Gail in China: In Her Own Words and Pictures

Aired on  Our Finite World and the Doomstead Diner on April 29, 2015

Also available as a downloadable mp3:

As regular readers of  Our Finite World and the Doomstead Diner know, Gail recently took a month long trip to China, where she was invited by Professor Feng to give a compact University course to undergraduate students (with graduate students and faculty sitting in if they liked) at the China University of Petroleum in Beijing.

China University of Petroleum – Beijing (CUPB) is a national key university in China, located in the world famous scenic Changping District, the area close to the Great Wall and Ming Tombs. It is one of the 100 institutions implementing the national “211 Project”.

The university is equipped with the first-class facilities, including a library with a collection of 300,000 books, modernized classrooms, new computer facilities and a comprehensive sports center.

Above all, CUPB has an excellent academic staff body of 545, including 121 full professors and 128 associate professors.

Unfortunately, internet access from China is limited for a couple of reasons.  First off, any number of websites (like Google for example) get the Thumbs Down from the Chinese government.  WordPress is another site not well liked by the Chinese Central Committee.  While you can access some WordPress sites from China, actually getting onto your Admin board to do publication work is close to impossible.  Besides that, access is spotty in terms of bandwidth and speed, so even if a site is theoretically accessible, the infrastructure won’t allow you to access it in any usable form in many locations.  So Gail was a bit concerned before leaving that she wouldn’t be able to fill in the OFW readers on her trip while she was over there. personally am notorious for finding end-around means of getting things up on the net that are otherwise difficult to do (you have to be creative when you get booted off as many websites as I have been. 😀 ), so when Gail mentioned this problem on OFW, I emailed her and suggested she send me her Updates from China * in email, which I would then publish for her on OFW under my byline.  While website work is pretty tough from China, you can pretty much get your emails out.  How well this plan would actually work was a question mark since neither of us had tried such a thing before, but it turned out to work marvelously well.

Upon her return here to the USA, basically RIGHT OFF THE PLANE, I snagged Gail for an Interview while her recollections of the China Trip were still fresh in her mind, despite the Jet Lag of course.  😀   We cover numerous topics in this discussion, including Chinese economic issues, Water and Air Pollution issues, Demographic issues and venture off as well into discussion of the various monetary issues we see ongoing in Europe as well.

As these things go, this one is one of the best we have ever done, right up there with my personal favorite with David Korowicz, the Irishman with the Gift of the Blarney Stone who wrote Financial System Cross-Contagion: A Study in Global Systemic Collapse and a few other well documented and researched papers.  Also right up there with the most popular discussion generally speaking with Nicole Foss (aka Stoneleigh) of The Automatic Earth blog.

Hope you enjoy the discussion.  While you listen, here below are a few more pictures from Gail from the China Trip.  You can find more of them in the China Trip articles in the archives on Our Finite World.

In Taich Electric Board Room

Inside the Taichi Electric boardroom where we met with officials. The people shown came with our group, however. Lots of smoking; windows were open and no heat despite  temperature in the low 50s. No elevators in buildings we visited.

Inside graduate student officeInside the graduate students’ office where I spent my time in Beijing when not teaching. Note blue jacket, backpack, and purse. 

Where we met at third factoryWhere we met at the 3rd factory we visited in the electrical industry in Wenzhou. The individual shown is a retired professor who accompanied us on the trip.

Popular cheap noodle dishPopular cheap Chinese noodle dish in the school cafeteria. It consisted of tomato sauce with vegetables, noodles and a fried egg on top. It came with unlimited refills on the noodles and sauce, for the equivalent of $1.30.

Some sea food at restaurantPart of seafood selection at a Chinese restaurant. Most fish was cooked and served whole. Eating it with chop sticks was challenging.

Equivalent of UPS delivery for studentsThe equivalent of UPS delivery for students at the university. If a student knows the date a package is expected to come, the student can go and check the sidewalk for it. I didn’t find out what happens when it rains or snows.

