Twenty-first century globalised civilisation faces brink of collapse
A growing undercurrent of our society is coming to the alarming and dispiriting realisation that humanity's ever-growing consumption of the world's finite non-renewable natural resources by an unprecedented and still growing human population of 7,230,508,4521 is unsustainable.
The course of human history needs to change soon so that ordinary people, rather than the privileged elites, take control of their own destiny. If this does not happen then the hallmarks of modern civilisation will start to disintegrate as our endowment of natural resources runs out amidst an accelerating breakdown of our global life support system.
With severe resource depletion, especially energy resources, leading to massively reduced food availability, the worst horrors of the 20th century - e.g. the First and Second World Wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the Holocausts (Armenian, Jewish, Roma, etc), Stalin's purges, and the Cambodian and Rwandan genocides - will seem like school yard scuffles by comparison as as more than half of the world's current population dies violently, or of starvation or disease.
Examples of past collapsed civilisations
Recently published works such as Franz Broswimmer's "Ecocide"(2002), Ronald Wright's "A Brief History of Progress"(2004) and Jared Diamond's "Collapse" (2005) are examples of prominent authors' realisations that the total collapse of our global civilisation is far from being a theoretical concept.
Many times before in history, seemingly advanced civilisations, which have expanded their population and consumption levels beyond what their natural environment was capable of supporting, have collapsed catastrophically. These have included ancient Sumer, the ancient Mayan civilisation, Angkor Wat, Easter Island, the Norse settlements on Greenland and the North American Chaco Anasazi society. The decline of the Ancient Greek and Roman civilisations was also largely the result of the degradation of natural environments upon which they were built.
- Franz J. Broswimmer writing of the stratified Anasazi society who inhabited the Chaco Canyon in the north west of what is the modern-day state of New Mexico in the United States from approximately 700AD until 1300AD on page 47 of Ecocide, 2002.
The massive construction projects to provide lavish dwellings for the Anasazi elite, denuded the Chaco Canyon and surrounding regions of ponderosa pines and juniper trees. This, together with the use of unsustainable irrigation-dependent agricultural practices turned this once-lush region into the desert that it is today.
Over-consumption of fossil fuels feeding global environmental calamity
The only fundamental difference between today's globalised civilisation and those earlier failed civilisations that we have discovered fossil fuels formed over tens of millions of years through biological and geological processes under the ground. Instead of treating this endowment as a priceless gift, belonging to this and all future generations of humankind, we have dug up almost half of it in less than 200 years. The consumption of fossil fuels has allowed the world's population to double from 500 million in 1650 to from around 1 billion in 1850 and over the next 150 years to expand again by six and a half to reach today's global population of 6.6 billion. How such a large population is to have its current standards of living maintained, or even be fed once our fossil fuel reserves are exhausted, is uncertain at best.
If current trends continue, the collapse will not, this time, be limited to a few geographically isolated areas of our planet, but will spread to almost every corner of the globe. Some countries like Australia may gain a short reprieve from the very worst consequences because of our geographic isolation.
Our political leaders who are paid by us to govern wisely in our best interests, refuse to take any measures against these threats. To the contrary, they are acting to exacerbate the extent of the catastrophe, and to bring it on sooner. They do this by ignoring the negative environmental consequences of activities that bring economic benefit to Australia in the immediate or short term.
In 2005, as the Greenland ice shelf was melting into the Atlantic Ocean and the world's glaciers were disappearing, Queensland Labor Premier Peter Beattie complained that the shortage of coal loading facilities in Queensland was preventing us from being able dig up and export, in the next few decades, coal reserves that would otherwise last for 300 years.
On 9 June 2007 Beattie, having largely rectified the coal loading facilities bottleneck, went on to announce the "Northern Missing Link" project to link the rail line connecting the Bowen Basin coal deposits to the Dalrymple Bay coal loader to another coal loader to the North at Abbott Point. In a full page signed advertisement in Brisbane's Courier Mail newspaper Peter Beattie stated "This means Queensland could export at least 70 per cent more coal ... worth up to AU$4billion a year".
