much of the world).

          To me, it sounds like you've spent far too much time reading philosophy and not enough time looking at the world, and its people. Communism is a neat idea, but it is not a better system.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @05:19AM (#32429314)

            The biggest difference is that there is complete class mobility. Nobody tells you that you are limited to the class in which you are born. Doesn't mean you can move up the economic ladder with ease, but it does mean you can. There are countless examples. This is far different from the system of nobility you saw in places like Czarist Russia where if you were born a noble, you were one and could more or less do nothing to lose it, and if you were born a peasant, you could never rise above that.

            The "countless" examples you speak of are very, very few, in actuality (if only even because the number of rich and super-rich people is so small to begin with). Your assertion that class mobility was inexistent in pre-revolutionary Russia is patently untrue. There are countless examples in Russian history of boyars being created from peasant families (mostly those that got rich or provided some valuable military service to a czar).

            Another difference is that there is not a "rich/poor" divide. For sure there are rich people, who can have a kind of life normal people cannot, and there are poor people, who lack basic necessities. However most people are neither, they are somewhere in the middle.

            The economic "ladder" you speak of is not a ladder. Wealth distribution follows a Pareto law in most places (certainly in the US [wikipedia.org]).

            I find it hilarious, by the way, that you acknowledge the existence of distinct groups of super-rich, rich and poor respectively, all while denying that the class divide is real.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Except, of course, the small scale farming communes that operate on a communist system at the local level. I guess if we just ignore that part of the real world, your post is spot on.

            Believe it or not, there are still people in the world who have not swallowed the "greed is good" mantra.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Pentagram (40862)

            The only solution in a communist system is to force people to do what is needed. You tell them "You must work or the state punishes you." Then, to make them work hard you tell them "You must meet these quotas or the state punishes you." Net effect? Low personal liberty, low motivation, and the perfect environment for a police state to grow in.

            I think you have it backwards. People are compelled to work in capitalist societies, not communist ones: i.e., you have to work or you don't eat. Most civilised countries have a welfare safety net (i.e. they are a little bit communist) so it is more like you have to work or you don't get any toys.

            What you are saying is that many "communist" states have not really been communist but have taken aspects of capitalist societies.

            The USSR managed to take many of the worst features of communism and capitalism.

        • by mrogers (85392) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @06:26AM (#32429542)
          Meanwhile, the socioeconomic evolution of the US is progressing in almost exactly the fashion predicted by Marx and Engels in The Communist Manifesto...

          Sorry, but that's just not true. Up until about 1945, things were looking pretty good for Marx's theories: increasing alienation and exploitation of the urban proletariat, a falling rate of profit, militant mass movements among the working class; but since 1945 we've seen a series of developments in capitalism that Marx failed to predict. That's not so say that Marx was an idiot, or that his methods were wrong - clearly, many of his predictions were correct - but if Marxist economics wants to call itself a science, it needs to accept that some of its predictions were wrong and that its theories need to be revised.

          Here are some of the things a modern Marxist economic theory needs to deal with:

          • Consumer capitalism. Since 1945, American and European workers have played a dual role in the economy: they're not just producers but consumers. The entire world economy is now dependent on the creation of artificial demand through advertising. Production is no longer the only important economic force.
          • The managerial class. There's no longer a clear distinction between capitalists, who own capital goods such as machinery and run businesses, and workers, who sell their labour power to capitalists. There's now a third class: managers, who sell their labour power like workers, but whose job is to run businesses on behalf of capitalists. This renders the traditional struggle between workers and bosses increasingly meaningless in Marxist terms, because it's no longer a struggle between a wage-earning class and a property-owning class: it's a struggle within the wage-earning class.
          • Small investors. The line between capitalists and workers is further blurred by the rise of small investors, who are typically workers in one business and capitalists in another. This doesn't mean, however, that workers now own the means of production: the structure of the stock market is such that one can be just as badly exploited by a million shareholders as by a single shareholder, while simultaneously being responsible for one millionth of someone else's exploitation. This split between worker and capitalist within the individual has grave implications for the idea of class consciousness.
          • Globalisation. Factories haven't ceased to exist: they've just moved abroad. People in advanced industrial countries, who now have the collective political power to challenge capitalism, no longer see its ugly face. They're increasingly employed either in clerical jobs within international businesses, or in service jobs, making life comfortable for other clerical and service employees, as well as capitalists and managers, with whom they share a culture, a language, and a national identity. The idea that these people might side with the foreign proletariat in a revolution against their own neighbours seems increasingly remote.
          • The welfare state. Another factor working against the kind of revolutionary explosion Marx predicted is the mitigation of some of the worst effects of capitalism by the state. This hasn't happened only in European "socialist" countries. Whether you see this as a safety valve instituted by capitalism or a series of hard-won victories by working class movements, the fact remains that between 1900 and 2000, the life of the average worker in the United States became a lot safer.
          • Financialisation. Some capitalists believe they can escape the problem of the falling rate of profit by investing, not in productive industries, but in derivatives of other investments. We've recently seen the kind of economic instability this can cause. The questions now facing us are whether, and how, financial speculation can be controlled, and more broadly, what impact the increasing separation of profit from material production will have in human terms, and in terms of economic analysis.