Shrine at third factoryMapShrine at the 3rd factory in Wenzhou. Religious expression seems to be permitted in some areas outside of Beijing.

*Gail’s China Trip Travelogue Posts

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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.

240 thoughts on “Gail in China: In Her Own Words and Pictures

  1. “although water is on the whole more useful, in terms of survival, than diamonds, diamonds command a higher price in the market.”

    This says a lot, to me. Glenn Stehle (and others) have provided some good perspective to this conversation. A stimulating discussion indeed.

    To me, in simple layman’s terms, diamonds command a higher price because “we made it up.” It’s a shiny mineral, nothing else. Value is in the eye of the beholder, which in this case is a human-created economic system with “rules” that suit its survival (and a diamond’s market-price).

    Water is necessary for survival, and should never have any sort of “high price” in any market, we are humans, and need water to survive. Any important variables which stem from that need (population, resource scarcity, technological, science) should not come from any human-created economic system as it pertains to a basic survival element for our species.

    (I realize that’s a lot of “should be, could be” … sorry)

    Oil, we are probably firing our last “salvo” overall in terms of long-term production … and scarcity will enter the equation by physical force, whether our MSM chooses to report it or not. Prices will reflect that if our economic system has integrity.

    Great audio Gail (you have a new reader), great discussion, THIS is how I hope online discussion continues.

    • “Water is necessary for survival, and should never have any sort of “high price” in any market, we are humans, and need water to survive.”

      What if there are 20 people, and only 10 litres of water?

      Of course, economists will not address reality. The price of the water will be irrelevant in that scenario, as the market will probably be settled in blood rather than dollars.

      • All species reproduce more than needed to replace the parent. The “normal” model is that some die, but the best adapted tend to be the survivors.

        Our financial system operates in a situation where there is enough to go around. Historically, wars and epidemics have helped solve mismatches. Epidemics take a disproportionate number of those who are weakened by inadequate food/water supply.

        • Epidemics may very well play a huge role during the contraction phase, because of defective sanitation, but also due to that we’re currently losing the race against pathogenes.

          We have overused antibiotics and exhausted all types available, so the only hope in this matter seems to be the development of new generations of antibiotics, such as these “Eligobiotics” that “can be programmed at will to eradicate bacteria based on their genomic sequence.” (
          Without any pernicious effect..?

          “Antimicrobial resistance is a ticking time-bomb […] for the world. We need to work with everyone to ensure the apocalyptic scenario of widespread antimicrobial resistance does not become a reality.” – Pr. Dame Sully Davis, UK Chief Medical Officer

          • “Epidemics may very well play a huge role during the contraction phase”

            That’s probably inevitable. The alternative to more Big Pharma may be advancing understanding of the human microbiome. Having the right balance of bacteria and other microorganisms on your skin and in your gut may go a long way to protecting you from bacterial infections.

            Filtering water with sand and charcoal can also go a long way, and is more practical in the long run than relying on boiling water or adding chlorine or using a UV light bulb.

            • Who needs all these modern ideas anyway. We should return to the way things were done in the middle ages.

              I am sure natural remedies will be able to prevent plague, TB, syphilis, cholera and the other mega diseases that will tear across the planet when antibiotics and vaccinations end.

              We will however have plenty of radiation available for treating cancer.

            • Old ideas like Quarantine work amazing. Just lockup anyone trying to move from one place to another for 40 days to make sure they are disease free. Simple, and effective.

    • The way I see gold, diamonds, dollars, cars and other things we as a society value: is that in order for them to have value, all the necessities of life need to be in place (essentially for everyone). With abundant energy doing the heavy lifting, we no longer toil just to have the basic necessities of life. Thus, we have more free time and put value on non-necessities (whatever they may be). However, this paradigm requires never ending inputs of energy. When the energy supply dwindles so does the value of the non-necessities.

