Cuba: Figuring Out Pieces of the Puzzle (Full Text)

Cuba is an unusual country for quite a few reasons:

  • The United States has had an embargo against Cuba since 1960, but there has recently been an announcement that the US will begin to normalize diplomatic relations.
  • The leader of Cuba between 1959 and 2008 was Fidel Castro. Fidel Castro is a controversial figure, with some viewing him as a dictator who nationalized property of foreign citizens without compensation. Citizens of Cuba seem to view him as more of as a Robin Hood figure, who helped the poor by bringing healthcare and education to all, equalizing wages, and building many concrete block homes for people who had only lived in shacks previously.
  • If we compare Cuba to its nearest neighbors Haiti and Dominican Republic (both were also former sugar growing colonies of European countries), we find that Cuba is doing substantially better than the other two. In per capita CPI in Purchasing Power Parity, in 2011, Cuba’s average was $18,796, while Haiti’s was $1,578, and the Dominican Republic’s was $11,263. In terms of the Human Development Index (which measures such things as life expectancy and literacy), in 2013, Cuba received a rating of .815, which is considered “very high”. Dominican Republic received a rating of .700, which is considered “High.” Haiti received a rating of .471, which is considered “Low.”
  • Cuba is known for its permaculture programs (a form of organic gardening), which helped increase Cuba’s production of fruit and vegetables in the 1990s and early 2000s.
  • In spite of all of these apparently good outcomes of Cuba’s experimentation with equal sharing of wealth, in recent years Cuba seems to be moving away from the planned economy model. Instead, it is moving to more of a “mixed economy,” with more entrepreneurship encouraged.
  • Since 1993, Cuba has had a two currency system. The goods that the common people could buy were in one set of stores, and were traded in one currency. Other goods were internationally traded, or were available to foreigners visiting Cuba. They traded in another currency. This system is being phased out. Goods are now being marked in both currencies and limitations on where Cubans can shop are being removed.

I don’t have explanations for all of the things that are going on, but I have a few insights on what is happening, based on several sources:

  • My recent visit to Cuba. This was a “people to people” educational program permitted by the US government;
  • My previous work on resource depletion, and the impacts it is having on economies elsewhere;
  • Other published data about Cuba.

The following are a few of my observations.

1. Many island nations, including Cuba, are having financial problems related to dependence on oil. 

Dependence on oil for electricity is one of the big issues affecting Cuba today. Island nations, including Cuba, very often use oil to produce much of their electricity supply, because it is easy to transport and can be used in relatively small installations. As long as the price of oil was low (under $20 barrel or so), the use of oil for electricity was not a problem.

Figure 1. Cuba's energy consumption by source, based on EIA data.

Figure 1. Cuba’s energy consumption by source, based on EIA data.

Once the price of oil becomes high, the high cost of electricity makes it difficult to produce goods for export, because goods made with high-priced electricity tend not to be competitive with goods made where the cost of electricity is cheaper. Also, once the cost of oil rises, the price of imported food tends to rise, leading to a need for more foreign exchange funds for imports. In addition, the cost of vacation travel becomes more expensive, driving away potential vacationers. The combination of these effects tends to lead to financial problems for island nations.

If we look at current Standard and Poor’s credit ratings of island nations, we see a pattern of low credit ratings:

  • Cuba – Caa2
  • Dominican Republic – B1
  • Haiti – Not Rated
  • Jamaica – Caa3
  • Puerto Rico – Caa1

None of these ratings is investment grade. Cuba’s rating is the same as Greece’s.

Cuba’s credit problem arises from the fact that there is an imbalance between the goods and services which it is able to sell for export and the goods and services that it needs to import. As with most other island nations, this problem has gotten worse in recent years, because of high oil prices. Even with the recent drop in oil prices, the price of oil still isn’t really low, so there is still a problem.

Figure 2. Cuba balance of trade. Chart by Trading Economics.

Figure 2. Cuba balance of trade. (In US $. 000,000s omitted) Chart by Trading Economics.

2. Cuba has a low-cost arrangement for buying oil from Venezuela, but this can’t be depended upon.  

Venezuela is Cuba’s largest supplier of imported oil. The recent drop in oil prices creates a problem for Venezuela, because Venezuela needs high oil prices to profitably extract its oil and leave enough to fund its government programs. Because of these issues, Venezuela is having serious financial difficulties. Its financial rating is Caa3, which is even lower than Cuba’s rating. Cuba uses its excellent education system to provide physicians for Venezuela, and because of this gets a bargain price for oil. But it can’t count on this arrangement continuing, if Venezuela’s financial situation gets worse.

3. Neither high nor low oil prices are likely to solve Cuba’s financial problems; the real problem is diminishing returns (that is, rising cost of oil extraction).

Cuba finds itself in a dilemma similar to that that the rest of the world is experiencing–only worse because it is an island nation. The rising cost of oil extraction is pushing the world economy toward lower economic growth, because the higher cost of oil extraction is in effect making the world’s production of goods and services less efficient (the opposite of growing efficiency, needed for economic growth). The extra effort needed to extract oil from deep beneath the sea, or used in fracking, makes it more expensive to produce a barrel of oil, and indirectly, the many things that a barrel of oil goes to produce, such as a bushel of wheat that Cuba must import.

Figure 3. Cuba's oil consumption, separated between oil produced by Cuba itself and imported oil, based on EIA data.

Figure 3. Cuba’s oil consumption, separated between oil produced by Cuba itself and imported oil, based on EIA data.

If the price of oil is low, Venezuela’s financial problems will become worse, increasing the likelihood that Venezuela will need to cut back on its low-priced oil exports to Cuba.

Also, if the price of oil remains low, it is unlikely that Cuba will be able to increase its own oil extraction (Figure 3). The recent decline in US oil rigs and production indicates that shale extraction in the US (requiring fracking) is not economic at current prices. Cuba’s onshore resources also seem to be of the type that requires fracking. Thus, the likelihood of extracting Cuba’s onshore oil seems low, unless prices are much higher. Offshore, none of the test wells to date have proven economic at today’s prices.

Conversely, if the price of oil is high enough to enable profitability of oil extraction in Venezuela and Cuba, say $150 per barrel, then airline tickets will be very expensive, cutting back tourism greatly. The cost of imported food is likely to be very high as well.

4. One way Cuba’s problems are manifesting themselves is in cutbacks to entitlements.

Back in the early 1960s, Fidel Castro’s plan for the economy was one of perfect communism–the government would own all businesses; every worker would receive the same wages; a large share of what workers receive would come in the form of entitlements. What has been happening recently is that these entitlements are being cut back, without wages being raised.

Wages for all government workers are extremely low–the equivalent of $20 per month in US currency. This was not a problem when workers received essentially everything they needed through a very low-priced ration program and other direct gifts, but they become a problem when entitlements are cut back.

Each year, each Cuban family receives a ration booklet listing each member of the family, each person’s age, and the quantity of subsidized food of various types that that person is entitled to, based on the person’s age. Other items besides food, such as light bulbs, may be included as well.

Figure 4. Ration booklet being explained by one of tour leaders.

Figure 4. Ration booklet being explained by one of tour leaders.

The store providing the subsidized food keeps a list of foods available and prices on a blackboard.

Figure 5. Ration price list on wall of store we visited.

Figure 5. Ration price list on wall of store we visited.

One way that the standard of living of Cubans is being reduced because of Cuba’s financial problems is by cutbacks in the types of goods being subsidized. Also the quantities and prices are being affected, but the average wage of $20 per month remains unchanged.

5. Another way Cuba’s financial problems are manifesting themselves is as higher prices charged to Cubans for goods not available through the ration program.

Since 1993, Cuba has had a two currency program. Cubans were able to purchase goods only in stores intended for Cuban residents using Cuban pesos. (This situation is similar to a company store program, in which a business issues pay in a currency which can only be used on goods available in the company story.) A second currency, Cuban Convertible Pesos (“CUCs”), pegged 1:1 with the US dollar, has been used for the tourist trade, and for international purchases. Cubans were not allowed to purchase goods in businesses offering goods in CUCs.

Now the situation is changing. Goods in stores for Cubans are marked in both currencies, and Cubans are permitted to purchase goods in more (or all?) types of businesses.

The change that seems to be occurring in the process of marking goods to both currencies is that goods as priced in Cuban pesos are becoming much more expensive for Cubans. Cubans are finding that their $20 per month paychecks are going less and less far. This is more or less equivalent to value of the Cuban peso falling relative to the US dollar. This decrease is difficult for international agencies to measure, because the prices Cubans were paying were not previously convertible to the US dollar. The big impact would occur in 2015, so is too recent to be included in most inflation data.

6. Another way Cuba’s problems are manifesting themselves is through low traffic on roads.

How much gasoline would you expect a person earning $20 per month to buy, if gasoline costs about $5 gallon? Not a lot, I expect. Not surprisingly, we found traffic other than buses and taxis to be very low, especially outside Havana. Figure 6 shows one fairly extreme example. The three-wheeled bicycle in front is a popular form of taxi.

Figure 6. Example of low traffic on road. This road was not far from Havana.

Figure 6. Example of low traffic on road. This road was not far from Havana.

If a person travels away from the Havana area, transport by horse and buggy is fairly common.

 7. As a workaround for Cuba’s falling inflation-adjusted wages of government workers, Cuba is permitting more entrepreneurship.

Certain workers, such as musicians and artists, have always been able to earn more than the average wage, through programs that allowed these workers to sell their wares and keep the vast majority of the sales price.

Now, individuals are able to form businesses and hire workers. These businesses generally pay wages higher than those offered by the government. Many of these businesses are private restaurants and gift shops, serving the tourist trade.

In addition, many individual citizens try to figure out small things that they can do (such as sell peanuts, pose for photos, or sing songs) to earn tips from foreigners. The amounts they earn act to supplement the wages they earn working for the government.

Other new businesses are in the food production sector. We met one farmer who was growing rice, with the help of twenty workers he had hired. The farmer used land that he had leased for $0 per year from the government. He dried his rice on an underutilized two-lane public road. The rice covered one lane for many miles.

Figure 7. Rice laid on road to dry.

Figure 7. Rice laid on road to dry.

The farmer sold most of his rice to the government, at prices it had set in advance. The farmer was able to pay his workers $80 per month, which is equal to four times the average government wage.

8. Cuban citizens and its government are concerned about the country’s financial problems and are finding other solutions in addition to entrepreneurship.

Cuban citizens are concerned, because with only $20 month of spendable income and higher prices on almost everything, they are being “pushed into a corner.” The vast majority of jobs are still government jobs, paying only an average of $20 month. There aren’t very many ways out.

In order to make ends meet, it is very tempting to steal goods from employers, and resell them at below market prices to others. We were warned to be very careful about changing money, because it is very common to be shortchanged, or to receive Cuban pesos (which are worth about 1/24th of a CUC) in change for goods purchased in CUCs.

One legitimate way of increasing the wealth of Cuban citizens is to increase remittances from relatives living in the US. Legislation making this possible has already been implemented. Estimates of remittances from the US to Cuba range from $2 billion to $3.5 billion per year, prior to the change.

Another way of increasing Cuban revenue is to increase tourism. Selling services abroad, such as sending a Cuban choir to perform for US audiences, also acts to increase Cuba’s revenue. Getting rid of the US embargo would help expand both tourism and the sale of Cuban services abroad. This is no doubt part of the reason why Cuba, under the leadership of Raul Castro (Fidel’s brother), is interested in re-establishing relationships with the United States.

9. Most of Cuba’s accumulated wealth from the past is depleting wealth that requires continuing energy inputs to maintain.

Cuba has many fine old buildings that are a product of its past glory days (sugar exports, tobacco sales, casino operations). These buildings need to be maintained or they fall apart with age. In other words, they need the addition of new building materials (requiring energy products to create and transport), if they are to continue to be used for their intended purpose.

Cuba now has a severe problem with old buildings falling apart from decay. I was told that three buildings per day collapse in Havana. With a chronic shortage of energy supplies, Cuba has been able to use these buildings from past days to give themselves a higher standard of living than otherwise would be possible, but this dividend is slowly coming to an end.

Likewise, fields used for growing sugar or tobacco are assets requiring continued energy investment. If the Cuban government were to stop plowing fields and adding fertilizer to restore lost nutrients,1 nature would take care of the problem in its own way–acacia (a type of nitrogen-fixing shrub/tree) would overtake the land, making it difficult to replant. The fact that the Cuban government did not keep adding energy products to some of the fields is a major reason why the Cuban government is now leasing land for $0 an acre. Quite a bit of the land formerly used for sugar cane needs to be cleared of acacia before crops can be grown on it.

Even Cuba’s famed 1950s vintage autos are a depleting asset. Replacement parts are frequently needed to keep them operating.

The illusion that Cuba could afford to pay owners for the value of property appropriated by the Cuban government in 1959 is just that–an illusion. The wealth that was available was temporary wealth that could not be packaged and sent elsewhere. Sugar cane and tobacco had been grown in ways that depleted the soil. Furthermore, most workers had been paid very low wages. The buyers of these products had reaped the benefits of these bad practices in the form of low prices for sugar and tobacco products. It is doubtful whether Cuba could ever have paid the former owners for the land and businesses it appropriated, except with debt payable by future generations. It certainly cannot now.

10. I wasn’t able to find out much about the permaculture situation in Cuba, but my impression is that the outcome is likely to be determined by financial considerations.

Subsidies can work reasonably well, as long as the economy as a whole is producing a surplus. Such a surplus tends to occur when the cost of energy production is low, because then it is easy for a growing supply of low-priced energy to boost human productivity.

Now that Cuba’s economy is not faring as well, the government is finding it necessary to start evaluating whether the approaches they are taking are really cost effective. More emphasis is placed on entrepreneurs producing goods at prices that are affordable by customers. Thus, an entrepreneur might operate a permaculture garden. My impression is that permaculture will do well, if it can produce goods at prices that consumers can afford, but not otherwise. Consumers who are starved for money are likely to cut back to the very basics (rice and beans?), making this a difficult requirement to meet.

11. Cuba has done better on keeping population down than many other countries. 

If we look at the population growth trends since 1970, Cuba has done better than its nearby neighbors in keeping population down.

Figure 8. Cuba population compared to 1970 estimates, based on USDA population estimates.

Figure 8. Cuba population compared to 1970 estimates, along with those of selected other countries, based on USDA population estimates.

In fact, Cuba’s 2014 population per square kilometer is low compared to its neighbors, as well.

Figure 8. Population for Cuba and several nearby areas expressed in population per square kilometer.

Figure 8. Population for Cuba and several nearby areas expressed in population per square kilometer.

One thing that many people would point to in the low population growth statistics is the high education of women in Cuba. This is definitely the result of Fidel Castro’s policies.

It seems to me that housing issues play a role as well. Cuba has added very little housing stock in recent years, even though the population has grown. This means that either multiple generations must live together, or new homes must be built. Cuba hasn’t provided a way for doing this (financing, etc). Under these circumstances, most families will keep the number of children low. There is simply no more room for another person in state-provided housing. No one would consider building a shack with local materials, without electricity and water supply, as a workaround.

Also, US policies have allowed Cuban citizens who reach the United States to obtain citizenship more easily than say, residents of the Dominican Republic or Haiti. This has offered another workaround for growing population.

12. In many ways, Cuba is better prepared for a fall in standard of living than most countries, but a change in its standard of living is still likely to be problematic.

As we traveled through Cuba, we saw a huge amount of land that either was currently planted in crops, or that could fairly easily be planted as crops. We also saw many acres over-run by acacia, but that still could support some feeding by animals. Cuba is not very mountainous, and generally gets a reasonable amount of water for at least part of the year. These are factors that are helpful for supporting a fairly large population, if crops are chosen to match the available rainfall.

The Cuban population is also well educated and used to working together. Neighbors tend to know each other, and work to support each other through community associations called Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

The problem, though, is that the changes needed to live sustainably, without huge annual balance of payment deficits, are likely to be quite large. Sugar production in Cuba began  in the early 1800s. Since that time, Cuba’s economy has been organized as if it were part of a much larger system. Cuba has grown large amounts of certain products (sugar cane and tobacco), and much less of products that its population eats regularly (wheat, rice, beans, corn, and chicken). Residents have gotten used to eating imported foods, rather than foods that grow locally. According to this document, the government of Cuba reported importing 60% to 70% of its “food and agricultural products,” amounting to $2 billion dollars, in 2014. Regardless of whether or not this percentage is calculated correctly, there is at least a $2 billion per year gap in revenue caused by eating non-local foods that needs to be closed.

In theory, Cuba can produce enough food for all of its current population, even without fossil fuels. Doing so would require changes to what Cubans eat. The diet would need to be revised to include greater proportions of foods that can be grown easily in Cuba (plantain, yucca, bread plant, etc.) and fewer foods that can’t. Many people would likely need to move to locations where they can help in the growing and distribution of these foods. Given the current lack of funding, most of these new homes and businesses would likely need to be built by residents using local materials. Thus, they would likely need to look like the shacks (without electricity or running water) that Fidel Castro was able to do away with as a result of his 1959 Revolution.

There might also need to be a reduction to the amount of healthcare and education available to all. This would also be a big let down, because people have gotten used to the current plan of free education and free modern medical care for all. Education and health care no doubt account for a big share of Cuba’s high GDP today, but Cuba may also need to bring down these costs down to an affordable level, if it is to have a sustainable economy.


[1] Alternatively, better practices might be used that involve crop rotation and permaculture practices. The effect would still have been the same–some type of energy, including a combination of human energy and other kinds of energy, would be needed to keep fields producing some kind of useful crop.

About Gail Tverberg

My name is Gail Tverberg. I am an actuary interested in finite world issues - oil depletion, natural gas depletion, water shortages, and climate change. Oil limits look very different from what most expect, with high prices leading to recession, and low prices leading to financial problems for oil producers and for oil exporting countries. We are really dealing with a physics problem that affects many parts of the economy at once, including wages and the financial system. I try to look at the overall problem.
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844 Responses to Cuba: Figuring Out Pieces of the Puzzle (Full Text)

  1. michael jones says:

    Seems another “High” Wall Street type snaps:
    “This time, their victim was Sarvshreshth Gupta, a rookie analyst just 22 years old from the University of Pennsylvania. Gupta was found dead in a parking lot next to his apartment building on the corner of Sacramento Street and Brooklyn Place in San Francisco. He apparently fell from the building.

    After working 100 hours a week, he told his father, “This job is not for me.” In March, he quit. However, like the crazy woman in Fatal Attraction, Goldman was not going to be ignored. A week later, Goldman urged him to reconsider. His father encouraged him to return, and he did. Gupta was put on a reduced schedule (does 70 hours qualify as reduced?)

    However, it was just a ruse, and Gupta was back up to 100 hours again soon enough. On April 16 at 2:40 a.m., he called his father again, “It is too much. I have not slept for two days.” This time, his father told him to quit. Gupta said he would leave the office soon. Several hours later, he was found dead in the parking lot. Goldman strikes again.”

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I guess the lure of the big pay check and the name card was worth more than anything… the obvious option would have been to duh — find another job…

      Perhaps he had bought a Tesla (to show his green creds) and a kick ass hipster pad and was trapped by the finance payments.

      Meanwhile … millions around the world don’t know where their next meal will come from.

      Poor poor Mr Gupta… oh those poor Goldman bankers … Lloyd Blank is a cruel master enslaving them and beating them with whips so that they work harder, longer… modern day slavery that is….

      emancipation! emancipation!

      Perhaps someone should start an underground railroad out of new york to the wilds of alaska — where these poor chaps could find refuge from the yoke.

      • “Perhaps someone should start an underground railroad out of new york to the wilds of alaska — where these poor chaps could find refuge from the yoke.”

        If the chains are in your mind, you cannot get away, no matter how far you travel.

      • Michael Jones says:

        More like his student loans he was burdened with that needed to be paid back and a job at Auto Zone as an Assistant Manager would probably give Gupta one day off and still work 70 hours a week making 25K

      • Kulm says:

        They are the best and brightest of the world. Even if a few fall off the ranks, they rule the world and will have the rights to reproduce.

        • Michael Jones says:

          “Rights to reproduce”, where did you get that idea from, Klum? Something out of Dr. Strangelove , no doubt. Mein Fuehrer we are the best and brightest and must reproduce!
          Sure they did, Klum, the few that survive Stalingrad….

          • Kulm says:

            Well unca stalin had all the lend-lease to spend, and he did his own eugenics program.

            There were few handicapped people in the streets of Moscow and Leningrad till 1989.

            • Michael Jones says:

              Really now, Stalin was quoted that ‘they would win regardless if the other allies provided assistance or not’ and what is your silly point about handicap people?
              The fact is that folks silly ideas about the ‘best and brightest’ amounts to used toilet tissue. So much for such banter. Dimishing returns will reveal how fragile those Wall Streeters you put on top is just plain BS

            • “Stalin was quoted that ‘they would win regardless if the other allies provided assistance or not’ and what is your silly point about handicap people?”

              Foolish bravado. Without Allied help, the Soviets could not even conquer Finland on their own. The Germans would have had millions more soldiers, and a lot more air support, if they were only fighting the Soviets. Maybe they could have eventually won, at a much greater loss of life, or maybe Germany would have developed an atomic bomb in that time.

            • michael jones says:

              Really now, well tell me how the Nazi Supermen would overcome General Winter and General Mud.
              True enough, the Russians were still ABLE to maintain a fighting force, regroup stand firm and rally and LEARN to counterattack and use the same tactics as those so-called “Master Race supermen”. The Allies got around to a second front after all was decided in June 1944, yawn. Hey, they should give a big thank you to Uncle Joe for waging one large offensive on D Day June 6th to help those poor Yanks and Brits out.
              So there, Matthew. Go back and get the FACTS!

            • And where did the Soviets get their materials from? The Allies. Tons of tech, too. The Germans could have won by nuking the Russians. I’m sure they would have no qualms about dropping several nukes on multiple Russian cities, leaving them in ashes. Even if not, they could have fought to a standstill on just one front.

              The Soviet air force would have done terribly against the Luftwaffe without the Battle of Britain and raids into Germany to destroy their air force. The Soviets would have had a terrible disadvantage trying to advance with the Germans having air superiority.

              British and American forces destroyed Germany’s oil, gas and synthetic fuel production; with fossil fuels, the Germans would have been much better able to fight the Russians alone.

              The Axis would have done much better if Germany and Japan had coordinated attacking Russia while leaving the West out of the fight altogether.

              I don’t think genetics was or is a determining factor in industrial warfare. Culture, economy, resources, leadership are probably the main factors. Being paranoid and killing all your high ranking officers is not an optimal strategy. Notice, Hitler killed some but not most of his high ranking officers, while Stalin killed nearly all of them. The importance of precision when having a purge.

            • michael jones says:

              You don’t know nothing. STOP NOW, I insist!
              Where did they get their tanks? THEY MADE THEM THEMSELVES…that’s how and same with their fighters!
              The T-34 WON the war for them!

