Why EIA, IEA, and BP Oil Forecasts are Too High

When forecasting how much oil will be available in future years, a standard approach seems to be the following:

  1. Figure out how much GDP growth the researcher hopes to have in the future.
  2. “Work backward” to see how much oil is needed, based on how much oil was used for a given level of GDP in the past. Adjust this amount for hoped-for efficiency gains and transfers to other fuel uses.
  3. Verify that there is actually enough oil available to support this level of growth in oil consumption.

In fact, this seems to be the approach used by most forecasting agencies, including EIA, IEA and BP. It seems to me that this approach has a fundamental flaw. It doesn’t consider the possibility of continued low oil prices and the impact that these low oil prices are likely to have on future oil production. Hoped-for future GDP growth may not be possible if oil prices, as well as other commodity prices, remain low.

Future Oil Resources Seem to Be More Than Adequate

It is easy to get the idea that we have a great deal of oil resources in the ground. For example, if we start with BP Statistical Review of World Energy, we see that reported oil reserves at the end of 2013 were 1,687.9 billion barrels. This corresponds to 53.3 years of oil production at 2013 production levels.

If we look at the United States Geological Services 2012 report for one big grouping–undiscovered conventional oil resources for the world excluding the United States–we get a “mean” estimate of 565 billion barrels. This corresponds to another 17.8 years of production at the 2013 level of oil production. Combining these two estimates gets us to a total of 71.1 years of future production. Furthermore, we haven’t even begun to consider oil that may be available by fracking that is not considered in current reserves. We also haven’t considered oil that might be available from very heavy oil deposits that is not in current reserves. These would theoretically add additional large amounts.

Given these large amounts of theoretically available oil, it is not surprising that forecasters use the approach they do. There appears to be no need to cut back forecasts to reflect inadequate future oil supply, as long as we can really extract oil that seems to be available.

Why We Can’t Count on Oil Prices Rising Indefinitely

There is clearly a huge amount of oil available with current technology, if high cost is no problem. Without cost constraints, fracking can be used in many more areas of the world than it is used today. If more water is needed for fracking than is available, and price is no object, we can desalinate seawater, or pump water uphill for hundreds of miles.

If high cost is no problem, we can extract very heavy oil in many deposits around the world using energy intensive heating approaches similar to those used in the Canadian oil sands. We can also create gasoline using a coal-to-liquids approach. Here again, we may need to work around water shortages using very high cost methods.

The amount of available future oil is likely to be much lower if real-world price constraints are considered. There are at least two reasons why oil prices can’t rise indefinitely:

  1. Any time oil prices rise, economies that use a high proportion of oil in their energy mix experience financial problems. For example, countries that get a lot of their revenue from tourism seem to be vulnerable to high oil prices, because high oil prices raise the cost of airline travel. Also, if any oil is used for making electricity, its high cost makes it expensive to manufacture goods for export.
  2. When oil prices rise, workers find that the cost of food tends to rise, as does the cost of commuting. To offset these rising expenses, workers cut back on discretionary spending, such as going to restaurants, going on long-distance vacations, and buying more expensive homes. These spending cutbacks adversely affect the economy.

The combination of these two effects tends to lead to recession, and recession tends to bring commodity prices in general down. The result is oil prices that cannot rise indefinitely. The oil extraction limit becomes a price limit related to recessionary impacts.

The cost of oil is currently in the $60 per barrel range. It is not even clear that oil prices can rise back to the $100 per barrel level without causing recession in many counties. In fact, the demand for many things is low, including labor and capital. Why should the price of oil rise, if the overall economy is not generating enough demand for goods of all kinds, including oil?

Oil Companies Can Report a Wide Range of Oil Prices Needed for Profitability

The discussion of required oil prices is confusing because there are many different ways to compute oil prices needed for profitability. Companies make use of this fact in choosing information to report to the press. They want to make their situations look as favorable as possible, because they do not want to frighten bondholders and prospective stock buyers. This usually means reporting as low a needed price for profitability as possible.

Oil prices can be computed on any of the following bases (arranged roughly from lowest to highest):

  • (a) The “going forward” cost of extracting oil from wells that are already in place, excluding fixed expenses that the company would incur anyhow. This cost is likely to be very low, likely less than $30 barrel.
  • (b) The cost of drilling new “infill” wells in existing fields, excluding the overhead expenses the company would incur anyhow.
  • (c) The cost of opening up a new oil field and drilling new wells, excluding the overhead expenses the company would incur anyhow.
  • (d) Add to (c), overhead expenses (but not including taxes paid to governments, dividends to policyholders, and interest on borrowed funds).
  • (e) Add to (d) amounts paid to government, dividends to policyholders, and interest on borrowed funds.
  • (f) The price required so that the oil company has sufficient cash flow so that it doesn’t need to keep taking on more debt. Instead, it can earn a reasonable profit (and from this pay dividends), and still have sufficient funds left for “Exploration & Development” of new fields to offset declines in production in existing fields. It can also pay governments the high taxes they require, and pay other ongoing expenses. Thus, the system can continue to operate, without assistance from other sources.

