Tanks For The Memory

Something New Every Day

Thanks to the internet we can learn continually, every day, with relative ease.  If only it had been around in my younger years.

I learned something new today about my native city of Lincoln situated in the East Midlands region of the United Kingdom.  It is amazing that one can be born, grow up, be educated, and live in an historic place for many years and while being aware of something of its past, be blissfully unaware of the significance and role of the place in fairly recent times.  I am talking of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and on into the current early years of the twenty first century.  I am also speaking of my own ignorance, until today, of the importance of my birthplace in modern times as a time capsule of the technological progress of mankind.  A significance untrumpeted, as far as I am aware, outside of that city and also largely unheard of and unknown within its bounds, though its influence has been felt worldwide.

Powering The Industrial Revolution

Yes, having read what I have read today, I am going to claim that epithet for my home town of Lincoln.

This city, throughout the previous two centuries and into the current, has provided the means to power progress through the revolutionary industrial eras of coal, oil and gas powered energy, through the times of steam, petrol, diesel, avgas and jet fuel powered transportation, both in the UK and around the world.  Including in a country almost as far removed from that city as it is possible to reach: Australia, where I now live.

I have in years past discovered evidence of technology produced in the city of my birth being used in both urban and rural areas (Korumburra, Victoria for example) of my adopted country.

Take a look at this video as a reference to the things of which I speak.  I find this amazing.


The Birthplace Of The Tank

One of the things you may have noticed if you viewed the above video is that Lincoln is stated to be the home of the Tank (the war machine, not a vessel for holding liquids or gases), dating from 1916.  Almost 100 years ago in that period of global conflict that we know as World War 1 – the war to end all wars, or at least the first one to be described as such.  That is absolutely something that I did not know before today.  Oh, I knew that tanks were built there during the Second World War because it was while working in the engineering production of those tanks that my mother and my father met.  My mother was cooking for the workers at the time.  My father was deemed medically unfit for active service.  Neither of them had any formal qualifications for doing what they were doing, nor much in the way of formal education either.

WW1 Tank So, how did I come across this news that Lincoln was where tanks were first made?  Well, being an expatriate of that city and still having family living there, I follow a Facebook page called The Lincolnite in order to keep up with events and news.  Today I read a post there which pointed me to this web page and a story that explains how Lincoln is planning a memorial which they name as the Lincoln Tank Memorial and which will carry the epithet ‘Lincoln – Birthplace of the Tank’.

I followed a link from there to the Tank Memorial web site where the organisers are trying to raise the necessary funds to finish construction.  The site contains much interesting information, many images and some video including the one I shared above.

Back To The Future

So, my home town, renowned for many things in history, ancient and modern, yet little spoken of outside of its boundaries, and while still retaining much of its character from Roman Times and the Gothic era of the Middle Ages, became something of a powerhouse of modern industry and progress in more recent times.  The story, and especially the progress of engineering endeavours, encapsulates everything that has marked the path trodden by human kind throughout the industrial period.

While I am happy to see the place of my youth in this light and to delight for the moment in the revelation of its heretofore, to me, unknown significance, I also look toward the future and to what all of this progress and technological achievement is leading.

What is in the past, is interesting.  It was what it was.  We can’t undo that, even if we wanted to.

What is in the present, is disturbing.  It is what it is.       …but is it what it should be?      …and where is it leading?

What is in the future, is alarming.  It will be what it will be.       …but what sort of future can we expect?

Just what the future holds has already been influenced by the past.  Shaped by everything that we have done since the Industrial Revolution in our search for progress and prosperity.  In our mining of the Earth’s resources.  In our consumption of products and energy resulting from those resources.

Just what the future holds is still being shaped by the present.  Shaped by everything that we continue to do today in our goal of never-ending economic growth.  In our continued grasping for technological advancement and growth in a time when we have been warned that such actions are reaching a limit beyond which we should not trespass.

