Attending “Degrowth” Conference
I will be attending the conference, Degrowth in the Americas, an International Conference, in Montreal, for the next few days, returning home on Friday. If any readers happen to be at the conference, let me know, and perhaps we can get together.
After I return home, I will be getting ready for more travel. I am not sure how much I will have time to write in the next few weeks. Perhaps I will be able to write some shorter pieces. My schedule should be more normal in a month or so.
About Gail Tverberg
My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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Gail – it does sound like a very interesting conference. I’ve been looking over the papers and posters and reading/skimming some of them. Just offhand, it looks like you’ll have to work hard to find the kind of numbers and modeling you do here. A lot of it looks very nebulous, and in De-growth and re-growth: The Story of New England Food and Farming. (for example) John E. Carroll is candid about not being able to find numbers to study. As far as I could see he wasn’t even interested in doing an energy breakdown for local growing and farmers markets.
One paper that caught my eye (and, I’ll admit, tickled my confirmation bias) is John Gowdy and Lisi Krall. Agriculture and the Evolution of Human Ultrasociality. Along with Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind, and David Sloan Wilson’s work applying evolutionary principles to social policies< (among many other things), the “human ultrasociality” model of societies can inform the plans that we make and the actions that we take. I think that Haidt’s model of our highly social minds is particularly illuminating and should help anyone trying to inform, educate and motivate about our problems and what we must do.
Enjoy the conference!
All – an apology. I accidentally messed up a couple of links in the above comment. Here they are:
Degrowth Conference papers and posters
Jared Diamond’s book Collapse
I agree that much of the conference has been sort of nebulous. (I am headed home tomorrow.) Part of my role has been to stir things up. I listen to talks, then get up and ask questions that no one thought about. For example, this afternoon, three speakers talked about the politics of a degrowth society. They felt that a political transition to might be achieved by transforming existing political structures to be more effective (or something like that). When the question time came, I pointed out that fossil fuels (and in particular cheap fossil fuels) had enabled the large the existence of the large countries we have today. Without oil and gas, we would not have the transportation or communications needed to keep countries together. Many countries were formed from warring tribes after World War II. Now with high oil prices, recession is setting in in big oil importers, and this is starting to pull things apart, for example in Greece and some other Eurozone countries. Thus, a political transformation is beginning to occur right now, but it is not the transformation that the speakers were talking about. After I raised the point, quite a few of the audience clapped.
This morning at a different session which included Bill Rees, I asked a question about the world’s ecological footprint, and why it was so far out of line with the ratio of the current world’s population to the population of the world that is sustainable without fossil fuels (7 billing / 1.5 billion based on the numbers in his slides).
I did listen to John Gowdy and Lisa Krall’s talk, and had lunch with them afterwards. I may get a copy of the book they talked about. They talked about insects that “farm”, and how the population numbers of those insects are vastly out of balance with the numbers with other types of insects, based on the the aggregate weight of those insects to the total body of insects.
I also did a couple of interviews with press. I may be able to post a link to one of these.
Gail – thanks for the reply, and what you describe is very much what I expected you’d be doing. Keep up the pressure and the good work!
Yes, not sure about the mini-ice age they can have various causes unlike the grand ones caused by periodic orbital changes.
Schoff and Gail:
Indians tree killers :¬)
‘The Indians were so good at killing trees that a team of Stanford environmental scientists think they caused a mini ice age in Europe. When all of the tree-clearing Indians died in the plague, so many trees grew back that it had a reverse global warming effect. More carbon dioxide was sucked from the air, the Earth’s atmosphere held on to less heat, and Al Gore cried a single tear of joy.’
Interesting! It would be interesting to look at the original research on this. Why mini-ice age?
It is difficult to believe that such a small number of people could have influenced the climate to such an extent. Not only that, if they destroyed such a large number of trees, what did they do with them? If they burnt them, then the greenhouse gas output would have balanced what the trees took from the atmosphere in order to grow, thus make no net difference to global temperatures. If they used them for construction, that would have to mean a lot of construction. Surely a large number of what they built would have survived and be open as museums or the like. If they rotted down, then the carbon would have returned to the atmosphere, and thus again there would been no net effect on global temperatures. If the tale is true, then the climate sensitivity to CO2 must be way higher than even the most concerned climate scientist is forecasting to be the case and the only thing we can sensibly do is put our head between our knees and kiss our bottoms goodbye.
To the best of my knowledge, most of the wood cut down over the past 5000 years has been used for cooking and also for heating houses. Every single densely populated country, with the single exception of Germany and to some degree Japan, has deforested most or all of its original forests. For a horrible example of deforestation, look at Haiti, which has destroyed most of its soil through erosion caused by deforestation.
One point that is made in the book Dirt is that trees will generally grow back, if a civilization just cuts them down and the climate is suitable for growing trees. In order to keep trees from growing back, there needs to be a concerted effort to keep them away, and this is generally because of agriculture.
I know that trees grow almost everywhere in Atlanta, where I live, whether you want them there or not. Hardwood trees will regrow from their roots, if a person tries to simply cut off their tops. But even pine trees will reseed, unless you keep pulling up all of the volunteers.
I wonder if agricultural attempts for Haiti’s large population are behind its deforestation.
Could you try and explore the possibility of getting yourself cloned? Your informed input has become an important part of my reading and it will be missed while you are away. Anyway, have fun
That should be intersting: I have long maintined that no more growth is really possible in the developed world.
Facing up to the consequences, is it would seem, stage 1 to finding a way forward.
I have never been to a meeting of this group before. My impression is that the background of people involved is pretty mixed. Most are not too aware of how badly resource limits are hitting now. Most seem to be coming from the “want to do something helpful” direction, without necessarily understanding what problems the world is really up against.
Gail, I’ve been enjoying your candid posts. I will be at the conference Tuesday – Thursday. Showing my film, GrowthBusters, on Tuesday afternoon at the conference. I look forward to meeting you.
I look forward to meeting you, too.