          None of this should be read

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dilaudid (574715)
        Good point. Marx's wrote that industrial capitalism was in crisis and its end was inevitable, and imminent. He was perplexed by the durability of the capitalist system, which he expected to fall within his own lifetime (he died in 1883). Marx's "theories" have also largely been discredited from a scientific stance, since he does not make falsifiable hypotheses. Where he did make hypotheses, like the fall of capitalism, he was incorrect. Marx and Engels are fashionable names to drop - having made the effort
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by matunos (1587263)

      You're right in terms of the politics, but Slashdot isn't a political lobby. Can we readers not distinguish ideas from a communist that have merit from those that do not?

      After all, Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner and rapist, and Wagner was an anti-semite, but it doesn't stop most of us from selectively enjoying the portion of their contributions that weren't abhorrent.

    • by syousef (465911) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @03:02AM (#32428832) Journal

      The point is this article has the phrase 'Peak Wood' right there in the title, and no one has scored above 3 with a joke about erections as far as I can tell. What the hell happened to slashdot?

  • by design; we do not conserve, we consume.
    Changing to cultivation is a relatively new thing, and we're really novices at it given things like the dust bowl were only 75 years ago.
    • by grcumb (781340) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:01AM (#32427972) Homepage Journal

      by design; we do not conserve, we consume.

      Tens of millions of Farmville players would like to disagree.

      Okay, seriously: As near as anyone can tell, organised human society became possible with the rise of agrarian societies, so stewardship and resource management are rather central to the human condition.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by assemblerex (1275164)
        If you mean the rise of slash and burn and then chemical / biotech centric farming,you'd be straight on. We're still far from the rosy picture you're trying to present of us being stewards.
  • by slagheap (734182) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:36PM (#32427814)
    The book Collapse by Jared Diamond (who also wrote "Guns, Germs, and Steel") covers several historical cases of societies that collapsed. Deforestation is the main trigger that comes up in most of the stories. He also makes parallels to our current relationship with oil.
  • Comparing timber to oil is not a valid analogy because timber is a renewable resource. We can plant more and within enough time for it to be economical there is more timber. For oil to be a renewable resource we are going to have to bury a lot of organic material for a long time.

    • by modmans2ndcoming (929661) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:41PM (#32427848)

      it is only renewable if it is used in such a manor.

      One just needs to look at Easter Island to see how "renewable" trees were to the natives.

      • by starfishsystems (834319) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:11AM (#32428032) Homepage
        Yes, exactly.

        There was no option for the natives of Easter Island to plant new forests, once the last tree had been felled. There was no potential renewability for them. They couldn't even build seaworthy craft to go in search of seedlings. In a word, they were FUCKED. And they did it to themselves.

        So every historical and archaeological record that bears on how we handle the extremes of resource management is instructive, insofar as it tells us about our patterns of past successes and mistakes.

        We live with a finite set of resources at the bottom of a massive gravity well isolated by millions of miles of hard vacuum from anything else at all. We are consuming many of those resources at an unsustainable rate. If we don't want to end up like the people of Easter Island, we'd better not take any of it for granted.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by bersl2 (689221)

      In that the societies mentioned were consuming much faster than the resource could renew itself, I think it to be a valid comparison. Nothing mentioned in the article involved replanting of trees, to my knowledge, but maybe someone knows differently.

    • by weston (16146) <westonsd.canncentral@org> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:08AM (#32428014) Homepage

      Comparing timber to oil is not a valid analogy because timber is a renewable resource.

      True. The question is -- if we tend not to do well with even renewable resources, how well are we likely to do with exhaustibles... at least, without some greater discipline than we've got now?

