I could just as well have named this blog “Megamold” or “Megafungus” given my impressions of the patterns of growth of industrial civilization. I settled upon Megacancer because the technological system’s essential ingredient, humans, are a renegade species that have evolved into their own complex adaptive system (CAS II) which has its own growth imperative that will destroy the parent ecosystem from which it was derived. Technological civilization will not supersede the ecosystem, but will rather grow haphazardly for a short period doing significant damage to the ecosystem directly and through release of metabolic by-products.
It is amazing to watch clueless humans, rabid for growth and profit, invest in expansion of the cancer and then congratulate themselves on ownership of some portion of infrastructure that they believe will deliver resources to them in perpetuity, even though most of the resources are non-renewable and have been significantly depleted. At some not too distant future the infrastructure will become so worthless as to only become a liability to which no one will claim ownership. The citizenry that work and pay mortgages to one day assume ownership of this infrastructure for all of the income that it can deliver, will find that there is no longer income to be had and will watch their structures slowly degrade. Our leaders seem mostly interested in using their positions to take ownership of as much infrastructure as possible while cheerleading for even more growth without doing the due diligence to figure out where this leaves us in the not so distant future – dead.
A dense mat of industrial mycelium covers the surface of the industrialized world. Small hyphae penetrate new territories, tools are brought in and go to work on newly available resources, to pull them into the fungal/cancer metabolism. Resources circulate within the hyphae and nourish the brightly lit centers of growth, those areas which started from isolated spores or malignant outliers. The consumption is intense and results in more and more infrastructure which sustains an ever-larger human population. At some point the environment will be saturated with growth, that is, the energy return for building roads and cells into new areas will not pay for themselves and will certainly not provide any net energy to be transported to the densest areas of metabolism, the cities. Perhaps we are approaching there now.
Hyphae photo by Bob Blaylock
Roads and streets, like fungal hyphae penetrate the nourishing tissues of the ecosystem to derive nutrition. Enzymes (tools) are put to use upon the substrate to mine, pump, grow and cut resources from the area. These hyphae are analogous to roads in a technological civilization. When growth is no longer possible and nutrition cannot be transported to depleted areas, then technological life will cease to exist in those areas.
NASA – London from space.
A typical concentrated area of growth, the City of London, sends mycelia deep into the countryside for its nourishment in support of its complexity. As older areas are depleted of resources, new areas of growth must compensate to send energy into the city. When growth falters and net energy declines, the city will decline. The world is already feeling the effects of inadequate net energy even though capex is in the many trillions of dollars. High energy prices with less net energy means the human RNA cannot be paid enough to keep the metabolism going within the established spatial and financial parameters. You may think that comparing a technological growth to fungal growth is a mismatch as the fungal cells seem very simple, but this is only because the complexity of the cell is not visible to the human observer.
Aerial view of mold turning bread resources into mold infrastructure.
Human RNA functioning in technological infrastructure are just as clueless as the RNA functioning in the fungal cells. When the nourishment is consumed the mold must sporulate before the mycelium dies. Technological civilizations scale, vastly larger than the mold which still happens to belong to an ecosystem, makes it impossible to sporulate and start again in another nutritious spot. Humans, always using nature as a design template, may try to create a spore to send to Mars, but it doesn’t seem very nutritious. A giant puffball fungus can release trillions of spores into the air in hopes that one or a few will find a spot to grow and repeat the life cycle. Human technological society, as a terminal malignancy/growth, has no life cycle.