Why We Have an Oversupply of Almost Everything (Oil, labor, capital, etc.)

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article called, Glut of Capital and Labor Challenge Policy Makers: Global oversupply extends beyond commodities, elevating deflation risk. To me, this is a very serious issue, quite likely signaling that we are reaching what has been called Limits to Growth, a situation modeled in 1972 in a book by that name.

What happens is that economic growth eventually runs into limits. Many people have assumed that these limits would be marked by high prices and excessive demand for goods. In my view, the issue is precisely the opposite one: Limits to growth are instead marked by low prices and inadequate demand. Common workers can no longer afford to buy the goods and services that the economy produces, because of inadequate wage growth. The price of all commodities drops, because of lower demand by workers. Furthermore, investors can no longer find investments that provide an adequate return on capital, because prices for finished goods are pulled down by the low demand of workers with inadequate wages.

Evidence Regarding the Connection Between Energy Consumption and GDP Growth

We can see the close connection between world energy consumption and world GDP using historical data.

Figure 1. World GDP in 2010$ compared (from USDA) compared to World Consumption of Energy (from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014).

Figure 1. World GDP in 2010$ compared (from USDA) compared to World Consumption of Energy (from BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014).

This chart gives a clue regarding what is wrong with the economy. The slope of the line implies that adding one percentage point of growth in energy usage tends to add less and less GDP growth over time, as I have shown in Figure 2. This means that if we want to have, for example, a constant 4% growth in world GDP for the period 1969 to 2013, we would need to gradually increase the rate of growth in energy consumption from about 1.8% = (4.0% – 2.2%) growth in energy consumption in 1969 to 2.8% = (4.0% – 1.2%) growth in energy consumption in 2013. This need for more and more growth in energy use to produce the same amount of economic growth is taking place despite all of our efforts toward efficiency, and despite all of our efforts toward becoming more of a “service” economy, using less energy products!

Figure 2. Expected change in GDP growth corresponding to 1% growth in total energy, based on Figure 1 fitted line.

Figure 2. Expected change in GDP growth corresponding to 1% growth in total energy, based on Figure 1 fitted line.

To make matters worse, growth in world energy supply is generally trending downward as well. (This is not just oil supply whose growth is trending downward; this is oil plus everything else, including “renewables”.)

Figure 3. Three year average percent change in world energy consumption, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 data.

Figure 3. Three-year average percent change in world energy consumption, based on BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2014 data.

There would be no problem, if economic growth were something that we could simply walk away from with no harmful consequences. Unfortunately, we live in a world where there are only two options–win or lose. We can win in our contest against other species (especially microbes), or we can lose. Winning looks like economic growth; losing looks like financial collapse with huge loss of human population, perhaps to epidemics, because we cannot maintain our current economic system.

The symptoms of losing the game are the symptoms we are seeing today–low commodity prices (temporarily higher, but nowhere nearly high enough to maintain production), not enough jobs that pay well for common workers, and a lack of investment opportunities, because workers cannot afford the high prices of goods that would be required to provide adequate return on investment.

How We Have Won in Our Contest with Other Species–Early Efforts 

The “secret formula” humans have had for winning in our competition against other species has been the use of supplemental energy, adding to the energy we get from food. There is a physics reason why this approach works: total population by all species is limited by available energy supply. Providing our own external energy supply was (and still is) a great work-around for this limitation. Even in the days of hunter-gatherers, humans used three times as much energy as could be obtained through food alone (Figure 4).

Figure 4

Figure 4

Earliest supplementation of food energy came by burning sticks and other biomass, starting one million years ago. Using this approach, humans were able to gain an advantage over other species in several ways:

  1. We were able to cook some of our food. This made a wider range of plants and animals suitable for food and made the nutrients from these foods more easily available to our bodies.
  2. Because less energy was needed for chewing and digesting, our bodies could put energy into growing a larger brain, thus giving us an advantage over other animals.
  3. The use of cooked food freed up time for such activities as hunting and making clothes, because less time was needed for chewing.
  4. Heat from burning plant material could be used to keep warm in cold areas, thereby extending our range and increasing the total human population that could be supported.
  5. Fire could be used to chase off predatory animals and hunt prey animals.

Our bodies are now adapted to the need for supplemental energy. Our teeth are smaller, and our jaws and digestive apparatus have shrunk in size, as our brain has grown. The large population of humans that are alive today could not survive without supplemental energy for many purposes, such as cooking food, heating homes, and fighting illnesses that spread when humans are in as close proximity as they are today.

Our Modern Formula For Winning the Battle Against Other Species

In my view, the formula that has allowed humans to keep winning the battle against other species is the following:

  1. Use increasing amounts of inexpensive supplemental energy to leverage human energy so that finished goods and services produced per worker rises each year.
  2. Pay for this system with debt, because (if supplemental energy costs are cheap enough), it is possible to repay the debt, plus the interest on the debt, with the additional goods and services made possible by the cheap additional energy.
  3. This system gradually becomes more complex to deal with problems that come with rising population and growing use of resources. However, if the output of goods per worker is growing rapidly enough, it should be possible to pay for the costs associated with this increased complexity, in addition to interest costs.
  4. The whole system “works” as long as the total quantity of finished goods and services rises rapidly enough that it can fund all of the following: (a) a rising standard of living for common workers so that they can afford increasing amounts of debt to buy more goods, (b) debt repayment, and interest on the debt of the system, and (c) an increasing amount of “overhead” in the form of government services, medical care, educational services, and salaries of high paid officials (in business as well as government). This overhead is needed to deal with the increasing complexity that comes with growth.

The formula for a growing economy is now failing. The rate of economic growth is falling, partly because energy supply is slowing (Figure 3), and partly because we need more and more growth of energy supply to produce a given amount of economic growth (Figure 2). With this lowered world economic growth, the amount of goods and services being produced is not rising fast enough to support all of the functions that it needs to cover: interest payments, growing wages of common workers, and growing “overhead” of a more complex society.

Some Reasons the Economic Growth Cycle is Now Failing

Let’s look at a few areas where we are reaching obstacles to this continued growth in final goods and services. An overarching problem is diminishing returns, which is reflected in increasingly higher prices of production.

1. Energy supplies are becoming more expensive to extract.

We extract the easiest to extract energy supplies first, and as these deplete, need to use the more expensive to extract energy supplies. We hear much about “growing efficiency” but, in fact, we are becoming less efficient in the production of energy supplies.

In the US, EIA data shows that we are becoming less efficient at coal production, in terms of coal production per worker hour (Figure 5).

Figure 5. US coal production per worker, on a Btu basis based on EIA data.

Figure 5. US coal production per worker, on a Btu basis based on EIA data.

With oil, growing inefficiency is shown by the steeply rising cost of oil exploration and production since 1999 (Figure 6).

Figure 6. Figure by Steve Kopits of Westwood Douglas showing trends in world oil exploration and production costs per barrel.

Figure 6. Figure by Steve Kopits of Douglas-Westwood showing trends in world oil exploration and production costs per barrel.

Thus, it is for a fairly recent period, namely the period since about 2000, that we have been encountering rising costs both for US coal and for worldwide oil extraction.

The extra workers and extra costs required for producing the same amount of energy  counteract the tendency toward growth in the rest of the economy. This occurs because the rest of the economy must produce finished products with fewer workers and smaller quantities of resources as a result of the extra demands on these resources by the energy sector.

2. Other materials, besides energy products, are experiencing diminishing returns. 

Other resources, such as metals and other minerals and fresh water, are also becoming increasingly expensive to extract. The issue with mineral ores is similar to that with fossil fuels. We start with a fixed amount of ores in good locations and with high mineral percentages. As we move to less desirable ores, both human labor and more energy products are required, making the extraction process less efficient.

With fresh water, the issue is likely to be a need for desalination or long distance transport, to satisfy the needs of a growing population. Workarounds again involve more human labor and more resource use, making the production of fresh water less efficient.

In both of these cases, growing inefficiency leaves the rest of the economy with less human energy and a smaller quantity of energy products to produce the finished goods and services that the economy needs.

3. Growing pollution is taking its toll.

Instead of just producing end products, we are increasingly finding ourselves fighting pollution. While this is a benefit to society, it really is only offsetting what would otherwise be a negative. Thus, it acts like an item of overhead, rather than producing economic growth.

From the point of view of workers having to pay for higher cost energy in order to fight pollution (say, substitution of a higher cost energy source, or paying for more pollution controls), the additional cost acts like a tax. Workers need to cut back on other expenditures to afford the pollution control workarounds. The effect is thus recessionary.

4. The amount of “overhead” to the world economy has been growing rapidly in recent years, for a number of reasons: 

  • The amount of overhead is growing because we are reaching natural barriers. For example, population per acre of arable land is growing, so we need more intensity of development to produce food for a rising population.
  • With greater population density and increased bacterial antibiotic resistance, disease transmission becomes more of a problem.
  • Increasing education is being encouraged, whether or not there are jobs available that will make use of that education. Education that cannot be used in a productive way to produce more goods and services can be considered a type of overhead for the economy. Educational expenses are frequently financed by debt. Repayment of this debt leads to a decrease in demand for other goods, such as new homes and vehicles.
  • We have more elderly to whom we have promised benefits, because with the benefit of better nutrition and medical care, more people are living longer.

5. We are reaching debt limits.

As economic growth has slowed, we have been adding more and more debt, to try to mitigate the problem. This additional debt becomes a problem in many ways: (a) without cheap energy to leverage human labor, there are not many productive investments that can be made; (b) the addition of more debt leads to a need for more interest payments; and (c) at some point debt ratios become overwhelmingly high.

At least part of the slowdown in economic growth that we are seeing today is coming from a slowdown in the growth of debt. Without debt growth, it is hard to keep commodity prices high enough. Investment in new manufacturing plants is also affected by low growth in debt.

Reasons for Confusion in Understanding Our Current Predicament

1. Not understanding that all of the symptoms we are seeing today are manifestations of the same underlying “illness”. 

Most analysts think that the economy has stubbed its toe and has a headache, rather than recognizing that it has a serious underlying illness.

2. Academia is focused way too narrowly, and tied too closely to what has been written before. 

Academics, because of their need to write papers, focus on what previous papers have said. Unfortunately, previous papers have not understood the nature of our problem. Academics have developed models based on our situation when we were away from limits. The issues we are facing cover such diverse subjects as physics, geology, and finance. It is hard for academics to become knowledgeable in many areas at once.

3. Models that seemed to work before are no longer appropriate.

We take models like the familiar supply and demand model of economists and assume that they represent everlasting truths.

Figure 7. (Source Wikipedia). The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product.

Figure 7. (Source Wikipedia). The price P of a product is determined by a balance between production at each price (supply S) and the desires of those with purchasing power at each price (demand D). The diagram shows a positive shift in demand from D1 to D2, resulting in an increase in price (P) and quantity sold (Q) of the product.

Unfortunately, as we get close to limits, things change. Both wage levels and debt levels have an impact on demand; the quantity of goods available is also affected by diminishing returns. The model that worked in the past may be totally inappropriate now.

Even a complex model like the climate change model being used by the IPCC is likely to be affected by financial limits. If near-term financial limits are to be expected, IPCC’s estimate of future carbon from fuels is likely to be too high. At a minimum, the findings of the IPCC need to be framed differently: climate change may be one of a number of problems facing those people who manage to survive a financial crash.

4. Too much wishful thinking.

Everyone would like to present a positive result, especially when grants are being given for academic research that will support some favorable finding.

A favorite form of wishful thinking is believing that higher costs of energy products will not be a problem. Higher cost energy products, whether they are renewable or not, are a problem for many reasons:

  • They represent growing inefficiency in the economy. With growing inefficiency, we produce fewer finished goods and services per worker, not more.
  • Countries using more of the higher cost types of energy become less competitive in the world market, and because of this, may develop financial problems. The countries most affected by the Great Recession were countries using a high percentage of oil in their energy mix.
  • The amount workers have available to spend is limited. If a worker has $100 to spend on energy supply, he can buy 100 times as much in energy supplies priced at $1 as he can energy supplies priced at $100. This same principle works even if the cost difference is much lower–say $3.50 gallon vs. $3.00 gallon.

5. Too much faith in, “We pay each other’s wages.”

There is a common belief that growing inefficiency is OK; the wages we pay for unneeded education will work its way through the system as more wages for other workers.

Unfortunately, the real secret to economic growth is not paying each other’s wages; it is growing output of finished products per worker through increased use of cheap energy (and perhaps technology, to make this cheap energy useful).

Increased overhead for the system is not helpful.

6.  An “upside down” peak oil story.

Most people in the peak oil community believe what economists say about supply and demand–namely, that oil prices will rise if there is a supply problem. They have not realized that in a networked economy, wages and prices are tightly linked. The way limits apply is not necessarily the way we expect. Limits may come through a lack of jobs that pay well, and because of this lack of jobs, inability to purchase products containing oil.

The connection between energy and jobs is clear. Good jobs require the use of energy, such as electricity and oil; lack of good-paying jobs is likely to be a manifestation of an inadequate supply of cheap energy. Also, high paying jobs are what allow rising buying power, and thus keep demand high. Thus, oil limits may appear as a demand problem, with low oil prices, rather than as a high oil price problem.

In my opinion, what we are seeing now is a manifestation of peak oil. It is just happening in an upside down way relative to what most were expecting.


One way of viewing our problem today is as a crisis of affordability. Young people cannot afford to start families or buy new homes because of a combination of the high cost of higher education (leading to debt), the high cost of fuel-efficient new cars (again leading to debt), the high cost of resale homes, and the relatively low wages paid to young workers. Even older workers often have an affordability problem. Many have found their wages stagnating or falling at the same time that the cost of healthcare, cars, electricity, and (until recently) oil rises. A recent Gallop Survey showed an increasing share of workers categorize themselves as “working class” rather than “middle class.”

It is this affordability crisis that is bringing the system down. Without adequate wages, the amount of debt that can be added to the system lags as well. It becomes impossible to keep prices of commodities up at a high enough level to encourage production of these commodities. Return on investment tends to be low for the same reason. Most researchers have not recognized these problems, because they are narrowly focused and assume that models that worked in the past will continue to work today.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
This entry was posted in Financial Implications and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1,002 Responses to Why We Have an Oversupply of Almost Everything (Oil, labor, capital, etc.)

  1. Stefeun says:

    OECD starts to realize that people with no money isn’t that good for the economy:

    A soft one: “Global income inequality holding back economic growth: OECD report”

    Well, that’s a good start, but still a long way to go to grasp the real situation, veeery long.
    From now on, everything is unaffordable, whatever the policy.

    • Agreed. Even if we have income equality, it doesn’t increase the amount of goods to be purchased, or the high cost or producing them. If the system is becoming inefficient, it is inefficient with our without income inequality.

  2. Stilgar Wilcox says:

    Not sure what is going on, but peakoil.com is down. Oh well, maybe Gail will come out with a new article the peak oil dot com posters can respond to. Enjoy the weekend!

    • I want to wait until after the long weekend in the US–Monday night or Tuesday morning.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        Just released animated video


        1000 power satellites is equal to a cubic mile of oil per year, 3000 of them would equal the 3 cubic mile equivalent we get from all fossil fuels. Cheaper too. I don’t know that this is *the* energy solution, but it is *a* solution that would allow humanity to get off fossil fuels by the early 2030s.

        One 30,000 tonne power sat takes about 2000 flights. If a Skylon makes 500 flights, one $12 B power sat uses up 4 of them. That makes power satellites a market for 12,000 Skylons. It will also take 3000 rectenna sites at a cost of $3 T. Seems like a reasonable way to sop up current excess capital and labor with a lot of new jobs.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Or why not do this with all the unemployed people.

          Yoke them to turbines and have them go round and round generating electricity day and night. To keep costs down don’t pay them — and feed them soylent green.

          And while we are on the topic of nonsense — um I mean renewable energy, let’s watch 2 minutes of stupidity… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VWu1CeqnTrQ

          How much does solar and wind technology contribute to worldwide energy?

          LESS THAN 1 5000th OF ONE PERCENT.

          Conclusion of the Greentech: We need to get working to work out how we can tap the sun to replace oil.

          Like growing pineapples in snow… some things just are not possible… yet let’s keep on trying!

          • hkeithhenson says:

            Fast Eddy, I do not support power satellites unless they can undercut coal in cents per kWh. Assuming that is the case, and ignoring the social reasons such as people with a death wish (for other people), can you think of *any* science based reason why they will not work?

          • Keith is actually suggesting something that is different from the current solar and wind technology. Whether or not it is possible in the required timeframe (soon!) is a different question.

            • hkeithhenson says:

              I don’t want to minimize the scale of an industrial project to replace the equivalent of 3 cubic miles of oil a year. It takes about 1000 five GW power sats to replace on CMO, so it would take around 3000 of them to replace all the fossil fuels humans use, plus some growth, so it might take as many as 5000 by the early 2030s. At a peak production rate of two TW of new units per year, that would be around 400 new satellites. Each one would take about 2000 flights to get the parts up and another 500 for reaction mass for the move from LEO to GEO. 2500 x 400 is a million flights per year. “Impossible!” I hear you shout, but think about it. There are around 100,000 commercial flights per *day* in the world. That’s a million flights in ten days. I am talking here about less than 1 part in 30 of existing airline flights to support building power satellites at a rate that would replace the whole 3 cubic miles of oil in 7 years.


              This didn’t win first place in a competition for power satellite designs yesterday. First place went to a group supported by the Chinese government.

        • edpell says:

          My son asked me the other day why not just build 6 panels on the ground plus pumped hydro storage versus putting a panel in space plus transmitter and receive? Wouldn’t it be cheaper? I think he is right. Can you show putting it in orbit is cheaper?

          • hkeithhenson says:

            Ed, if power sats in orbit are not a lot less expensive than PV on the ground I would not be talking about them. The fundamental reason is that the sun shines on GEO virtually all the time and on the best solar farms on earth something like 1/5 of the nameplate over a year. That’s more than enough to make up for the 50% transmission loss. Add to that no need for storage.

    • Siobhan says:

      Stilgar, are you still unable to load the peakoil site? I found this tip from Pops that might be helpful to you.

      PO.com is on a distibuted network (because of past hacks) but sometimes the DNS routers try to send traffic straight to the server, and since the server doesn’t accept calls, you get the Forbidden – It just happened to me yesterday, lol.

      Anyway, restart your browser, if that doesn’t work, reboot your machine and then your router/connection/modem.


  3. Hammy says:

    Hey Gail,
    always enjoy your writing. Thanks.

    On a different note, something that’s not long is supply are consumers. In 2008, the 25-54 yr/old segment of the US population began outright shrinking (the Ponzi had run out of new “investors”)…the market implications were decidedly not good. As Bush said in Dec. ’08, “free market principles were abandoned to save the free market”. In the next year or two, the 25-64 yr/old population segment will likewise begin shrinking and do so for 5 to 8 years. And this is happening across almost all advanced economies.

    The Fed and CB’s are simply running a con game to avoid outright panic of the masses and meanwhile stuffing the pockets of the greatest among us at the expense of the vast majority…this was a system premised on ever more population, consumption, investors. The entire premise was always in trouble but now it is totally broken. We are presetly in the full on fucking Wile E Coyote moment.

    Economists and Fed chiefs enjoy explaining the growth of the US population as a part and parcel of the US “exceptionalism” meme. But the truth of our economic troubles (and OECD nations alike) lies in slowing population growth and the components of that slowdown. The core populations are shrinking…the old are swelling…the young are barely growing.


    When you have demographics against you, interest rates at zero, record debt to GDP, and you are likely beginning a recession while in the midst of the greatest asset bubble of all time…below are some things to consider while Wall St. and the Fed tell you all is well!?!


    • Thanks for the links. (Somehow your post got lost behind my spam filter until I rescued it.)

      The articles you link to point to an important issue–it is not really possible for a smaller population of workers to provide as much in retirement income for the elderly as a larger population can. Regardless of what accounting gyrations are made to make it look like Social Security is at least partly pre-funded, our economy really works on a cash flow basis. The money that was collected in the past has long ago been spent. When the population stops growing as fast as in the past, retirement plans cannot provide as much for the elderly. There is not any attempt to pre fund Medicare, so it clearly has a problem as well.

      When you add this problem to diminishing availability of resources, we have a double problem.

      I call this intergenerational debt. We promise older folks what it looked like we could afford in the past. But the ability to pay this intergenerational debt goes away. If we reach a major crisis, it is likely to be one major piece that will need to end, or be scaled back greatly.

      • John Doyle says:

        I don’t think that is correct, Gail. Because we are no longer in a commodity money economy, but a credit money one those old ways no longer apply.
        It’s one of the common myths that our children will wear our debt burden into the future. That is quite untrue. Same with pensions. Taxpayers don’t pay for pensions. Taxpayers don’t pay for anything in a monetary sovereign country.The Central bank pays for everything and can never go broke in it’s own currency. Even non sovereign parts of government like the States and local government can be funded by their central government., utterly independent of tax revenue [which is money eliminated from the economy]

        Today’s government debts are not debts. It a misnomer. When the government wants to issue T-bonds private investors like banks buy them. They sit in reserve accounts at the fed and the feds keeps the asset in another a/c at the same fed. The investor is paid interest until at maturity the accounts are reversed. No money changes hands, no money is spent. It cannot be debt.

        With pensions, the CB just credits your account with your pension amount. It can do that virtually forever. Those so called super funds, sovereign funds, etc are just a con by banks for fee income.
        The Fed never needs to borrow, never needs to save.

        This seems quite difficult to follow because it is a different behaviour from what we are told and believe, but it is what actually happens and has been so for over half a century.

  4. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Artleads
    After thinking a little more, I remembered this interview with Wes Jackson about 3 years ago:


    I didn’t mention it in my write-up, but Capra and Luisi include quite a lot of stuff about spirituality. Wes is a Methodist preacher. I saw him talk to some Peak Oilers, who thought he was a fool…it was all about depletion rates and what was this nonsense he was talking about. Having spent some time in the Flint Hills, I could relate to some of his slides of the Konza prairie. I think he was glad to chat with me at the break.

    Perhaps a preacher like Wes has something to say to the average American. But I think that the average person in the state of Kansas has moved in a direction very much opposite to Wes. I think that part of the problem is that rural people are so highly dependent on fossil fuels. Without the pickup to get into town, and the 18 wheelers delivering to the Wal-Mart, they realize that they are nowhere at all. Somebody living in Midtown Manhattan is not nearly so conscious of their dependence on fossil fuels. Wes tells the story of trying to run a farm on a solar budget, and how they can’t do it if they have to buy anything at all from the industrial world. Telling the people living on a monoculture wheat farm in Kansas that they have to go back to a Wizard of Oz farm is going to get the same reaction as telling them the Great American Desert needs to revert back to a Buffalo Commons. I think we can all empathize with their denial.

