Kris: “Happy Overshoot Day, Murphy. Not.”
Murphy: “Most of us are living off credit from the banks and the government, right? Especially these days. We may as well be living off credit from the planet, too.”
Kris: “Yeah? So what’s Earth going to borrow to make good what we’re sucking up? Sulfuric acid from Venus? Mars is no help, carbon dioxide is already a glut there, and they haven’t got much else to offer but dry dirt.”
Murphy: “So you get on the energy-guzzling, carbon-dioxide-belching computer network to whine to me about it on Zoom.”
Kris: “What do you want from me? You can’t meet in person, social distancing! You can’t fly anywhere, they’d rather you not drive anywhere. What’s left but the computer? And you’re lecturing me about that! What are we supposed to do, find a hole, crawl in it, and die with as small a carbon footprint as possible so we don’t bother the dandelions? Has the whole bloody world forgotten that solitary confinement is considered cruel and unusual punishment by any polity with even the most miniscule concept of respect for its citizens?”
Murphy: “I’m afraid SARS-CoV-2 isn’t a signatory to any of the Geneva Conventions. Sorry. And since I know where you’ve been the last four years, right alongside me, you can’t have missed how much respect our fellow citizens have been getting – and have earned – from each other, never mind our nation and its polity.”
Kris: “Fine. Got anything to offer but snide remarks? What have you been working on to help?”
Murphy: “Lately? Oh, just a little analysis of how Adolf Hitler could, and probably should, have won World War 2.”
Kris: […] “You’re losing me.”
Murphy: “I know. I should care, but I’m pretty much past having the will to do that anymore. Guess I’ll give it a shot anyway.
“Hitler and Nazi Germany pretty much had the world doing their bidding in 1940. They did it by applying their strengths, in new toys and tactics, against the weaknesses of their opponents. Who promptly fell over. Had they continued to do so over the next 6-12 months, they might well have rendered their remaining opponents incapable of meaningful resistance. But they did not do so. Instead, they butted heads against the gathering strength of the implacable enemies they made, and eventually got themselves wiped out.
“And when it started to become apparent that the head-butting wasn’t working, did they pull back, consolidate, return to trying to exploit weaknesses? They did not. They bulled forward to the bitter end. And Hitler, instead of returning to the sensible strategies that got him on top in the first place, relied on Wunderwaffe to pull his and his country’s ass out of the fire.”
Kris: “Wunderwaffe? Miracle weapons?”
Murphy: “Yeah. The V rockets, and dozens of other types. Jet and rocket fighter planes. Railway guns. Crazy new submarines. Yadayadayada. Fancy gadgets that ‘were going to win the war’. Which was already lost because the Nazis had abandoned first principles. The few new toys that actually saw combat were too late, and too few, to change the course of the war. Which ended with, essentially, German annihilation.”
Kris: “OK …”
Murphy: “We have known about how the human population is overshooting the planet’s resources for at least seventy years. Paul and Anne Ehrlich described population boom-and-bust cycles in animals and reasoned that humans were not exempt from them. Which we are not. But we developed a few tricks and applied them to easy targets, and presto! Ehrlich’s more dire predictions were averted. We bought time to apply first principles: stop explosive population growth, reduce carbon dioxide and other noxious gas emissions, bring humans back into balance with the planet and retain our position as conquering lords and ladies.
“Instead, we have allowed the population and its energy use to expand unchecked, butting heads with the ecosystem. And as it becomes increasingly more apparent that we are losing the war, with rampant climate change, global pandemics, and increasing social unrest as energy subsidies run out, we are responding, not with first principles, but with Wunderwaffe. Windmills, electric cars, algae farms. All too little and too late.”
Kris: “Really? You wouldn’t guess from the media.”
Murphy: “Uh huh. The Nazis made damn sure that the miracle weapons were highlighted in their propaganda, too. And you’d best believe that the superweapon designers were happy as profitable little clams to have the work and take the money. Maybe not quite as happy as Elon Musk with his electric cars, perhaps, but you get the picture.”
Kris: “Electric cars that only the rich can afford?”
Murphy: “Careful, Kris, you’ll let out the dirty little secret of environmentalism. It’s only for ‘the worthy’, and the Wunderwaffe they parade to show off their exalted status and justify their otherwise-unabated, and destructive, energy consumption. And then they have the damned gall to wonder how come the ‘unworthy’ fought back and elected Trump to the Presidency, and his party to Congress. And back and back and forth and forth, and meanwhile we run up a debt with Planet Earth that it’s going to be hell to try and pay off. Because none of us is willing to face up to first principles.”
Murphy: “If it’s going to happen, may as well get it over with.”