I would argue that if we actually want to extract a large share of technically recoverable oil, we need oil prices up at this top level–a level at which companies are making a reasonable profit on a cash flow basis, so that they don’t have to go further and further into debt. If they are getting less than they really need, they will send drilling rigs home. They will use available funds to buy back their own shares, rather than spending as much money as is required to develop new fields to offset declines in existing fields.

Required Oil Prices

Many people believe that low prices started in late-2014, when oil prices dropped below the $100 barrel level. If we look back, we find that there was a problem as early as 2013, when oil prices were over $100 per barrel. Oil companies were then complaining about not making a profit on a cash flow basis–in other words, the highest price basis listed above.

My February 2014 post called Beginning of the End? Oil Companies Cut Back on Spending (relating to a presentation by Steve Kopits) talks about oil companies already doing poorly on a cash flow basis. Many needed to borrow money in order to have sufficient funds to pay both dividends and “Exploration & Production” expenses related to potential new fields. Figure 1 is a slide by Kopits showing prices required for selected individual companies to be cash flow neutral:

Figure 1.

Figure 1.See this link for larger view of image.

The problem back in 2013 was that $100 per barrel was not sufficient for most companies to be profitable on a cash flow basis. At that time, Figure 1 indicates that a price of over $130 per barrel was needed for many US companies to be profitable on that basis. Russian companies needed prices in the $100 to $125 range, while the Chinese companies PetroChina and Sinopec needed prices in the $115 to $130 per barrel range. The Brazilian company Petrobas needed a price over $150 per barrel to be cash flow neutral.

Kopits doesn’t show required prices for OPEC countries to be cash flow neutral, but similar price estimates (required funding including budgeted tax amounts) are available from Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation (Figure 2, below).

Figure 2. Estimate of OPEC break-even oil prices, including tax requirements by parent countries, from Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation.

Figure 2. Estimate of OPEC break-even oil prices, including tax requirements by parent countries, from Arab Petroleum Investments Corporation.

Based on this exhibit, OPEC costs are generally over $100 per barrel. In other words, OPEC costs are not too different from non-OPEC costs, when all types of expenses, including taxes, are included.

As more oil is extracted, the tendency is for costs to rise. Figure 3, also from the Kopits’ presentation, shows a rapid escalation in some types of costs after 1999. This is what we would expect when we reach the end of readily available “cheap to extract” oil and move to more expensive-to-extract unconventional types of oil.

Figure 3. Figure by Steve Kopits of Westwood Douglas showing trends in world oil exploration and production costs per barrel.

Figure 3. Figure by Steve Kopits of Douglas Westwood showing trends in world oil exploration and production costs per barrel. CAGR is “Compound Annual Growth Rate”.

What prices do we need on a going-forward basis, to keep the oil extraction system operating on a long-term basis? I would argue that we need a price of at least $130 now in 2015. In the future, this price needs to rise to higher and higher levels, perhaps moving up quite quickly as we move to more-expensive-to-extract resources.

Is it really necessary to include tax revenues in these calculations? I would argue that the inclusion of taxes is especially important for oil exporting nations. Most of these countries depend heavily on oil taxes to provide funds to operate programs providing food and jobs. As the quantity of oil that they can extract depletes, and as the population of these countries rises, the per-barrel amount of revenue required to fund these government programs is likely to increase. If we want to have a reasonable chance of stability within these countries (so that exports can continue), then we need to expect that the tax loads of companies in oil exporting nations will increase in the future.

Also, if there is any plan to subsidize “renewables,” funds to make this possible need to come from somewhere. Indirectly, these funds are available because of surpluses made possible by the fossil fuel industry. Thus taxes from the fossil fuel industry might be considered a way of subsidizing renewables.

Why Production Doesn’t Quickly Reset to Match Prices

Do we really have a problem with oil prices, if oil production hasn’t dropped quickly in response to low prices? I think we do still have a problem.

One reason why oil production doesn’t quickly reset to match prices is related to many different ways of reporting oil extraction costs, mentioned above. A company may not be making money when all costs are included, but it is making money on a cash flow basis if “sunk costs” are ignored.

Another reason why oil production doesn’t quickly reset to match prices is the fact that oil is the lifeblood of companies that produce it. “Cutting back” means laying off trained workers. If these workers are laid off, companies will find it nearly impossible to rehire the same workers later. The workers have families to support; they will need to find work, even if it is in other industries. Companies will need to train new workers from scratch. Thus, companies will do almost anything to keep employees, no matter how low prices drop on a temporary basis.

A similar issue applies to equipment used in oil operations. Drilling equipment that is not used will deteriorate over time and may not be usable in the future. A USA Today article talks about auctions of equipment used in the oil industry. This equipment is likely to be permanently lost to the oil industry, making it hard to ramp back up again.