    In my not very well informed opinion, survivors over the long term out on the plains are likely to be either ranchers with a kitchen garden, or settlers from urban areas such as the Dancing Rabbit commune in Missouri. In the near term, I can see the railroads and barge lines continuing to deliver grains from the plains to the cities. That’s one of the reasons I emphasize veggie gardens rather than calorie crops for suburbanites. But I could easily be wrong.

    Don Stewart

    • Artleads says:

      Thanks for the Wes Jackson interview. I agree on how hard his idea for the plains will be to pull off. His I see to be a “correct” way to grow perennial wheat? But I have a problem with correctness of any sort, even that of permaculture (at least what, to me, felt like the correctness of permaculturer). For some reason, what I’ve read of Mr. Fukuoka has seemed less of an orthodoxy, more emotional, more poetic, more in keeping with the spirit of the wild than any other agricultural system I’ve heard of. (Where he gives prescriptions for use of this or that mineral, where he is “scientific,” I blank out.)

      Jackson describes progress (it seemed to me) as the chipping away of that which impedes ecosystem development? Did I hear right also that he sees progress as the movement toward interfering and taking less from nature? That seems absolutely right to me.

      You have what civilization has created, especially the cities, a blindness and detachment from the landscape. It’s not hard for me to see how to integrate it with the landscape. My art practice is a kind of schematic for how this might be done. but you can’t do stuff like that till all the ducks are in a row, and that isn’t the case right now (although it could come soon, necessity being the mother of invention).


    • Artleads says:

      I must also say that, being science illiterate, I found Mr. Jackson blessedly clear, compelling and instructive when he talked science. (If he can get through to me, he can get through to anyone.) Odd that this is the part of Fukuoka that I least appreciate. Otherwise, I agree with the hosts of “the conversation” that he did not deal with meaning all that well. Of the technical-fix speaker mentioned, and Jackson, I’m entirely on the side of the latter. 🙂

    • Artleads says:

      Jackson was most compelling for me when he explained the science. He could teach anyone!

  5. MG says:

    When the civilization recedes: the photos from the abandoned spa in the mountains of the central Slovakia. The fame of the spa, that was built in1824, has come to an end.


    • Kulm says:

      A perfect spot for “Russian” mafia gathering.

      The Karlsbad (Karlovy Vary) spa in Czechia is a favorite watering hole of the mobsters.

    • MG says:

      Today, I walked around my village, located in the heart of the booming car industry in Slovakia. I could see how the forest not only approaches the fenced plots, but it has entered into some of the fenced orchards. Every year, the forest is closer to the dwellings. The arable land turned into pastures will be the future forest.

      The people with the stagnating and low wages do not have the energy to fight the vegetation, that, due to the humid and warm weather, turns the once cultivated landscape into wilderness.

      What we can see is the end of rural life as we knew it: most of the food and all clothes and shoes are imported. The building material is imported, The electricity, natural gas and gasoline are imported, too.

      When this flow of energy and necessities dries up, the villages like ours are finished. Who wants to return to small huts that the people lived in 300 years ago? The people living the hectic life of false promises about the future are not able to accept the local low energy reality. Their brains are programmed for living in the system that finally dies due to the lack of energy. When the system crashes, it is like the fall into the empty pit. The psychological disorders, drugs, alcohol and suicides are just the symptoms, not the cause.

      And our more and more complex social organizations like the states, the churches etc. are quite weak at undestanding the implosion as the main driving force of our current changes.

      The recreation/revival of the past high energy civilization simply will not be possible.

      • ” Every year, the forest is closer to the dwellings. The arable land turned into pastures will be the future forest.”

        This is more or less the issue Cuba is facing as well. Land had been cleared for sugar cane, but growing sugar cane depletes the soil. Now a species of acacia tee/shrub is over-running the abandoned sugar cane farmland and other farmland that could not be kept up. With herbicide it can be cleared, but otherwise, keeping it away is a big energy-intensive job.

        I live in an area that would be forested, if people did not keep pulling up the seedlings that pop up. We would have the same problem here too.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Jan, or some other Ecologist, will correct me if I am wrong. But acacia are a nitrogen fixing species. Those species that can fix their own nitrogen (through symbiotic bacteria) are a pioneer species in degraded landscapes. Permaculturists use them to restore fertility in poor land which they can buy cheaply. If the Cubans don’t understand this, they are really missing something.

          See report from Australia on the research into the many uses of acacias.

          Don Stewart

          • Jan Steinman says:

            acacia are a nitrogen fixing species.


            But people don’t always appreciate such things. We have a lot of people wanting to rip up Scotch Broom here. It’s nitrogen-fixing, as high in protein as alfalfa, deep tap roots that bring up micronutrients, and enough tannin to keep many ruminants from having parasite problems. I’d plant it, if the birds didn’t already do a good enough job, and if I thought I wouldn’t get lynched!

            But luckily, the local conservation societies have work parties, where they go out in packs and pull up the horrid invasive invader, and deliver it directly to my goat feeders. So I don’t even have to plant it!

            People hate it because it’s “invasive.” But it only invades disturbed areas! If we would stop clearing fields and return to a climax forest canopy, there would be no more Scotch Broom.

            Humans are the ultimate invasive species.

            • MG says:

              I have a friend who is a biologist and he told me that in the past, the most of the Europe was covered with a forest that looked like the savannah where the wild animals grazed. He has some goats and uses them to keep the land around his home from being “eaten by forest” and recreates such savannah from the land that is overgrown with shrubs and trees: he removes all the thick, old, unpleasant shrubs and trees from the former pastures and leaves the larger and nice tree and shrub groups and solitaires standing. Even the EU provides subsidies for such activities, as the advancing forest destroys the habitats of some rare species of, e.g. of one butterfly that is a cenozoic glacial relict here:


      • Fast Eddy says:

        “Who wants to return to small huts that the people lived in 300 years ago?”

        That absolutely nails it.

        Some believe we can return to some sort of idyllic existence where we grow our own food and live tranquil lives in a verdant paradise popping into the farmer’s market where people sale organic produce and craftspeople sell their wonderful wares.

        But they have not thought this through.

        The above scenario while it may seem to be unplugged from BAU is 100% reliant on it.

        Take roads for instance. Even if you had a horse and cart, the roads would be in pieces within months of collapse. Heck even now people are complaining to the council about pot holes. Imagine what they will look like when the maintenance truck is not longer operating>

        Then examine what life looks like without electricity. Imagine washing clothes — cutting firewood — cooking and heating with fire only — where do you get candles for lighting? — how do you get water to your house/garden without an electric pump….

        Once you crack open the golf ball and really start to dissect it you find that it begins to unravel so quickly you can’t even hold onto it as it bounds across the floor with elastic flying everywhere.

        From where I sit the future looks like this:

        – starvation, disease, violence, billions die

        – quite likely spent fuel ponds finish off the rest

        – if anyone survives the above they’ll be living in a world that resembles life 300 years ago — but with the detritus of the Industrial Age to help them along.

        The odds of most of us making it through to that stage are virtually nil. I have hedged my bets as best I can (partly because the wife knows the deal and needs a bit of hopium) … but to be honest with myself… I’d like to bear witness to the end of days … then if it turns out as I expect… the most I can hope for is a quick and painless end.

        I have absolutely no desire to live in a post BAU world. Because it will be a nightmare.

        • MG says:

          Yes, the attacks of the microbes, diseases and wild animals will finish the civilization.

          The attacks of the prey birds or foxes on chickens are more often now than in the past. There are more and more wild animals around the roads and ensuing car accidents. The crops are attacked by them, too. In the past, we used the domesticated animals not only for meat or milk etc., but also for fighting the wilderness. But when we want more efficient meat or milk production, we do not use them that way anymore.

          Nowadays, e.g. some new invasive snails (coming from Spain, as I was told by my friend), attack the crops in the gardens:


          The fight against the nature without the cheap fossil fuels seems more and more costly for us.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            In the past, we used the domesticated animals not only for meat or milk etc., but also for fighting the wilderness. But when we want more efficient meat or milk production, we do not use them that way anymore.

            Goats are quite good at “fighting the wilderness,” at least the vegetative part.

            Geese are quite good at keeping smaller critters at bay. We used to lock our chickens and ducks up at night. Then we got a couple geese, which will attack a 300 pound man and send him running screaming for the gate! (But “Jake” and I get along fine, probably because I hand-feed him little treats like broccoli stems, bolted lettuce, and sour milk.) Racoons and smaller predators are no match for an enraged gander.

            • MG says:

              Yes, when I was a child, there were geese around, especially in the vicinity of the stream that flows through the village. And I was quite affraid of them. Nowadays, there are almost none of them in our village. The stream starts to be overgrown with water weeds. Instead, people have various (exotic and often big) dogs, and what is worse, some of them escape their owners from time to time and move freely around the village…

  6. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    I have emphasized the role of microbes both in the human gut (as well as all other animal’s guts) and in the soil. Here is a link to some current thinking.


    I particularly call your attention to the paragraph about half way down the page which says that Monsanto and Bayer and other companies are furiously working to offer commercial microbes for sale.

    Now out here in the boondocks, we tend to have a droll sense of humor. Recently I heard that Monsanto is getting close. But there is a problem. If you sell the microbes to a farmer, and the farmer is careful to nurture them, you make one sale and that’s it. No gravy train. So Monsanto is working on a proprietary contract where the farmer will be required to thoroughly plow the land each year in order to kill the microbes. Monsanto will tell everyone that microbes from last year simply won’t work in the new year. After all, some of those microbes will be billions of years old, and we can’t have that in our Brave New World.

    Monsanto’s lawyers have been researching the question of whether such an indenture on the part of the farmer might run afoul of the constitutional amendment outlawing slavery. But they have gotten assurances from congress and the President that neither believes it would constitute slavery, and that enforcing some rules on a bunch of unruly rednecks is good therapy for them anyway. And, if necessary, the troublesome amendment will simply be rescinded (as Prohibition was rescinded).

    Don Stewart

  7. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    A little additional note relevant to my review of Capra and Luisi’s book. See Mary Odum’s article on GMOs:


    You will see that she DOES take a systems view. Also note her mention of GMOs effects on the gut bacteria, and speculates about the connection to the spectacular increase in gluten intolerance. If the gut bacteria recognize a ‘foreigner’, they create inflammation. Inflammation is at the root of virtually all chronic disease.

    Don Stewart

    • Jan Steinman says:

      See Mary Odum’s article on GMOs

      All the more convincing because 1) she is a nurse and nursing instructor, therefore has deep technical knowledge about human health, and 2) she is the daughter of the late, great ecologist, HT Odum.

      • Stefeun says:

        Mary Odum’s article on GMOs is excellent, very clear and factual, and well documented (http://prosperouswaydown.com/arguments-gmos/).
        However, I was somewhat surprised that she didn’t insist on the risks specific and inherent to GMOs (while most of her arguments apply to Ag-business in general, not specifically to GMOs).

        In her own words: “This post has raised energetic, ecological, social, and health arguments against GMOs. Other arguments include the unknown, unintended consequences of intentional mutation of the gene pool of our food, and the biased funding and publication of research.” http://resourceinsights.blogspot.fr/2014/08/ruin-is-forever-when-precautionary.html

        I won’t discuss the “biased funding” (nor the catastrophic landgrabbing, the ignoble role of the World-Bank, the rigged property laws on lands and patents, the secrecy of R&D, etc…), but with respect to the “unintended consequences” of a genetic manipulation, I recently ran across a review by Kurt Cobb of a paper by Nicholas Taleb et al, titled “The Precautionary Principle: Fragility and Black Swans from Policy Actions”.
        It takes 2 examples, GMOs and nuclear power (although IMHO they haven’t dealt with the latter at all) to show when a normal risk management is sufficient, and when the precautionary principle should apply, i.e. when there’s a risk of irrecoverable systemic ruin (as opposed to ‘simple’ local and temporary damage).
        So I dare to propose this excerpt, “the Russian roulette gene gun”, as a complement to Mary Odum’s argumentation:

        “Crops created through selective breeding have long histories of success and toxicities that are well understood and unlikely to change suddenly. As each new GMO crop is deployed, we cannot know ahead of time whether it will lead to systemic health and/or environment problems because there is little testing and, in any case, the amount of experience we have with GMO crops is far, far shorter than for the products of traditional selective breeding.

        With each step we take in the production and deployment of new GMO seeds, we are playing a game of Russian roulette. The first few times we’ve pulled the trigger, we did not get catastrophic systemic effects–not yet, at least. But, since there is a nonzero risk of such effects, the probability of creating catastrophic outcomes becomes certain over time. The risk is virtually 100 percent that we will ultimately reach the chamber in the Russian roulette gene gun that causes catastrophic and widespread damage to humans and/or the environment.

        Saying that there is no evidence so far that this will happen is a failure to understand that hidden systemic risk can often only show up on very long time scales. And, of course, when that risk does show up, it’s too late to do anything. Remember: when we manipulate a gene or genes inside a plant, we are not doing just one thing. Without knowing it, we are affecting multiple systems in the plant and in the environment the plant lives in. We are creating multiple possible pathways to ruin.”

        Sounds like perfect recipee for a Normal Accident (cf. Charles Perrow).

        • It seems like we are always very confident of our abilities. We didn’t think that pesticides would be a problem for bees either.

          I understand that additives for American foods (colors, flavors) were tested years ago, in much smaller quantities than they are used today. We keep finding out about problems after the fact.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          Stefeun, I encourage you to post these comments directly on Mary’s blog. She’s generally quite responsive to constructive comments.

          • Stefeun says:

            My comment was aiming to add up to YOUR list, Jan ;), not to criticize or amend Mary’s work in any way. But OK I’ll paste it on Prosperous Way Down, with a link towards here.

  8. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    This will be a too brief book review of Capra and Luisi’s book The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision.

    Why does a Finite Worlder need to read this book? I am going to try to give you a metaphor, which I hope will enlighten more than confuse. Think back to the days when you first encountered differential calculus. I learned calculus through the exercise of limits. Imagine a tangent to a circle, drawn from a particular point. The tangent heads off into space. Now move the point forward a little bit and draw another tangent. This tangent also heads off into space, but in a somewhat different direction. The differential calculus was invented when mathematicians learned how to conceptually let the points from which the tangents are drawn get closer and closer together until finally they are infinitesimally close and we can deduce the rate of change in the tangents at one instant in time or infinitesimal movement around the circle.

    We may make the analogy of drawing tangents to all the analysts and pundits who use linear projections for living systems. That is, the living system is constantly changing, but the tangents the analysts and pundits are drawing do not reflect the changes. The typical reaction in the media takes two forms:
    *The sky is falling because our tangent goes into blackest outer space
    *The sky is falling because actual behavior is not following our tangent
    Systems Science makes use of nonlinear effects. It is not wedded to tangents.

    Ilya Prigogene, one of the fathers of Systems Science, recognized that non-linearity was a requirement for the phenomenon of emergence. What is an example of emergence? Consider the soil food web. Everything is eating everything else in a good approximation of ‘red in tooth and claw’. Yet, out of this dog-eat-dog world comes the emergent property of abundant life. The critters in the soil process minerals so that they are available to the plants, which exude sugars to feed the critters, which eat each other, which releases nutrients for the plants as we move up in trophic levels, the nutrients are recycled many times before they are lost to erosion, the soil is held in place with glues, and so on and so forth. A linear extrapolation of an arthropod eating a microbe is not at all helpful in deducing how the soil food web works in the grand scheme of things. So we need a holistic layer in our explanation, one which involves all the tricks of Systems Science such as nonlinearites, feedback loops, synergies, and the like. We also, of course, need some reductionist science to give us a clue about the nutrients released to the plants when the arthropod eats the microbe.

    Reductionist science reached a peak after Newton. However, it began to be knocked off its throne with Electrodynamics. Newton believed that a substance called ‘ether’ transmitted effects through space. But Electrodynamics forced us to admit that fields (such as magnetic fields) are real, but they are not composed of hard little atoms. Relativity and Quantum Theory in the first third of the 20th century drove the nails in the coffin of of Newton’s system as an ultimate explanation. Newton works fine for sending a rocket into space, but it is woefully inadequate for communicating with that rocket using a field.

    The peak of mechanical thinking in terms of biology probably occurred during the Clinton Administration, when the President announced, flanked by scientists, the completion of the human genome project. The President promised the rapid conquest of chronic diseases. There has been, of course, precious little progress in conquering chronic diseases. The topic is covered on page 195 and following:

    ’the central dogma of molecular biology describes a linear causal chain from DNA to RNA, to proteins (enzymes), and to biological traits. DNA makes RNA, RNA makes proteins, and proteins make us.’

    Few cutting edge scientists still believe that.

    Instead, consider the concept of Downward Causation. The authors first introduce the concept on pages 157-8:

    ‘It is generally accepted that the development of emergent properties, which is an upward (or bottom-up) causality is attended by a downward—or top-down—causality stream This means that the higher hierarchic level affects the properties of the lower components…the point can be made that molecular science and chemistry in particular offer very clear examples of downward causation. In chemistry, any form of chemical reaction modifies the original structural properties of the atomic components….Consider the progression of social hierarchic levels that go from the individual to the family, to the tribe, to the nation. It is clear that once the individuals are in a family, the rules of the family affect and change the behavior of the individuals; likewise, belonging to a tribe affects the behavior of the family, and so on.’

    The discussion continues on page 204 and following in the section titled, We Are Not Our Genes!, with a diagram describing the downward causation from the organism to the genes. The authors quote from Noble:

    ‘Genes are captured entities, no longer having a life of their own independent from the organism. They are forced to cooperate with many other genes to stand any chance of survival.’

    They conclude:
    ‘This is related to our notion of operational networks of genes and proteins and reinforces the idea that genes must cooperate with each other in order to ensure a functional organism. No gene is selected in isolation.’

    For many decades, the notion from Thermodynamics of evolution to a colder, simpler world contrasted with the notion from Darwinian Evolution of the creation of ever more complex living things. These two notions were reconciled by Ilya Prigogine late in the 20th Century. All living things are dissipative structures, which create both more complexity and also increase the disorder in the system. Adrian Bejan’s Constructal Law, which states that whatever flows, whether living or not, will evolve to flow more freely, sits somewhat uneasily in all this.

    I can’t write a textbook elaborating on a textbook, but I hope this relatively brief description gives you a clue as to whether you want to read the book.

    I will close with two questions to tease your imagination:

    First, consider the news that retail sales are sluggish (a fact in the US). Is that good or bad? Interpret it in terms of what you know about Peak Everything and what you know about how Bottom-Up and Top-Down causation interact, and how the complexity of a system is limited by the throughput of energy and materials. Also include some evaluation of the externalities which are not created when goods are not manufactured and distributed. Consider how society may be adapting to the limitations of the circle, as opposed to going off on an endless tangent.

    Second, consider the very recent re-discovery that the gut microbes are really, really important. Consider Mehmet Oz, MD’s blurb for David Perlmutter’s book:

    ‘Humans outsource digestion to their gut bacteria. Dr. Perlmutter takes us on a journey to understand how these foreigners profoundly influence our brains—for good and bad.’

    Can you apply Bejan’s Constructal Law to the flow of information about chronic disease? Is it a true statement that we once sought the single gene responsible for a chronic disease, but now understand that simply living the way Nature designed us to live is our best protection against chronic disease, with the gut bacteria playing a starring role? Will we replace millions of trips to the chemo lab with healthy food grown in kitchen gardens? Is this information flowing more freely now? If the information flows more freely, and SOME people pay heed, and if society is on the verge of breaking because, among other things, chronic disease is bankrupting us, is a Selection Event likely to take place which will result in lots of deaths, and the birth of a different society? If that seems likely, what sorts of things should you and those close to you be doing? Can you apply Top-Down causation in your own life?

    Don Stewart

    • Artleads says:

      “All living things are dissipative structures, which create both more complexity and also increase the disorder in the system. Adrian Bejan’s Constructal Law, which states that whatever flows, whether living or not, will evolve to flow more freely, sits somewhat uneasily in all this.”

      This treatise would do well put in lay terms. It’s a bit much for me in its present form…but interesting!

      I had been thinking recently that the global system of which we are a part is a whole, encompassing all reality–including our natures, including what we “know” or don’t know. Wouldn’t this system be “alive” in ways our reductionist-science-culture cannot grasp? If it is “alive” how could it not be more “intelligent” than people? Wouldn’t attempting to align human behavior to that superior intelligence not be desirable?

      Another puzzle are those Leonardo sticks GT talks about. No stick can be removed without the dome they comprise collapsing. It therefore behoove humanity to think carefully about the *quantitative* relationship of all the sticks. Good or bad, they are interdependent. Yet, we tend to think about fragments of the dome, and behave (to our peril) as though those fragments were unrelated to others.

      But the sticks are also *qualitatively* differentiated. Some are metaphorically and literally toxic. It has been discussed here how we might interchange the toxic sticks for benign ones. I don’t think there was a satisfactory conclusion about that.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Artleads
        Regarding ‘layman’s terms’. I was basically trying to give people a few tidbits so they can read the book itself if they are interested. The textbook is written at a level college students and perhaps bright high school students can understand. I don’t feel competent to try to rephrase very much of it.

        Regarding aligning ourselves with the universe. I tend to agree. Many of our problems arise when we try to do what we think we want to do…later to find out that we were misguided. For example, there is much evidence that humans have deep health reasons to live by circadian rhythms. Yet an overwhelming thrust of the discussion here is about how we ‘need’ electricity in the middle of the night.

        Regarding the sticks and the natural world. Nature almost always has multiple ways to get things done. That is how one of the principles of Permaculture is to have multiple ways to accomplish essential goals and also to have multiple outputs from any given element in a system. I recently posted a short video from a permaculture farm near Santa Fe. The point was that it was 26 below zero last winter, and many of the perennials are failing to make crops this year. Therefore, the farm is reliant on annuals. It is a mistake to be entirely dependent on perennials, and a mistake to be entirely dependent on annuals. There needs to be diversity. Diversity is very hard to achieve on a big commercial farm, but relatively easy to achieve at the garden or market farm scale.

        Don Stewart

        • Artleads says:

          ““All living things are dissipative structures, which create both more complexity and also increase the disorder in the system. ”

          The words are clear enough but the concepts they describe less so. I’m interested in a critical mass of humankind veering toward a more beneficial direction, and the above sentence is not something that a significant number of today’s humans can make any useful sense of.

