The Corpsman above could just as well be looking at the earth in that petri dish. The growth inhibition shows as clear areas where antibiotic weapons of mass destruction have been released and taken effect.
Moving back to the fungal analogy, imagine a dish, freshly poured with nutritious sterile media. At the very center of the plate place a few fungal spores or technological humans for that matter. Now watch what happens. It begins to use its tools to convert raw energy and resources into infrastructure that begins to expand concentrically into the surrounding medium. As the energy becomes scarce under existing infrastructure, a new ring of growth is begun. Even though the old infrastructure, mycelium or city may no longer have resources in proximity, those structures growing on the periphery will send back nutritive substances. A frontier of growth advances across the petri dish consuming concentrated, rich resources until it approaches the edge. In human technological terms we can define the edge as an EROEI barrier. On the inner side of the growth frontier there are roads, stores, cities, buildings and on the outer side of the growth frontier is undeveloped territory into which the hungry mycelia and roads penetrate. When the mycelia reaches limits it may turn around and search inward for any overlooked sources of energy and consume them, but this does not last long. Just as fracking and tar sands will not last long or provide the necessary energy for maintaining the infrastructure and RNA (humans) on the backside of the growth frontier. In truth there is no longer a growth frontier – all has been converted to motion, waste heat and soon to be worthless infrastructure. In human terms the trees have been stripped, the soils used up or washed away, the oil, natural gas and coal are rapidly depleting. The only thing remaining to do is booby-trap the planet with additional nuclear power plants to make sure the job is complete.
Streptomyces sp. growth pattern altered by yellow bacterial colony. Photo by Mishosi.
The transformation of humans was a cancerous event resulting in unrestrained exponential growth. However, our growth pattern more closely resembles mycelia spreading into and on top of growth agar just as civilization’s roads cover the ground and send specialized mycelia deep into the earth to obtain its mineral, metal and energy resources. Each outer concentric ring of growth provides the “investment” needed for the next ring of growth until finally the costs of expansion exceed the benefits. Some fungal colonies will die from the center outward as their nutrients are depleted and transport and diffusion are inadequate to meet the nutritional requirements of the dense mat of mycelium. If the United States could be seen as a great fungal colony, we would now be eating residual wealth as we destroy capital and desperately hunt for any low-EROEI pockets of fossil fuels remaining. Most politicians aren’t aware of any of this, but are most concerned about maintaining a banking system that can lend into an imaginary final ring of growth. According to many economists, a final ring of growth exists outside of the petri dish. Loans made to accomplish growth where resources do not exist go into default. There may be calls to drill in the Arctic, ten miles beneath the sea, on the planet Neptune, or alternatively fight other colonies for what remains. (That’s what is happening up above at a microscopic scale.)
What I don’t understand is why humans do not take heed of these very basic growth dynamics and understand what happens at the end of an unrestrained exponential growth cycle. Could it be that a financial system must always obscure these facts as it requires exponential growth to successfully retire old loans with new loans while skimming a considerable profit? Do they encourage economists to be blind since seeing would put an end to growth? Do they push for more growth and jobs and loans just to save their own skins, knowing that, in the end, billions will die from a sudden lack of resources? The entire process should have been throttled many decades ago, but citizens like growth as much as the bankers do and why should anyone stand in the way of a good thing when growth is possible. Now the various national quasi-species of humans impinge upon each others growth aspirations as they propel themselves towards their inevitable end.