If a company is a government owned company in an oil-exporting nation, there is an even greater interest in keeping the company operating. Very often, oil is the backbone of the entire country’s economy; most tax revenue comes from oil and gas companies. There is no real option of substantially cutting back operations, because tax funds and jobs are badly needed by the economy. Civil unrest could be a problem without tax revenue. In the short run, some countries, including Saudi Arabia, have reserve funds set aside to cover a rainy day. But these run out, so it is important to maintain market share.

There are additional reasons why oil production stays high in the short term:

  • Some companies have contracts in the futures market that cushion price fluctuations, so they may not directly “feel” the impact of low prices. Because of this, they may not react quickly.
  • Oil companies will very often have debt obligations that they need to meet, and need cash flow to keep meet them. Any cash flow, even if the price covers only a bit more in the direct cost of extraction, is helpful.
  • Large amounts of equity funding have been available, even for companies issuing “junk bonds.” Companies that would otherwise be reaching debt limits have been able to issue large amounts of stock instead. Bloomberg reports that in the first quarter, $8 billion in stock was issued, which is a record.

All of these considerations have allowed production to continue temporarily, but are unlikely to be long-term solutions. In the long run, we know that we are likely to see problems such as defaults on junk rated bonds of oil companies. Futures contracts guaranteeing high prices eventually run out. Also, if prices remain low, government programs of oil exporting countries may need to be cut back, leading to unrest by citizens.

Regardless of what is happening in the short-term, it is clear that eventually production will drop, quite possibly permanently, unless oil prices rise substantially.

Why are Oil Prices so Low?

I see two reasons for low oil prices:

  1. Debt is now not rising fast enough, because debt levels are reaching limits. Increases in debt levels tend to hold up commodity prices because increasing amounts of debt allow consumers to buy additional cars, homes, factories and other goods, thus creating “demand” for oil and other commodities. At some point, debt limits are reached. This can happen because a growth spurt is slowing, as in China, or because governments are reaching limits on the ratio of debt to GDP that they can carry. When debt levels stop rising rapidly, the debt “pump” that has been holding up prices in the past disappears, and commodity prices tend to stay at a lower level.
  2. The wages of ordinary workers are lagging behind. If a young person cannot find a good paying job (or owes too much on college loans), he most likely will live with his parents longer, delaying the purchase of a house and car. If a family discovers that the cost of day care for children plus the cost of commuting is more than the wages of the lower-earning parent, the lower-earning parent may choose not to work. A household with only one employed worker is less likely to buy a house or a second car than a two-worker household. These kinds of responses to low wages tend to hold down “demand” for goods made with commodities. Thus, affordability issues (or low demand related to affordability) tends to hold down the prices of commodities.

The problem of lagging wages of ordinary workers is a very old one. The problem occurs whenever there are issues with diminishing returns. For example, when population reaches a level where there are too many farmers for available land, the average size of plot for each farmer tends to decrease. Each farmer tends to produce less, because of the smaller size of plot available. If each farmer is paid for what he produces, his wages will drop.

We are reaching the same problem today with oil. We continue to produce increasing amounts of oil, but doing so requires increasing numbers of workers and increasing amounts of resources of other types (including fresh water, steel, sand for fracking, and energy products). Workers are on average producing less oil per hour worked. In theory, they should be paid less, because the value of oil is determined by what the oil can do (how far it can move a vehicle), not how much labor was required to produce the oil.

The same problem is occurring in other areas of the economy, including natural gas production, coal production, electricity production, medicine, and higher education. At some point, we find the economy as a whole becoming less efficient, rather than more efficient, because of diminishing returns.

We know from Peter Turchin and Surgey Nefedov’s book, Secular Cycles, that low wages of common workers were frequently a major contributing factor to collapses in pre-fossil fuel days. With lower wages, workers were not able to buy adequate food, allowing epidemics to take hold. Also, governments could not collect adequate taxes from the large number of low-earning workers, leading to governmental financial problems. A person wonders whether today’s economy is reaching a similar situation. Will low wage growth of common workers hold down future GDP growth, or even lead to collapse?

Are the Projections of EIA, IEA, BP, and all the Others Right?

Perhaps these projections would be reasonable, if oil prices could immediately bounce to  $130 per barrel and could continue to inflate in the years ahead.

If, on the other hand, low oil prices are really being caused by lagging wages of ordinary workers and the failure of debt levels to keep rising, then I don’t think we can expect oil prices to reach these lofty levels. Instead, we can expect oil production to fall because of low prices.

The amount of oil available at $60 per barrel seems to be quite low. Perhaps a little low-priced oil would be available from Kuwait and Qatar at that price, but not much else. Some additional oil might be obtained, if governments of non-oil exporters (such as the USA and China) choose to cut back their tax levels on oil companies. Even with the additional oil made possible by lower taxes, total oil supply would still be far less than needed to run today’s world economy.

