Here Thar Be Monsters!

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2.1.11

The Butterfly Effect

From the field of Chaos Thery comes a rather well-known scenario called the Butterfly Effect, which posits that some small seed event in one part of a closed system causes massive disruptions in another part. The thought exercise that goes with this tells us to imagine a butterfly in China that disturbs a small amount of air by flapping its wings, which by force multiplication, turns into giant weather disturbances in North America. As we scan Asia for news today, we see several examples of this exercise at work.

The most obvious are the floods down in Australia. The state of Queenland has been under a massive low pressure cell that is drawing in moisture from all over Asia and dumping it all in one place. Floods as high as 9 meters/30 feet have inundated an area so large that it has been called a new inland sea. Six of the country's major rivers are well over flood stage, which in turn has put more than 200,000 people out of their houses. Crocodile and snake warnings have gone up across the state.

What's more, Queensland is one of the major food producing areas in Australia. The country is, for the most part, desert, with the northern coastal plains being the bread basket of the nation. The summer plantings have either been delayed or destroyed due to the flooding, which will certainly lead to shortages and/or major price hikes in the near future, if not already.

Additionally, Queensland is one of the major coal producing areas in Asia, larger than Indonesia. It is one of the primary energy sources for China, which has been buying up oil, gas and coal with voracious appetite for the past decade. The flooding has shut many large mines in Australia, which in turn has caused a spike in coal prices, with legions of buyers decending on Indonesia. The price of coal has jumped well over $10/tonne from high-calorie steam coal, the price of which was already being driven up by significantly higher oil prices.

The low-pressure cell over Queensland has spawned a comcommitant high-pressure cell over the southern states of Victoria and South Australia, which in turn is causing record heat waves in those areas, with the threats of wild fires, in the opening days of summer there. The low pressure is also drawing in air masses from as far as India, which are passing over the mountains in sumatra, causing undulating patterns of cumulo-nimbus clouds that have caused tornado warnings to be posted in Indonesia as the unstable air passes over. This is also causing the local sea-state to become rough, thus slowing the fishing area in one of the world's major seafood sources.

So, a low-pressure cell in Australia is coming to a dinner table near you. And if you enjoy wine with your dinner, you will find that the 2010-11 vintages of Australian wines to be unsatisfactory in the years to come, as the grapes not wiped out by flooding will be swollen with water, causing the sugars inside to dilute, thus reducing the flavor and tannins.

A butterfly flapped her wings...

Another interesting trend that will come to effect a great number of societies worldwide is the Japanese depopluation statistic. Seems the 1.5 million deaths was not offset by the 1.04 million births in that country, as post-war baby boomers begin dying off.

On the one hand, the good news is more jobs available. One the other hand, fewer people to fill the jobs and pay taxes to support the massive, aging population of boomers. This also hearals deflation, as demand drops due entirely to fewer people needing ;stuff.' In a world where the economic paradigm is based on ever-expanding markets and profits, this can't be good.

This trend has been showing up worldwide, as retirement ages have risen in most first and second world countries, even sparking riots in France, where there would be most happy to never have to work in the first place. In the States, the accelerating death-rate of boomers is being offset by the increasing births among Central and South American immigrants, however these are generally illegals who do not contribute to the Social Security system, though they do frequently benefit from it, causing a massive imbalance in that system.

The post-war baby boom caused massive upheavals in the 50s and 60s throughout Europe and America, as the huge demographic mountain moved through the life-cycle. However, just as we were seeing a stabilization of the marketplace, with new economic models being based on a temporary phenomenon, this demographic is now starting to die off over the next 20 years, causing a collapse in nearly every business model currently in vogue.

Not only will this huge group of people cease to be productive, but they will (and already have) being to consume great amounts of medical resources and burden a smaller successive generation with its need for care. Ironically, this boom generation, famous for being narcissistic and self-centered, will find itself increasing relying on their offspring, who are resentful of parents who ignored them in favor of 'finding themselves.' This resentment has become embedded and grown with succeeding generations to the point where the latest demographic to (try) to enter the workforce are deeply resentful of the boomers, who can not move out of the way for financial reasons, or won't move out of the way for greed.

One might begin to think that a good investment will be hospice/euthanasia centers.

A butterfly flaps her wings...

I am tempted to speculate that all the ills of the world right now can be laid at the feet of the baby boomers. I say that even though, depending on the source, i am the last of the boomers or the first of GenX. The 'Me Generation' created a culture of indulgence and leisure that consumed vast resources in search of pleasure. This, in turn, led to huge bubbles in every economic sector related to this burning desire to have TWO cakes and eat them both. But, that still doesn't get us to the original butterfly.

For that, we turn to the parents of the boomers. After the war, they created an orgy of consumerism that is still with us today. Who can blame them? These were people who grew up in the first Depression, fought a world war with morally questionable acts on the part of both Allies and Acis powers, and when it was over, they had created an empire. This period and generation saw the creation of interstates, Levitt-towns, space programs, and nuclear technologies. Having started with nothing, they ended up with everything, and wanting to compensate for their lack in childhood, they proceeded to over-indulge their offspring, who came to see this glut as their birthright.

The hep cats turned into the Beats who turned into the hippies. Suburbia spawned wife-swapping clubs and happy hour and the great American road machines. The steel roasters of the post-war period became the jalopies of their kids, which turned to a passion for muscle cars with long, straight interstates on which to burn up tanks of gas.

The boomers, who had everything they could imagine, became bored and turned their attention to drugs and a quickly growing music industry. This led to the 70s disco phenomenon, where sex, drugs and music combined to use up hours of idle time. This turned into the unbridled greed of the 80s and the first of the puppet presidents, who rubber-stamped corporate profit-lust. And this became the debt-laden 'naughties,' and has spawned generations of disaffected and ignored offspring who despise having their futures hocked for grandpa's and grandma's navel-staring exploits.

We could even turn our sights on the roaring 20s, which gave us E-Z credit and a prohibition on alcohol, which led to interest in alternative (and then legal) mind-altering substances. This, in turn, brought us the War on Drugs, which has proven to be a complete fiasco. We could even castigate FDR, or Lincoln for that matter. But every storm has its seeds somewhere in the world.

And so, a butterfly flaps her wings...

What this leads to is, what are we doing now that will become the nightmares of our grandchildren, and beyond (since many boomers are already seeing their great-grandchildren)? What small seeds are we planting here today that will bear sour fruit? Have we completely lost the ability to think deeply and to investigate the results of our actions? Or, more likely, have we lost interest in the future as we become increasingly focused on the immediate situation?

One could successfully, if not easily, argue that the actions of the ancient Babylonians and Egyptians are still affecting us at this minute. Some, such as Joseph P. Farrell are building cogent arguments that the actions of long-gone races millions of years ago are profoundly tied to our extant situation.

If we take as axiomatic that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it, then we owe our progeny a few extra minutes to consider every act we make, if not out of concern for our neighbor, then at least for the benefit of our descendants.

There was a brilliant book a while back. I think it was by Ray Bradbury. Someone had created a time machine and was taking tourists back in time on tours. The condition was that the travellers could not touch, change or bring back anything. The conclusion was that one guy unknowingly stepped on a butterfly while touring the Age of Dinosaurs. When they returned, everything was subtly but obviously different. How many butterflies have you stepped on?

And a butterfly flaps her wings...yet again.

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