    • You are welcome. There are new audios/videos by Reverse Engineer (plus Steve Ludlum) as well. I am trying to figure out where to put them up.

    • Gail said:

      Remember, though, that the energy used to produce oil is generally not oil–it is generally from a cheaper energy source.

      The largest portion of the energy consumed to produce petroleum, and its products occurs in the refining stage. Refining is a gas fired process, and most of the gas used is stilgas; the gas that is driven off of the crude when it is heated. Stilgas is composed primarily of methane, ethane and butane; the lighter hydrocarbon fractions. The refineries purchased it when they purchased the crude. Petroleum production also requires a lot of electricity; which is produced from coal, natural gas, or nuclear. The conversion of those sources into electricity results in a high percentage of loses. Determining whether or not the energy used to produce petroleum, and its products is lower cost than the energy that comes from the petroleum itself is problematic at best. To do so would require reviewing the entire production process, extraction, processing, and distribution. Attempting to get an accurate appraisal that included all the cost, throughout the entire production process, would be a daunting task.

      To include the energy costs from fossil fuels, or all energy sources would depend on the initial objective of the study. Using the energy costs of just fossil fuels is a subset of the entire cost structure, and would have to be used with discretion to avoid coming to erroneous conclusions when the results were applied elsewhere. The bottom line is that when it requires more energy to produce petroleum and its products, than is delivered by the petroleum, it has then transitioned from an energy source to an energy sink. It is doubtful that we will be able to maintain our present modern industrial civilization when that occurs.

      • From what I have seen, electricity to operate refineries to a significant extent comes from off of the grid. I know this is the case, because every time there is a major hurricane with power outages, it leads to refinery shutdowns. Also, refineries are businesses that have major concerns about reliability of electrical supply, because an outage would cause an unplanned shutdown of the refinery. Of course, offshore oil plants use the associated natural gas for producing electricity to operate the platform and to do the initial separation of the oil and natural gas.

        What kind of electricity is available for the electric grid will depend on the area. Often there is cheap natural gas produced in the area, so the electricity is from natural gas. When I visited Daqing field in China recently, I noticed the many electrically powered oil wells that appeared to be connected to the electric grid. When I asked what fuel powered the electric grid, the response was “coal”.

        I cannot imagine that electricity anywhere used in oil production would come from burning liquid oil products that could be sold at reasonable prices. It would all come from low-valued gases or from other sources: coal, hydroelectric, or nuclear.

        In my view, there are huge differences among different kinds of oil in the amount of energy needed for processing after extraction. For example, oil from Daqing is light and sweet, so refine ring needs are much less than for many other types of oil. For Daqing, I would expect that electricity powering the pumps and the separating units would amount to a significant share of fossil fuel energy used.

        Regarding types of energy used by refineries, natural gas is used to a significant extent when “cracking” long chain hydrocarbons is required. This is the case for heavy oil, such as when oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela, or Kern River in California is processed. The US has been doing huge amounts of this processing, because with our cheap natural gas supply, we can provide this natural gas more cheaply than elsewhere, thus can provide refining services cheaply. (This natural gas is used directly, not burned, if I understand the process correctly.) In some cases, such as for Mexico, we seem to import crude oil, apply this process to it, and export finished products back to the country where the oil came from. Thus, we are simply selling cheap processing services.

        It seems to me that it that it would be very easy to get a high estimate of energy used in the United States for refining if a person accidentally divides “Gross” energy usage (including that used on oil that is eventually reexported as products) to “net” oil production amounts. Also, because cracking applies to heavy oil, these factors really should be calculated using heavy oil as a base, not all oil. If these details are not attended to, it would be easy to get a misleadingly high energy cost factor to apply to the very light oil that comes from Bakken and shale in Texas.

        A different error that would be easy to make would be to assume that the natural gas used in the cracking operation is burned and used as electricity, rather than being used directly. If government figures are used, it would be easy to make an unneeded upward adjustment for energy use, related to energy losses associated with the efficiency of electrical plants burning natural gas.