The world economy would need to contract greatly in order to shrink down to the oil available. Such shrinkage might be accomplished by a cutback in trade and loss of jobs. Debt defaults would likely be another feature of the new smaller economy. Such a scenario would explain how future oil production may deviate significantly from the forecasts of EIA, IEA, and BP.

About Gail Tverberg

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

904 Responses to Why EIA, IEA, and BP Oil Forecasts are Too High

  1. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Artleads
    Thanks for the link to Tom Campbell.

    By the way, my list should have included those who are motivated by spiritual concerns (as opposed to religious prescriptions and proscriptions). I had it in an earlier list, but inadvertently left it out…it’s the old age talking.

    Capra and Luisi talk about how the early Christian church fathers were overwhelmingly spiritualists but were displaced by the Scholastics, who turned everything into rules. Pretty close to Tom Campbell, from my still incomplete reading of his work.

    Thanks…Don Stewart

    • Stefeun says:

      (answering here for convenience)
      I watched the video of Tom Campbell until part 7 (/18) and my hoax-meter was getting pretty excited. Then I had a look at his webstore -sorry- website and found this:
      “Presently, and for the past 20 years, he has been at the heart of developing US missile defense systems.”

      Is it me, or is it weird? Maybe I’m just too suspicious, or obtuse. I’ll make an effort and try to watch the rest of the video before making further conclusions…

      • Artleads says:


        Thanks for your sleuthing. I found myself puzzled by what was missing. Won’t go into them, even if I could. But I’ll take anything I can get to help put my puzzle together. Don’s microbe professor was a lot more to my liking. Oh, and I’ll take what Campbell has to say about slowing entropy…for now.

  2. Fast Eddy says:

    In the US, May industrial production dropped “unexpectedly,” as it was roundly called on Monday, by 0.2%, according to the Federal Reserve. The index value has now dropped from month to month since December, except in March when it was unchanged. The Empire State Manufacturing Survey, also released on Monday, confirmed this sort of scenario, ending up in the negative (-2.0) for the second time in three months.

    But in Canada, manufacturing is getting hit hard – and not just because of the oil bust, though it plays a big role. Originally the hope was that a lower Canadian dollar would boost manufacturing through increased exports. The loonie dropped 17% against the US dollar from January 2014 through mid-March 2015, though it has ticked up a smidgen since. But the theory didn’t work out.

    Manufacturing sales fell 2.1% to C$49.8 billion in April, seasonally and inflation adjusted, Statistics Canada reported today. The index can be jumpy from month to month. For example, sales of food dropped 5.7% in April, the largest monthly drop since August 2013, after rising 3.4% in March. But the problem isn’t limited to one month. Sales are now down 7.3% from July 2014, the largest and steepest such decline since the Financial Crisis. This is what this trend looks like:


    • xabier says:

      These days, good economic news in the MSM is always provisional, based on self-interested ‘forecasts’ (ie plucked from the sky); bad news is invariably real, based on actual data, and ‘entirely unexpected, disappointing’ compared to the cloud-cuckoo-land forecasts.

    • This is another version of the same story. The world can’t move from growth to shrinkage, without a lot of things going wrong. Networked economies don’t shrink well.

  3. Fast Eddy says:

    This is what two unnamed container shipping executives, one from an Asian carrier, the other from a European carrier, told the Wall Street Journal about the containerized-freight fiasco on the China-Europe route:

    “We are now shipping at an absolute loss. With the bunker-adjustment-factor surcharge at $300 for Asia-Europe, we are losing more than $50 per box.”

    “Unless by a miracle demand grows, we are up for heavy losses in the next quarter and maybe the rest of 2015.”

    The rate for shipping a container on that route, after plunging for months, is now below even the cost of fuel.

    More http://wolfstreet.com/2015/06/17/shanghai-china-containerized-freight-index-collapses-top-carriers-maersk-price-war-to-form-global-shipping-oligopoly/

  4. Fast Eddy says:


    Indeed most people dismiss most of the hard work done by Gail and retreat into their make-believe world … a world where facts don’t matter… where logic does not apply …. this is a dream world… a floating world… a feel good world….

    Otherwise known as Koombaya.

    What I wonder is why people don’t go to Peak Prosperity. The articles and the commentary are much more in line with the Koombaya crowd’s way of thinking …. there are no Fast Eddy types over there flinging wrenches into the wheel works….

    And the best thing about that site — you get opportunities to buy all the survival kit you’ll need for the post collapse period.

    • I recently have been arguing with Chris Martenson on Facebook. Trying to explain to him that peak demand and low prices can bring down things pretty quickly–we can’t count on high prices allowing us to buy what we need forever, just more expensively.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I used to think Chris Martenson was playing along with the Koombaya crowd so he could sell them doomsday prepper gear and access to his end of the world strategies…

        But after having a run in with him on his website re: thorium (he had some clown on there helping him plug thorium — I pointed out how thorium was nonsense and was deleted — I then posted that the clown was involved in a thorium start up…. and that was removed)… I think he actually believes his bs…

        Therefore he is not to be considered a serious commentator in this space… and ignored.

