First Report from Gail in China

Greetings Finite Worlders!   Gail is on her 1 month lecture tour of China.  She’s unable to access WordPress from China, but does have access to email, so she’s sending me updates to publish here on OFW.  My Byline/About appears at the bottom here, but the China Travelogue articles are authored by her and all photos are from her  We will try to keep you updated as the trip progresses. -RE

Here’s the email Recap so far from Gail

Greeting from Beijing!

I am being treated well at China University of Petroleum in Beijing. I have given four lectures to my class so far, and will give four more lectures (and a short test) to my students next week. The classroom is not heated after March 15, so students have their coats on.

I understand cutting off the heat on March 15 is pretty much standard in Beijing. Some of the graduate students have reported that their apartments are quite cold at this time of year–the night temperature gets down below 40 degrees.

The apartment I am in has  a separate heating and cooling unit, in addition to central heat. So my apartment has been as warm as I have wanted it. My apartment is intended for guests that the university wants to treat well. The apartment is not luxurious by United States standards, but it is very adequate for my needs. It is conveniently located, in the middle of the campus, so it is easy to get wherever I want to go. It even has its own machine for washing clothes, plus a rack for drying clothes. It is quite large, with a big kitchen area, living room, bedroom, and bathroom.

I have given four lectures so far to my class, and will give another four lectures next week. I have discovered that students don’t like talking very much in class. Usually, they understand written English better than spoken English, so I have tried to see that copies of my presentations are available in class. Professor Feng who invited me occasionally spends a few minutes explaining something I have said in Chinese so that the student have another chance to understand what is being said.

The classes are being video taped. I understand that they will be edited (probably to remove the Chinese portion) so that I can put the videos of the lectures up on I am attaching here the first of the lectures I gave. I will try to do write-ups of these lectures as well.

On Saturday afternoon, I am giving a lecture to MBA students. This will be a shorter overview of our problems. Actually, that lecture will be very soon. I need go over to that lecture in a few minutes.

I am being treated very well, with graduate students going with me to meals and taking me sight seeing. This is a photo of a group of us, after the dinner we had the first day I was in Beijing.

A few Pics from the trip so far…

Group who had lunch together first day

students from my class

Note from RE: Gail also included an Acrobat file of her presentation slides, however I will leave that for Gail to add after she returns.

About Reverse Engineer

Reverse Engineer is Admin and Chief Cook & Bottlewasher on the Doomstead Diner Blog & Forum, and hosts the Collapse Cafe Video Discussions and Podcasts, and the Frostbite Falls Daily Rant spleen venting Collapse-tainment show. Fans of George Carlin, Bill Hicks and Rick Mercer tend to like the material, Academic folks, not so much.
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110 Responses to First Report from Gail in China

  1. jeremy890 says:

    Thank you for the update and it is my opinion Gail may be overqualified for the task at hand. Sorry, could not resist. Notice these articles about hot water, which Gail mentioned in her email.
    China’s passive systems cost are generally inexpensive costing only about $300 and needless to say, are the worldwide leaders in their use and production. A recent article writes manufactures in India feel the squeeze in price competition
    Another interesting story regarding a neighbor, Vietnam, and its efforts in sustainable tourism.
    Perhaps one day Gail may be invited there!
    Please “RE” keep us posted and again most appreciated!

  2. jeremy890 says:

    Just read this concerning the Nissan Leaf electric car and what to look for when buying used.
    Of course the main concerns are both charging rate and able to hold a charge afterward.
    Seems Nissan is dumping them at auction and is considering to lease them used.
    Confirms Electric cars are not What greenies think they are

  3. Dear Gail. Wonderful to read your day-to-day field experiences and lectures in China. Beautiful that you take the care and efforts to widen the awareness on the problems we face and the solutions we need to find. On Energy & Sustainability that is. Best if we can provide and instil the young people and students with hope- and not only fear: that- collectively- and in good collaboration- we may create the conditions for an energy revolution- befit to all.

    If students, and based on your lectures, are left with a mind of scarcity, of limits (also e.g. in shales) – I am afraid that this may yield some stronger protectionists and competitive behaviours in the world of energy (coal, oil, gas,etc.)

    Let’s not underestimate our duty of care- for sure- to properly address the issues as they are (you do that), but also give insight in what pathways we have available to unlock our very best (work I do with UN SDSN).

    Wish you every joy, amazement and success!

