Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Future History

The Big Picture: Fracking, Global Warming, and War

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One of the hardest things about trying to keep up with what is going on in the world is that things change. Sometimes very quickly. Yet the model of the world we have in our heads changes a lot more slowly, or not at all in some people. Things that were stable for decades do eventually change, and if we don’t update our mental models to reflect this, our understanding of the world becomes flawed. Frankly most people’s understanding of the world is a more reflection of their prejudices than any true understanding, but still, some of us are trying to make sense out of it all. And in trying to make sense of it all, a huge shift has taken place over the past few years. Illustrated above. That’s the USA from space. See the big lighted splotch near the upper left middle of the image? That’s in North Dakota. How many huge urban areas are there in North Dakota? None. So what the hell is that huge lighted area? That, dear readers, is fracking. More specifically, that’s the Bakken Formation being exploited for oil. Even five years ago the expert opinion was that the Bakken Formation wouldn’t be producing oil any time in the near future, I even blogged about it. Then a breakthrough was made in oil extraction, fracking as it is known, and the Bakken Formation is now a major and expanding oil producer. The lights by the way are excess natural gas simply being burned off.

OK, so what does this mean? I think it means we’re screwed. We were already in trouble, but this is a huge change, and I think it’s going to have some disastrous consequences. First, the huge change part. Remember peak oil? Well, despite decades of expecting peak oil to hit around 2010, it hasn’t. And now, with fracking, peak oil has been put off for decades. And instead of being an oil importing country, the USA will soon be an oil exporting country once again. These are huge changes and futurists must be scrambling to adjust their models and forecasts. Oil is at the centre of modern civilization, so these changes will ripple outwards and affect everything. And yet this huge change in where our civilization is headed is taking place almost unnoticed. That’s a topic for another day, most people miss anything less than sudden catastrophic rates of change. And as a codicil to my following two points, I don’t think much could derail this. Keystone pipeline or no, the fracking accessible oil deposits in North America will get used, they are way too valuable and the oil industry is already the most powerful industry on the planet, weapons possibly excepted. Of course the weapons industry also wants these deposits exploited, since one can’t fight modern high tech wars without oil. And if one is at all familiar with American politics, big oil has huge influence. Not to mention more or less corporate control of the mainstream media, so opposition to massive fracking will be marginalized. Whether we like it or not, oil is going to be the prime mover in the USA for decades to come.

Speaking of opposition to fracking, that’s where the first major problem rears its ugly head. A massive new wave of oil exploitation is going to be the death knell for any serious mitigation of global warming. Just the lights in the image above illustrates that. We’re talking a mind numbing amount of CO2 being added to the atmosphere just from the production of oil in the first place, and then of course that oil will almost inevitably be used in such a way as to also add to the CO2 in the atmosphere. I don’t even blog about global warming any more. The people who are in denial about it are no more rational than people who deny evolution or the Big Bang. Eventually it will get bad enough that maybe something will be done, but by then it will be far too late. Fracking just means it will get worse sooner.

OK, so fracking means global warming is going to destroy civilization even sooner than was feared, there’s something worse than this? Yes, yes there is. War and oil. Or more specifically, it takes oil to build and run tanks. If one has lots of oil, one can build a lot of tanks. Yes, that’s the simple version. Let me try a different approach. The rich of a country come into a huge pile of money. They are urged to spend it on consumer goods or war to make even more money. They already have all the consumer goods they need. War it is! I posit that the USA will do what every imperialistic power in history has done when it came into some profound new source of wealth … go on an orgy or war and conquest. And since the USA has been on an orgy of war and conquest since 1900 at least, it’s just going to get much worse. I think in the 21st century the USA is going to try and reassert western colonial control over the entire world, at the point of a drone if need be. That’s certainly been the path we’ve gone down under Obama.

So, world war and world climate catastrophe all because of some lights in North Dakota? Yeah, that’s pretty much my theory for today. Earth is a strange planet.

PS: The day after I posted this, I got this link in email: Geologist’s provocative study challenges popular assumptions about ‘fracking’ Who knows?

(The above image is by NASA and is Public Domain under US copyright law. Yes, I’m blogging again after a hiatus due to odd events in my life. Future posts will get back to weird history and such, I’m getting all my negatively out on this post. For the moment.)

