our society at stake

Stuart Stanford:

I’ve never been able to get too terribly excited about the financial crisis as a massive long-term threat to humanity.  At the end of the day, debt is not a physical quantity.

The fact that humanity, collectively, has written too many debt instruments means that we have been too optimistic about the future, and created more promises than can be actually serviced. However, that doesn’t create any fundamental physical constraint on our activities: it just means that the excessive promises need to be renegotiated to be more in line with the our actual future capabilities.

This process will be painful and difficult in the short term, but I can’t see how it poses any fundamental difficulty to the continued operation of civilization.  There have been financial crises and sovereign debt defaults for many centuries and we have survived them: we will very likely survive this one too.

By contrast, peak oil, when it does come, represents a significant physical constraint, and will require a large scale transformation of a number of important infrastructure elements, one way or another, over the course of a few decades.  It’s also an unprecedented situation…

If we were to blow the handling of peak oil, it could be quite dangerous.