  4. Latest from Gail in China:

    As far as I can tell, my problem is that the WiFi connection I am using is very weak. I can get some websites and e-mail, but not OFW. One time today, OFW did come up, but when I tried to switch to the view that would show comments, I lost it again. If my computer were set up for an Ethernet connection, I could use an Ethernet connection instead of WiFi, and that would likely solve most of my Internet problems (except of course the problem with blocked web sites)

    With respect to further comments, you might add

    > Mike says:
    > March 22, 2015 at 2:39 am
    Yes, I did get a chance to try Peking Duck. It was quite good.

    I think you are right about not being able to get energy companies ( or others) in China to disclose any secrets to a visiting foreigner. The graduate students here have made similar remarks, when there have been discussions about my visiting one or another energy site. I will have to see how this works out. We are making plans to see some things that are available to the public in Inner Mongolia and also at Daching oil field.

    Also, one woman from Saturday’s MBA class works at a coal company. She asked for my card, and wanted to know how long I would be here. She planned to ask her employer about the possibility of my visiting the company to give a talk. So something of that sort may work out. Otherwise, I will probably end up spending most of my time at the University, conferring with graduate students and faculty here.

    To Stefeun says:
    March 22, 2015 at 4:05 am

    Thanks for the link. I will probably have to wait until I get back to look at it, because my internet connection is not very good. Most people are connected by Ethernet cable here at the University and, but my computer is not set up for an Ethernet cable. There is WiFi as well, but it tends to be very weak, and it was down completely part of this past week-end. I was able to successfully get to OFW the first weekend I was here, because I happened to hit a time of very low internet use.

    Regarding Roddier’s comments, I know from previous discussion with him that he was looking at using another currency, in case the Euro failed. I agree that a failing Euro is one (of many) concerns we should have in the case of economic collapse. But I don’t think that substituting something like the Swiss Frank will get us very far, in the long run. The big problem we have is that our financial system essentially makes promises for the future that cannot be kept, regardless of the currency. Paper investments are likely to have little value, if there aren’t enough goods and services being produced in total. Money can only divide up what is really available.


    • yt75 says:

      Hello Gail,

      About François Roddier, watched the presentation very quickly (and on and off somehow) and needs to watch it again, but his two currencies proposal isn’t about two(or more) “general currencies”, it comes from his thermodynamics towards economics comparisons (or translations), where money translates to temperature if I remember well, and his two currencies thing is about one for a type of good and services (non renewables more or less), and one for the other (including services like renting some durable goods), with some stuff in the exchange rate.
      But again would have to listen to it again and go through the presentation to understand/explain it. (and not sure I see the point)

    • Daddio7 says:

      You are in China, maker of all things electronic, get a USB to Ethernet adapter. I enjoy your posts and want all you can get out.

    • Stefeun says:

      I agree with you that F.Roddier’s proposal of additional currency(ies) shouldn’t take us very far, because of resource depletion.
      His proposal is (for EU) to keep the Euro for material and/or non-renewable resource (raw material, ores, fossil fuels, non-living), and introduce a second currency for non-material and/or renewable resource (wages, services, food, living).

      According to him, the use of 2 currencies should allow to adjust a sort of difference of potential, in order to have the econmy run better and reduce inequalities. I think that having different currencies for different uses can be a very good idea (as suggested by e.g. Bernard Lietaer, see his blog in English: ) but could work only in absence of energy problems (let alone the fact that the haves are not interested in reducing inequalities).

      Aditionally, Roddier says, because of the (inert) resource depletion, the economy would naturally tend to gradualy move its center of gravity towards the renewable and living. Maybe I haven’t read/listened carefully enough, but I didn’t hear about the necessary drastic reduction of the global economy output, due to the much lower energy (and matter) input. As Dave Pollard says, the story doesn’t tell how we’ll get from here to there, but we’ll have to go anyway.

      And I think this is the real point in F.Roddier’s presentation: imagine a way to transition instead of collapse. He took inspiration from the many local complementary currencies that are currently helping improve the wellbeing in (most of) the communities that are using them, and he tries to see if something similar could be implemented on a bigger scale (my speculation).

      I’m very doubtful it could be, because the success of such currencies is actually due to that they are local. Moreover, our low-energy future will have to be local anyway, so better put our efforts in strengthening the short circuits in small communities.
      I think that, due to our high level of interconnection (and tight coupling and accumulated tensions/debt), what’s ahead will be a hard landing for most of us, not a transition that can be softened.