From The Australian, June 2005
In 2005-06, Queensland coal exports totalled 143 million tonnes - worth more than $17.8 billion. That's a 55% increase over the previous year.
That figure is expected to increase again in 2006-07 to around 165 million tonnes.
That amount of coal carried on our rail network is also increasing.
In 1996-97 a total of 90 million tonnes of coal was railed by the system. The expected total for 2006-07 is 156.8 million tonnes.
And the forecast for 2010 is 234.9 million tonnes. That's an increase of 74% over 10 years and an expected increase over 14 years of 260%.
|Box opposite is from a full page Queensland Government newspaper advertisement announcing the "Missing Northern Link" rail project on 9 June 2007|
The current generation of Queenslanders should ponder the fact that the reason that they are still able to enjoy rainforest at all is due, not to the farsightedness of nineteenth century political leaders, rather to the inherent inefficiency of nineteenth century technologies that prevented all of our rainforests from being chopped down back then. It now seems that future generations of Queenslanders may live on a continent turned wholesale into desert largely thanks to coal-driven global warming. Their endowment of fossil fuels likely to be squandered by this generation, they will not be able to similarly depend upon inefficiencies in the twenty first century to save them from the stupidity and greed of Queensland's twenty-first century political leadership.2
The New South Wales Hunter Valley is being overrun with open cut coal mines to the point where the rapid change in the environment is having measurable detrimental psychological, as well as health, impacts upon the region's residents. The groundwork for this environmental holocaust was laid by none other than the former NSW Premier, and supposed anti-global warming advocate, Bob Carr. Bob Carr's other most notable claim to infamy was, of course, his Government's achievement of having done more than any other NSW State Government to increase Sydney's dependency upon the private motor car, this being exemplified in the notorious Sydney Cross City Tunnel deal.
In 1997 Australia's Prime Minister John Howard helped to sabotage the tentative efforts by many world leaders to confront the threat of global warming at the London conference to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Howard refused to ratify this protocol. This was so that Australia could continue to export huge quantities of coal, When he returned from that conference he gloated to the media, "Tony Blair's job is to look after his country's best interests. My job is to look after Australia's."
Valuable time in starting action against global warming has been lost. Since then, in 2005, Australia faced the hottest year since 1890, ongoing drought in Australia. A succession of hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico in which we were extremely lucky that the damage was limited to 'only' the devastation of New Orleans and a number of off-shore oil rigs.
John Howard's other notable contribution to accelerating the world's march towards Armageddon was his role in igniting the current inferno in Iraq, which threatens, soon, to also engulf Iran with unpredictable consequences for the whole world's oil-dependent economy.
In April 2003, John Howard told the Australian public that we could not possibly put off the invasion of Iraq until the United Nations weapons inspectors had been allowed to finish their work, such was the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the world. So Australia joined in the invasion of Iraq as part of the 'coalition of the willing' against the wishes of world public opinion and the United Nations. Yet only months before, Australian bribe money to secure wheat sales to Iraq was still flowing into Hussein's very pockets during the course of what was to become known as the AWB3 bribery scandal.The total value of bribes paid was nearly AU$300 million.
Better Australian leadership needed
That Australia's destiny lies in the hands of such a set of political leaders is an indictment of this country's political institutions.
A goal of this site is to inform the public about the issues which threaten our survival and to promote vigorous discussion and debate with a view to arriving at solutions to these problems. We hope that this will help bring into existence a grass-roots political movement which is capable of having these solutions adopted as policy at all levels of Government in Australia and, hopefully, in other countries as well.
Where our political leaders, including John Howard, Peter Beattie and Campbell Newman, stand in the way, we must not shirk from exercising our rights under Australia's still formally democratic constitution in order to have these 'leaders' replaced.