A Forecast of Our Energy Future; Why Common Solutions Don’t Work

In order to understand what solutions to our energy predicament will or won’t work, it is necessary to understand the true nature of our energy predicament. Most solutions fail because analysts assume that the nature of our energy problem is quite different from what it really is. Analysts assume that our problem is a slowly developing long-term problem, when in fact, it is a problem that is at our door step right now.

The point that most analysts miss is that our energy problem behaves very much like a near-term financial problem. We will discuss why this happens. This near-term financial problem is bound to work itself out in a way that leads to huge job losses and governmental changes in the near term. Our mitigation strategies need to be considered in this context. Strategies aimed simply at relieving energy shortages with high priced fuels and high-tech equipment are bound to be short lived solutions, if they are solutions at all.


1. Our number one energy problem is a rapidly rising need for investment capital, just to maintain a fixed level of resource extraction. This investment capital is physical “stuff” like oil, coal, and metals.

We pulled out the “easy to extract” oil, gas, and coal first. As we move on to the difficult to extract resources, we find that the need for investment capital escalates rapidly. According to Mark Lewis writing in the Financial Times, “upstream capital expenditures” for oil and gas amounted to  nearly $700 billion in 2012, compared to $350 billion in 2005, both in 2012 dollars. This corresponds to an inflation-adjusted annual increase of 10% per year for the seven year period. (If you have problems viewing the images, attached is a PDF of the article, including images: A Forecast of Our Energy Future; Why Common Solutions Don’t Work | Our Finite World)

Figure 1. The way would expect the cost of the extraction of energy supplies to rise, as finite supplies deplete.

Figure 1. The way would expect the cost of the extraction of energy supplies to rise, as finite supplies deplete.

In theory, we would expect extraction costs to rise as we approach limits of the amount to be extracted. In fact, the steep rise in oil prices in recent years is of the type we would expect, if this is happening. We were able to get around the problem in the 1970s, by adding more oil extraction, substituting other energy products for oil, and increasing efficiency. This time, our options for fixing the situation are much fewer, since the low hanging fruit have already been picked, and we are reaching financial limits now.

Figure 2. Historical oil prices in 2012 dollars, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013 data. (2013 included as well, from EIA data.)

Figure 2. Historical oil prices in 2012 dollars, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2013 data. (2013 included as well, from EIA data.)

To make matters worse, the rapidly rising need for investment capital arises is other industries as well as fossil fuels. Metals extraction follows somewhat the same pattern. We extracted the highest grade ores, in the most accessible locations first. We can still extract more metals, but we need to move to lower grade ores. This means we need to remove more of the unwanted waste products, using more resources, including energy resources.

Figure 3. Waste product to produce 100 units of metal

Figure 3. Waste product to produce 100 units of metal

There is a huge increase in the amount of waste products that must be extracted and disposed of, as we move to lower grade ores (Figure 3). The increase in waste products is only 3% when we move from ore with a concentration of .200, to ore with a concentration .195. When we move from a concentration of .010 to a concentration of .005, the amount of waste product more than doubles.

When we look at the inflation adjusted cost of base metals (Figure 4 below), we see that the index was generally falling for a long period between the 1960s and the 1990s, as productivity improvements were greater than falling ore quality.

Figure 4. World Bank inflation adjusted base metal index (excluding iron).

Figure 4. World Bank inflation adjusted base metal index (excluding iron).

Since 2002, the index is higher, as we might expect if we are starting to reach limits with respect to some of the metals in the index.

There are many other situations where we are fighting a losing battle with nature, and as a result need to make larger resource investments. We have badly over-fished the ocean, so  fishermen now need to use more resources too catch the remaining much smaller fish.  Pollution (including CO2 pollution) is becoming more of a problem, so we invest resources in  devices to capture mercury emissions and in wind turbines in the hope they will help our pollution problems. We also need to invest increasing amounts in roads,  bridges, electricity transmission lines, and pipelines, to compensate for deferred maintenance and aging infrastructure.

Some people say that the issue is one of falling Energy Return on Energy Invested (EROI), and indeed, falling EROI is part of the problem. The steepness of the curve comes from the rapid increase in energy products used for extraction and many other purposes, as we approach limits.  The investment capital limit was discovered by the original modelers of Limits to Growth in 1972. I discuss this in my post Why EIA, IEA, and Randers’ 2052 Energy Forecasts are Wrong.

2. When the amount of oil extracted each year flattens out (as it has since 2004), a conflict arises: How can there be enough oil both (a) for the growing investment needed to maintain the status quo, plus (b) for new investment to promote growth?

In the previous section, we talked about the rising need for investment capital, just to maintain the status quo. At least some of this investment capital needs to be in the form of oil.  Another use for oil would be to grow the economy–adding new factories, or planting more crops, or transporting more goods. While in theory there is a possibility of substituting away from oil, at any given point in time, the ability to substitute away is quite limited. Most transport options require oil, and most farming requires oil. Construction and road equipment require oil, as do diesel powered irrigation pumps.

Because of the lack of short term substitutability, the need for oil for reinvestment tends to crowd out the possibility of growth. This is at least part of the reason for slower world-wide economic growth in recent years.

3. In the crowding out of growth, the countries that are most handicapped are the ones with the highest average cost of their energy supplies.

For oil importers, oil is a very high cost product, raising the average cost of energy products. This average cost of energy is highest in countries that use the highest percentage of oil in their energy mix.

If we look at a number of oil importing countries, we see that economic growth tends to be much slower in countries that use very much oil in their energy mix. This tends to happen  because high energy costs make products less affordable. For example, high oil costs make vacations to Greece unaffordable, and thus lead to cut backs in their tourist industry.

It is striking when looking at countries arrayed by the proportion of oil in their energy mix, the extent to which high oil use, and thus high cost energy use, is associated with slow economic growth (Figure 5, 6, and 7). There seems to almost be a dose response–the more oil use, the lower the economic growth. While the PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, and Spain) are shown as a group, each of the countries in the group shows the same pattern on high oil consumption as a percentage of its total energy production in 2004.

Globalization no doubt acted to accelerate this shift toward countries that used little oil. These countries tended to use much more coal in their energy mix–a much cheaper fuel.

Figure 5. Percent energy consumption from oil in 2004, for selected countries and country groups, based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy. (EU - PIIGS means "EU-27 minus PIIGS')

Figure 5. Percent energy consumption from oil in 2004, for selected countries and country groups, based on BP 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy. (EU – PIIGS means “EU-27 minus PIIGS’)

Figure 6. Average percent growth in real GDP between 2005 and 2011, based on USDA GDP data in 2005 US$.

Figure 6. Average percent growth in real GDP between 2005 and 2011, based on USDA GDP data in 2005 US$.

Figure 7. Average percentage consumption growth between 2004 and 2011, based on BP's 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Figure 7. Average percentage consumption growth between 2004 and 2011, based on BP’s 2013 Statistical Review of World Energy.

4. The financial systems of countries with slowing growth are especially affected, as are the governments. Debt becomes harder to repay with interest, as economic growth slows.

With slow growth, debt becomes harder to repay with interest. Governments are tempted to add programs to aid their citizens, because employment tends to be low. Governments find that tax revenue lags because of the lagging wages of most citizens, leading to government deficits. (This is precisely the problem that Turchin and Nefedov noted, prior to collapse, when they analyzed eight historical collapses in their book Secular Cycles.)

Governments have recently attempt to fix both their own financial problems and the problems of their citizens by lowering interest rates to very low levels and by using Quantitative Easing. The latter allows governments to keep even long term interest rates low.  With Quantitative Easing, governments are able to keep borrowing without having a market of ready buyers. Use of Quantitative Easing also tends to blow bubbles in prices of stocks and real estate, helping citizens to feel richer.

5. Wages of citizens of  countries oil importing countries tend to remain flat, as oil prices remain high.

At least part of the wage problem relates to the slow economic growth noted above. Furthermore, citizens of the country will cut back on discretionary goods, as the price of oil rises, because their cost of commuting and of food rises (because oil is used in growing food). The cutback in discretionary spending leads to layoffs in discretionary sectors. If exported goods are high priced as well, buyers from other countries will tend to cut back as well, further leading to layoffs and low wage growth.

6. Oil producers find that oil prices don’t rise high enough, cutting back on their funds for reinvestment. 

As oil extraction costs increase, it becomes difficult for the demand for oil to remain high, because wages are not increasing. This is the issue I describe in my post What’s Ahead? Lower Oil Prices, Despite Higher Extraction Costs.

We are seeing this issue today. Bloomberg reports, Oil Profits Slump as Higher Spending Fails to Raise Output. Business Week reports Shell Surprise Shows Profit Squeeze Even at $100 Oil. Statoil, the Norwegian company, is considering walking away from Greenland, to try to keep a lid on production costs.

7. We find ourselves with a long-term growth imperative relating to fossil fuel use, arising from the effects of globalization and from growing world population.

Globalization added approximately 4 billion consumers to the world market place in the 1997 to 2001 time period. These people previously had lived traditional life styles. Once they became aware of all of the goods that people in the rich countries have, they wanted to join in, buying motor bikes, cars, televisions, phones, and other goods. They would also like to eat meat more often. Population in these countries continues to grow adding to demand for goods of all kinds. These goods can only be made using fossil fuels, or by technologies that are enabled by fossil fuels (such as today’s hydroelectric, nuclear, wind, and solar PV).

8. The combination of these forces leads to a situation in which economies, one by one, will turn downward in the very near future–in a few months to a year or two. Some are already on this path (Egypt, Syria, Greece, etc.)

We have two problems that tend to converge: financial problems that countries are now hiding, and ever rising need for resources in a wide range of areas that are reaching limits (oil, metals, over-fishing, deferred maintenance on pipelines).

On the financial side, we have countries trying to hang together despite a serious mismatch between revenue and expenses, using Quantitative Easing and ultra-low interest rates. If countries unwind the Quantitative Easing, interest rates are likely to rise. Because debt is widely used, the cost of everything from oil extraction to buying a new home to buying a new car is likely to rise. The cost of repaying the government’s own debt will rise as well, putting governments in worse financial condition than they are today.

A big concern is that these problems will carry over into debt markets. Rising interest rates will lead to widespread defaults. The availability of debt, including for oil drilling, will dry up.

Even if debt does not dry up, oil companies are already being squeezed for investment funds, and are considering cutting back on drilling. A freeze on credit would make certain this happens.

Meanwhile, we know that investment costs keep rising, in many different industries simultaneously, because we are reaching the limits of a finite world. There are more resources available; they are just more expensive. A mismatch occurs, because our wages aren’t going up.

The physical amount of oil needed for all of this investment keeps rising, but oil production continues on its relatively flat plateau, or may even begins to drop. This leads to less oil available to invest in the rest of the economy. Given the squeeze, even more countries are likely to encounter slowing growth or contraction.

9. My expectation is that the situation will end with a fairly rapid drop in the production of all kinds of energy products and the governments of quite a few countries failing. The governments that remain will dramatically cut services.

With falling oil production, promised government programs will be far in excess of what governments can afford, because governments are basically funded out of the surpluses of a fossil fuel economy–the difference between the cost of extraction and the value of these fossil fuels to society. As the cost of extraction rises, the surpluses tend to dry up.

Figure 8. Cost of extraction of barrel oil, compared to value to society. Economic growth is enabled by the difference.

Figure 8. Cost of extraction of barrel oil, compared to value to society. Economic growth is enabled by the difference.

As these surpluses shrink, governments will need to shrink back dramatically. Government failure will be easier than contracting back to a much smaller size.

International finance and trade will be particularly challenging in this context. Trying to start over will be difficult, because many of the new countries will be much smaller than their predecessors, and will have no “track record.” Those that do have track records will have track records of debt defaults and failed promises, things that will not give lenders confidence in their ability to repay new loans.

While it is clear that oil production will drop, with all of the disruption and a lack of operating financial markets, I expect natural gas and coal production will drop as well. Spare parts for almost anything will be difficult to get, because of the need for the system of international trade to support making these parts. High tech goods such as computers and phones will be especially difficult to purchase. All of these changes will result in a loss of most of the fossil fuel economy and the high tech renewables that these fossil fuels support.

A Forecast of Future Energy Supplies and their Impact

A rough estimate of the amounts by which energy supply will drop is given in Figure 9, below.

Figure 9. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

Figure 9. Estimate of future energy production by author. Historical data based on BP adjusted to IEA groupings.

The issue we will be encountering could be much better described as “Limits to Growth” than “Peak Oil.” Massive job layoffs will occur, as fuel use declines. Governments will find that their finances are even more pressured than today, with calls for new programs at the time revenue is dropping dramatically. Debt defaults will be a huge problem. International trade will drop, especially to countries with the worst financial problems.

One big issue will be the need to reorganize governments in a new, much less expensive  way. In some cases, countries will break up into smaller units, as the Former Soviet Union did in 1991. In some cases, the situation will go back to local tribes with tribal leaders. The next challenge will be to try to get the governments to act in a somewhat co-ordinated way.  There may need to be more than one set of governmental changes, as the global energy supplies decline.

We will also need to begin manufacturing goods locally, at a time when debt financing no longer works very well, and governments are no longer maintaining roads. We will have to figure out new approaches, without the benefit of high tech goods like computers. With all of the disruption, the electric grid will not last very long either. The question will become: what can we do with local materials, to get some sort of economy going again?


There are a lot of proposed solutions to our problem. Most will not work well because the nature of the problem is different from what most people have expected.

1. Substitution. We don’t have time. Furthermore, whatever substitutions we make need to be with cheap local materials, if we expect them to be long-lasting. They also must not over-use resources such as wood, which is in limited supply.

Electricity is likely to decline in availability almost as quickly as oil because of inability to keep up the electrical grid and other disruptions (such as failing governments, lack of oil to lubricate machinery, lack of replacement parts, bankruptcy of companies involved with the production of electricity) so is not really a long-term solution to oil limits.