  2. Tesla to expand battery technology to homes, businesses

    Emailed the above to James Kunstler, to which he replied:

    “Yes, all very nice.
    “We already have batteries in a range from pretty good to better.
    “But then you need the solar rig… (about $30,000), and the panels wear out after 25 years… and, well.

    “Amazing what you can do with PR, though.”

    I might add, batteries, in my experience, don’t last anywhere near 25 years.

    • I had quotes on solar (will probably only go with a hot water solution) and the one vendor who has been in the biz for over 30 years said ‘you will never get 25 years out of any battery pack – the most I have ever seen is 15 years. Some last 8 some 12 so that is the range you can expect if you want to store power’

      That said, it is good that people believe solar can save the world because people know oil will end at some point, and solar gives them hope that civilization will carry on post oil.

      Hope (even if it is only hopium) is crucial.

      • Lead acid batteries can last 20 years – I have some 2V PVStor 560aH – they groan when asked to start a freezer though. Too make them last they must be held fully charged and not discharged more than 10 – 15% overnight. Holding them at less than fully charged will age them quicker. So enough panels are required to fully charge them every day – the absorb stage is most important to get to 100% SOC. Only use heavy loads when the sun is shining.

        Oh yeah, it helps a lot if the ambient temperature is under 20C. In hot climates you are SOL.

      • These cells handle higher temps better but gel does not like charge rates above .05C to avoid bubbling Gel got a bad rap because of that. In fact they are amongst the longest lived if you treat them right.

        The UCH range looks good, but isn’t on the website, you’ll have to enquire.

        I HAVE 12X 600aH 2v OPzS cells so far, so good.

      • Duty cycle is everything. If you baby them bye forgoing power draw when its bad for the batteries and run a good smart algorithm to charge it will extend battery life. 12 is optimistic even so, for lead acid. Solar water panels can work very very well to heat good choice TDG. Are you humming kumbayah :).

        • 10% is the minimum I’ve seen. I have a Taiwanese MPPT controller with built in SOC monitor (500 amp shunt). Currently I am only drawing 40ah per night (two freezers and freezer converted to a fridge with external thermostat) from a 24v bank of 643ah(C10) 2v cells. It won’t take much imagination to increase that. They are brand new. I have 7.5 kW of PV panels, due to the incredible price drop. God bless the the Chinese! Do I think this is sustainable? Well no. Along with the 1200l of kerosene, primus cookers, wetback woodburning stove, GoSun cooker, solar oven etc. etc.

          I am taking my chances- I’ve known this was coming for 15 years.

          There are no guarantees.

    • Another piece on the subject today, at
      I use solar 5 days a week (to run this netbook, etc.), & I might get a few $/year worth of grid power out of it — I spent hundreds of dollars on the system (the solar panel was made in China), & recently had to replace the lead-acid deep-cycle battery (again).

      • BAU must almost certainly end in the near future: there is no more perpetual growth to be had. Trying to use solar and wind and grow the economy 2% per year is shear madness.

        If there is a future that involves windmills and solar panels, it is at >90% less energy than today, with a new financial system and all the debts and obligations of today wiped out.

        • Maybe if solar panels and windmills grew on trees. But they don’t. They require massive fossil fuel inputs to be manufactured.

          Feel free to ignore the obvious.

          • Manufactured is the key word that many choose to ignore. You don’t have to manufacture crude oil – just extract if from the ground. Oil almost literally does grow on trees except today the low hanging fruit (which built our industrial world) is mostly gone. Attempting to replace oil with solar panels and wind turbines is going backwards.

            • “Attempting to replace oil with solar panels and wind turbines is going backwards.”

              Are you one of those people that believes abiotic oil will provide us with supply forever?

            • Absolutely going backwards.

              Solar panels are filthy dirty technology that require massive inputs of lignite coal in their production.

              How hilarious that the greenies ignore this when touting the so-called clean energy. It is anything but.

