In which Tad Patzek debunks the Green Revolution, the agrofuel myth, and the whole basis of modern economics.
Please watch this video. It’s by far the clearest, most graphic explanation of our present plight as a species.
Tad Patzek’s a scientist and professor at the top of his field endowed with impeccable credentials, a deep capacity for empathy, and a wide-ranging and truly global intelligence.
He uses those skills to look at the world we live in and arrives at an alarming conclusion: “This planet has no more capacity to do more for us. . .we have to understand that we have reached the limit.”
The only solution, he says, begins with the acceptance that we have created a delusional economy, premised on the earth’s ability to endlessly surrender resources and eternally tolerate our dumping it all back as noxious waste.
We are now beyond a point of no return. Something has to give. . .and that is our energy use. We’ve going to have to rework the entire structure of our society, where we work, how we life, what we eat. Instead we are being told every other day that there’s a another new magical solution that will save us. Especially for people who were born here, the word “technology” has this religious connotation: Technology is going to be some good for us that’s going to save us.
Well, let me tell you what I think. Many of the problem’s I’ve been talking about today have no technological solutions. None whatsoever. Because we have gone beyond the carrying capacity of the planet, and there is no technology that will reverse that. And so we’re going to have to do things differently.
One of UC Berkeley’s saddest losses, and a personal one for us as well, came when Tad , a professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, left the city by the bay to take up a new post at the University of Texas in Austin, where he serves as Lois K. and Richard D. Folger Leadership Professor and Chairman of the Petroleum and Geosystems Engineering Department. We particularly miss his great good sense, his exceptional empathy, and his sly wit.
The occasion of our acquaintance was a campus political battle we we reporting for the Berkeley Daily Planet.
As a former employee of Shell Oil, Tad knows the fuel industry from the inside, so it was perhaps ironic that he became one of the eloquently outspoken critics of the largest oil company research grant ever given a public university, the $500 million BP funding bonanza handed UC Berkeley to develop agrofuels, transportation fuels derived from plants.
Tad and other colleagues waged a valiant but ultimately doomed challenge to a project destined to give the corporations yet another big bite of what is becoming, increasingly, a public university in name only.
The video is of a talk he delivered to the Woods Institute for the Environment at Stanford University on 14 May 2008, which he begins with a definitive debunking of the agrofuel myth.
While he deftly refutes the notion of agrofuels are a “green” energy source, his deeper concern is the certainty that transforming vast swatches of the earth’s surface into fuel plantations will bring and misery to the world’s poorest.
His message is critical to the world today, when the world is torn about by anger over rising food prices while the corporations of the world’s developed countries are rapaciously grabbing up land throughout the developing world to fuel their cars, trucks, planes, and trains.
His science is impeccable, and the only logical conclusion is the one he draws: Growing crops for fuel is not only scientifically preposterous, it’s morally repugnant, making food vastly more expensive at the very time the world is rendered asunder by billions of hungry and righteously angry people.
But he goes further, ripping apart the sacred myth of the Green Revolution, revealing it as a precarious and only temporary boost in agricultural production, dependent of vast amount of chemicals and fuels which are becoming increasingly costly and are yielding ever-diminishing returns.
[And listen very carefully to the quotations he cites from Chris Somerville. That’s an important name to remember, because he’s the “bioengineer” who made millions developing genetically modified soybeans for Monsanto before tanking the helm of that $500 million BP project he runs for UC Berkeley, grandiosely named “The Energy Biosciences Institute,” or EBI. And as EBI's then-chief scientist said, BP's looking at the green parts of the globe to plant the resulting fuel crops.]
We are seeing a global catastrophe, Tad warns, in which billions are left hungry, their children stunted in mind and body by malnutrition, and their economies in collapse.
“There has been a systematic breaking in democracy, science, and common sense in dealing with global food supply and energy production.” Do not become hopeless victims of other people’s delusion, he implores. Take action.
And that, we think, is what the people of Egypt are doing.
Here’s the tagline from Tad’s blog, LifeItself:
In this blog, I continue to write about the environment, ecology, energy, complexity, and humans. Of particular interest to me are human self-delusions and mad stampedes to nowhere.
The latest post begins like this:
Lies, health, hunger, and biofuels
“Cowardice is the worst vice of men,” Yeshua Ha-Nozri said softly to the fifth Procurator of Judea, the cruel knight Pontius Pilate, when they met at the Herod’s palace on that fateful, unbearably hot 14th day of Nisan. If you do not believe me, please read that crown jewel of all literature of all times, “The Master and Margarita,” written some 80 years ago by a Russian doctor and writer, Mikhail Bulgakov.
Yeshua is of course Jesus. But what does His quiet remark have to do with food, biofuels, poor health, hunger, and politics as usual by the rascals who have Jesus’ name smeared all over their campaign slogans, even when they try to consume our souls?
We are cowards because we loath to resist the more powerful in our lives, even when we know they are wrong. As importantly, we are cowards because we are afraid to think for ourselves and draw our own conclusions. Since we are cowards we are eager to accept half-truths, or blatant lies, if they sooth us and make us avoid difficult choices. With time, lies that surround us soak in through our skins and become parts of who we are. This is how we elect and re-elect most politicians. This is how we eat bad cheap food and buy expensive vitamins and mineral supplements to make up for what we miss. This is how we come to believe that the food-like edible substances we purchase in the centers of all supermarkets are actually food. This is how we maintain that burning freshly killed plants is morally superior to burning the ancient ones.