2. Efficiency. Again, we don’t have time to do much. Higher mileage cars tend to be more expensive, replacing one problem with another. A big problem in the future will be lack of road maintenance. Theoretical gains in efficiency may not hold in the real world. Also, as governments reduce services and often fail, lenders will be unwilling to lend funds for new projects which would in theory improve efficiency.

In some cases, simple devices may provide efficiency. For example, solar thermal can often be a good choice for heating hot water. These devices should be long-lasting.

3. Wind turbines. Current industrial type wind turbines will be hard to maintain, so are  unlikely to be long-lasting. The need for investment capital for wind turbines will compete with other needs for investment capital. CO2 emissions from fossil fuels will drop dramatically, with or without wind turbines.

On the other hand, simple wind mills made with local materials may work for the long term. They are likely to be most useful for mechanical energy, such as pumping water or powering looms for cloth.

4. Solar Panels. Promised incentive plans to help homeowners pay for solar panels can be expected to mostly fall through. Inverters and batteries will need replacement, but probably will not be available. Handy homeowners who can rewire the solar panels for use apart from the grid may find them useful for devices that can run on direct current. As part of the electric grid, solar panels will not add to its lifetime. It probably will not be possible to make solar panels for very many years, as the fossil fuel economy reaches limits.

5. Shale Oil. Shale oil is an example of a product with very high investment costs, and returns which are doubtful at best. Big companies who have tried to extract shale oil have decided the rewards really aren’t there. Smaller companies have somehow been able to put together financial statements claiming profits, based on hoped for future production and very low interest rates.

Costs for extracting shale oil outside the US for shale oil are likely to be even higher than in the US. This happens because the US has laws that enable production (landowner gets a share of profits) and other beneficial situations such as pipelines in place, plentiful water supplies, and low population in areas where fracking is done. If countries decide to ramp up shale oil production, they are likely to run into similarly hugely negative cash flow situations. It is hard to see that these operations will save the world from its financial (and energy) problems.

6. Taxes. Taxes need to be very carefully structured, to have any carbon deterrent benefit. If part of taxes consumers would normally pay to the government are levied on fuel for vehicles, the practice can encourage more the use of more efficient vehicles.

On the other hand, if carbon taxes are levied on businesses, the taxes tend to encourage businesses to move their production to other, lower-cost countries. The shift in production leads to the use of more coal for electricity, rather than less. In theory, carbon taxes could be paired with a very high tax on imported goods made with coal, but this has not been done. Without such a pairing, carbon taxes seem likely to raise world CO2 emissions.

7.  Steady State Economy. Herman Daly was the editor of a book in 1973 called Toward a Steady State Economy, proposing that the world work toward a Steady State economy, instead of growth. Back in 1973, when resources were still fairly plentiful, such an approach would have acted to hold off  Limits to Growth for quite a few years, especially if zero population growth were included in the approach.  

Today, it is far too late for such an approach to work. We are already in a situation with very depleted resources. We can’t keep up current production levels if we want to–to do so would require greatly ramping up energy production because of the rising need for energy investment to maintain current production, discussed in Item (1) of Our Energy Predicament. Collapse will probably be impossible to avoid. We can’t even hope for an outcome as good as a Steady State Economy.

7. Basing Choice of Additional Energy Generation on EROI Calculations. In my view, basing new energy investment on EROI calculations is an iffy prospect at best. EROI calculations measure a theoretical piece of the whole system–“energy at the well-head.” Thus, they miss important parts of the system, which affect both EROI and cost. They also overlook timing, so can indicate that an investment is good, even if it digs a huge financial hole for organizations making the investment. EROI calculations also don’t consider repairability issues which may shorten real-world lifetimes.

Regardless of EROI indications, it is important to consider the likely financial outcome as well. If products are to be competitive in the world marketplace, electricity needs to be inexpensive, regardless of what the EROI calculations seem to say. Our real problem is lack of investment capital–something that is gobbled up at prodigious rates by energy generation devices whose costs occur primarily at the beginning of their lives. We need to be careful to use our investment capital wisely, not for fads that are expensive and won’t hold up for the long run.

8. Demand Reduction. This really needs to be the major way we move away from fossil fuels. Even if we don’t have other options, fossil fuels will move away from us. Encouraging couples to have smaller families would seem to be a good choice. 

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 inadequate supply.
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630 Responses to A Forecast of Our Energy Future; Why Common Solutions Don’t Work

  1. HnH says:

    The prediction of 2015 being the major trigger point for the unraveling is,although logical, quite bold indeed.

    Personally, I thought that the 2008 crisis would mark the swift breakdown of our financial system, dragging the interdependent just-in-time globalized trade with it. But nope, it was not to be, which is probably a good thing.

    The amount of governmental control on supporting BAU in emergency situations is quite astonishing. While my list is far from exhaustive it provides a glimpse what desperate governments may do:

    -The Cyprus crisis showed that governments are willing to make large depositors contribute towards saving the banking system. The IWF suggested including all accounts with more than 100.000 Euros.

    – New legislation is very likely to nationalize crucial cogs in industry, finance and other sectors. The costs will be borne by the population by means of increased taxes.

    – Extended powers will go to executive functions necessary to control a restive population, e.g. police, paramilitary and military organizations.

    – Alternative means of preserving wealth, e.g. real estate, precious metals, electronic currencies and retirement funds will be increasingly taxed, outlawed or appropriated on reasons of national security, etc.

    – nationalist tendencies and emotions will be stoked against immigrant groups, elderly pensioners, women, homosexuals, the unemployed..you name it.

    -On the foreign policy side countries with relatively low cost energy resources will be even further targeted and possibly attacked on whatever grounds one may think of.

    The list is too long to continue, but by no means exhaustive. The thing is that desperate governments can become exceedingly creative and controlling in an all out attempt to stem against the tide, or remain on top of the pyramid against all other competitors vying for a bigger slice of the shrinking pie.

    Also, the majority of the population will accept or go along with the measures because the increased stress stemming from bumping against the limits to growth may not be understood consciously, but is being felt. Just have a look at the inexorable rise of psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety, chronic pain without physical explanation, migraine, alcohol, drug and benzodiazepine abuse …again, the list is endless.

    Basically, more than a fourth of all the population in western countries is or has been suffering from clinically relevant psychological disorders. And that situation is going to get worse. I am convinced that a very large part of this rise is related to the increased stress that people feel because of the energy predicament. It is quite irrelevant whether they are aware of it or not. The impact is felt everywhere.

    • Robin Clarke says:

      The reason the collapse hasn’t happened is because the collapse IS happening. The Titanic can sink in two ways. A: The way it did – namely break in two and end up on the seabed. B: Drown out the lowest decks and settle on a new equilibrium less high in the water – and all but the lower classes still complete the voyage to McLand. We are currently seeing collapse type B. Millions of households even in “rich” countries are finding their budgets no longer add up and those households then collapse. They are dying of starvation and stress, but this is not being recorded in the media as it isn’t what people want to be told and it happens out of sight unlike the grand megaprojects of continuing globalisation.

      • xabier says:


        I tend to agree. We are in the middle of a stepped collapse: there will be few dramas I suspect.

        The poor suffer in the shadows (until they are actually out on the street with no home and food – then one gets a mass explosion), anxious and stressed.

        The elderly poor die silently and unseen from neglect, malnutrition, not quite enough food, not quite enough heat…)

        German Army doctors noted an ‘inexplicable disease’ among the troops, leading to sudden death. It was ‘inexplicable’ because they were reluctant to face the simple fact that the troops were dying of starvation and hypothermia……. A soldier could stand sentry, say ‘Ill just have something to eat now’, and drop dead by the time his officer came back down the line.

        Not only are the financial interests energetically struggling to maintain an illusion of normality and recovery, but modern societies can take a lot of punishment and seemingly cohere while they are being hollowed out and destroyed in a gradual but steady decline.

        All the indicators point to this decline in Europe and the US.

      • edpell says:

        Robin, I tend to agree it will at least start with type B collapse. Type B has already started. Whether type B can stabilize and avoid eventual type A is iffy in my mind.

        Of course governments have some extraordinary powers, like “congratulations from the president you have just been drafted into the 276th coal mining brigade serving in Alaska. You will be provided food and housing and if the economy ever recovers you will be set free.”

        • Paul says:

          Kind of like being ordered to build a temple at Angkor Wat — or a pyramid at Giza ….

        • InAlaska says:

          You’ll be lucky to be sent to Alaska. With climate change, our winters are very mild. In fact, it is warmer here than wherever most of you are now. Warmest winter in recorded history in Alaska. Also we have low population density, a citizenry skilled in living close to the land, abundant wildlife, fish, oil, land, water, wood, gold. Throw in solar PV and wind and you have all the elements of survival.

      • I hadn’t thought of putting the problem this way. You are probably right that that is one of the way collapse happens. There are a lot of young people who can’t find good paying jobs, and have postponed having a family indefinitely. (Maybe not all bad.)

      • Paul says:

        Agree – very much so. The MSM reports are no reflection of reality

    • “I Personally, I thought that the 2008 crisis would mark the swift breakdown of our financial system, dragging the interdependent just-in-time globalized trade with it.
      But nope, it was not to be, which is probably a good thing.”

      I disagree: I believe our financial sytem is officially broken and has been since 2008. Everything and the kitchen sink is being thrown at our financial system with unprecedented Fed intervention and the patient is still dying. The only thing that allows the extend and pretend zero percent interest rates in the USA is the petrodollar. The biggest threat to this country would be for an oil exporter to price their oil in a currency outside of the USD. I don’t know what would precipitate such a crisis but it could be the black swan event. There is a good chance the Fed can keep the party going (in the USA at least) as long as the petrodollar system remains in place. With every new Arab Springs comes a new threat to the petrodollar.

      • I agree with you that the financial system has been broken since 2008. If it weren’t for throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the problem, the price of oil would now be in the $30 range. Even with putting everything into the effort, the price isn’t really high enough for oil companies to make the level of profits they need to keep up their drilling. This is part of our current financial problem, and ultimately could lead to a drop in oil production.

        The petrodollar is definitely related to this. It is amazing the level of debt the US has been able to amass, as the result of the petrodollar.

      • Hmmm …

        Petrodollar is not what it was in the ‘good old days’, whatever they were. Once upon a time, a petrodollar was one held by an overseas oil producer gained from the sale of his product. The petrodollar of the 1970s and 80’s was a problem: what to do with all of them?

        The (petro)dollar is now is the preferred medium of exchange for petroleum … along with euros, yen and sterling … as opposed to other, lesser currencies.

        The reason is because these media are freely available in needed amounts, and are freely exchangeable in forex markets … so far. The lesser currencies, much less so.

        Since World War Two, money — including dollars, yen, euros, etc. — has been a proxy for commerce. In this context, commerce is deemed to be worth more than money so there is incentive for ‘customers’ to trade money they hold for goods and services as quickly as possible.

        Almost everything the establishment has attempted since the Lehman crisis has been to reinforce this theme of commerce being worth more than money.

        Meanwhile, under the establishments’ noses, money is becoming a proxy for petroleum. In that context, petroleum is observed as being worth more than commerce; this is because commerce is revealing itself to be unproductive/auto-destructive. The ‘money choice’ is being made starting within the marginal economies around the world: money is less about commerce and more the resource inputs needed for commerce … indeed, for survival.

        If money as a proxy for commerce, customers rapidly trade it for goods and services. When money becomes a proxy for petroleum, customers hold money b/c it becomes the last, best chance to gain goods that are certain to be scarce in the future. Here, the dollar becomes a hard currency, much like 1930s dollar, redeemable for gold.

        Right not the ‘price’ of dollars and other currencies is set — not by central bankers or by government fiat — but by millions of motorists using dollars in exchange for gasoline in filling stations all over the world 24/7. Here, other, lesser currencies are proxies for dollars, some moreso than others.

        It’s a very small step from exchangeability to redeemability. Making that step is what is underway right now. In the early 1930s, the economy of the developed world shifted from a preference for commerce toward one of holding gold. Gold became the last, best chance to get a roof overhead or something to eat. The world’s economy became gold arbitrage and little else; contracts, currencies and credit were deployed as blunt instruments in a deterministic contest to gain gold. In 3 short years business, banking and to some degree agriculture collapsed. This is the background behind Gail’s brilliant thesis.

        Preference takes place in people’s minds, it effects how they perceive relative worth and what their own conditions allow. In the 1930s, the US and other countries severed the gold-money connection, they ‘went off gold’. Today, we face ‘petroleum arbitrage’ and the use of blunt instruments to gain fuel the same way our hapless ancestors struggled to gain gold.

        As then, our challenge is to ‘go off petroleum’, we do so or else. We must grasp the nettle and court an industrial depression in order to avoid the alternative, an endless Greater Depression.

    • The forecast isn’t 2015 exactly. My chart is only plotted at 5 year intervals, so misses shorter periods of time. I expect the collapse is to some extent a country by country collapse, with some already in collapse, some going into collapse in 2014, some in 2015 and so on. But the trends is down, and there is a definite contagion problem, if the country involved is the US instead of Cyprus.

    • Markus says:

      Nationalist tendencies don’t need to be stoked, they’re already present, and have been for a long time. Public opinion, which is a fundamental pillar of democracy, is simply ignored. The Immigration Act of 1965, which we were lied about, was not popular, and for a law with such importance, not consulting with the American people was a grave democratic deficit, to say the least. I could comment about the pushers, but I have no desire to create a controversy here.

      You don’t need to go far to notice this sentiment. Almost any large news website with an article on amnesty will arouse comments against it and they are always upvoted.

      Nationalist tendencies go against immigrant groups (the reason: resource competition, Darwin anyone?) and race can be a factor as well — although not always — as many people who belong to a race don’t like watching its displacement/replacement. It’s an in-group / out-group mentality, which will surely become very significant in case of collapse. Women, elderly pensioners and the unemployed are not and will never be victims of nationalism.