          While I vaguely know what “dissipative” means (and *I* don’t need a lesson about it), the average person might go, “say what?” “Structures” might be slightly troubling too. Again, “disorder in the system.” What kind of disorder? People looting and burning things down? No. That’s not what is meant, but rather something more complex that requires a lot more than a ghetto-high school understanding.

          But none of this matters to me. I’m an old man, and something of a nihilist. But if someone has the faintest interest in global transformation, they have to communicate in ways that are more accessible to the common person.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear Artleads
            I have tried to be careful and thoughtful about responding.

            My short answer is that I think someone like Richard Heinberg might be able to do the job. Heinberg is a writer, and skilled in the ways of making something technical accessible to the public. I’m neither, personally.

            I can see a lot of complications. For example, there is an old story about thermodynamics. There are two classes of people:
            *Those who have never heard of it, and
            *Those who are confused about it
            Capra and Luisi are writing for an audience of well-educated students who have a motivation to apply themselves to understanding what the authors are saying. The authors also have an incentive to use the scientific lingo and to base what they say on published research. Unfortunately, the reputation of scientists is at a low ebb, and I don’t think appeals to science would count for very much in a bar-room. The average American probably doesn’t belief Quantum Mechanics, but they happily use devices made possible by Quantum Theory.

            The ‘average’ American thinks that the Earth was created by God about 10,000 years ago, and that early humans co-existed with dinosaurs. I simply can’t imagine discussing a lot of the concepts that the authors deal with, with the average American. For example, the origins of Gaia theory in the fact that the solar insolation had increased 30 or 40 percent, but the temperature of the Earth has not, over geological time. Perhaps other people can imagine how to do that.

            On the other hand, many of the ‘average Americans’ think that the US is in for tough times because of its failure to persecute gays, or its tolerance of Islam, or its failure to ferret out the commies, etc. I CAN talk to those people about gardening for survival. If you think things are going to be bad, no matter what the rationale for why they may be bad, you can strike up a conversation about gardening. I can’t really have a conversation with those who think that ‘God and Guns’ are the answer, because I haven’t got much to say that will interest them. I suppose I could converse with them if I were John Michael Greer, because he has a bucket full of stories derived from history. I have just a smattering of history, so don’t have Greer’s bucket full of stories to call on.

            You may think I am evading the issue. If so, please renew the attack…maybe your steel will strike a spark and light a fire.

            Don Stewart

          • Artleads says:

            Hi Don,

            My response was more in the spirit of defense than offense.

            There’s a lot I disagree with in your position, but besieged as we all are, we might often let things go.

            One reason why I’m not a hopeless doomer, is that I have great faith in people, especially the poor. As to the fundamentalist Christians, many are convinced that “these are the last days.” If you subscribe to Guy McPherson’s message, they might not seem so far wrong. I won’t go on.

            The very well educated colleagues on the local water board think that preparing for emergencies is ridiculous, and that “we have to keep up with the times.” An uneducated ghetto youth might be more critical of the “times.”

            I have absolutely no stomach for conflict, but I’ve taken the time for a minimal response, for what it’s worth. 🙂

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Artleads
              See my write up on Wes Jackson, sent separately.

              I don’t disagree about the denial of the well educated. It takes a certain kind of education to ‘get it’, I think. If you listen to Jackson’s interview, he says something like ‘the year I was born we had burned about one percent of the fossil fuels we have now burned’. I was born about the same time. I look at the rate of fossil fuel usage during my early years, and think about how life was good, and have argued with Gail that her conclusions that it is simply impossible to go backward are just wrong. Not to rehash all that…merely to say that people who have never lived with anything but increasing fossil fuels can’t really imagine what it is like. They also think that something like ‘universal health care insurance’ is a solution to the problems…as Jackson discusses.

              Jackson says that creativity arises out of shortage. I have heard artists say that. Art happens when one imposes certain restrictions, which forces one to think more deeply about how to say things. Similarly, I have argued that restrictions on fossil fuels would foster creativity in how we live…we would find it’s not so bad after all…horrors, it might actually be better.

              If I am not making any sense, please overcome you inhibitions and attack away. It will make me more creative.

              Don Stewart
              PS I think Wes Jackson and I are part of the dying breed of Midwestern Progressives.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I look at the rate of fossil fuel usage during my early years, and think about how life was good, and have argued with Gail that her conclusions that it is simply impossible to go backward are just wrong.

              There are two significant differences between now and then.

              1) There were half as many people around. So we need twice as much oil for the same standard of living.

              2) Oil cost, at most, 1/10th as much, in terms of ERoEI. So we need ten times as much oil in order to “pay the oilman” for the oil we are able to use.

              The combination of those two facts means (unless I got something seriously wrong, a distinct possibility) we need approximately twenty times as much oil today to have a similar life-style to the one we had then.

              That’s not to say that I disagree with your major premise that at least some humans can have a quality life on 1/20th the petroleum we use today. I already drive less than 1/20th as much as most people, although I admit that other goods and services I use are soaked in oil. (For example, this website, hosted in San Francisco, is probably dependent on coal or nuclear power.)

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Artleads
              One more thought about your water commission job. Are you responsible for sewers? I see an increasing number of sewers being installed which require pumping uphill. I just see these as disasters waiting to happen. One of the places we used to live in New Jersey had to pump sewage uphill. During Sandy, I think they could not pump for something like 10 days.

              If that is your situation, it might be a way to open some dialog. Of course, if the other commissioners see themselves as serving the developers, it will be tough going.

              Don Stewart

            • Artleads says:

              Thanks, Don, for the uphill pumping tip and Sandy. I’ll check on that. That plan for emergencies might well be my way in.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          … and many of the perennials are failing to make crops this year. Therefore, the farm is reliant on annuals. It is a mistake to be entirely dependent on perennials, and a mistake to be entirely dependent on annuals.

          I don’t know their situation, but it seems to me a diversity in perennials is better than depending on annuals for backup.

          Annuals still require a lot of “hidden” support — disturbed soil, more nutrients, seed sources, etc.

          Could it simply be that they did not have a good mix of perennials with which to survive a cold snap?

          • Don Stewart says:

            The ‘cold snap’ consisted of sustained cold temperatures far below what is expected. What many people have been doing, expecting ‘global warming’, is nudging their perennials toward a little bit warmer winters. A few years ago, we were very close to not making enough chill hours for quite a bit of our fruit. The last two years, we have killed fig trees that survived with no special care for a generation. My figs are sprouting from the ground up for the second year in a row…so I won’t get any figs this year…and I didn’t get any last year. A market farmer friend of mine planted lettuce 3 times this ‘spring’…which featured a winter which lasted long into March. People lost plants in unheated high and low tunnels, which are a staple of winter production here.

            Of course, right now we can just buy stuff from Mexico, if we have the money. But if we were counting on a garden or small farm for subsistence, then more diversity than most of us have would be called for. The Pacific coast is probably very fortunate. A college professor friend of mine has been writing a book on climate change and farming in the US. The Pacific Northwest is the only region where farmers haven’t noticed any significant changes.

            Don Stewart

    • Thanks for your summary. Quite a few peak oilers seem to have gotten as far as the reductionist view of thermodynamics, it seems to me.

  9. Fast Eddy says:

    Hewlett Packard Just Reported Its Worst Revenue Since 2007: This Is How It “Beat”

    If you are the Hewlett-Packard CFO and you know you are about to miss badly on your revenue, which incidentally at $25.5 billion will not only be a 7% drop from the prior year’s topline and below the $25.7 billion expected, but will also be the worst revenue since July 2007 and on top of that, your Q2 GAAP EPS of $0.55 will will miss lower end of the previously provided range of $0.57 -$0.61, what do you do? Why you fudge your non-GAAP EPS as much as you possibly can.

    So much so, that while missing your own GAAP outlook your non-GAAP EPS of $0.87 lands in the upper end of the $0.84-$0.88 range you provided!



    A 7% drop is gargantuan. It would normally be referred to as a collapse in sales — and the stock price would plummet.

    But because HP can tap free money they can ramp their share price up with buybacks — do NOT fight the Fed… if you short you lose.

    At what point does a company like HP simply fail to exist? How far can the Fed go to prop up a dying horse?

    Could HP revenues drop by say 50% yet they keep the share price up with free Fed money? And once they have bought everything back could they issue new shares — and buy those back?

    Could they keep paying workers with free money even though they have little to do?

    Unless you think that HP can have 0 revenues yet keep going on Fed largesse then surely this exemplifies the limits of the Fed’s power to keep the hamster running.

    Eventually you reach the point where you are running in mid air having launched yourself off the cliff — and you hang there for a millisecond — then you crash on the rocks below.

    What cannot continue — will stop.

    This time is not different — a failed business is a failed business — it can only be propped up for so long.

    Just as a dying horse is a dying horse — you can keep him standing with endless shots of adrenaline, spoons full of coke and speed crammed up his nose ….and he will appear to be full of energy… but he will collapse in a heap at some point.

    So too will the global economy… I hear the Fed is reaching out to Lance (romance) Armstrong to replace Yellen — if he agrees to keep the hamster running (by whatever means possible) he gets all his medals back and an apology — the Queen also will knight him.

    He also gets a free life time pass to Disney Land where he will be joined by socialite/whores Paris Hilton and Kim Card-ash-ean.

  10. Fast Eddy says:

    This is a must watch interview — if only because you seldom see anything like this in the MSM

    Why The American Shopper Has Not Returned


    The US MUST be in a recession based on this — the question is why are we not seeing massive layoffs?

    I am leaning towards the theory that the Fed is flinging money from helicopters now — as in they are loaning free money to corporations who use it to ramp their share price via buy backs — which is basically the same as giving out money to shareholders .. and they are ordering these same corporations to keep people on the payrolls as a condition of the receiving the free money…

    The Fed was never going to literally fling money out of choppers… there are far more subtle ways of fighting deflation than that…

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Just thinking… since this is on bloomberg… there must be a reason … get ready for more QE?

    • It will be interesting to see the early estimates of GDP growth based on data through May. It seems like they are published early in June.

  11. Kulm says:

    >So the best thing average people can do is ignore the news and buy stocks on the dips. 99% of the time, what is supposed to be a bubble or a crisis according to the media – is just nothing. Anthrax, Ebola, SARS, Greece, Swine Flu, Russia, ‘Stocks/housing being too high’,inflation/deflation, fiscal cliff, sequester, debt ceiling…all of these, according to the media, were supposed to doom America and the economy, yet in retrospect were merely speed bumps and great buying opportunities for investors. If there is supposed to be a crisis, just assume high-IQ people will save the day in the last minute – they always do. Just assume America and its economy and stock market will reign supreme.

    BAU has more staying power than all of you think.

    It has survived the Great Depression and the 2008 crisis.

    Although the lives of most people will be miserable, BAU will not die and it will be stronger.

  12. Rodster says:

    George Soros thinks we could see WW3.

    “George Soros: “We are on the Threshold of a Third World War”

    Billionaire investor George Soros told the World Bank this week that the planet is on the verge of a third world war that could arise out of an economic collapse in China.

    The billionaire warned that China’s difficulty in transitioning from an export economy to a domestic demand-led system could force Beijing to whip up a conflict with an external enemy in a bid to keep the country from collapsing.

    Soros said the only solution to the prospect was to allow China to join the IMF’s basket of global currencies so that it could compete with the dollar.

  13. Fast Eddy says:

    Watch for falling BRICS… http://wolfstreet.com/2015/05/14/brazil-just-getting-worse-and-worse-threatens-macro-and-financial-stability/

    Rule of Thumb – assume the -1% official GDP number is a lie and that the real contraction is much worse.

    • Rodster says:

      The BRICS are a basket case. Russia is too reliant on energy, China has massive resources issues, like water insecurity and then there’s the pollution problems. If China doesn’t get their water problems under control it’s game over for them. Brazil has water security issues as well.

  14. Fast Eddy says:

    Wanna see some people desperately trying to convince the sheeple that 1+1 = 3?


    “Falling prices raise consumer spending power and help keep interest rates low. This looks like the mild and benign variety of deflation, which is good news for consumers and for growth,” he said.

    “In the meantime, flat or slightly falling consumer prices are good for growth, boosting real consumer spending power. So a temporary period of slightly negative inflation can be good for the UK economy.”

    Chancellor George Osborne said the inflation figure should not be mistaken for “damaging deflation”.

    He added that the lower cost of living – driven by last year’s fall in oil prices – would be a welcome relief for family budgets, in an environment in which average wages were finally beginning to rise.

    Sorry fellas — but deflation is always of the damaging kind… and it does its worst damage when it does not respond to QE any longer… which at some point is going to happen.

    Japan is a good example.

    • richard says:

      I’ve mentioned to some houseowning friends that rising house prices is not necessarily a good thing. They struggled with that idea, and gave up.
      BTW, price deflation, in itself, is neither good nor bad. It is a signal that something in the market is changing, in the UK’s case, probably the exchange rate for GBP.

      • John Doyle says:

        Here’s an interesting possible solution from Steve Keen. He proposes a Private Debt Jubilee, which would cut down private debt back to less inflationary times:


        He also demolishes the idea that not paying off debts is a moral hazard. It is if between say individuals, but not where banks are concerned. Bank money has come from nowhere and so no individual is losing out if a debt is not paid. No moral hazard.

        Well worth seeing!

        • Fast Eddy says:

          If that would kick the can then I am sure the PTB will consider know if it – and consider it. They will have the most clever minds on the planet coming up with ideas to extend this for as long as possible.

          The biggest concern that I see is the fact that global growth – in spite of full throttle QE ZIRP is heading the wrong way… I assume the US is warming up the printing presses … but will that make any difference?

          There is no growth driver — China appears to have exhausted itself building unneeded infrastructure…

          The central banks have thrown trillions out the doors of choppers in the past 7 years… that is the last option in the tool box…

  15. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    The general topic here is what to expect as the material prospects in the US and other ‘western’ countries decline. As usual, I like to triangulate various points and see where they intersect.

    *”The lands that comprise TLC’s 708 acre Horton Grove Nature Preserve and Historic Stagville’s 9 acres were once part of a vast ~30,000 acre plantation with more than 900 slaves prior to the Civil War. Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.’

    Here I sit in North Carolina and I see this odd celebration of June 19th. Juneteenth was a big day of celebration when I moved to Kansas City, many decades ago. I had never heard of it. It turns out to be the day that Federal Troops declared the slaves in Texas to be free. Many of those slaves moved north to Kansas City. Thus, we got a Juneteenth celebration in Kansas City. But why North Carolina. The action in Texas was long after Lee surrendered at Appomatox, and Johnston surrendered near Durham, NC. The key statement is ‘oldest know celebration’, which might as well read ‘one of the few celebrations’. There are thousands of statures in the South celebrating the Confederate soldiers, but precious few celebrating the slaves who fought for their freedom. In the Texas of my very early childhood, Robert E. Lee’s birthday was a holiday, but Lincoln’s birthday was not.

    *John Michael Greer’s essay today on the unpredictable repercussions when the repressive structures which govern society collapse. For example, the French Revolution. In contrast, Dmitry Orlov’s essay on the generally benign effects of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Putin’s exceptional wisdom in guiding recovery. The failure of Europe and the US and Australia to have a clue. The tragic consequences for Ukraine.

    *A comment by David Perlmutter, MD on the dangerous effects of birth control pills. His follow on statements recommending an IUD which gives accurate reading of temperature in the uterus, and thus the chance that the woman will become pregnant. Or condoms. Contrast with Kelly McGonigal explaining how our reward hormones are released when we see we are steadily getting closer to our goal. We also know that giving pleasure is better than receiving pleasure.

    So suppose we suggest that ‘normal sex’ consists of the woman accurately monitoring her temperature to determine whether vaginal intercourse is permitted. If it is not, then the two partners engage in oral sex plus finger play to give their partner an orgasm. As the partner gets closer to orgasm, the feel good hormones get more active and pleasure increases. So….what is the problem? What is this talk about condoms?

    On the other hand, we have the horrible example of the Texas Breastaurant, where the waitresses are told that ‘men are very simple’. They want sports on the TV, beer in the mug, and faux attention from curvaceous waitresses…and they don’t want to be expected to think. The restaurant chain is doing very well indeed with this formula. The biker hangout may have been a mistake.

    I’ll try to summarize the above by saying that it illustrates the stupidity of many people. Celebrating slavery rather than freedom; giving free rein to the most destructive elements of society, or failing to recognize good political work when we see it; and completely failing to understand basic human reward hormones is a prescription for disaster.

    Don Stewart

  16. Fast Eddy says:


    Britain’s annual rate of consumer price inflation fell below zero for the first time in more than half a century, official figures showed on Tuesday, though Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the dip was likely to be brief.

    Or in other words, get ready for a deluge of stimulus and money printing because we cannot allow this to progress…

    This should be good for share prices!

    • richard says:

      All that is needed to boost inflation is a small reduction in the volume of goods for sale. Not that I would wish for that, but you know what I mean.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Any reduction in goods brought to market = layoffs. Which puts deflationary pressure on the economy

  17. Pingback: SEF News-Views Digest No. 91 (5-20-15) | Citizens for Sustainability

  18. Reblogged this on Swiss Coaching Partners and commented:
    Great paper

  19. Hi Gail,
    What is your opinion about this?
    Thanks for your global work!
    Warm Regards

    • Fast Eddy says:

      This summarizes what I think:

      Replacement of oil by alternative sources

      While oil has many other important uses (lubrication, plastics, roadways, roofing) this section considers only its use as an energy source. The CMO is a powerful means of understanding the difficulty of replacing oil energy by other sources. SRI International chemist Ripudaman Malhotra, working with Crane and colleague Ed Kinderman, used it to describe the looming energy crisis in sobering terms.[13]

      Malhotra illustrates the problem of producing one CMO energy that we currently derive from oil each year from five different alternative sources. Installing capacity to produce 1 CMO per year requires long and significant development.

      Allowing fifty years to develop the requisite capacity, 1 CMO of energy per year could be produced by any one of these developments:

      4 Three Gorges Dams,[14] developed each year for 50 years, or
      52 nuclear power plants,[15] developed each year for 50 years, or
      104 coal-fired power plants,[16] developed each year for 50 years, or
      32,850 wind turbines,[17][18] developed each year for 50 years, or
      91,250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels[19] developed each year for 50 years


      Renewable energy ‘simply won’t work’: Top Google engineers


      Two highly qualified Google engineers who have spent years studying and trying to improve renewable energy technology have stated quite bluntly that whatever the future holds, it is not a renewables-powered civilisation: such a thing is impossible.

      Both men are Stanford PhDs, Ross Koningstein having trained in aerospace engineering and David Fork in applied physics. These aren’t guys who fiddle about with websites or data analytics or “technology” of that sort: they are real engineers who understand difficult maths and physics, and top-bracket even among that distinguished company.

      Even if one were to electrify all of transport, industry, heating and so on, so much renewable generation and balancing/storage equipment would be needed to power it that astronomical new requirements for steel, concrete, copper, glass, carbon fibre, neodymium, shipping and haulage etc etc would appear.

      All these things are made using mammoth amounts of energy: far from achieving massive energy savings, which most plans for a renewables future rely on implicitly, we would wind up needing far more energy, which would mean even more vast renewables farms – and even more materials and energy to make and maintain them and so on. The scale of the building would be like nothing ever attempted by the human race.

      In reality, well before any such stage was reached, energy would become horrifyingly expensive – which means that everything would become horrifyingly expensive (even the present well-under-one-per-cent renewables level in the UK has pushed up utility bills very considerably).

    • I think these folks are very confused. They don’t understand how energy and the economy really work together. What is very likely to happen early on is collapse, and a very rapid decline in consumption. This may in fact, be the ultimate result of today’s low prices. Demand is indeed dropping right now–that is what low prices mean. But it doesn’t mean that we can run the economy without the fuel. It collapses instead.

      • richard says:

        At the moment, I’m not in the “sudden” collapse camp, finance excepted. There are, however, two particular physical problems that should have been addressed long ago.
        We know how to build houses that require very little energy. They might require free-standing walls with 150mm insulation and high standards of air-tightness. They may need different ways of living, but this is technically feasible. Houses here tend to be replaced every sixty years, but can last for centuries if built properly. That investment means things cannot change quickly into a low energy consumption world. Similarly for cars and power stations.
        There will be problems, there will be huge painful adjustments, but some things will keep on keeping on.
        Solar powered driverless cars moving at 10mph? My average speed is only 23mph already, is that a huge adjustment? Probably not. Do I even need my own car? Probably not. Nice to have, painful to accept, but more efficient.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          How can you be in the sudden financial collapse camp – but not in collapse of BAU camp?

          I would have thought they are mutually inclusive… if the financial system collapses BAU ends. Civilization ends…

  20. VPK says:

    Shell’s Arctic voyage marks beginning of peak oil era
    Anglo-Dutch company’s search for resources in the Arctic is a sign that the world is running out of options for new oil reserves
    More companies will follow Shell into the Arctic and it is absolutely vital to the global economy that they do. Shell believes it can eventually produce around 400,000 bpd from the region, which is about half of what the world needs to find and develop ever year for the next 25 years to avoid running out of oil. Therefore, Shell’s Arctic rigs literally represent the real beginning of the era of “peak oil” that Mr Simmons originally predicted which will eventually lead to the $200 barrel

    • Thanks! Actually, I think today’s low prices mark the beginning of the end. I notice the author mentions the possibility of $200 oil. Not likely!

    • Fast Eddy says:

      HOW HIGH OIL PRICES WILL PERMANENTLY CAP ECONOMIC GROWTH For most of the last century, cheap oil powered global economic growth. But in the last decade, the price of oil has quadrupled, and that shift will permanently shackle the growth potential of the world’s economies. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2012-09-23/how-high-oil-prices-will-permanently-cap-economic-growth

      I am not sure how the math works on this …

      If they try to sell the oil at $200 a barrel that means we don’t grow.

      If they sell it at say $50 per barrel the oil companies go bust.

      Can the central banks print money and just feed it to the oil companies to fund these operations?

      Again – what cannot go on — will stop.

      If this could continue without ever stopping — then we would have invented the perpetual economic motion machine.

      • John Doyle says:

        yes, a central bank can always pay in its own currency. Since inflation will probably cease to be a problem. In the face of chaos or preferably some sort of order, credit money will be no problem to maintain. There will be no growth as we have been used to so credit will evaporate, becoming useless. Most debts will be sent through a debt jubilee and eliminated. But, we will still need food and shelter and a government to sort out priorities. Keeping oil up at least for essential services will be one big priority. Keeping the Grid functioning another, and hospitals, public transport, police will be needed to keep functioning. The government can simply pay all its needs directly into accounts at the banks. The Banks themselves will likely be reduced to just a government one.
        These duties will not need any savings to pay for them. If there is a return to commodity money it will be a variation on barter, but fiat money will keep some sort of economy rolling.
        Probably this is only a medium term operation, something along the lines of a bumpy ride along the bottom. But it will all decay over time and civilization as we know it will be just a memory.