              Anyhoot, the whole idea KLUM is putting forth is silly…saying that his opinion of the best of the brightest are the ones that breed and reproduce.
              That was my point bring up this in the first place.
              Not debating YOU and WWII.
              So bug off!

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Excellent rant!

              The facts do not matter. The more facts one posts the harder they pound on the bongo drums to try to drown you out.

              They will not listen to reason — they will ignore logic.

              Gail’s excellent articles go in one eyeball out the other… with no processing taking place in the space between.

              This phenomenon is known as Koombaya…. (aka Wishful Thinking/Delusion)

              Here’s a techno version

              The site is unfortunately being overrun by the Koombaya brigade and one has to really sift through many tonnes of chaff to get even a kernel of wheat…

            • Kulm says:

              Antony Sutton spent a lifetime to explain that all of the Soviet “Technology” were given by US and Britain.

              Matthew Krajcik is right. The Soviets, on their own, could not even beat Finland.

            • VPK says:

              Klum YOU RE FLAT OUT INCORRECT. Did the allies provide the Russians with the design of the T34 tank? BUG OFF!
              As far as Finland, Stalin KILLED off what you would call the “best and brightest” to lead and STILL had was able to BRING THE Fins to the peace table to get a very satisfactory advantage terms for the Soviets.
              You folks are just racist promoters.

            • Brunswickian says:

              Depends on the accuracy of the sources. Kulm referred to Suttton:
              Sutton studied at the universities of London, Göttingen, and California, and received his D.Sc. from the University of Southampton. He was an economics professor at California State University, Los Angeles and a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution from 1968 to 1973. During his time at the Hoover Institution, he wrote the major study Western Technology and Soviet Economic Development (in three volumes), arguing that the West played a major role in developing the Soviet Union from its very beginnings up until the present time (1970).

              In a few words: there is no such thing as Soviet technology. Almost all — perhaps 90-95 percent — came directly or indirectly from the United States and its allies. In effect the United States and the NATO countries have built the Soviet Union. Its industrial and its military capabilities. This massive construction job has taken 50 years. Since the Revolution in 1917. It has been carried out through trade and the sale of plants, equipment and technical assistance.[3]

            • VPK says:

              The Hoover Institute is the source!?
              Its mission statement outlines its basic tenets: representative government, private enterprise, peace, personal freedom, and the safeguards of the American system.[5] Although the Institution is often described as politically conservative[6][7][8] or as Republican-leaning, directors and others associated with it resist this description, saying that the Institution is not partisan and that its goal is “to advance ideas of supporting freedom and free enterprise”.[9]
              Sure thing, now OF COURSE they would state such thing about the Soviets.
              You think I am a gullible sheepeople?
              Sure believe EVERYTHING THE PTB throw out there!

    • Kulm says:

      There are at least 500,000 more like him.

      • Michael Jones says:

        Really now, and where is peer reviewed research journal paper to back such a claim?

  2. edpell says:

    Alan Goldwater’s cold fusion experiment this past week was a ripping success, in my opinion. So, here is a song
    and a link to Alan’s work!fuel_in_spec

  3. kesar0 says:

    WSJ: OECD Downgrades Global Growth Outlook

    There is a risk that low investment and a weak economy are locked in mutually reinforcing spiral.

    “The main reason for the weakness in investment is the weak recovery itself and doubts over the prospects for stronger growth,” the OECD said in its report.

    These guys should learn the meaning of tautology.

  4. Fast Eddy says:

    Yoo hoo — EV Pete…. look at Fast has found for you….

    Is There Enough Lithium to Maintain the Growth of the Lithium-Ion Battery Market?

    The U.S. Geological Survey produced a reserves estimate of lithium in early 2015, concluding that the world has enough known reserves for about 365 years of current global production of about 37,000 tons per year (Figure 1). Current production goes to a little over one-third for ceramics, almost one-third for batteries, and miscellaneous uses for the last one-third. The same report finds about 39.5 million metric tons of “resources,” which is a less firm category than “reserves.” “Resources” include supplies that could feasibly be extracted economically at some point in the future, whereas reserves estimates refer to current economic viability.

    Even though 365 years of reserve supply sounds very comforting, the point of the EV and stationary storage revolutions is that current demand will shoot up, way up, if these revolutions do happen. The 100 Gigafactories scenario could come true. And if that happens, the 365-year supply would be less than a 17-year supply (13.5 million tons of reserves divided by 800,000 = 16.9 years).

    “As of December 2014, over 712,000 highway legal plug-in electric passenger cars and light-utility utility vans have been sold worldwide since 2003, which represent about 0.06% of the world’s stock of motor vehicles, estimated at 1.2 billion vehicles by mid 2014”

    I reiterate — these are toys for hipsters trying to show off their green cred at elegant dinner parties .. or to pick up hippy chicks at the Koombaya festival.

    • There are virtually limitless supplies of Lithium in the oceans. It sounds like South Korea is going ahead and building a facility to extract Lithium from seawater. I don’t know if the economics have improved; previous, I read it would cost around $11,000 per tonne, at a time when Lithium was around $3000 per tonne from mines.

      I think a lot of people are betting that demand outstripping supply equals higher prices, instead of less demand.

      Batteries in general are certainly a sub-optimal solution, since they are always going to lose energy. Silicon, Carbon or Aluminum batteries may prove to be a better long term choice over Lithium. Heck, for many uses Lead Acid batteries are probably better, since they are much more easily recycled.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Would be good if you would reference your claims otherwise the assumption is that you simply made that up… or that it is based on rubbish science…

        Even if it is true — then forget about that as a source of lithium — batteries are already outrageously expensive …

        Anyone know if Chuck Barris is still alive? If so please ask him to bang that gong anytime anyone even so much as mentions any form of ‘renewable’ energy on here as a replacement for fossil fuels

      • The issue I keep writing about is diminishing returns. There are virtually limitless supplies of almost anything, including fossil fuels and lithium supplies, if we are willing to accept the problem of higher cost of extraction, which really the problem of diminishing returns.

        The problem we have is that wages don’t rise as the cost of extraction rises. Thus, workers can afford less and less of these things, as prices rise. This tends to lead to the circle of problems that leads to financial collapse–low wages, leading to low commodity prices, leading eventually to cut backs in production and job layoffs, and debt defaults.

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    A little more reading in Capra and Luisi, while pondering the End of the Oil Age along the lines laid out by BW Hill, and the Peak Everything or Declining Returns scenario for everything laid out by Gail.

    Our first stop is the excellent essay by Charles Hugh Smith:

    If many things are so simply solved, why don’t we do them?

    Our second stop is a concept promulgated by a Russian systems theorist a hundred years ago. A Mr. Bogdanov foreshadowed many of the systems concepts which were later developed in the West 40 years or more later. Bogdanov thought that we could consider 3 categories of systems:
    *Those where the whole is more than the sum of the parts
    *Those where the whole is less than the sum of the parts
    *Those with conflicting tendencies, where the positive and negatives balance to neutral.
    If you read Smith’s essay, where would you put our current American Exceptionalism system?

    Our third stop is the development of Systems Science. Shortly after WWII, Norbert Wiener was instrumental in leading a group of scientists in formulating many of the concepts which are currently mainstays of Systems Science. A quote:
    ‘It is certainly true that the social system is an organization like the individual, that is bound together by a system of communication, and that it has a dynamics in which circular processes of a feedback nature play an important role.’

    I’ll note that the circular feedback system is only functional if the feedback is true. Based on the daily manipulation of the news and the constant barrage of advertising, do you think that most of us are getting true feedback? Do you think that very many people will be able to imagine their way out of the traps described by Smith?

    Is there any hope? Well…one of our assets is our brain. ‘It consists of 10 billion neurons interlinked with 1000 billion junctions (synapses), subdivided into subsections, which communicate with each other in network fashion.’ I’ll also note that within our body we have a vast amount of genetic material in our gut bacteria, and we have energy factories in the mitochondria residing in our cells. In addition, our cells have formed symbiotic relationships, such as the critical one with Vitamin D from the sun. I will also note that we now understand that the brain continues to make new neurons so long as we live, and that new connections can be formed and old ones broken.

    Norbert Wiener again: ‘We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.’

    So…we are whirlpools which are, to a considerable extent, able to shape themselves to make use of the abundant energy and materials which are constantly flowing by us. We have amazing capabilities…but using them frequently doesn’t make money for the PTB, and so we are not encouraged to declare our independence. Smith’s essay again.

    We also have very good ideas now about how to live with our two minds, the fast one and the slower, more reflective one. But, as Smith shows, most of us are drifting along doing what the non-reflective mind encourages us to do…which, incidentally, makes money for a few powerful people.

    Our fourth stop is a fictional account of a young man named Ishmael. If any of you are puritanically inclined, I suggest you stop reading now. For scandal mongers, read on. Similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental.

    When Ishmael was in high school in a small town, he occasionally got to make school trips to the big city. This was, besides whatever school activities were involved, a chance to meet new girls without the prospect of a complicated, long term relationship. He noticed that, whenever he would meet girls, they inevitably asked if he knew a guy named Clark Kent. Ishmael wondered what it was about Clark Kent that led him to have an acquaintance with every girl in the state. As things sometimes happened on these trips, Ishmael met this girl, and things were getting warm. She had already asked him if he knew Clark Kent. To make a long story short, he got her alone.

    To his dismay, she told Ishmael immediately that intercourse was out of the question. Ishmael fell back a few yards, then ask her, exhibiting suspicion, if she had sex with Clark Kent. She demurred a little bit (sort of like Bill Clinton), then said that she discovered that Clark had the talented tongue she had heard about. So they talked a little about oral sex, and Ishmael asked her if she would do him. She says, ‘You do me first, then I will do you’.

    Folks, this opened up a new vista in terms of relationships with the opposite sex for our naive youth, Ishmael. This was not about a notch in the belt. This was about taking the responsibility for giving a girl pleasure. In Capra and Luisi’s terminology, Ishmael moved from Cartesian and Newtonian physics into the realm of Systems Science…at the age of 16.

    Our fifth stop is to try to figure out some lessons from our scandalous tale of Ishmael. One of the perennial claims on this blog (by commenters) is the supposedly inevitable increase in human population. But sexual activity is usually about pleasure (getting certain hormones and neurotransmitters active), rather than a cooly calculated concept of making more children.

    Capra and Luisi talking about the new thinking in Systems Science which emerged several decades ago: ‘An important difference between the early concept of self-organization in cybernetics and the more elaborate later models is that the latter include the creation of new structures and new modes of behavior in the self-organizing process…creation of novel structures and modes of behavior.’

    What Ishmael discovered at the age of 16 was, to him, a novel structure and a novel mode of behavior.

    Now let’s add a little modern technology and a little knowledge of modern neuroscience. Modern technology is capable of building IUDs which accurately measure a woman’s internal temperature, and thus her fecundity. A woman is fully capable of deciding whether she wants to have a recreational sex experience or a reproductive sex experience. And we know from neuroscience that attaining a material object isn’t actually very much lasting fun. We grow accustomed to an object quite quickly, and tend to become bored with it. If you have a Toyota, you think you need a Ferrari. Movie stars married to gorgeous women regularly ‘cheat’ with other women when the opportunity presents itself. But the hormones and neurotransmitters triggered by good relationships tend to endure, because, for one thing, they can be repeated thousands of times without losing their freshness. Yet 99 percent of anything you hear about sex focuses on the ‘thing’ aspect, rather than the ‘responsive system’ aspect. Charles should have added ‘free yourself from misguided ideas about sex’ to his list.

    This little essay says nothing about having enough food or clean water or shelter. Instead, it deals with the other 90 percent of the work we do. If our ability to do work with fossil fuels is due to decline rather dramatically, it is vital to our survival to be able to manage that other 90 percent.

    Don Stewart

    • Artleads says:

      Hi Don

      You DO break it down. Thanks! 🙂

      “If our ability to do work with fossil fuels is due to decline rather dramatically, it is vital to our survival to be able to manage that other 90 percent.”

    • Another big hurdle would be getting people to accept death as soon as they are no longer able to support themselves. Without pensions and other safety nets, people tend to try to have children to support them in their old age.

      • Artleads says:

        For no very good reason, the thought occurred: “Children are a heat engine.”

        So I’d put it less as welcoming death (which is fine if you can or do) but as calming and cooling things down, by, among much else, not procreating, at least until such time as it would be clear why one should.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Matthew Krajcik
        ‘Accept death’. I saw a documentary movie many years ago about the last of the nomads. They have to get their herds up to the high meadows, and to do so they have to cross a snow-melt river. Each year, some of the very old people decide that they cannot make it across the river. They sit down on the bank and wait for death, as the tribe moves on up to higher elevations with the herd.

        The point here is that once people clearly perceive reality, they may very well make choices which people who are delusional will not make.

        And on the issue of population in general. While it is most certainly impossible to predict what would happen if our world was forced to transition to a solar energy budget, we can get some ideas by looking at history.

        For example, Edo Japan lived entirely on solar. The society was rigidly stratified, but so long as one stayed within their boundaries, they were pretty much free to pursue their own goals…after they paid their taxes. Farmers were tied to the land they farmed. Inheritance of the land was through the eldest son. Therefore, the younger son could only be a farm laborer, never an owner…unless the older son died or he managed to marry a woman who would inherit a farm because she didn’t have a brother. There usually wasn’t a third son, since the families were keenly aware of having a limited amount of farm, and ‘sending babies back’ was an accepted practice.

        Azby Brown says, if I remember correctly, that the unmarried men frequented brothels. I imagine there were also a few cases of marrying their brother’s widow…a fairly common practice even when I was very young.

        In August Strindberg’s play Miss Julie, the servants on the farm celebrate rural festivals with rolls in the hay, after considerable drinking.

        I am sure we could find many other models for how societies have handled (or failed to handle) the problems of overpopulation in the face of limited resources.

        But let’s look for the most benign solution we can think of. My guess is that the most benign solution is non-procreative sex between the male and female underclass….those who won’t inherit the farm or marry the male or female farmer. Why ‘male or female farmer’? As I understand the situation in Africa, the women are the dominant farmers. The men can herd cattle or work in town or something else. If the end of fossil fuels diminishes the opportunities for young men, then the women with farmland could become the dominant social strata. Young men would compete to marry the women who own farms.

        Would non-procreative sex between the male and female members of the underclass lead to stable relationships, or just the festival time rolls in the hay portrayed in Miss Julie? That’s hard to predict.

        What the example of Edo teaches us is that if people perceive clear limits on how many mouths can be fed, they can arrive at methods for limiting the population. In short, they must perceive the world as ‘full’ rather than ‘empty’.

        Don Stewart

        • edpell says:

          Yes Don, exposing unwanted babies was a historic norm in some cultures. See Crossan’s The Historical Jesus for material on Egyptian exposure of unwanted babies. He notes that this practice was a defining difference between Christians and Pagans. As you point out we now have the technology to avoid the nine months of pregnancy with an unwanted baby and the follow wrenching experience of infanticide.

        • Kulm says:

          And in Feudal Japan there was a famine every 50 yrs or so, in which authorities were instructed NOT to aid the starving. After 10-20% of pop died off the rest lived their lives as if nothing happened, and the famines were NOT recorded in the books. Only oral traditions survive about these disasters.

          Japan’s population exploded after the feudal period ended, thanks to Commodore Perry who felt like having sushi for dinner on 1852. So Japan went a-conquering Korea and Taiwan, and then rest of China, to satisfy the needs.

          • Don Stewart says:

            I don’t know what your point is. My point was that if people perceive the world as ‘full’, they are more likely to control their population. I don’t see how anything you say is relevant to that point.

            Here is Azby Brown’s paragraph on why Edo Japan (not the medieval period of constant warfare or the modern period) is relevant to us us today:

            ‘The Hanover Principles of sustainability include these points:
            *Insist on human right and sustainability
            *Recognize the interaction of design with the environment
            *Consider the social and spiritual aspects of buildings and designed objects
            *Be responsible for the effects of design decisions
            *Insure that objects have long term value
            *Eliminate waste and consider the entire life cycle of designed objects
            *Make use of ‘natural energy flows’, such as solar power and its derivatives
            *Be humble, and use nature as a model for design
            *Share knowledge, strive for continuous improvement, and encourage open communication among stakeholders.

            As this book illustrates, Edo-period Japan met all of these objectives, taking into account the different conception of human rights that prevailed. It achieved sustainable and renewable forestry, sustainable agriculture, sustainable architecture, sustainable city planning, sustainable transportation, and sustainable use of energy and materials. At this time, Japan lacked a global perspective, but it operated locally with no negative environmental effects beyond its borders. It sustained its high population of thirty million and kept it very stable for two hundred years.’

            Don Stewart

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I know next to nothing about the Edo period in Japan — what I do know is that the history of man is rife with examples of societies that were at war over resources scarcity.

              And I know that we have burned out most of the accessible resources including virtually all readily accessible fossil fuels (sure some people might be able to hook a mule to a cart and take their pick and shovel and get some coal here and there…).

              There will be very little food.

              And there will be 7 billion people.

              Sure perhaps something akin to this Edo gig might emerge for a short period — decades or generations down the road once the dust settles on The Nightmare Period — IF anyone survives what is coming

              But that too will end up in war — because it always does (note how the descendents of Japan morphed into a marauding nation of murderers)– because there is no koombaya — there is never ‘enough’

              If we are not extincted then our descendants will be at each others’ throats — they will be banging war drums — not koombaya drums….

              But that is completely irrelevant to me. Because I will not be around for that. Nor will anyone else who is on this site.

              What we will be around for The Nightmare Period. The period of famine, disease, and violence

            • Don Stewart says:

              Fast Eddy
              It is unfortunate for you and those close to you that you are so certain of doom.

              I prefer a statement Fritjof Capra made when asked why he keeps working in the vein he does when the world seems to be going in the opposite direction:

              ‘Because it is the right thing to do.’

              Don Stewart

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Don – 7 billion people — no food – no electricity.

              All the lovely poetry and all the gardening tips and references to the totally irrelevant Edo Japan might make you feel better — but they once this hits all this koombaya mumbo jumbo will be bludgeoned by those 3 facts.

              In the meantime feel free to drone on about this stuff if it lifts your spirits and keeps your mind off the nightmare which you surely know is a certainty

            • Artleads says:

              Enlightening. I’m not sure we need to avoid a global perspective, at least in the short run. Destructive globalism may require a different kind of globalism to counter it.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Artleads
              We have the example of Edo Japan controlling its population with a certain method: most people are subsistence farmers, and the whole family must live on the farm. Therefore, adding another mouth to feed is a serious decision. The families chose a few well-nourished children rather than many ill-nourished children.

              Can other methods be devised? What about Africa with the burgeoning Mega-Cities? The connection between a rural family having another child isn’t quite so direct IF there is the prospect that one of the existing children may move to Lagos or someplace.

              So I don’t know about population control, without direct government intervention, in the modern world.

              Don Stewart

            • Kulm says:

              Edo Japan did trade with Holland and did get, if not the latest, fairly modern technology. Physicians translated anatomy books and performed surgeries.

              However it had hit a slug by 1840, and the power of the shogunate was already waning before Perry came to Tokyo Bay for his sushi dinner.

              I don’t know how good is Azby’s Japanese, but I have read more about the real life under the shogunate than Azby ever did. when the Shogunate, the government which did all of the above goodies, fell very few people wanted to bring it back.

              The frugality did not extend to the Shogun and his family. Shogun Ienari (ruled 1787-1837) had about 60 children (after they stopped counting), and to bake the cookies for them close to a ton of sugar was needed every year, in a country which had to buy sugar thru the Dutch which made sugar as expensive as gold.

              And other lords followed the shogun’s example, and people were pretty unhappy when the American ship arrived on 1853.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Azby has lived in Japan for many years, and is a master craftsman…which explains his fine eye for the details of construction in Edo. He has thoroughly researched his subject.

              You keep wanting to talk about whether the shogun was a nice guy or not. I’m not very interested in that subject. What interests me is the way the government managed to get the people to do so many things which were sustainable…including population control. What you are saying is irrelevant to my interests.

              Don Stewart

            • Artleads says:

              I like reducing government to small, energy-conserving units. I also like looking at the big picture. The small unit and the big whole seem to be complementary. An even smaller unit is the individual. It can even be said that the individual is a microcosm of the cosmic. It can get very complex and mysterious. I find it best to let well enough alone and instead rely significantly on common sense and intuition. I seem to range between the small and the big as a matter of daily living.

              Our western way of thinking, however, leads many to get stuck on the big. How 7 billion people will be fed. How to reduce global population. Etc. But this is where the small could come in. Small local groups in widely different places and who have widely varied cultures and personalities can figure much of this out for themselves. Much the way a parent might leave many decisions up to the individual child, and not try to fit it into a predetermined mold. Yet, there are certain limited principles that child and parent must abide by just the same. Freedom and limits are codependent. I think it’s that way with the planet too.

              The western mindset of measuring and calculating everything has led to looking at the planet as stuff to be exploited, and to the collapse we face. (I suppose this is how civilization works in general, but I can only speak from the specific experiences I’ve had with both western and non western ways of thinking.) Many Third World people have, for example, folk remedies to control birth. I believe that extended breast feeding is one effective means to that end. But here comes the totalitarian capitalist system that removes the privacy and autonomous order of Third Wold peoples, as in ridding them of their land, measuring everything about them, selling them canned baby milk, and creating in them many consumerist tastes they didn’t have before. I suppose that a big-picture withdrawal of western “occupation” of the Third Wold would restore there some of the lost autonomy and sustainability. At this late stage, however, I’m far from certain of that or of anything else…

              It seems that while a western big picture approach might be to add stuff, add heat everywhere, a more advantageous big picture approach would be to remove stuff and heat, much of which could best be done by restoring small, autonomous groups to managing through their own devices?

            • “Our western way of thinking, however, leads many to get stuck on the big. How 7 billion people will be fed. How to reduce global population. Etc. But this is where the small could come in. Small local groups in widely different places and who have widely varied cultures and personalities can figure much of this out for themselves.”

              What if my small, local group is next to yours, and our group determines that enslaving your group is the optimal strategy?

              What if small local groups in developing countries determine that mass migration to developed countries is their best strategy?

              You see, how many children someone in Central America has, does directly affect me, since it affects how many people emigrate towards where I live. Then suddenly, the crisis hits and the next door neighbors have ten people who need food with no means of providing it.

            • Artleads says:


              I don’t believe you read this, since it already speaks to your concerns. Some of them anyway.

              “Many Third World people have, for example, folk remedies to control birth. I believe that extended breast feeding is one effective means to that end. But here comes the totalitarian capitalist system that removes the privacy and autonomous order of Third Wold peoples, as in ridding them of their land, measuring everything about them, selling them canned baby milk, and creating in them many consumerist tastes they didn’t have before. I suppose that a big-picture withdrawal of western “occupation” of the Third Wold would restore there some of the lost autonomy and sustainability. ”

              You also seem to be reflecting a kind of Tea Party view of the Third World. (Forgive me if I got that wrong.) I happen to think that most people in the world are fairly nice, regardless of race or economic status. It might help if our prevailing social order would promote treating all people with respect and reasonable trust. I think that if people have their basic needs met, they will stay where they are. But what are their basic needs? I don’t know them all, but not having *us* steal their land and sell them what they don’t need would (IMO) be among them.

