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Malthus and Mein Kampf come to Cork

September 16, 2007

Tags The Environment

For those who like their environmental gloom'n'doom spread with a thick dollop of Utopian totalitarianism and garnished with a slice of Galtonian pseudo-science, the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas holds its sixth annual conference in Ireland this coming week.

Present will be the usual motley of silk-suited Carbohypocrites — each avidly promoting their tax-eating, alternative-energy start-ups — a gang of anti-capitalist activists, a squawk of sensescent members of the political elite, and a whole Bronze Age roundhouse of associated Gaia worshippers.

A flavour of what will be on offer can be had from this excerpt from one Nate Hagens of the Vermont-based Gund Institute of Ecological Economics (sic):-

The economic system that has ruled the planet while populations have grown will have to choose different ends on a full planet, which implies different means. Supply will gradually become inelastic in a world constrained by energy and power density, temporally and spatially diffuse alternative energy options, and increasing limitations to non-energy inputs such as soil, GHGs, land and particularly water. But perhaps more importantly, demand is inelastic too. We have evolved particular neural mechanisms through 250,000+ generations as hominids, and millions of generations as mammals that a)cause us to compete for resources, b)allow our systems to by hijacked by novelty and c) cause us to focus our attention on the present, rather than the future. The talk will discuss habituation, addiction, hedonic adaptation and other recent neuroscience research showing that homo economicus fails at its most basic assumption — that man is rational. But where we cannot change the way we are wired, we can change what the metric is. Sociological research already shows that we are not happy with more pecuniary accumulation, but are happier with more social interactions, friends and community. Politics is genetic. Economics is cultural. We have to work on changing this cultural carrot, which will then dictate how best to use the remaining high quality fossil fuels.

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