  5. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Red Beard Critic
    Somebody commented about the film Red Beard, and linked it to their criticism of all things Edo. What they said wasn’t what I remembered about the film. But I hadn’t seen the film in perhaps 5 years, so I didn’t say anything. Turns out The New Yorker has a review of the film, which is apparently playing somewhere in New York.

    ‘This 1965 film, the last of Akira Kurosawa’s collaborations with Toshiro Mifune, is often derided as a soap opera. But the story–of a grizzled nineteenth-century doctor nicknamed Red Beard and the green physician (Yuzo Kayama) who learns humane medical values from him–is actually a masterpiece. Kurosawa somehow manages to imbue every moment of this three hour plus movie with the transcendent vitality and intelligence of a great Victorian novel. Mifune wisely plays a selfless hero with fierce brusqueness. He leads Kayama’s headstrong, sensitive neophyte toward an understanding of healing as a social process, not merely as a doling-out of diagnoses and prescriptions. In Kurosawa’s dynamic yet intimate wide-screen filmmaking, practicality and empathy merge with psychoanalysis and even bits of magic; the young doctor’s near-fatal close encounter with a female serial killer, and a virtuous man’s deathbed confessions of a horrifying marital tragedy, are among the sequences building to a genuinely inspirational conclusion.’

    My conclusion: if everyone in Edo behaved like Red Beard, what’s the problem?

    Don Stewart

    • edpell says:

      The Ballad of Narayama (1983)
      “In a poor 19th century rural Japanese village, everyone who reaches the age of 70 has to climb a nearby mountain to die. An old woman is getting close to the cut-off age, and we follow her last days with her family.”

      Limited resources lead to adaptations.

      • edpell says:

        The house/clan that steals vegetables from others in the village is buried alive one night.

        Limited resources lead to adaptions.

        • My sister who has visited Uganda says that the belief there is that sickness occurs as payback for stealing someone else’s food from their garden. (There may be more details to this–what kind of sickness, say.)

          • xabier says:

            In Jared Diamond (World Before Yesterday), one reads that in Stone Age tribes, the social order and distribution of wealth (ie pigs, young wives, etc) is maintained by various myths and taboos; for example that not allowing the elders to get the best cuts of pig and the prettiest young wives and hog all the wealth leads to illness – for men, their testicles blow up, and for women their breasts explode! This seems to be behind the Ugandan way of thinking. Would you take the risk?!

      • I am afraid you are right.

  6. edpell says:

    Few humans can understand the connection between population density and prosperity. In the past the King maintained the King’s forest. In the future maybe the independent AI entities will maintain estates in a sustainable manner. Humans will be the r selected species and AI the K selected species. AI require low radiation contamination, radiation causes soft fails in semiconductors. So, they will limit the amount of global damage humans do to protect themselves.

    • edpell says:

      Yes, it is quite possible the system falls apart before AI ever shows up.

      • sheilach2 says:

        Why worry about AI getting out of control? Just pull the plug, never give it batteries.
        It’s still a machine, we control it’s programing, it’s design, it’s assembly, we still control them & we should be able to stay in control.
        Bot’s also don’t like heat.

  7. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    I will try to address some issues raised by Jan Steinman and Stefeun. This will be somewhat theoretical, but will, I hope, come down to some very practical considerations.

    The question I would like to address is how do we conceive a framework which addresses the notion of self-organization and also favorable emergent properties in an environment where fossil fuels and newly mined metals may be disappearing. (I’ll ignore the issue of debt…which doesn’t mean it isn’t important.)

    Consider plants and birds. We have known for more than a hundred years that plants grow out of a meristem where certain cells clump together. These clumps then migrate away from the center and become leaves. The distribution of the leaves is not random, but follows mathematical principles. By the late 20th century, scientists had succeeded in demonstrating the connection between Fibonacci numbers and the growth of sunflower heads. Capra and Luisi, page 177: ‘In 1979 the biophysicist Helmut Vogel created a mathematical model representing the growth patterns of the corresponding primordia and was able to show that only the golden angle produces a tight packing of the seed heads. Even a slight change of angle causes the pattern to break up into a single family of spirals with gaps between the seeds.’

    Another well-known phenomena is the rapid shift in direction in flocks of birds. The birds are using some pretty simple rules which result in quite complex behavior for the flock.

    Another not yet very well understood phenomena is the issue of handedness. It is pretty straightforward to understand why handedness is essential from an evolutionary standpoint. Consider a chain of 10 amino acids which can be either right or left handed. They make 2 to the tenth power of combinations, or 1000 possible forms. But a chain of 50 amino acids could make 2 to the 50th power, or 1000 trillion possible forms. Since it is the shape of the form that acts as a catalyst, Nature needs to pick a handedness and stick to it. But we have no explanation, as yet, for the fact that almost all handedness we observe in Nature is one way and not the other. Models based on energy requirements sort of work, but aren’t very convincing.