              We would be better off just burning the coal and generating electricity than using coal to build panels that simply release that energy over their life span.

            • “We have a new religion of “Renewable will save us.”
              Well its that or long pork. People choose hopium. cant blame them really.

            • Good point. When oil did spurt out of the ground it was actually better than if it grew on trees because with trees you have to wait for harvest time. With oil it spewed forth in massive amounts

              Those days are long gone of course

    • Twenty years is nothing in the grand scheme of things. Imagine for a moment if the world used batteries to store electricity. That is a lot of batteries that would need complete replacement every 20 years. The resource and energy cost to recycle and recreate these batteries would be a massive. With oil it it easy – just extract and burn.

  3. What most of us wishing to maintain some semblance of BAU need is enough primary energy to replace oil. Oil and other hydrocarbon products (e.g., methane) can be made from the simple building blocks they combust to, namely CO2 and H2O. With enough power, you can make hydrocarbon products, like diesel. Audi has just announced they can do it at commercial scale. The trick is getting the primary energy. Audi is talking about alternate energy like wind and solar, but we know, or at least strongly suspect that this won’t scale, or not in time.

    I’m working with some folks trying to get a low-cost fusion reactor going. My role is advisory. The lead scientist thinks he needs only $40,000 to get a prototype running. It will flash on. For an additional $10,000 or so he promises a more sustained reaction. After that, assuming it is net energy positive, the funding should, in theory, be easier to obtain. He is avoiding federal funds, but frankly I’m uncertain that it will keep the feds from taking it away, once demonstrated.

    So anyone out there got $40-50K of mad money they want to invest to possibly save some semblance of BAU? No guarantees, but it just might work, and you’ll be holding some valuable stock. We know time is of the essence. You can probably reply to my web site, if interested, and we can provide more information, a company web site, etc.

    • Even if fusion is perfected and can produce limitless supplies of liquid fuels, you are still left with the finite resource problem – water, iron, copper, lead, food. And then there is that pesky pollution problem too. It seems everything in nature works in cycles of ups and downs. There is no steady state and no perpetual growth in the natural world.

      • “Even if fusion is perfected and can produce limitless supplies of liquid fuels, you are still left with the finite resource problem – water, iron, copper, lead, food. ”

        If net energy yielding fusion outside of stars is possible and practical, and is developed in time, I think the biggest problem would be rapid global warming, if more heat was being generated then vented into space.

        With abundant quantities of energy, those other problems would pretty much cease to exist. Population would peak at 11 Billion and decline, since everyone having abundance and low infant mortality would lead to negative real population growth – below replacement reproduction. Robots could do 90% of all the jobs. Ocean water could be distilled on demand to provide unlimited fresh water. We could turn the Sahara into farmland. We could mine asteroids for all the minerals we need.

        Even if it is possible, it won’t be until 2050+ before the Tokomak reactor is built to test if it can even break even on energy. Z-pinch and Laser Fusion are currently in continuous development, but who knows. Thorium is decades away. So even if any of them could save us, they will probably be way too late.

    • Good luck! M. King Hubbert talked about “reversing combustion” if the system could get enough cheap nuclear energy to combine CO2 and H20. It is the huge energy requirement that is the deal-killer.

    • “Audi has just announced they can do it at commercial scale.”
      I haven’t heard about that. I’ve heard that they made a demonstrative installation that has eroei way below 1:1.

  4. Yes, we have finite world problems right now, along with a (probable temporary) glut of oil. What some are trying to avoid is a steep crash with no way out. Violence (wars), riots, mass starvation and/or plague are not anything to look forward to. Also, it might actually be too late in the game to try anything new. However, workable fusion would be a game changer. There is practically unlimited fuel (H2O) and no nasty fission products or transuranic fuel to deal with. There is some radiation (neutrons, gamma rays) produced when it’s active, depending upon the reaction path chosen. There are also some neutron activation products to contend with around the reactor, but these are minor problems compared with what is routinely handled by fission reactors.