              I’m also not buying that there can’t be centralized government of a sort. Just not as expensive or wrongheaded as the kinds we have right now. 🙂 The big doesn’t rule out the small. That’s also what I was attempting to point out.

            • “I think that if people have their basic needs met, they will stay where they are. But what are their basic needs?”

              Here’s the beginning of the problem. You cannot just send food and water, because there are bad people who will steal the aid and horde it. Part of the people’s needs is for security and stability. Should we invade and occupy every developing country, to provide them with that security and stability? If not, many people will want to move from their country to ours, to get that security and stability.

              As far as selling people stuff they don’t need, who gets to decide what people need or don’t need, and where they can buy it from? It’s easy to say, women who cannot provide milk for their babies should let them starve, but it is another to take away a means for them to feed their babies. Then it goes from need to desire, and who gets to decide who is allowed to use formula?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              How much time have you spent in the third world? Ever been to a Manila slum? Ever been to a village where people attempt to live hand to mouth?

              I have spent plenty of time in the third world — and I lived in what would be considered a prosperous third world village for 7 years (most people had no job – if they did they made maybe $3/day — they lived in tiny cinder block houses sleeping on mats on concrete floors — washing in filthy a filthy ditch — but they had fertile land — so they had rice – and a few chickens and some ducks —- your dog lives and eats better than these people)

              I know people who have at times had to eat nothing but rice with a little salt mixed in because their small piece of land failed them. That is the norm. You barely make it from crop to crop.

              You seem to think third world living is some sort of koombaya world – when in fact it is a harsh existence where you live on the edge of having little to eat.

              About the only concession I will make on this is that when villagers move to cities believing their lives will improve they make a huge mistake — no matter how harsh life was in the village — it is generally much worse in a third world city slum

            • Kulm says:


              Edo Period was not a very happy period for most of the people. Even huge merchants (= millionaires) were not safe and they had to ‘buy’ samurai status just to reduce the chance of their properties confiscated.

              On 1835, near the end of the ZPG, social stability and all that, there was a chap named Oshio Heihachiro who led a rebellion in Osaka. He saw the deprivation and the suffering during another rice price spike and petitioned the authorities to release some grain, which the authorities promptly rejected.

              He decided he couldn’t tolerate it any more and revolted. While the rebellion was crushed fairly quickly because of Oshio’s lack of preparation, the Shogun’s authorities who came to suppress it showed an inefficiency greater than this half-baked revolt, and the display of the weakened authority of the govt would have a great effect in the coming years. Oshio is remembered now as a forerunner of the toppling of the shogunate.

              People can only take ‘live with the nature’ for so long.

            • Alternatively, the lesson could be to be sure to maintain an effective, efficient, non-corrupted military so you can handle threats effectively.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              America from say 1950 to 1980 was a modern day Edo no? It truly was the land of plenty and opportunity…

              I am sure we could point to loads of similar periods of joy in various civilizations…

              They never last.

              Because there is no such thing as a sustainable civilization — and utopia is fleeing.

            • Artleads says:

              Based on the June 6 responses, I see how the discussion might be better defined. Preliminary subject areas:

              – Peasant existence vs lumpen proletariat existence
              – Impractical selfishness vs practical altruism
              – Drivers of population growth
              – Rural patterns of land ownership
              – Lack of money

              * There’s a distinction between peasant and lumpen proletariat existence. For various reasons, lumpen proletariat existence confers more dignity (if less food) than peasant existence.

              * Industrial capitalism is a whole system, including powerful psychological drivers, that promotes impractical selfishness.

              * Why do rural families outgrow their space/resource base, thus requiring movement to cities?

              * While rich countries can somewhat afford to create self-sufficient, high-quality urban living, they don’t to a sufficient degree. Poor countries might not be able to afford the same, and maybe the solution for them is the urban shanty town. The urban shanty town does not need to be squalid and “unplanned.”

              I’m throwing these out, not because I have the answers, but because they need to be included in the discussion so as to avoid numerous fallacies if they are not.

              BTW, I was born, and grew up, in the third world.

            • By the way, the reason rural families outgrow their space/resource base is because of natural selection. All species, including humans, reproduce at a higher rate than needed to replace their parents. In other species, only the best adapted survive. Humans, with their use of supplemental energy, have been able to allow more children to live to maturity. This is especially the case where more food availability, better hygiene, and more health care have allowed longer life expectancies. We end up with rapidly growing populations, unless the population is too crowded and poor to add more children. The conditions of being crowded and poor tend to happen most in the cities.

          • What evidence do you have for “in Feudal Japan there was a famine every 50 yrs or so, in which authorities were instructed NOT to aid the starving”. I can almost believe it is true (because of the difficulty of keeping population levels down), but would like to know what kind of evidence is available.

            • Kulm says:



              These events are not something the Japanese would want non-Japanese to know about so info about these are scarce in English – these articles just touch the surface.

            • Interesting, that the Japanese used rice for tax remittance. When taxes go up, farmers have to grow more rice and less of other crops, leading to a famine when the rice crops failed. Probably also contributed to the disease outbreaks, if people are malnourished from eating too much rice and not enough other food.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Matthew Krajcik
              What evidence about cold weather and famines proves is that a society that is living close to the edge is going to suffer when things get bad….unless they have fossil fuels and a global trade network to bring food from someplace else. Isn’t that what we can expect in the future?

              As far as taxes being paid in something other than money…what would you suggest? The farmers don’t have any significant amount of cash. If they did have they could buy rice and give the bought rice to the government. But, of course the government doesn’t really want a lot of rice…it wants money. Rice was probably the simplest common denominator that the farmers could pay their taxes in.

              Whether the government could have stored rice to ease the burden of famine is something i don’t know. Storing crops for long periods, while protecting them from critters, was hard to do in the US up until WWII.

              Azby Brown says that taxes were a heavy burden for the farmers. If it hadn’t been for the taxes, their life would have been much easier. But their life in Edo was a heck of a lot easier than it had been during the medieval period, and real progress was made in terms of the characteristics Azby Brown identifies.

              Don Stewart

            • Why would paper money be hard to come buy? Why not have the government buy food with pieces of paper, then tax people in pieces of paper? They specifically chose rice.

              The claim about the rebellion was that they had the rice stored, but refused to release it to feed people. If they were using rice as financial instrument, maybe they could not take rice out, since it was pledged as collateral.

              Polished Rice can keep for quite some time. Looking for a specific amount of time, I’m seeing indefinite, 5 years past labeled expiration, or >30 years in oxygen-less environment.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Matthew Krajcik
              Why would a government deliberately starve its people? I can see the British starving the Irish, but Japan was a closed society. If millions of people starved in Japan, the government of Japan would be weaker. What ruler wants that?

              Don Stewart

            • Population control would be a reason to intentionally starve people. However, it could just as easily be that they were inept, corrupt or complacent. Sometimes, things happen outside of human control, like droughts, volcanic eruptions and colder than usual years.

              My question was simply, why use rice instead of gold or pearls or paper money or something else, since their tax system lead to over-dependency on rice?

            • Don Stewart says:

              Matthew Krajcik
              I have just about zero interest in studying anything relative to the government, except for what may be relevant to our situation now. It may be that the government was as terrible as you think it was. There is nothing I can do about that now.

              Look on page 26 and 27 in Brown, and you will see his drawings of some of the crops grown on a farmstead. There is a wide variety of crops, including some rice which is used to pay the tases. Soybeans are the principle source of protein. Many different kinds of vegetables…the evidence is still in seed catalogs which feature Asian varieties. I don’t see a monoculture of rice anywhere.

              So let’s talk about HOW the Edo people (farmers, tradespeople, samurai class) were all behaving in such a remarkably sustainable way. We might also talk about how the government aided or hindrered the process. For example, what about the government regulations which brought the forests back? Did the government foster the water and waste system in Edo which make that city remarkably disease free? What can we learn from the way the people in Edo lived, with no electricity and no fossil fuels?

              Don Stewart

            • Don; the concern for the future is, what should people use as money?
              What if they live in a place that does not have gold and silver? The Japanese chose rice, since it was useful and could store for a long time. The unintended consequences of that was too much rice being planted, and not enough other diverse food sources.

            • If millions starved, the population would be smaller. This would be a distinct advantage to coming through the period with the same population, but all of the people in poor health because of inadequate food. The people who were left would have more opportunity, because there would be more arable land per person.

            • Everything I have read suggested that famines were very common before the use of fossil fuels became widespread. Both of these famines were close to the end of this period (starting 1780 and starting 1830). In Europe, some of the outlet for the famines were migration to the New World, where farmland was more abundant.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              In Europe, some of the outlet for the famines were migration to the New World, where farmland was more abundant.

              This is what William Catton refers to as the “takeover” method of exceeding your carrying capacity — “take over” someone else’s!

              But we’ve sorta run out of places to take over, and we yeast cells have not been able to escape the fermentation vat for other planets. (That one was enticingly close: could we have terraformed Mars if we had another hundred years before running out, or would we have died in our own excrement while trying, given that much more resource? We’ll never know!)

              Now, we’re stuck in Catton’s “drawdown” method of exceeding carrying capacity, with each new bit of fossil sunlight extracted costing more than the one before it.

              Might as well sit back and enjoy the ride. The Earth won’t see another event like this for a long time.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              This is a selective list of known major famines, ordered by date.

              Between 108 BC and 1911 AD there were no fewer than 1,828 major famines in China, or one nearly every year in one or another province; however, the famines varied greatly in severity.[1][2] There were 95 famines in Britain during the Middle Ages.[3][4]

              Complete list


              1. Population densities are exponentially larger in all countries now
              2. The reason we can feed so many people is because of fossil fuels
              3. Soon there will be no fossil fuels available to power irrigation, distribute food, and provide the pesticides and fertilizers that powered the ‘green revolution’

              Essentially what is about to happen is 7 billion mouths are going to be thrown back into the past — but without the skills to grow food — and onto land that has been ruined by industrial farming (i.e. nothing will grow on the vast majority of land on the planet).

              You think the famines in China were something — you ain’t seen nothing yet.

              And the icing on the cake? The 7 billion mouths will kill every cow, goat, chicken, pig (as well as all wild animals) because they will be hungry. So forget about manure for making compost.

              Sorry to interrupt the pie in the sky discussion of the mythical Koombaya land (aka Edo) with a short burst of reality.

            • Kulm says:


              (It is in Japanese but the years would be legible)

              In addition to the four major famines during that period, there were relatively minor famines listed below.

              As late as 1930 Japan had a massive famine in the northeastern region (where the quake struck on 2011), which convinced Japan it was necessary to carve a lebensraum in Manchuria.

            • Thanks! I expect that part of the problem (besides poor weather etc.) was rising population, falling inflation adjusted wages for many of the common workers, and inability to afford what food was available. This seems to be a common way of reducing population. Epidemics might play a role as well.

            • Kulm says:


              The very little ‘progresses’ which might have been described by Azby (I have not read his book) all added up, and made the system unsustainable.

              1846 was the last year the Shogunate had the power to count all the people (with a population of 26 mil).

              There was going to be a census on 1852 but by then the authorities were slowly breaking down and the shogunate could not count the people. By 1858 the disintegration began in the periphery, although a dictator (a ‘Chief Councillor’ to a new shogun was was just 12) kept order in the major cities until he was killed in front of the shogun’s castle itself on 1860, and all hell broke loose. By the time the new govt was stable enough to conduct a census on 1870 there were 30 million people, and on 1872, with more stability, there were 35 million people.

              So in 26 years after the strict controls collapsed, population increased by more than 30%, despite the fact that widespread disruptions hindered grain transportation and caused local starvation, and there were lawlessness all over .

              Oddly the fall of the old order in Japan will probably be similar to the fall of the Bau, except at that time the revolters which got rid of the Shogun had British help and the Shogun at that time (who replaced the one who died mysteriously at 20 on 1866 when everything was at balance) was not inclined to make Edo into a Verdun and just surrendered ‘honorably’, with the surrender negotiated by the British consul.

              Who will aid the rebels now? The Chinese?

            • Kulm says:

              And, contrary to popular belief, the Shogunate was not rejecting “Western” ideas. They bought oceangoing ships and sent envoys to America. The Shogun’s forces were trained by the French to fight the British-trained rebels, but France was pressured by Prussia at that time and was in no help to save the Shogun.

              This guy was probably the last person to die for the Shogunate (Hijikata Toshizo).


              He was fully Westernized and died wearing Western cloths. The most diehard follower of the old order was not wary to dress like a Westerner.

              The Shogunate pushed the ZPG, etc because it suited them, and when it no longer helped them they quickly joined what would have been BAU at that time.

        • Kulm says:

          What made the Edo ZPG go on as long as it did was the introduction of the potato (including sweet potato) on 1735, by a Confucian scholar who also could read books from Holland. He taught himself how to raise them by reading western agricultural books.

          The tiny Japanese window to the West (to Holland only – Holland did not try to spread its religion) , which could be called as the BAU of the day, was much more significant than many people think.

  6. Artleads says:

    At 43:00 there is section on the Cuban economy, including organic agriculture:

    • I think that this may be a transcript of the interview:

      It is titled,”Organic Farming Flourishes in Cuba, But Can It Survive Entry of U.S. Agribusiness?”

      One thing that people haven’t focused on is the fact that Cuba has close to nothing to export, except perhaps a little nickel and indirectly, the revenue impact it gets from tourism, and the impact of remittances from relatives living abroad. Thus, if it has to import both food and oil, it is really in tough shape. The balance of payment graph I showed indicated an $8 billion dollar balance of payment deficit recently. Ouch!

      • Artleads says:

        Having evolved into being something of a landscape-aesthetic determinist (:-)), I was turned off by the agricultural “style.” A whole swathe of land laid out in neat rows. (Although my hero, Geoff Lawton, does that too, he also does other things with land that look wilder and less regimented.) Sorry, I’m not making much sense, but if Cuba is out of the global economic game, it might consider really going wild and “primitive.” There’s a certain kind of scholarly tourism that would be attracted to that. A living museum of tropical flora and fauna, but also an innovative way to provide food.

  7. Fast Eddy says:

    Rather amusing…

    Hacked Emails Expose George Soros As Ukraine Puppet-Master

    Just days after George Soros warned that World War 3 was imminent unless Washington backed down to China on IMF currency basket inclusion, the hacker collective CyberBerkut has exposed the billionaire as the real puppet-master behind the scenes in Ukraine. In 3 stunning documents, allegedly hacked from email correspondence between the hedge fund manager and Ukraine President Poroshenko, Soros lays out “A short and medium term comprehensive strategy for the new Ukraine,” expresses his confidence that the US should provide Ukraine with lethal military assistance, “with same level of sophistication in defense weapons to match the level of opposing force,” and finally explained Poroshenko’s “first priority must be to regain control of financial markets,” which he assures the President could be helped by The Fed adding “I am ready to call Jack Lew of the US Treasury to sound him out about the swap agreement.”

    • Rodster says:

      You want something that’s even more amusing? Try this:

      “Fed Mouthpiece Jon Hilsenrath Furious “Stingy” US Consumers Refuse To Buy The “Recovery” Propaganda”

      • Rodster says:

        I actually emailed this person and explained why the average American consumer is stingy.

        Here’s my reply:

        “Dear Jon, I saw your piece posted on Zero Hedge. I must say either you are a tool for the Gov’t and the Big Banks or you my friend just don’t get it. The Federal Reserve. the Big Banks along with the Federal Gov’t have turned the Middle Class into the Lower Class. The bottom line is we don’t have anymore F-ing money to buy stuff. We are tapped out, broke. The only grioup that’s doing swell are the upper 1%. Like George Carlin once said, “it’s a Big Club and we ain’t in it folks”.

        The Banks along with the Federal Gov’t have done us NO favors by shipping our manufacturing and high tech jobs to China, India, Hong Kong, Vietnam etc. The Federal Gov’t have done us NO favors by implementing Obamacare which has cost us jobs and added the economic burden to the American consumer. I’m self employed and I can’t afford Obamacare so I decided to do without.

        All we do is consume because College Grads who took out loans can’t find work in their majors and are now either living back with their parents or working part time at Walmart.

        Have you taken a look at gas prices? They’ve gone down because gas is too expensive for the average consumer and too low for the producers. That’s the economic world the Banks and the Federal Gov’t have bestowed on a once thriving economy and the envy of the world.

        I sincerely hope you wrote that piece as a matter of satire or sarcasm.”

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Hilsenrath is a minion of the MSM which is owned by the PTB … he is not a journalist… his job is to regurgitate edicts from the Ministry of Truth for dissemination in the WSJ.

          He may or may not believe the edicts. But he is paid well to do this job — and jobs in the MSM are hard to come by these days — soi like a good minion he will not question decisions from above.

          Your letter would no doubt have been deleted or if read would have slipped off like a fried egg on a Teflon pan.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I shot him over a screen shot of the labour participation rate… which is at record lows …. just for the fun of it

  8. Fast Eddy says:

    I’ve seen the total disconnect between the US marco picture and the stock market…

    But have a look at this — some of that ECB QE is being put to work defying gravity…

  9. Cuba will rock if it takes a good policy path…

  10. Fast Eddy says:

    There’s no longer any pretense of green shoots or any other recovery bullshit invented by a PR firm….

    There are no fundamentals any longer… it would seem that most people recognize this now … so the MSM has given up and they are no longer trying to put lipstick on the pig.

    This sums the state of affairs up very nicely:

    Hong Kong shares close down as investors wait for stimulus

  11. Pingback: Cuba : Comprendre les pièces du puzzle | Arrêt sur Info

  12. Fast Eddy says:

    Does anyone know where to get this book?

    It will be very useful post collapse…

    Last weekend I spent roughly an hour rummaging around looking for one of my old mainstay recipes. I couldn’t find it because it was written either on a scrap of paper or on the inside cover of a lyric book I used for my band that sadly hasn’t been touched in close to 2 years.

    This recipe originally appeared in the Bark & Grass Vegan Cookbook

  13. Artleads says:

    Apparently, there is nothing but smooth sailing ahead for these authors:

  14. Fast Eddy says:

    Seems the central banks cannot print jobs… no job no spend the money …. deflationary bomb with the slow burning fuse is lit…

    • I was reminded how much money is out for lending yesterday when someone called and said that my business had been pre approved for a loan, with no strings attached–how the funds were to be used, due date of the loan, or required payments along the way. All I needed to show was that the business had been in operation for three months. (Did I hear this correctly?) Of course, if there are no interest or repayment markers, it is easy for lenders to show all loans are in good standing.

  15. Fast Eddy says:

    Techno-Narcissism & The Real Limits To Growth

    Comments section are interesting … nobody wants to hear this story…

    • “Comments section are interesting … nobody wants to hear this story…”

      Zerohedge is an interesting site. Seems a lot of people see there are serious issues, but absolutely believe that Free Market Anarcho-Capitalism will miraculously overcome all obstacles. The view seems to mainly be that government, bankers and manipulators are the cause of all ills, rather than diminishing returns.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Yes that is correct.

        I have corresponded with ‘Tyler Durden’ (Brad Pitt?) and he is adamant that the crisis is a result of ‘the stupidity of central bankers’

        That said — they do run Gail’s articles — and the one I posted earlier.

        The thing is… if they come around to understanding the problem:

        1. Most of the articles on ZH would be deemed irrelevant because they assume recovery is possible (I see most of them as white noise — chatter — whining about corruption and money printing misses the point) so why bother with the web site…

        2. Most people – including Tyler — do not want the truth. Because the truth means eating bark and grass — and death. And that is terrifying.

        • ” Most people – including Tyler — do not want the truth. Because the truth means eating bark and grass — and death. And that is terrifying.”

          That’s kind of funny, since the character Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club was all about anarcho-primitivism, blowing up the banks and “re-wilding” the cities, so men could go back to hunting and getting away from consumerism and materialism.

  16. edpell says:

    What population would make Cuba a comfortable place to live? My guess 100,000.

  17. edpell says:

    Yes, islands have problems.

    ” NRG, ITC partner to bail out Puerto Rico’s troubled utility
    The two companies have reportedly partnered with a private investment firm in a $3.5 billion deal to assist the island’s ailing utility. ”

  18. J says:

    Gail: “I think we are finding out. We are finding our that not enough resources means fewer jobs and lower pay for the jobs available. This isn’t what folks were looking for, though. They were looking for high prices instead.”

    What about Helicopter Ben? Could he drive up prices?

    In theory banks across the world could wire $1000 to your bank account. And the next day, prices would be a lot higher. And this would cause massive wealth transfer from rich to poor. Or massive inflation if you want.

    But why would the rich want to do this?

    It might bring up a little bit more oil. But the big reason this wont happen is that it’s reversing the system. The current system gives the free money to the banks so they can monetize it. Giving free money to the people is the other way around. And it seems like it’s not going to happen. More likely you will have a slightly negative interest rate in your bank account.

    Other thoughts?

    • Fast Eddy says:

      As I have commented previously — Ben already has used the helicopter — in fact he has been dumping pallets out of Hercules transport planes 24/7 for years now….

      The Fed has printed trillions of dollars since 2008 and pumped it into the economy — student loans, subprime auto/home loans, disability for a hang nail etc… — but the biggest drop has been to corporates who are using that cash to buy back stocks…

      The Fed was never and will never just pass out cash to people — or actually fling it out of helicopters — they are using far more subtle methods…

      QE ZIRP = helicopter cash (the Fed knows damn well that money will never be paid back — the token interest on the loans is there to create the appearance of normality)

      Look at the PBOC — they are handing out billions to insolvent entities so that they can make interest payments on other loans that will never be paid back… just another more sophisticated way of throwing cash out of choppers…

      Same is being done in the EU … insolvent countries given even more loans so as to keep up the facade…

      Ben admitted in his thesis that helicopter money was the last weapon in the arsenal — if that doesn’t work — we are done.

      Well… it is not working…. we are sinking into recession and deflation.

    • As the problems we are having play out, it is possible that banks could wire $1000 to our bank accounts, causing local inflation and the US$ to fall relative to other currencies. (I think it would have to be “Helicopter Janet” instead of “Helicopter Ben” though.) It might raise world oil prices a little, for a while, also other commodity prices, but the exercise would need to be repeated frequently.

      I don’t think the rich would want to do this. It would have to be a money-printing exercise.

      • kesar0 says:

        They can’t do it. Never. It will be the end of US dollar and end to US hegemony and end to globalized economy/world reserve currency. Every person in the world would know it will end with hyper-inflation. Dollar would be dumped in a week by all global players. Won’t happen.

        • You are probably right.

        • Fast Eddy says:


          However I could see governments offering some sort of tax rebate.