  21. Fast Eddy says:

    When US Macro data started to crumble after QE3 ended last year, and with it US equities, The Fed unleashed Jim Bullard to suggest that QE4 was possible if things deteriorated… and in that moment, everything broke.


    So why no layoffs?

    Could it be that the Fed hands out cash to failing companies with an understanding that they will not gun any staff?

    If so then this is the pinnacle of desperation – it is no different than flinging money out of helicopters (or giving bums car loans — or people without jobs student loans)

  22. Kulm says:

    America (and BAU) is not getting worse.
    > I hope this exegesis provides a convincing argument for why America is not in decline (or If America is in decline, the rest of the world is doing even worse). Republicans should be more optimistic about America, because America (and especially the Silicon Valley), more so than anywhere else, through its free markets, infrastructure, consumer base, and intellectualism, rewards high-IQ, talent, and merit more so than anywhere else. That’s why high-IQ, ambitious foreigners keep wanting to come here, and I think republicans, who believe in the merits of free markets and capitalism, should welcome this.

    >I’ve heard this ‘dollar losing gold/silver purchasing power’ argument for awhile. On one hand, in a process called bifurcated inflation, real prices for some goods have exceeded inflation, but on the other hand, our dollars buy things that never existed decades ago, new products that have much more utility than old technologies. A $300 iPhone has considerably more utility than a 1960 TV set and rotary phone. Netflix costs $10-20 month, versus 20 cent movie tickets of earlier generations, but the Netflix service much more utility in that you can watch pretty much any movie and show ever produced.

    >In debating the doom and gloomers, the Homunculus argument also comes into play when discussing the impact of QE on the economy, where every piece of evidence that the shows the economy and stock prices growing due to fundamentals is dismissed as being attributable to QE or some form of intervention. Pretty much everything boils down to either the data being manipulated or fed intervention. Nevermind that companies like Apple, Disney, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, and Facebook keep posting blowout quarters, even in some instances long before 2008. Those millions of people who are buying iPhones were somehow enticed by the fed. Rather than choosing the most parsimonious explanation, let’s instead create increasingly intricate conspiracies.

    >I’ve heard this ‘dollar losing gold/silver purchasing power’ argument for awhile. On one hand, in a process called bifurcated inflation, real prices for some goods have exceeded inflation, but on the other hand, our dollars buy things that never existed decades ago, new products that have much more utility than old technologies. A $300 iPhone has considerably more utility than a 1960 TV set and rotary phone. Netflix costs $10-20 month, versus 20 cent movie tickets of earlier generations, but the Netflix service much more utility in that you can watch pretty much any movie and show ever produced.
    > I guess my point is that the economy and America may be strong (as measured by the data) even if not everyone can participate fully in the recovery. You look at the role IQ plays in our increasingly competitive economy, and people of lesser intellectual means may be falling behind, but that doesn’t prove the whole economy is weak. That is called the fallacy of composition – to make an inference about a bigger system from one of the smaller parts.

    >The system may seem perilously unstable, but it works. The bigger things get, the more effort goes into making them work. The more interconnected the world becomes… the more that is at stake, and this dissuades policy makers from making rash, impertinent decisions. That could explain the ‘Long Peace’ phenomena observed by Pinker in his book, The Better Angels of our Nature. Contra Taleb who argues that large systems are prone to blowing up, a large system may be better because more effort goes into making it work and individuals have less power or incentive to disrupt it. The events of 2008 warped people’s thinking, particularly the punditry, into believing that financial crisis are very common (they aren’t) and that policy is ineffective (it can actually be quite effective). A large system has the resources (R&D, infrastructure, venture capital, markets, consumers, etc) that allows the best and the brightest to thrive whereas millennia ago, without such systems, humans all lived in quaint dwellings and caves, and no one was able to excel because day-to-day survival took precedent over innovation. As a libertarian-leaning conservative, I actually believe there is a role in public policy to create optimal socioeconomic environments for the best and the brightest to live to their fullest cognitive potential, and such policy will pay dividends down the road in the creation of tomorrow’s Teslas, Apples, Ubers, Googles, and Facebooks. It’s not that we need less government spending; we need smarter spending.

    >However, the hollowing out of the middle is real, as America splits between a rarefied high-IQ elite and everyone else. It may seem contradictory for the economy to be doing so well when so few seem to be participating, but the economy as measured by the actual data (real GDP growth, profits & earnings, etc..) doesn’t show decline. How people feel about the economy or are impacted an the personal level is often much different than the broader picture. Many people still think we’re in a recession, and this is not surprising since the media tends to focus on the negative and it’s true that inflation adjusted wages have stagnated for large portions of the population, but the recession ended a long time ago.

    >America being in decline, the evidence of such a decline doesn’t bear itself out. As of May 2015,The S&P 500 made another high this week. One can argue that maybe this is due to QE, but profits & earnings are also rising in lockstep with stock prices, suggesting that fundamentals, not QE, is mostly responsible. America may be facing moral decay, and I don’t dispute that there are problems, but it hasn’t irreparably hurt America’s economy, global influence, military might, profits & earnings…stuff like that. Look at how some of the biggest, most influential tech companies in the world (Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook) are all in America. Same for institutions of higher learning, and so on. America’s most prestigious institutions of higher learning and tech companies are being inundated with foreign applicants. Foreigners keep buying America’s most expensive real estate (New York, Aspen, Southern California, Bay Area) and buying up our debt – something you wouldn’t expect for a country that is supposed to be dying.

    The guy also says if America is declining the rest of the world is even worse, and America has the best IQ in the world so it will continue to thrive.

    • richard says:

      Your arguement that America is not in decline covers a lot of topics, and I’ll restrict my response to matters relevant to GDP and energy. Also, “decline” may be an emotive choice of words.
      I’ve forecast zero real GDP growth for the USA this year, partly because of some unproductive political choices, partly because of the expected decline in investment by thermal energy industries. As for the final outcome, it takes two or three years for the figures to be revised, and there are always arguements about what GDP actually measures.
      A joke about Bill Gates puts your remarks into context:
      Bill Gates decides to find out what can be done to help homeless people. He fills a stadium with the homeless, and arrives there with an economist. Before much can be done he asks the economist for his advice. The economist warns “You mist first realise that, on average, everone here is a millionaire”
      I’ll put that differently, I’d say that a Nation where Main Street is getting poorer is a Nation in decline.

  23. edpell says:

    Next winter in Ukraine with no gas, no petrol, no farm tractors, no industry they will become the Cuba of the north.

    • ? I think they announced it will take 2018-9 for russians completely shut down the ukraine bound part of their westward natgas/oil pipelines, the under Black sea pipe work of Turkisch stream is scheduled for Q3-42016, now add few years for infrustructure completion on the other side (Turkey/Greece/-EU bound) etc. Plus there is the factor of US-EU paying (printing up) to keep Ukraine afloat some.

      • richard says:

        They still have to get the pipeline from Turkey through Macedonia to Greece. It’s not a done deal yet.

  24. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    This will be a little essay exploring the changes which are required to live once again on a solar budget. This will be broad brush, rather than a debate about wind turbines or fusion or spent fuel rod pools.

    Capra and Luisi describe European civilization before 1500 using the following terms:
    organic conception of the world
    small, cohesive communities
    personal relationship to nature
    interdependence of spiritual and material concerns
    subordination of the individual to the community
    science founded on Aristotle and the Church
    science strove to understand meaning and significance, rather than prediction and control
    most significant questions of all were about God, the human soul, and ethics

    In the 15th and 16th centuries, the notion of an organic world was replaced with the notion that the world is a machine.

    Now, let’s assume that fossil fuels disappear, along with nuclear, and high tech forms of exergy derived from wind and solar and falling water. I’ll call what remains a ‘solar budget economy’, for brevity. Consider the question of whether we would like to see the characteristics of Europe in 1500 return, out of choice or necessity. If we have some other ideas in mind, then we need to get those on the table.

    *organic conception of the world? Yes…that is the nature of the systems revolution described by Capra and Luisi and others.
    *small, cohesive communities? Yes…limitations on transport will give us little choice
    *personal relationship to nature? Yes. Richard Heinberg has observed that the energy surplus generated in 1500 was such that about 85 percent of the families were engaged in primary food production. He speculates that the renewables which we might construct with the remaining fossil fuels might generate a like amount of of surplus energy. So, in round numbers, we might expect the 22nd century to see 70 percent of the families engaged in primary food production (if we follow Heinberg’s advice to invest in renewables), and back to 85 percent in the 23rd century as renewables wear out and we can’t replace them. Anyone engaged in primary food production has a ‘personal relationship to nature’.
    *interdependence of spiritual and material concerns? Yes. Maintaining ones equilibrium during the turmoil requires that one have a solid spiritual life as well as survival skills. Not necessarily, or even preferably, a fundamentalist religion.
    *Subordination of the individual to the community? Yes. Every human needs a purpose in life, and service to the community has to be at the base of purpose. When I was a drill sergeant in the Army, we taught subordination of the individual soldier to the squad. I don’t know what they teach now, but it wasn’t so long ago that we have lost all trace of the importance of community. Lone individuals have little chance of survival, and small communities pretty quickly identify and weed out those who are selfish.
    *Science founded on Aristotle and the Church? No. We have much better scientific models now. Systems science is a broad brush answer. Discoveries such as our relationship to microbes fills in the details. Aristotle’s science survived a thousand years, and if we are smart and/ or lucky, our current science will survive a thousand years—even without much additional research. In addition, we have a lot of ‘practical science’ such as more productive seeds, understanding of how to warm bodies rather than space, and the like. We will need all the practical science we can preserve or rediscover.
    *Science based on understanding and significance rather than prediction and control? Sort of. When a grass farmer talks about taking care of the grass so that the grass will take care of the cows, he is certainly predicting and controlling. However, the prediction and control are vastly different from what people do in feedlots. We will have so little surplus energy (from Heinberg) that the extravagant control we now exert will simply no longer be possible. Control in the future will owe much more to Donella Meadows’ notion of leverage points.
    *God, the soul, and ethics? Sort of. Whether one thinks there is a God of some particular type (or many gods), and whether one thinks that there is something called ‘eternal life’ are questions to big for me to worry about. I do think it necessary for a flourishing human to have a purpose in life, which leads to ethics. Thus, we have Permaculture Ethics, and Deep Ecology, and such.

    I offer this list as a rough guide to what we need to be working toward.

    Don Stewart

    • hkeithhenson says:

      “This will be a little essay exploring the changes which are required to live once again on a solar budget. ”

      Good lord, Don. It’s hard to make it useful, but the tiny fraction of the sun’s output that hits the planet is many orders of magnitude beyond the 15 TW humans use from all sources of energy. Power satellites in GEO could produce 177 TW without doing anything complicated and far beyond that with relays.

      Of course there are changes required. We need to build synthetic fuel plants to power aircraft, and perhaps water works of gigantic scale.

      Otherwise, you make excellent points about the world we could have after all the turmoil has reduced the population to that of 1500.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        We need satellites that can beam unlimited energy to the earth very cheaply so that we can desalinate the Pacific Ocean and quadruple the amount of food grown in the California deserts (and build a few more cities like Las Vegas) so that the earth can support another 10 billion people who will consume more ‘stuff’ which will keep BAU roaring along for another century at least.

        This is the obvious solution!

        The problem is that we need it like within the next few months because it will take time to roll out — and time is not on our side…

    • Jan Steinman says:

      Subordination of the individual to the community? Yes.

      Of all the things on your list, I think that will be the hardest for most people. Or rather, the other things will be imposed on people by situations and circumstances, whereas people may still see this one as a “choice” and will still have an ethic of “rugged individualism.”

      I keep looking for this to happen, and all I see are “Yeabut, what’s in it for me?” or “What’s my exit strategy?”

      When I say what’s in it for them is to have others covering for you and watching your back, they lose interest, preferring the illusion of self-sufficiency over group-sufficiency. When I say their exit strategy may be getting killed by thieves or the next community’s gallows, they lose interest, preferring the illusion of property ownership driven by market forces.

      Times just aren’t tough enough for people to choose cooperation over competition.

      … small communities pretty quickly identify and weed out those who are selfish.

      Perhaps someday, but I’m skeptical that this will happen without a full-on revolution in thinking. Rather, what I see is a strange mix of “deadly compassion” and “I’ve got mine” thinking. No one wants to be the one to ostracize an inappropriate community member.

      Contemporary communities are ruled by what Diana Leafe Christian calls, “The people in the middle.” These are folk drawn to community life by the “Kum by ya” factor, and casting people out runs counter to the whole reason they got into community life.

      It seems to me the selfish are the ones running things. I don’t buy conspiracies about “the powers that be.” In the immortal words of Walt Kelly, “We have met the enemy, and they are us!”

      Q: What’s the difference between a conservationist and a developer?

      A: A developer wants to build little cabins in the woods. A conservationist already has their little cabin in the woods!

      Most people are willing to “save the nuclear unborn wales,” as long is it doesn’t impact their life too much, as long as they can still go to Stabrucks for their $5 Grande Soy Mocochino, as long as they can drive to the ocean or mountains in their Prius, wearing clothing made far away and bearing logos of sustainable and ethical business practices.

      The “powers that be” that people are so fond of attacking are only providing what we ask for!

      And for the time being, it ain’t subordination of the individual.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        You’ve summed up the Green Brigade quite well.

        The entire movement is pretty much a joke — they want to save the world yet it would be unthinkable to not own a vehicle and take the bus.

        And then there is the ‘don’t be a consumer’ movement. What they do not understand is that if we slow consumption they’d be out of a job and on the street because we’d have a massive recession followed by a deflationary collapse.

        They do not understand this — even if you tell them this — so basically they are wishing themselves to be eating bark and grass.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          And then there is the ‘don’t be a consumer’ movement. What they do not understand is that if we slow consumption they’d be out of a job

          Jobs are so passé.

          The survivors will be either self-employed, or essentially slaves.

          A single job or even a single career is “fiscal monoculture.” People will need to operate in a diverse fiscal ecosystem.

          People will need three jobs — and to be able to get by if two of them go away.

          We had a PhD here recently who wanted to do some farming “until he got a job” — as though farming wasn’t “a job!” But he’d rather sit at a computer all day to receive bits of coloured paper that some claim can be exchanged for food. For heaven’s sake, why not just cut out the middle-man?

          I say, “Bring it on!” I’ve already largely de-consumed. And I haven’t had a “job” (besides self-employment) in 25 years. And I haven’t had any passive investment income in nine years.

          As long as there are people, they will need to eat. Food production skills will make you popular, or at least worth keeping around.

          • Very good point about slavery.
            It depends on the country but lets say the average european “family farm” operates on 50-100hectares (double that in acres unit), and perhaps multiply that number for some post socialist countries where land was cheap, so it was easy to accumulate 20yrs ago on the ruins of old collective farm units. Anyway, nowadays family farmers have got multiple tractors in use since they are lazy to change implements in the hurry, convenience etc. Lot of stationary machinery is dependent on the grid for power etc. Outside of family members they might have very few permanent and/or seasonal employees if at all.

            Now imagine the fossil energy leverge for them is not available anymore in such amount as it used to, so the workings of the farm must change, e.g. fossil power increasingly exchanged by draft animals and very cheap human labor of former city dwellers and by cheap it’s understood “slave wage/living on the farm”.. Obviously there is the unkown factor of yet another wave of forced “land reform” but this threat is sort of always present through trumoiled history of humans.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              No need for slaves on this farm because nothing will grow on it post-collapse

              98% of the world’s farmland is farmed using industrial methods i.e. oil and gas based pesticides and fertilizers which destroy the soil. It takes years of intensive inputs to revive such soil.

              Since 98% of the farmland is farmed this way there will be virtually nothing to eat for years because nothing will grow.

              Get ready for the mother of all famines.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              very cheap human labor of former city dwellers and by cheap it’s understood “slave wage/living on the farm”

              We prefer to call them “volunteers.” 🙂

              I’m not enamoured of “city dwellers” for help. They have some mighty strange ideas, and it is difficult to disabuse them of such ideas. They are often germophobic in the extreme. They want farm animals to be housed to human standards. And when they get some manure on their shoe, they up and leave.

              We had one (actually getting paid via a Canada Summer Jobs grant) leave on Sunday, after only three days of work! And then she insisted on getting paid for doing the dishes, for going grocery shopping with me, and for the hours of time I spent training her! (That’s okay. I’ll pay her $10.25 per hour for training time, and then deduct the $60/hr I sometimes get for consulting and tutoring.)

              I’m getting fed up with disaffected, self-absorbed 20-somethings, who seem to think subsistence farming is some sort of entertainment put on so they can have “an experience” for the summer.

              Sometimes, I feel like that kid in the Bruce Willis movie: “I see dead people!” Someone who thinks an hour of turning manure into raised beds is too much work just ain’t gonna make it in tomorrow’s world.

              Obviously there is the unkown factor of yet another wave of forced “land reform” but this threat is sort of always present through trumoiled history of humans.

              One difference is collectivism. I can see land reform affecting a sole-proprietor “robber land baron,” who has a small army of serfs and vassals working for him. But we have a larger ownership structure, and offer “sweat equity” to volunteers, as well. I think we’re already part of “land reform,” but I realize that might not sway some revolutionary-court judge.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              When I see what we are becoming — a world of stunned zombies who stumble through the streets with heads down waiting to see how many people liked the photo of their hamburger — I sometimes think that collapse cannot happen soon enough….

              That we should be put out of our misery like a diseased incontinent old dog.

              Throw in the fact that we are monitored 24/7 by Big Brother which will ultimately lead to an Orwellian nightmare — and I sincerely do welcome the end.

              There are those who will say ‘well — look at what our parents said about our generation — and we turned out alright’

              I say – bullshit — we did not turn out alright — this has been a progression into idiocracy and we are all complicit.

    • garand555 says:


      To start all of that, you have to start convincing people that we aren’t above nature, but that rather we are part of it. From there, you have to convince them that we need to be good stewards of what we are part of, and IMO, this largely entails nudging nature one way or the other rather than trying to outright control it. We’re just now figuring out that keeping cattle in a tightly bunched herd and regularly moving them is much better for the land in most cases, and this is how wild herds of grazing animals do it as a strategy against predation. Unlike a feed lot where everything is measured just so and antibiotics are prophylactically given because many feed lots are filthy, following the above strategy is mimicking and nudging nature, rather than outright controlling it. It is simply noticing that nature has ways that it likes to work, and working within those bounds.

      Nature has mechanisms through which it completes various processes. We can piggyback off of those, or we can create our own mechanisms. We’ve opted for the latter, yet, any viable future where more than just a few rulers can be content will require the former. But, we all need to survive in today’s world first.

      If somebody asks “what’s in it for me,” the answer is going to be simple, though right now most would not believe it: It lets you eat, drink and be merry, which is better than the other alternative of ruining the land and starving to death.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        If somebody asks “what’s in it for me,” the answer is going to be simple, though right now most would not believe it: It lets you eat, drink and be merry, which is better than the other alternative of ruining the land and starving to death.

        That’s what I say! But it’s a hard sell.

        People ask, “What’s the return on investment,” and I tell them, “Fresh air, clean water, healthy food and life-style, right livelihood, and a safe and beautiful place to sleep.” And then they walk away, because they can get 3.25% on a bank certificate.

        • garand555 says:

          They sure can’t get 3.25% by keeping their dollars in a bank these days. The last time I asked what the interest was in a savings account at a local credit union, the woman told me 0.1%. No, they won’t buy the argument until the social fabric degrades more. At some point, however, they will be open to suggestions.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            At some point, however, they will be open to suggestions.

            Those are people Geoffrey Moore (Crossing the Chasm, Taming the Tornado) calls “laggards.” I don’t want them. They’ll be too late.

            In his management books, Moore describes what he calls the “technology adoption life-cycle,” but I see a similar pattern in the adoption of new ideas of any sort. Moore claims technology adoption follows a classic normal curve, starting with “innovators” or “gazelles,” progressing through “early adopters” to “early majority” on the left side of the summit, followed by “laggards” or “mice” on the falling edge of the bell curve.

            We need innovators and early adopters. Unfortunately, together, they’re only the first percentile. I’m tired of kissing 99 frogs to find the occasional princess.

            • garand555 says:

              Laggards are what you are largely going to have to work with, though some will be worse than others. Think of all of the people around today who do not even remember life without cell phones and couldn’t identify a rotary phone if one was right in front of them. Think of all the people who have gone to college because they were told that was what they needed to do for employment, and imagine how they’ll respond when they’re told “you get to be a farmer!” The idea that getting back to where we were is highly unlikely is going to be a bitter pill to swallow for most.

            • Gary says:

              @Jan Steinman

              We need innovators and early adopters.

              At what stage do you think permaculture is?

            • Jan Steinman says:

              At what stage do you think permaculture is [on the technology adoption life-cycle]?

              I’d say as a pure discipline, Permaculture is still in the innovator/early-adoptor stage. I doubt it has more than 1% penetration, which I believe is how Moore defined these stages.

              And yet, Permaculturalists are all over the map in some ways. Most of them are still stuck in the “family farm” metaphor, rather than moving to the collaborative agriculture that I think must come to be. So perhaps we’re actually looking for 1% of the 1%. I try not to think about that!

            • Artleads says:

              “Laggards are what you are largely going to have to work with…”

              I see it that way too. I share many of their characteristics–lazy, incurious, ignorant, poor–and I try to adapt my practice to account for this.

              At some point, nurturing food plants must be like nurturing biological beings. Maybe it’s somewhat like sex too. Generally speaking, one isn’t taught how to do it. Some do it better than others. But what I want is for people to do it…with no one standing over them to insist on HOW they should do it. So I’m an anarchist gardner. I have to trust my instincts. I’m a part of nature, and what gives me joy might well make plants happy too. My strategy is not to learn more from others (although I’m very open to what anyone VOLUNTEERS to teach me) but to get more in touch with my own enjoyment.

