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.#3a3; margin: 8px 8px 8px 8px; float: left">
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.
#2b2; padding: 8px 8px 8px 8px; margin: 16px 16px 16px 16px; float: right">The Chaco Anasazi Collapse
One of the decisive causes for the Chaco Anasazi collapse ... was the elites' power and their formulaic repose to the crisis: "roads, rituals and more houses". In a stunning but final building frenzy, the Chacoan elites erected their grandest buildings in an effort to "pump the economy". Many hundreds of thousands of ponderosa pines had been cut to support the roofs of the canyon's proliferating great houses. Immense logs, up to 30 feet long, were carried 20 to 30 miles from outlying forests.
- 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.
Australian political misleaders push climate-changing coal onto the world
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.
#2b2; padding: 8px 8px 8px 8px; margin: 16px 16px 16px 16px; float: right">Environmental Destruction in Ancient Greece
"What now remains compared to what then existed is like the skeleton of a sick man, all the fat and soft earth having wasted way - Mountains which have nothing but food for bees - had trees not very long ago. [The land] was enriched by the yearly rains, which were not lost to it as now, by flowing from the bare land into the sea; but the soil was deep, and therein received the water, and kept in the loamy earth - feeding springs and streams running everywhere. Now only abandoned shrines remain to show where the springs once flowed." - Plato writing in the 4th century BC quoted in A short History of Progress, 2005 by Ronald Wright, pp 87-88) #3a3; margin: 8px 8px 8px 8px; float: left">
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.
Iraq War started to overthrow regime propped up with AU$300 million in Australian bribes
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.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
by Percy Shelley, 1818
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.
During their peak in the eighth century, the great cities of the Maya heartland were running at the limit. They had cashed in all their natural capital. The forest was cut, the fields worn out, the population too high. And the building boom made matters worse, taking more land and timber. Their situation was unstable, vulnerable to any downturn in natural systems. A drought - even if it was no worse than others that the Maya had weathered before - would have been more of a finishing blow than the cause.
As the crisis gathered, the response of the rulers was not to seek a new course, to cut back on royal and military expenditures, to put effort into land reclamation, or to encourage birth control (means of which the Maya may have known). No, they dug in their heels and carried on doing what they had always had done, only more so, Their solution was higher pyramids, more power to the kings, harder work for the masses, more foreign wars. In modern terms, the Maya elite became extremists, or ultra-conservatives, squeezing the last drops of profit from nature and humanity.
from "A Short History of Progress", 2005 by Ronald Wright, pp101-102
The name was previously "candobetter.org".4
The name is intended as a rebuke to the pervasive view that our current dire circumstances are the best that is possible in the given conditions.
Since the late 1970's hundreds of thousands of Australians and tens of millions of like-minded people around the world have poured time, money and energy into unions, progressive political parties and activist and lobby groups concerned with the environment or social causes - all organisations which were set up in order to bring about, to some extent, a better, more just, humane and sustainable society. However, the fact that, instead, the Australian political landscape has come to be dominated by a figure such as John Howard, with his policies of environmental vandalism and his backward-looking social program aimed at enriching a few at the expense of the many, show that these efforts have come to almost nothing.
We reject the notion that this dismal outcome was in any way inevitable. Australians have not now, nor in the past, been powerless to stop the likes of John Howard.
The manifest failure of the organisations we have looked to in the past to oppose Howard and his ilk is not due to the hopelessness of the task, rather it is due to the fact that few of those organisations have, themselves, not become corrupted or, if not, at least hopeless bureaucratised.
Many organisations, which have remained true to their original purpose, and remain under the control of well-meaning individuals, seem to have lost any capacity for self-evaluation and so are determined to go on indefinitely pursuing the same strategies which have failed in the past.
We believe that this can be changed as long as there are well-meaning critical-minded people out there with the resolve to learn the necessary lessons from the past in order to do whatever is necessary to draw our species back from the brink.
What you can do
- Above all, become active. If you become active you can make a difference.
- Inform yourself by reading material on this site or on sites linked to from this site.
- Inform others by:
- Discussing these issues with friends, family, work associates and other acquaintances.
- Write letters to your local newspapers. If they don't print your letter, send us a copy, and if they do, still send us a copy.
- Phone radio talkback shows. If they don't give you a fair hearing, please let us know about it.
- Raise this issue in on-line forums and mailing lists. Include, in your contributions, links back to articles on this web site.
- If you are active in a political party, a union, a professional association, a church, a political party or other group, raise this issue at meetings.
- Contribute your ideas by posting comments in response to articles on this site. If you are interested in contributing more substantive articles, photographs, artwork or other material, please let us know. Contact us through the site contact forms, or if the response seems to be slow phone or text the administrator on +61 412 319669 (0412 319669 in Australia). (Those seeking help for injured wildlife may find that if they look here, they will find a list of people much better able to help than the site administrator).
- Ask of anyone who holds public office to act to confront these problems. If he or she won't, then give your vote to someone else who will, or consider standing for office yourself.
Support community campaigns against overdevelopment and environmental destruction and for social justice. Some campaigns can be found within the menu structure "What can be done?". Campaigns include:
- Blue Wedges (www.bluewedges.org.au)
- Save the Mary River (www.savethemaryriver.com)
- Save Emigrant Creek (www.saveemigrantcreek.org)
- Stop the Wyaralong Dam (www.stopthewyaralongdam.org)
- Community Action for Sustainable Transport (www.notunnels.net)
Just stumbled on your incredibly important website. It's fantastic seeing people standing-up for these issues. A sincere thank-you to all involved. 3 Mar 09
Appendix: James Sinnamon's #js" id="js">injury of May 2009
In May 2010, as result of being driven into by a 4-wheel drive whilst on my bicycle on my way to my paid day-job (or, rather, afternoon shift job), I suffered a closed head injury. The injury could easily have been worse or even fatal. However, thanks to fast action by the ambulance and subsequent care from nursing and medical staff with invaluable oversight regarding my rehabilitation by Sheila Newman, who has an unusually good knowledge of the physiology of the human brain, the damage caused to me by my injury was far less severe than it otherwise might have been. I am not visually disfigured. I still have good physical health. However, because of my diffuse axonal brain damage, I have much less mental stamina and since physical stamina also depends on the brain, much less physical stamina. My balance and physical coordination is poor. The worst consequence is my lost ability to recall events and names and my loss of past memories. Whilst, I still retain a great deal of knowledge and have may memories of the past, much has also been lost.
Since my injury I have been able to contribute to candobetter, but am unable to be as prolific as I was before. This site now depends much more on Sheila Newman and other contributors.
#jsCite" id="jsCite">Citation of claims I believe to be accurate
As a continuing contributor to candobetter, I intend, where I am unable to supply names and dates of books, essays and articles as citation for my articles, to cite my own memory where I believe it to be accurate. Other site visitors are encouraged to either confirm any given citation, where they are able to, or to dispute that citation where they believe it to be wrong. - JS, 15/5/14, 20/9/14
We wanted to include Kyoto in the agreement by setting up a National carbon-trading system, but Beattie refused to co-operate, so it had to be dropped. He's super-sensitive about the coal industry, but it's crazy in terms of Queensland's long-term interests. Global warming is killing the Great Barrier Reef, the State's main economic and environmental resource, and Beattie won't support Kyoto to do something about it. He's the only person I know who wrote his autobiography, In the Arena, before getting into Parliament - he must think he's Teddy Roosevelt. Now, he's rough-riding over the Reef, watching it die because of coral bleaching.
- from The Latham Diaries, 2005, p318.