Here are a few notes from his talk. *
We are driven to fulfil our consumer desires by our evolutionary instincts, but evolutionary psychology is not destiny – otherwise there would be no monasteries.
We cannot expect a good agreement to come out of Copenhagen, not one that will keep us below two degrees.
We need to make sure that basic needs can be met locally, rather than be dependent on long supply chains.
If we lost regular electricity, all our IT systems would stop working and our financial records disappear. We didn’t have these things 20 years ago, and we were doing fine back then -- but if we lost them we wouldn’t suddenly return to the world we had 20 years ago – we don’t have those fallbacks anymore.
Will we invent new solutions? Probably not, because in creating new technology, we encounter dwindling returns. In 1897 the cathode-ray tube was invented, and the instructions can be written on a single piece of paper. In 2007 CERN was unveiled to find the Higgs Boson, and it covers many square kilometres. Penicillin was developed in a room with a microscope, and the vaccines were developed for 20,000 euros in today’s money. Big Pharma today spends hundreds of millions of euros creating ever-more complex and esoteric treatments, many of which have little value.
Paul Seabright of the University of Duluth did a study that found that most people don’t naturally trust strangers, they trust institutions. Trust is maintained by organisations, but it is fragile – once people stop believing in their government or their police, it can be a vicious cycle downward.
Under stress, systems show a sharp jump to a lower level of complexity.
Peak energy means that the upward slope we must walk to reach our objectives will become much steeper, not because the goals are moving but because the ground beneath us is falling.
It will mean the end of a great deal of investment, because investment requires debt, and debt is a call on the future. Debt is part of a growth economy, and it means that you must grow by using up more of the resources around you. Debt also accumulates rapidly – one reason why, in many ancient codes of morality, it was illegal.
It is easy to say that we can simply eliminate the inessential things in life, but those inessentials help keep the costs of essentials down. The reason we can buy electronics at low cost is because other people buy Xboxes.
* DISCLAIMER: These are paraphrases from my notes and are not journalistic quotations. There was more to the talk than this, and if you can see a video of Korowicz online, or if a DVD of the conference is ever offered, better to see or buy it than to read this.