              I’ve been gardening more or less steadily for around 30 years. I still know next to nothing about how to garden “correctly” along any of the relatively correct alternative lines. I have experienced the occasional flash in the pan success, but my persistent failures seem more due to repressing my drives than to anything else. For some reason, I feel a little better about this year’s process than ever before. It seems that no-till, based on constant layering of food scraps (absolutely easy) with manure (from nearby horse pasture), the occasional bag of *anything*–compost, topsoil, yard dirt, whatever that plants can grow in, urine, rooted-out weeds with the dirt clods facing upwards–might have a reasonable chance “success.” Prayers due. It is more like art than science for me (if one can even separate them).

              So I got a bit carried away writing this. What I’m suggesting is that, when it come to gardening, the perfect is the enemy of the good-enough. Let people attempt to grow food any which way they choose. Mandate gray water outlets for every household. Mandate water catchment for every household. Sort of. Provide tax credits for those who comply, but don’t punish those who don’t or can’t. That would be a very good role for government, and something within the realm of the doable. Incentivise food-growing classes for those who are inclined to learn that way. Do whatever is feasible and inexpensive in that regard…like nudging those already doing this to do more. (BTW, there is massive government funding of social programs NOW, a small amount of which could be geared to the above.)

              For something like BAU to continue longer than it might, I suggest universal volunteerism. It’s not hard. Everybody will do a little cleaning and tidying of the public space, including malls. Don’t punish the ones who don’t; just encourage and thank the ones who do. There is much, much more that can be done that is likely to be enjoyed by a lot of people, many of them so-called laggards. There simply needs to be some vision and leadership to replace the absence of it now prevailing.

              Certainly, a great upsurge of self-reliance among the many won’t be good enough to keep everybody alive, but that’s where the business world (whatever is used for money), as long as it learns to function within the limits of the available, could do some good. At least, in the short run.

            • garand555 says:


              This leads into collectivism vs individualism. I see this in a different way than Don and Jan do. At least I think I do. They are more than welcome to correct me if I’m wrong. We need a sense of community. We need a core set of values that most of us agree on. That is very collectivist in nature. But we also need individualism. We need people who aren’t going to panic if they are dropped off a solid two days walk from the nearest civilization. We need people who understand that sometimes risks must be taken and who are willing to take them. This fosters creativity. This is individualism.

              I would suggest that a few core understandings should be as follows:

              We’re not apart from nature, but we are instead part of it. It is nature that sustains us, and therefore, we must work within its bounds and sustain it. Influencing it or nudging it or piggybacking off of it is where we should be looking, but outright control of it will be fleeting. (This is collectivist.)

              Power over others is a dangerous prospect. There will always be a pecking order, so to speak, but the more power somebody has, the greater the potential for abuse. (Suspicion of power is individualist, but understanding that there will be a pecking order is not.)

              Greed is a human trait that can only be tempered so far. IMO, this is the result of evolution. Men want to have the nicest stuff to attract the prettiest woman. In this sense, we’re like featherless peacocks. We want to look better than the guy next to us. If it is felt that this is a very male oriented view, that’s because it is. I’m not female, so putting it into the female perspective is not my place. We need non-destructive outlets for this. (This is individualist with a collectivist bent.)

              The medium of exchange de jure should not be controlled by those can profit from its control. If this means that it is controlled by no one, that is fine. While power is a means to money, money is also a means to power, and there are enough people who will seek to increase both once they are in a position to do so, and at anybody’s expense. The risk of this leading to a growth-is-required monetary system so that a person or small group of people can profit is too great. It’s where we are now. (This is individualist.)

              While that is all very generalized, my point is that we need have something that allows us to freely exchange ideas, allows us to work together in such a way where we choose to, but allows for human shortcomings. A sense of community is important, but so is the ability to choose one’s own destiny. This is coming from somebody who hates the idea of government. I am suspicious of power.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear garand555
              By nature I am an anarchist…as are many of those who practice permaculture. But an intelligent anarchist looks for opportunities to collaborate, because absent collaboration he realizes his life will be short and unpleasant. Few, if any, governments have managed to both give people freedom and also permit them to collaborate. Governments want to bureaucratize everything, which stifles innovation.

              Are the microbes collectivist or collaborationist? Does that language even begin to describe what is happening? Are we still trying to force-fit some language invented by people in the 18th century onto a world we now understand as one that functions with systems? Does systems science give us an adequate language to describe the way living systems work?

              Don Stewart

            • Jan Steinman says:

              A sense of community is important, but so is the ability to choose one’s own destiny.

              I agree that a sense of individual autonomy is important for one to reach the higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy. I think of it in terms of collective work and ownership, but individual authority and responsibility.

              This is coming from somebody who hates the idea of government. I am suspicious of power.

              It’s too bad that our present governments give “government” such a bad name.

              I’m a big fan of formal anarchy. Most people think of anarchy as people running through the streets, breaking windows and looting stores. But it’s latin roots simply mean “without rulers,” which is very different from “without rules.”

              Rules and governance are necessary! Even if it’s how to wash dishes so we all don’t come down with dysentery, or where to plant the garlic so you don’t end up with white rot.

              We use something we call “Stewardship,” loosely based on John Buck’s “Sociocracy” (which he also calls “dynamic governance”).

              Stewards are individuals (never a committee!) who speak for a resource that cannot speak for itself. They are chosen by consensus, but then have considerable autonomy and authority over their area of expertise. They periodically report back to the plenary to keep others informed, and for re-ratification of their authority. Stewards meet formally and informally when their areas overlap. For example, the Farm Steward and the Finance Steward have to agree on expenses and projected income, etc.

              Systems such as this seem to work for upward of 75-150 people, but then begin to break down. This seems to be a magic number that is wired into humans, probably due to the size of clans and tribes and villages in days past.

              It seems to me that “representative” government is where things go wrong, because the “rulers” are too easily influenced by forces that can keep them in power, whereas in Anarchy, you hold a pow-wow and throw their butts out — perhaps even out of the tribe, which could be a death sentence.

              Buck claims that Sociocracy can be scaled arbitrarily, but I have my doubts. He has been trying to sell Sociocracy training to corporations, which are inherently hierarchical. Diana Leafe Christian introduced John to providing Sociocracy training to intentional communities, and they now teach together on occasion.

            • garand555 says:

              @Don Stewart,

              I agree, there are some language issues. We work with what we have. I would describe myself as an anarchist at heart who believes that government is inevitable. I won’t go as far as claiming that government is 100% useless, (you can look at historical elk populations in NM to see that government actually did some good there,) but I think that its tendency is to devolve towards something sinister. Power has a way of attracting the worst among us. It’s quite the conundrum, how to fill the power vacuum while not leading down the road to something bad.

            • garand555 says:

              People want to be lead, when what they need is to be taught.

            • garand555 says:


              I really should start proofreading.

            • garand555 says:

              @Jan Steinman said:

              “I’m a big fan of formal anarchy. Most people think of anarchy as people running through the streets, breaking windows and looting stores. But it’s latin roots simply mean “without rulers,” which is very different from “without rules.””

              That’s because when you get temporary anarchy, i.e. the rules suddenly get suspended, you often get the chaos you bring up. With long term anarchy, people would figure out that, if they go around smashing things, they themselves won’t have any access to nice stuff, and eventually a pecking order would spring up. And there are a lot of us who wouldn’t go around rioting and looting even if the rules were suspended tomorrow. But I still believe that if you get a big enough group of people together, you will get some form of government, be it a warlord, a village chief or the gargantuan beasts that we have today. There are too many sheep who want to be led and there are more than enough wolves who are happy to “lead” them.

              I’m not scared of anarchy, I’m scared of those would try to take advantage of it. I’m not scared of a world with no police, I’m scared of the people who claim that police are necessary for an orderly society and who would not let a crisis go to waste.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Afghanistan had anarchy — and it lasted for many years — when the Russians left.

              My understanding of what happened is that warlords came into power and were fighting to control districts of Kabul much like mafia kingpins.

              I recall reading the account of someone who was asked why the Taliban were embraced by the people of Afghanistan and he he said that before the Taliban he had to pay off thugs just to get from the market to his home.

              Various factions were controlling different streets so he had to pay more than once.

              Anarchy sounds so romantic — up until the point where the armed gang rolls into the village — steals the food, rapes the women and smashes your teeth out with an iron bar —- and you don’t have your own gang to call (as in the police or the military)

            • Artleads says:

              I believe I am at once highly individualistic and highly communitarian. Not sure if I can explain how this works, but wouldn’t be surprised if it is how wild nature behaves. These two aspects of behavior work together like Yin and Yang. I don’t see why it’s worth struggling overmuch to analyze it, since there are so many other things to worry about.


              You could count on your fingers the people who reliably attend community meetings here and see that the community runs somewhat properly. Not to say that the majority here are not community-oriented. Maybe just not in the way that I and a relatively few others are.
              Apart from that, I’m exceptionally individualistic, and growing more so. Fortunately, events have so conspired as to make me gradually see that I could dispense with jobs and still manage in relative luxury through extreme frugality, meager Social Security, “dumb luck,” and the indirect benefits of industrial society/welfare state. Blessedly, this means that I don’t have to do anything I don’t want to. I am free to do my own “research.”

              Since I can eat without becoming a productive gardener, I’ve had the time to manage through failures toward a better understanding of how *I* want to try growing food. And since my methods are so individualistically permissive, they seemingly could be adopted by a lot of people who think gardening is too hard and restrictive to try. Very much, the individualist types and the “laggards.” I’m saying that EVERYBODY can and should grow something. Sprouts can grow on window sills. The backyards in the world are too numerous to count. Urban land has been proven to be in better condition than surrounding agricultural land. Inherently, all the food that the world needs can be grown in home gardens. But since I don’t expect that everyone will garden, let alone do it productively, there is need for collective food growing and distribution too.

              I would not like to take orders and follow rules, so it behooves me to try and improve my shaky individual food growing practice. But I fear I will need help from the collective during extreme crisis. The more we garden in our individualistic ways, the less will we need subjection to other people’s rules and ideas.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear garand555
        I agree with much of what you say. I specifically mentioned the leverage points to try to hint at some of the different strategies I think will be essential.

        The difficulty of persuading people to think differently (and not just look at Apple ads) is one of the reasons I think that Lifeboats is probably the best strategy. Haranguing congresspeople or presidents isn’t likely to accomplish anything.

        Don Stewart

    • So let’s examine the ‘possibilities’ of a circa 15th century existence. Say that’s 100 years from now–maybe less.
      First off, Anyone alive then will not be able to ‘unlearn’ what we know now, even in rudimentary terms. So human nature being what it is, there will be constant striving to regain what has been lost. That will go on until there is no physical capability of pursuing that. But It will have been ‘somebody else’s fault–wrong god–wrong politician, wrong economics wrong witchcraft–you name it, so the struggle will remain, the dream that ‘industry’ no matter how rudimentary, will still ‘grow’ if only we get it right.–because it always ‘grew’ before.
      The only thing that will stop this is lack of fuel. And I mean the very basic kind—Food.
      I despair sometimes, reading commenters on here who talk about a future of solar/water/horse power in various permutations, as if energy use is somehow going to sustain an industrial base and with it some form of ‘civilised’ living, that we will assume the role of happy peasants helping out in each others gardens like reborn Amish. The Amish, (the nearest equivalent I can think of), go about their idyllic pastoral lives only because the overall protection of the state allows them to, disease free because (ungodly) industry provides failsafe medical care.
      Think how long the prosperity or even the existence of the Amish would last without those factors.
      The civilising forces of great nations are held together by surplus energy availability–without that, they collapse and devolve into ever-smaller (and usually warring) states.
      The USA is particularly vulnerable in this respect. Without the cohesion of the protective nation, the law of the frontier will prevail. In the 15th c, peasants were under the protection of their feudal lord , in return they worked the land to deliver basic energy in the form of food surplus.
      THAT is the future of the 15th c–or whenever–

      In the 15th c–there was no awareness of % growth and GDP—serfs worked dawn till dusk and eventually died young, and that was it.

      • hkeithhenson says:

        I compliment you on a decent understanding of the situation. For all its problems, the current world beats the socks off the 15th century.

        I have done just enough to understand what a problem food is. For several years back in the 70s we had a big garden, raised and butchered all the meat we ate (rabbits mostly, but also chickens, ducks, turkeys and geese). Made all the bread we ate in those days, partly as a sink for the surplus eggs. Did every step in raising wheat and making it into flour. Milked goats and made cheese. This was in the middle of Tucson, but before the cost of water went up. To be honest, it was mostly on the initiative of my wife at the time (Carolyn Meinel). It was an educational hobby. But trying to do this while fighting off bandits who had rather steal than farm is a daunting prospect. Oh, and the dogs that got in and killed all but one or two of the rabbits.

        In a couple of days, I can post a pointer to a video about one way to get out of the energy/carbon/economic mess the whole human race it is in.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        “In the 15th c–there was no awareness of % growth and GDP—serfs worked dawn till dusk and eventually died young, and that was it.”

        I think you sum up the post-collapse world concisely with that statement.

        I continue to progress through http://www.audible.com/pd/History/1493-Audiobook/B005F5JT3E (this is a great alternative to the radio in the car…) and I note that the issue of famine in Europe was discussed with respect to the situation before potatoes were introduced from the Americas

        The number of severe famines in Europe was off the charts. And this was a period with low population and when most people were engaged in what we know call organic farming.

        And the violent uprisings that occurred due to scarcity of food were also off the charts.

        Fast forward — the population of Europe is exponentially higher — there are few organic farms — most of the land is farmed with petro chemical inputs — the land will not yield crops if these inputs are no longer available.

        It is also important to note that we grow a large percentage of our crops using irrigation — which requires pumps and electricity.

        Those who think post-collapse will simply be a more toned down version of BAU — where we will still have oil and cars and iphones — might want to pause for thought at this point.

        Those who survive will — and I am not posting this to get a rise out of people — most likely be eating bark and grass (as North Koreans do periodically) and won’t be overly concerned when their iphone cannot pick up a signal — or be recharged.

        7B+ people — little usable agricultural land post collapse.

        When the grocery stores empty, the nightmare begins.

        Anyone for QE4? 5, 6, 7….

    • richard says:

      I’m nearly finished reading up on Marco Polo. The Polos brought new technology from China to Venice circa 1295 : Coal burning; eyeglasses, telescopes, microscopes; paper money (and possibly double entry bookkeeping); gunpowder and weaponry; and improvements to silk production.
      I’m thinking it’s all their fault 😉

  25. edpell says:

    Dear Cuban authorities we at Our Finite World are concerned that our friend Gail may have become confused and disoriented by the bright sunlight, warm breezes and fresh fruits and fish in Cuba. She was last heard from about a week ago in Cuba. She is of Norwegian genetic background so she may be suffering an overdose of vitamin D from the generous sun in Cuba. Likewise the unfamiliar diet may be taking a toll, all that fresh fish to a person used to pickled fish and all those fresh fruits to a person raised on Loganberries.

    We are sending an emergency package of sun block, pickled herring, quick freeze ice packs to be applied to hand and feet to bring them back to a normal 40 degree F. Please place Gail in a darkened room and apply the ice packs while administering the pickled fish. Thank you.

    If she is heard saying “varmt og solrikt her ikke behov for olje” please just ignore it she is overcome by the sun.

    • I am finally back.

      One of the hotels I stayed at had installed three computers for its 300 guests to use to access the Internet. One of these computers was broken (months ago, reportedly) leaving two computers for 300 guests. Then there are other details:

      (1) I actually got on one of the computers once. The keyboard was set up for Spanish input, so used the Alt key as well as the Shift key to get to the unusual characters. Exactly how this worked was a little confusing–also working on an ancient Windows machine with only Spanish text made using the machine challenging, especially when a person is used to using a MacIntosh machine. I kept making input errors.
      (2) Local people not staying at the hotel liked to buy access cards too, and use them to look at Facebook. They seemed to be keeping one of the computers in use all of the time. Our tour leader complained to the hotel management, but the hotel management said that there was no rule about non-guests, so we would just have to wait fro them.

      As a result of this, unless a person was very persistent, it was virtually impossible to use the Internet at that hotel.

      The other hotel was better–we could use our own computers in the lobby, if we purchased an Internet card (about $2.25 for 30 minutes) and the Internet was working. We didn’t have a lot of free time, though.

  26. Pingback: 7. A Journey Part 3 – A Predicament | Engineering in an Age of Limits

  27. Daniel Hood says:

    Meanwhile back on the “diminishing returns” front, the UK entered deflation for the first time since 1960!


  28. Fast Eddy says:

    More than $100 billion of spending on new projects by the world’s energy companies has been slowed, postponed or axed following the oil price plunge, evidence of the drastic industry action that will curb output in coming years.


    1+1 = this is confirmation that peak oil is upon us.

    2015 goes down and the beginning of the end.

    • ktos says:

      April coal output in China dropped 7.4% year over year. That’s 1% of total world energy production: http://uk.reuters.com/article/2015/05/13/uk-china-economy-output-coal-idUKKBN0NY0JF20150513

      • Ktos> Um, that drop is cumulative effect of several effects, crashing global consumer demand (slowing economy), on purpose curbing coal production in China in favor of cleaner nuclear buildup (now) and natgas (future from Russian pipelines), ..
        So don’t panick yet from such opaque number..

        Fast Eddy> Not so fast, what is perhaps emerging is plateau, not post PeakOil crash, how long this bumpy plateau will last is unpredictable, since it could take decades if more demand destruction is pushed on the lower classes..

        • Fast Eddy says:

          We have been on a plateau for 6 years. It will not last much longer

          • No, your are talking crude plateau, I’m talking all liquids or rather all fossil energy (liquids, coal, natgas; +uranium and hydro), and in this view there is plateau at least for next 2-3decades, perhaps more. Yes, but this plateau looks on the ground like very nasty depression and international borders remapping..

            • Fast Eddy says:

              How do you keep a nuclear plant or hydro station along with the grid operational without oil?

              How do you manufacture the spare parts for these? How do you lubricate the turbines? How do the workers get to work? How do you repair the remote transmission lines without helicopters?

              How do you grow the food that is required for the 7 billion people who use the electricity? How do you get that food to the people?

              How does anyone get to work without oil? How do planes fly without oil?


              When the oil stops — the world stops. There will be no energy — other than trees — which will be burned up in no time.

              I made a mistake buying a property in a remote region that has extensive hydro electric installations thinking I would go there when the SHTF thinking that at least I would still have electricity.

              Then I later realized — there is no way in hell a hydro plant will be operational for very long post collapse for the reasons I have posted above.

              That was one of the dumbest ideas I have ever had because I had not thought the situation through. I have since sold the property but incurred a loss.

              Feel free to learn from my mistake

            • Daddio7 says:

              Oil production will not come to a screeching halt, it is way to useful. Unless they are complete morons the operators of nuclear and hydro plants have already procured the spares they will need for many years to come. I seriously doubt all the workers at most nuclear plants will simply walk off one day and say the hell with those cooling ponds. The US government spends almost a trillion dollars a year on the military alone, you would think some effort has been made for the future of the country regarding the fate of it’s citizens?

              What I fear is the people who want fossil fuels banned. Climate change may be a threat in the near future but the no oil people are a threat to my life now. As they say, “Life is uncertain, eat dessert first”.

            • Brunswickian says:

              Unfortunately, the sad truth is that many spare parts are not kept – that is the way our cost-cutting just-in-time economy functions.

              What is coming is not a matter of choice.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Ok – you have addressed the spare parts issue — maybe there are massive warehouses next to these installations holding spares.

              What about the rest of the questions.

              And oil will come to a screeching halt — when the financial system collapses — the oil will stop being pumped

          • Few yrs ago there was massive hydro damage caught on tape (explosion of turbine) in one of the biggest russian hydro plants (cant remember perhaps in Siberia), most likely due to low maintanace after the collapse of CCCP and somewhat continued approach of milking cheapo electricty without proper investments in the new Russia as well. The takehome message for us, hydro will work ~2decades with mediocre care and with some functioning load provided which could be regional (house heating, pump storage hydro etc.) ..

            Seems that your ultimate doomerism clouds your midterm-short term outlook.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Did the turbines go without any repairs or maintenance the entire time?

              More importantly did the turbines go without the petroleum based lubricants and cooling fluids for all those years?

              I don’t think so.

              Where would you get these lubricants and fluids post collapse?

              How would you continue to operate the massive grid that would be required to transfer this power to where it is needed?

              And even if you could do all of this what would be the point — when people are starving because there is no food the last thing they will need is electricity to operate the food processor.

              That said if you visit the web site for the Democratic Republic of North Korea they have a recipe for blended bark, grass and brackish water http://korea-dpr.com/foods/recipes/barkgrassdelight.html

              Your argument is shot full of more holes than block of Swiss cheese

            • richard says:

              @FastEddy – I bow to your fascinating knowledge of the Zen of hydoelectric turbine maintenance. Pray tell me – why do hydroelectic generating sets need all this cooling?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              It’s the spent nuclear fuel ponds that need to be cooled…

              I believe we had an engineer who was involved in the hydro power industry and he ridiculed the notion that these plants and the grid could be maintained post collapse…. of course he is right…. it is downright nonsense to believe the power dams will remain operational and the electricity delivered when BAU is dead

      • Thanks! Year to date is down 6.1%.

      • richard says:

        Thanks for the link. I’d add that China had plans for something over a 4 percent increase in coal fired generation not too long ago, so the coal consumption numbers are off by around ten percent on that projection.
        “China’s overall power output rose 1 percent in April to 445 billion kilowatt hours (kWh), but thermal power production – more than 90 percent of which is derived from coal – dipped 2.8 percent to 340.9 billion kWh, and is down 3.5 percent so far in 2015.”
        Since they specifically mention thermal output declines, there must be a huge increase in renewables and nuclear power output.

        • Fast Eddy says:


          As expected solar has barely budged… if China shifted to solar (expensive) that would reduce their competitiveness and factories would shift to places that are willing to burn the filthiest cheapest sources of energy.

          Hydro is up but:

          Second, heavy industry in China has been decelerating of late. Steel production appears to be at its lowest levels in three decades. Cement production is also growing more slowly than usual. Industry accounts for (roughly) the other half of China’s coal use, so this recent slowdown also made a huge difference.

          Because this measure of coal use is over a relatively short period of time — it would suggest that the change is primarily due to weakening growth.

          There is surely no way you can bring on enough hydro over that short period of time to offset a 7% drop in coal use.

          • The Vox article about China’s coal is a good one. It points out an important point–the data we are seeing now may be subject to substantial revision later. But even with that caveat, it does look like China’s energy consumption is down, suggesting its economy is not doing well at all.

    • The author of the article ends on the (mandatory) happy note, “All of this is good news for Saudi Arabia, whose production costs are much lower.” (or something like that). How about the 7 billion people on this world?