      NB: as usual, I disagree on the “Solutions” chapter, but the rest of F.Roddier’s analysis is highly valuable, to say the least.

  5. Here are a couple of more replies to comments from Gail:

    To Tolstoy’s Degenerate Grandson

    March 22, 2015 at 8:34 pm

    You are right about this being a fairly disturbing story. I agreed to teach the course before I realized that it would include fairly young students–some are freshmen in college. I have not been focusing on what all bad things are likely to happen, but I am still concerned that this material is really for mature audiences. In fact, mature audiences don’t necessarily handle it well either.

    To RobinP March 22, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    I think the key to my acceptance was being right about some things (correctly predicting that there would be a very severe 2008 recession, and also talking more recently about how low oil prices could be a problem). I haven’t been willing to take anything that was decreed by “the establishment” as being correct–instead looked at the data and thought things through for myself, and very often came to different conclusions. Also, I usually don’t usually get angry at people, and try not to “burn bridges.” I have learned a lot from many people coming from different backgrounds–including some who are convinced that we have enough oil for many years in the future.

    Furthermore, I couldn’t do everything by myself. I depend on my readers to give me “tips” regarding ideas that I might overlook and new happenings that I should be aware of.

    I am afraid that is all I have time for now.


    • Tolstoy's Degenerate Grandson says:

      That’s probably why the majority of commentators on this subject have rolled out a message of hope. Plant a garden, wait for solar/thorium/co fart capture/god to save the day.

      Since there is no solution here (and only very frightening outcomes) might as well feed the masses their soma, whatever form that takes.

      • You have two choices in ways to go through life. You can be hopeful or you can be hopeless. Being hopeless tends to be very depressing and negative. Why bother doing anything at all if you are hopeless?

        Will planting a garden save the world? Probably not, but it might save a few people. What better thing do you have to do with your time anyhow? Play the X-Box?

        I definitely do not agree there is “no solution”, just no solution that includes high per capita energy consumption and a 7B Homo Sap biomass load on the planet. The main questions revolve around precisely how many people the planet can support at once and how much the climate will change over how long a period of time? You can’t answer either of those questions with any precision, so this leaves room for hope. Unless of course you prefer to go through what is left of your life in a hopeless state, in which case you should be commenting on Nature Bats Last.


        • Glenn Stehle says:

          How is it possible to fall into such a rampage of doom and despair?

          Reinhold Niebuhr discussed this topic at length in his essay “Optimism, Pessimism, and Religious Faith.” For him, such abject pessimism is a compensatory reaction that occurs when the unrealistic promises of secular humanism, Modernism and the Enlightenment are not fulfilled.

          “The religion of modern culture is,” Niebuhr says, “a superficial religion which has discovered a meaningful world without having discovered the perils to meaning in death, sin and catastrophe.”

          “History has an immediate, an obvious, meaning [for modernists] because it spells progress,” Niebuhr continues. “Human ideals are read into the natural process.” The other-worldly paradise promised by mainstream Judaism and Christianity, therefore, becomes this-worldly, achievable in this world.

          But progress in the human enterprise is in no way, form or fashion assured. “Thus the optimism of pure naturalism degenerates into a fairly consistent pessimism” when defied by “nature’s caprices,” Niebuhr observes.

          As Niebuhr goes on to point out, Bertrand Russell’s now justly famous ‘Free Man’s Worship’ is a perfect and moving expression of this pessimism:

          “Brief and powerless is Man’s life; on him and all his race the slow, sure doom falls pitiless and dark. Blind to good and evil, reckless of destruction, omnipotent matter rolls on its relentless way; for Man, condemned today to lose his dearest, to-morrow himself to pass through the gate of darkness, it remains only to cherish, ere yet the blow falls, the lofty thoughts that ennoble his little day; disdaining the coward terrors of the slave of Fate, to worship at the shrine that his own hands have built;undismayed by the empire of chance, to preserve a mind free from the wanton tyranny that rules his outward life; proudly defiant of the irresistible forces that tolerate, for a moment, his knowledge and his condemnation, to sustain alone, a weary but unyielding Atlas, the world that his own ideals have fashioned despite the trampling march of unconscious power.”