      • HnH says:

        Nationalist tendencies are indeed an outgrowth of the in-group/out-group mentality, although I’ll never understand how that group could include so many people when this mentality is arguably a evolutionary selection mechanism that had its most tangible and beneficial impact during our Hunter-Gatherer times, and communities rarely exceeded 200 individuals… So, I accept nationalism as social reality, but I struggle to understand how it makes sense from an evolutionary/sociological/psychological point of view.

        I have to disagree on your assessment that women, the elderly and the unemployed will never be victims of nationalism. The stronger the nationalist sentiment, the stronger the pressure towards conformism and homogeneity becomes and the likelier it is that women’s freedoms are curtailed. In highly nationalistic countries the unemployed and elderly are also blamed for consuming precious resources, see pressure to conform to particular notions.

        Nationalism is all about strengthening the in-group and its ability to project power. As such, it needs to curtail women’s freedoms to increase the in-group by means of a higher birthrate. It also needs to reduce the amount of people who are considered as not contributing enough. That explicitly includes the elderly and the unemployed.

        I do hope that nationalism is going to disappear during the coming bottleneck because its contribution to human societies and civilizations has been, on the whole, highly detrimental at best. I have a similar view on racism.

        Let’s see how that collapse plays out and what kinds a notions and concepts will bite the dust.

        • I am afraid nationalism will go away, and be replaced by something even more local. “We are the people who lived in this area, before. You folks coming here from California (or Nevada or wherever) will need to go somewhere else. There is not enough to share.”

      • Peter S says:

        “the unemployed are not and will never be victims of nationalism”

        With all due respect, that last part is blatantly untrue. Have you seen the growing class war in the USA? (Also in other countries.) The unemployed, the poor, the lower classes, are actively being more and more discriminated against. The rich (for lack of a better word) are using patriotism – nationalism – and arguing that the poor are not truly citizens, they don’t produce, they suck the wealth and resources away etc.

        The unemployed – which will eventually become the majority – will be the competition for resources, the enemy.

        • xabier says:

          I agree: interesting to note how ‘welfare spending’ (originally designed to prevent the repitition of the semi-starvation of the 1930’s) has been redesignated ‘ growth-killing entitlement spending’. Pure Nazism in the manipulation of language. Like the ‘Boomer’ rhetoric.

          • Peter S says:

            I agree. But I wonder if it may even be logical in politician’s minds. They may be thinking that they really won’t be able to afford to spend money on services. Each year a little less. And I think that’s where it’s going.

      • Markus says:


        Your vision of nationalism seems to be that of nazism, and you assume it cannot be anything other than oppressive and imperialist. I have to disagree here, and say that the modern democracies are guilty of falling back to both principles. America has been “projecting power” for decades now, and I fail to see the country’s nationalism for a set of diverse reasons.

        I would say that nationalism does indeed strive towards homogeneity (the well-being and maintenance of the in-group), and that this is rooted in evolution, rather than an abstract human invention. Nationalists also wish for a fertility good enough to replace the existing population. Failing to do so would do no good to the society as a whole, unless we somehow exit the current economic paradigm and all its benefits, in special the pension for the elderly, then we can allow the population numbers to decrease (to an extent). Treating humans as interchangeable economic units is a capitalist, globalist idea, which nationalists, for opposing immigration and the cold ideals of globalist capitalism, do not agree with, unless those are of a similar stock and not large in numbers, and resources allow their presence.

        When did humans first become human? The answer is far from simple, because the question assumes that sometime in the past, humans achieved modernity and were locked within an evolutionary loophole where natural selection no longer applies. Despite the absurdity of this scenario, and in stark contrast to empirical data, it is widely believed that humans have not changed physically or mentally for the past 50,000 years or so.

        How can we test the sincerity of the anti-identitarian crowd? One-world utopians believe in their disillusions as long as they have the presence of the likes of them in society in the form of friends, neighbors, scientists, engineers, educators, doctors, government officials, family etc. Move and force them to live solely among an overcrowded, radically different people, without a single member of his in-group around, and let’s see if we are indeed all the same, that evolution has stopped somewhere 50,000 years ago, that they would be as happy as, say, nationalists who wish and can live up to the contrary. Or do utopians believe in what they preach, as long as they are allowed to roam in the midst of those they wish to destroy?

        Regarding racism, it’s a symptom, a reaction, rather than the disease. Races are not known to be racist among their own. The Scottish, the Japanese, the Norwegian, the Hungarian, the Bantu, they can’t be racist among themselves. There may be conflicts due to religion or the government’s actions, but not racism. If you want a cure to racism, give people their racial rights, teach about it, demand its recognition and respect. Racism is the result of races having their racial rights violated, namely the right to geographical integrity and self-governance, which are the linchpin of their continued existence as different and unique peoples, guaranteeing them protection against ethnic displacement, replacement, loss of self-rule and extinction. In this context, racial rights are anti-genocide and anti-colonialist.

        When these rights are violated, you can expect a then non-existent phenomenon to become a reality.

        • xabier says:

          Nationalism. Internationalism.

          Such lovely ideals: until the knives come out, the ‘traitors’ are purged and the bombs planted…….

          In a survival context, the thing is to be is perhaps in a place where you don’t stick out, for whatever reason. ( Unless one has the charisma to lead, I suppose?!)

        • HnH says:


          I did not fully understand the meaning of the second half of your first paragraph. The spelling of your name makes me think that German is your first language. If you would like to converse in German to convey your meaning you could do so, as I speak German.

          I also think that there are a couple of misunderstandings that would need to be cleared up to make this conversation more meaningful.

          First, I stated that I understand the need for in-group/out-group but I don’t understand that need, if the in-group exceeds 200-300 individuals. That’s why nationalism does not make sense to me. Nations are based on physical boundaries with up to 1.3 billion people in it.

          What you seem to mix together are the concepts of race, culture and nation.

          Genetically speaking, there is no such thing as race because genetic variability within “races” is higher than between races. Race is a social construct based on differences in appearance, that has been infused with significant meaning in our current civilization. The concept of different human races is created by man, not by nature.

          Scots, Bantu or Japanese are not races. They are an assembly of individuals that are grouped together based on geographical boundaries called nations, and *culture*.

          The notion of culture is fraught with difficulties, but simply speaking it can be described as a unifying set of values, beliefs and a sharing of understanding on how one should behave. Language, perceptions on history and accepted standards of social interaction make part of what is culture.

          What I also would like to convey is that democracies, or what we currently understand by that term, are continuously evolving. Our current democracies are not comparable to the ones in ancient Greece or to the ones we had in the 1950’s.

          A state is *always* creating laws that support the state’s elite and powerful. In the beginning the creation of particular laws are also beneficial to the lower classes, but that changes over time.

          It is a myth that there such thing as sovereignty and self-governance in a nation or state. The sovereigns are always the rich and powerful, changing the laws and their application to their favor. This is even more the case for modern democracies, but here the populace has the *illusion* of self-governance.

          If you look closer, you will see that, in any country or nation, a particular kind of individual is getting to the levers of power, regardless of party. In the US it is the moneyed elite, or those that promote the ideas of the moneyed elite. In the UK it is the moneyed elite, mostly of old money, that has been educated at Eton or other public schools which are similarly inaccessible without money. In Germany, you have to have been formed and vetted by decades of promoting the right ideas in the respective political parties, and a solid middle-class background as a lawyer, teacher or public servant would certainly help. This can easily be extended to every democracy we have at the moment. The only less extreme example might be Switzerland.

          Our current democracies have devolved into plutocracies, for the corporations and those with money to afford lobbying efforts, aided and abetted by carefully vetted politicians, who know what they are allowed to say, and what not.

          It is thus that nationalism makes no sense whatsoever to me. Friends, family, identity based on small villages, and communities of like minded people; OK. But nations? Just a concept to make yourself a willing servant of the respective moneyed elite and their flavor of the day notions. The only advantage up to now was that being a national of the US or Western nations allowed you a standard of living that was unobtainable for many others. This is very likely to change in the not too distant future.

          Put into this potent mix the need of any larger group, and nations in particular, to increase its power while struggling with the consequences of finite resources, and you have a toxic cocktail of unique proportions.

        • Markus says:


          Whilst I may favor nationalism, or identitarianism if you will, I am no fan of authoritarian or war-like governments, though I will support defensive measures if the nation, or historical people that have inhabited the region, are being the victims of inward or outward aggression.

          You said:
          “Genetically speaking, there is no such thing as race because genetic variability within “races” is higher than between races. Race is a social construct based on differences in appearance, that has been infused with significant meaning in our current civilization. The concept of different human races is created by man, not by nature.”

          This is Boasian anthropology, and false. Races, or populations geographically separated and evolved over a long period of time, or subspecies — whatever you like to call them — are biological realities, not social constructs.

          See: http://i.imgur.com/ANdJBsQ.jpg

          You can take an East Asian to Africa, make him accustomed to local beliefs and language, indoctrinate him with x beliefs and do an all-out effort to ‘socially engineer’ your target, but in the end, his genetic test will still group him with other East Asians. You may use all the social forces available in your arsenal to shape your target’s beliefs and culture, but you won’t make him cluster genetically with Africans, so his biology, his racial origins and genetic distance from Africans will still show up in a map detailing genetic distance between human races.

          Being socially constructed implies being influenced by the forces of culture as it is shaped by other individuals, and living accordingly. Your democracy, financial institutions, police, schools, laws etc. are all social constructs. Being biological, on the other hand, implies having a hereditary, genetic basis, which race has. The day you can ‘socially engineer’ yourself to a racial cluster you don’t belong is the day I will agree that yes, race is a social construct shaped by culture. Goodluck with that.

          • HnH says:

            ^This. This argument is precisely what happens when people without knowledge but a whole lot of convictions are taking snippets of scientific data they do not understand to make a point they think is valid, but only underscores the extent of how clueless they are.

            The picture you have taken stems from a research paper that tried to find differences on 29 (out of several dozens of thousands) gene loci based on geographical differences. They used so few, because including more would not have yielded the results they hoped to find. Maybe you should have read that paper. The authors didn’t even name the amount of people that they included in the data, but they were explicit in that they used samples from *tribes* and they had to exclude a lot of others to come to that result. They also concluded that the significance of data was often very weak. All in all, that research is of incredibly weak quality with the results being completely valueless. This is compounded by the fact that it stems from 1993, a time when research on genetic differences was very much in its infancy.

            I can not persuade you that your convictions are incompatible with contemporary research, although many a researcher tried to find what you claim as your truth. If, however, you are willing to have your views challenged, then I can recommend you this PDF chapter from a book from 2002 (http://tinyurl.com/olofk4w) that tries, without jargon, to explain the myths and the facts on the differences of human races. More recent books from 2011 coming to the very same conclusion are briefly discussed here (http://tinyurl.com/bbaxfok). And please don’t come up with works from Lynn, because his works have repeatedly been shown to have serious flaws. That’s why he needed to publish his recent findings (2006) in book form. He could not get it through peer review, because it was not good enough.

            Your beliefs and convictions are your own, but please don’t argue that they have any scientific basis. Because they don’t.

          • timl2k11 says:

            I think you two are talking past each other because the concept of race is being confused with the concept of ethnicity by someone. If Markus replaced the word race with ethnicity, I don’t think you could argue with him. Perhaps there is some overlap as well in the way people use the terms (proper or not).

          • HnH says:

            @timl2k11. True :). It was the way he used the notion of race that annoyed me. Ethnicity is much less loaded, but even then I would highly value precise phrasing.

  2. mikestasse says:

    Reblogged this on Damn the Matrix and commented:
    Gail Tverberg at her best……. I hope nuclear wet dreamers take heed of this. ‘Doomers’ are realists.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      “We pulled out the “easy to extract” oil, gas, and coal first. As we move on to the difficult to extract resources, we find that the need for investment capital escalates rapidly. According to Mark Lewis writing in the Financial Times, “upstream capital expenditures” for oil and gas amounted to nearly $700 billion in 2012, compared to $350 billion in 2005, both in 2012 dollars. This corresponds to an inflation-adjusted annual increase of 10% per year for the seven year period.”
      Problem is, the *fuel* for nuclear isn’t the issue. We have enough sitting around in cooling ponds for half a millennia of clean, abundant, cheap enough electricity. With enough electricity + boron, that’s coal oil and gas replaced. Sorry to rain on your doomer parade, but I’ll take Hansen’s opinion over yours any day of the week.

      • Jonathan Madden says:

        The IFR reactor appears sound and much more efficient than conventional slow neutron designs. But it does need a higher degree of Uranium enrichment (20%) to get the show on the road. This rings alarm bells.

        More importantly, though, when is all this going to happen? How long will it take to get a comprehensive fleet of these things up and running? Are countries like China, Russia and North Korea, who don’t give two hoots for NIMBYs (local objectors) and who presumably are up to speed with fast neutron technology and can see the benefits, are they actually planning to build any? And if not, why not?

        My understanding is that there is not single IFR running anywhere today. (Is the Argonne test site still working?) I’ve read things like ‘they can be buried safely in a protective dome’; doubtless true, but try selling stories like that to your average householder in the populated west. You can’t even frack a well here in the UK without a chorus of protest, let alone bury liquid Sodium coolant surrounding enriched U and Pu. There’s a long wait at best to get Joe public to accept this type of nuclear power, and the clock’s ticking.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          Why does it ring alarm bells Jonathan? IFR’s can be set up to burn plutonium through that phase.
          Indeed, IFR’s can deal with nuclear bombs. In fact, many of today’s reactors can do the same thing, and something like 10% of American power comes from burning old Soviet bombs!
          There’s still enough uranium in the world to run the planet on *todays* super-safe Gen3.5 reactors like the AP1000 (China’s just completing another 2 AP1000’s as we speak).

          So why are there no IFR’s now? The answer appears to be both financial and political.