  29. Brunswickian says:



    This is the backdrop of the remarks made last week by David Shear, the US Defence Department’s Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs. Before the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday, Shear explained that Washington would “be placing additional air force assets in Australia as well, including B-1 bombers and surveillance aircraft.”[1] This was in addition to the further deployment of military and marine units in the Western Pacific. Were these the bugles of war sounding?

    “We will have a very strong presence, very strong continued posture throughout the region to back our commitments to our allies, to protect and work with our partners and to continue ensuring peace and stability in the region, as well as back our diplomacy vis-à-vis China on the South China Sea.”

    A few trembles could be felt at this announcement in Canberra, despite the continuing fantasy on the part of officials down under that the US presence in the region somehow acts as one of stability. “I see the greater presence of the US in our part of the world as a force of stability,” insisted Prime Minister Tony Abbott. “Australia’s alliance with the US is a force for stability.” Naturally, the alliance wasn’t “aimed at anyone” in particular.

    • edpell says:

      US nuclear bombers in Australia are a dagger in the heart of China. Will China deploy nuclear bombers in Panama and Cuba? A join BRICS nuclear bomb wing in Venezuela?

    • richard says:

      NATO was hoping to create a similar “asset” in Europe – a “fast response force”.
      Something that would offer a kneejerk response into WWIII a la Dr Strangelove, but quicker. I’d suggest giving every Australian household a copy of Eric Schlosser’s “Command and Control” so they can make informed decisions.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Keeping in mind that we benefit from being the winners in the battle for the zero sum game of world resources…. it would be folly to cheer for the other team.

        The losers would gladly swap places with us if given an opening. i.e. they would cave our heads in with shovels and take our fat houses, cars and salaries if they could

  30. Fast Eddy says:

    Since the Finite World is turning into a place for comedians, we may as well be entertained by one who isn’t a clown:

  31. Simple Kiwi says:

    I don’t care who has what alias.
    This blog is like an ecosystem of ideas, and biodiversity is an inherent constituent of a robust ecosystem.
    I actively enjoy it when I see ideas and reasoning argued here – rather than the occasional attacks on the person themselves.

  32. Fast Eddy says:

    9 Killed, 18 Injured, 192 Arrested After “True Biker Shootout” At Texas “Breastaraunt”

    Things escalated quickly on Sunday when rival biker gangs met at a Texas Twin Peaks franchise to settle a what Reuters says was a “dispute over a parking lot.”

    The fight started in the bathroom, spilled into the restaraunt, and then into the parking lot where as many as five rival gangs attacked each other with guns, knives, brass knuckles, clubs and motorcycle chains.”


    For those looking forward to the collapse keep in mind …. there will not be any cops to stop people like this from doing whatever they want…

    • richard says:

      The people who riot are the ones who care about fixing the world. I tend to worry more about the OAP’s who vote for more of the same.

  33. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    This will expand a little on my response to Stefeun concerning the Myer-Briggs indicator, avoiding disaster, and building lifeboats.

    First, I have to detour through Capra and Luisi’s history of science. I’ll skip over the Greeks and Romans and the Arabs and Newton and begin about 50 years ago. This is from page 11 and 12 in Capra and Luisi:

    ‘By the mid-1970s, the limitations of the molecular approach to understanding life were evident. However, biologists saw little else on the horizon. The eclipse of systems thinking from pure science had become so complete that it was not considered a viable alternative.

    The real breakthrough came several decades later with the formulation of complexity theory, technically known as nonlinear dynamics, in the 1960s and 1970s. The decisive advance was due to the development of powerful, high-speed computers, which allowed scientists and mathematicians for the first time to model the nonlinear interconnectedness of living systems, and to solve the corresponding nonlinear equations.

    In biology, systems thinking and the organic conception of life reappeared on the scene, and the strong interest in nonlinear phenomena generated a whole series of new and powerful theoretical models that have dramatically increased our understanding of many key characteristics of life. From these models the outlines of a coherent theory of living systems, together with the proper mathematical language, are now emerging. This emerging theory—the systems view of life—is the subject of this book.’

    99 percent of the comments on this site are to the effect that we have to keep doing what we are doing. That humans are completely incapable of re-imagining how life can be lived. And so extinction is the logical outcome. I submit that these comments are in about the same place as the linear extrapolation biologists in the mid-1970s who could not conceive of any alternative to the molecular approach to understanding life.

    I am not going to try to cover all the bases. You can buy Mobus and Kalton’s book, or Capra and Luisi’s book, and read them for yourself and make up your own mind. Instead, I will just point to a few things.

    First, I have covered the ‘microbe view of life’ in several posts. The microbe view upends much of what we thought we knew about chronic disease and about agriculture and gardening. We now see that we are making our life very hard by our war on the microbes. We are in a hole, and wise people are advising us to stop digging. Yet powerful forces try to force us forward into more digging in the name of corporate profit.

    Second, neuroscience now understands vastly more about what constitutes a ‘good life’ than it did when B.F. Skinner was reducing everything to sugar cubes and avoiding shocks. We now understand that humans long to live a life of purpose. I think that Kelly McGonigal is one of the best exponents of the new neuroscience, and she is quite accessible.

    Third, several trailblazers have demonstrated that one can live a good life with very little in the way of material footprint. My favorite is the tiny house movement, and the Twelve-by-Twelve phenomenon. Simplify enough and you can stop worrying about many of the peak oil concerns. And you likely won’t have any debt.

    If everyone did all these things, would Global Capitalism collapse? Yes, indeed it would. But it is poisonous and we don’t need it. How many people understand this? Not very many. If people follow, it will be because they observe some trend-setters doing things which are sensible, and then they will copy them.

    Fourth, the concept of a Lifeboat is probably applicable. I see two types of Lifeboat. The first is the Intentional Community, one of whose exponents is Jan on this blog. The second possibility is weaving together a community from within an existing group of people who live in what a real estate agent would call a community, but which has no communal life. Becca Martenson and Chris Martenson discuss that possibility in this current post:


    Fifth, being on guard against those who want to sell you the artificial. As a simple example, I recommend reading George Mateljan’s current entry on mushrooms at World’s Healthiest Foods. An excerpt

    ‘No health benefit is better documented for shiitake mushroom than immune support. In fact, the immune support track record for this mushroom is fascinating. On the one hand, numerous studies have shown the ability of whole shiitake mushrooms to help prevent excessive immune system activity. On the other hand, an equal number of studies have shown the ability of shiitake mushrooms to help stimulate immune system responses under certain circumstances. In other words, from a dietary perspective, shiitake mushrooms appear able to enhance immune function in both directions, giving it a boost when needed, and cutting back on its activity when needed. It’s important to note that dietary shiitake mushroom intake—unlike intake of medicinal shiitake extracts—has not been shown to be strongly suppressive of the immune system or strongly activating. From our perspective, this finding makes sense. We wouldn’t want our everyday foods to strongly suppress or strongly activate any body system. What we would want from our foods is support of body systems under a variety of circumstances—and that is exactly what we get from shiitake mushrooms with respect to our immune system.’

    In short, don’t buy the industrial extracts. Get the real thing, which is far more ‘intelligent’ than any extract.

    This should be enough to stir the imagination of those who want to hear.

    Don Stewart

    • Stefeun says:

      you say “This should be enough to stir the imagination of those who want to hear.”
      I’m not sure at all. Connecting the dots is 1.not an easy task for everybody and 2.not always sufficient to trigger a change in mentality, then translate it into actions.

      Normalcy bias is likely much stronger and widespread among population than we imagine. At least, that’s how I understood Tom Murphy’s paper (beyond the discussion around wether a critical mass is reachable).
      A massive change of paradigms require a very strong event to happen. Most people prefer to stick to “their” story, despite all the counter-evidences you can bring. The next accident will probably wake some of them up, but given the unfolding of this one, the only outcome will be anger, then panic. Your lifeboat has to be out of reach!

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Stefeun
        I’m not making any accusations against Tom Murphy..and if I read closely everything he has said…or better yet if we discussed it over a beer, I might change my mind.

        But my impression is that he is disappointed that he has been able to attract such a narrow range of people to his site…just as Chris Martenson has attracted a narrow range. My response is that ‘if you run your site the way you do, you are almost certain to guarantee that you will only get a narrow range’. While I don’t follow Chris Martenson really closely, my impression is that he is trying to change the focus of his site to give it broader appeal.

        For example, I am thinking about someone who formerly visited Our Finite World. She is a ‘doer’. All the negative cerebralizing just finally drove her away. Helping other people gives her life a lot of meaning. What does the constant drumbeat of negativity offer her?

        To use the language of systems science, I think she is comfortable with the idea that many of the linear relationships which have characterized the age of fossil fuels and financialization are going to fail. But her mission in life is finding and doing the non-linear relationships which derive from Nature. What does Our Finite World have to offer her? What does Do The Math have to offer her?

        Running a site such as Our Finite World or Do The Math for the INTJs of the world serves a purpose….but the purpose they serve is not the whole thing…and not even the main thing. To my mind, there are a number of possibilities ahead. I tend toward the Lifeboats theory. But the woman I referred to earlier has a softer focus on helping everyone she can make contact with. My edge is harder than hers. I can respect that.

        A doomer site is going to attract a certain type of person. It may provoke some of those people to do some creative thinking. But to implement that creative thinking in the real world requires moving beyond the doomer site.

        Don Stewart

        • Stefeun says:

          I agree that “doing” is most important, but it shouldn’t go without a minimum of “understanding” in the first place. And sometimes, especially when no solution is satisfying or realistic, as today, the logical conclusion about what to do is unclear (I wish I had creative ideas!).

          I know -and understand it- you will answer that it’s excessive cerebralization, but on the other hand your conviction that “there are many possibilities ahead” sounds to me as a hope, a belief due to positive bias.
          I don’t make any negative judgement, on the contrary I encourage such attitude in that it helps you live better TODAY.
          I just say that nothing guarantees it will be of any value in tomorrows world. Although self-sufficiency skills are likely to be much more useful than a good understanding of our current predicament.
          But things never happen as planned, so… qui vivra verra (those who will live, will see).

          • Don Stewart says:

            ‘minimum of understanding’

            No argument with that. But a minimum of understanding simply reveals that we can’t continue with BAU. It tells us nothing much about what IS possible. Once one abandons the thought that one can ‘save’ 7.3 billion humans with more of the same…then avenues of possibility open up. Are any of them guaranteed? Of course not. But SOME of them have promise, AND pay dividends in the here and now in terms of finding meaning in life.

            Don Stewart

            • Stefeun says:

              Exactly what I meant, Don.
              May I suggest that we stop splitting hairs about that because our small disagreements are either mere speculation, or fall within the province of philosophy, or psychanalysis, or else but not in the scope of this blog.
              Your point of view is always interesting, so please keep on posting here!

        • Jan Steinman says:

          I am thinking about someone who formerly visited Our Finite World. She is a ‘doer’. All the negative cerebralizing just finally drove her away.

          Here, here!

          I’d say more, but I’ve got a greenhouse, gardens, and animals to attend to. Plus an excrement-load of bookkeeping that I keep putting off.

          If I disappear, it will be because people don’t seem to be willing to consider a range of options.

          • Brunswickian says:

            One can read the articles only.
            If anyone has sound reasoning to counter the view enunciated by Fast Eddy I am sure everyone would like to hear it. Group hugs and fuzzy, feelgood, Kumbaya “the indomitable human spirit always overcomes” don’t count. Show me the numbers. Of course, it can’t be done.

            There are more survival focused venues, but this is a technically orientated blog.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Of course, it can’t be done.

              Damn auto-correct!

              I know what you really typed was, “When someone presents viable coping strategies, I put my hands over my eyes.”

            • Brunswickian says:

              So you admit you cannot refute FE – we are down to coping strategies, psychological support etc.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              So you admit you cannot refute FE

              Fuel Extension? Faeces Extraction? Fuel Extension? Fun-filled Enlightenment?

              Sorry, don’t know what you’re talking about, but I agree there is no “solution” to the “problem” of resource depletion; there are only coping strategies.

              But that doesn’t necessarily mean a reduced quality of life! I’m having more fun on $8,000 per year than I ever did when I had a “real job!” I just ignore 99% of what modern civilization throws at me.

            • Brunswickian says:

              Fast Eddy, I got lazy but I didn’t consider it too difficult. We had just been discussing TEOTWAWKI as enunciated by Fast Eddy.

              What FE says is simply an extension of what Gail says – the imminent annihilation of the world’s financial system, subsequent cessation of commerce and international trade, supply chains breaking. Being in an apartment in a metropolis is not “postion A”. It isn’t rocket science.

              You are still dependent on BAU as are we all.

              A survival strategy will be of greater utility than a “coping” strategy as in securing food and water, shelter and clothing. Even then, there are no guarantees due to marauders.

              Obviously, billions are going to miss out. It is the numbers that dictate this.

              The boat people are killing each other now.

            • Daddio7 says:

              Many of us are lucky to have made good investments in money and labor in our youth and can now live inexpensively in paid for homes. Having half a continent rich with natural resources, including oil, to provide for a population less than some cities helps also.

              Personally, I’m falling behind with three times that. Ironically, my biggest single expense is gasoline. Mostly burned by my wife shuttling from our home to care for her parents who live twenty miles away.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Ironically, my biggest single expense is gasoline. Mostly burned by my wife shuttling from our home to care for her parents who live twenty miles away.

              Ah yes. George Monbiot’s “love miles.”

              Guilty as charged. My partner lives in a different country, and commutes here on the weekend.

              Gandhi quipped, “My friends say it costs them a great deal of money to keep me in poverty.” I guess I’m in a similar situation.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              The only people who are not going to have a dramatically reduced way of life will be those people who are already completely unplugged from BAU – people remote locations without running water, electricity, money — basically subsistence villages.

              There will be no electricity or petrol.

              Imagine how reduced life would be without those.

            • richard says:

              @Brunswickian : I get it that the financial system can implode – I’d mention that the extent of even that is uncertain. I can even see the how and why of that. However, just because several Trillion in fraud “evaporates” – it was never there is the first place – there is no reason to suppose LTO’s BAU will change. If I recall correctly, Limits to Growth functioned independently of the financial system. If you can point to a linkage, I’d be interested.

          • Gary says:

            @Jan Steinman: you turned me onto a range of options. For this I thank you 🙂

      • Artleads says:

        Much has becomne clearer for me through participating in Guy McPherson’s blog (NBL). I’ve come to an increasingly existential position, to believe thoroughly in the futility of action. It could be that our global predicament grew beyond willful endeavor to correct it a very long time ago. 100 years ago? I don’t know. For me, it’s as though civilization has long outgrown and out complexified beyond anything humans can meaningfully think through. But we can’t avoid acting.

        So what should guide our actions? For me, it’s intuition. A corresponging guide is what makes me feel good. If humans (and others) are microcosms of the whole, then individuals’ wellbeing ought to correspond in someway to the wellbeing of the whole.

        But then I have doubts. When I don’t feel like doing something my best judgment tells me should be done, what if I don’t feel like doing it? I’m leaning on the side of not doing what I don’t feel like doing. I must trust that feeling responds to surrounding complexity better than anything else…

        Doing by feeling might well be the premise of a larger kind of art.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Dear Artleads
          ‘If it feels good, do it!’. A subject addressed by Kelly McGonigal. Feeling good because we have sawn the wood we are going to burn next winter begins AFTER we begin to saw the wood. Anticipation of work does not make us feel good…it is doing work and progressing toward a goal that makes us feel good.

          Fortunately, we have two minds in our brains. One, older, mind is in the mid-brain and which we might describe as our reptilian brain. It’s not capable of much forethought. It’s mostly reactive…and it keeps us from having to devote too much of the scarce frontal lobes to solving problems which it can deal with. But the frontal lobes are our recently evolved brain, and are capable of quite sophisticated balancing of current and future needs. It is capable of motivating us to go out and saw the wood we will need next winter.

          Kelly offers good advice on how to manage the two different minds to achieve a productive balance in life. She frequently uses the phrase ‘doing what we really wanted to do’ to describe those times when we pause long enough to let the frontal lobes and the human part of the brain send us in the right direction.

          Don Stewart

          • Artleads says:

            True. Maybe that’s where the phrase, “sleep on it.” comes from. From the bible there’s “Wait on the Lord.” 🙂

      • richard says:

        A couple of points: First, the “System” you enumerate is an excellent description of a system with Complexity. Second, being early is no different from being wrong.
        Things move at their own pace, obviously, but sometimes that is hard to accept.

  34. Stefeun says:

    Tom Murphy’s psycho-survey
    on “Receptivity to the cautionary message about collapse”


    A couple of months ago Tom Murphy asked his readers to answer how they feel about collapse, and -overall- to mention their psychological type according to the Myers-Briggs method, that defines 16 types of personnality (many links and explanations in the article).

    I’m certainly not a specialist, rather reluctant, about psychological theories, and particularly suspicious when it comes to categorize the people, but I must say that Tom Murphy’s study has been made with caution and honesty, which makes it “very interesting” (in Nate Hagens’ words, see by end of the comments, 2015-04-18 at 11:07).

    This is also my opinion, because despite all its imperfections, this survey shows without much doubt that it’s very unlikely that the critical mass of people aware of our predicament could be reached, and explains why from a new point of view (i.e. why nothing serious has been made to avoid collapse when it was still an option, and nothing will be done until far too late).
    Another nail in BAU’s coffin.

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear Stefeun

      Let me first describe some experience with the Myer-Briggs tests and a group situation, about 30 years ago. I had an organization of 50 people reporting to me. I hired a M/B consultant, who tested people and then we ran an experiment. The consultant first divided the group into subgroups based on their M/B type–likes with likes. Then each group was given a task to be performed. It was DISASTROUS. In one group, everyone was loudly giving commands to other people who were, likewise, loudly shouting commands. Nobody in that group would consent to do what the others were demanding. So nothing got done. The group came close to fisticuffs. In another group, everyone was very pleasant with each other, but nobody was interested in trying to exert any leadership, so they all had tea and got along fabulously, and nothing got done.

      After the first disastrous round of problem solving, the M/B consultant divided the large group into sub-groups selected for ‘diversity’. There were a few people giving commands and more people following commands. Those who were loud were cautioned by those who wanted to listen. These groups were uniformly vastly better at solving problems and producing output.

      Now, think about the problem of organizing any sort of problem solving over the internet. People strongly self-select the group they will be in. The INTJs will all congregate where they at least have the illusion that lots of people will listen to their commands. Those who are looking for someone to follow will probably congregate on religious or spiritual websites, or pop culture websites. The E people will be driven away. Nothing will get done.

      Full disclosure, I am an ENTJ. There aren’t very many of us, but we tend to become field marshals. Which is why, I think, I talk about Lifeboats. Having given up on commanding the Titanic as it plows ahead at full steam, we ENTJs (probably David Holmgren and others) aspire to a rowboat. But we need some people to help with the rowing. So we try to design Lifeboats which allow plenty of room for all the M/B types.

      The group dynamics which I described earlier are why it is so damaging to have some people so loudly proclaiming that they know exactly how everything is going to play out…and belittling everyone who dares to doubt them. For every INTJ who thinks they know everything, we need some E people to listen to the others and tell the I’s to sit down.

      Don Stewart

      • Stefeun says:

        Thanks Don,
        what a good laugh to imagine these groups of “likes” showing different kinds of inefficiency!

      • Jan Steinman says:

        The INTJs will all congregate where they at least have the illusion that lots of people will listen to their commands.

        I don’t think you understand INTJs that well, Don.

        Kiersey calls them “Masterminds,” a subgroup of “Rationals.” They do not seek leadership, but carry it well when thrust upon them. They tend to work alone, but often do well in groups if they take on the task of collecting evidence and evaluating for fitness of purpose.

        They are unlikely to make people “listen to their commands,” but sometimes give that impression when they demand, “Got any evidence for that?” Lacking such, they will plough ahead based on the evidence they’ve gathered, but given proper evidence, they can quickly change their minds.

        I hope you’ll go read the article, and perhaps gain an appreciation for INTJs beyond their “barking orders” — that’s not really INTJ’s style.

        • Don Stewart says:

          Jan Steinman
          My experience with INTJs is that they do base what they decide on facts. Unfortunately, in most interesting cases, the facts are not overwhelmingly convincing. For example, consider the questions before Shell and Exxon about whether to pour more money into the Arctic. One can collect a lot of facts to support ‘continue to fish’ and also ‘cut bait now’. An INTJ will evaluate the facts and arrive at some conclusion. But if you have half a dozen INTJs trying to decide a conflicted question, they will all tend to come up with different answers. Thus, a group of INTJs may not be the most functional form of organization. Probably better to have one, or maybe two, with some means for arriving at a decision about what the group will do.

          The situation I described from 30 years ago gave the group a problem similar to drilling in the Arctic…no crystal clear answer. While all the INTJs decided something, they all decided something different. And there was no pecking order within the group, so that the Chief could just tell everybody what his decision was, after listening to the arguments.

          What our M/B consultant believed, and pretty well convinced me, is that groups function best when they have a diversity of types.

          I also saw some ‘risk averse’ behavior early in my career. We had a ‘no-win’ situation, where we had to choose between a few distasteful choices. I was young and naive. I was elected to go to the Board and present the situation and alternatives. I finished my spiel, answered some questions and sat down. I put the formal decision document in the middle of the table. To my astonishment, the Board members wandered off talking about other things. Finally, one of the attorneys I knew picked up the decision document and said ‘i’ll take care of it’. Later, when I went to see him, I asked ‘what just happened?’. He said, ‘they all know it could blow up, and nobody wants his name attached to it’. So the attorney made the decision and signed for the whole Board. A lot of politicians are risk averse.

          Don Stewart

        • Artleads says:

          What does INTJ stand for? I= Intuitive?; N= Nurturing? If so, what are T & J? I recall my score including I. It was one of the most liberating experiences to realize that intuitives had the ability to lead.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            What does INTJ stand for?

            The article that was referenced had links to much better explanations, but here’s the “Cliff’s Notes” version.

            I/E: Introverted or Extroverted. This does not mean whether you love public speaking or spend all your time with books. It’s your “safety zone,” where you go to “recharge your batteries.” When you’re feeling low, do you curl up with a book, or go to a party?

            S/N:Sensing or Intuitive. Do you assemble all the data, and go from point A to point B to point C? Or do you make “leaps of faith,” leaving the dots to connect themsevles?

            T/F: Thinking or Feeling. Do you trust your emotions, or your intellect? This is often reflected in your speech: do you tend to say things like, “I feel this is a good idea,” or rather, “I think this is a good idea.”

            P/J: Perceiving or Judging. Do you say, “I love this, but I hate that!” Or do you say, “This and that differ in these interesting ways?”