    If you have enough power, you can do some pretty impressive things, like mine present-day waste. Alchemy, converting one element into another, which always gets a bad wrap because the ancients didn’t have access to nuclear technology or power, becomes possible. Nuclear waste produced by our fission legacy can be converted to more benign forms. One could even mine granite for its accessory apatite, to get at primary phosphorous for food production. Pumping seawater uphill for a few hundred miles and then desalinating it in the middle of a dry continent doesn’t seem so far fetched. Reverse engineering CO2 pollution of the atmosphere-ocean becomes possible. Fusion also opens the door to deep space travel via “warp drive”, but I am not expert here. I can put you in touch with those that are so, if interested.

    So, I am aware of the human “condition” or predicament. One can always hope that true wisdom would accompany any new technology. Otherwise, it’s just setting the stage for an even bigger collapse down the road.

    • If they human race were one solid ball with no need for any overhead like farms, houses, air. Then if we increase by 1% per year for 11,000 years the surface of the ball will be moving at more than the speed of light. Since we have not broken the speed of light barrier yet, even with infinite free cheap energy we will have feedback mechanisms that limit the populations. The four horsemen or something else of our own choosing. I vote for a limit of two children per couple for free and then one million dollars for the third, 10 million for the fourth, 100 million for the fifth, and so on by factors of ten. Any violation and all the family is irreversibly sterilized.

      • Sanjay Gandhi was big on mandatory sterilization. Suicide vest on a female got him way back before it was popular.

  5. It is suggested that we use the good treatment of women to lower the fertility rate. I am all in favor of treating women and men well. But this is not a feedback mechanism. If the fertility rate becomes too low do we propose treating women increasingly badly until the fertility rate is high enough? I think not.

  6. ed, there have been suggestions (not mine, not qualified) that humans and/or stuff they build can travel at speeds greater than the speed of light.

  7. Re

    I cannot help wondering if this Tesla thing is a planned PR exercise by the PTB to divert the masses attention from the peak oil issue.

    The company is after all receiving massive government subsidies. Why?

    Many people I speak to are pointing to Tesla as the great hope for the post carbon world. In fact just last night a friend who is ‘sick with worry’ whenever he thinks about the oil situation tossed across an email saying ‘what about these Tesla batteries’

    So the strategy (if this is a spin job) is working very well. People who might be awakening to the end of oil have their saviour:

    • Elon is a smart person. I do not think he has claimed he will save BAU. He just looks and uses what is available. He does seem to be against nuclear so he does solar. Good for him. He lives in sunny California with deserts with many sunny days. Does he have a solution to save $2 a day Indian farmers? No. Does he have a plan to save millionaire Californians? Yes.

      • He is very much like Jesus.

        But instead of feeding thousands with a loaf of bread, he has worked out to create a company that is essentially worthless and yet realize a valuation in the billions.

        Tesla is worthless. It would not exist without government subsidies.

        Which begs the question – why is the government feeding this dog? I can only conclude that they do this to deflect attention from the peak oil problem.

  8. Two links from Matthieu Auzanneau’s tweets (the box in his blog OilMan):
    Btw Gail are you aware of his book “Or Noir” (an anthology of petroleum)? unfortunately, in French only, so far; wether it’ll be translated into English depends on the FR sales…

    1. “Bitter Lake” by Adam Curtis:
    “Bitter Lake – review: Adam Curtis’s beautiful, gripping film unravels a story of violence, bloodshed and bitter ironies.
    Beginning with a fateful meeting between President Roosevelt and King Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, Curtis delves into a mass of historical archives to shed light on Afghanistan and the west”

    The last 20 minutes of the film (the full 2h16min film seems to be also available on Youtube):

    2. “40 maps that explain the Middle East (some maps are animated)
    by Max Fisher on March 26, 2015
    Maps can be a powerful tool for understanding the world, particularly the Middle East, a place in many ways shaped by changing political borders and demographics. Here are 40 maps crucial for understanding the Middle East — its history, its present, and some of the most important stories in the region today.”