    What we confront here is the apparent conflict between choice and necessity. The individual seed in the sunflower head is tightly constrained in its behavior. It is self-organizing…but with stringent requirements.

    How does this relate to humans? Humans generally suffer from the belief that they have some essential soul which has a celestial value and that they need total freedom to realize this value. Yet, as Capra and Luisi explain on page 181: ‘The notion that one arrives at in the end is that the rose is an ensemble of various emergent properties—the colors, the perfume, the symmetry—without any central localizations where the essence of the rose would be condensed.’

    And quoting the neuroscientist Varela: ‘This is one of the key ideas, and a stroke of genius in today’s cognitive science. There are the different functions and components that combine and together produce a transient, nonlocalizable, relationally formed self, which nevertheless manifests itself as a perceivable entity…we will never discover a neuron, a soul, or some core essence that constitutes the emergent self of Francisco Varela or some other person.’

    If we look at the problem that Jan Steinman talked about, using social engineering to steer behavior, then we have some deep issues to deal with. Assume with me that declining work available from energy sources plus the end of metal mining will begin to severely restrict human behavior. Let’s also assume that the long upward trajectory that humans have experienced in terms of work availability has given us the illusion that we have nothing in common with the seeds in a sunflower head, the behavior of birds, or the handedness of amino acid chains. We are, in fact, Free.

    We earlier spoke of the ‘forces’ which bring about the behavior of the clumps of cells which differentiate themselves into the plant’s leaves. What ‘forces’ might influence humans to behave in such a way that the survival of the human race will be enabled? Just as with all of the natural world examples, my guess is that it will require some pretty simple rules by which each human lives, which allows that human to self-organize in such a way that the larger symmetry is attained.

    Where can simple rules come from? The first proposition I would offer is that they can come from religion. A prophet may go up on the mountain and come back with Ten Commandments. Thus, if people obey the commandments, they don’t have to do all the thinking in every choice which is embodied in the Commandments. Religious Commandments don’t get much respect in the Global Economy, so we need to look at phenomena such as suicide bombers to find religious rules which are obeyed the way Commandments were once obeyed.

    The second proposition is that they can come from Political Power. In Edo, the government wished to instill a philosophy of frugality, so it forbade rich merchants in Edo from constructing Tea Rooms. According to Azby Brown, all those gruesome methods of execution did not, in fact, actually prevent the construction of tea rooms. The carpenters welcomed the work, and rich merchants liked to have tea rooms, and so they came to exist. We can see Edo and other political systems as trying to establish some overarching ethical concerns while allowing farmers and merchants and artisans to behave pretty freely in terms of production. This is in contrast to the Soviet or Chinese communist systems which tried to control the details of production, as well as the ethics. In the United States, we have a long political tradition of trying to convince young people that it is noble to ‘die for one’s country’, or to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’.

    The third proposition is that classical philosophy based in the thought of the ancients and the Enlightenment have swayed some people. We can think of the Stoics, Thoreau, and the permaculturists Toby Hemenway, David Holmgren, and Geoff Lawton as examples. I’d also put the current crop of Degrowth and Steady State and Simplicity Institute people in the same camp. Let us reason together and develop ethical rules of behavior.

    The fourth proposition is that the overwhelming choice of practically everyone in the world today is ‘make as much money as you can’. If pushed to come up an ethical backing for making as much money as you can, some will mention the invisible hand and some (Goldman) will claim to be ‘doing God’s work’. We will see if the Pope’s encyclical tomorrow will change the direction of any significant number of people. Will he be the equivalent of Moses and the Commandments?

    If it is true that work from energy is going to decline (or maybe crash) and metal mining will disappear, then ‘make as much money as you can’ is likely to be a suicidal strategy. What might replace it? Why would anyone think it possible that the principle could be displaced.

    Capra and Luisi give us some clues on page 180:
    ‘The synergy between self-organization and emergence shapes and determines the structure and functions of life’s molecular complexes, and it is also of crucial importance in social life. In static systems, self-organization and the resulting emergent properties are relatively simple concepts, well explained by chemistry and physics. But in dynamic systems the processes of self-organization and emergence are subtle and complex, and their outcomes are often unforeseeable, both in biological and in social life. In a way, this carries a positive message. New structures, technologies, and new forms of social organization may arise quite unexpectedly in situations of instability, chaos, or crisis.’

    I refer you back to this video that I posted before:
    Learning From Bacteria About Social Networks

    I apologize that this is a video, but I don’t know of anything purely in writing which conveys this message so powerfully. The gist of it is that bacteria can accomplish what we humans are about to be required to do. The bacteria can adjust their social behavior to adapt to the changes in energy flows (e.g., food) and they communicate with each other through messaging systems analogous to Twitter.

    So, let’s assume that we can assemble a few dozen humans who are as smart as microbes (no laughter, please!). And these humans are exposed to Nate Hagens’ message that most fossil fuels are burned in order to make neurotransmitters and hormones move, and that there are simpler, more efficient ways to do that task. Could this recognition create a revolution? The bacterial evidence argues that it might. Particularly if there is a strong selection event happening simultaneously and those who don’t get the message and act accordingly are selected out of the gene pool.