          I recall Hong Kong did that some years ago when the economy was struggling (might have been SARS or the Asian Financial Crisis…)

          All about optics… there has to be some spin accompanying the money… otherwise the sheeple smell the wolf…

          • kesar0 says:

            I wonder what kind of ammunition they still have. Not much I guess, but the subsidizing must continue. Without it the gravity (diminishing returns) will take us to hell.

  19. Stefeun says:

    “Dollar No More”

    Interesting MAP -with trade amounts- of the
    “Countries and international groups that have switched from US dollar to national currencies in trade.
    In early 2014, Justin Yifu Lin, the former World Bank Chief Economist, blamed the dominance of the US dollar for global economic crises and said it should be eliminated as the world’s reserve currency. According to Lin, the solution would be to replace the national currency with a global currency.

    In the recent months, several countries, including Russia, China, India and Turkey, have decided to ditch the US dollar in their foreign trade, often paying for products in gold or other agreed on currencies.”

  20. Fast Eddy says:

    Re: Permaculture

    I’d like to recount a tale of 4 hours spent with one of New Zealand’s leading permaculture experts/commercial organic farmer this morning – he has 30+ years of experience.
    I moved to NZ from the tropical island of Bali which has some of the world’s most fertile soil – a place where, due to the high humidity and heat — compost could be readied in as little as 3 months — as well, massive amounts of composting material is available on a daily basis.
    I had him by to help familiarize me with local conditions, suppliers and tradesmen to help with our set up here.

    Some take-ways:

    1. Composting in this climate will take 1 year+
    2. It is difficult to obtain composting inputs during much of the year so he recommended gathering massive amounts of leaves during the fall season.
    3. One cannot rely on bringing in manure from outside because almost all of it will be carrying residues from de-worming medicines which if added to a compost pile will continue to kill worms and slow or even stop the composting process
    4. The only way to overcome this problem is to a) build up your own compost over years or b) buy expensive high quality compost from companies that specialize in this (if you want a significant sized order say 50cubic — you need to let them know in advance… this stuff is precious)
    5. Irrigation is the number one issue in getting reliable harvests — we’ll be taking water off of a spring + installing either a solar surface pump or ram in a nearby stream
    6. He reiterated what I already know — that industrially farmed soil would take years of composting inputs to get it to produce a crop.

     98% of the world’s crops are grown using industrial methods — shut off the oil — forget about growing anything
     Irrigation becomes a huge problem as well because most irrigation relies on electric pumps
     Land that has not been cropped is definitely going to be marginal – it will not support a crop without a great deal of composting so well over a year before you can harvest anything.
     Where do you get manure that is not stuffed full of toxic medicines?
     Where do you get manure when starving people have killed all the cattle, chickens, goats, etc… for food?
     Even if you can obtain sufficient organic materials to build compost, you are still faced with the minimum year to create proper compost in which to grow
    People seem to believe that post collapse we can flip a switch and start to grow crops and start banging the koombaya drum while dancing about the fire.

    It is not possible.

    When the grocery stores close — there will be almost no food. The forests will be ravaged — the wild animals shot and consumed — some people have established small gardens but there is no way they can self-sustain off these — some with larger operations will be targets for the starving hordes.

    This well and truly will be a nightmare.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      Where do you get manure when starving people have killed all the cattle, chickens, goats, etc… for food?

      Uhm… from their own bodies?

      I’m surprised your “expert” didn’t talk more of humanure.

      • edpell says:

        How about fish as fertilizer? They have to have plenty of fish.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Ha ha…. well… I don’t think he is buying into the end of the world scenario….

        He was suggesting that I purchase a chipper and various other mechanized gear to shift compost etc… and I tried to redirect on that saying I’d rent these sorts of things but long term this will be a manual operation…

        We were still defaulting to some mechanization so I just laid it out on the line — explaining that when the next shoe drops there will almost certainly be no petrol for the machines… passed long part of The Perfect Storm research in the event he wanted to understand where I was coming from.

        I sensed disagreement (or perhaps discomfort…) however that helped us get past the bottleneck and wheelbarrows it is!

        Needless to say I won’t be suggesting composting dead bodies… word gets around quickly in small communities… don’t want to be known as ‘The Crazy Guy Up the Valley’

    • Your post points out a few of the issues. Also, there are definite problems with trying to fix up many areas at once–both human energy inputs and where to find the compost. Managing huge acreage with depleted soil was part of Cuba’s problem after the Soviet Union left.

    • garand555 says:

      Compost can be made much faster than in 3 months. It requires expending energy and the use of water if there is not enough rain. Densely populated areas are going to be screwed, yes, but I’ve made compost in under a month. It requires making sure the moisture level is right, building your pile, waiting for a few days, then turning it every other day so that the outside goes on the inside until it is done. If I have a pile of rubbish that is going to get turned into compost eventually, I also make a habit of peeing on it whenever I’m out there.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I prefer to urinate in the liquid compost bin….

        Can you provide more info on accelerating composting …. what do you mean by ‘expending energy’

  21. kesar0 says:

    WSJ: Easy Access to Money Keeps U.S. Oil Pumping
    “We all think there will be some sort of recovery, but we don’t know when it will recover and what it will recover to.”

    Some people still believe in fairy-tales.

  22. Artleads says:

    “Biological farming and gardening, for example, by whatever name you want to call it, can give the result of a great mass of biological life, plus food for humans. But it doesn’t provide a place for the large herbivores that Gail is always talking about…except on preserves. Wooly mammoths don’t coexist with kitchen gardens. Neither do deer in the absence of wolves. Humans know quite enough to have a very diverse world, and also grow a lot of food for humans.”

    I’ve thought about coexistence between humans and large animals. I have two ideas (neither is necessarily satisfactory. Both require restriction on human movement.

    1). Prohibit commercial development throughout large swathes of land, forming natural or managed “park islands” for large animals. The Jane Goodall model of involving the local people bordering these areas to protect and benefit that way from the park might be considered.

    2) Just as water might need to be channelized in certain areas (like the Dead Sea perhaps), wild animals large and small might be channelized–somewhat like labyrinths–fenced off from humans. Such fencing might be constructed from repurposed materials (including other affordable innovations) and would strike a balance between respect for animals and respect for humans. Perhaps such fencing could make use of water conduits as well…

    • garand555 says:

      While your ideas are valid, we are going to find that there is simply not enough stuff to sustain us all. After we figure that out the hard way, then we can start thinking about leaving room for nature.

      • Artleads says:

        I respectfully disagree. I believe that putting (wild) animal welfare first forces adaptations in human society that are absolutely necessary for our survival.

  23. Kulm says:

    I do not deny Gail’s premises and agree with many of her points.

    However, BAU is too strong to be destroyed now.

    The population growth in the poorest part of the world will be irrelevant.

    The world will become a massive Bombay. Bombay has the mansions of some of the richest people in the world, like the Ambani family who have a $2 billion house, the most expensive house in the world. More than 500 private Gurkha soldiers (probably the world’s best fighters) guard it day and night.

    Bombay also has 10 million plus desperately poor people, but they are completely irrelevant to the grand of scheme of things , kept well away from the mansions by brutal police, and will probably starve within a week when food stops being shipped to that megacity. People like Ambanis will flee to their private houses elsewhere in their choppers, hoping the Gurkhas will be able to guard their houses till they come back after things are ‘back to the order’.

    BAU will fight tooth and nail and will outlive most of the rest.

    • garand555 says:

      BAU depends on highly complex global supply chains that depend on oil. BAU is going head to head with physics. It will lose this fight.

  24. Charles Alban says:

    It’s a very interesting experiment. The dead hand of the government is clearly the problem. A better solution would be to give groups of people (say 100-150) access to a free tract of land which they would work cooperatively as an income-sharing egalitarian community. The reestablishment of self sufficient rural villages in other words. Animal power would be fine for this. And if they quit eating meat they could very easily take care of their needs and become a model for the rest of us.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Once upon a time we had such a world.

      And what happened was as resources were put under pressure by population growth we had war.

      And war is the mother of invention — so one tribe developed a bows and arrows and wiped out the other tribes and seized their lands…

      But that ruling tribe because complacent and lazy — and another tribe lead by a man who was obsessed with lifting the yoke and kissing the ring developed better weapons and better tactics and he and his warriors attacked and destroyed the ruling tribe…

      And on and on and on … to the pinnacle where we now have nuclear weapons and a myriad of technologies that we call civilization.

      So you see — there can be no ‘Koombaya Village’ where everyone shares and there is love and peace and joy — where the Chris Martenson Quartet leads the drum thumping and dancing and everyone has a tattoo….

      It never was possible — it never will be possible — and if anyone tried this — it would be smashed to pieces — the crops stolen — the women raped and the men enslaved.

      This is worth reading

      • The Spartans had it worked out pretty good, but then they were outbred and defeated by The Romans. Perhaps a single global Sparta could work. With debt jubilees, birth control and eugenics, along with a warrior culture, and no fear of being overwhelmed by outsiders.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          As we have seen — there is no such thing as eternal empire or eternal power. Entropy always wins out … and there is always a new kid in town….

        • Artleads says:

          IMO, self interest requires seeing that everyone’s basic needs are met. Leaving people alone would help as well. Stealing their land and making them dependent on your products is just plain dumb. Somewhat analogous to stirring up a hornet’s nest.

          • “IMO, self interest requires seeing that everyone’s basic needs are met. ”

            What happens when there is not enough resources to meet everyone’s basic needs?

            • I think we are finding out. We are finding our that not enough resources means fewer jobs and lower pay for the jobs available. This isn’t what folks were looking for, though. They were looking for high prices instead.

            • Stefeun says:

              ILO warns of widespread insecurity in the global labour market

              “The World Employment and Social Outlook 2015 (WESO) finds that, among countries with available data (covering 84 per cent of the global workforce), three quarters of workers are employed on temporary or short-term contracts, in informal jobs often without any contract, under own-account arrangements or in unpaid family jobs.

              Over 60 per cent of all workers lack any kind of employment contract, with most of them engaged in own-account* or contributing family work in the developing world. However, even among wage and salaried workers, less than half (42 per cent) are working on a permanent contract.”


            • Fast Eddy says:

              Wow… one has to wonder how consumption has not fallen off a cliff…

            • garand555 says:

              “What happens when there is not enough resources to meet everyone’s basic needs?”

              Pandemonium. We’re not quite there yet in the Western world. We still have many poor who are obese. But that can change over the span of a few weeks.

            • “Pandemonium. We’re not quite there yet in the Western world. We still have many poor who are obese. But that can change over the span of a few weeks.”

              One pound of pork contains 1100 calories. A person who is 100 pounds over-weight could go three months on body fat alone, unless they’re diabetic.

            • garand555 says:

              They’d eventually run into other malnutrition problems. You can be fat and malnourished at the same time.

            • Artleads says:

              As Don points out, there are different levels and types of “limits.” Gail tends to look at these limits in terms or developed western economies. But someone above pointed to the fact that around 60% of global work force works outside the norms of the west–no insurance, interest, debt, “jobs,” etc. So when we’re looking at limits due to scarcity, it could be helpful not to mix the industrial economic systems with he informal–below the radar–ones.

              Scarcity is too often measured in terms of traditional industrial production, which this blog is primarily focused on showing as headed nowhere. I totally agree that it’s heading nowhere. So why aren’t we looking at giving it a gentle nudge out to pasture while starting a new emphasis on the “developing” world? (This developing world can be here, there or anywhere that is *conceptually* independent of industrial civilization and its memes.)

              A typical meme is that you can’t grow food or harvest water in cities. Soil everywhere is irremediably depleted. And it seems to make little difference how often it is pointed out with proof that such memes are not quite founded. So I don’t think we can know what resource limits there are until we jettison (if we ever do) the “superstition” that the only measure of the possible is what is possible in mainstream industrial society.

        • Kulm says:

          We already have it – Singapore.

          Actually that is the world the Dark Enlightenment movement wants – it is far better than any other alternatives.

          I have quoted quite a few passeges from a follower of that movement at this blog.

    • Giving groups a free tract of land might be a model to try.

      Whether or not meat should be excluded depends on various things. For example, villages on the coast might be able to get food by fishing. Eating small animals (rabbits, chickens) that can grow with virtually no human labor can add to food supply, especially if there is plenty of land. I understand that one reason pork is popular in Cuba is that pigs, in fact, can survive in the wild in Cuba. The Bay of Pigs is named after an area that had a large population of feral pigs.

      Areas need to work out what works out best for them, given issues such as human labor required, storage requirements, and seasonality issues (wet/dry, hot/cold – not as important in Cuba).

    • Stefeun says:

      interesting that you mention groups of 100-150 people, because 150 is known as the Dunbar’s number, which defines a theoretical “upper limit on the size of groups that can be maintained by direct personal contact. This limit reflects demands made on the ancestral human populations at some point in their past history. Once neocortex size has evolved, other factors may of course dictate the need for smaller groups.”

      Found this blog by a Christopher Allen, who’s written quite a few posts about Dunbar’s number and group sizes, with lots of details. For example:

      My personal opinion is that such an organisation can work and be stable for a while, as long as the community doesn’t deplete the ecosystem, which means that the population density must remain very low, and the natural biodiversity very high. That more or less prohibits the use of external energy.

      It’s likely not sustainable, though, because one of the communities finds a way to leverage their power and their population, which in turn depletes their resources (see MEP principle) and pushes them to look for new energy sources (most often, take over new territories). If no new source is found, the community (tribe or civilization) collapses.

      It happened many times in human history, both unsuccessfully (see civilization collapses) and “successfully”, such as with agriculture 10 000 BC (increased output per area unit), technological and geographical developments during the Renaissance*, and of course our dear fossil fuels since early 19th century, which are now pushing us at full speed against all limits at once.

      Unfortunately, once the race for external energy (and the technology that allows to leverage it) is started, I don’t see any way to stop it. IMHO, it can only accelerate until it invades and enslaves everything possible, then bursts. What exactly will remain on Earth after the soon-coming “bottleneck” is very unclear.

      *: very interesting insights about this “mentality switch” that followed the Middle-Ages in this 1992 article by Carolyn Merchant, “Science and Worldviews”:

      Merchant’s article was linked in this -very interesting too!- post by td0s, recently re-published on the Doomstead Diner (Thanks again RE!):
      “Mechanistic Progress; Holistic Wisdom”

      • In my view, the population of groups of humans in an area of adequate resources tends always to grow, because of nature’s plan of natural selection (so that all species including humans, have more offspring than needed to replace themselves). Humans learned over 1 million years ago how to control fire. This ability has tended to allow more offspring to live than needed to replace the parents. Unless a group makes a concerted effort to keep population down (including some combination of birth control, abortions, and killing off of infants/young adults to keep population at the desired level), it is almost impossible to keep population down.

        Humans can’t get along without external energy. We need to cook our food, because of the way we have evolved. Also, human population has spread to many parts of the world where it is too cold or too dry for humans to live without supplemental energy of some sort. Some of this energy is used for purposes such as drilling wells.

  25. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Finite Worlders
    A few thoughts about things and systems, technology and art, and needs vs. wants.

    Capra and Luisi point out the millennium long struggle between the view of the world as ‘things’ (e.g., atoms and molecules and bodies) and the world as ‘relationships, patterns and context’ (e.g., systems science or holistic philosophies or quantum theory and relativity).

    In her book Ten Doors, the poet Jane Hirshfield quotes the poem The Stillness of the World Before Bach, by Lars Gustafsson:

    ‘There must have been a world before
    the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor Partita,
    but what kind of world?
    A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
    everywhere unawakened instruments.’

    Hirshfield, who recently gave a talk at the LA Public Library along with a scientist, is also making a distinction between things (instruments, air, spaces, Europe) and the world of systems, where Bach’s music changes everything without changing anything material.

    Now this is not an essay proclaiming that either things or systems are the ONLY thing worth considering. Clearly, both are needed to give we humans the world we were designed to thrive in. But, very often, there is inadequate attention given to both sides of the coin. Many people dogmatically assert the ‘obvious truth’ of one side or the other, failing to recognize the equal truth of the other perspective.

    I will refer to Exhibit 1, the article in Peak Oil Notes and the comments on the article.
    The Under Secretary writes about the work in the National Labs, and does a pretty good job of describing both things and systems. Some of his words are resonant of the Constructal Law of Adrian Bejan….we can make things flow more easily. A number of people attack the Under Secretary for failing to focus only on things: barrels of oil or GDP or Debt or food or whatever. BW Hill chimes in with his focus on oil and its ability to do work. He foresees a pretty steep decline in the ability of oil to do work, which spills over into the other sources of energy, which implies a sharp reduction in our ability to do work. A number of people who prefer to focus on barrels of oil or debt dismiss Hill’s model as irrelevant or wrong. Some frackers and their Wall Street sell side arm proclaim that new systems will save the oil genie. I rather like Hill’s focus on work, because it segues directly into Systems. (I’m not claiming he has got everything just right.)

    Jane Hirshfield (and other artists) will tend to focus on the work between the ears. More like the work that Bach did. But did Bach depend on the work that the world had done up until he picked up his quill pen? Yes he did. Hirshfield says:

    ‘Experience is knowledge. A realized work requires both skills and materials. Its pieces must be found and fitted together, before it can bring into being the not-yet-known. For this, the sum of a life is needed.’

    The ‘sum of a life’ argument is reminiscent of Tim Garrett’s use of the integral of GDP production since the start of time, subjected to a decay function, as his measure of ‘wealth’. Some people, of course, find reasons why Garrett doesn’t understand oil or GDP or debt or whatever concerns them.

    The point is that what we have is a mixture of things and systems (or processes, if you prefer), and a mixture of what we need and what we might like to have.

    In order for humans to flourish on this planet, we need sources of energy which we can manipulate to meet our needs for food, shelter, water, and social interactions. But what we WANT is comfort. Chris Martenson and Charles Hugh Smith addressed the comfort issue last week in one of Martenson’s interviews. Martenson thinks that ‘comfort’ has got him captured, and he needs to get away to some place which is much more spartan (backpacking?), so that he can return home and really appreciate the basic comforts and not pursue the superfluous comforts.

    Hirshfield, a student of Buddhism, reminds us that ‘Life is dissatisfaction’. She doubts that any poems would ever be written were it not for discomfort. ‘It is by suffering’s presence that we know there is something we need to address.’ A poet or a Buddhist might ask ‘why am I dissatisfied’, rather than reaching for a beer as a sedative.

    This morning I went to the regular Sunday morning concert on the lawn at my food co-op. American roots music with a lively crowd ranging in age from 2 months to 90 years. I’m glad Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil on that dark crossroads in the Delta, leaving us the beginnings of music which has blossomed in many directions. I suppose if I were a poet, I would write about ‘The US Before Robert Johnson Sold His Soul’. In any event, we need to get together and hear live music and dance to it and celebrate the limitless potential of the toddler…and tolerate the old f..ts.

    What we really don’t need is to drive to the music in an SUV, or to hear the music played on elaborate instruments and broadcast with expensive sound equipment. Those latter conditions are where its at right now, but a cigar box guitar played under a shade tree is good enough.

    If, as BW Hill prophesies, the amount of work we can do is about to decline rather dramatically, I think it behooves us to keep the distinctions and connections I have outlined in the frontal lobes, and to exercise what Kelly McGonigal and others have taught us about our two brains, and how to switch between them. Maybe read some poetry with Hirshfield, also.

    Don Stewart

    • I think promises are particularly important in the world of relationships. Also government services are very important in the world of government services. A lot of folks (“peak oilers”, in particular) cannot understand that anything beyond the physical makes a difference. I often hear a comment more or less to the effect that if we lose our current systems, we will just start over with new ones. This isn’t really true, as I see it.

      One thing to keep in mind with BW Hill’s work is that civilizations regularly collapsed, back when fossil fuels were not used at all, so EROEI was not an issue. Energy for growing food came from the sun, with effectively an EROEI of infinity. Energy for cooking food came from cutting local trees or gathering falling branches, with a stable high EROEI. I have not seen any evidence that falling EROI with respect to this energy was a problem (having to walk farther for wood, etc.) Instead, the issues were issues completely apart from EROEI that brought down the civilization:
      (1) Diminishing returns in growing food related to less arable land per capita, because population became too high for the area. As a result, wages of new workers fell.
      (2) Erosion of soil or salt deposits in soil, also leading to diminishing returns.
      (3) At times diminishing returns in other areas–ability to get enough tin to combine with copper to make bronze, for example.
      (4) Growing disparity of wages, leading to common workers earning less.
      (5) Greater required funding for government.
      (6) Inability to repay debt with interest.
      None of these issues are a function of falling EROEI.

      I agree that falling EROEI will cause an economy to fail, but this misses the point that an economy, even with a stable high EROEI will fail. Falling EROEI adds to other problems of a finite world. It is by no means the only problem we experience in a finite world. We experience diminishing returns in many ways, most of which are not measured by EROEI. We also today have new problems, like banks with high derivatives exposure.

      So I have problems with a model that claims to forecast collapse solely based on EROEI. Given the other diminishing returns forces, collapse could come sooner than an EROEI model would predict. There are also details on whether the EROEI calculations were done correctly. I am not confident of this–there are too many averages that need to be used.

      • Don Stewart says:

        I don’t think you are accurately characterizing BW Hill’s work when you state that he claims that EROEI alone will bring down civilization. And his focus is not EROEI, but on work which can be done by the non-energy sector. From looking at his graphs, I would say that the work which can be done by the non-energy sector has been declining throughout this century. Do you think that the declining ability to do work has anything to do with the escalating government and financial problems? I think BW would say it has everything to do with them.

        Tim Garrett’s model shows a very tight correlation between energy (both current plus historical represented by wealth) and income. It seems to me that Hill makes the models more precise by focusing in on work, rather than gross energy. Hill CAN calculate EROEIs, but they are not the heart of his model…the heart of the model is work capacity.

        When a classical civilization collapsed because of declining soil fertility or soil erosion or salting up of the soil, they were, at least in part, reacting to the declining ability of the civilization to do work. The work, in those cases, was powered mostly by the sun. But the principle is the same.

        I believe I have read BW Hill say that his model was NOT inspired by what Charles Hall did. He started from thermodynamics. He can calculate a sort of EROEI (currently at 9 to 1), but he does not strive to make it match Hall’s calculations. EROEI is probably just a red herring in terms of objections. The model stands or falls based on its ability to explain, specifically, the work we have been able to get and can expect to get from oil, and secondarily, the impact of the declining work from oil on the other energy sources. Thirdly, we can extrapolate the declining work from the bulk of our current energy sources into all sorts of societal problems…but Hill doesn’t go there in any detail. He will occasionally drop a hint that he understands those knock on consequences, but he is an engineer…not an economist or sociologist or political scientist.

        Don Stewart

        • The part of the situation I am looking at is that the economy must grow, or its financial sector will collapse. It is not possible to repay debt with interest. Also, prices of commodities will fall too low, without adequate growth. I don’t think that the BWHill model reflects this. I believe he is looking at closed system thermodynamics, to show that the amount of energy available is depleting. (This is also Charles Hall’s focus.) The financial problem arises because the economy is, in fact, a dissipative structure in a thermodynamically open system, benefitting from the burning of fossil fuels and other energy inputs. As such, it needs a rising amount of energy. It cannot really contract. Considering only closed system thermodynamics misses this point.