Written by unitedcats

February 20, 2013 at 9:38 am

Balkanization, the wave of the future?

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The world, 2031? I doubt it. This in fact was touted as a “random Balkanization map,” and it looks pretty random to me. I’m willing to bet though, that like my proposed map of the Middle East post, sooner or later a commenter will think it’s completely serious and take great umbrage. Stay tuned.

Why a random map? To illustrate Balkanization. What is Balkanization? It’s when a big country breaks up into smaller countries. It came into popular usage after World War One, when the Austrian, Russian, and Ottoman Empires were broken up. A lot of this happened in the Balkans. According to Wikipedia, the term Balkanization is usually used as a pejorative. Curious. In any event, this topic is more current than many people, especially in the USA, realize. Over the past few decades there has been extensive Balkanization in Europe, the breakup of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia being the foremost examples.  Czechoslovakia also split in two. A map of Europe now is considerably different than the one I grew up with.

Now however another wave of European Balkanization seems to be on the horizon. Spain, Belgium, and Great Britain all have very serious separatist movements that are gaining in popularity. In Great Britain it’s primarily Scotland, but the Wales independence movement is getting stronger. Flanders (in Belgium) and Catalonia (in Spain.) Then there’s Venice, an independent republic for centuries before it was conquered 156 years ago. I mean, Spain, Britain, or Italy could break up? Anything is possible, the incredible scope and breath of human history shows that.

Why does Balkanization occur? For the most part, nationalism. A people, culture, or ethnic group decides they would prefer to have their own government and run their own affairs. Seems reasonable enough, right? Sadly, no. Reasonable as it may be, governments tend to be adamantly opposed to peoples and territories under their control declaring independence. In fact, that encompasses much, if not most organized violence on the planet, now and historically. Sometimes countries break up peacefully, more often than not violence is involved.

What does the future hold? My guess is a lot more Balkanization. There are two reasons for this. First, there are thousands of ethnic groups on the planet, and only a few hundred governments. Many of these thousands of people would prefer to have their own nation. Few, if any, of the hundreds of governments want to give up people and territory. And modern communication is increasing nationalism, or at least a  case can be made that it is facilitating it. On the other hand, modern propaganda is ever more effectively blurring the boundary between people and government. In some cases, governments and peoples more or less overlap. Many of the European nations. A handful of small nations around the globe. In much of the rest of the world, governments and peoples have little relation. And while the masses in the west are propagandized into thinking that “Libyan, Syrian, Somalian, Iraqi, Mali, etc.” are describing real peoples, the peoples living in these regions are not confused. These “nations” are are lines drawn on maps by the western colonial powers. People are setting themselves on fire in Tibet to demand their own state for god’s sake.

So we have some problems. Compounding this argument, is the idea that smaller is getting more powerful. As I have said before, gunpowder ended feudalism as a way of life. Smokeless gunpowder ended overt colonialism. It’s looking like a combination of computers (in the broadest sense of the word) and the IED/RPG/AK47 are ending the era of neocolonialism. As evidence look at Afghanistan. The USA, the greatest military power the world has ever known, has fought it’s longest war ever against a rag-tag insurgency that has no major international supporters. The Viet Cong had China and Russia at their back, the Taliban has nobody. And yet the USA is no closer to vanquishing them than ever.

In other words, I see a lot more Balkanization in the future. And a lot more violence. Not a terribly sophisticated argument, but one of many that flies in the face of rosy predictions that The End of History is here and western, especially American, confidence that overwhelming military power will solve all our problems internationally. No, no it won’t, the age of gunboat diplomacy is long over, no matter how powerful our gunboats.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Yadda yadda, yadda. The credit and copyright may belong to someone who goes by the Internet moniker Thespitron 6000. Notice how I subtly snuck in that now the US Navy is building drone warships.)

Written by unitedcats

November 8, 2012 at 6:16 am

Supreme Court Rules “National Unborn Persons with Disabilities Act” Constitutional in a 5-4 Decision

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Today the Supreme Court ruled against the Obama Administration and declared that the Unborn Persons with Disabilities Act, passed by both houses of Congress over President Obama’s veto, is now the law of the land. The controversial law declares that an unfertilized human egg cell is simply a person with a disability, and is guaranteed the same rights and protections as any other person under the constitution. America’s pro-life groups and religious leaders praised the decision.