    I think it is safe to say that nobody knows for sure what will happen. The Doomers are ever so confident, but are banking on the notion that humans are all dumber than microbes. On the other hand, it has to be a very hard job to come up with the ethical principles which people can use in place of the ‘make as much money as you can’ principle.

    Don Stewart

    • Artleads says:

      “We can see Edo and other political systems as trying to establish some overarching ethical concerns while allowing farmers and merchants and artisans to behave pretty freely in terms of production.”

      I was thinking something like this at the last water board meeting. They have rules for which day odd or even number houses can water. Someone reported on a neighbor watering on the wrong day. I suggested that instead they should try to inspire people to think creatively about water use, to WANT to save water beyond what the board demands. Leave the details to the people. Like people getting excited about drip irrigation of various sorts…

      “On the other hand, it has to be a very hard job to come up with the ethical principles which people can use in place of the make as much money as you can’ principle.”

      I don’t think it’s all that hard. Ordinary people were often highly motivated, and actually happier, making do, pulling together during the Great Depression. We saw similar behavior post Sandy. It didn’t last in the latter case. Does that mean that TPTB will tolerate imagination and resourcefulness during long-term crisis, when that is the best way to keep the system stable?

    • Stefeun says:

      of course I haven’t any straight answer to such a complex question.
      Given the general situation, my suggestion is that we sporulate 😉

      Bacteria seem to have quite a lot of physical abilities, which we’ve lost along the evolution (or maybe we’ve internalized them in our complex big bodies) and somewhat replaced by cultural abilities. Wether or not some of our knowledge can survive through the hard times ahead is a big questionmark; wether this knowledge will be useful in a changed environment is another one (provided some of us survive).

      Personally I don’t think we can prepare for what’s coming, but I certainly won’t blame those who try to create the conditions for a possible future, even if most (if not all) of these seeds will never grow up.

      By the way you seem to have missed this comment (http://ourfiniteworld.com/2015/05/26/cuba-figuring-out-pieces-of-the-puzzle-full-text/comment-page-2/#comment-58365) where i put a link to Pr. Eschel Ben-Jacob’s website; don’t miss the “social intelligence” page!

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Stefeun
        I did look at the link. I was negligent in not thanking you for it.

        The professor wants an industrial science project to make use of the intelligence of bacteria. He speaks about killing the bad guys and breeding the good guys.

        Elaine Ingham says that, for the most part, the bad guys don’t compete well in oxygenated environments. We make trouble for ourselves when the soil becomes anaerobic…typically from compaction. Her solution is to avoid anaerobic conditions by good gardening and farming practices. Given oxygen, the good guys will outcompete the bad guys.

        She also highly recommends compost teas. Make some compost and gently force bubbles through it to separate out the bacteria and fungi. Then spray the crops with the tea containing the bacteria and fungi. This serves a ‘crowding out’ function, making it hard for disease to get a foothold.

        Elaine’s project is much simpler in terms of the science. It is more complex in that it requires us to farm differently. Elaine quotes some numbers which are impressive. For example, pastures which were adding half a pound a day to beef cattle can be improved to 2 pounds per day…which is a marker of very much more nutritious grass. Similar results for vegetables and fruit trees.

        My fear when we get into the industrial science is that our history has been to create something we think we want, but then get overwhelmed by the fallout that we ignored or never anticipated….such as the resistance to antibiotics. Elaine’s project is much more conservative, in that the natural state of the soil is aerobic (almost everywhere). We have to work to make it anaerobic.

        Elaine explains the tendency of the bad guys to grow back more rapidly after a dose of antibiotics as a life strategy difference. The good guys are adapted to growing old with the host, and reproduce slowly. The bad guys reproduce rapidly because they ‘realize’ that the host may die, and they need to get progeny out into the world. Similar to weeds, who are adapted to make seeds very rapidly, as opposed to perennials who breed at a leisurely pace.

        Thanks for the link….Don Stewart

        • Stefeun says:

          never mind, I just thought you would quote some excerpts (from http://tamar.tau.ac.il/~eshel/html/intelligence_of_Bacteria.html), such as:

          “Social-IQ score of bacteria was developed and evaluated for all bacteria with sequenced genome. The new score can help to better benefit from high IQ friendly bacteria and outsmart pathogenic ones (that) are not so smart; their Social-IQ score is just at the average level.”
          Which also means that when we disturb the bacterial competition (with disinfectants a.s.o.), we tend to increase the relative numbers of “bad guys” that are faster to grow, and whose population is not regulated by the slower “good guys”, at least in the early times of the grow-back.
          That seems to be a regular pattern in the Evolution…

          And this one: “This information can also be directly applied in “green” agriculture or biological control, where bacteria’s advanced offense strategies and the toxic agents they synthesize are used to fight harmful bacteria and fungi and even higher organisms. The Paenibacillus genus bacteria, to which the three smartest bacteria belong, are known to be a rich source for industrial, agricultural and medical applications.
          Bacteria are often found in soil and live in harmony with a plant’s roots –– a process called symbiosis. The environment down there is very competitive, and bacteria help the plant roots access nutrients; in exchange,the bacteria consume sugar from the roots. Both help each other.”