          The BWHill model will thus allow the system to continue, beyond the time it would reach financial collapse. Maybe this is not important to many people, but it is to me.

          • “The part of the situation I am looking at is that the economy must grow, or its financial sector will collapse. It is not possible to repay debt with interest. ”

            1. Must the growth be real, or can it be simply nominal?
            2. Why can’t there be a debt jubilee? The Central Banks can conjure money out of thin air, buy and retire all outstanding debt to reset the system. Or Drive interest rates negative, and pay people to borrow.

            • garand555 says:

              Debt backs our currency. Or rather, our currency is debt. I’ll let you work out where an outright debt jubilee would end. As for negative interest rates, well, that’s kind of like dividing by zero. And it also fails to take into account fixed income earners who’s living depends on interest income.

            • “Debt backs our currency. Or rather, our currency is debt. I’ll let you work out where an outright debt jubilee would end.”

              Only if you removed the debt without replacing it with cash. The central banks can make money that is not debt-based, and use that to buy debts, so the debts disappear but the money in circulation does not.

              Negative interest rates are happening in the real world, and there is no great DIV/0! error popping up.

              Some people are going to loose out no matter what. Maybe everyone. Sacrificing fixed income may be the lesser of all evils.

            • All money is a future promise. We can debate whether to call it “debt” or not, but the problem is still there. It can’t buy goods that aren’t available at the time a person wants to use it.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              it [negative interest] also fails to take into account fixed income earners who’s living depends on interest income.

              The slackers! Put a hoe in their hands and put them in a field! Or make them watch kids while their parents work! Or keep them stirring the soup to keep it from burning! 🙂

              Seriously, I see passive income as one of the biggest problems with civilization. (Not to mention that seniors have a basic human need to feel useful.)

              Not too long ago, passive income was limited to the rentier class. But then someone discovered how to get people to “buy in” to letting the filthy rich get filthier rich: let the hoi polloi taste a pittance of passive income, so that they could imagine themselves filthy rich some day.

              That plot worked, and now we have the spectre of the 99% letting the 1% get away with robbery†, because, “Hey, that might be me someday!”

              Life was simpler when peasants had no chance of escaping peasantry. That was a time of noblesse obligé, because the rich knew there wasn’t much separating them from torches and pitchforks and gallows and guillotines.

              †I woke up to the news that one of the “big six” Canadian banks is now charging you a $5 fee to make a payment on your mortgage. They claimed it was due to “reduced income due to low interest rates.” This was a bank that just declared $2,600,000,000 profit in the last quarter. The nerve! The pitchforks and torches can’t come soon enough!

            • garand555 says:

              What is the real rate of inflation, (not the CPI, CPI-U, PCE, other manipulated indicies…) and what does that imply for the future of the value of the dollar? We are in the process of dividing by zero here.

            • “what does that imply for the future of the value of the dollar? ”

              All paper currencies lose value over time, and are reformed or replaced. The Chinese have done it several times over the last ~1000 years.

            • We need to have a system that “works,” in order for investors to keep on investing, banks to keep from collapsing, and government to collect enough tax revenue. This includes

              (1) Investors who get sufficient return on their investment.

              (2) Banks and bondholders who get debt repaid with interest.

              (3) Workers who get paid an adequate salary to help keep the whole system working. Part of the role of workers (including “common workers”) is to buy goods that hold up commodity prices. They also pay taxes.

              (4) Governments that collect enough taxes.

              If there is not enough “profit” in the system (coming from growth in cheap energy products that can be used to leverage human labor to pump up the output of goods and services), the whole system tends to collapse.

              Regarding,”1. Must the growth be real, or can it be simply nominal?” It needs to be real, to make the system work. But now, we are having a hard time even making it nominal, because inflation levels are so low. Governments are not good at getting inflation rates up either.

              Regarding, “2. Why can’t there be a debt jubilee?” A debt jubilee doesn’t fix the underlying problem of too little “profit” in the system. Some of this “profit” would normally be used to raise the wages of common workers. Some of this “profit” would be used to repay debt with interest. Some of this “profit” would go to the pay taxes. Some of this “profit” would go for the additional needs of growing population. It would at most fix one piece of the problem temporarily, with the system still subject to collapse.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Hill has forecast that the decline in work available to the non-energy sector will cost the world 5 trillion dollars over the next few years. He has forecast ‘the end of the age of oil’ happening in the not very distant future. He points out that non-oil sources of energy such as hydro, coal, and gas are heavily dependent on oil. He forecasts steadily falling oil prices over the next decade, as incomes will not support the purchase of expensive to produce oil.

            I frankly fail to see how he is ignoring the issues that trouble you.

            Don Stewart

            • I expect that banks will collapse very early in the scenario, as will governments. It is hard to see that the system can run for a decade on falling prices.

            • Don Stewart says:

              See this one page from BW Hill

              If anyone really believed the part about oil being at 11 dollars by 2020, and dead in the water as an industry, would Shell be going to the Arctic? Would Wall Street be stuffing more money into shale?

              If Hill is correct in this analysis of the oil business in a simplified model without elaborate modeling of the impacts across other economic sectors and the financial sector and the political sector and the social organization, can anyone think that BAU can continue for even the 5 years he predicts it will take for oil to become a dead industry? If investors believed this report today, Wall Street would be a wreck by the end of this week. Panic in Washington. The Pentagon would either close up shop or have one last war.

              Point out his mistakes, please! But I think it grossly unfair to say he doesn’t understand, or to claim that his work is useless because it isn’t a ‘theory of everything’.

              Don Stewart
              PS Also note the gap between what a barrel of oil is worth to the consumer and the cost of producing the barrel. About 2000, that gap began to narrow rather dramatically. The lines crossed in 2012. In 2013 Hill started to forecast lower oil prices. If the numbers are realistic, then the decline of oil as a source of wealth since 2000 undoubtedly has something to do with the fact that many other problems have grown worse in this century.

            • I agree that quite a few of BW Hill’s things look reasonable. The cost curve definitely looks reasonable. He could have gotten it more than one way.

              The amount people can afford probably looks a fair amount like the 62% curve of Chart 160. I am doubtful that it goes down as quickly as he shows though, because even if a high amount of energy is used to extract oil, the mix in energy products used in the energy extraction is likely to be skewed toward less expensive energy products than oil (unless the country is Saudi Arabia, and getting the oil out really cheaply.) But the general idea looks right.

              With respect to the economic value powered by a barrel of oil in Chart 161, I am afraid I am confused. I had expected a flatter curve, partly because of growing energy efficiency, with perhaps some downslope (but not as much as shown based on EROEI considerations).

            • Fast Eddy says:

              You dance while the music plays … even if the tune is off tune… and the beat is busted…. and you try to make it work…

              When you are desperate you have to try everything – that is what Think Tanks are for — they throw everything and anything out there and hope it buys time.

              Shale got us 7 years — perhaps Arctic oil will help kick the can a little longer….

              But in the meantime the toxic side effects of the chemo required to allow expensive oil to be extracted (QE ZIRP) are coursing through the veins of the global economy… and killing it slowly…

              I think that so long as there is some sort of return on oil extracted — 7:1 … 5:1… 2:1… we will still go after it…

              But before we hit the lower end of that return I believe the financial system will bust… deflation is death… negative GDP and layoffs are deflationary… falling demand for oil and ‘stuff’ is deflationary…

              In the meantime, we will continue to reach for the fruit at the top of the tree….

        • garand555 says:


          I would argue that the inability to calculate an accurate EROEI does not make it unimportant. Any time you do work, you are expending energy. Work is nothing more than net force times (dotted with, actually) distance. Energy is nothing more than the ability to do work, hence work and energy having the same units. If you plow a field, you are applying force over distance, and you are doing work, thus expending energy. When the plants grow, they are using the nutrients in the field to sustain the plants, and energy in the form of photons from the sun to power chemical reactions in the plants. If, though irrigation, you have salted the fields to the point where crop yields are diminished, yet you are still expending the same amount of energy to work that field, you have a declining EROEI.

          Every single time we move, we expend energy. It is at the very core of our existence. We don’t have a choice if we want to exist, we must consume energy. Where it gets complicated is how to apply EROEI. If you can expend 500 calories of your own labor from your own body to produce 5000 calories of food, that is not the end. Since we use more than just (direct- this is important,) solar energy, we have to take into account the solar input, the efficiency of that solar input, and any other external source of energy that we choose to use. But none the less, we must consume energy simply to be, so EROEI is important.

          • Don Stewart says:

            Dear garand555
            What BW Hill is estimating is the useful work which can be done with petroleum in the non-energy sector…along with some other interesting factors. He also notes that petroleum might continue to be useful as an energy carrier, even after it is a net energy sink in and of itself. Suppose we magically got a fusion plant up and running. We could use the fusion to produce the petroleum, even if the amount of useful energy in the petroleum was less than the amount of energy that went into producing it. Petroleum has a very high energy density, and we might find it worthwhile. The EROEI would be negative, but we would do it anyway for high energy density applications.

            Similarly, batteries for smart phones have a negative EROEI, but we use them anyway.

            IF getting down to an EROEI of 1 was a truly significant event, then accurately estimating EROEI would be very important. But I think that the major use of Hill’s model is to track and project the trend of ‘usable energy for the non-energy sector’. If that number is going down, then many bad things happen. Whether Hill’s numbers agree with Hall’s numbers is a very subsidiary issue, in my opinion. Hill stated that he used the estimation method he did because it has been found useful in very complex thermodynamic issues which are ‘intractable otherwise’. So I don’t think he wants to get bogged down in arguing the details of what Hall did or didn’t do.

            Don Stewart

            • garand555 says:


              What you are describing is like talking about a closed system in thermodynamics. Closed systems are like the frictionless, massless pullies used in freshman physics classes. They are a teaching tool that do not exist in real life. The reason that EROEI is so complex is because none of this is happening in a vacuum. Petroleum manufactured from a fusion plant, when viewed by itself, could very well have an EROEI of less than one, but your bringing up the battery is apt, because that is what petroleum would be like under such a system, and indeed, it is what it is today. It is simply the stored up solar energy from hundreds of millions of years. It is not the entire system, and the entire system must be taken into account, or at least enough of it that we are close to the real answer.

              Say we do crack fusion and start building plants. How much energy does it take to build that plant? How much energy goes into running and maintaining that plant? How much usable energy does it produce? What other uses do the energy go to? You cannot just look at the produced petroleum and say “EROEI is less than one, but it still works,” because that means that you have external energy inputs which must be taken into account. Right now, oil is that external input.

            • Don Stewart says:

              We are arguing here over nothing at all. BW Hill’s model is, in a sense, a ‘best case’, just like a frictionless system. Of course the society will break down long before his scenario plays itself out completely. Nobody who looks at his numbers would be dumb enough to dispute that.

              But if you don’t have a perfectly detailed model of the universe, and you have a partial model which is predicting some pretty terrible things beginning in the year 2012 (now 3 years in the rear view mirror), then you are very foolish if you don’t pay attention.

              Proving that Hill’s model is wrong in important respects would be a real accomplishment. Just criticizing it because it isn’t something else which is very much better, but which we don’t have, is not a very productive use of time.

              As an example, he shows that oil accounts for I think it was 24 percent of the energy required to produce non-oil sources of energy such as hydro, coal, and gas. If oil is rapidly turning into an energy sink, one can see that the other sources of energy are in trouble also. Does his oil model perfectly model that impact? Not to my knowledge. BUT, he has pointed to the problem with very dramatic numbers. I give him credit. Newton wasn’t Einstein, but what he discovered was very useful, and remains useful to this day.

              Don Stewart

            • I can believe that oil accounts for something like 24% of the energy required to produce energy for non-oil sources of energy, since oil represents about 33% of total energy consumption according to BP. It would be hard for other energy products to escape using oil.

              I can believe that oil is becoming too expensive for consumers to afford–that is the way I think about the situation. That could come from too much human energy going to into production, or it could come from too much being spent on leasing the land, or it could come for a variety of other things, including too much oil being used in oil extraction. That by itself would tend to lead to the same kind of result that BWHill is showing.

              But you do make a good point that even if the model is only partly right, it may have something to say.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              “but your bringing up the battery is apt, because that is what petroleum would be like under such a system, and indeed, it is what it is today. It is simply the stored up solar energy from hundreds of millions of years”

              That… in a nutshell…. explains why it is extremely difficult… if not impossible… to ever replace oil as the fundamental driver of civilization (as an energy source and as the building blocks of just about everything we manufacture)

              PV is so far away from being able to replace oil as an energy source it is not even worth talking about.

              PV is basically taking 20 years of stored sunlight (e.g. the coal which is a byproduct of solar energy and used to generate the electricity to manufacture a solar panel) and MAYBE giving you a slight return on energy in…

              Even with the difficult to extract oil reserves such as shale — which we know are not feasible without QE ZIRP cash — the return is still many many many times greater than what you get from PV.

              PV simply cannot compete with nature. But then is it not ludicrous to think that we could accomplish what took nature millions of years and ship the end product out the doors of a factory?

              Funny how we think we can do just about anything if we put our minds to it. Sure, we can take nature’s bounty – fossil fuels — and make very complex and useful gadgets….

              But let’s not delude ourselves believing we are not the dog’s tail — but that we are the dog.

              There is nothing that we know of that can give us anything remotely close to what millions of years of sunlight have provided…

              Namely — a one-off shot of pure heroin — it sure felt good on the way up — but on the way down it’s gonna kill us.

            • “PV is basically taking 20 years of stored sunlight (e.g. the coal which is a byproduct of solar energy and used to generate the electricity to manufacture a solar panel) and MAYBE giving you a slight return on energy in…”

              Only if you use batteries to store the power and release it over 24 hours. If you go battery-less and only use it when the sun is shining, it is more like 2 years of coal gives you 18 years of power. Chemical batteries are the massive source of loss, for any off-grid or renewable system, or any portable use of electricity.

              That’s why people were looking to hydrogen cells, which may only be a 50% loss, or aluminum batteries, or some other means of storing power, that loses less. Lithium batteries resulting in a ~90% loss of net energy is pretty horrific.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              If only the batteries…. If only we could grow corn in snow…. if only elephants could fly …

              Some things are just not possible.

              My money is on a flying elephant sailing past my window — before we develop a battery that can compete with nature’s battery – oil.

            • “My money is on a flying elephant sailing past my window — before we develop a battery that can compete with nature’s battery – oil.”

              Oil is a terrible battery. First, it lost ~95% of the sunlight hitting it to grow the plants, plankton, etc. Then it lost an unknown amount compressing from vegetation into oil. Then you lose ~5 to 10% of the energy extracting it. Then you lose ~75% of the energy converting the fuel into mechanical energy. Then you lose ~15% of that turning that mechanical energy into electricity. So in the end you get less than 1% of the sunlight that went in.

              The only advantage is that there are many years worth sitting around stockpiled.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Lithium batteries resulting in a ~90% loss of net energy is pretty horrific.

              Actually, for a charge-discharge cycle, lithium batteries are probably 90% efficient, meaning they lose 10% or less energy.

              Were you including something else in there to come up with the “90% loss of net energy” claim? Such as long timeframe that spans their useful lifetime, or perhaps the embedded energy of their construction?

              Lithium is in vogue because they have the greatest weight-energy density.

              But I’m more a fan of various nickel batteries, due to their long life. Nickel-Iron cells can exceed 10,000 charge-discharge cycles! (Lithium maxes out at perhaps a thousand.) But they are heavy and bulky batteries, and so are out-of-favour for cars and consumer devices.

              The energy we spend on infrastructure should have one criteria: how long will it last? We should be making things with fossil sunlight as though they will be the last we’ll ever be able to make.

            • kesar0 says:

              “The energy we spend on infrastructure should have one criteria: how long will it last? We should be making things with fossil sunlight as though they will be the last we’ll ever be able to make.”

              I fully agree. Durability/life span is the most critical thing designing anything at this stage. This is main principle in my home design.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Durability/life span is the most critical thing designing anything at this stage.

              Now, if I could just get some of these for around 1/10th that price…

            • kesar0 says:

              I wish you that, Jan.

            • That’s probably still cheaper than Elon Musk’s Powerwall. Heavier and bulkier, but if they do last 10 to 30 years, that’s not horrific.

            • I think a different but related question is, “How long will things be useful?” Even if a particular object lasts (say solar panel), if it is part of a system that fails early on, and people are not resourceful enough to find new uses for it, it will not be as useful as it would be.

              Building a durable house in the middle of a city is another illustration. If we can’t get food to the city, and there are no jobs in the city, the durable house is of little value.

            • kesar0 says:

              I certainly agree, that the whole system must work to be useful.
              IMO though, the civilization will collapse in certain sequence – first the electric grid will have breaks in supplying energy; then it will stop forever.
              Having PV installation will give you a few years to adjust. On top of this you will have advantage over those without electricity. You will have at least some modern tools working – saw, light, fridge, drilling and many others. These will be very valuable resources, which you can exchange for other resources, like food. My idea is mostly low-tech solutions, but some – like PV – is necessary for the transition period. My house will last 150-200 years, but every now and then some installation will stop working and the inhabitants will have to adjust – fixing it, replacing or live without.

              I agree, that having a house in the middle of the city doesn’t make sense – no food, no water, riots and plunder. Not a good place to live. Therefore I choose quite distant location for my house – lot of forests, clean water, mostly not very advanced farming, no industry.

            • Yes, from mining the materials all the way through to recycling at the end, the batteries are very poor.

              That’s how we go from a 9:1 EROEI on a solar PV system down to maybe 1.3:1.

            • How good is our supply of nickel? How scalable would nickel batteries be? I know we lost “nickel” in our nickels many years ago. This is part of the question of what resources we really have available to use.

          • EROEI doesn’t measure the work you do. It measures a very specific part of the energy that goes into the extraction of fossil fuel energy and into preparing other types of energy “at the wellhead”. It is much too narrowly defined to measure energy required for delivering end products for use by society.

            Even if EROEI is important, it doesn’t mean it is the whole story. Diminishing returns comes in many different forms, other than falling EROEI. For example, it takes more energy to extract depleting minerals and to desalinate water instead of pumping it out. So the decline in net energy caused by falling EROEI is only part of the effect that is really hitting the economy.

            Also, the economy has a need for a rising total quantity of net energy, regardless of EROEI, so that the economy can grow and so that debt can be repaid with interest. Otherwise the economy will collapse. This is the dissipative system problem, which is a separate, but related, problem.

            • garand555 says:


              Give me a reasonably accurate EROEI curve, and I can start to tell you what percentage of our economic input must go towards energy production for a given level of production. As you would likely agree, that percentage is now unavailable to the rest of the economy. An EROEI of 1.1 for our main sources of energy would be useless for a modern economy because either everybody and/or all of our land would be allocated to producing energy and not much else.

              Think about all of the jobs that were created by the shale boom – a low EROEI source of oil was just about the only sector that was, until oil prices dropped, showing any growth. It was eating up the economic inputs. If you have to expend one barrel of oil to pump two up from the ground, you are going to be drilling more wells, employing more people, going through more well casing and materials and wearing out more parts on pumps and other equipment than if you have to expend one barrel of oil to pump 50 up. The former means that there will also be more people engaged in support sectors for that pumping of oil instead of doing other things.

              Low EROEI means low energy in practice. It kills growth, both in terms of physical resources and in terms of finance. It makes energy expensive, no matter how it is measured, be it in terms of labor or in terms of currency. EROEI is terribly important, and its effects will, given enough time, are going to be felt financially.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear garand555
              I may reveal my ignorance on this. But as I understand it, boundary conditions play a large role in computing EROEI, or alternately in deciding how high EROEI needs to be to support an ‘industrial economy’. When BW Hill was doing some Q and A, he gave what seemed to me to be a pretty high number for distribution. He said distribution included the gasoline pump. I asked him if it included an allowance for the debit/ credit card mechanism used to pay for the gas. He laughed and said he wasn’t sure it was that fine grained.

              But you see the point. Does one try to include the cost of maintaining the road that the oil field worker drove on to get to work? What about the maintenance on the White House lawn? What about the military expenditures to keep the Middle East from exploding? Where are these lines drawn?

              Hill’s model is, I think, fairly internally consistent. However his parameter estimation process works, he is using a consistent methodology. Therefore, over time, the temporal patterns take on meaning. The decline in the gap between the value to the consumer and the cost to the production company declines sharply after about 2000, and new oil now costs more than consumers can pay….given the current structure of the global economy. One could hypothesize that the structure of the economy could be changed, giving a lower cost structure in the economy and keeping oil affordable for a while longer, but we all know how hard it is to change a structure.

              One could also argue that, far from being a high cost method of producing oil, fracking is actually a factory style process which is getting cheaper and cheaper. Statoil made that argument recently. Hill has dismissed LTO as barely worth drilling for, even in the best of circumstances. Quite a bit of LTO can only be used as a feedstock, not as a transportation liquid, as I understand his argument.

              Don Stewart

            • I question whether BW Hill can make determinations at as fine a level as shale oil, because so many averages are used in the calculation. Shale extraction is high in some areas, but low in energy cost used in refining (compared to heavy oil). He may or may not be right, based on his calculation.

              Looking at the situation from another perspective, the companies producing shale oil are having financial problems. Steve Kopits’ numbers suggested that they needed something like $150 barrel to break even. Since money flows tend to correspond to energy flows, it would be reasonable to believe that these companies are near the bottom of the barrel. If any oil companies are net energy sinks, it is quite possibly companies getting oil from shale. So BW Hill may be right, whether or not his calculation is fine enough to prove it.

            • Don Stewart says:

              I believe, from reading his comments and looking at his soundbites, that he uses both his ETP model and also a whole lot of additional information for specific circumstances.

              The ETP model is a very aggregated model for the world oil business, and the world GDP produced using oil, which allows him to produce graphs such as the one page I referred you to. In describing his motivation for turning to a thermodynamics based model rather than a detailed ‘bottom-up’ field by field analysis, he essentially says that the bottom up data is both laborious to put together and of dubious accuracy. He gets such a high r squared with his thermodynamic, top-down model that he probably sees little need to do anything else…unless he has a unique situation such as the LTO businesses in the US losing money but continuing to attract Wall Street money. The ETP model essentially assume that price and cost had to converge up until 2012. In 2012, there was a sea change and customer ability to pay became the driver. Again, if you were having a conversation with him and asked him if it were possible for the Central Banks to print enough money to keep people buying oil they can’t afford, he would probably agree that it is possible in the short term. The ETP model doesn’t cover all conceivable situations, but it covers quite a lot of important ground.

              In terms of shale specifically, he uses data from other places, such as the API of the LTO oil produced. He finds it to be not very suitable for producing transportation fuels…just as natural gas isn’t very suitable for producing transportation fuels. These results are NOT from the ETP model or the associated GDP model. Using his additional sources of information, plus some of the same factors which go into the ETP model, he estimated that the shale operators lost 2 billion dollars in the first quarter of 2015. I haven’t seen any details. I believe he is in the business of selling intelligence to the industry, so I imagine he wants to present enough information to get interest in his products, but not so much that he is giving away the store. That’s understandable.