          1: FINANCIAL
          While the EBR2 ran for 30 years and effectively *was* an IFR, so much so that GE’s S-PRISM is based on it…
          … the real problem is that it takes decades to fully commercialise these models. EG: With the S-PRISM, they’re not building *one* reactor, but the modularised prototype that will allow them to build any number of reactors on an assembly line. They’re concentrating on getting the mould right.

          2: POLITICAL
          Also, because Clinton misunderstood ‘breeding’ through the plutonium phase he shut down the EBR2 program. We probably would have had IFR’s by now!

          But the UK are interested. “A 2012 Guardian article pointed out that a new generation of fast reactors such as the PRISM “could dispose of the waste problem, reducing the threat of radiation and nuclear proliferation, and at the same time generate vast amounts of low-carbon energy”. David J. C. MacKay, chief scientist at the DECC, recently said that British plutonium contains enough energy to run the country’s electricity grid for 500 years.[9]”

          • Robin Clarke says:

            Re David McKay (/MacKay?), I have already posted my comment about his meeting, his failure to take into account the points made by G here, and his complete and utter failure to respond to my critiques of his notions. So I don’t find him to have any credibility, regardless of his Chief govt advisor status.

        • Paul says:

          It’s like that joke ‘Free Beer – tomorrow’

          Always tomorrow — always on the cusp — coming soon! — stay tuned!

          Maybe if we put out the bat signal the miracle man will swoop in to save the day!

          Or better still — let’s unite the religions of the world and designate 2 minutes of global prayer – for the Christians of course it would be most appropriate to recite — The Hail Mary (perhaps we do this on Super Bowl day with 2 minutes on the clock)

          Tick tock….

          • Eclipse Now says:

            Hi Paul,
            China are building out AP1000’s now because we already have commercialised models for them. We simply don’t *need* IFR’s today. They *can* burn the waste ‘tomorrow’ because we know they work. It’s an OLD technology, from yesteryear! The EBR2 kicked off *decades* ago.
            But here’s the reality. While it is *true* that today’s nuclear waste could run the world for centuries, there’s not enough waste right now. If I waved a magic wand and every coal fired plant were turned into IFR’s right now, there would not be enough waste to go around. It takes *time* to breed up the waste through the higher elements. So yes, today’s waste could run the world for hundreds of years, but no, not right away. So we have to build out tsunami proof nukes like the Gen3.5 AP1000’s *anyway*. And then when the IFR’s like GE’s S-PRISM finally arrive in 10 to 15 years, there will be even more waste for them to burn.

          • Paul says:

            Eclipse — i read in the noos that Fukushima is a good thing — because it’s releasing cesium and plutonium into the atmosphere — and ‘medical experts’ have released research saying that our bodies need these crucial elements to achieve peak health – much the same as we need iron and other minerals.

            There is even talk that all multivitamins will soon include cesium and plutonium.

            So yes – more nuclear reactors of all sorts are absolutely necessary – we can call them ‘Vitamin Factories’ — that’s more palatable — no?

          • Eclipse Now says:

            Why do you all keep praising Simon Michaux? It’s a *ridiculous* talk because YES ore grades are declining and YES it takes more energy to extract lower grades of ore but NO peak uranium will NOT prevent us using nuclear power to run mines! The way he skipped past the seriously deployable small modular reactors was woeful! He might know the mining game quite well, but the nudge nudge wink wink attitude to nuclear power (Oh dear, we don’t know what to do with the WASTE!) would have James Hansen, and even Hubbert himself, ask him to leave the room. (Hubbert also visualised us running for thousands of years on nuclear energy after peak fossil fuels). Why do these ‘smart’ people not realise that waste-eating nukes *exist*!? That it is an *old* technology? Don’t they know about the EBR2?

            The other thing he of course ignores is the ocean and space.

            OCEAN HAS 6000 YEARS OF METALS
            “Previously we had talked about a researcher who indicated that ocean floor mineral resources could provide current world demand for over 6000 years.”

            Mining the oceans can start off small in some local areas while we study the biodiversity down there, and get a handle on how to do it with minimal impacts. But the oceans are BIG! It may be that we’ll have a space industry before we need to mine even a *tiny* percent of the ocean floor.

            Advancing mining technologies are making the prospect of exploiting seafloor minerals—including gold, copper, zinc, cobalt and rare earth elements (REEs)—not only possible but also imminent, with commercial licenses to be granted by the International Seabed Authority from 2016.

            After 6000 years of slowly mining through the oceans, and encouraging old areas to rehabilitate, then there is SPACE. Once we have a space mining industry, gifts will parachute in from the sky.

            “UPDATE – The Near Earth Asteroids have thousands of trillions in metals. One asteroid Amun has over thirty times all of the metal that has ever be mined in human history”

            But not only that: with nuclear power abundant and plentiful, maybe we’ll just munch through the bedrock somewhere, extracting what we need from tiny ppm dirt? Yes concentrated ore bodies are running low, with many concentrated ores to be exhausted in our lifetime. But, with enough energy, we can recycle metal. It doesn’t ‘run out’ like burning fossil fuels. We just keep recycling the same stuff, over and over again. Also with enough energy, we have heaps of other options! Lastly, with new glues and state-of-the-art water systems, some architects are talking about wooden skyscrapers! Yep, wood panelling glued together just so performs like steel. If a metal becomes too expensive for a job, sometimes there are other materials.

            • The issue is rising use of oil to solve all of these investment problems. With this rising use of oil, less oil is available for all of our other energy needs.

      • We don’t have the plants to convert the cooling rods to fuel. In theory we could build the plants, but it takes fossil fuels, time, and someone able of finance all of the building to get the plants built. We don’t have the time to do it, or anyone willing to finance it.

        I would suggest you cool your rhetoric. Otherwise it will be the end of your posting privileges.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          Hi Gail,
          do you have evidence that we don’t have time? I’m thinking of France. As oil and coal and gas wind down, nuclear will be winding up, keeping a stable electricity grid. All other transport systems will adapt to that.

          • The banking systems of all of the countries are interconnected. France has made way more promises to its people, in terms of government programs, than it can possibly continue to pay. I understand that France has a 12% unemployment rate, and a high tax rate, which is a problem for everyone. France hasn’t been building new nuclear reactors. Instead, it is facing an aging fleet of reactors that will need to be decommissioned at high cost, and new reactors built. France has run through its own uranium supplies, and now is faced with buying them on the world market–assuming they are available on the world market.

            How do you expect all other transport forms to adapt to electricity, in France? Will someone come in and build $40,000 (or more) electric cars for everyone? How will the 12% unemployed pay for them? How about everyone else? Are you aware of plans for electric long distance trucks? (I’m not.) The lifespan of trucks on the road is very long–maybe 40 years, I haven;t checked. How will trucking companies afford to replace their trucks before they normally need replacement? How will they afford to pay a much higher cost for them? Then we come to construction equipment and diesel irrigation, and a whole host of other usages.

            I don’t think France is any exception.

          • Ignacio says:

            Not all electric vehicles are expensive. Take, for example, Renault Twizy. This is a fully electric car, with a price tag of $10,000, and a good fuel economy, doing 10 miles per kWh.
            It has some disadvantages, though. It can carry a maximum of two passengers, and maximum speed is 30 mph. However, it could still be useful as a cheap in-city “per hour” rental car.
            Regarding trucks, I would expect that as soon as oil is more scarce, a lot of cargo will be shifted to train transportation. I would expect the same for passengers, by the way.

      • Paul says:

        Well — if that is the case then I’ll be watching the front page for the announcement of this miracle in the coming months — and it better come soon — because if you haven’t noticed — the collapse is happening in slow motion right before your eyes

        And I don’t want to hear ‘but give us a another few years — we promise — we have the solution’

        Giddyup — we ain’t got much time left dude.

        Perhaps you might explain how this miracle cure is going to:

        – allow airplanes to fly
        – allow combustion engines to operate
        – allow us to continue to make pesticides and fertilizers (which are made from oil and gas)
        – how does that miracle help replenish fish stocks that are collapsing?
        – and what about fresh water supplies – how does this grand miracle fix that problem?

        Let’s start with those 5 rather significant issues.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          * I’m NOT saying this is going to be painless! I’m saying that there is a VAST difference between a Great Depression and Mad Max. I don’t know the future, and maybe it doesn’t even have to get down to a GD. Maybe a variety of things are going to kick-start a green economy before it gets that bad. But economies eventually adapt. America did AMAZING things in WW2, above and beyond expectations once the big car manufacturers and corporations had been quickly retooled for the ‘war time economy’. So the following is not a timetable of what is going to happen when, because I’m not a prophet. Just what is technically possible when the timing, or the pricing, is right.
          * Nuclear power can run the electricity grid in the day and ‘recharge’ electric cars and boron for larger vehicles at night.
          * Today’s existing overnight off-peak power supply can charge about 70% of American domestic driving. (NREL study a few years ago).
          * Nuclear power can split water and make nitrogen fertiliser. Nuclear charged boron mining trucks and harvesters can mine and move stuff around for mineral fertiliser needs. The peak phosphorus guys in our sustainability institutes are starting up a conversation with our sewerage management systems so that one day we’ll be able to stop flushing all those NPK goodies out to sea and recycle them back onto the land.
          * It DOESN’T all have to start overnight. As the price of oil rises, there will not be a sudden collapse of civilisation overnight. That’s a myth. There’s a vast, vast difference between the Great Depression and Mad Max. America built the Hoover Dam during the GD! It was a jobs creation process. America had some high oil prices and a GFC and the marketplace contracted and *suddenly* American’s were getting by on a QUARTER less oil. A whole quarter! Now imagine the ‘oil is running down slowly’ message finally gets out there. Can you imagine the new funds for Elon Musk’s Tesla cars? For Boron cars? (James Hansen’s preferred method of getting off oil).
          * Some jet planes can run on nuclear power generated synfuel.
          * Airships are making a comeback in some sectors. Instead of rushing to your holiday, you’ll pay a bit more and the ride there will be half the attraction: half way between a jet plane and an ocean liner. 4 days to get to Europe from Australia, and a gym and bed and bar on the way. You arrive refreshed and not jet lagged.
          * Seawater + desert + solar power +(backup nuclear power) = food. Sundrop farms are building 4 HECTARES of food, and it’s just the first prototype. It’s already viable commercially. It’s starting to go around the world. Many of the nutrients actually come from the seawater.
          5 minutes ABC science show Catalyst

          * Other farmers are trying a vast number of soil rehabilitation and restoration schemes, from permaculture to biochar to biofarming to low till farming.
          * THIS IS NOT ABOUT GROWTH ON A FINITE PLANET! Supplying everyone with everything they *need* (food & water & education & dignified work & medical & birth control & security in old age) creates the Demographic Transition which sees populations declining.
          * Plasma Burners can recycle ALL household waste into syngas products like lubricants, paints, varnishes, some jet fuels, though to the harder lava flow producing bricks, tiles, rock-wool for hydroponics through to insulation, then mix rockwool with glues = fibreglass or faux wood panels for the side of your house. In other words, Plasma Burners convert household rubbish into two-thirds of your next house!

          • Paul says:

            My money is on ‘Mad Max’ — I am hoping I can star in the lead since Mel Gibson is a bit long in the tooth.

          • Eclipse Now says:

            Hi Chris Johnson,
            my original tag-line back when I had my own peak oil awareness moment in 2004 was ‘We must eclipse ourselves or be eclipsed’. I had a kid with cancer and then learned that Mad Max was coming! I went manic, and within 6 months had helped gather a bunch of like minded people and we were presenting Hubbert’s peak to the NSW minority parties. My original website was all about the idea of so outshining ourselves that we ‘eclipse’ all previous paradigms, and that if we failed we could be cast into utter darkness. The eclipse is a time of opportunity and threat. Now I’m not so sure it is as binary as all that, and realise there are a thousand shades of grey between a bright green future and total collapse. As I say on my summary page:

            ////I think we can and probably will make it. I am not a doomer preaching rabidly about the end of the world. There are risks. The decades ahead really do appear to be dangerous as we bump up against a variety of feedback loops and cascading negative interactions. International tensions could well boil over into war if we compete for the remaining oil, water, and farmland. How will the world respond if climate chaos forces massive waves of immigration? As oil runs thin which nations will agree to oil rationing, and which will resist any proposals for any kind of Oil Depletion Protocol? What resilience does the western world have to climate induced droughts, especially as our industrial agriculture is destroying topsoil as we speak? What will America do about their water aquifers running dry? What other wild-cards are coming our way?

            My motto used to be a bit too melodramatic: “We must eclipse ourselves or be eclipsed.” I wanted to highlight that while there are enormous risks ahead, there are also opportunities ahead for us to really shine. The reality is that there are a thousand nuanced and subtle ways we might succeed in some areas and fail in others. While we might not “be eclipsed” and cast into a new dark age, there is still a significant risk that we could end up stuck in the twilight. Today’s trends indicate our children will inherit a planet we hardly recognise, with half the biodiversity extinct by 2050 and many nations living in poverty and starvation. We can and must do better. Do we really want to leave them a depleted and denuded planet with weakened ecosystems and a shameful legacy of destruction?

            Or will we change the way it goes? We have the tools design a prosperous society that preserves the natural systems that preserve us. This blog documents some of the experts I’ve been reading that indicate how we might get there./////

            Anyway, James Hansen AGREES with Gail T on the many limitations of renewables. He says: “Can renewable energies provide all of society’s energy needs in the foreseeable future? It is conceivable in a few places, such as New Zealand and Norway. But suggesting that renewables will let us phase rapidly off fossil fuels in the United States, China, India, or the world as a whole is almost the equivalent of believing in the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy.”

            For James its all about the fast build out of nuclear power and switching off oil onto that nuclear power through boron, EV’s, even hydrogen. Nuclear power will have to do the heavy lifting in the years ahead.