            • Artleads says:

              Thanks Jan. I don’t reemember what my score was those 20 or so years back, but it most likely was ISFP.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Artleads
              A personal anecdote which may give you some hints. I found that I was an E rather than an I. That meant that I got my ideas in discussion with other people. Sitting alone and thinking never got me much of anywhere. But put me in the middle of a lively conversation and my brain and body began to rearrange itself in magical ways. Once I understood that, it made everything easier for me. No more closing my door to block out interruptions and then beating myself up because I couldn’t come up with any innovative solutions.

              Many years ago I met an art student who was at one of the most prestigious schools. Each student was given a studio and expected to go into it, close the door, and invent. This guy just couldn’t do that. I related my experience (which was in a business environment rather than an art environment), he gook the quiz and found that he was an E also. He promptly abandoned the ‘isolated in his studio’ system and began to seek out external stimulation. He was a lot happier.

              One the other hand, I never really got what I was supposed to get out of attending classes. What I was looking for was stimulation…back to my E outlook on life. Then I wanted to retreat to an isolated spot and put it all together in an abstract model. Once I understood this, I also became less dissatisfied with college life. I knew how to deal with it…unless someone tried to make me behave in an unnatural way.

              Don Stewart

    • Jan Steinman says:

      I’m… rather reluctant about psychological theories, and particularly suspicious when it comes to categorize the people…

      I have a certain fascination with the topic, because it helps me understand people better. Even though I’m completely skeptical about astrology, I pay close attention when people self-identify with zodiac traits, since it helps me understand them better.

      I must say that the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) seems to me to be the most consistent and science-based of all the personality categorization schemes I’ve encountered. It is based on Jungian psychology.

      So why was I not surprised to look at the link you posted, and saw my type (INTJ) in the clear majority! I’ll bet the majority of us are the same.

      This brings up a disturbing thought: what if these problems with civilization and resource depletion are not, in fact, “real,” but merely a popular delusion among people with our personality type.

      Naw, doesn’t work for me. (The INTJ’s refrain: “Does it work?”) Show me the evidence. (Second most-heard INTJ phrase.)

  35. Fast Eddy, your “1600s” post is a good one, I tend to agree in general, but as I mentioned before there is enough momentum from the existing infrustructure (incl. gov) to “freewheel” for a couple decades more on coal, natgas, uranium etc. Mind you by that I mean that future taking place in much less oppulent overall society, i.e. completely gutted “middle class” with virtually no consumption above basal level, while uber top class still enjoying the technology leverages and leisures (air travel, healthcare, security, education, ..).

    Have you seen movie “Children of men” (scenes on youtube) that’s your VISUAL CLUE how most of the western world major cities will look like in say 25-30-40yrs, in other words, imagine latin america/south africa on steroids, i.e. gated communities via semi private armies-police, and public space streets resembling something between oriental bazaar and gazan street type of muck and poverty..

    Your scenario of throwing todays spoiled 5-10yrs kids of no trade knowledge and skills into the “1600s world” is very valid and nice way to put it, however, this stage is still some time into the future, after say 3-5x of more sequential series of straircase downward style crashes, my estimate no sooner than 2035-2065, your particular region milage may vary..

    • Jan Steinman says:

      my estimate no sooner than 2035-2065

      That’s the $64,000 question, no? If only we had perfect crystal balls, it would be a lot easier to plan!

      I’m guessing things may fall apart much sooner than that, although not as soon (“later this year”) as some on this blog.

      I still think Orlov’s Reinventing Collapse makes a lot of sense, and that we will see discrete steps (financial, commerce, government, social, cultural), each of which can serve as a warning to prepare for the next. Somehow, I find that comforting that we are unlikely to go from “business as usual” to “Mad Max” in “one fell swoop.”

    • Brunswickian says:

      The consistent message of Gail’s articles is that the finiteness of our world will soon manifest in the implosion of the financial system in Humpty Dumpty fashion. This precludes a gradual descent over a number of years, unfortunately.

      • Jan Steinman says:

        the implosion of the financial system… precludes a gradual descent over a number of years, unfortunately.

        I guess it depends on how you define “descent.”

        The Soviet Union’s financial system collapsed fairly suddenly, and many people died who might not have died otherwise, but there is still a Russia. This “stepwise” collapse seems possible, or even probable.

        Dmitry Orlov said that he didn’t really comprehend the impact of the Level-3 collapse there, until he (as a person on the far side of middle-aged) looked through his high school yearbook and found that about half the people in it were dead.

        Ugo Bardi notes that Italy’s petroleum consumption is down to 1965 levels… and yet, life seems to go on.

        Humanity won’t go out with a bang, but rather, with a whimper.

        • Brunswickian says:

          The issue is that as the financial system collapses so to does oil production and the extraction of lower quality ores etc. This time it is global without BAU elsewhere to give a leg up. The system will not be able to reboot.

          By all indications, it won’t be long (months) until defaults sweep through the system as Gail says.

          • Jan Steinman says:

            The issue is that as the financial system collapses so to does oil production


            I know it’s counter-intuitive, but as wildcatters go bankrupt, their assets won’t just sit there; they’ll be bought up by the Gordon Geckos of the world for pennies on the dollar, and continue pumping without interruption. In this manner, speculative investors can monetize the debt, no?

            The FSU is a case in point. During the fall, oil production went down, but has since gone up again. In this case, an entire government went down (Orlov Level-3 collapse), and yet Russia is currently the #2 or #3 producer.

            I’m not trying to be argumentative; it just seems like there’s a lot of assumptions in that statement.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              No energy > no economy > no wealth > no assets > no Wall St > no Gordon Geckos.

              This is not a downturn in the economy > this is not another Great Depression.

              This is The End of Civilization.

              There will be no jobs. There will be no wealth. There will be no food. There will be no ‘normal’

              There will be no recovery to anything beyond a brutal way of living.

              If we are not done in by radiation from spent fuel ponds then those who are still alive will be tearing at the remaining trees for firewood (already happening in Greece) — they will be killing every single living animal that remains for food. Based on history they will most certainly be eating each other.

              I used to think that the sheeple were the ones who did not ‘get it’ — they refuse to accept that the economy is collapsing because we peaked out on cheap oil.

              In many respects they do ‘get it’ much more so than many on this blog.

              Because they recognize that if the cause of this crisis is the end of cheap oil, they understand that it means they are almost certainly dead. In fact a number of people have indulged me on the peak oil thing and said exactly that.

              So no wonder they prefer to believe the recovery meme.

              On the other hand, we have people who understand that peak cheap oil is the problem yet fail to understand the dire implications. This is seen as some sort of wonderful challenge or adventure.

              Well — the adventure will begin with the electricity going off – permanently.

              The shops will empty. There will be no petrol. Soon there will be no police. No military to enforce martial law. No government. No aid agencies. No help whatsoever.

              You will be on your own in a world of darkness and chaos.

              You will have whatever food you have on hand and hunger and desperation will be everywhere.

              This is not an adventure.

              Sorry to say but this is going to be a nightmare. One unending, dreadful nightmare.

              Whatever the central banks have to do regardless of how harsh, no matter how damaging, they should do it. Because anything that keeps BAU rolling along is exponentially better than collapse.

            • Brunswickian says:

              So, what is your estimate of the cost of production per barrel when these new sharks move in? Gail has said the world really needs $20 oil or under to keep going and cannot afford even the $50-60 present cost. The marginal cost of a new barrel is $90+ and climbing while the old fields are depleting at 7%+

              Your assumptions of cheaper oil are unsubstantiated – cheap used capital equipment wouldn’t save much with ongoing production costs. The existing companies use ZIRP money to buy back shares not develop new fields. Again, this is all old news.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              So, what is your estimate of the cost of production per barrel when these new sharks move in? … Your assumptions of cheaper oil are unsubstantiated – cheap used capital equipment wouldn’t save much with ongoing production costs.

              Perhaps I’m wrong, but my understanding is that most of the cost is in the horizontal drilling and fracking, and then the production cost is comparable to conventional.

              If that’s the case, when a wildcatter goes bankrupt, a chop shop gets all their sunken assets for a song, and can then pump money out of the ground. What they’d be doing is buying the well’s cash flow, not its sunken cost.

              In this manner, the QE money that was created out of thin air to create the well “goes away” and it’s just a normal well.

              I’m not really in love with this theory; just playing devil’s advocate for a bit. These are not stupid people. They must have an angle when they buy sunken costs.

            • Brunswickian says:

              So all we need is an endless stream of bankrupt frackers and everything will be just peachy.


            • Jan Steinman says:

              So all we need is an endless stream of bankrupt frackers and everything will be just peachy.

              I’m not claiming things will be “peachy.” I’m just imagining how there could be a bumpy road down, rather than a cliff.

            • Gary says:

              @Jan Steinman

              … rather than a cliff.

              It sure seems like there are plenty of cheerleaders for the cliff scenario. Hmmm. I wonder why? Misanthropy?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              On the contrary, what I see are plenty of people grasping at any thin air trying to convince themselves that we will not go off a cliff.

              QE ZIRP money is being handed by the hundreds of billions to corporations to buy back stock to keep the stock market from collapsing.

              That cannot go on forever so what do you think happens when that stops? Do you see a slow crash or quick?

              And keep in mind, all the usual means of recovering from a collapsed stock market and recession have been used up — trillions of dollars of printing and other stimulus — interest rates are already at zero.

              The collapse, when it comes, will be lightening fast. It will be like nothing ever seen. It will be akin to an atomic bomb exploding the global economy.

              Surely the fact that the central banks are doing everything no matter how seemingly insane, to delay this bomb is evidence that they fear something very bad?

              Think about it.

            • Gary says:

              @Fast Eddy

              … [the central bankers] fear something very bad?

              That’s a very plausible thesis. The antithesis is that they have genuine faith/hope in the system and the BAU model. I’m not prepared to do a psychoanalysis of the Fed in terms of what they believe in, what they fear, cognitive dissonance, motivated reasoning/confirmation bias, reality-denial, etc. If you have received epistemic closure http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemic_closure that’s good for you. I tend to not have made up my mind “on the basis of reliabilist accounts of knowledge” about an obscure future.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              It sure seems like there are plenty of cheerleaders for the cliff scenario.

              Y’know, I’m cheering for a crash, too. I’d hate our legacy to be turing Earth into Venus.

              And yet, I have just a bit in common with the “tech salvation” crowd. Naw, I don’t think tech will “save” us, but I fear us clever, hairless monkeys who pretty much lack a facility for long-term planning just might figure out how to move most of the oil in the ground into the atmosphere. And we’ll use most of it, not in building wind turbines and solar panels, but taking kids to soccer practice and vacations in Aruba.

              Because we’re wired for immediate gain, not for long-term planning.

            • Stefeun says:

              “If you think that technology will solve your (security) problems, then it’s clear that you don’t understand neither your problems, nor the technology”
              – Bruce Schneier –

              NB: it’s an approximative quote (one can dig into https://www.schneier.com/books/secrets_and_lies/pref.html for more accurate) that I found in a 2011 presentation (in Spanish) by Carlos de Castro, who also seems to promote a voluntary collapse ASAP (albeit not in this presentation; I nevertheless give the link if someone wants to have a look: https://cursolimitescrecimiento.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/lc3admites-biofc3adsicos-ccc_ppt.pdf )

            • Brunswickian says:

              A bumpy road down would be just peachy in comparison to collapse. Unfortunately, our system is geared to endless growth and simply cannot scale down for reasons already discussed in numerous articles here.

            • garand555 says:


              I know it’s counter-intuitive, but as wildcatters go bankrupt, their assets won’t just sit there; they’ll be bought up by the Gordon Geckos of the world for pennies on the dollar, and continue pumping without interruption. In this manner, speculative investors can monetize the debt, no?”

              As it stands, the US has no alternative to the dollar. Once the dollar goes away, and all fiat currencies eventually do, we’ve just lost a huge chunk of our imported oil. As for the fracking, the estimates that I saw were that it would peak around 2021 or 2022. That was all assuming that there was no financial crunch. As it stands, the oil and gas industry is facing a financial crunch, and it has taken half or thereabout of its drilling rigs offline. This is in an industry that had to sell junk bonds to do business when oil was $90-$100/bbl. The depletion rate of these wells is 50%-70% for the first year, which means that the frackers are going to need to drill like mad to keep production up, and they’re already slowing down due to economics. Raise the price of oil high enough to justify drill baby drill, and the rest of the population won’t be able to afford it. Keep the prices low and drill baby drill is unaffordable. The point here is that the assets that matter are either expensive to run (the drilling rigs,) or they lose value very quickly (the wells.)

              A bumpy road down would be convincing people to go into small scale farming on the local level, and reducing fossil fuel use. As you can see, that’s not happening on a wide enough scale, so I expect a sudden systemic shock that locks up the financial system and breaks supply chains. Either in the next year or two, or should the central bankers pull a solution out of thin air to the next downturn, in the next 7 to 10 years. I don’t see this as the way things must happen, I see things happening this way because those who are calling the shots are refusing to deal with the reality of resource shortages and the current system is going to go on until it breaks.

            • Fast Eddy says:


              The PTB need to be very careful — if the panic the sheeple with a change of course other than full speed ahead the system breaks quickly.

              The sheeple must believe green shoots are imminent. If they get a whiff of what is coming it will come that much faster

        • Fast Eddy says:

          This is an entirely different ball game Jan.

          Russia collapsed as have many countries — in fact all of Europe was collapsed post WW2.

          The difference here is that the entire world is going to collapse – forever.

          Because the cheap energy that built the world – and rebuilt Russia and post WW2 Europe — will be no more.

          Quite literally we are going back to a world where the only energy available will be the burning of forests.

          With 7 billion along for that ride.

        • Bandits says:

          Jan when Russia collapsed it was not the world. Russia still traded, it was not under a dome. Can you imagine what Russia would be like now if in fact the country was completely isolated. Since the time Russia collapsed the population of the world has increased by well over a billion people. The ecological and environmental damage that has occurred, is occurring and will occur is indescribable. As Gail repeatedly points out (seemingly to deaf ears) the whole world is now fully interconnected and mutually dependant…….the eggs can never be unscrambled.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            There is a lot of wishful thinking happening on this blog…

            I was at one of my siblings recently and they were watching some sort of end of world show and post collapse the people were all dressed in crisp new polo shirts and chinos – they all were well groomed — they looked like preppie college kids.

            I had a chuckle and made the comment that it was pretty amazing that the world had collapsed and everyone is so fashionable!

            The rejoinder was that there would be a lot of nice clothes still in the shops for quite some time after the collapse

            And I am thinking, yep I am sure there would be, and the washing machines would still be working, plenty of Tide at the Walmart, the water and sewage systems would be functioning etc etc etc…

            Could it be that programmes like these are PR to prepare the sheeple for collapse? If they see that the post-collapse world ain’t so bad then they go to the gallows with no trepidation.

            In a parallel universe we also have people like Chris Martenson flogging prepper advice. And there is no end to financial advisers willing to set up portfolios that survive and thrive in a collapse scenario.

            I guess everyone needs a hopium pipe. The don’t want to hear the truth. And they will reject it vehemently.

            Think about what happens when the electricity goes off – forever.

            Because that is how it will start.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I absolutely agree. The financial system is the backbone — when it snaps the global economy will be paralyzed.

        Trade will stop. Crops will wilt in the fields. The grocery stores and shops will empty. Jobs will be shed by the hundreds of millions. The world will stop.

        And this will happen in about the same time it took for the world to seize up when Lehman went down. If that had not been dealt with by the central banks we would not be here now.

        The central banks have done all they can to fend off another 2008 moment — when it does come – they will be powerless.

        • Edward Kitto says:

          Gail herself has said that maybe there is a higher power that will pull us out of the mire. In effect, you are merely fleshing out what is implicit in what she says.

          It is NOT a feelgood message and all but a few will react like a junkie would if you stole their stash.

      • garand555 says:

        Actually, you could argue that we’ve been in a state of collapse for 15+ years. This is a process that will be punctuated by events. Look at the employment:population ratio, the increasing reliance on credit, the wars, the corruption, the financialization of everything, etc… They all point to the idea that the system began its breakdown around ~2000, and it is just taking us this long to realize it. Even in our digital jet setting age, collapses don’t happen overnight. Perhaps some final event will happen overnight, but this has been in the cards for quite some time.

        • Jan Steinman says:

          This is a process that will be punctuated by events.


          I see a combination of strategy and tactics. Be able to get through the events, while preparing to live at a lower energy level. A lot of people only do one or the other.

          • kesar says:

            I am trying both. Not an easy task.

            • garand555 says:

              No, its not. One thing that I like to tell people who consider themselves preppers: Grow your preps yourself and save your own seed, so that you don’t have to learn how to do it if you all of a sudden need your preps. Food buckets from Wally World eventually run out, and if whatever crisis hasn’t abated by that point, what then?

            • kesar0 says:

              you clearly categorized me somehow. And it was based on what?
              I’m quite sure I didn’t mention anything about my way of life on this blog.
              Just curious…

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Yes what then.

              I ask myself that on a regular basis. What happens when I run out of the things I need… (given the remote chance that I am still alive post collapse)

              And as a result I have become a serial hoarder — I can’t pass ‘Wally World’ without pulling in and running up considerable bills on extra shovels, clothing and other gear that I won’t be able to get post collapse.

              They manager at the wholesale food warehouse where I buy bulk food keeps saying when I roll out of there with piles of canned foods and other stuff ‘business must be going really well’ To which I reply ‘yep, it’s pretty darn good’

              The problem is, if we are not wiped out, I do not see things getting any better in my lifetime. We are not suddenly going to emerge from the rubble of a destroyed civilization and return to some sort of normal lives.

              We won’t be able to rebuild because we will not have the means to – there will be no energy to rebuild. At best we will be scavenging the detritus of BAU.

              So no matter what, no matter how much one prepares one is going to run out of things that soften the enormous blow of unplugging from BAU.

              I look to the few remaining remote subsistence cultures of the world — life for them is harsh — and they were born into that lifestyle. They know how to live like that… they know nothing else.

              I do not look forward to living like that. I do not know how to live like that. I do not want to live like that.

              The thought of the grid going down and the nightmare beginning is haunting.

              Now off to Wally World I go. The flyer indicates there’s a sale on garden tools… and I need more shovels.

            • garand555 says:

              Just a coincidence. I like to grow and preserve my own food myself too. There are going to be a lot of us on here like that. We’re a self selecting group;)

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I wonder if the collapse started even earlier – at the time that the US hit peak oil…

          The market price of oil remained low until around 2000 — however the actual cost increased because the cost of military adventures to secure oil had to be factored in.

          So the real cost of a barrel of oil was climbing and that would have impacted growth.

          Debt was the first tool in the box reached for in an effort to offset this drag on growth. That tool had to be used more and more as increasing real costs of energy had to be offset by doubling down… consumers were encouraged to pile on enormous amounts of debt … and we saw things like Liar Loans and sub-prime….

          Eventually that came undone in 2008 and the next phase holding off collapse involved QE and ZIRP…

          I do not think there are any tools in the box (although I’d like to be wrong) — when these two stop working I think we will be in the acute phase of collapse.

          And when it happens, it will happen fast. When you start monetizing everything with printed money you create a completely false economy and financial system — at some point that vapourizes and we get a global Weimar Germany.

          When confidence goes things fall apart very, very quickly.

          There is no such thing as a perpetual economic motion machine. The financial community seems to believe that the central banks’ money printing machines are omnipotent (don’t fight the Fed…)

          They of course are no such thing. And we are going to find that out at some point.

          The trillion dollar question is what is the trigger that breaks the bank — and takes down BAU.

  36. Adam says:

    Shell’s Arctic voyage marks beginning of peak oil era

    Anglo-Dutch company’s search for resources in the Arctic is a sign that the world is running out of options for new oil reserves


  37. edpell says:

    We have lost Gail to the sun and sand and easy going lifestyle of Cuba. Gail, think back to those Star Trek episodes where Kirk gives the speech about how we are not meant for paradise, that we are meant to claw our way upward.

  38. The Human Extinction Survey is now UP on the Diner Blog!

    Your opportunity here to weigh in on this most important question of our time.

    Results will be published after sufficient records have been accumulated.


  39. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    I would like to quote from the first paragraph of the Preface to The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision. I think the quote will bring some critical issues into focus, as well as some issues which divide us but don’t amount to much.

    ‘As the twenty-first century unfolds, it is becoming more and more evident that the major problems of our time–energy, the environment, climate change, food security, financial security–cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are all interconnected and interdependent. Ultimately, these problems must be seen as just different facets of one single crisis, which is largely a crisis of perception. It derives from the fact that most people in our modern society, and especially our large social institutions, subscribe to the concepts of an outdated world view, a perception of reality inadequate for dealing with our overpopulated, globally interconnected world.’

    And, after pointing out the key contribution of Galileo in mathematizing science, the authors quote R.D. Laing:
    ‘Galileo’s program offers us a dead world. Out go sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell, and along with them have since gone esthetic and ethical sensibility, values, quality, soul, consciousness, spirit. Experience as such is cast out of the realm of scientific discourse. Hardly anything has changed our world more during the past four hundred years than Galileo’s audacious program. We had to destroy the world in theory before we could destroy it in practice.’

    The authors trace the oscillations between reductionism and wholism, the ‘perception’ that Capra and Luisi identify as our fundamental problem in the first paragraph.. Reductionism reached its apogee in Descartes’ notions about atoms and causation, such that if we knew the location, direction, and velocity of every atom we could predict the future of the universe. We are still trying to recover our humanity, after that colossal mistake.

    And Capra and Luisi’s third paragraph:
    ‘Over the past thirty years it has become clear that a full understanding of these issues requires nothing less than a radically new conception of life. And indeed, such a new understanding of life is now emerging. At the forefront of contemporary science, we no longer see the universe as a machine composed of elementary building blocks. We have discovered that the material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships; that the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system. The view of the human body as a machine and of the mind as a separate entity is being replaced by one that sees not only the brain, but also the immune system, the bodily tissues, and even each cell as a living, cognitive system. Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as a cooperative dance in which creativity and the constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces. And with the new emphasis on complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, a new science of qualities is slowly emerging.’

    The trivial matters occur when someone identifies ‘peak oil’ as a problem, only to be criticized by the camp that thinks that ‘peak finance’ is the problem, and the climate change people who focus on their issue. Some of us even worry about our downward spiral in terms of chronic disease, and the closely related problems of soil erosion and industrial food production. Only to be criticized by those who think there is nothing more important than monthly oil production reports. And, of course, some see everything through the lens of over-population. All this sniping at each other is only marginally illuminating, and generally just reveals some of the nasty personality traits of the participants.