    • by Grishnakh (216268) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:08AM (#32428020)

      The problem is that our economies work on much shorter timescales than trees. If we destroy all the forests, our economies collapse and people starve or relocate. Sure, a couple of generations later the forests may regrow, but that's a lifetime or more to humans. Worse, forests only regrow if you put a lot of effort into planting them properly. Left to their own devices, they don't; a few trees may regrow, but it takes millenia for a whole forest to regrow from a few trees by natural reproduction. Humans have only started replanting forests within the last century at best, and then mainly for business purposes (timber harvesting), using fast-growing trees.

    • by ozmanjusri (601766) <aussie_bobNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:25AM (#32428122) Journal
      Comparing timber to oil is not a valid analogy because timber is a renewable resource.

      Then think energy, not oil.

      The oil we're using with such wild abandon is valuable to us because it is comprised of densely stored solar energy from millions of years ago.

      That's not a lot different from using lumber stored in forests, and when the stored item runs out, we're reduced to using the much less dense renewable versions.

      It's not impossible, but it does take more effort than simply collecting the stored versions.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mu22le (766735)

      Comparing timber to oil is not a valid analogy because timber is a renewable resource.

      To be pedantic, petroleum *is* a renewable resource, only on a time-scale much larger than the human life span :)

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:43PM (#32427866) Journal
    Heartening than they appear. Oil, unless you subscribe to one of the abiotic origins/provided by Jesus to empower the American Way of Life(tm) theories, is in more or less fixed supply. The exact number varies based on the price and the available technology, which dictate exactly how crazy the techniques are that you are willing to use to get at the stuff; but it is more or less fixed. You can't have "sustainable" oil production by making sure only to harvest adult oil and restore any juvenile oil you accidentally catch back to its natural habitat.

    Forests, on the other hand, are a population, not a mineral resource. If you are willing to forgo some short-term profit, you can generate modest returns more or less in perpetuity. If you aren't, you'll find yourself with a fancy new lunar resort. Anyone who destroys a biological resource isn't, as with a mineral resource, simply reaching the inevitable sooner rather than later, they are effectively pawning an annuity for pennies on the dollar.

    With oil, the only real questions are 1). "Will we invest some of the convenient energy and chemicals in finding another source of the same before the first runs out?" and 2."How far will we go, in terms of sacrificing other resources(ie. drilling in the middle of highly productive fisheries or digging up large chunks of canada and boiling it down for tar) in order to secure that one?" There is no question of whether or not we will be "sustainable"; because, for mineral resources, there is no such thing, only a question of how fast you want to dig up the supply you have.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Eskarel (565631)

      Oil is not a mineral resource, it is organic not mineral, there is not a finite supply, and it is renewable. A sustainable oil industry is theoretically possible, though of course largely impractical.

      Theoretically new oil is being created all the time and will continue to be created for the rest of eternity. The rub of course is that we've used up the majority of the oil created in the last billion years or so in the last century, so our rate of use is quite a bit faster than the rate of resupply.

    • by DNS-and-BIND (461968) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @05:17AM (#32429304) Homepage
      Q: Why is starting a comment in the Subject: line incredibly irritating?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by khallow (566160)

      Oil, unless you subscribe to one of the abiotic origins/provided by Jesus to empower the American Way of Life(tm) theories, is in more or less fixed supply.

      Some of the theories are pretty crazy. For example, the Brazilians are under this bizarre mass delusion [wikipedia.org] that they're using around 25% renewable oil in their cars.

  • by d1r3lnd (1743112) on Tuesday June 01, 2010 @11:58PM (#32427950)

    Peak Whale Oil, for example. Of course, the rising cost of whale oil led to the development of new technologies and new sources of energy - like kerosene.

    There are many, many, many examples of people pointing out the impossibility of then-present trends continuing. Of course, if trends can't continue, they won't.

    If you want an American patriot as an example instead of Engels (communism! gasp, shock, horror) take a look at Gifford Pinchot. An early leader of the Conservation movement, first Chief of the US Forest Service, quite a guy. Peak timber, peak ore, peak coal - he wrote about 'em all, back in the day.

    While it's well and good to be aware of these things, and the market tends to reward those who make some smart bets on that basis - human beings have always found ways to satisfy their wants. Some are more sustainable than others, but necessity is the mother of invention, and sustainability/entropy is really only a concern when faced with a finite "universe." Technology is the key that gets us out of that box, and if we have to consume resources in order to make new ones available to us, well - such is, has been, and will be life.

  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @12:58AM (#32428298)

    Any time these conversations come up, the only real solution (reducing the population to about 2 billion) is ignored by everyone.

    Which means, we really are not going to solve the problem before it blows up in our face.

    Reduce the population to 2 billion and the earth becomes verdant and rich within 50 years.