              Steve Kopits, I think, expects the price of oil to go back up again, above a hundred dollars. BW Hill has quite a divergent opinion, that oil will continually fall in price because oil is no longer producing the wealth required to buy it for what it costs to produce. But, again, if you were having a conversation with him and posed the situation ‘The Saudi Monarchy is overthrown by ISIL and the Gulf states production plunges to zero’….then he might agree that, in the short term, oil might sell for 200 dollars a barrel. But he would characterize the situation as the cannibalization of existing wealth in a desperate attempt to get oil.

              Don Stewart

            • I disagree with Steve Kopits here. I tend to agree more with BW Hill.

            • Don Stewart says:

              If I may suggest a very general model for thinking about BW Hill’s model, and the models formulated by other people.

              Capra and Luisi give us a quick summary of mathematics, beginning on page 99. The Greeks invented geometry, and the Persians invented Algebra. As late as Galileo, ‘mathematics’ meant ‘geometry’ in Europe. Descartes unified geometry and algebra with the Cartesian coordinates, and analytic geometry. But neither Galileo nor Descartes were able to write equations which described the motion of bodies which were being accelerated (or decelerated). Newton and Leibniz solved that problem with differential calculus (as well as providing a solution to Zeno’s Paradox).

              But while analytic geometry and differential calculus could solve many problems in theory, they were not practical for complicated problems in mechanics. For example, they could not practically describe the motion of the planets in the solar system, because every planet and its moons are interacting with every other planet and its moons and also the sun. The computation problems quickly become intractable. Now consider the motion of particles of a gas, and the enormous complexity which would be confronted if we tried to describe the motion of the molecules with Newtonian methods.

              ‘In the 19th century, the great physicist James Clerk Maxwell found an answer. Even though the exact behavior of the molecules of a gas could not be determined, Maxwell argued that the average behavior might give rise to the observed regularities. Hence, Maxwell proposed to use statistical methods to formulate the laws of motions of gases. Maxwell’s method was highly successful. It enabled physicists immediately to explain the basic properties of a gas in terms of the average behavior of its molecules….The combination of statistical methods with Newtonian mechanics resulted in a new branch of science, appropriately called ‘statistical mechanics’, which became the theoretical foundation of thermodynamics, the theory of heat.’

              However, there were still problems which could not be adequately modeled with mathematics. ‘By the end of the 19th century, scientists had two different mathematical tools to model natural phenomena–exact, deterministic equations of motion for simple systems, and the equations of thermodynamics, based on statistical analysis of average quantities, for complex systems.

              Although these two techniques were quite different, they had one thing in common. They both featured LINEAR equations.’

              The rub comes when one tries to use these methods to model the behavior of living systems, which routinely feature non-linear relationships. Scientists were only able to begin to model living systems around the 1970s, when very fast computers became available. The output from these models are not algebraic equations, but are pictures. They depict relationships.

              So, if one wants to examine the ultimate usefulness of BW Hill’s model, I suggest that there are three categories of questions one might ask:
              First, has he made any technical errors as he applies his thermodynamic model?
              Second, is a thermodynamic model adequate to model the interaction between non-living phenomena such as oil fields and the thermodynamic work which oil can do, and the living system which involves humans?

              I am not capable of addressing questions in the first category. Since the second category is somewhat speculative, I feel like I can speculate with the best of them. For example, Hill assumes that humans will pick the low hanging fruit first, in accordance with the laws of thermodynamics. That is, any barrel produced today is going to require more work than a barrel produced last year. But is that really a true statement. Statoil, which has some leases in the Eagle Ford, recently claimed that they have gotten much more efficient, because ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. Do you think Statoil has figured out clever methods of producing oil with less work in the year 2015 than the oil they produced in the year 2000? Have they made thermodynamics sort of ‘run in reverse’? If they have, then one of Hill’s basic premises is not exactly true.

              And you might take a look at his model of GDP per unit of exergy (usable energy). He assumes that his rather simple calculations of the historical relationship will hold true in the future. (Tim Garrett made the same assumptions, with slightly different details, in his model.) But as humans face a future where oil is scarce, will they, like Statoil, respond to necessity with invention?

              A third line of thinking is one Hill has frequently mentioned: rather than being a source of energy, oil simply becomes a carrier of energy. For example, stationary sources of energy (such as a coal fired electricity plant) are used to make the oil which serves as the transport fuel. Such procedures are, of course, common already. But could they be intensified? Such procedures would not make oil a net source of energy, but they might make it a useful carrier of energy, much like the battery in a smartphone. If one thinks that oil as a carrier is a distinct possibility, then probably a model of the whole energy sector is needed, with some sources being net producers of energy, and oil being only a carrier.

              Please understand that I am not suggesting that these lines of thinking mean that Hill is somehow ‘wrong’, any more than Newton was ‘wrong’. But there are non-linear factors involved in living systems which go beyond Hill’s ETP model and his GDP model. Those factors may or may not be important.

              Don Stewart

            • Thanks for the suggestion. I would need to look at it more.

            • In very rough terms, I agree with you. In a very broad brush view, EROEI works pretty well. That is the reason for its popularity. Also it is great fodder for graduate student products.

              But it has deficiencies. It doesn’t include a lot of things, like human labor, so it is not good in comparing costs for solar PV (which includes a lot of human labor installation costs) with conventional oil extraction. It is only “at the well-head,” so it doesn’t include the door-to-door natural gas pipelines that are needed, or costs of integrating wind into the electric grid.

              Taxes on oil are an important part of government revenue, especially for oil exporters. EROEI does not consider this at all. New renewables tend to require subsidies, instead of being big net givers to government revenue.

            • Daddio7 says:

              According to our friends at ThinkProgress fossil fuels get a 5 trillion dollar per year after tax subsidy while renewables get only 70 billion. I think they are adding in their calculation of the cost to society from climate change but put no worth on past and present improved human quality of life.

            • Unfortunately, you can’t add “benefit of reduced climate change impact” to our wages. We still need to buy food and shelter. Raising prices because of pollution workarounds is recessionary, no matter how favorably a person chooses to describe the situation.

            • garand555 says:


              Yes, it does get complicated. If an oil worker buys his own car, you can obviously count the gasoline going to and from work, but how much of the energy that went into mining and refining the materials and then assembling the car should be counted towards oil production? My answer to questions like this are a question itself: How accurately do you want to know EROEI? The energy returned is fairly straightforward to measure because we have a pretty good idea of the energy content of the oil and a pretty good idea of the volume produced. It is the energy invested that is tricky, and the methodology that I would use for that is to start with first order energy expenditures, then move onto second order, then third order, so on and so forth until the change in values from one order to the next quit changing by some acceptably small percentage. The criteria for whether or not something should be counted should be simple: Would not having expended that energy likely altered oil output when averaged across the entire industry? You’ll never capture it all, but then again, you’ll never get to the end of a typical taylor’s series. They’re still useful for computing though.

            • Artleads says:

              Here in NM, open space and conservation funding comes from oil and gas. So if conservation isn’t going to be just mopping the floor while the tap is running, a way to control the ill effects of oil and gas would be nice. My ears stuck up at Don’s use of oil as a “carrier” rather than a means of energy. Beyond that lies mystery.

  26. VPK says:

    Found this while researching Helen Nearing
    “Of course, the entire industrialized world stood indicted beside me,” he recalls. “Our ‘need’ for ever-more mobility, ever-more progress, ever-more growth had led us straight to this disaster. But in that moment, all I knew was that I, personally, needed to step forward and own up to the damage.”

    Returning home to the states, Merkel decided to simplify. He not only cleared away stuff (enough for 13 yard sales) but also tapped his engineering degree from New York’s Stony Brook University to calculate the economic and environmental savings. By doing so, he figured out how to live comfortably — and income-tax-free — on $5,000 a year.

    To share his findings, Merkel penned a 2003 book, “Radical Simplicity: Small Footprints on a Finite Earth.” That begat his Web site, And those begat his continuing string of more than 1,000 speeches, workshops and classes, including this fall’s “Moving Toward Sustainability” course at the Wilder campus of Community College of Vermont.

    Most people monitoring the current fiscal crisis are fixated on what they could lose. Merkel is focused on what everyone could gain.

    “This belt-tightening is good for us,” he says. “We’re swimming in a society that’s super consumptive. Right now is such a beautiful opportunity for us to become sustainable.”

    He’s ready to show people how.

    I know, Fast Eddy, you will comment he still is connected to BAU

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I can go much further than that…

      There is no such thing as sustainability — there is growth — or there is atrophy leading to collapse. And collapse from great heights now that we have 7B people… such that collapse may result in our extinction.

      There seems to be this romantic notion that traditional farming was (and could be again) sustainable.

      It was and is nothing of the sort

      Look at Europe – they were ripping each other apart, destroying the environment (deforestation was a huge problem — wales were endangered for want of oil) — the pressure was taken off by a heroic kick of the can when the Americas were discovered.

      The European permaculturists jumped on the Mayflower and spread their totally unsustainable concepts to a massive land mass and like rats scurried into every nook and cranny…

      And now there are no new worlds to pillage we are, as expected, turning on each other more frequently and more ferociously:

      Why is this happening at this point in history?

      As the world explodes in violence, war, riots, and uprisings, it is challenging to step back and examine the bigger picture. With airliners being shot down over the Ukraine, missiles flying between Israel and Gaza, ongoing civil war in Syria, Iraq falling apart as ISIS gains ground, dictatorship crackdown in Egypt, Turkey on the verge of revolution, Iran gaining control of Iraq, Saudi Arabia fomenting violence, Africa dissolving into chaos, South America imploding and sending their children across our purposely porous southern border, Mexico under the control of drug lords, China experiencing a slow motion real estate collapse, Japan experiencing their third decade of Keynesian failure, facing a demographic nightmare scenario while being slowly poisoned by radiation, and Chinese-Japanese relations moving towards World War II levels, it is easy to get lost in the day to day minutia of history in the making.

      Speaking to an elderly neighbour over coffee yesterday and the topic of overcrowding came up because a farmer regularly tries to graze too many cattle beasts in too small a paddock … not only do they hoot an holler but they also become very aggressive fighting over the limited food supply – they injure each other and break fences.

      I made the comment that humans are not really any different — if resources are plentiful we tend to be kinder to each other (I would suggest that there is a high correlation between winners of the resource wars and so call civility — easy to be nice when your belly is always full) — however like the cows, if there is not enough to go around it’s time to break out the howitzers…

      • VPK says:

        I was expecting you to write that if we started to live as this man, Jim Merkel, we would face a total unraveling of our ‘way of life’ and it would be far worse condition than our current BAU. A catch 22 situation.
        Though I am on his side of the issue….best we write poetry and weave baskets and garden, along with song and dance.
        Sorry, I am dreamer.
        All the best.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          The meek will inherit the yoke….

          One thing is for certain … I shan’t be weaving a basket when someone shows up with the wrong intentions…

  27. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Xabier
    About the balancing act which is life….Jane Hirshfield, the poet and author of Ten Windows, had this to say in an interview:

    ‘What poems give us is a way to feel through the underlying dilemmas, a way of recognizing that your own life and the lives of others are not in any way separable. If you don’t recognize that what happens to anyone happens to you, we will go on committing violence to one another…If you read poems, you know there is no separation.’

    I don’t think poetry is the ONLY way to ‘feel through the underlying dilemmas’. Eric Rohmer’s Six Moral Tales cycle of movies is focused on how people are confronted with choices, and their ability to come up with reasons why whatever they decided to do was right and proper or necessary or both. The filmmaker Neil LaBute says that the great strength of Rohmer’s films is that Rohmer never judges his characters. ‘Everyone has their reasons’. On the other hand, a not very admiring film maker once had a character say that watching Rohmer’s films is ‘like watching paint dry’. If one is the kind of person where only violence can keep one’s attention, then they are probably just exercises in frustration. There is sometimes violence, but it is psychological. There is also sometimes great kindness.

    By the way, one of my daughters is in Spain. She says she has had lots of lively conversations about the latest election results. One woman she talked to was incensed that the dead were being dug up from cemeteries if the children failed to keep up the payments.

    Don Stewart

  28. Stefeun says:

    That was on May 14:
    “Nato foreign ministers link arms and sing We Are The World

    Striking a distinctly different note for a military alliance meeting, European officials ended a Nato gathering with a spirited rendition of 1985 charity song We Are The World. The officials accepted an invitation by a Turkish band to sing a ‘last song for peace’ at a dinner on Wednesday hosted by Turkey near the Mediterranean city of Antalya. The foreign ministers of Greece and Turkey, Mevlut Cavusoglu and Nikos Kotzias, were seen singing and swaying arm-in-arm. Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and others also joined in.”

    No comment – leaves me speechless.

  29. Artleads says:

    I just posted a video on Cuba, but don’t see it now. So this link might also not show up. If it does, it is meant to contrast/compare with the Cuban images. The Nigerians lack Cuba’s education, but there is something less compromised about them. How nice to live on the water and live in houses made of vertical bamboo poles. The children actually look happy. Look at the wonderful hairstyles. They know they are Africans, unlike the Cubans. Better educated culturally (not to be ashamed of what they supposedly lack (European standards), the Cubans could make use of what the Nigerians are doing, but do it with better sanitation.

      • Thanks! I think part of the difference is that the Nigerian situation represents a self-organized economy. The Cuba situation represents an attempt by government to direct everything, and live off what was built in the past. Thus, there are no building jobs, except all of the recent repair jobs to help have some nice buildings for tourists to look at. The food is whatever the ration books provide.

        • Artleads says:

          Self organized economy is a useful term. Maybe self-organized economies are the future, whatever that might be. They would lack the advantage of Makoko’s 200 year-old history and (I imagine) organic formation.

    • Kulm says:

      They have some nice fellows like Boko Haram.

      And the Igbos are not happy with the current arrngement.

      I think you are too young to remember Biafra.

      • Artleads says:

        I was around during Biafra, but wasn’t following the issues. Anything you can share would be welcome. I hope you watched the video above. The Chinese are funding a Dubai-style obscenity to take the place of the 200-year-old Makoko fishing community. Scandalous, I say.

      • Artleads says:

        One version of the story is that the Igbos are the smart people of Nigeria, who are used to being in charge.

        • Kulm says:

          And precisely the most likely people to sell “Nigeria”, which they feel no affinity of, to greedy Chinese.

          An obscure fact of the Biafra War was a Swedish pilot, who was the earl of something, led the Biafran “Air Force”. He hired several old European war veterans who were hungry for any action, and they fought the Nigerian Air Force to a standstill.

          An independent Biafra would have been a failed state like South Sudan, which is now a hopeless basket case, but the Biafrans were so eager to curry Western favor that they did not care.

          • Artleads says:

            Thanks. This gives me somewhere to begin. I wouldn’t doubt that the situation is rather complex.

  30. Artleads says:

    There”s a second audio track in the background, but one can still get the gist of the “message.” It is not an encouraging one. Lots of plastic crap. A low level of philosophical development. Underneath, one senses the classism, the racism and the whole litany of stupid wants and delusions that we see elsewhere. Can anything be rescued of Fidel’s revolution?

    • Interesting video. We heard about the active black market, but needless to say we were not taken to places where we could see it function. The state-owned stores had little in them, and things were high priced.

      I didn’t see nice fruit and vegetable markets like the one shown. I suspect they are relatively uncommon–most people would have to travel a ways to get to one. There were a lot of little stands (on bicycles or a small cart) with a hand full of fruits and vegetables. Our guide told us about having to go to quite a few different places (stores, markets) to get the food items desired, and even then not being able to find precisely what a person wanted.

  31. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Finite Worlders
    Here is an interesting sound bite from BW Hill:

    ‘We agree that if there is any future for modern civilization it will come about from advances in material science. That is not likely, however, to address the present reality. The world will have to devise a means to replace 196 quad BTU/ year over the next 15 years. It will take 21 mb/d of petroleum production to keep the other 62% of the energy supply (coal, NG, nuclear, etc.) functioning. Being enraptured by the Technology Fairy may be comforting; it is not, however, going to address what the world faces today!’

    The soundbite can be found in the discussion following this article:

    Another sound bite from BW Hill from a previous question and answer session:
    ‘Between 2015 and 2020 the energy supplied from a unit of petroleum to the end consumer will fall by 12%. If production has declined by 4 mb/d (conventional) by that time the total decline will be about 18%. The impact on the world’s economy will be a negative $5 trillion per year if no other energy source can supplement oil’s decline’

    Now let’s mix some apples (usable BTUs) and oranges (barrels of crude plus condensate per day) to see what we might discern as a horseback model of the future…leaving out financial collapses or global revolutions or thermonuclear war and the like.

    Over the next 5 years, the usable energy per barrel declines by 12 percent. Assume that the non-petroleum energy sources do not get any more efficient in the use of oil over the next 5 years. Those other sources of energy currently use 21 out of about 75 mbd, or 28 percent of the oil produced. But they will increase to 28 divided by .88 or 32 percent of the oil produced in 2020 in order to keep the same BTUs. (We are also ignoring any increase in coal fired plants, new nuclear plants, etc.)

    So the oil BTUs available to the non-energy sector over the next 5 years will decline not by 18 percent, but by 32/28 times 18, or 21 percent.

    It would be a grievous mistake to take my back of the envelope calculations too seriously. I don’t do these kinds of calculations for a living, and I make no pretense at precision. If you think BW Hill’s model has merit, it would be much better to get an apples to apples comparison directly from the model output. But based on what I see here, it is very important to concentrate on the likely trajectory of net usable energy to the non-energy sector. Looking at barrels per day forecasts grossly understates the problems. Also, the solution of simply producing more coal or nuclear is not without its problems, since these would require more oil and thus further reduce the amount of oil BTUs available to the non-energy sector.

    Looking at the need for oil by the energy producing sector as contrasted with the energy consuming sector has something in common with the Export Land Model, in that both are looking at ‘how much is left for discretionary usage?’ Another commonality is that the energy producing sector is consuming more of the oil it produces, leaving less for ‘export’ to the rest of the economy. If our primary concern is ‘the rest of the economy’, then we are modeling something like a Seneca Cliff.

    Don Stewart

  32. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Here is some additional reference material which is relevant to the Lifeboats idea:
    ‘Of course slave ‘working’ conditions have greatly improved since the days of Ben Hur, though I would strenuously argue the ‘Salt Mind’ has greatly degraded under the guise of so called free will, self rule aka ‘democracy’, consumerism and the accompanying self will run riot. The only thing more impenetrable than an addicted mind is the co-dependent ‘Salt Mind’. I’ll gladly accept pitiful wages two Friday’s hence for a meaningless day’s work today. For those who scoff at this analogy just wait and see how disastrously co-dependent the ‘Salt Mind’ becomes when they abolish cash/currency and economic marginalization is just a despot’s computer click away.

    Those who warn of a disastrous dystopian future coming around the bend are hopelessly blind to the obviousness of the ‘Dystopian Now’. It is not a matter of if or even when, but rather of depth and degree. Anyone who thinks the lives we live are ‘natural’ doesn’t understand the power of alternative reality creation and deep seated generational human conditioning. We are what we think more so than what we eat.

    Our own imagination, creativity and adaptability, the root power of our sovereignty and individuality, is brilliantly leveraged against us in the name of the common good and personal sustenance. The belly growls daily and our minds become increasingly desperate and narrow the longer we go between meals. Bottom line, as long as my meager porridge bowl is filled on a daily basis I ain’t gonna stop rowing. God forbid they don’t fill it again tomorrow.’

    My observation is that being a subsistence farmer, or gardening a significant sized plot, or operating a business on a land base (the Joel Salatin plan), or repairing equipment for local people, or any other locally based business, is completely different than working in the Salt Mind. At the present time, working in Salt Mind pays better than most local businesses, while requiring far less genuine engagement with the work, but extracts more than its pound of flesh for the time spent. Debt is correctly identified in the article as the whip which keeps the serfs in line. Taxes are another whip.

    Don Stewart

  33. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    This is one of those horrible digital distractions you may be glad you spent 10 minutes on…Don Stewart

  34. Fast Eddy says:

    “Welcome To The Contraction”: Q1 GDP Drops By 0.7%, Corporate Profits Crash

    And you thought the preliminary 0.2% Q1 GDP print from last month was bad.

    Moments ago, just as we warned, the BEA released its latest, first, revision of Q1 GDP (pre second-seasonal adjustments of course), and we just got confirmation that for the third time in the past four years, the US economy suffered a quarterly contraction, with the Q1 GDP revised drastically from a 0.2% growth to a drop of -0.7%: the worst print since snow struck, so very unexpectedly, last winter.

    When you have pumped trillions into the economy at 0% interest…. what do you do for an encore?

    We are inching closer to the abyss….

    Let’s see what happens to the stock market — obviously it should head south on this news — but keep in mind… the Fed cannot have that … so I assume they will allow it to fall back a little … then the PR machine will roll out the latest green shoots meme… how the last quarter was a bump in the road yadda yadda yadda…. and the shorts will be threatened with a deluge of money printing which will be used to buy stocks and crush them…

    And the shorts will do the smart thing and go long riding the Fed’s coat tails… and the dance will continue…

    But if GDP continues to sink it does not matter that the stock market hits new highs … negative growth is a massive deflationary problem — and we are going to see if the Fed has anything left in the tank…

    Jade Helm is happening at an interesting time eh….

    • Bad weather in the first quarter seems to be a never-ending excuse. Seasonal adjustment factors are supposed to fix this problem.

      • VPK says:

        Gail, listening to NPR and apparently government economists need to ‘fix” this seasonal adjustment factor in their reports.

  35. J says:

    Off topic, but going back to the early thread on nuclear power and spent fuel. Fact: Very little spent fuel has been put into long term storage. Sweden has a method worked out that relies on encasing fuel in copper and sinking it into the ground 500m below, and cover with clay.

    So far Sweden is still “talking” about this, and no fuel is there yet. All fuel currently sits in basins 50m under ground where it has to stay for 40 years, until it’s cool enough to move on.

    These 40 years of delay are a big problem in a collapsing world. I think it’s fair to say that when Sweden developed these plans to encase the fuel in copper, the price of copper was lower. Why is it that very few in the world has started on this process of moving the fuel to long term storage?

    My guess: The cost.

    I used to be a big proponent and thinking that nuclear was the only way out of the CO2 trap, but I have changed my mind. There is no way out, and it’s primarily because of the price tag.

    If nuclear was the solution, why aren’t countries still ordering them like there is no tomorrow?

    There can only be one answer: It’s EXPENSIVE!

    It’s exactly the same reason as why many countries in Africa and other poor countries don’t have reliable electrical grids: IT COSTS LOTS OF MONEY.

    And they don’t have that.

    And that’s all the doom for today.

    • Artleads says:

      There was life before reliable electrical grids. As obnoxious as PV solar panels may be, a single panel can go a long way in poor African countries. Any attempt at an electrical grid would be crazy.