Just what the future holds will be shaped by what we do from here on in, in part.  In part it already has been shaped by the consequences of earlier actions.  Actions taken by my home town community.  Actions taken by myself.  Actions taken by your community.  Actions taken by yourself.




A Question Of Sustainability

…For A Sustainable Future

I write this piece to highlight a very important piece of information about the world population which can be found on the Population Matters website titled: for a sustainable future.

It is the population counter which you can watch ticking over second by second on that web page and if you are concerned about such matters it is a very sobering pass-time to sit and watch it for a while.

I noticed that this site, which I think does some admirable work by the way, along with many others tends to rather liberally use the word sustainable or sustainability in its releases. This is not necessarily a good thing and, when people and organisations do this, I am not sure if they really have any clear grasp or understanding of just what that term means.

There is no way that we can expect to operate in a sustainable way with a constantly growing population or even one that is stabilised at any where near current levels.

There are over seven and a quarter billion people in the world today  …and counting. Three people for every one that was alive when I was born.

At my birth the population stood at around two and a quarter billion persons.

It had taken many tens of thousands of years to get to that point, having maintained a stable level of under 1 billion from the time that homo-sapiens first appeared until the start of the Industrial Revolution and the later Oil Age.

The growth from 1 to 2 billion took 123 years as a result of what we can loosely refer to as the period of the Industrial Revolution.

In 1960 the world population reached 3 billion, having taken 33 years to get there from the 2 billion level as the age of Oil was gaining momentum.

From 1960 it took 14 years to add the next billion in 1974. That was 4 billion.
From 1974 it took 13 years to add the next billion in 1987. That was 5 billion.
From 1988 it took 12 years to add the next billion in 2000. That was 6 billion.
From 2000 it took 11 years to add the next billion in 2011. That was 7 billion.

At a quarter of a billion added in just over 2.5 years since the end of 2011 we are on track to reach the next billion in just another 7.5 years (a total of 10 years) ie. 2021. That will be 8 billion.  At this rate of increase the next level will be reached around 2030. That will be 9 billion.  So sometime in the mid ’30s, when I am turning ninety (if I am so lucky) another billion will have been added. That will be ten billion.

The world population will have quadrupled in my lifetime. 

This sudden rate of increase in human presence on this planet can only be attributed to both the Industrial Revolution and especially the age of Oil.  Without those two events we would still be looking at around one and a half billion living souls.  The success of both of these modern periods in raising population levels is based totally on the energy lift provided by utilising and consuming the Earth’s store of fossil fuels, coal, gas, and oil.  We are now reaching the point when we can no longer expect or afford to maintain the energy production levels that we have become used to enjoying throughout the last century or so.  Consequently we can not expect or afford to maintain population at levels seen in that same period.  Logically, with declining energy availability, population level will fall to roughly pre-industrial levels.  Whether that is achieved smoothly by natural means or rather rudely by some catastrophic event or events arising directly or indirectly from the current situation of resource usage or over-population, remains to be seen.

Of course if you know how I think, you will also know that I don’t believe that population can possibly increase to the levels that I have suggested above.  Within the next six or seven years I expect the population to begin to crash for one reason or another, ultimately down to somewhere between its pre-industrial sustainable level of around 1.5 billion persons and its pre-oil level of around 2 billion.  How long that downturn will take is anybody’s guess.  It could be a century or so.  It could equally be sudden and cataclysmic.  And it could be soon.

That, if looked at with unbiased expectations is what sustainability is all about.  Anything else is just pie-in-the-sky illusion.

This is the only way that any of us can possibly survive on this beautiful planet.

Personally I don’t think any of us can plan to be one of the survivors who make it through that downturn but we can plan to be as knowledgeable and equipped to take care of ourselves, as we are able to do, in a cleaner, simpler, leaner, less organised world, where those who are able to operate in a level of self-reliance will best prosper.

My best wishes to anyone who reads this, in their endeavours to get there.