    • Thanks for the link

      Glenn – did you see the part where the king agrees to the deal whereby he opens the oil spigot for America in return for protection?

      Of course this is like the mafia don saying to the restaurant owner ‘we will protect you for a fee — but if you refuse to pay we will smash your face in – capiche?’

      America decides the price of oil. America decides who pumps how much. Period.

      If a country refuses to kiss the ring, then get ready for a CIA directed coup.

      That is the way the world works. That is the way the jungle works. The strongest male smashes all other males in the face until a younger more powerful male takes him down.

      • I agree that the Saudi royal family is probaby still pretty much at the beck and call of Washington.

        However, the United States is a once-great empire very much in decadence and decline.

        Russia is a Phoenix rising from the ashes of its old Soviet empire, and China has become a productive powerhouse, ready to flex her geopolitical muscle.

        We no longer live in a uni-polar world, but a multi-polar world.

        • The US is without question coming apart at the seams. But then the entire world is coming apart at the seams for pretty much the same reason – we are well past peak cheap to extract oil.

          What we are seeing now is starving dogs fighting for the remaining rotting scraps. There will be no winner in this.

    • I’ve been thinking that maps are very important. Then here are a lot of maps. I don’t know how to apply them, although I suppose that many people do. In the middle of this magnificent blossoming of information, I propose something that strikes me more practical and universal: a map of watersheds. Beyond a map of watersheds, maps to show the history of soils and vegetation and rivers. Those are what life depends on, and I contend (until proven wrong) that such basic mapping will tend to calm conflict and promote cooperation.

      • Artleads,
        maybe you can try this database:

        I didn’t find the filter “life opportunities”, though… but perhaps combined with google earth…. More seriously, at first approach I would say that bio-density is deeply connected with hydrology. Anyway, if you’re planning to survive during/after the collapse, looking for a reliable and safe fresh water source cannot be a bad idea.

        • Thanks, Stefeun. Everybody I show these two mapping projects to is duly impressed. I don’t quite know why, since they don’t propose doing anything with them. I have almost the opposite problem. I want to do something with them, but actually seem no more able to than I could understand the stock market. I’d have to ask someone who is map savvy to weigh in on what sorts of maps could be helpful with the notion of simplifying and clarifying how land is used and treated now, and how it could be desirable to treat it in the future. I don’t want to pursue an education in how to use sophisticated maps. I seem to have at kindergarten level with everything. As with most people.

        • “More seriously, at first approach I would say that bio-density is deeply connected with hydrology. Anyway, if you’re planning to survive during/after the collapse, looking for a reliable and safe fresh water source cannot be a bad idea.”

          Dear Stefeun,

          Thanks for this, which gets down to basic reality: water=vegetation.

          And more vegetation = more water.

          More vegetation and more water = a cooler and more survivable microclimates
          Since the aggregate of cooler and more survivable microclimates MIGHT slow climate heating, it behooves the global community to equitably distribute water globally. Better distributed water leads to better distribution of optimal microclimates. Water that is equitably distributed must be used to optimize vegetation growth. That would obviate (in theory) many of the geopolitical conflicts (as in the Middle East) that I consider far less basic than climate catastrophe, which is the certain outcome of BAU.

          • “That would obviate (in theory) many of the geopolitical conflicts (as in the Middle East) that I consider far less basic than climate catastrophe, which is the certain outcome of BAU.”

            The population of most of the MENA nations have increased ten-fold in the last 70 years. Some of them are slowing down. However, most of this growth was enabled by trading oil for food. Now, their total exports of oil are declining – some due to dropping production, some simply due to increased domestic consumption.

            You are proposing that, in exchange for nothing other than the hope of less violence, we should spend energy and resources to transport water to the Middle East.