    • There are two prices on nuclear: the price if you make them without very much in the way of security controls (and put them at sea level, and use sea water for cooling), and the price if you try to redesign to avoid every security flaw that regulators in US/Europe have thought of. There are a number of countries adding nuclear. My guess is that they are using mostly the cheaper designs.

      The earliest nuclear reactors were fairly inexpensive, because people didn’t know the problems that could occur. The question is how many problem one tries to avoid in new designs.

  36. Robert Wilson says:

    I recall during the 50’s a burning ambition to visit Cuba. Pre-Castro Cuba was said to be the most hedonistic fun loving destination on the planet. Unfortunately as a student my funds were limited. Had Castro been delayed a few years I might have made the trip.

  37. Don Stewart says:

    Jan Steinman
    This short video might be useful…Don Stewart

  38. Kulm says:

    This is why BAU won’t be crushed. BAU will crush most of the world population before the latter could even realize what is coming against them.

    >The Grey Enlightenment, despite being a right-wing/libertarian blog, supports the fed because fed policy has been a resounding success at creating economic conditions conductive to the creation of wealth so that in America’s meritocracy the smartest and most-talented can thrive. The same for bank bailouts, which also helped the best and the brightest. The libs whined that the dollar would crash, there would be hyperinflation, or that tax payers would have to pay the bill; as Matt O’Brien tweeted, none of those things happened.

    >The super-effective bailouts were essentially free, but indirectly created trillions of dollars of wealth in the form of rising asset prices and technological innovation. Web 2.0 and Silicon Valley owes some of its recent success to the fed, by letting easy money inflate the valuations of these rapidly growing companies and the real estate of the region. Tax payers didn’t pay a penny for the bailouts. In fact, defying all doom and gloom, the treasury turned a profit just three years later, and those who stayed in stocks and real estate were rewarded with the biggest bull market ever. In 2008, thank congress for coming together in the eleventh hour and rising to the occasion when many on the left sought failure.

    >The motivating factor behind good policy is: we have a finite amount of resources (time and money); let’s allocate them to those most deserving (high IQ individuals, Wall St., web 2.0) who can produce the most ROI. Giving more money to low-IQ economically disadvantaged people is a waste of resources that will only perpetuate the poverty problem. America’s Fed policy has been so successful that other countries have emulated it to combat their own economic problems.

    >As shown by the bank bailouts, sometimes the best policy is the least popular, and this is just another argument against democracy in that most individuals are not economic stakeholders and have no clue about what is best for the economy.

    Soon the world will see billions of dead and most of the remainder in Somalian conditions, including many in North America itself, but the elites of BAU will thrive and reproduce for the next Civliization 1.0.

    >We need less democracy and more free markets. Instead of a constitutional republic we should have a technocracy or a plutocracy. Only people with a certain threshold of Reddit Karma, a sufficiently high IQ, a net worth in the top 1%, more than 5,000 Instagram or Twitter followers, or a STEM degree should be allowed to vote.

    • VPK says:

      Is that how you see it? Anyone can appear to be “rich” by using a credit card. Remember, every action has a reaction. Most of your so-called ‘investment’ have been poured in ill conceived projects and will not produce returns. This is far from over, and hope these superior class can keep it all together for a few more years.

      • Kulm says:

        There is already too much money which has to go somewhere, and the valuations will just rise and rise, and middle class won’t be able to afford anything but that won’t concern those who have stuff.

        • VPK says:

          The fate of the “high” I.Q.ers : LOL
          “The motivating factor behind good policy is: we have a finite amount of resources (time and money); let’s allocate them to those most deserving (high IQ individuals, Wall St., web 2.0) who can produce the most ROI. Giving more money to low-IQ economically disadvantaged people is a waste of resources that will only perpetuate the poverty problem. America’s Fed policy has been so successful that other countries have emulated it to combat their own economic problems.”

          The father of the investment banker who plunged to his death from his luxury Manhattan apartment where police found evidence of a wild party said today that he fears his son turned to drink and drugs to cope with the stress of work.
          John Hughes said that son Thomas had been under a ‘lot of pressure’ and that he even had to work on a recent holiday in the Bahamas.
          Police reportedly found one ziplock bag filled with cocaine and residue on four bags and a rolled up dollar bill, suggesting Wolf of Wall Street-style drug use before the death.
          Thomas’ body was found on Thursday morning on the sidewalk outside his apartment block after apparently jumping 200ft from his home on the 24th floor.
          Thomas J Hughes, 29, originally from Westchester County, New York, was mourned by colleagues and family on Friday after jumping to his death from a luxury apartment building in downtown Manhattan
          He is the 12th person this year who worked in finance have taken their own life amid renewed focus on the demands that Wall St places on young bankers.
          John, 61, described his son, 29-year-old son, as someone who ‘liked to work hard and liked to party’ and feared that he found release in illegal drugs which turned him suicidal.
          The lawyer from Briarcliff Manor in Westchester County, told Daily Mail Online: ‘Naturally this is a complete surprise to us. We are devastated.
          Thomas was a happy, jovial, successful, good looking, very sociable individual.
          The only explanation is that I know he’s been working very hard and has been under a lot of pressure.His work did not leave much time for enjoyment but that’s the nature of the assignment that he chose.I also know that sometimes when one is in that environment you can turn to alcohol or other types of drugs…
          ‘…at a time when he was under stress he probably resorted to illegal drugs, causing this incredibly poor judgement, is probably the best I can say.
          ‘He must have had some problems that I was not privy to.’

          In addition to drugs, police found two Chase credit cards and a debit card in Thomas’s apartment in New York’s Financial District, according to sources cited by the New York Post.
          Kulm. if and when you jump, please hire someone to clean up afterwards


          • Kulm says:

            Just one out of about 500,000 super-elites who will get the rights to reproduce.

            • xabier says:

              In the decaying advanced economies we already have two classes privileged to reproduce at will without thought of financial constraints: the truly rich, and the poor who live in part or wholly on social security.

              Those in between, the so-called middle class, (an out-dated term, as the traditional middle class was never hugely indebted but in fact an asset-owning class) now have to think very carefully about having children, and most of them can only do so, in Europe and Britain, due to ‘free’ state education and medical services: if they had to pay for those directly then reproduction would be unviable.

            • I think you are right about this. In the decaying advanced economies, it is only the truly wealthy and the very poor privileged to reproduce without thought of financial constraints.

            • VPK says:

              Sure, and their offspring will be crack addicted babes that will be ignored and neurotic imbeciles that will jump off like this poor soul. Kulm, you are too much and obviously need to retread back to other of Gail’s writing to realize wait the true situation we are facing.

          • VPK says:

            More like the “Victors” have the enjoyment of breeding offspring, judging from science and past History. There was a study of DNA of the population of the area of conquest by Genghis Khan and it was determined even today his tribe has a significant mark on the people living there today.
            Also, after Russia invaded and conquered Nazi Germany the was much offspring by rape.
            Stalin was informed and his reply, “Good to see our soldiers taking the opportunity”

  39. Don Stewart says:

    Jan Steinman
    Regarding my response on brownian motion versus direct communications. What I suggested regarding ‘surplus’ males may sound harsh. I don’t mean it that way.

    Fossils of severely deformed Neanderthal children who survived into their teenage years have been found. Since these children could not have survived without parental (and clan?) care, this is an indication that Neanderthals (and humans?) have values which go beyond mere energy efficiency.

    BUT, the families involved knew what they were getting into. They knew that the deformed children were not going to be a material help in hunting and gathering, and chose to love them and feed them and care for them anyway. But if it doesn’t cost you anything, then it isn’t real. A lone person imposing the cost of caring for and feeding, let’s say, the deer who eat the garden, on the whole community is way beyond anything I would tolerate. When it comes to something smaller, such as excess roosters, then maybe so, but I am skeptical. So the actual best way to do it is impose a cost, and see if the community is willing to pay it. This is done frequently in behavioral economics. Unfortunately, in behavioral economics you get really weird responses which make no sense, which leads the behavioral economists to formulate all sorts of laws about how humans react which are inconsistent with pure rationality. Best to accommodate the irrationality so long as people are willing to pay the price, I think.

    Don Stewart

    • garand555 says:

      Two things: How rational or irrational does having plenty vs not having enough make a person when it comes to some of those decisions? It is a question that should be answered.

      With Homo sapiens, sometimes we raise deformed children, sometimes not. You can look at what the Shrine hospital does today, and compare it to the Spartans or the Greeks in general or the Romans. Here is a snippet of Roman law regarding this subject:

      “1. A notably deformed child shall be killed immediately.”

      But we live in times of unprecedented excess in terms of what is necessary for survival. Maybe it makes sense to put a deformed infant out in the woods to die of exposure from a logical perspective, but we have plenty. Many of our poor are obese. In antiquity, most of the truly poor were on the edge of death. Even those who weren’t on the edge of death sure weren’t fat.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear garand555
        ‘In antiquity’ the ordinary people in what is now the Middle East were pretty well-off. As a scholarly article I posted recently said, the rulers courted the people’s good will. If the people became dissatisfied with a leader, they just simply moved somewhere else. When the new king took over in Saudi, he distributed lots of goodies. That was common practice in that area 10,000 years ago.

        10,000 years ago there was plenty of wild abundance, and few people scattered over large areas which were not really controlled by anyone, politically. So people voted with their feet.

        The diametric opposite situation is probably the camps in the Holocaust. Yet studies have shown that those who used what miserably little they had to help others tended to survive better.

        The Bible advises ‘cast your bread upon the waters’.

        Don Stewart

        • Artleads says:

          ‘cast your bread upon the waters’

          I never read about what this signifies, and still don’t get it.

          • Don Stewart says:

            I think the rest of the phrase is ‘and it will return to you sevenfold’. Meaning, be generous with why you have and you will be repaid many times over.

            Don Stewart

            • Artleads says:

              Thanks, Don. A Google search indicated something about casting bread on water, and if it returns, share it with seven or eight people. Odd. But I suspect that most people would read it he way you do, which is helpful.

            • xabier says:

              Cast Bread and What Comes Back to You.

              The Bible is such a garbled document, and has been in the hands of the deluded and fanatics for so long, that it’s best not to try and tease out precise meanings.

              The attitude of generosity and indifference to material wealth leads to spiritual advancement and an enlargement of the mind. In ancient terms, it is pleasing to the Gods. Moreover, in this mind-set, it can be seen that the person you are generous to is in fact doing you a favour, in enabling you to develop spiritually… Hence the old polite formula ‘If you will do me the great favour of allowing me to present to you……’

              But the experience of life also shows that the truly generous person will be exploited and betrayed more often than not, or treated as a fool or weak. The life of my great-grandfather, a very kind man who always fed the poor, demonstrated this.

              So one has to be ruthless as well, and know how to with-hold from the unworthy; as well as accepting that generosity,in every day life, may well lead nowhere. Many ancient tales show ‘good kings’ dealing in this way with their subjects, and giving the cold shoulder to the cunning mass of people who try to exploit generosity after seeing the king aid a humble person. You can do harm to spiritually undeveloped people by being generous with them, as their basic natures remain unchanged or even worsen at the sight of a feeding opportunity fro their cunning and greed.

              In terms of re-payment, of ‘bread coming back seven-fold’, I have found that being civil, pleasant, and mostly honest (no-one is completely honest and all business involves a little fraud, which is why it has always been thought ‘ignoble’) in one’s dealings wins more friends and well-wishers, and results in more real help and kindness in time of need, than ordinary generosity.

              In fact, those who help most are those to whom one has given nothing at all!

              This kind of social credit requires a stable society, in which one gains a good reputation and becomes known and liked over many years.

              I would say that, unless a society has become very corrupt, the mass of people are on the whole still pre-disposed to be helpful and co-operative,even in highly commercialised societies like the ‘advanced’ economies.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear xabier
              I agree. All of life is a balancing act. We can think of certain metaphors, some of which are written down in the Bible and other wisdom books. Some in behavioral economics.

              Tit-for-tat; cast your bread upon the waters; look out for Number One; A Threefold Cord is hard to break…and so forth and so on.

              My conclusion is that, when times are hard, you want to be surrounded by people with whom you have forged strong bonds by doing favors for each other, and with whom you have shared transcendent moments which go beyond the merely practical.

              ‘Doing favors’ means that I can do something for them that they can’t easily do for themselves, and vice versa. So skill and useful tools enters into the equation.

              The story of the Good Samaritan is out on the fringe. Being kind to someone who cannot be expected to ever return the favor. Behavioral economics has found that it really is better to give than to receive. But I think the gift needs to be personal, and not something like a government dole. I have chosen some young farmers to help in very modest ways, and I think I got a lot out of the gift, whether they did or not.

              Don Stewart

        • xabier says:

          A friend knew a man, a former British soldier, who survived the Japanese camps of WW2. He only talked about it directly once and he confessed that he survived in part because he was a superb thief. He stole food to distribute to his comrades. He also, when food was very low, stole from them in order to survive himself. One cannot judge, it was life in one of the Circles of Hell.

          • Artleads says:

            Xabier and Don,

            I have indeed found that “life is a balancing act.” I’m still in the process of learning that at this late stage. I you receive a gift, you try to give something of equal “weight” back. I think it isn’t a craven, self-serving balance, but rather a cosmic one. A former boss of mine said, “The universe rewards effort.” I have found this to be a accurate guide. God, not “man” is the rewarder and the judge. The bible also commands that we be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Somehow, all these deep ideas fit harmoniously into the body behavioral, as if they were organs in the body.

            • kulm says:

              some people , like the kings and queens of bau, onlh know taking and will give nothing.

              their descendants inherit that tendency and only they will survive.

        • Kulm says:

          Saudi Arabia. A British creation of 1920s. The Saudis were camel-herding nomads till Lawrence of Arabia armed the towelheads.

          Just another great ‘achievement’ of Britain to destabilize the world.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            No – not to destabilize the world at all. The purpose of this was to get the oil from the Arabs before some other country took it.

            That’s the way the world has always worked. The strong pillage the weak. Just as the lion preys upon the weakest animal in a herd.

            There is no room for pity in either world. You are either strong and you take — or you end up weak with the boot on your neck.

            • Brunswickian says:

              Jay Hanson spent a lot of time on this: Evolutionary Psychology. The dimwits posting the Kumbaya stuff haven’t RTFM!

            • Fast Eddy says:

              The thing is…. the majority of people believe that humans are basically good — but flawed…

              They have swallowed the religious BS about good and evil.

              There is no good or evil. There is only the drive to survive. And the basis for survival is food.

              It is easy to be ‘good’ when you have plenty — but I guarantee you — if any one of us were stripped of our cushy lifestyles and tossed into the brew of desperation that bubbles away in many third world countries…. we’d be very much capable of the atrocities that we regularly see on the teevee…

              We are predatory beasts.

              Check out your teeth (fangs) in the mirror if you have any doubts.

              And like beasts we tear each other apart regularly fighting over a bone (otherwise known as war)

              Think this is funny? I bet monkeys think we look pretty stupid too!


            • Brunswickian says:


              Jay Hanson had this nailed many years ago.

              ‘Utopians’ — let’s just call them all that — for the most part are not net-energy aware. I believe Hubbert probably was. But even the ones that are net-energy aware are not operating with an accurate model of human beings. They use a ‘Bambi’ model of human nature. In reality, we are a third member of the chimp family — red in tooth and claw much like the common chimpanzee, unlike the more docile pygmy chimpanzee. Our large brains are optimized to take advantage of others, one way or another, in order to maximize our own ‘inclusive fitness’. Over millions of years, we were explicitly honed by nature, as of 10,000 years or so ago, to put as many copies of our genes as possible into the next generation. For all practical purposes, a person is nothing more than the genes’ way of making more genes.

              So, it is human nature to assume away all the difficulties when you have a political agenda. When I talk about a political agenda, I use the term very broadly. It’s a normative statement. Everybody who has a normative program, who is basically saying we should do something, assumes away all the difficulties. In advocating our normative political programs, we act automatically, without thinking about it, because it worked for us in the past. We are genetically biased to think a certain way.

  40. Robert Wilson says:

    Ultimately the invisible hand will solve Cuba’s problems, via die-off.

  41. Robert Wilson says:

    Ultimately the invisible hand will solve Cuba’s problems, via die-off.

  42. VPK says:

    Just in case you haven’t heard
    China’s explosive stock market looks more and more like a bubble — while international cash surges in–while-international-cash-surges-in-2015-5
    Here’s the Financial Times on Friday morning, citing data from fund flow-watchers EPFR:

    China equity funds took in $4.6bn from overseas over the past week, according to data from EPFR released on Friday, more than double the previous high set in the second quarter of 2008. At that time, Chinese stocks were in the middle of long and painful downturn after the popping of the 2007 stock market bubble.

    A note from Credit Suisse adds to the heat, saying “the market direction has clearly detached from underlying fundamentals.”


    • Thanks! Part of this is money moving from owning condominiums that are falling in price, to the new “next best thing”. One bubble after the next.

      • hebertmw says:

        You mentioned some time back about problems with salt water getting into the water table due to over growing food. Was that still a problem or was it not?

        I have read high and low throughout this thread of replies and very few pointed out how much Cuba was subsidized by the Soviet Union. All that education and health care didn’t come for free, truly. When the Soviet Union collapsed Cuba cut its foreign interventions (like South Africa, Central America) and since it wasn’t getting above market prices for its sugar I guess that is when the serious borrowing started. I do know Russia has picked up the sugar subsidy again and Cuba is again a Russian client, Russian war ships making Havana a port of call. That may be a good thing in the long run if Cuba has European aspirations.

        • I don’t know whether salt was getting into the water table due to over-irrigation was an issue. Our group was scheduled to meet with an organic garden group in Havana, but that meeting got cancelled, and could not be rescheduled for later in the week. I wanted to ask about it there.

          I don’t know exactly how much Cuba was subsidized by the Soviet Union. I understand that a barter arrangement was put in place, where the Soviet Union sent Cuba goods of various sorts (my guess: oil, agricultural machinery, agricultural herbicides and pesticides, canned fruit and vegetables, wheat and other food products that matched Cuba’s diet, goods like refrigerators) in return for Cuban sugar. One article I read claimed that five times the market price for sugar was used somewhere along the way. It may be that the arrangement was set up when sugar prices were high, and not changed when sugar prices dropped (or a drop in oil prices may have changed relativities). That would be my guess as to how a big subsidy could take place.

  43. Rodster says:

    Chris Martensen wrote an excellent article on “Our collective denial of limits.”

    • Fast Eddy says:

      “How is it that the leaders of Japan have convinced themselves that rapid economic growth is what they need (instead of the more rational and opposite case of managed economic shrinkage)? What’s their plan, exactly? They have no plan. The plan is to simply remain in denial and ignore everything until it all breaks down.”

      The thing is … there is no such thing as ‘management economic shrinkage’ If the economy shrinks the global economy explodes catastrophically and billions — and quite likely everyone – dies.

      Martenson does not seem to recognize or understand that — or perhaps he does but in the meantime he wants to flog his plan to people who are desperate for one….

      Let’s see when we click one the banners offering salvation:

      $ For enrolled members only. Enroll or Sign in to read the full article.

      And when I click here I see that there are dozens of sponsored links….

      Show me the money brutha … and I’ll take you to heaven 🙂

  44. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    Someone asked me to write a little about Lifeboats for an uncertain future. I want to first set the picture. I am in the stage of my life where I am beginning to die…that means the dissolution of the network that sustained me for the first three-quarters of a century. As the network disintegrates, my own survival becomes more problematic from day to day. My very early years were spent in an environment of what would now be called poverty, but we just thought it was normal. My young adult years were spent in the plenty which lasted from 1950 to 1970, my adult years were spent when those of us who got established before 1970 continued to do very well, and now I am living in the era where the elderly are doing financially better than anyone else. So I can’t tell stories about raising children in the midst of poverty and violence. What I may be able to do is provide a few hints from things that I have learned since about 2005, when it became apparent to me that the world was about to change.

    I suggest a couple of things to begin with. These are both theoretical exercises in cognition…thinking clearly about what is happening and what the Lifeboat Group needs to do. First, read

    I used similar methods with the corporate groups I was responsible for, and found exercises like these to be indispensable in terms of getting people to working within a common framework. You may also like to check Chris Martenson’s website and look for the interview with Becca Martenson about the group she belongs to in the Pioneer Valley in Massachusetts. I also mention Diana Leafe Christianson as a very knowledgable person regarding group dynamics. As you get into the world of group dynamics, you will discover lots of other fascinating work.

    Second, I recommend buying a copy of The Systems View of Life by Capra and Luisi. You want your Lifeboat to be a living system, and Capra and Luisi take apart and put back together what science has learned about living systems in considerable detail. What do we mean by ‘a living system’? One short answer is ‘Life is a factory that makes itself from within’. Life makes its own boundaries, as your skin is one boundary defining ‘you’, and the layer of cells in the gut along with the immune system which keeps ‘intruders’ out of your body proper is another boundary.

    Lest this seem impossibly theoretical, let me discuss the issues a little. The quintessential living organism today is the global corporation driven by financial goals. It is to pump more oxygen (money) into such living systems that the Trans Pacific Partnership gets a fast track in the United States Legislature, and the enthusiastic support of President Obama. Now, if one pays any attention to Gail’s writings, or the cautionary tales coming out of thermodynamic studies such as those of Tim Garrett and BW Hill, one thinks that making one’s survival dependent on the continuing prosperity of global financially driven corporations may not be a very smart thing to do. But the very success of the global enterprise has severely damaged any more localized life forms which use much less energy, and for which the energy source is more likely to be passive solar than nuclear reactors. Most people are also oblivious of the fact that much of the noise and dust is about moving neurotransmitters and hormones. So we have to construct out of the debris new (or old) forms which are capable of life as Capra and Luisi define it.

    When Dmitry Orlov looks at the ‘boundary’ issue, he comes to the recognition that belonging to a peculiar religious or ethnic group can be an effective boundary under certain conditions. So, if you were cast away on a desert island with a bunch of corporate executives on their way to attend an executive retreat, how would you begin to form them into an effective team for survival? Do you think it might devolve into Lord of the Flies?

    If you plan to form a Transition group, how can you create a boundary between the Transition members and the random motion all around them which is being moved by mysterious global financial currents?

    Capra and Luisi discuss in detail how living creatures do it. They also point out that social groups follow the same strategies as living creatures. You will not find any recipe for surviving in a bunker with God and guns. I can’t cover everything in this note…buy the book and read it carefully and think about your own situation.

    Let me just hint at one potential solution. Joel Salatin, in thinking about the problems young farmers have in affording land, came up with a scheme whereby many different farm based enterprises can operate from a single piece of land. Joel believes that any individual can only use a small fraction of the potential of any specific piece of land. For example, someone can make honey, while providing pollination services around the farm. Another person can specialize in fermentation. Another specializes in animals and rotates them around fields farmed by others. Another person is the master builder. And so on and so forth. What this group does not try to do, is have everyone own a tiny piece of land and do everything for themselves or within a single nuclear family. People develop a set of skills which are useful to the group, which gives them access to other skills which exist in the group, making life easier for everyone.