            • Chris Johnson says:

              Thanks Eclipse for you good essay. I find much to admire in Gail’s analysis and, I suppose I’ll enjoy James Hansen’s views as well. However, one thing I’ve noticed is that new and emerging technologies and systems are generally ignored, regardless of their real or potential impact. Electric vehicles is a good example, as are cheap simple batteries for grid use of renewables. They might not be deployed until 2016, but they could begin making a difference then, while our industrial system is still viable. All too often the commentary is that ‘that’ll never work because we’re running out of money and gasoline and the roads will all be full of potholes and the entire economy will be shut down except for the gangs pillaging the neighborhoods. As if we’re on the verge of total social implosion, right now, and get ready to start camping out next week… If some people want to cry that the sky is falling, there’s little we can do to reassure them, I guess.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          I have twice taken the time and effort to answer your questions sincerely, to have you just basically blow a raspberry back at me. I’ll not be bothering in future.

          • Paul says:

            What you don’t seem to get is that we need this to happen ‘overnight’

            In case you haven’t noticed we are in the final innings of the collapse.

            Always tomorrow — always a few years away — been hearing that for decades now so forgive me if I am cynical.

            Wake me up when the miracle arrives.

          • Chris Johnson says:

            Hi Eclipse
            You clearly enjoy shining light, at least some of the time. Do you also enjoy limiting or obstructing it other times as your handle suggests? (I ask in friendship; your handle is kinda neat). Anyway, I wanted to point out that NO SINGLE TECHNOLOGY or SYSTEM WILL SOLVE THE PROBLEMS. It won’t be just nuke, or boron, or geothermal or chemical reformation of natural gas into gasoline / diesel. It won’t even be the Keystone pipeline or the discovery of a way to turn coal into gasoline. The solutions will come slowly, perhaps painfully, and unevenly. They might not all arrive in time to prevent a difficult ‘flattening downward slope’ of economic activity and financial solvency.
            Alternatively, the whole system could collapse, and it appears that many contributors on this site just can’t wait to practice their ‘post collapse apocalyptic survival skills’ shows that they’ve been watching on TV.
            Here’s a question for a Poll Gail could run: How many of you believe the population of the world will reduce to 1 billion persons in approximately 40 years? 30 years? 20 years? 10 years?
            5 years? Come on, quit beating around the bush; tell us what you really think. Or not.
            I’ve noted previously that over-pessimism is as wrong (and probably as dangerous) as over-optimism, especially when assessing such weighty issues. Unfortunately, far too many of us sound like we’re intent on holding a ‘pity party’ rather than analyzing what’s wrong and whether or not we really are doomed.

            • Paul says:

              Chris – all due respect I totally disagree with this “many contributors on this site just can’t wait to practice their ‘post collapse apocalyptic survival skills’ shows that they’ve been watching on TV.”

              Personally I have not had a TV for 6 years — and never watched it much before that anyway — I have never seen one of these ‘doomsday prepper shows’ — and I will assume most of them are religious fanatics or simply whack jobs who pray for end of world scenarios because the lives they live now are filled with misery and disappointment.

              I am no such person – I cherish the life I live — I run a business remotely which allows me and my wife to set up shop somewhere else in the world every few months for 3-4 weeks. We have great friends and are lucky to be able to live most of the year on our hobby farm in Bali.

              The last thing I want to be doing is ‘practicing my survival skills’ in a devastated world — I am no rambo who thinks ‘bring it on – I will kick ass’ On the contrary – I think what is coming is highly likely to kick my ass

              And I think I speak for most of the people on this blog – I don’t think anyone is eagerly anticipating the collapse – but if one applies logic to the situation it is impossible to conclude that what is coming is going to be anything but a crash landing.

              And hence the discussions of how to prepare for what is almost certainly coming.

              On a personal level I have accepted what is inevitable — and I do see the future as a personal challenge — can I survive this??? — but if it were up to me and I could kick this can another 30 or 40 years so that I don’t have to go through this — I would most definitely take that option.

              I have zero desire to trade my current relatively cushy life for one where I am scraping and clawing to get my next meal — if it comes to that I will scrape and claw and do what it takes.

              Congratulations to those who think a soft landing is coming and that we’ll emerge from this better off so welcome the crash — or to those who pine for ‘doomsday’ because it means everyone gets to join them in misery — but …

              Be careful what you wish for. I have absolutely zero doubt that what is coming is exponentially worse than your worst nightmare.

              This is not a Hollywood movie – Superman (or Jesus for the prepper crowd) is not coming to save the day.

            • timl2k11 says:

              As for myself, I unfortunately do not have any “post collapse apocalyptic survival skills”. (Nor do I own a TV, I think I ought to get a HAM radio though)

            • Paul says:

              That’s a good idea — one with a hand crank charger or that can be charged by solar.

              There will be no CNN coverage of the breaking news when the collapse gets into full gear — not even of Justin Bieber — wonder how people like Justin will cope when they no longer have their sycophants spoon feeding them.

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              Bieber and Cyrus will have to get even more outlandish. Meanwhile here is info. from zero hedge:


              “The deceptive news was that the Fed, in its last Ben Bernanke moment, would stay the course. The course in question is the “12-Step Counterfeiters Anonymous” program popularly known as “tapering” of QE.

              The Fed says it will stay on the program, leading investors to believe that the central bank’s PhDs were steadfast in their commitment to end their bond buying … and that the economy was healthy enough that it didn’t need QE to prop it up. Neither of those things is true.”

              We’ll see if they can continue to taper. So far it hasn’t been very pretty for stock markets worldwide.

            • Paul says:

              Recall that the US government recently revised how they calculate GDP resulting in a half a trillion dollar gain being added to the overall number.

              Of course what the MSM prints and what people are actually experiencing on the ground are two different matters – no matter how hard people want to be sucked into the Edward Bernaysian PR that there is a recovery — when you don’t have a job and no money — that is a very difficult mental feat to perform — no amount of cognitive dissonance can overcome the cold, hard reality that you cannot ‘live the life of a rockstar’ that you were lead to believe was possible.

              Of course such a realization can lead to intense frustration and perhaps clinical depression – so two choices:

              1. Family Size Packs of Xanaz
              2. Open fire on society with an automatic weapon – because it’s there fault that you are not ‘living large’

              Evidence of this comes from the UK – where the right-wing UKIP party is now leading the pack to win the next election. Seems strange given that Cameron has lead the UK to what the MSM tells us is a momentum gathering recovery.

              But if you dig deeper you will find that there is no recovery – the UK is simply playing at the same games – debt-fueled… stimulus-fueled ‘growth’ And the average person is aware that this is all smoke and mirrors – so they are looking for another solution believing UKIP can solve their problems.

            • Unfortunately popularism is the politics of the desperate- it has been going on for 1000s of years when any civilisation stagnates or declines. Ramasis II was supposedly the greatest Pharaoh but regional climate change caused a great deal of migration and famine- yet the monuments reflected a previous golden age. The narrative now is a golden age has been taken from us by a bad influence, the golden age of the European right was cheap energy and military prowess and the enemy is immigrants, or the left, or gay marriage, or the EU [for UKip] or the UN conspiracy of climate change and even peak oil.

              The question is whether people will fall for the lie again- perhaps we can by-pass this fantastical politics this time round.

            • Christian says:

              Ahahahah! Very funny

            • Christian says:

              I mean Couterfeiters Anonymous

            • xabier says:


              If it gets really bad, I’m sure we here at OFW can pose on wrecking balls, naked.

              That should cause a media distraction of epic proportions.

            • InAlaska says:

              You’ll have to define “OFW” for me.

            • InAlaska says:


            • InAlaska says:

              Oh, got it. “OFW” Our FInite World. Truly, we can extrapolate about the future on this blog. Sure it is fun, but prediction is a tricky business and I feel that most of what we have all said here can only be viewed as mostly flawed. The future never unfolds as we think it might, must or should. There are so many random variables over which we have no control or even insight into, that however brilliant our analysis we will fall short of understanding something so complex as the collapse of our civilization. If, when, how, and why. Sorry to throw cold water on y’all.

            • xabier says:

              In Alaska

              Heartily agree with you.

              At best we are like the men in the old Persian story, in a blacked-out room trying to describe an elephant from what they feel as they bump into it. People use the phrase elephant in the room today to suggest that something big is being ignored, but that’s not the original meaning of the tale.

              However, the elephant IS there, which is not what the MSM would have us believe. So I feel discussions are useful and particularly for people from different regions of the globe to offer their insights into what is unfolding.

              I spent a few years of my life reading a great many diplomatic documents from the end of WW1. It was amusing and highly instructive to see how even well-informed and experienced people got nearly everything wrong about the course of events.

              Similarly, reading about the ‘welfare state future’ of Britain as predicted in 1945 is very illuminating….

              Though I did notice that the greatest errors originate in emotion and wishful-thinking (or pessimism) , which distorted what they saw unfolding.

              And there was a clever man in 1919 who said quite calmly that there would be another world war with Germany in the next 20 years, not a bad forecast!

            • InAlaska says:

              You are of course correct. The best we can do may not be good enough but we must act as we feel the situation dictates at the time. We can do nothing else. My only criticism is that many folks on this blog speak with a degree of certitude about our collective future which I find to be arrogant, disturbing, ignorant, amusing. Enough said.

            • jeremy890 says:

              Just line Seven (7) people up in a line….take away one or two from that group. Those will be the ones left “standing”. To “plan” for this “event”, well is simply a flash in the pan.

            • Chris Johnson says:

              Offending you was not my objective; if it resulted from my writings, I apologize. On the other hand, my remarks are not baseless: some comments more than occasionally cast an “uber-doomer” pall, a thoroughly negative reading of a situation that has never existed and may never exist. I believe quite simply that excessive pessimism is as harmful as excessive optimism, and that if we’re not focused on exploring the parameters of reality then we shouldn’t be here. It’s pretty clear to me that you are.

            • Tony says:

              It’s not pessimism to realise that our way of life (aka civilisation) is wrecking the environment on which all life depends and that consuming resources beyond their renewal rates (in order to wreck the environment) simply can’t go on. As this whole edifice is bound to collapse eventually, it really would be better that it collapses sooner rather than later (to limit the damage). Of course, one may only care about the present time, in which case one can be as optimistic as is necessary to wish for a solution. No one can foretell the future in an exact way but it’s clear that certain actions eventually lead to certain outcomes (in broad terms). I have no illusions about my survival skills (and I almost never watch television, so won’t “learn” anything there) but I am fairly rational when it comes to realising the impacts of our behaviour.

            • Chris Johnson says:

              Thanks, Tony. Well said.

            • Paul says:

              Chris – no offense taken – I just don’t agree primarily because the logic of the situation leads me to be pessimistic — and nobody here or on any other site has been able to even slightly convince me that a cataclysm is not imminent.

              I always come back to this key point:

              – 7.2 billion people are fed only because we use oil and gas based fertilizers and pesticides
              – as oil and gas become increasingly expensive people will not be able to afford food
              – if oil and gas are no longer extracted because nobody can afford to pay for them or the many products they are used to make – then food production will crash
              – it takes 3+ years to convert industrial farms to organic methods and realize a crop

              Now if you can explain to me how we get around the rather significant problem of food production in a collapsing world – I might exude a glimmer of hope.

            • Chris Johnson says:

              Paul: Thanks for your explanation. I had not previously considered those factors, nor the timing and interrelationships. Nor do I have any fixes. Much to explore.

            • charlie says:

              @chris johnson, Feb 1.
              I took your challenge Chris;;;;; and discovered some startling numbers. I chose approx 1/2 the worlds population, 3.5 BILLION and divided it by 20 years (7300 days). What I came up with is, Close to 500,000 people/day, (479,450) would have to die every day for 20 years just to get it down to 1/2 the population. That is not taking into consideration the birth rate for the world. To get it down to 1 BILLION would be close to twice that number. Just looking at the numbers boggles my mind, about all I can say is, a whole lot of people are going to be in one world of “HURT” real soon………With those kinds of numbers I suspect it’s going to take at least a Century to collapse

            • Chris Johnson says:


              Thank you for your insight and effort. What a remarkable finding. Perhaps a ‘sky coming to earth’, as in scripture, will be the approved method. The scenario you highlighted sounds sort of like waiting for the 4.15 train to Dachau.

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              Yeah, Charlie but numbers are just that, numbers. Who set 550k as the max. a day to perish? Remember how fast the numbers dropped when the mice that were over-running the Aussies outback ran out of food? Their numbers ballooned for months, then suddenly over a few days met their demise. How many bit the dust daily? Many millions I’m sure. In fact a strange phenomenon occurred when their moment of truth arrived. They found them in piles, with bite marks all over each other, so they actually killed one another. I don’t think people will bite each other, but the end result may not be much different, as I’m sure people won’t hesitate to kill in one manner or another to get their food, and then the rate of loss lives skyrockets.

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              I meant 500k a day.

            • edpell says:

              Looking at the standard run of the Limits to Growth it seems about 450k deaths per day. 250k being normal deaths and 200k being above births. This carries on over 60 years and takes the population from 9 billion to 4.5 billion by 2100.

          • timl2k11 says:

            I’m curious Chris, have you watched this video? “Peak mining & implications for natural resource management – Simon Michaux” http://youtu.be/TFyTSiCXWEE
            The analyzing has been done and yes, we are really doomed. But asking someone to predict when the population will hit 1 billion? That is a very massive die-off. Why should we have to predict when that population “milestone” will be hit?

            • Chris Johnson says:

              Thank you, Simon Michaux is superb. He’s realistic, committed, and not ready to start running around in circles screaming ‘the sky is falling’, even if it might be ready to. There are things happening that I am not at liberty to discuss, but which could affect these considerations. My basic point remains the same: undue pessimism is as dangerous as undue optimism.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      Sorry Mike, I forgot the James Hansen link.

      Also, here’s the free book that discusses boron replacing oil, and completely by passing the chicken and egg problem of supplier networks V enough customers to get things going. While there *is* a cheap oil civilisation in place, boron is so inert that it can just be *mailed* to the recharging depot. Have enough at home, and a boron car can even run your home’s electricity in a power outage. Boron cars could save lives in ‘Drunken Arctic’ storms across North America. (Free book below: backed by James Hansen’s SCGI).