The lame duck president, less than a month from the end of his second term, gave a press conference where he announced the administration’s hands were now tied, and that he was instructing all relevant federal agencies to immediately begin implementing the various provisions of the law. All forms of birth control and abortion are now illegal under federal law, and even providing information about birth control or family planning is now retroactively a federal crime. Planned Parenthood and other similar now banned groups have 72 hours to both disband, and turn all their records over to the newly created “Protection of the Rights of the Unborn Agency.”

World leaders were mixed in their response to the decision. Most were very guarded in their remarks, no doubt in part because the incoming Gingrich/Palin Administration has threatened to use “all available options” against any country they deem a “hostile nation.” In contrast, the Pope, and the leaders of the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Talibanistan (formerly Afghanistan,) were effusive in their praise of the decision.

The most controversial aspect of the act, the womb monitoring provision, will be implemented on a state by state basis. This is the provision where the state will monitor the conditions in all fertile wombs to make sure no egg is endangered by birth control, drug use, or other egg life endangering activity. And to make sure that all pregnancies are reported to authorities in a timely fashion so that further protections for the unborn person can be implemented. Numerous states have already announced that womb monitors will be surgically implanted in all females of child bearing age. California’s governor Baldwin was one of the few to opt for the less intrusive monthly blood tests and random home health and welfare spot checks, however the act’s sponsors have already announced they will amend the act to make  surgically installed womb monitors mandatory under federal law for all women over age ten.

Some small groups vowed to fight implementation of the act, foremost among them being the banned terrorist group Occupy Wall Street, but with thousands of the country’s leftist activist leaders already in Guantanamo II on Diego Garcia, little actual opposition is expected. Violence has been reported at numerous abortion clinics and planned parenthood centres around the country as crowds of pro-lifers stormed them to prevent the destruction of any records they might be holding that could be used to identify pregnant women, as well as records that might implicate people for illegally providing birth control or abortion services. Local authorities have reportedly done little to prevent these acts, and in some states reportedly had joined the pro-life crowds in their actions.


Could never happen, right? I’m not sure, the GOP has thrown caution to the wind and is proposing laws all over the country that are very much along these lines. Redefining rape victims as “accusers.” Forcing women to have a medical device shoved into their vaginas for a completely unnecessary medical procedure as a condition for getting an abortion. An all male Congressional hearing to discuss access to female contraception. Efforts to destroy Planned Parenthood, among other cuts to funding for services for poor women and children. Attacks on the Girl Scouts!   This has been going on for years, but recently it’s ratcheted up to  whole new level of offensive and dangerous.

On the plus side, it’s reached such ridiculous extremes that people are starting to notice. The intrusive ultrasound bill was withdrawn because the outcry against it was so loud. These people, and we’re talking Evangelicals, won’t stop though. By catering to the Evangelicals to get votes, the Republicans have created a monster, a huge political force determined to roll back a century of progress and get women back into the homes raising children where they belong. I don’t know how this is going to end up, but I don’t want to live in The Handmaid’s Tale world, so I am going to speak out against this trend. If Evangelicals want to live in such a world, they are free to do so, but they have no business trying to force it on the rest of us. And if the mere sight of say a gay couple holding hands on the streets offends them, there is a solution: Avert your gaze.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. Frankly I’m not quite sure whose side Obama is really on,  but for the purposes of this post I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt. So coming soon, fun posts about abortion, birth control, and the whole Evangelical war on women.)

Written by unitedcats

February 23, 2012 at 9:05 am

War, Who Needs It? Well … Politicians, Bankers, Arms Manufacturers, and the Oil Industry for Starters

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And then there’s Hollywood. “The Goats of Navarone”  just doesn’t cut it. Kidding aside, this is instalment number two of my series on the ten harbingers of doom we face going into this summer of 2011. War. War is always a danger in human societies, hell, it’s one of the most popular organized activities in history. And for a number of reasons, the danger of war is higher than usual this summer. No in so much as I have specific wars in mind, just that a number of factors that contribute to wars are in play. (Well, there are a few specific danger spots, but I’ll get to them.)