    Very few people (that I know) are beginning from the overarching problem of the ‘perception of reality’. For that reason alone, I recommend Capra and Luisi’s book to you. It is pointless to talk about gardening if the person you are talking to is convinced that GDP is something real which is of great importance. It is pointless to quote Nate Hagens (humans use fossil fuels to make things which they believe will activate their hormones and neurotransmitters) to the person who is absolutely convinced that civilization depends on burning fossil fuels, and believes that Moses came down from the mountain with a command to burn them as rapidly as possible.

    Because almost everyone is looking at the problems with a ‘silo mindset’, and even those who subscribe to a Limits To Growth analysis are equating ‘more stuff’ with ‘better quality of life’, most all of the discussions are either boring or infuriating.

    I’m not arguing that looking at particular issues, and the general crisis that we find ourselves in as BAU falters, is a waste of time. But we need to pretty quickly digest the message that BAU is no longer possible, is, in the words of Herman Daly, now causing us more grief than it is worth, and move on to an adult discussion of quality of life and how the world really works.

    Don Stewart

    • Gary says:

      @Don Stewart

      But we need to pretty quickly digest the message that BAU is no longer possible, is, in the words of Herman Daly, now causing us more grief than it is worth, and move on to an adult discussion of quality of life and how the world really works.

      Kudos for the posts from The Systems View of Life! Bravo. Thanks!!

    • Stefeun says:

      Excellent, Don, thank you.
      Unfortunately this dualistic view (physical Vs spiritual) and the process of specialization/complexification have been most efficient at empowering us. Not participating to this race is a sentence of death, unless living in a very isolated area.
      However, it’s a good thing that some of us grasp this fundamental flaw and try to do something before the collapse.

      Talking about hopeful people, I just read parts of Jason Godeski’s “Thirty Theses”, written in 2006, in which I found lots of very worthwhile insights. Of course, it would deserve some updates and maybe corrections, and one cannot agree on all expressed opinions, but as a whole I found it a very good read, condensed and pleasant:

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Stefeun
        You might like to take a look at this interview which summarizes one man’s view of recent research on ancient civilizations:


        This overturns many of the beliefs that a lot of people have about it. For example, that the big monuments were built by slaves.

        Don Stewart

        • Stefeun says:

          Thanks Don,
          always interesting to debunk false ideas.
          This one is easily understandable, though, because it’s in the interest of our elites to make us believe that our contemporary servitude is a big improvement compared to that of ancient times, while in reality it isn’t. By many metrics, we’re even much more slaves than our ancestors, and it is not improving over time.

  40. Kulm says:

    If about 90% of the world’s population die tomorrow morning,

    The world economy will contract by –

    maybe 3%.

    As long as the 10% highest percentile survives, the world economy will go on without a noise.
    On 1914, there were only 1.6 billion people, and only 400 million ‘civilized’ ones (People of European stock plus the Japanese).
    The world just went along fine.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Ya but do you remember what happened to the elites in the movie Elysium?

      • Kulm says:

        That is just a movie.

        Reality is different.

        The guy who directed it came from South Africa.

        The Pistorius case shows that the Wealthy of South Africa is doing quite fine even now.

        • Bandits says:

          Reality is that the elite get the chop in the end. A scapegoat is always required. The Emperors of Rome, the Tsar, The Storming of The Bastille, The Kaiser, Shoguns, Gadhafi, Idi Amin. Similar to that which is occurring in The ME, each installed new leader lives on borrowed time, there are no new lands to conquer to increase resources……. the time eventually arrives, when there is a perception (not even the actual realization) of nothing left to lose, that is when the uprisings begin in earnest.

          I suspect the first signs will be people moving (those that can). They will be moving to where they perceive there is abetter life, where they think there is work, where they think the government can help. When all their hopes and aspirations are ruthlessly dealt with, that’s when a movie star or worthless celebrity will get pulled from their ostentatious vehicle or mansion, when a crowd descends on a lavish hotel or resort, when essentials not affordable, or extravagance not achievable is simply taken or destroyed in an exclamation of vindictiveness……..after all we are all human….aren’t we.

          The wealthy and ultra rich exist because the government protects them. Governments enforce the law, they incarcerate undesirables, they maintain roads and bridges, subsidize energy and agriculture. When the government begins to cut pay, fail to pay or pay late, the people that protect them, even blind Freddy, will understand that’s it’s time to remove the armband of authority and get out of Dodge.

          • Kulm says:

            Not England. Sure some nobles lost their heads. But not the “Core” of England which is still going strong and will do so until the end of time, although they do show some signs of getting a bit darker.

          • Kulm says:

            Also, the descendants of the people named above, if they managed to survive the initial onslaught, do pretty well.

            Stalin’s descendants are treated as nobles in both Georgia and England, and Marcos(Philippines) family is doing pretty well also. Idi Amin’s descendants are richer than 99% of fellow Ugandans.

            If you reached the top you tend to marry your kids to the best of the country, and even if you lose power such relationships tend to stay.

            • bandits101 says:

              Klum you are nothing short of a troll. The Earls, Dukes, Barons etc are gone. The Kings and Queens of England are not rulers in any shape or form. They exist at the whim of the government. The Stalin example is as stupid as you are, show me a link as to where they are treated as nobles.

            • richard says:

              Read up on “The City of London”
              They financed the British Empire. They _owned_ all the colonies (and possibly still do).

          • kesar says:

            Exactly. When the masses are tired of being cold and hungry they find a new ideology and the new political elite emerges moving or killing the previous one. When the Hobbes’s Leviathan is weak all the hell powers breaks loose. This is the history lesson.
            Ayn Rand BS idea of the elite being self-sustainable and controlling everything is totally non-coherent.

            • Kulm says:

              But after the dust settles, the old boys (or at least their chief minions) are back to power.

              It always works like that.


              Britian’s powerful still control quite a huge chunk of the world. Just search.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      As long as the 10% highest percentile survives, the world economy will go on without a noise.

      Huh? Who will build the Ferraris? Who will maintain the golf courses? Who will clean the toilets? Who will grow the food?

      Gandhi noted that “100,000 Englishmen simply cannot control 350 million Indians.” And India was eventually liberated. If the sheeple would wake up, they could do the same.

      I’m not exactly holding my breath for that one, but it still stands that ’tis an unsuccessful parasite that kills its host.

      • Kulm says:

        Although Gandhi did play a great role prolonging the English domination and let his crony Nehru and his family mess up India, all the way to now.

        • bandits101 says:

          You went from the elites surviving to their descendants surviving. Are you for real, do you think every ancestral line gets obliterated. Richard there is no reply button for your nonsense but “possibly” conveys all you have to say.

  41. urbangdl says:

    Ok one more say, I believe we have chances of doing better, but most are freaking out because the comfort we grew up with will be gone and we are like babies whining when Dady doesn’t give me what I want, take away someones mobile or someone’s car or anything else superfluous and they all go “No this is unthinkable how can I live without a computer, without electricity”. And we keep wasting precious resources on countless vanalities, yet we forget that we have acomplish a lot of things in almost 6 thousand years of history long before we discovered fossil fules, our ancestors were able to discover the rest of the world without engines, without gps, without fridges, using wood, wind and our intelligence, we certainly can’t get more people in this finite world but panicking won’t help and we can all stop whining about loosing our comfy way of life and move on! We will loose the life we know cause we wasted the gifts given to us. Period

  42. Kulm says:

    Now deep thinking is going to take place. Artificial intelligence will grow by leaps and bounds.

    North Korea is working at Nuclear Fusion. This Stalinist country does not have to worry about NGOs, budgets, lawsuits and other modern goodies.

    Heavens forbid if NK perfects NF. The world will kneel to the Fat Dude of NK.

    Traditional techs did hit a dead end but the world is changing rapidly, something not too many people paying attention to.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      “North Korea is working at Nuclear Fusion.”

      And I’ve got some old oil barrels in my garage in which I am experimenting on creating the energy source that will be next to free and unlimited.

      Anyone interested to get in on the ground floor, let me know and I will get you my bank account – I am selling shares for $10,000 each. I guarantee you this is the greatest opportunity in the history of the world. You will be driving a Tesla in no time!

      What you are posting is utter nonsense – surely you must know that.

  43. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    There has been much handwringing and gnashing of teeth here recently…everything is hopeless and we are all destined to live short, miserable lives.

    A few sketchy ideas about why that may not necessarily be true.

    *I see in the new issue of Permaculture Design magazine a review of Richard Heinberg’s new book Afterburn. One of the chapters describes a sort of Anarchist Revolt in Madagascar. The people keep the government out, and pay no taxes. They are doing pretty well. If people in Madagascar can do it, why can’t the rest of us overeducated people?

    *I just received my copy of Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi’s book The Systems View of Life. The end of the Newtonian mechanistic universe, replaced by a wholistic universe where everything is connected to everything else. I scan the ‘healthcare’ section, and find that they define health as the ability of the body to react to changes in the environment and heal itself (in the context of the chronic diseases which are 85 percent our our healthcare expenditures).

    And reading David Perlmutter, MD’s new book Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain For Life (Also applicable to diseases which are not primarily about the brain, such as many autoimmune diseases and cardiovascular disease and cancer). It turns out that a healthy micro biome is the key to much of health. Just as a healthy micro biome is the key to soil fertility and plant health. Just as the farmer needs to feed the micro biome, humans need to feed the gut microbes. So the guys here throwing rocks at ‘organic apples’ are the ones without a clue. Kelly McGonigal has identified those guys as the ones who will curl up and die…relieving the pressure of overpopulation.

    To quote from Capra and Luisi’s Preface:
    ‘There ARE solutions to the major problems of our time; some of them are even simple. But they require a radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking, our values…We have discovered that the material world, ultimately, is a network of inseparable patterns of relationships; that the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system. The view of the human body as a machine and of the mind as a separate entity is being replaced by one that sees not only the brain, but also the immune system, the bodily tissues, and even each cell as a living, cognitive system.’

    My conclusion. The litmus test is whether a person or group of people or nation is able to think radically to accept simple solutions. If they are not able to think radically and accept simple solutions, then one must strive diligently to separate from them so that they do not take you down with them….emulate the peasants in Madagascar.

    Don Stewart

    • Jan Steinman says:

      The litmus test is whether a person or group of people or nation is able to think radically to accept simple solutions. If they are not able to think radically and accept simple solutions, then one must strive diligently to separate from them so that they do not take you down with them.

      Worth repeating, and goes into my quotes database!

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Quick question: does Madagascar still have oil and electricity? Do they have grocery stores? Do they have a functioning government? What about a police force? Do they still trade with other countries? Do they have a functional banking system?

      If they do then pointing to this as a model for post collapse is not relevant.

      ‘The Road’ is a better model to point people to. The Rwandan civil war is a real life example of what is coming.

      In fact since most wars are fought over scarce resources – and resources are going to get mighty scarce when we no oil and 7 billion people chasing what’s left – expect plenty of violence post collapse

      • Don Stewart says:

        Fast Eddy
        Here are the relevant paragraphs from pages 125-6 in Heinberg:

        ‘Anthropologist David Graeber argues that the failure of centralized government institutions can open the way for democratic self-organization; as evidence, he cites his own experience doing doctoral research in Madagascar villages where the state had ceased collecting taxes and providing police protection. Collecting revenues and enforcing laws are the most basic government functions; thus these communities were effectively left to govern and provide for themselves. According to Graeber, they did surprisingly well. ‘The people had come up with ingenious expedients of how to deal with the fact that there was still technically a government, it was just really far away. Part of the idea was never to put the authorities in a situation where they lost face, or where they had to prove that they were in charge. They were incredibly nice to government officials if they didn’t try to exercise power, and made things as difficult as possible if they did. The course of least resistance was for the authorities to go along with the charade.’

        Then follows a somewhat similar description of self-organized groups in Brazil.

        Heinberg’s book is reviewed in Permaculture Design magazine. Peter Bane describes his futile 3 year struggle with Monroe County, Indiana:

        ‘We have struggled with local officials in Monroe County Indiana to demonstrate the viability of micro farming in the urban fringe, and with it the need for home enterprise based on greenhouses, workshops, and food storage. These old-fashioned ideas and forms of solar economy went out of vogue 80 years ago, and disappeared during my 1950s childhood; their resurrection is essential to a secure and democratic future. They were banished to the hinterlands by a monoculture of human settlement: auto centric grid streets, just-in-time global deliveries of food and furnishings, and a commuting life scarcely stitched together by billions of two-way radio signals. These obviously insane practices rest on a foundation of laws, regulations, attitudes, and miles and miles of pavement. These are backed by force of arms and land rape that extracts fuels, ores, and calories.’

        In short, you have to get rid of the government if you hope to survive. Some people in Madagascar and Brazil have given us a glimmer of hope. Peter Bane has given up on Indiana, and is establishing a farm in Michigan.

        Don Stewart

        • Fast Eddy says:

          None of your examples are of collapsed societies. They are all plugged into BAU.

          They are not relevant.

          There is not a society on the planet that has completely collapsed. Afghanistan after the Russians was still plugged in – Haiti is still plugged in — Somalia is still plugged in – North Korea is still plugged in

          But if you wan to provide an example of what a post collapse world looks like then you might want to start with one of these countries as the basis for your thesis.

          Utter poverty and destitution are the norm. Malnutrition and often starvation visit frequently. Diseases are endemic and medical care rudimentary.

          And remember, these countries are still plugged in — they receive aid from the global community – doctors visit, food is flown in during famines. They have electricity and diesel at least in some areas some of the time

          Now imagine what would happen if you totally unplugged a country. A place like Haiti would look like paradise by comparison.

          That’s what collapse is going to look like everywhere. There will be no lifeboats or islands.

          There will be horrific, grinding poverty and suffering.

        • Artleads says:

          Talking about counties, this brief note looks at how county governments *strategically* ruin the environment, and at one simple, *strategic* way to prevent this:

          “Cluster Development

          The flow of county government goes toward covering all the land with sprawl. The Californication of the landscape is the way things are done. Where rural land is available, there must be sprawl. The rural landscape can’t complain. And it’s cheap, flat, and served by major arteries paid for by taxpayers. What’s not to like about that?

          But there’s hope. The term for it is “clustering.” Clustering is when you aggregate rural-size lots and cluster all the buildings they are zoned for in one central area . The pathetic justification for this is that it “preserves rural character.” A hearty joke! And mind you don’t laugh so hard that you cry! The dense, hard, uniform, sterile buildings along the roadway are suburban at best; anything but rural in character and essence. And their new owners also expect every kind of suburban or urban amenity, thus prefiguring annexation by the nearby city.

          But whether promoted by the county or the city, sprawl pays taxes. No matter that promoting sprawl to pay taxes is like a dog chasing its tail, and that sprawl costs taxpayers more over all in order to service it.

          Why is “clustering” such a pernicious if effective ploy? On the surface, it is intuitive: it leaves more uninterrupted open space in proportion to houses built. But it omits one important fact. It is a tool to facilitate inappropriate development. Developers can get financing to build hundreds or thousands of houses all at once that, without clustering, would be built incrementally, if at all, by private property owners on dispersed lots.

          Does New Mexico need a massive, chaotic influx of new residents spread all over our land of enchantment? This is the flow or inertia of our current situation. But that only can happen through cluster development. If we don’t build it, however, they won’t come.”

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear Artleads
            My wife and I are approaching our 50th Anniversary. When my kids asked me where we wanted to go, I finally decided Silver City, NM, because that is where we began. My wife had never been west of Philadelphia (or east of the Connecticut River), so I decided to take her down to meet her new mother-in-law, and to get acquainted with the real west…not Philadelphia.

            We were driving up to the Gila Cliff Dwellings in early spring. We hadn’t seen a car in many miles. We came around a bend and I hit a rock with both the front left and rear left wheels. Both wheels were damaged, and would not hold air, and I had one spare tire. So I get out and look and try to figure out what to do next. It so happens that the rangers in the Forest at that time worked one week on and one week off. I happened to hit that rock just at the time one ranger went on duty and the other came off duty. They met at my car. One had a big hammer, with which we hammered the rim of the least damaged wheel until it managed to hold air. The other ranger had one of those air pumps which screw into the hole where a spark plug goes. And we aired up the other tire.

            I figure a good project for us to go back and look at the scene of our miraculous rescue.

            But I understand exactly what you are saying about the sprawl. I was in Colorado Springs more than 50 years ago. I think the population was 35,000. There was nothing west of Pikes Peak. I returned about 40 years later and found that there were ‘ranchettes’ scattered everywhere. It wasn’t urban, it wasn’t rural, it was just nothing. Very sad.

            Don Stewart

          • garand555 says:

            “Does New Mexico need a massive, chaotic influx of new residents spread all over our land of enchantment? This is the flow or inertia of our current situation. But that only can happen through cluster development. If we don’t build it, however, they won’t come.””

            Uggh, no we don’t. We’re a desert. We shouldn’t be conserving water so that more people can move in so that we can conserve more water.

    • interguru says:

      ‘There ARE solutions to the major problems of our time; some of them are even simple. But they require a radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking, our values

      Ain’t gonna happen. Never happened before until after catastrophe struck. We can’t even agree on the reality of climate change, let alone do anything significant about it.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear interguru

        Which is why we need to build lifeboats.

        One reason for optimism in terms of lifeboats is that moderately intelligent people can see that it isn’t working. When nearly half the middle aged women in the US are being medicated for depression, something is clearly wrong. When autism rates climb by 600 percent, something is clearly wrong. When GDP goes up, but all of the increase goes to the uber-rich, something is clearly wrong. When Obama proposes the TPP with the purpose of increasing the strangleholds of Big Pharma and Hollywood, something is clearly wrong.

        So Steven Spielberg’s advice to ‘find the others’ makes sense. And after you have found them, ‘build a lifeboat’.

        Don Stewart

        • Jan Steinman says:

          after you have found them, ‘build a lifeboat’.

          But keep in mind, the deck is stacked against you.

          I’m not big into conspiracy theories, but despite lip-service about supporting “sustainability” or “resilience,” there appears to be systemic resistance to such things, from zoning regulations, to building codes, to food safety regulations, lack of access to capital… and on and on.

          Want to “build a lifeboat?” Try spending some time actually on one, first.

          • Don Stewart says:

            My Lifeboat story may be instructive. I agree with everything anyone says about the hostility of TPTB. You have to figure out a way to survive. I won’t bore you with tales of my clashes with local governments.

            About 2005 I became convinced that collapse was imminent. While I was officially retired, I sought part time work at a small farm which I could reach on a bicycle. I bought one share in a CSA and worked for one share. Meanwhile, I began to systematically improve my small residential lot in terms of food production. I also found a plot in a community garden 2 miles from my house. Between the CSA, work at the farm, the community garden, and harvests from my own yard, I was getting an amazing amount of food.

            In 2014 I turned 72, and working at the farm was no longer fun. While I had thoroughly enjoyed working with kids 50 years younger than me, I just couldn’t do the stoop labor gracefully any more. So I gave up the farm. I still have the community garden, and the productivity from my yard has multiplied several times.

            Now I am 74. I don’t do the season extension that I once did, but I still get a 9 months harvest. I still continue to make incremental improvements. (This has been the year of hog-wire and vertical gardening). I figure I am set to about the age of 80.

            If civilization collapsed tomorrow, I would probably die. I don’t grow enough calorie crops to feed my wife and myself. If the government gave us a ration of staples, we would do fine with leafy greens from the garden. And I would go back to preserving more of the harvest rather than just eat things as nature provides. I would again practice more fermentation.

            My plan back in 2005 was to assemble a group of local people who cared about me, and who I was bound to through ties of mutual favors. I succeeded in building that group. I wouldn’t have starved in 2009 if the government had collapsed. Now, with my age advancing, that network is dissolving. But I have lived at least 10 years longer in excellent health than I ever expected to live. So I have no complaints. My wife says we are going to die of sexual exhaustion at the age of 103 for me and 100 for her…so we still have goals and aspirations.

            At the present time, my Lifeboat is highly nutritious food grown outside my door, with some supplements coming from 2 miles away. I don’t pretend I can grow calorie crops on my small lot. I do have some solar cooking skills and equipment.

            But life has been good, and I can’t complain.

            Don Stewart

        • tmsr says:

          Don, great distillation of the situation.

  44. auntie says:

    “simply stunning..

    Most are not stunned. People want to believe that if you work hard you get money. They equivocate their time and labor with money and along with that equitation comes the belief that interest should be paid if another is allowed to use that capital. The federal reserve buying treasuries both openly and secretly is equivalent to counterfeiting. No one wants to make the loan so they make it to themselves. Those honest enough to admit that no free markets exist still point fingers at “the good old boys” after all their possessions and capital is beyond reproach “earned”. On the other side those with no or little possessions seem to have little to no interest that the drunk has been denied credit at the bar and has started counterfeiting notes. In this case the finger pointing is not to legitimize their possessions but to establish a framework for their righteous indignation that the elite are responsible for their lack of possessions. The frameworks share one thing. Created boogymen allow continuation of unsustainable consumption while still allowing self perception as benevolent.

    No most are not stunned. This clearly falls under either finger pointing or ‘whatever”

    “Hm, perhaps there is still time to hack up some hair brain relocation plan.”
    Signal alien spacecraft. Thats my plan. They say our thoughts smell bad so Im hoping they have a ventilated kennel.

    Good link old news but well presented

  45. Fast Eddy says:

    Rule of Thumb – the government lies – trust no statistic put out by the government – assume all statistics are significantly worse than you are told:

    Over the last 5 years, over 20% of the initial gains in Retail Sales have been ‘removed’ by serial downward revisions in later months.

    For over 65% of the time, a ‘good’ number prints, stocks rally, the everything-is-awesome meme is confirmed, and then a month later (or more) retail sales data is downwardly revised.


  46. edpell says:

    Gail seems to be enjoying the beaches of Cuba. I wonder if she has run into Paul and they are talking collapse while watching the tide roll in.

    On the serious side I hope Gail is able to talk with Cubans about thinking before they jump on the hydrocarbon hayride.

  47. The new COLLAPSE LIBRARY is now UP on the Diner Blog!

    If you want to make a contribution to the ATAVACHRON, click the link for instructions on how to do it.


    • kesar says:

      I don’t know how but “doomstead diner” looks great from mobile phone. Congratulations, RE. Much better than the PC browser layout and graphics. Great site, btw. I visit a lot.

  48. edpell says:

    Great talk on cognitive divisions in society by Gilad Atzmon. He would say we have structure US society in a way that leaves no place for the average.

Comments are closed.