      • Robin Clarke says:

        Some quotes from that book re “boron cars”:

        “Unlike fossil fuels, metal fuels are not really energy sources.
        They, like hydrogen, are energy carriers.”
        “He has been pondering this for nearly a decade and early on came up with the inspiration of burning boron in pure oxygen. Therein lies the key.”
        “Here’s where that two hundred dollars becomes vanishingly
        cheap. The boron oxide would be hauled back to a recycling center.
        There it would be heated to about 700° Celsius and processed with a
        couple of catalysts to drive off the oxygen,”
        “There are a number of marvelous aspects to this system.”
        “The only costs would be the recycling,
        and since the IFR fuel that would power the recycling process is
        essentially free, that processing charge would be minimal.”

        If there is a sound case for “boron replacing oil”, I don’t see it made clear there.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          Hi Robin,
          Boron is not an energy source. Neither are electric cars. But tens of thousands of electric cars are being sold each year. How is this so? The EV is ‘borrowing’ from the EROEI of the coal. In the same way, Boron will borrow from the very high EROEI of nuclear power. If you have concerns, try asking the crew over at James Hansen’s SCGI or you can ask at the BNC forum here.

          • Robin Clarke says:

            Your point about EV borrowing from coal is a valid one. There remains the question of to what extent societies can afford to spend on pricey new cars, when my information is that more and more people in uk cannot afford to run cars at all anyway let alone splash out on a new flashy one. If anyone knows how to do the maths on that….

            • I don’t think banks want to raise the monthly payment to wage ratios that they permit now. Expensive cars price a lot of people out of the market. They need to use older cars that are not EVs longer, or take public transport.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          Hi Robin,
          I just wanted to say that I agree, and that price is a big deal. I’m not buying a Tesla Gen3 even if it comes down to $30,000. But there are many who will. There are a surprising number of the super-expensive Tesla S sales each year, and that was just Elon’s way of raising the funds to get Tesla really up and running so he could bring the price down of more modest cars. So once the (to me) super expensive Tesla Gen3 starts selling in volume, maybe he’ll be able to rinse & repeat and bring the cost down further? Or maybe not? Maybe cultures and habits will change. I hope so. I’m a fan of New Urbanism, and you know the old rule about New Urbanism: if you build it they will come. If you build more rail, New Urbanism grows up around it (and sometimes even over it!) Less of us driving would actually be a good thing in the long term. Less traffic, more community.

          • Paul says:

            I am reading down these comments and I am beginning to think you are taking the piss.
            At least I hope so because otherwise….

          • Peter S says:

            You do know that the electricity for electric cars has to come from somewhere, don’t you?
            Either you burn the oil making the car and then in the car engine, or you burn it making the electric car and in the electricity generation.

            Electricity comes from fossil fuels.

      • Paul says:

        Wow – awesome – I’ll run right out and buy that (not)

        How about when the first plant is up and running you come back to this blog — and you let us know all about it.

        All kidding aside — how many times have we heard this bs?

        I can’t run my car on a theory — and that’s what this is — just another pie in the sky theory that has not been demonstrated to work.

        I am still waiting for Japan to haul those frozen balls of energy out of the ocean depths – just like I am waiting for the first 10 million tonne asteroid made of pure copper to be towed back to earth — oh and I keep going back to that bar and they keep telling me to come back tomorrow for the free beer.

  3. Eclipse Now says:

    PS Everyone: France went from 8% nuclear to 70% nuclear in 40 years? No. 30 years? No. Try this: “In one decade (1977–1987), France increased its nuclear power production 15-fold, with the nuclear portion of its electricity increasing from 8% to 70%.”
    This isn’t speculative fiction, or wishful daydreaming, or even some form of denial. This is HISTORY folks!
    PS: If they move to EV’s, 70% of American driving can be charged in existing grid capacity: at night. (NREL study from years ago). My guess is a lot of boron recharging would be done at night as well. As long as nuclear’s high EROEI is generating the electricity, even some hydrogen becomes feasible. (Although it’s a tricky beast to store). Boron and direct electric driving seem better. New Urbanism with trains, trams, and trolley buses and walking and cycling seems best.

  4. Ikonoclast says:

    I have changed my stance recently from “renewables might save something” to “nothing will save anything now”. This is not a bad thing. Civilization is a vanity project. Even farming or permaculture are civilization and vanity and doomed. Hunter-gathering is the only valid, sustainable system long term. Hunter-gathering systems create less net oppression per capita than any other system. Of course, I won’t be around to see hunter-gathering become the main system again.

    • One view is that we have been hunter-gatherers for 98% of our time on earth. It certainly simplifies climate change issues.

    • Eclipse Now says:

      Hi Ikonoclast,
      H&G’s wiped out the Mammoths. Today we’d put them in zoo’s and create a breeding program. Not everything about H&G’s was sustainable.

      • Ikonoclast says:

        “Scientists are divided over whether hunting or (natural) climate change, which led to the disappearance of its habitat, was the main factor that contributed to the extinction of the woolly mammoth, but it is likely that it was a combination of the two.” – Wikipedia

        Certainly Hunter-gatherers already have some technology; fire, spears etc. But overall, whilst possibly causing some megafauna extinctions on several continents, hunter-gatherers did not cause global warming, ocean destruction, land degradation, deforestation and a massive extinction event right through the global ecosystem. Hunter-gathering is sustainable overall in a way that modern industrial civilization simply is not.

        • SteveK says:

          Maybe. There weren’t a lot of them. That’s a big factor. Deer, without technology (or yeast in a vat for that matter) on an island can overpopulate, deplete the resources, and crash too.

        • Eclipse Now says:

          Hi Ikonoclast,
          I hear you! The damage HG’s did to the earth is minimal compared to today’s out of control industrial system. However, I see signs of hope. The exponentially destructive ecocide we see in front of us can have legislative, technological, and cultural improvements. Just weaning off fossil fuels onto clean nukes & oil alternatives (boron, EV’s, hydrogen, New Urbanism, trains, trams, & trolley buses that are 5 times cheaper to build than trams) would put us on a far more sustainable footing, and we already have the technology to do that. The rest is political and cultural pressure around adequate marine parks and valuing ecosystem services. EG: Food from seawater greenhouses in the desert are already economical (see Sundrop Farms outside Adelaide). The damage to our world is HUGE. There is a place for grieving that loss. But there is also hope for change. We do NOT have to tell young people to commit suicide!

        • InAlaska says:

          Well, as a part time hunter gatherer myself, I can say that hunting/gathering only works if there is something left to hunt and gather. But at a 6 degree rise in global temperatures, forests will burn, grassland turn to desert, rivers will run dry, mountain glaciers melt. Fish die with ocean acidification and animals can’t migrate fast enough to bear their young in safety. Plus hunter gatherers lived in low density populations, not in the middle of a 7 billion person die-off. Sorry, unless you plan on hunting and gathering other humans, hunting/gathering is a part of our past, I’m afraid.

        • I think I would say Hunter Gatherers are “less unsustainable” than today’s economy. It doesn’t really make them sustainable. The major issues I see are fact that we need (1) cooked food, (2) heat in many parts of the world, and (3) are smart enough to kill off large animals, and (4) we will burn down forests if it will get us what we want and (5) H – G population tends to grow because with control of fire, humans have superiority over other animals. These issues together pretty much mean that H-G life style is not sustainable either.

      • Paul says:

        Nah – today we think on much bigger terms — we wipe out entire oceans of fish — heck, we don’t stop there — we have even set things up so that we wipe ourselves out!

        Remember this: we feed 7.2 billion people only because we have oil and gas based fertilizers and pesticides…. reflect on the significance of that for a few minutes

    • Paul says:

      I am increasingly inclining towards your position — those that survive will likely be living like the animals (that we are).

      As Marlow (Conrad) said ‘Civilization is but a veneer hiding the savage reality of the human condition”

      As there is nothing we can do to change the outcome beyond our personal preparations — we may as well sit back and observe this Titanic moment in history.

      Reminds me of Network ‘Live is not a TV show’ — well — this kinda is — more like a movie though — Mad Max comes to mind….

  5. Pingback: A Forecast of Our Energy Future; Why Common Solutions Don’t Work | ResourceIndustry

  6. Robin Clarke says:

    Here in Birmingham Uk last year I went to a big meeting about energy in 2025 with top energy “gurus” Prof David McKay (govt energy advisor) and Mark Lynas (campaigner/author). Ten days before I had sent them my careful explanation that their ideas were nonsense because we already had a crisis of shortage of money and energy – basically the same themes as here. I also handed out 60 sheets of the same to the professional energy “expert” audience. Not one response has come back.
    More generally, I have found no-one I talk to in Birmingham (where this modern energy-consuming/transporting world was invented!) takes any notice of the evidence I present. Ditto all family members. Meanwhile the city’s “leaders” are having wondrous visions of yet more airports and grand transport schemes and skyscrapers and that the the city “will” grow anyway. (All this despite the council simultaneously having to slash its budget by a third, closing down libraries and essential services.)
    If anyone knows of any (other) sane people over this way could they please put me in contact?
    Meanwhile of course the Ukraine crisis is “because” the country is so split between Russian east and Ukrian west. But that split’s been there for past 70 years. So what’s changed? Ukr is particularly dependent on energy imports, which are getting tougher. I think all sides are clueless that Ukr’s problem is energy deficiency which can’t be addressed by mere political musical chairs..

    • The media still don’t connect the dots towards energy. And neither did they connect the crisis in Syria to the energy and climate change conditions they went through. When people are unemployed and starving, its a recipe for riots. But its important for the media to pin these “dissidents” to either religion or political motivations as its considered taboo to report anything real about why industrial civilization even exists and especially why it will come to an end.

      • Paul says:

        I think when it comes to critical issues — like this one — the MSM is instructed by the powers of the world to not connect the dots.

        Because that would only cause panic — and it would bust the matrix — and the mother of all crashes would happen sooner.

        A crash is a crash is a crash — so I prefer that that MSM stay quiet on this – it’s not like awareness will allow us to fix anything.

        There is nothing to fix

        • InAlaska says:

          The Mayan ruins show evidence of an entire population and civilization that just died out all at once. Jared Diamond believes it was triggered by a rapid ecological decline followed by a massive war. Within one generation it was all gone, leaving nothing but the stones, but it happened so fast that all the stuff remained behind virtually untouched.

    • Ikonoclast says:

      Gail’s site seems to be about the only site on the planet that is realistic about these matters. I have disagreed with Gail on occasion and on details but more often than not I have had to retract, modify my views and admit Gail was closer to the mark than I was. I pride myself that real data can actually change my views. This is actually very rare. Most people entrench their views when confronted with disconfirming data.

      People are actuated, in the main, by belief not knowledge. A number of studies have shown that most people do not change their views when real evidence debunks their beliefs. They “double-down” so to speak, investing even more belief, more psychological dependence and more money into their false beliefs.

      Clearly, there will be a psychological disjunction point. When real material conditions get so bad that the collapse (or at least a severe economic depression) cannot be denied then people will react with shock and anger. Expect riots, revolutions and reactions (crackdowns by authority) to become the order of the day at that point. Disorder will worsen the situation further and imperil the lives of all involved in the disorder. The key to survival might well be to move to a really quiet, out of the way place where food can be generally assured from local sources. However, don’t underestimate the ability of hordes (some still with petrol powered vehicles) to scour the countryside for food and implements and easy targets.

      However, I don’t plan on being a survivalist. I am 60. Maybe if I was 30 or younger and in prime health I would give it a shot. At 60, forget it. I wouldn’t stand a chance. I will stay quiet in my house on the periphery of a large city and see what happens. I don’t even plan on buying a gun. Australia does not have a civilian gun owning culture but that could change with collapse.

      I expect Australia to initially maintain order and retain enough energy sources and food sources for a controlled power down. We are uniquely endowed to do that with a low population compared to our real carrying capacity. But I doubt that other nations like Indonesia and China will leave use alone in this situation. Once you realise that wars, invasions and mass migrations of millions or 100s of millions of refugees are on the cards, then you realise this event is so huge you cannot possibly plan for it or credibly plan to survive it.

      • Bonnet says:

        “Once you realise that wars, invasions and mass migrations of millions or 100s of millions of refugees are on the cards, then you realise this event is so huge you cannot possibly plan for it or credibly plan to survive it.”

        Are “millions of refugees” with the intent of taking other country’s or people’s resources really “refugees”? Where’s the line between needy refugees and armies, doing what armies have always done in the past, namely conquesting for the sake of resource and land?

        Food for thought. By branding them as refugees, you give moral legitimacy, but calling them an army of invaders, not so much… ‘Hey, please, let me come in, or else I will have to break in!’

      • xabier says:


        A fair view, very realistic.

        On the whole, people don’t riot unless deliberately led into violence by interested parties: what is reported as ‘spontaneous and popular’ is rarely so.

        If things are really tough, if not provoked by agitators, provocateurs and the like, most will be too busy in the perpetual search for food, clothing and fuel – or simply robbing others!

        Not much time left over for mass protests after all that. They are the luxury of the still-fed……

    • There are a lot of people that believe what MSM tells them. They say what people want to hear.

      There are a number of readers of Our Finite World in the UK. Maybe you need to set up a London fan club (or wherever you are).

      • Robin Clarke says:

        Hmm, the madhouse “wealth”-bubble that is London is (thankfully, gasp!) 110 miles away by train from here (Birmingham). Of course on the transatlantic scale that’s cheek-to-cheek but for those who struggle to pay even a 66% discounted £30 train fare it certainly ain’t!