The first factor is just the general instability in the world. There’s likely more failed states than at any time since the end of World War Two. And there are lots of wars and insurgencies going on. In other words, the background level of violence is very high right now. There’s a number of ways this increases the risk of wider war, some of them obvious, some less so. The main problem is that this means there are millions of people now whose only career is mercenary or soldier. Out of work mercenaries tend to find work … or cause problems. Too many farmers, too many factory workers, too many doctors … with most professions too many of them is no big danger to society at large. Too many soldiers, well, that can be a problem.

Hand in hand with this is the fact that there are mind numbing amounts of weapons out there. It’s a lot easier to start a war if there’s piles of weapons laying around. Yeah, a lot of them are decades old, and dismissed as obsolete by our hi-tech obsessed media. In reality, 50s and 60s era weapons work just fine if the people you’re fighting have the same, or no weapons at all. Still, the world has been brimming with weapons for decades. This is a background condition, higher than usual, but only because it’s been slowly ratcheting up since World War Two.

One of the more direct issues is the economy. Especially world oil supplies. A lot of World War Two was driven by oil, including the attack on Pearl Harbor. Demand for oil grows ever greater, while supplies grow less. This is kind of the meme I’m trying to present here. In a lot of war related areas we have intersecting lines where demand is going up and supply is dropping, and sooner or later they have to cross. Oil and food are the big two. Others are more subtle, like pollution and the environment’s ability to neutralize it. I will leave this to the gentle reader’s contemplation, but when leaders are faced with situations where they face consequences because some essential commodity is no longer available, war is an option. Or more simply stated, a lot of war is about acquiring wealth, especially when other sources of wealth dry up.

Even more specifically, difficult times and widespread wars are sometimes great cover for ethnic cleansing, war, and genocide. Possibilities include Israel annexing parts (or all) of the occupied territories and “transferring” Palestinians elsewhere. A Chinese invasion to bring Taiwan back into the fold. Korea. Any number of examples in Africa and the Middle East. Granted, ongoing war is pretty much the natural state for mankind, but the point here is that when wars are raging, positive feedback occurs as other potential wars and such erupt.

Lastly and most specifically, in the past decade it seems like the USA has become addicted to war. Or the US government has at least, and the American public is numb to it if not actually supporting it. Not that the USA has ever been a paragon of peace, but at least in the past there was some semblance of public debate before wars, Obama going for the trifecta dispensed with that step entirely in Libya. And as the American economy comes under more stress due to the rising price of oil among other things, not to mention our increasingly fractured internal political system, I can only see this tendency increasing. I mean, the administration just lied our way into another war and the public simply rolled over like the sheep they have become.

And these are only some of the factors that make wider war in our future an unpleasant possibility. The spread of fundamentalism and fascism, both at home and abroad, is another disturbing development. And the topic of the next post in this series.

(The above image, having been created nearly 500 years ago, is probably still Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s part of a print possibly called “Bad War” by Hans Holbein around 1520. I chose it for the obvious reasons, it illustrates a battle, gives some idea of what a confused mess battles and wars become, and it’s an interesting image in its own right. I also suspect it’s a reasonably accurate historical image in terms of the weapons and such in the image, fighting with pikes was a big deal before gunpowder dominated the battlefield.)

Written by unitedcats

April 28, 2011 at 5:30 am

Posted in War, World

Tagged with ,


with 5 comments

December 2nd, 2010. During American and South Korean naval manoeuvres in the Yellow Sea near North Korea a nuclear explosion occurs, sinking a dozen major warships including the American carrier USS George Washington. At least ten thousand American and South Korean sailors and servicemen are killed, and of course the world media goes nuts. Just in time for the five o’clock news on the USA East Coast. Film of the mushroom cloud rising is played non stop on every channel, the talking heads fall all over themselves blathering, and within the hour President Obama held a live conference where he blamed North Korea for the “attack,” and gave them one hour to unconditionally surrender or the USA would respond with nuclear weapons. He also added, to the delight of the war party, and horror of level heads everywhere, that anyone who objected would also be targeted for nuclear attack. Bipartisan support for Obama was effusive after the conference.