            The Empire of Chaos seems to have decided the best plan is to simply relocate all the extra people to Europe.

          • Thanks Artleads,
            but in my view it’s even simpler: No Water = No Life.

            The water supply and distribution is currently being totally disrupted (climate change, depletion of aquifers, pollution issues, dams & irrigation, etc…), and there’s not much we can do to fix it without taking high risk to worsen things globally, as our multiple problems are all intertwined and smooth-shrinking is not an option.
            There is NO solution, our civilisation WILL collapse, whatever we do or do-not, and my opinion is that the first shock will be much greater (and sooner) than most are expecting. Thinking about fixes to BAU is time-waste, you have to imagine yourself living in the aftermaths of the collapse, if you think it’s worthwhile, and with no guarantee that it’ll be even possible.

            Add to that that most of our fresh water depends on BAU (for example I heard that within 3 days of electricity shortage in London, all taps would stop flowing), as well as most of our sanitation systems (remember it was a big problem in towns before sewage was implemented, and still is nowadays in some places or periods),
            so yes, I stick to my recommendation: a remote spring is a priority for those who plan to survive.

            WRT your “kindergarden feeling”, I also often feel like “a hen that has found a knife”. Things are complex indeed, and many people like to complexify at will, thereby losing the global view. I personally resolved to keep in mind only the deep trends, and try to figure out how they interact (which is already tricky, too much sometimes). I tend to follow the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!).

            • We also have to consider how crops are grown.

              There is the issue of petroleum based pesticides and fertilizers (which will not be available) but also of concern with respect to water:

              Worldwide, in 2012 over 324 million hectares are equipped for irrigation, of which about 85 percent or 275 million ha are actually irrigated.

              Irrigated agriculture represents 20 percent of the total cultivated land, but contributes 40 percent of the total food produced worldwide.


              Irrigation usually means pumps. So forget about irrigation.

            • Thank you —- (fill in with your name of the day),
              the FAO link is very interesting.

              The problem with renewable freshwater resource is not the total amount, it’s that it’s VERY unevenly distributed (plus quite easy to pollute). Morover, as you highlight, without external energy, the good areas are likely to become tiny seldom spots. Except in places like Iceland, but I wouldn’t live there without external energy either!

              “Countries could be defined as water-stressed if they withdraw more than 20 percent of their renewable freshwater resources, as approaching physical water scarcity when more than 60 percent is withdrawn, and as facing severe physical water scarcity when more than 75 percent is withdrawn. Using these thresholds, water stress is progressing with 36 countries experiencing it in 1998 and 45 countries in 2011. Out of the 45 countries withdrawing more than 20 percent, 20 withdraw more than 60 percent and of these 15 withdraw more than 75 percent. Ten countries withdraw more than 100 percent of renewable freshwater resources, of which 6 in the Arabian Peninsula, 1 in Northern Africa, 2 in Central Asia and 1 in the Caribbean.”

            • First, there are steps we could take that would do no obvious harm:

              – Survey in relevant geographic areas (if not globally) the “state of water use” to include:
              – infrastructure like dams
              – dams that are being planned
              – issues of financing for dams, irrigation systems, etc.
              – condition of aquifers
              – condition of watersheds
              – challenges to keeping water in watersheds rather than transferring it away
              – issues around alternative ways to grow food
              – permaculture and non chemical ways to grow food
              – climate change as a major determinant of decision-making
              – issues of relevant education
              – what areas can be ethically left to their own water devices
              – issues of the state and the management of water
              – down river allocation of water and other related subjects
              – issues of the rights of rivers to flow naturally

              I’m sure this is only a partial list of what we could begin to look at. What would be the harm of a global “conference” on water that starts with the hypothesis that it is a global-commons good to distribute water equitable throughout the planet? It would be only a survey, a way of thinking more clearly about water, thereby enabling, to the extent feasible, potentially more rational decisions about water. Whatever would or would not be done with the gleaned insight would be a matter for the future to decide.

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