        • J says:

          I think Gail ranks pretty high in the doom category based on how soon we’ll not have any energy. In the Nature Bats Last world we’re all wiped out in 5-8 years by 6-10 C increase in temp. In Gails world there is 10% energy available by 2025.

          But these are summary statistics. My belief, subject to revision, is that the collapse is going to be one family at the time. God bless – anything helps mode.

      • Glenn Stehle says:

        There is a solution alright:

        It’s a solution we’ve seen repeated over and over throughout man’s history. It is, nevertheless, a “solution” which most children of the Occident, and especially of Modernism, find unacceptable. As John Gray notes:

        “Hegel and a Marx followed Judaism and Christianity in seeing history as a moral drama whose last act is salvation. In other cultures this view is unknown.. For the Greeks and Romans as for the Indians and the Chinese, history has no overarching meaning. It is a series of cycles, no different from those we find in the natural world.”

        But doesn’t this “solution” pale in comparison to the existential threat which we now face?

        Personally, I’m sort of fond of my own species, and would hate to see its final extermination.

        • The Four Horsemen Solution in the modern era suffers from the problem of Nuclear Weapons. It remains unclear whether Homo Saps will resist the temptation to use these WMDs and exactly how much of the Planet would remain inhabitable if they are used in any great quantities. I think the Earth and Homo Sap could survive a few tactical Nukes being blown off and a few more Fukushimas, but not a full on Thermonuclear war with the Chinese and Ruskies, and a full meltdown of all the Nuke Power plants and research reactors on the face of the Earth.

          I remain hopeful that the Idiots in Charge will not Push the Button in my lifetime.


          • Glenn Stehle says:

            In his lecture to The Science Network, Tony Haymet speaks of several threats, one of which is nuclear annihilation, which place a huge question mark over the continued survival of the human species. Nevertheless, he manages to remain optimistic.

          • Rodster says:

            Steven Starr who has studied the threat of Nuclear Warfare states that you don’t even want the prospect of just 1% of the total nuclear weapons being used in any engagement.


            “Nuclear War threatens human existence

            If 1% of the nuclear weapons now ready for war were detonated in large cities, they would utterly devastate the environment, climate, ecosystems and inhabitants of Earth. A war fought with thousands of strategic nuclear weapons would leave the Earth uninhabitable. “

            • IMHO low level radiation dangers are exaggerated. I do not claim to be a certified radiation biologist but: In 1948 I spent a summer training as an x-ray technician. While in medical school I worked nights and weekends as a technician. During my late 50’s radiology residency I encountered the LNT (Linear No-Threshold) arguments. I then had a long career as a radiologist which included among other things nuclear medicine and handling radium needles. In 1980 I discovered T. D. Luckey and his arguments for radiation hormesis. I have followed the situation since that time. This subject was discussed on several occasions at TOD. One example:

            • Rodster says:

              “IMHO low level radiation dangers are exaggerated. I do not claim to be a certified radiation biologist”

              In that case lets listen to the experts who study nuclear warfare shall we. 😉

            • garand555 says:

              “In that case lets listen to the experts who study nuclear warfare shall we.”

              There is not a lot of human testing being done on that for obvious reasons. What we know comes directly from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, early stupidity in radioactive products and the few accidents that occured. What we know from that is that a brief and intense exposure either kills you or not, but if you survive, you’re probably OK. Ingesting some radioactive material is what is going to cause cancer. It is the prolonged exposure that does that.

            • Rodster says:

              “What we know from that is that a brief and intense exposure either kills you or not, but if you survive, you’re probably OK.”

              My point is if you believe in Global Warming or CC you are going to take what Sen Inhofe says with a bag of salt. If you don’t believe in GW or CC you’re going to take what Guy McPherson says with a bag of salt.

              I’ll leave it to the individuals who study a certain science to try and come up with different scenarios on things could play out. I’m sure someone lie Steven Starr has probably factored in all the different scenarios suggested here on OFW. 😉

          • Glenn Stehle says:

            Have you seen the first part of Adam Curtis’s “The Trap”?


            Here are some excepts from the transcript:

            “And in the rules of this game, fear and self-interest stop the Russians from attacking. But it created a stable equilibrium called the delicate balance of terror.