    Capra and Luisi describe the tension between things and processes throughout Western science. At times, the scientific attention has focused overwhelmingly on things: molecules, DNA, atoms, etc. Some other scientists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, focused on patterns and relationships. At the present time, there is a strong resurgence of interest in the patterns and relationships. For example, the pattern of microbes in the human gut, and the relationship of that pattern to human health. At the time of the writing of the United States Constitution, the emphasis was mostly on things, with the exception of slavery. We almost had ‘life, liberty, and property’ in the Constitution, but through some not very well understood process ended up with ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’. The Supreme Court has, however, steadily narrowed the Constitution to ‘property’…property being deemed the foundation for life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Slavery was clearly a relationship, but it was reinterpreted as a ’thing’, with slaves being ruled as nothing but property in the Dred Scott decisions of the Supreme Court. With the federal government being so strongly on the side of things, how does one construct a Lifeboat which focuses on relationships and processes? (Same dynamic in Europe vs. Greece).

    And how do a group of people who have thought that ‘money might not buy happiness, but it buys the next best things’, actually begin to work together as the biological units described by Capra and Luisi?

    With that I leave you to read the book, experiment, and find solutions.

    Don Stewart

    • garand555 says:

      Don Stewart said:

      ” So, if you were cast away on a desert island with a bunch of corporate executives on their way to attend an executive retreat, how would you begin to form them into an effective team for survival? Do you think it might devolve into Lord of the Flies?”

      If we’re talking US fortune 500 corporate execs, I would be surprised if it didn’t devolve into Lord of the Flies. There would be too many looking to take charge in a situation where they are probably just as ignorant as the next guy.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Don’t think this applies only to alpha execs…

        No matter the composition of a group — you could drop two dozen pacifist greenie types into a community and someone in that group will be more alpha than the rest and take control… that person is needed and wanted by the group because someone has to be in charge.

        Let’s have a look at what happens when there is nobody in command….

        • garand555 says:

          No, it does not apply only to alpha execs. But throw me into the mix, as Don’s question stated, and I’m going a lot more willing to resort to violence than I normally would simply because I wouldn’t put up with their BS, and in that kind of situation, choices can become limited.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      If you plan to form a Transition group, how can you create a boundary between the Transition members and the random motion all around them which is being moved by mysterious global financial currents?

      I would say that “Brownian motion” is our biggest impediment. When you’re trying to form an egalitarian group, you are tossed and turned by every new person’s whims. Of course, a beneficial dictator (Castro?) can control much of that, but if you’ve held yourself up as an egalitarian group, you end up having to put up with a lot of that.

      We’ve tried to have a common set of values, by which we weigh various alternatives, but the values themselves are somewhat nebulous. “Kindness to animals:” does that involve letting there be too many roosters and bucks? What do you do with excess males in such a case? We have someone who wants to be involved who wants milk and eggs, but absolutely will not tolerate any killing of animals. Tossed and turned by another wave, we are…

      Joel Salatin, in thinking about the problems young farmers have in affording land, came up with a scheme whereby many different farm based enterprises can operate from a single piece of land.

      This is exactly our approach. Wendel Berry said, “The aim of a healthy farm will be to produce as many kinds of plants and animals as it sensibly can.” This is difficult with a sole proprietor, or even a family farm, but it becomes much more viable in a collective situation. We have dairy, soap, jam, greenhouse, field crops, and a few other things thinly covered, but we could use some help!

      With that I leave you to read the book, experiment, and find solutions.

      Damn. I still haven’t finished the last book you recommended! (Just Enough)

      This time of year, my outdoor-work list trumps my reading list. Might not get to Capra and Luisi before winter.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Jan Steinman
        First, how do you like Azby Brown’s book?

        Second, on the brownian motion. I don’t think this is covered in Capra and Luisi. I can’t remember exactly where I learned it. Brownian motion is a very efficient way to connect chemicals to enzymes inside the cell. Distances are short and movement is fast, so simple random collisions are going to give you the chemical reaction you want within less than a second.

        However, as you move to larger distances and slower movement, you get regulatory messages. The gut bacteria communicate to the brain, and vice versa, via the Vagus nerve. This communications isn’t random by any means. There are clear messages delivered in both directions.

        IF the goal can be accomplished by mere random collisions, then the brownian motion plus enzymes plan is the most energy efficient. But the most energy efficient way for the gut bacteria to communicate with the brain is quite different and uses formatted messages.

        So, I suggest that if one is trying to study Nature trying to figure out how best to operate an intentional community, then perhaps studying the difference between the enzymes and the Vagus might be worthwhile. Diana may have some helpful thoughts on the matter. Personally, I am allergic to long arguments that go nowhere. (I would probably meet your community’s firing squad all too soon!).

        Just as a few ideas to start you thinking on your own:
        *What does Nature do with excess males? Do the excess males run around alone, while the dominant male shepherds the harem? If so, then turning the excess males loose (even though that is a death sentence) might assuage some wounded feelings.
        *If feeding the excess males is taking food away from egg laying females, then the community might debate what to do. Do we want more egg laying females, or do we want to feed ‘useless’ males? Diana has some good ‘sense of the meeting’ methods for resolving things…copied from the Quakers, I think. If it costs money, then the cost of feeding the males might be an assessment that people agree to pay…or not. That makes it a real choice.

        Don Stewart

      • Artleads says:

        “We’ve tried to have a common set of values, by which we weigh various alternatives, but the values themselves are somewhat nebulous. “Kindness to animals:” does that involve letting there be too many roosters and bucks? What do you do with excess males in such a case? We have someone who wants to be involved who wants milk and eggs, but absolutely will not tolerate any killing of animals. Tossed and turned by another wave, we are…”

        I think this is what the Pattern Language link helped explain (work around). I’ve experienced leadership training with great facilitators, and they helped us get to a quite joyful transcendence of our differences and contradictions. Of course, I’ve forgotten the techniques after many years. But if I had to start somewhere to tackle contradictions, I’d recommend taking six months or a year to figure out what the group can agree on. Everybody’s hot topic must be incorporated. It’s the seeing how all the pieces fit that get people to adjust their expectations/desires. Connecting with the groups over-all dynamic gets to be more fun than sticking rigidly to your individual vision. Something like that anyway. 🙂

        • garand555 says:

          “We have someone who wants to be involved who wants milk and eggs, but absolutely will not tolerate any killing of animals.”

          So you find yourself in a world where fossil fuels are no longer being mined and consumed in any appreciable quantity, and people are starving. If you have somebody who wants milk and eggs, but will not tolerate any killing of animals, the response is “We’re going to kill animals,\ and you have two choices: You can get over it, or not. There are others who will do this.”

          If you think that the energy situation is going to be that way in your lifetime, you should start with that mindset now.

          • Artleads says:

            I can’t argue with that. My own POV is a stubborn one. Whether or not this attitude would hold up to the real experience, I NOW believe I would chose not to want food that required killing animals. Sure, the killing currently being out of sight, I readily eat the slaughtered animals. But in the crisis, I would, with luck, prepare ahead to have a long-term supply of beans and rice (although I don’t know how long they can be stored). Most of what I do now is with such a future in mind.

            • garand555 says:

              Animals can and should be an integral part of food production. Right now, I have unlimited access to free horse manure. If BAU stops, this will probably go away and I’ll need alternatives, which I am pursuing. But today, the way I look at it is that, everything that is being mined to support the grass that feeds the horses should be put onto my property rather than put into a landfill or flushed out to sea.

              What do you do with a chicken that has stopped laying eggs? In today’s world, you can keep it as a pet if you wish. If food is an issue, and you have other laying chickens, the chicken that stops laying eggs becomes dinner. That attitude will get harder with something like a goat that you’ve raised, because goats are easier to get emotionally attached to.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              My understanding is that free ranging chickens will lay very few eggs… unless they are provided with fortified feeds. So there’s another problem we come up against with regards to food… Wally’s World (nor Farmlands) will be selling anything post collapse…

    • Brunswickian says:

      I used to think like that, but now it is apparent to me that it is all a control mechanism. We are not going to see a nuke-fest. Why kill the cash cow?

      • Daniel Hood says:

        Let me help re-calibrate back to reality again.

        The coming “direct” military confrontation between a declining Obama administration sat in Washington, versus a rising, growing in confidence Moscow & Beijing. WW3 is starting, it’s going mainstream, it’s now being recognised as such and picked up across MSM, you’ll get there eventually as the world tears itself to pieces.

        Soros recently warned of WW3 due to Washington’s growing desperation to check Russian, Chinese power. China recently warned Obama’s Washington over direct provocations in the South China Sea, over-flights of US forces angering the Chinese who are building defensive positions, man-made islands.

        MAY 23rd 2015

        MAY 28th 2015

        Washington is led by Obama, a progressive voted in office twice by progressives, which is MORE than ironic, because he’s the one making provocative decisions against both Russia & China to the point whereby Putin has reached the end, he’s now amassing huge firepower ready to counter NATO’s moves up to Russia’s borders. As I write he’s sent massive columns of tanks and heavy weaponary to the Ukraine border ready to assault, we’re talking huge numbers here.

        MAY 26th, 2015

        MAY 29th 2015:

        MAY 22nd 2015:

        MAY 24th 2015:

        So, we have NATO, Russia, China threatening to use nuclear weapons against each other. We have have two rising superpowers coming together WARNING the declining progressive superpower to back off.

        Many global analysts now calculate the world could be at war by summer because Washington is no longer in a position to defend its bankrupt, collapsing, fiat, petrodollar run, banking system, alternative is collapse and/or war.

        The rest of the world also knows the US is close to collapse under Obama. California is close to collapse; 40 million people running out of water during one of the worst droughts in modern history as warned by NASA. Texas faces interesting challenges, unprecedented military exercises being held in the South West leading to massive distrust to the point wherby the Texas State Governor has ordered the Texas National Guard to “observe” Obama’s sponsored Federal military exercises.

        MAY 02nd 2015:

        Then of course in the Middle East we have Afghan, Libyan, Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni proxy wars being fought by Saudia Arabia, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, ISIL, Al Nusra, Al this, Al that, the Sunni alliance intent on destroying the Shia alliance led by Iran, backed by Russia, China including Assad and Hezbollah, both on the backfoot.

        With the above events taking place, it’s clear the US is in a last ditch desperate direct confrontation with Russia, China combined, as we see the last declining resemblance of Western progressive ideals being torn to pieces.

        • Brunswickian says:

          The US impresses me as employing bullying brinkmanship to achieve its goals. It has no chance in conventional conflict with China and Russia on their doorsteps. So will the US go MAD? On balance I tend to think not. So, apparently do China and Russia.

        • Artleads says:

          I think there are times when limits are reached, and the only choice is to do something different. That’s where I see America. One problem, however, is that only a tiny handful know that limits have been reached, and no one is prepared for what comes next. That leaves change to happen by attrition rather than by choice. IMO anyway.

        • Daniel Hood says:

          It’s times like this when you feel so utterly helpless, we can plainly see Washington, Moscow, Beijing, 3 of the most powerful of state forces charging head on into a monumental global crisis.

          The fight for ideas, markets, remaining resources as we see debt/energy deflation starting to ravage economies. We either learn to collaborate, or the unthinkable is zero-sum. All it takes is a few hot heads on all sides to think any conflict is actually “winnable”. In this regard, the world is different to the previous cold war attitude of MAD because there are those who do believe war is winnable in the event of conflict. If this attitude prevails then we’re in trouble, we have a wounded declining super power versus the old bear and rising challenger. All 3 are prepared to fight using nuclear weapons. Do I believe Putin will use nuclear weapons? Yes I do believe he would. He will never allow USSR 2.0 on his watch. Neither China nor Russia will never allow the disruption of the Eurasian empire, whilst the US will never allow the abandonment of the post WW2 world order.

          What worries me, is this talk used to be reserved for underground sites, conspiracy forums, now as you can see, it’s gone mainstream.

          It’s clear the Western world has reached limits to growth, it’s clear QE4 will not have the desired effects, interest rates are already rock bottom, negative in Europe. Fracking is collapsing as we’ve said many times here and renewables will not stop decline.

          I believe we’ve reached the moment of truth.

          • Brunswickian says:

            Cyberwar may be more effective:

            Cyberwar Scenario

            Here’s how a cyberwar might go down (pp. 65-68). It would take just 15 minutes:

            Large-scale routers fail and reboot throughout the network
            Department of Defense networks collapse
            All the electric grids fail. Several generators self-destruct. These can take up to 2 years to replace, and the grid can’t come back up without them
            Satellites for weather, navigation, and communications spin out of orbit
            The U.S. Military can’t communicate without the internet, they use the same Internet networks and software as the rest of us.
            Refinery fires and explosions destroy large oil refineries
            Chemical plants explode and release lethal clouds of chlorine gas
            Air traffic control systems collapse, some airplanes collide
            Freight trains derail at key locations: major junctions and marshaling yards
            Cities will run out of food within the next 3 days because the trains aren’t running, and the trucking and distribution centers data systems are down
            All of the data and the backups kept by the Fed have been lost – this will cause the financial system to crash
            Gas pipelines explode in the Northeast, leaving without millions of people without heat in freezing cold weather
            High-tension transmission lines catch on fire and melt
            With the grid down, traffic lights are out, making it hard for military and emergency workers to get to their posts
            BART trains crash in Oakland, and so do other metro trains in big cities
            Power can’t be brought back up because you need nuclear power plants to reboot the system, but they’re in lockdown
            ATM machines are down, people who can’t get money out have started looting stores

            • Quite a trade off, intentionally keeping networks porous so the NSA can watch everybody all the time, at the cost of making everything vulnerable to attack. Hell of a strategy.

            • I agree that cyberwar is a concern. Adding electric controls to the electric grid works until someone gets the power to use this control for their own benefit.

          • kesar0 says:

            I mostly agree with your narrative, but with one change – the main motivation for the US is to stay on top of the pyramid. There is no way to win, because there is no more resources to be won. They were all consumed. The only place where the true resources are still present is Middle East. Cheap oil. You can fight a war with it and keep your population alive. And there – in the biblical area – lies the main issue. There is the main scene, where global games are played IMO.

            • Interesting point!

            • “There is no way to win, because there is no more resources to be won.”

              Lots of untapped resources in Africa, Afghanistan, maybe Mongolia, the Spratly Islands area in the South China Sea, the seafloor off the coast of the Gaza strip.

              The problem is more likely no room to grow, since new resources will mostly just be replacing declining existing sources.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Plenty of resources remain … but the cost to extract them is too high to allow the economy to continue to grow… therefore the economy will collapse … and the high hanging fruit will remain unplucked.

            • kesar0 says:

              @ Matthew
              We are not talking about growing anymore. Growth is gone. We reached LTG. We are playing “last man standing” game now. All powers (US, China, Europe, Russia) are trying to stay afloat. Musical chairs game. US just can’t afford to loose and they will need (like everybody) the last drops of oil. And they will get it from ME, IMO. The other sources are marginal in comparison.

            • “We are not talking about growing anymore. Growth is gone. We reached LTG.”

              That is certainly not the mainstream consensus. I don’t know if that is what the politicians and bankers talk about, but I kind of doubt it. Unless they are all really good at hiding it, it seems most of those in power are oblivious or choose not to believe it. As a result, I do not think they are making decisions based on being on the brink of collapse.

            • kesar0 says:

              Since when the public is being informed about what is really going on? The journalists are “useful idiots” as old saying attributed to Vladimir Ulyanov goes. There are some people who understand the situation much better. I would assume the guys working for civil and military intelligence in Moscow, Washington, Beijing, Brussels do get it. Do they have a choice of saying out loud: “we are screwed and start preparing for wars/revolutions/hunger/riots/etc.”? I doubt it. Everyone must complete the puzzle on his own. Starting the proxy-wars all over the globe is part of the game. Russia is trying to undermine US on Mid-East, US are trying the same in Ukraine. We will see the results in less than a decade. Soros is saying we are on the brink of WW3, Juncker exhorts to integrate european military power and we see many signals that BAU is in bifurcation stage. We’ll see how it unravels.

            • We are very close to reaching LTG. The lack of demand we are seeing is the kind of situation a person would expect if we are reaching LTG.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              The lack of demand we are seeing is the kind of situation a person would expect if we are reaching LTG.

              I don’t disbelieve you (look around!), but I still find this puzzling in many ways.

              It seems that different commodities behave differently under limits. And of course, “substitutability” means limits don’t exist, to economists.

              Let’s say there are two people imprisoned in a room, with no way of getting out. (Let’s say they’re buried in an earthquake.) Each of them have $10,000. In the room with them is a ticket for an all-expense-paid, two-week trip to Paris (market value: $10,000), and a ham sandwich.

              Under these conditions, the vacation deflates to near valuelessness, while the ham sandwich is probably worth $10,000.

              Models and thought experiments are necessarily flawed versions of reality. But isn’t that a possible scenario: that the unnecessary will deflate, and the necessary will inflate?

              This is, of course, further complicated by the fact that most of our food comes via oil, but if you lose your job (or your pension, or your investment income, etc.), you can stop driving, but you cannot stop eating.

              So isn’t food or the ability to produce it (and water, and air, and basic shelter), the ultimate deflation hedge?

            • kesar0 says:

              I guess the real value will be materialized in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs placed at the bottom – food, shelter, medicine, drugs, alohol, energy, etc. I read a few WW2 memoires and all these things are there – quite the same, we will all need in rough times.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              the real value will be materialized in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs placed at the bottom – food, shelter, medicine, drugs, alohol, energy, etc.

              Don’t forget sex! If there’s no opera, people will have to get what Mozart called, “the opera of the masses!”

              I don’t think realizing higher levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy is dependent on a continuous supply of 2,000 watts. People will still carve flutes and drums, and dance and storytelling is free. Indeed, without the excess complexity of modern civilization, self-actualization may indeed become easier to achieve. There will be Zen monks and Hindu gurus as long as there are people.

              No doubt, not everyone will make such a descent. Indeed, many will not care to, and would rather throw up their hands and die than accept a simpler life, leaving more resources for those of us who are actively engaging a simpler life.

              Descent will be jerky and spotty, leaving room for those with will and some resources to carve out a living. Or not — but I’m not going to go without some kicking and screaming! 🙂

            • kesar0 says:

              Ha, without kicking and screaming? Never – lol!
              I nevertheless was born in quite cold climate area. Here, in order to survive you need a lot of energy to heat your home. This will be a problem for many people. I’m working on that and all other things mentioned. At least until I have other plan for other location on this beautiful planet.

            • kesar0 says:

              One more thing about Maslow’s Hierarchy, since you never know…
              There is this very touching story about women liberated from Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. It described how American soldiers liberating the camp brought many things: food, medicines, soap and all others. But the most wanted by the women there was the lipstick, they wanted so terribly feel as real females.
              Paragraph at the end of the story…

            • Fast Eddy says:

              “accept a simpler life”

              A rather major understatement.

              The reason that most people refuse to accept what is obvious i.e. that we are approaching the limits to growth …. is not because they reject living a simple life…

              It is because they understand (while many people here do not) what reaching the limits to growth means.

              It means billions if not everyone dies. It means suffering, famine, violence, anarchy, disease. It means a nightmare scenario (ask someone with half a brain to play what if — and note what they say when you say what if the financial system were wiped out, the global economy collapsed, and oil and other fossil fuels were not available — no cars… no electricity)

              If that’s what you mean by a simpler life — then best of luck with that.

              I prefer that BAU continues even if it means I have to deal facebooking/tweeting idiots, rampant consumerism and all the rest of the toxic side effects.

              Koombaya is a folk song — it is not real — and wishing BAU to smash in a million pieces will not make it any more real.

              In fact what we have now will look very much like Koombaya … compared to when the electricity goes off… and hunger is the sole driver of the beast.

            • Yes, I agree that food or the ability to produce it is the ultimate deflation hedge. It also helps to be on an island, to help with security. Otherwise, you can build a moat around your farm (not really).

            • “So isn’t food or the ability to produce it (and water, and air, and basic shelter), the ultimate deflation hedge?”

              Real Estate. Not Fake Estate – condos, laneway houses, trailer parks. Arable land that has good soil, water, and ability to produce food and trees. Of course, unless you have a private army, you can probably only hold as much land as you can use.

              If things get serious, one way or another if you have hundreds of acres of land and there are masses of hungry people nearby, your property rights will probably get violated.

            • As long as you can hold on to the real estate, it is a hedge. If there are angry hoards, looking for food, your ability to hold on to real estate may disappear. This is especially the case if government disappears.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              It is absurd to think that those running the show are not clued in.

              They know full well what the impact of higher oil prices does to the economy:

              HIGH PRICED OIL DESTROYS GROWTH According to the OECD Economics Department and the International Monetary Fund Research Department, a sustained $10 per barrel increase in oil prices from $25 to $35 would result in the OECD as a whole losing 0.4% of GDP in the first and second years of higher prices.

              There is plenty of research that ties high oil prices and recession together. They most definitely are aware of this.

              You do not engage in the policies that the central banks are if you think there is a way out — they know full well that you cannot print your way to prosperity — and they know that handing cash to companies to ramp up the stock market is a recipe for total disaster

              These are not stupid men. You don’t get to that position by sticking your head into the sand when faced with an uncomfortable truth.

              They understand that the end of civilization is at stake.

              And they are doing exactly what needs to be done to delay the end game.

  45. Brunswickian says:

    Just been thinking that an early indicator will be insurance companies delaying payment of even cast iron claims.

    What do you think?

    I have cancelled all insurances

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I have just cancelled and am redeeming my mandatory pension fund — which is allowed because I have shifted countries.

      There is no way I am ever going to collect on that so I might as well blow the lot at Wally’s World buying end of days supplies.

      QE was rather kind to such funds — anyone with a pension fund has done very well due to the central bankers… I owe Benny B a drink.

  46. Fast Eddy says:

    Best to be amongst your tribe when the SHTF…

  47. How about this: Ron Paul is now aboard with Porter Stansberry’s folks (
    — I watched most of an hour of this infomercial, but got bored with their usual approach of, if you buy their latest book, etc., you can do a Joe Kennedy & stay on easy street, while America wipes out around you.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Porter Stansberry is — and excuse my unkind words — a total jackass.

      He smacks of a bad used cars salesman…

      He touts his correct calls but half the time he gets it wrong and you never hear about it (might as well flip a coin eh…)

      A friend forwarded me his many pleading letters telling his acolytes to charge into the shale boom — he was front and centre promoting the lie. As usual he was all mouth when shale was doing well.

      But when he failed to call the crash he as expected… said nothing.

      Here’s the thing: not a single hedge fund manager or money manager has outperformed any of the US indices since 2008. NOT ONE.

      I am unclear why anyone would pay for bullshit from Stansberry or put money into a fund.

      The thinking person buys a Vanguard fund and blows the returns enjoying the time that remains until the whole shebang blows sky high.

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