    It's possible to peacefully reduce the population to 3 billion in 50 years. Just stop saving people who have more than 1 child per 2 parents and stop providing tax incentives for second children.

    But it's not going to happen. We are going to 9 and probably 11 billion people with all the hell that results from that.
    By my current math, it happens a little while after I die.

    • by metacell (523607) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:51AM (#32428558)

      The main problem is not the growing population, but rather the growing demands of a small segment of the population.

    • by giorgist (1208992) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @01:51AM (#32428564)
      Amm ... a society with one child per family may not be sustainable. You are making the same mistake everybody that thinks that there is an obvious solution.
      Imagine in a few generations a single great grandchild will have to support his parents and their parents and considering life expectancy ... maybe some of his great grand parents.

      That would be 6-10 people plus him/her self.

      To add to that, it is western society that desperately needs more youth. Third world countries are having population problems.

      Finally the earth has ample resources to go on if only we where fair and efficient. Australia can support 200 million on the coast alone. 2 billion if you green the desert. You can green the deset if you have energy. You can get clean energy from nuclear fuel. This at the cost of the natural environment, but then the aboriginees changed that ahead of us as well.

      The above is oversimplifying it, but the solution will find us do not worry. We will probably damadge the environment before we do so ... but what's another expensive lesson between enemies (I mean cohabitants of this planet) ?

      PS: I may be guilty of what I accuse you ...
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Thomasje (709120)

        Amm ... a society with one child per family may not be sustainable. You are making the same mistake everybody that thinks that there is an obvious solution. Imagine in a few generations a single great grandchild will have to support his parents and their parents and considering life expectancy ... maybe some of his great grand parents.

        No, you, sir, are making the mistake everyone makes. In game theory, it's called the Horizon Effect: where you fail to make the move that produces the best long-term result, because you aren't looking far enough ahead to see the disaster that will ensue if you keep on minimizing short-term losses.

        Yes, lowering birthrates will mean that the generation that decided to have only one child per couple will have fewer children and grandchildren to take care of them. *Not* lowering birthrates leads to a world wh

  • by outsider007 (115534) on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @05:38AM (#32429370)

    Out of my underpants. Thanks and good night.

  • by EmagGeek (574360) <<gterich> <at> <aol.com>> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @05:44AM (#32429396) Journal

    You can plant trees and reap the timber in just a few decades. You can plan to create new oil, but the process takes 50 million years. There's a slight difference in practicality between the two.

    We've become exceedingly good at forest management (except in California where they're so concerned about saving the poor underbrush that they'd rather burn down the entire forest, along with San Diego, than properly manage their forests). Timber is a renewable resource, whereas we are pretty sure oil is not.

    We can manage timber to avoid "peak wood," but we cannot manage oil to avoid "peak oil," if such a thing exists.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ErikZ (55491) *

      "You can plan to create new oil, but the process takes 50 million years."

      Why would it take that long? How inefficient is your oil production plant?

      Hydrocarbons is still the best way to move energy around. And the molecule is basically carbon and hydrogen. No crazy elements needed. Why not make our own?

      The reason this hasn't been looked into, is because it's far cheaper to mine it out of the ground or extract it from coal and shale. Assuming those processes become impossibly expensive, then making our own us

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <fairwater@gmFREEBSDail.com minus bsd> on Wednesday June 02, 2010 @09:47AM (#32431658) Homepage

      You can plant trees and reap the timber in just a few decades.

      Well, yes and no.
       

      We've become exceedingly good at forest management (except in California where they're so concerned about saving the poor underbrush that they'd rather burn down the entire forest, along with San Diego, than properly manage their forests). Timber is a renewable resource

      The mistake you're making is treating all timber the same. The timber that 'peaked' in the 19th century (and is now nearly vanished) took centuries to grow. The timber we harvest every few decades today, well it took only a few decades to grow.
       
      The differences between the woods are immense. Wood from virgin forests (as opposed to modern managed farms) is extremely dense, with many more growth rings per inch. Wood from such forests, both hardwoods and softwoods, are much stronger and longer lasting. (Even taking into account selection bias, this is the key reason we still see wooden structures from decades and centuries ago still standing.) Not to mention the wood varieties that take centuries to grow in the forest aren't available from managed tree farms at any price.
       
      This mattered a great deal back then, when wood filled so many niches that steel, concrete, and plastic fill today.
       
      So yes, it's a valid analogy. Don't be mislead by how we take poor quality wood as the norm today.

The biggest mistake you can make is to believe that you are working for someone else.

Working...