            At the heart of game theory was a dark vision of human beings who are driven only by self interest, constantly distrustful of those around them. There was a mathematician at the RAND Corp. who would take this dark vision further he set out to show that one could create stability of suspicion and self-interest not just in the Cold War but in the whole of human society. He was the mathematical genius John Nash. Nash was portrayed in the Hollywood film beautiful mind as a tortured hero. In reality Nash was difficult and spiky. He was the Tories at RAND for inventing a series of cruel games the most he called, F–K YOU BUDDY in which the only way to win was to ruthlessly betray your game partner.

            Nash took game theory and try to apply to all forms of human direction. To do this he made a fundamental assumption that all human behavior was exactly like that involved in a hostile competitive world of the nuclear standoff. That human beings can’t be watched and monitored each other to get and to get what they wanted they would adjust the strategies to each other. In a series of equations for which he would win the Nobel Prize national that a system driven by suspicion and self-interest did not have to lead to chaos. He proved that there could always be a point of equilibrium in which everyone self interest was perfectly balanced against each other’s.

            A famous game was developed at RAND to show that in any direction selfishness always loved to the safer outcome. It was called the prisoners dilemma. There are many versions, all of them involve two players having to decide whether to trust or betray each other.

            When the prisoners dilemma game was tested on the secretaries of the RAND Corporation, none of them play the rational strategy. Instead of betray each other they always trust each other, and decided to cooperate. And what no one realized was John Nash himself was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. He had delusions in which you believe that those around him who wore red ties were communist spies, and that he was part of the secret organization that could save the world.

            In 1959 Nash was forcibly committed to a mental hospital. And he would spend the next 10 years battling schizophrenia. But despite the obvious problems with Nash’s theory, the young technocrats of RAND were convinced that in them, laid the seeds of a new form of ordering society based on the free individual. Because the quotations provided a scientific basis for the alternative vision that Friedrich von Hayek had called for. But for the moment these ideas remain confined to a few thinkers at the heart of the nuclear establishment.

            But Nash’s ideas were about to spread the most surprising way. Thousand miles away was a radical psychiatrists who had a vision, see want to make people free of all constraints that he believed control their minds without them realizing it. And to make them free, like Nash, he would fundamentally question and undermine the old ideas of trust and love.

            • I don’t think Nash actually “proved” anything, he just made a case which a lot of folks at Rand accepted as true. Nash’s work also predates Chaos Theory, and I don’t think really accounts for systemic instability and the “Butterfly’s Wings” effect of cascading failure.

              It is interesting that Nash was Paranoid Schizophrenic, and this probably drove him to making the kind of analysis he did. Bright guy for sure there, but he had an agenda he was trying to prove. It doesn’t all hold up that well now though when you lok at modern mathematical theory, or even just real world outcomes so far.


  6. Stefeun says:

    A sort of plea for small communities. Chose this passage as a wink to MG:

    “Christopher Alexander seizes on the same example as Williams in a bit more detail in his 1964 book Notes on the Synthesis of Form to elucidate a model of cultural evolution, which I quote at length:

    The Slovakian peasants used to be famous for the shawls they made. These shawls were wonderfully colored and patterned, woven of yarns which had been dipped in homemade dyes. Early in the twentieth century aniline dyes were made available to them. And at once the glory of the shawls was spoiled; they were now no longer delicate and subtle, but crude. This change cannot have come about because the new dyes were somehow inferior. They were as brilliant, and the variety of colors was much greater than fefore. Yet somehow the new shawls turned out vulgar and uninteresting.

    Now if, as it is so pleasant to suppose, the shawlmakers had had some innate artistry, had been so gifted that they were simply “able” to make beautiful shawls, it would be almost impossible to explain their later clumsiness. But if we look at the situation differently, it is very easy to explain. The shawlmakers were simply able, as many of us are, to recognize bad shawls, and their own mistakes.

    Over the generations, the shawls had doubtless often been made extremely badly. But whenever a bad one was made, it was recognized as such, and therefore not repeated. And though nothing is to say that the change made would be for the better, it would still be a change. When the results of such changes were still bad, further changes would be made. The changes would go on until the shawls were good. And only at this point would the incentive to go on changing the patterns disappear.

    So we do not need to pretend that these craftsman had special ability. They made beautiful shawls by standing in a long tradition, and by making minor changes whenever something seemed to need improvement. But once presented with more complicated choices, their apparent mastery and judgement disappeared. Faced with the complex unfamiliar task of actually inventing such forms from scratch, they were unsuccessful.

