Enter the Elephant  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

TOD commenter memmel's bizarre occasional allusions to elephants seem to have gone viral and infected the editors, with Nate unleashing a herd of elephants in his latest campfire post - Enter the Elephant.

There are 2 thresholds occurring in resource depletion space. 1)the shifting but low odds on steering the societal Titanic ( turbo-capitalism) away from the iceberg (energy decline) and 2) what individuals are doing to increase their own odds of success of navigating the coming transition. Progress on one is probably uncorrelated to progress on the other.

Sometimes I think I am on the verge of really understanding not only the details of our global situation, but which paths are still open to humanity, and which are dead ends. Sure, I know there is a gargantuan amount of unknown knowledge out there (what we don't know we don't know), but it seems like if I could just get a little bit more info and synthesis, that I could convey such to others and the tumblers of the 'solution' lock combination could be made clear. A concise well written expose in the major newspapers etc. and people would start to change their behavior in the significant magnitude that will needed.

I have come to see this as delusional thinking. As I wrote about in 'Whither TheOildrum?', I suspect the analyst community (to which I belong), are largely puzzle solvers. The unexpected reward from finding new empirical connections and lateral thinking tricks our dopamine superhighway into thinking we are effecting change, when in reality the results are akin to an arcade game. We rationalize said situation by hoping/assuming that others will advance our analysis and effect the appropriate policy steps that logically follow. I have come to believe this is not reality. The reality is people look at these graphs and analyses a)because they are interesting in the same way watching a scary movie with buttered popcorn is interesting and b)they want to improve their own situation (by investing in oil future, or gold, etc.).

What makes paradigms change? There is a kind of recipe. First, things need to be bad in relation to how they were. Relative not absolute. (If our GDP and consumption got cut in half we would still be richer than kings and queens of a few generations ago, yet the psychological withdrawal for most of such a trajectory would be devastating.) Second there needs to be a quantification and general dissemination of knowledge and details of the problem. (enter ecological economists, Ron Paul, theoildrum.com, etc. ) Though these facts may not be assimilated by the mainstream, the fact that some people are snaking an empirical path to the heart of discontent is important. It is how this factual spine makes its way into the social zeitgeist which is the relevant question du jour. Third, there needs to be a real event that pulls at peoples emotions so much that they perceive that doing nothing is worse than doing something. Such a recipe, or close to it, exists today.


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