      • icarus62 says:

        I live on the outskirts of one of the most densely populated cities in the UK, and the UK is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Currently, I would say, we’re heading down the other side of the North Sea oil and gas boom which went a long way to offsetting the decline of the latter half of the 20th Century as coal mining was on its way out and manufacturing was disappearing to other parts of the world with cheaper (and less troublesome) labour forces. So we’re probably in massive overshoot now, in terms of the population our country could actually support long-term with its own resources. I completely agree with the analysis that so-called ‘renewables’ cannot magically replace fossil fuels as our primary source of energy – at least not to maintain anything like the civilisation and standard of living we have now.

        Somewhere on another blog there was mention of “20 acres, a cow and some chickens” as being the minimum you could give a family and expect them to sustain themselves – something of that order, anyway. It would be interesting to try to work out very roughly how many people that would support, if adopted by the UK and based on available reasonable quality cultivable land in this country today. I really doubt it would amount to the 60+ million we have now – even assuming that the land use could be changed so dramatically and that people could be persuaded to leave their city homes and big screen TVs, and take up subsistence agriculture/permaculture/horticulture/whatever!

        • Paul says:

          I am told by my organic farm instructor — that in a place like BC Canada — that an acre can produce enough food for a family of 4.

          • icarus62 says:

            I’d heard 10 people per acre, from a permaculture enthusiast… but I’m sceptical. You would need quite a large area of coppiced woodland for fuel, I think… plus perhaps other land for livestock. The land I have amounts to about a tenth of an acre, and I can’t imagine that it could keep one person in food all year, every year.

          • edpell says:

            I have a book “Five acres and Independence”. I will go with five acres for four people in an area that has winter and needs firewood. Sure, an always warm place does not need a wood lot and so less land is needed.

          • timl2k11 says:

            This is my problem with Permaculture activists. According to http://www.tradingeconomics.com/united-states/arable-land-percent-of-land-area-wb-data.html there is 1.2 acres of arable land in the U.S. per person. Now not all arable land is created equal, so can the “average” acre of arable land support 4 people? I’m also not sure what the site counts as “arable”. For example do they really mean “arable assuming the input of fossil fuels”? How many hectares of arable land do we have without the input of fossil fuels? I imagine it would be much less. I have a hard time believing there is enough land for permaculture and related practices to support anywhere near 300 million people. My guess is that to live sustainably, without fossil fuels, even supporting less than 30 million people in an area the size of the US would be an incredible challenge, if possible at all. I’ve been told I should study Cuba, and I would like to, but even if all there fossil fuel imports were cutoff, were they not still able to import other items with “embedded” fossil fuel energy. If Cuba post-USSR is indeed a good case study, than we should all be taking a look.

            • I would caution you that Cuba has very different stories told by different authors. Some claim that Cuba imports 80% of its food. Cuba put in irrigation in Havana during the Special Period, but it is not clear that that is sustainable. Havana has problems with salt water incursion and a dropping fresh water table, at least according to some authors. Some people clearly grew (and still grow) vegetables locally, and that has helped some. But how big a dent that has made in their total problem, and whether it is really sustainable, are subject to different opinions.

          • I would guess that your organic farm instructor assumes that you have electric fences, soil amendments trucked in from afar, supplemental watering if you need it, a good way to store the food so that it is not attacked by insects, and refrigeration or canning available as storage techniques. All of these are fossil fuel dependent. Also, he is probably assuming that fruit and nuts tress are mature trees, not ones that you are starting this year. Somehow, your land (or some other source) will need to provide fibre for clothing and wood for heating as well. There is also the natural variability issue–you need to acre to feed you in the worst year out of 100, not on average. What it “can produce” is not the question.

            My guess is that in the real world, the one acre for four people is way too low, especially that far north. You can get by with not to much land in warm parts of the world, where you can get two crops a year and you don’t need to worry about heating a home or dressing warmly.

        • The total amount of land given to agriculture in the UK is given as 43 million acres. Of that, 15.3 acres is arable, according to Wikipedia. At 20 acres apiece, the 43 million acres would support 2,150,000 families. If each family consists of four people (maybe some grandparents included), then the land would support 8,600,000 people. If we only use the 15.3 arable acres, the land can only support 3,060,000 people, again with four to a family. The answer doesn’t come anywhere near 60 million.

          • Paul says:

            Houston —- we have a problem

          • Judy says:

            Actually there has already been a very thorough study carried out by Simon Fairlie into how many people can be fed by the land in the UK. I think I read it in ‘The Land’ magazine, but I will see if I can dig up a reference. If you farm by hand then 1 acre can feed a family. This obviously isn’t to current standards, so you would eat the occasional rabbit, rather than having regular beef for instance. We currently throw away a third of the food, so that would have to stop too. Also it doesn’t include wood for heating. Based on a basic and mainly vegetarian diet with some meat (there are lots of hill farms for sheep which are unsuitable for crops) there is sufficient land to feed the full UK population.

            It assumes that land is distributed fairly, so no large country estates or pony paddocks for the rich or golf courses. Would that ever happen? In the war it did. The government was allowed to take any land that was not productive and re-allocate it to someone else.

            If you look back in history peasants used to have relatively small areas of land to feed their families and there was common land to graze the odd sheep. The current allotment system was always based on the old plots, which traditionally was 1/16th of an acre. It may seem small, but if it is worked by hand then every available space can be used.

            Carol at http://journeyintofoodproduction.wordpress.com/ has spent the last year growing organic veg in a small plot and weighing and measuring the results, to determine exactly how much can be produced in a small space.

            Even in the short term Vinay Gupta (http://vinay.howtolivewiki.com/blog/about) says that there is enough cattle and sheep stood in the fields to feed the population for 6 months in a crisis . I’m not so convinced that it would give us that long, however it is a good point that we would have a grace period to get cultivating.

            I do think if you live in a city, you just see the view of the city, where not much grows, whereas if you live in a more rural area you see all the potential there is.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Judy
              I have referred to Simon Fairlie’s work three or four times, over the last couple of years.

              My conclusion is that you cannot get people who want to believe in the ‘starvation theory’ to look at it. They are going to believe what they want to believe.

              Don Stewart

            • If the farmer got the output of the one acre, plus was able to graze his sheep elsewhere, he effectively had the use of more than one acre of land. His calories included the calories from the sheep, and his clothing included the wool from the sheep. The animals also helped provide fertilizer for the land. Without the extra land grazing animals and going into rotation with the one acre plots, I doubt the scheme would work. Otherwise, it is necessary to let land remain idle from time to time, to restore fertility.

          • edpell says:

            I wonder is the ratio better in Scotland? If so, they had better hurry up and succeed.

      • circusmaestro says:

        Gail, thank you so much for your work, to bring such clarity to debate. Please help us to know how many of us (by country or region), have read this post…. It would be useful to get a sense of how far or close we are from what could be a strong signal…

        • I don’t really know how many have read this post, or will read it in the future. My posts are copied on a lot of other sites, and I don’t know how many readers the other sites have. I know that on this site, this post is setting a record for readership (but not by a huge margin). I find that even after a post is put up, I have a lot of readers even months or years later. Lately I have been getting about 20,000 hits a week on Our Finite World, and I put up a little less than one post a week.

    • Paul says:

      I wonder if it is not best to let sleeping dogs lie.

      Most people could not handle reality.

      I am surprised the makers of Xanax have not broken ranks and run ads ‘a horrible crash is coming — Xanax can alleviate all symptoms in the run up and after — two a day and you’ll forget all about starving’

      They could sell 5 year mega packs on that campaign slogan

      • I have a difficult time handling the advent of this and I have known for forty years it was coming…

        Recently spent a great deal of time trying to inform my locality that it is time to prepare. I backed off of a blunt approach because I realized how cruel it would be to crash people’s worlds. So I couched my words, hoping at least those who could read between the lines would take my advice.

        Still it did not stave off a string of sleepless nights and extended grieving process. One only accepts the death of someone dear after years of grieving. You may emerge stronger or you may succumb to grief. Frequently, married couples die within a short span from the first to pass.

  7. Christian says:

    Good post Gail, congratulations!

    Statu quo and growth are dead. It seems you’re right the way it happens is low oil prices, and this leads you to an estimation of future energy supply quite similar of Ugo Bardi’s. This makes me thrill, ASPO forecasting being already hard to deal with. Finances, debt and wages are concepts without future, but may be this is not so evident upon the language you still use (for instance, future “lending” and “taxes”).

    Electricity is not at all to substitute anything, but I wonder if the grid itself is to decline so fast as oil and not with some delay. Another point is to privilege some parts of it: electric bulbs being increasingly in excess because of falling electricity supply, the places where they are most needed, such as hospitals, may still have some for a while even without producing new ones.

    Industrial steady state is obviously impossible, but some low tech steady state can be undertaken. Take wood burning, for instance. This winter, Greeks are no more able to afford NG or fuel for heating, and have massively turned to wood. This is done so badly that smog levels have skyrocketed and deforestation seems to go the same path. Government doesn’t react and just advise the people not to do physical exercise the worst smog days… It’s pathetic, and if they continue this way they will be in a situation worst than Middle Ages in a few years. On the other hand, Nicaragua has a lot of rural population, which use of wood for cooking (not for heating, of course) in traditional stoves generated respiratory problems. So, the government is providing population with almost a million cheap simple design highly efficient wood stoves (I believe they are similar to rocket stoves) to preserve woods and improve health care. This is the way.

    You don’t talk about it, but some people in this blog wonder if the State must buy land to give it to urbanites willing to move to the country. I rather believe land owners will not find their huge possessions very useful, and there will be no need to compensate them for it. The State will not be in a position to afford it anyway, and the only way will be just taking it, in a context where most private property will be disturbed.

    Finally, I want to share some words Uruguay’s president Pepe Mujica issued yesterday at a Community of Latin American and Caribbean States summit: “Globalization is headed to disaster. If mankind is not able to think as a species, if mankind continues thinking as a country, and within a country as a social class, then civilization is condemned”. May be his words come too late, but he is the best guy in the world.

    • I think that electricity in not more than a few years behind oil in failing. In fact, it may be at the same time. Part of the reason is that government is needed to keep order. If this fails, there are problems with all kinds of energy supplies. Failure can come for reasons other than “running out” of supplies. It can come from bankruptcy of important parts of the system, or lack of a financial system to pay workers, or inability of citizens to afford the electricity, or inability to repair damage after storms.

      Regarding taxes, if you plan to have any kind of government, you pretty much need some form of taxes. It can be a percentage of the grain and other farm products produced, rather than money as we think of it. Government can be pretty simple–a local ruler of some sort, without much staff.

      There seems to be a lot of debt around, as well, just because barter is cumbersome, It makes more sense to have a general store, and have people bring goods of one kind and take other goods back. In such a system, a patron “runs a tab.” There may not be much time-shifting involved. Debt can also reflect the amount the government expects to be paid.

      You are quite likely right about the government just taking land away from rich people. This has happened over and over throughout history. Government doesn’t have any way of getting enough funds to pay for it. It is possible that a new government will take over, and they will confiscate land above a certain amount per person. Or maybe government won’t pay much attention at all, and just let people fight over the land.

      • Christian says:

        I like your general store, and see now it’s possible to give some words a non monetary meaning. Of course, the grid may overcome oil for a while just if there is a government who takes care of it.

      • Paul says:

        Gail – your point that China and India’s use of cheap (and polluting) coal has buoyed their economies vs the more oil dependent economies was very insightful.

        I think also the fact that the OECD countries are massively consumer driven also impacts things — they buy more than people in China and India (most of whom exist within a localized, barely subsistence economy) – and ‘stuff’ requires oil – no doubt that exacerbates the expensive oil growth discrepancies

        • The other thing that helps China and India is the fact that they are relatively warm countries. When energy supplies are scarce, having a subsidy from the sun is helpful. With globalization, there is pressure to equalize salaries. The catch is that people in cold parts of the world need to earn more, in order to have more substantial homes and the funds to pay for heating those homes. Cars are somewhat more of a necessity as well. People in cold countries have more of a need to store food for winter (or use meat instead of grains), if only one crop a year can be grown, instead of two.

          The Industrial Revolution started in England, when there was a problem with deforestation, and someone discovered coal made an adequate substitute for wood. Those who figured out how to use coal for heating soon put coal to industrial uses as well. At that time, there was no manufacturing competition with warmer countries. But if we try now to compete with warmer countries, we are sure to lose, because we need higher salaries to support a similar life style.

      • edpell says:

        Here in New York state we are moving to 100% natural gas fueled electric generation. If natural gas ever becomes unavailable the light go out.

  8. Robin Clarke says:

    I rather believe land owners will not find their huge possessions very useful,
    Few people understand that “ownership” whether of money or property, does not exist in reality but merely as some peoples’ beliefs in it. And when too many people don’t find it convenient to believe, the “billionaires” become merely pathetic two-legged animals who never learnt how to use a screwdriver or shovel or spreadsheet.

    • In reality, land ownership only exist if you can protect your land with violence and extreme physical force.

      • edpell says:

        This is why owners have retainers. They have layers of middlemen that each benefit from their position and are willing to use physical violence to keep it.

        • Paul says:

          Why wouldn’t the retainer turn on the land owner and take his land – why fight his battles?

          I’ve recently put in place a sharing policy on the land I occupy here in Bali – half goes to people who work with us — hopefully that arrangement is allowed to continue in the future.

          I suppose it all depends on if the village is able to produce enough food to feed themselves – if not my gesture will be forgotten….

          Might is right at the end of the day

          • edpell says:

            How to structure your servant class so they feel loyalty and are willing to die for “the cause” is the central issue for owners. It is not people several ranks down the hierarchy that can successfully attack the king/owner it is the first rank of “nobels” that is the most dangerous. One way to keep them in line is to use sons and daughters, another is to treat them well (as Machiavelli suggests), another is treat them extremely harshly (as Machiavelli suggests as a less desirable choice to treat them well). I think you have the right approach treat your retainer class well.

        • Paul says:

          Re: how to create a loyal servant class…..

          Now if I was Jamie Dimon I would hire a team of psychologists who would conduct interviews for all the people I plan to use to staff my island hideaway

          I’d want particular attention paid to my private militia — the profile I would go after would be those with little ambition — no leaders — I AM the leader — nobody very bright — nobody with a streak of independence….