    It is frequently observed that constraints and obstructions are precisely where great art comes from; far from limiting art, they allow it to happen and feed it – the more demanding the constraints, the better. This paradoxical relationship between constraint and expression is the subject of the movie The Five Obstructions (which I highly recommend). An aesthetic is one form of a constraint, and aesthetics tend to be developed, elaborated, and enjoyed in small groups. Certain aspects of reality are excluded in order to focus on the ones within the aesthetic. An aesthetic also provides a context in which forms can exist, fit, and be beautiful (or fail to be).

    The work of elaborating an aesthetic together, as a small group, providing context for each other’s selves, is some of the fundamental work of being human, a way for humans to be valuable to each other that markets cannot supply.”

    From this article by Sarah Perry:

    NB: I haven’t fully wrapped my mind around this article yet. Let alone exploring the Ribbonfarm ( or Sarah Perry’s website The View From Hell (
    I found these links on Ran Prieur’s blog

  7. Rodster, I have been listening to experts on nuclear war for about 60 years. Books that I have read include On Thermonuclear War by Herman Kahn, The Curve of Binding Energy by John McPfee, With Enough Shovels by Robert Scheer and Blessed Assurance ( about Pantex near Amarillo, my home town). I recently ordered the book Left of Boom. I have served on disaster committees and have toured fall-out shelters in Dallas and Salt Lake City.

    • Rodster says:

      And what was their conclusions, anything different to what Steven Starr claims?

      • Not easy to recall or describe 60 years of conclusions. The late Herman Kahn was scary. He was also too much of a petroleum and material cornucopian for my taste. McPhee did a profile of the late Theodore Taylor. Taylor had suggested that a terrorist might plant a nuclear bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center. Close but no cigar. The shovel title came from an old joke that we should carry a shovel and water in the trunk of our cars. In case of nuclear war dig a foxhole and cover it with the metal car to catch the early fallout. Stay in the foxhole for a few days! The Pantex protestors were concerned about the bombs being dismantled. I have not yet read Boom. However I suspect that if a “dirty” bomb goes off in NY or DC, the panic will be worse than the low level radiation. Ted Taylor + nuclear is worth a google.

        • garand555 says:

          That’s pretty funny that you mention shovels and water. I do keep them in my vehicle, but not out of fear of nuclear war. More like fear of breaking down in the middle of nowhere or getting stuck.

          As for fallout, areas that get a lot of it would be safe for travel and decontamination after 7 days, unless they really got hammered. The nice thing about the really radioactive stuff is that it is the fastest to decay into something harmless. The place that you really wouldn’t want to be is downwind of the missile silos. Those would be likely to get hit the hardest, and those silos being hardened, would likely require ground bursts. Ground bursts cause the worst fallout.

          The other thing to keep in mind is what the targets would be: Government centers, military targets and financial centers. The Russians or the Chinese aren’t going to target your house just to kill everybody, they would aim to disable our capabilities. NYC, DC, LA and a few other large cities would probably get hit, along with military bases and places like Los Alamos as well as NSA and CIA facilities. You can get a pretty good idea of what fallout patterns would be like from that. Keep in mind that it would also destroy enough infrastructure to knock out the electricity for good, so if you managed to be in a place that didn’t get hit and didn’t catch a lot of fallout, you still have to contend with a much more primitive lifestyle. Even with them not targeting the population just to kill everybody, it would still destroy us as a nation.

          • It’s mainly the infrastructure damage and ensuing chaos that would kill off most of the people, rather than directly dieing from radiation poisoning. The obvious thing for both sides to target is the Electrical Generating plants and Oil Refineries and Storage Tanks of the other side. Then you instantly lose your communications and transportation networks. Food would run out in the Big Cities in a few days, and the water would stop flowing from the taps. Then your Zombie Apocalypse begins.

            If they weren’t Nuked to begin with, all the Nuclear Plants would melt down and radioactive material would seep into the groundwater in the vicinity of the plant. Anyone drinking water in those neighborhoods would have constant radiation exposure from ingested radionucleotides.

            Some people out in Rural areas might survive, but you will have your roving gangs out there also, so your community would need a good defense plan for that.

            Generally, the only survivors of a full on Thermonuclear War between the 3 Majors would be a few tribes in Amazonia, Kalahari Bushmen and Inuit living in Nunavut. Maybe New Zealand also if they are not targeted for a few Nukes also.