North Korea denied the accusations, and China called for a 72 hour cooling off period and an emergency session of the UN Security Council. Most other countries also called for calm, but world stock markets crashed big time and any country with a military worthy of the name went to top readiness levels. At the one hour mark North Korea officially repudiated the charges, and said there would be “unlimited retaliation” if the USA or South Korea attacked North Korea.

Ninety minutes after the sinking of the George Washington over a dozen American tactical nuclear weapons detonated over North Korea, with dozens more in the hours that followed. The targets appeared to be North Korea artillery positions overlooking Seoul, and North Korea’s nuclear and missile facilities. North Korea artillery immediately began shelling Seoul, though not with anywhere near the numbers of shells that the nay sayers had predicted. Nonetheless millions of people packed up and fled, complicating efforts to rush troops northwards.

Six days later, it was over. A dazed North Korean general, apparently the highest ranking surviving member of the North Korean military and political leadership, was dragged from a bunker as he shouted “We surrender, we surrender.” The US press had shown Americans nothing but an endless array of military porn during the “war,” and Americans were dancing in the streets when it was over.

Meanwhile, almost unreported in the American press, Iran had been granted full membership in the SCO, the Russian-Chinese alliance. And in fact Russia and China announced that the SCO was now a military alliance dedicated to defending against the USA. Dozens of other countries applied to join the SCO, including Cuba, Venezuela, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. China and pretty much every country dumped their dollars, leaving it about as valuable as toilet paper. Germany and Japan declared an alliance, and revealed they already possessed a significant nuclear arsenal. NATO was in complete disarray. Anti-American riots and demonstrations around the world were too numerous to mention.

What happens next? Who knows. What’s my point? Well, as is often the case, I have many points. The first and foremost being that people did a terrible job of predicting World War One and World War Two. While there were plenty of people saying “this can’t be good,” and even some predicting accurate subsets of the future like “You know, battleships aren’t the ultimate weapon anymore,” if you’d asked a million people including all the world’s historians to write down in 1938 what was going to transpire in the next ten years, I doubt any of them would have come even close to what actually happened.

Yet many people continue to believe that they understand what’s going on in the world, and that if only their simplistic solutions were applied, all would be well. I don’t. I know my hypothetical situation above is just one of an infinite number of possibilities. And while I don’t know the specifics, I am in the “This can’t be good” crowd. The USA and South Korea seem bound and determined to provoke North Korea. In my hypothetical scenario above, anyone could have set of that nuclear weapon. And it wouldn’t need to be a nuclear weapon, if the American aircraft carrier George Washington sank like the recent ill fated Cheonan, the short term results would be equally as unpleasant and unpredictable.

I also think that the flow of history, regionally and globally, has two speeds. “Idle” and “Oh Shit.” Most of the time in most places, nations are making decisions that ensure a modicum of stability. I mean face it, if a gang is one of the lucky 300 odd gangs to actually rule a  nation on this planet, staying in power and playing it safe are the top priorities, upsetting the applecart could lead to all sorts of unpleasantness. However, at other times in history, shit happens. The world wars. The Napoleonic wars. The USA civil War. People throw caution to the wind and make risky decisions. And all parties involve basically up the ante until the situation is resolved. Much blood and expense involved.

And often there is some sort of transition or warning event that leads to this state change so to speak. The Tonkin Gulf Incident. The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. The shelling of Fort Sumter. And lately I’m wondering if such an event has occurred or is about to occur near Korea.  Especially with the FBI so determined to show us that we are under terrorist “threat.” Coming next, my long awaited post about Obama the Destroyer. What can I say, I seem to be morbidly fascinated by current events these days.

(The above image is Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s a 21 kiloton underwater nuclear weapons test, known as Operation Crossroads (Event Baker), conducted at Bikini Atoll  in 1946. Yes, those are ships, captured Japanese ships and obsolete American ships. Some animals were harmed in the making of this photograph. I chose it because it nicely illustrates the post, it’s a cool pic, and shows just how horrible nuclear weapons are. One last point, George Washington would be appalled that a warship designed to project American military might world wide was named after him, it’s the antithesis of everything he fought and worked for. )





Written by unitedcats

December 2, 2010 at 9:07 am