          I would want mentally weak people who know one thing only – loyalty to their leader — who would protect me at all costs – who would never think to cross me.

          And I would make sure those individuals and their families were VERY well provided for on my island.

      • You may be correct, unfortunately.

    • I am afraid you are right. If conditions get too bad, land owners may choose to abandon the land that they theoretically own.

    • Paul says:

      These ‘masters of the universe’ have no doubt go their escape plans in place (Ellison with his island for instance)

      But I agree – when the SHTF they will have the same problems we have — sure they will have their security force in place — but if I were the head of that force I might decide that me and the boys don’t need useless Jamie — we’ll just toss this piece of trash out on the street because might is right — and we have the guns — and we’ve just decided we want the caviar and champagne.

      All bets are off — these guys will have nothing to offer going forward.

      • xabier says:


        Too true.

        The history of the Arab Empire and the early French kingdom show that once the leader has become a mere figurehead without real power or charisma, he’s highly dispensable in the eyes of the men with the swords and guns.

        The early English were brought in to Britain a mercenaries as Rome collapsed, and then thought ‘Wait a minute, this could all be ours!’

        People get worked up about TPTB saving themselves, when they are unlikely to be the powers of the future……

    • InAlaska says:

      Yep. Owning land is only as good as the government you have to enforce your private property rights. When the SHTF the only right most will have will be the right to defend their land or have it taken from them.

      • edpell says:

        This is why the first 90 fighters to form a group that can act cohesively wins. Lesson, make friends with your neighbors before the SHTF.

  9. Judy says:

    Thanks for this post. Just to pick up on your very last sentence Gail, the global average number of children per couple is currently 2.36. The number of children being born each year has already peaked. See http://www.gapminder.org/videos/dont-panic-the-facts-about-population/ for a brilliant video which explains why the population is still growing slowly, even though the number of children born isn’t. I think you will like it Gail, as there are lots of great graphs 🙂

    I find it amazing that globally we have managed to crack population growth. It always seemed unstoppable and out of our hands, but clearly we have not just thought as a species but acted as a species too. It makes me feel more positive that we can resolve some of our other problems.

    • Chris Johnson says:

      Judy, I hope you may have considered that it’s not that “we have managed to crack population growth”, but that the ‘demographic transition’ from high birth and death rates to lower birth and death rates occurs naturally as societies climb the wealth ladder. It’s why Taiwan and Hong Kong and Japan have birth rates of around 1.3 — without government imposition as in China. This was first discovered 80 plus years ago, and occurs globally. Unfortunately, not fast enough, it seems. Africa doubled its population in the last 50 years and is set to double again in the coming 40-50. Or if some of the positive signs of economic growth continue there, those societies will see slower population growth.

      • BC says:

        Judy and Chris, consider that, given the rate of growth of births and population from the mid-18th century to the 1960s-70s, the human ape population will experience over the next 30-50 years the largest number of deaths from “natural causes” as a share of total population ever experienced by the human ape species on Spaceship Earth; and this does not include premature deaths from disease, famine, ethnic/racial/religious conflict, war, and infant mortality. The human ape species is due a mass die-off on a scale and scope one dare not even think about.

        Thus, having children since the 1980s-90s is a virtual guarantee of their experiencing relative privation, labor underutilization, low income and falling purchasing power after taxes and price effects, economic insecurity, anxiety, fear, anger, resentment, violence, no incentive to couple and reproduce, and premature death.

        Thus, don’t be surprised if ritualistic suicide, death cults, asceticism, monasticism, Spartanism, child sacrifice, “Hunger Games”, “Rollerball”, “Logan’s Run”, and “Soylent Green”, and other forms of fatalism emerge as mass-social trends during the coming zombie apocalypse along side the top 0.01-0.1% and the further evolution of their Elyisium-like rentier extractive corporate-state.

        Nature has little use for 7 billion human apes hereafter, save for carbon-dense humus or fertilizer we can provide collectively in abundance to replenish forests, grasslands, and populations of fish, invertabrates, and terrestrial and oceanic mammals.

        Evolution, if it needs us at all, would tolerate a mere fraction of our numbers today. How we accept, adapt, and acquiesce to the reality is what will condition the adaptive, self-selected traits of our successors.

        Therefore, I’m rooting for those under age 30-35 to acknowledge the lack of evolutionary utility of the further growth of population of human apes, cease breeding, and demonstrate wisdom well beyond their age and experience in devising ways to humanely dispense efficiently with their elders, including the writer.

        Soylent Green is people. It’s time for Sol to “go home”, but Boomers will fight the process to the end. It’s the job of Millennials to end the fight as soon as possible.

        Boomers, “go home”.

        • InAlaska says:

          I am not really sure what a “human ape species” is. I think we are much closer genetically to chimpanzees and monkeys that apes and gorillas. Having said that, my children appreciate being born and having a chance to live.

          • xabier says:


            Agreed. Last time I looked in the mirror it wasn’t very pretty, but I’m certainly no ‘ape’.

            Also, the ‘Millennials versus Boomers’ meme has obviously been introduced as crude propaganda by the political/financial class to distract from the real problems and to justify harsh measures to come, ie cutting pensions and welfare, higher taxes on ‘Boomer’ property, etc.

            ‘Boomers’ didn’t take anything, they just got born.

          • edpell says:

            Freud said there are three things people do not talk about sex, money, and death. Which I would say are basically birth, life, and death. These are super emotionally hot topics.

            I look forward to the day when women who are intelligent and well educated are able to reproduce at reasonably high rates. Maybe extra uterine gestation by technology will be the solution. Currently, it seems the genome is such that intelligence and high education lead to infertility a clear genome defect; solely from the point of view of evolution. I love and respect all who have few or zero offspring. .

          • DrTskoul says:

            Hmm…. Sorry but wrong. Chimps are no monkeys. Humans are genetically closer to great apes. (Family Hominidae: great apes, including humans (seven species))

          • BC says:

            Chimps are apes, as they are our closest primate relatives; ergo, so are we apes. If you don’t know that, well, sorry.

            Having infant apes with 7 billion of us overpopulating Spaceship Earth is to ensure that they will be forced to engage in a “war of all against all” in a last-ape-standing contest for the remaining scarce resouces of the planet.

            We can’t accept this because we imagine ourselves (Nature endows us with the capacity for self-delusion) to be rational, caring, well-equipped, and well-intentioned human beings to bear offspring and raise them to adulthood, conditioning them to want the same.

            But US real GDP per capita has not grown in 5 years, real wages per capita have not grown in 15 years, and the US has not created a net new full-time private sector job per capita since the late 1970s to early 1980s. Yet, the population has increased 3.5% to 15-30% since 2008 to 1978-82, with 1 million legal immigrants entering the country and countless undocumented migrants invading every year. With no growth of jobs, wages, and real GDP per capita, every new birth and additional immigrant means less per capita for everyone else.

    • As I mentioned in the post, a big part of our problem is that we have moved so many people into being consumers of fossil fuel devices and of fossil fuels. Whether or not the population grows, there are an awfully lot of people who would like to have the same kinds of things people in the West do. That is a big problem in itself.

      • Judy says:

        Chris, you are right that most of the population growth is happening in Africa. It is a big continent with a relatively low population. In the UK our population would be declining if it weren’t for immigration. Immigration is reliant on people believing they will get a better life here than elsewhere, which could change instantly with economic collapse. Look at the example of Ireland, where the young are emmigrating. It is not wealth though that changes the birthrate. Look at Bangledesh with a fertility rate of 2.2. They are certainly not a wealthy country. Watch the video on the link I posted and you will find out the world has changed a lot since 80 years ago.

        BC, I don’t think a Zombie apocalypse, i.e. being attacked by dead people, is one of our problems. No doubt if our techno-society persists then someone would work out how to insert electrical sensors into a dead body so that it could be operated like a remote controlled car. I mean they have already done it with a live cockroach (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-24455141), though I’m sure a decomposing corpse would be much tougher to work on.

        Honestly BC, we don’t get any ritualistic suicides or death cults over here in the UK. I have never heard of any in the very long history of the country. Wars and invasions yes – death cults no! Are you just making it all up to frighten people out of taking sensible steps to prepare? Trust me when I say that nobody in the UK prepared for y2k, there are no ‘doomers’, guns are illegal (not to say that the aristocracy don’t have their sports rifles) and if the world is collapsing you can guarantee that the cows will still be milked and your newspaper delivered! Things will get tough, but don’t expect the British to degenerate into ‘mad max’ like charaters and I would say the same for most Europeans too. Isn’t it mainly in the US that all these apocalyptic cults and warmongering in general arise? I’m kinda glad there is a big ocean between us, if that is what you really think is likely to happen there.

        Look at France for instance. They have a really rural culture, where they produce lots of local food on small farms all within pony-trap distance of villages and small towns where the produce can be sold. Even their capital Paris is not that densely populated. Do you think a lack of fuel or electricity will alter traditions that have been carried on for generations? So some city folk may have to relocate to the countryside as labourers, but there is no reason they would starve. The nuclear energy plants may be an issue though.

        There was a fictional book I read as a kid called The Death of Grass, (though it is called something else in the US), where the grain crops round the world were all diseased and there was only enough food to feed one third of the population. The British government decided to drop bombs on the biggest cities to instantly wipe out a third of the population to retain order and allow the rest of the population to survive in peace. It isn’t beyond the realms of imagination for our government / army generals to have an emergency plan like this. I mean there are 7 million people in a very densly-populated London, who would struggle without electricity and regular deliveries to supermarkets, whereas more rural towns and villages would probably muddle through just fine, so long as they aren’t invaded by huge numbers of people fleeing London.

        It is worth remembering that it may be a ‘global economy’, but every nation is different and unique in cultures and resources. I’m not saying that there won’t be protests and anger like in Greece and Egypt – I’m angry too that we bailed out the banks and I am surprised we haven’t seen more protests. But that is still people pulling together to display their disgust with their rulers. Its human nature to pull together not fall apart.

        InAlaska, I am glad that your children were born too. Really we need the young people for the labour force and to give us hope, and we need the old people for their wisdom and knowledge of life before electric gadgets. The only people we don’t need are the wealthy – nobody ever says it! It is their greed to always want more and more that has got us into this mess. The rich can afford to fly everywhere, polluting the World and live in huge energy guzzling mansions. Cutting out the richest 0.1% could make life a lot more possible for the remaining 99.9%.

        Gail, the wealthiest 1 billion people on the planet create half of the global carbon emissions. We may worry that car ownership is growing in China, but that isn’t the problem right now. It is the wealthy westerners who fly around the world for pleasure and consume so much energy and ‘stuff’. We need to take the lead for the rest of the world by cutting back. Besides the Chinese will still have their bicycle tucked away at the back of the garage for when they need it again 🙂

        I like Positive Money’s (http://www.positivemoney.org/) ideas of taking away from banks the ability to create money. I would suggest going further and making interest on any debt illegal and annulling all existing debts (especially third world debts). This should cause a few wealthy individuals to have heart attacks and would hopefully solve the issue of greed. It would give us a level playing field to start from scratch with only the resources we have now – not stealing from the future.

        • Chris Johnson says:

          Thanks for the ‘tour d’ horizon’, Judy. I enjoyed much of what you said and will try to find time later to respond to more of your thoughts. For now, please allow this partial response regarding gasoline, cars, and development.
          The first thing a newly enriched citizen of the world, regardless if he/she is from Ethiopia or Belarus or Uruguay or Mindanao, is an automobile. ‘Newly enriched’ is relative — this ‘first set of wheels’ might cost US$500, but it provides freedom and mobility.
          We rich westerners don’t even consider the implications: Chinese buy more new cars than Americans. The problem is that 1.2 billion of China’s 1.3 billion population live in an area the size of Western Europe, or USA east of the Mississippi. Now that’s a problem. Their air traffic is so congested that they allow planes to take off from one place without clearance to fly to or land at their destination. Beijing recently said that only one out of 6 of its residents would be allowed to have a vehicle. Or was it 1/10?
          India has similar problems, maybe worse in the long run. Have you ever noticed that the land mass of India is just about the same as that of Saudi Arabia? But the population of SA is 40 million while the population of India is about 1.2 Billion.
          These fundamental conditions cause problems that we pampered westerners can barely conceive or imagine. And we do have a responsibility to try to ensure that solutions applied in one place don’t result in ‘buggering thy neighbor’ and thereby adding friction and aggravation into the mix. It’s going to be difficult enough even if we all keep smiling.

          • Judy says:

            Thanks Chris.
            I am hearing you that China and India are a big problem, but they are way out of my control or concern. If Gail is right then this ‘Globalisation’ is going to come to an end pretty soon. Which means we need to start looking for solutions locally. If we work on what we can do locally this could then spread. I am just thinking that many big changes that have happened before started in one country and then were adopted in other countries, such as abolishment of slavery, industrialisation, votes for women, consumerism, facebook. If something like ‘carbon rationing’ (and I am not saying this solves anything) or ‘abolishing interest’ got implemented in the UK, then other countries could see it working and may feel encouraged to follow suit. I just feel focusing on the local situation, the stuff I know about and understand, is more likely to yield results, than being overwhelmed by the global situation. I’m not trying to bury my head, I still want to know about the air polution in China, but we led the world into this situation and we need to lead them out.

            I think China is unbelievable. It always amazes me how so many people can live together in such a small area. Just the engineering and logistics of getting food, water and sanitation to everyone is incomprehensively mindboggling. In a collapse scenario, I feel they have a far better chance of re-organising themselves to meet new contraints on energy or food. They have a leadership that can make decisions and a population that follows. I’m clearly far too opinionated to follow anything, even if our leaders could make a relevant decision on energy security and climate change 🙂

  10. jeremy890 says:

    I can hear it now,
    “Another fine mess you got me into to!”
    Yep, can’t wait for the blame game to play out.

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