Note added after publication

Please don’t think that I am preaching here when I mention such things.  I am not a person who is in any position to do that as I have been responsible for bringing six children into this world with two separate women.  I have therefore doubled my personal presence on the planet rather than simply doing what could be taken, if the circumstances were different ie. as in times past, as continuing only sustainable reproduction at a level of replacement for myself and partners, or less.

So, I am not preaching  …just stating the inescapable facts.

Unless we can look at this issue objectively and without emotion, we are headed for destruction and doom.  If you and I cannot see that, then we are lost, because our governments will never act on, or even agree with, that position.  Our blinkered leaders can only see the way forward as one in which they must encourage and indeed ensure continued economic growth, even when they must be able to see that such a course is ultimately impossible to achieve and will certainly fail.  And what does continued growth mean?  It means more and more people.  More working units (sorry, people) to produce more stuff.  More consuming units (sorry, people) to keep buying stuff.  More reproducing units (sorry, people) to keep generating more of the above units (sorry, people).

We are mice trapped inside a treadmill and we need to get off.  We must get off.


It’s The End Of The World As We Know It . . . and I Feel Fine

This post features the following article by Daniel Smith, published by the New York Times, April 17, 2014  …a long but very interesting read.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine (www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html)

The article is a piece about Paul Kingsnorth, a man whose ideas, feelings and views about the state of the world and the future of civilisation, I tend to share.

Kingsnorth co-jointly founded the Dark Mountain Project “a loose network of ecologically minded artists and writers” in the UK back in 2009. When I first became aware of this group it drew my interest and I read the Manifesto they produced, written by Kingsnorth. I also checked in on what they were doing from time to time. The initial concept was a worthy one but I became aware that the group was attracting to itself all sorts of weirdos and hippies who were more interested in holding festivals in the woods than anything serious. Kingsnorth also detected this development and determined that the 2013 annual festival would be the last to be held. That seems to have been a good idea when we read that the highlight of the festival, a midnight ritual, culminated in folk wearing stag antlers running off into the woods, making animal noises, writhing in the mud and singing “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” song in harmony.

There are far more important issues to contemplate than that sort of folly. Perhaps the most important thing before us is to consider what Kingsnorth defines as our ‘duty’ to face the results of our last 100 years of partying and frivolity at the expense of nature and ecology. This is something we must face because there is no hope now of avoiding the consequences of our actions.

Yet there are those who still proclaim that things can be done to alter the inevitable course of events. The article cites Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, as an example.  I can think of many others, many of whom are lining their own pockets through book sales and seminars.

These people are peddling false hope.

I can agree with Kingsnorth (except for the part about the whiskey bottle) when he says “Whenever I hear the word ‘hope’ these days, I reach for my whiskey bottle. It seems to me to be such a futile thing. What does it mean? What are we hoping for? And why are we reduced to something so desperate? Surely we only hope when we are powerless?”

There is no hope now of diverting coming tragedy. Perhaps some decades ago there might have been, but that time has passed us by while we were busy partying and feathering our nests.  If these ideas result in me being known as a “crazy collapsitarian” (Kingsnorth’s favorite epithet) then so be it.

“It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He (Kingsnorth) Feels Fine”.

I share those feelings.

So, I am content to consider that most people are not worth saving, and those that are will be looking around for advice and assistance on a personal level, once the full realisation of what is occurring or about to occur awakens them to the situation. All that is left to do is to observe events as they unfold, answer questions from concerned others to the best of personal knowledge (but not get too attached to them), find ways to give yourself the best chance you can to get through what’s coming, and then be prepared to watch perhaps six billion folks be taken out by one or more mostly foreseeable but as yet not precisely specified means, over whatever period of time it takes whether that be short and quick, whether it be drawn out over a century or so, or anything in between. Always bearing in mind that you yourself, irrespective of what preparations you may have made and contingencies you have covered to secure your future, you (or I) may well be counted among those who do not make it.

Nothing else really matters much now except for being a nice person and caring for those around you as best you can.https://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/20/magazine/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it-and-he-feels-fine.html