            • garand555 says:

              I very much doubt that they’d need to target power generation to bring down the power grid. You’re getting a lot of Compton scattering and free electrons in the vicinity of a detonation, and that is likely to put a huge pulse into the portions of the power grid that aren’t vaporized, burned or torn to shreds by the shockwave. There would also be a lot of power lines that cease to exist, and that is something that could bring down the grid all by itself. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if 10 or 20 nukes were enough to bring down the grid, even without hitting power plants.

              And I know exactly where I would go in the event of a nuclear war. It has water, places to hide, is unlikely to get a lot of fallout and the best part is that very few people even know that it exists. There isn’t a lot about on the internet. If I told you the region, you’d have to really dig to even find out that there is water.

        • edpell says:

          I agree the linear no threshold assumption is wrong. I am a graduate of the nuclear engineering department of Columbia University School of Engineering and have a masters degree from the Columbia University Physics Department. I am not trying to sell nuclear wars so maybe more objective.

        • Stefeun says:

          “However I suspect that if a “dirty” bomb goes off in NY or DC, the panic will be worse than the low level radiation.”
          IMHO we could make same remark about many other threats: financial default, electricity shutdown, food shortage, etc…The exagerated reaction or panic is likely to cause more damage than the problem in itself.
          What I wonder is how the effects of several panics are cumulating. I guess it depends on many factors (nature of the danger, intensity, pace, area, …) and it’s probably quite uneasy to quantify irrational phenomena.

  8. Rodster, I note that Steven Starr is a laboratory technologist and teacher involved with PSR. This is an anti-nuclear organization in favor of alternative energy and efficiency. Some might claim that Starr is not an unbiased observer. I leave that for others to decide.

  9. edpell says:

    I agree with Herman Kahn nuclear war is survivable. In the sense some people in the Andes will survive. If you live in Manhattan you are toast.

    If I were designing a nuclear strike first or second, either side, I would take the top 20 cities by population as a first choice, with an eight way MIRVed missile each.

    • edpell says:

      Just as the U.S. military goes for water supplies, sewage treatment plants, bridges and roads that deliver things like food, communications. Things that will kill the maximum number of people regardless of combatant status.

    • See my post above. Rather than target the population centers, you target all the electrical generating plants, oil refineries and oil storage tanks. The populations of the Big cities will die off rapidly after that simply because food won’t get delivered and the water will stop running from the taps.


      • edpell says:

        RE, I understand your point but I believe nuclear war is more of a belt and suspenders situation. Do both. Assured destruction.

    • garand555 says:

      If you google around, there is a declassified synopsis of interviews with former Soviet generals that occurred after the fall of of the USSR. It was conducted by BDM, if that’ll help your googleing. Their attitude and strategies were very different than what you describe. If I were planning a nuclear strike, I would look at how to get the bombs to detonate over the other side’s nuclear arsenal before they could use it, and that’s no easy feat.

  10. J says:

    Even full scale conventional wars in Europe/Asia are hard to imagine these days. Doesn’t take much to take out a civilian nuclear plant and there are quite a few to choose from. But even in Ukraine they have left the plants intact.

    I guess you could take the fuel out of the reactor but the pools are not going anywhere anytime soon….

    So we have to resort to economic warfare and cyber attacks… There have been some reports on the UK preparing a first strike recently but they must know that this would be the end of the world. So why would they do this? It’s the MAD Mutually Assured Destruction scenario.

    • Indeed, you really don’t need to use Nukes to completely wipeout Industrial Civilization in short order.

      Even if you substituted conventional warheads on MIRV ICBMs, these could take out every Electric Power Plant and substation, as well as every Oil Refinery and Oil/Gas storage facility in every country around the globe.

      Besides that, all the Aircraft Carrier groups are Sitting Ducks for cheap Cruise Missiles that all the big players have, and Troop Transport ships as well. So as soon as you get into this type of all out warfare, all the hardware gets blown up in short order and there is no way to “Project Power” on the military level anymore. Any fighting that still goes on will be fought with Trebuchets and Atl-Atls, and be pretty localized.

      One can only hope TPTB grasp this fact of life and keep this bizness limited to smaller Proxy Wars, but they do seem bound and determined to keep escalating it up to the point the Ruskies simply have no choice other than to strike out. Same general scenario there as getting the Japanese to make the first strike on Pearl Harbor, just the equipment and technology today makes such a methodology unworkable. Nobody can “win”. It’s just Planetary Suicide.


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