No I did not mean to make it sound so abstract. In a while I will explain what the Third Curve stands for and why it is fundamental in nature.
But meanwhile I am sure I have left you with in a paradox. Where do we go from here? How do we reconcile the unsolvable mess we appear to be in?
Maybe the answer lies in the notion of Limits.
I selected 2 curves to illustrate the dangers of not respecting limits.
The Exponential Concept of limitless money growth was an aberration and the CAUSE.
The Bell Curve Reality of excessive resource depletion was the symptom and the EFFECT.
And as we have seen the Cause is unsustainable and the Effect undesirable.
The resulting disease is being felt in all life-signs soaring exponentially out of safe bounds.
Maybe we need to move beyond these 2 Curves to one that is embedded in nature – a behavioral curve of the universe.
This curve is sustainable and desirable because it intrinsically respects limits reflecting an energy and resource pattern that was naturally available to us before we started the one-way looting and burning of stored energy.
This I call the Third Curve. It is nothing but the energy budget on which the Earth runs. And that budget is given to us naturally and regularly from the begining of the Solar System. It is withing this budget of energy that everything evloved and was shaped. The world became what is was with that budget. Until we started tampering with it. But how?
We spoke of Mind and Body. Minds are unlimited but every body has limits that are defined by its own Third Curve – the limits between which its energy oscillates. These are the limits between which that body can function healthily as an organism. The body of an ant, a lion or even our Runner, each have their own Third Curve. Pumping them with extra energy beyond that limit is not going to help them. It will only end up breaking the delicate balance of energies on which they were meant to function.
We come back to our cultural blind spot of ignoring that the Earth is an organism. And therefore, the Earth has its own Third Curve. So it is not a question of how much energy we CAN find and burn in an illusion of success and progress, but it is a question of how much we SHOULD.
The Third Curve of the living Earth faithfully follows the rhythm of our primary energy provider, the sun. Reliably it rises, peaks and ebbs only to rise again – the flush of nature governed by the sun.
This was how the Earth behaved for ages before we appeared and continues to do so. That was our budget for existence universally ordained.
As for growth – it was always meant to oscillate in gentle waves of highs and lows following the sun’s energy. The smaller oscillations of day and night were superimposed on larger oscillations of seasons and the even larger oscillations of solar cycles.
Ever changing, yet ever remaining, in a narrow band of values. Nothing going to the sky and nothing going to zero. Those were the limits set by the universe for our actions, for our own benefit and for our survival.
Those were the limits respected by all other forms of life on this planet including our indigenous ancestors and the surviving indigenous cultures today that we are actively wiping out with our myth of progress and inverted view of well-being. Violating all limits, modern civilization burnt every known form of stored sunlight, distorting the Third Curve exponentially to the extent that today we find ourselves in the unenviable position of Peak of Oil usage, Peak of Planetary Plundering and Peak of Delusion.
But return to the Third Curve is inevitable. Because that is the steady-state – the eternal rhythm of the universe.
Yet it is not so surprising that by submitting and reverting to this eternal rhythm we also address in parallel the other pressing problems of ecological collapse and global warming.
The Third Curve is the pulse of all things in sync with the universe. By surrendering to it are allowing ourselves to be embraced by the very energies that put us here in the first place.
The above diagram shows us that we have reached the peak of energy and resource consumption which are now taking us into an imperative decline. We have 2 paths to the Third Curve – denial or acceptance of peak oil.
The path through denial can certainly extend our moment at the top of the peak only to exacerbate our predicament leading to an eventual steep, and short chaotic collapse. Each attempt at flattening the curve to maintain status quo will result in a sudden sharp drop of collapse giving the descent a staircase shape. In the dying throes of denial, we would try every trick to kick-start flagging growth and in the process burn most of what could have actually saved some aspects of our present condition. The Earth, in this state of the Third Curve, promises to be uninhabitable, as we would have lost most of our resources in fighting the descent rather than accepting it as an inevitability.
The path through acceptance can immediately start a smoother, longer and managed energy descent, which involves re-alignment of our economic paradigm, cultural beliefs, making sacrifices and bearing some degree of pain. This path will be gentler, less steep and give us time to adapt. It also entails a simultaneous understanding and movement towards the new world that is inevitable with a lower energy budget. We stand a much better chance of bypassing collapse and consciously shaping an unfamiliar but desirable future. This is the Transition that we will examine in the next chapter.