          I assume the reason is because this professor’s target seems to be the production of “useful” bacteria at an industrial level…
          However, his findings seem to be very consistent with Elaine Ingham’s insights.

          • Don Stewart says:


            Yes. The way I look at it (without benefit of years of science education) is that we higher animals did not need to evolve all of the capabilities which were present in the microbes. For example, as Dr. Oz says in a book blurb, ‘we humans outsourced our digestion to the gut bacteria’. ‘Oursourcing’ is misleading, because we actually never developed digestion. The microbes were here before us, so why would Mother Nature invest lots of trial and error in trying to duplicate what already existed?

            There is now research on how the condition of the gut microbes controls our moods.

            The closer we look, the more we find. But I read a statistic that something like four out of five Americans have had an antibiotic in the past 12 months. This is besides all the antibacterials soaps and the pesticide residues and the other detritus of modern life.

            No wonder everybody except you and me is crazy! The microbes are very, very angry.

            Don Stewart

          • Artleads says:

            I think this is a very interesting subject. I very much see how it applies to building and planning–concerning issues of suburban sprawl, design, cities, etc. Don talks about drift. I see it as flow too. That bacteria clip was HUGELY important. I’d like to see us delve into this area a lot more.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      So, let’s assume that we can assemble a few dozen humans who are as smart as microbes (no laughter, please!). And these humans are exposed to Nate Hagens’ message that most fossil fuels are burned in order to make neurotransmitters and hormones move, and that there are simpler, more efficient ways to do that task. Could this recognition create a revolution?

      This is a powerful statement for doing something, anything, “different.” To mix metaphors, you just might be the straw that gave the camel a new meme.

      On the other hand, if we all agree that something is nonsense, why do it? I’m afraid I have little patience for those who advocate a “live it up and die like the rest” outlook.

      As for me, I’d better haul my neurotransmitters and hormones out to the greenhouse, so we’ll have something to eat this winter.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        And I have no patience for those who remain totally plugged into BAU and pretend that they are not.

        Faux farmers…

        Turn off the electricity for a week and you’ll have a leg to stand on when you rip into everyone else.

  8. Stefeun says:

    California sinking!

    This is not new, Earth surface has been losing “altitude” in California for decades, mostly due to pumping of the underground water, but due to the drought, the pumping has increased, and with it the sinking, up to one foot per year in some places, that “is starting to destroy bridges, crack irrigation canals and twist highways across the state, according to the US Geological Survey.”

    The proper term is Land Subsidence.
    Explanation: http://ca.water.usgs.gov/projects/central-valley/land-subsidence-monitoring-network.html
    Maps: http://ca.water.usgs.gov/data/drought/drought-impact.html

    An Apr.2014 article: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/article2594798.html
    “The San Joaquin Valley is facing a crisis of geological proportions: Large stretches of the valley floor are sinking, as groundwater stores are depleted, crippling the region’s irrigation and flood control infrastructure. At the root of the crisis is the frontier-style exploitation of the last unregulated resource in California: groundwater.”

  9. Pingback: News update | Peak Oil India | Exploring the coming energy crisis and the way forward

  10. VPK says:

    Fast Eddy wrote
    All but a very small fraction of the world’s population is engaged in this petroleum fueled orgy — even Don and Jan and the other permaculturists here… Toby Hemmingway and Joel Salatin are very big players in this orgy.

    And we are all lovin it! Because it makes life easy….

    Sure some of us make a few concessions but they are meaningless… they make us feel better but unless you completely unplug then you have no right to say that a small group of people are the problem

    Right on and must be pointed out that these movements rely pretty much on BAU.
    Was up in Maine for a few days and past the Good Life Center, espousing self sufficient living and Elliot Coleman’s “Four Seasons Farm”, Master organic gardener who devoured his whole life to living the “Simple Life” of Helen and Scott Nearing.
    Without the road system or electricity infrastructure their existence would be in peril.
    The roads up there were in dire straits due to the severe winter and many were in bad condition.
    Saw a number of utility crews doing work. Eliot has a wonderful operation that depends on his invention of moveable greenhouses on tracks that are made solely from plastic and steel frames.
    Without constant outside inputs these places would soon fall in disrepair and degrade to unlivible properties.
    One example is the next door homestead of former owner, now deceased, Stanley Joseph. He died back in the mid90’s and the place was left alone until recently. It did not take very long for Nature to degrade the buildings and other structures like stone walls. Recently, the place has been renovated as a vacation rental and has been saved.
    Without constant care in the severe cold, moist climate everything rots or has frost heaving, as many road signs warn up there.
    On a more sober note, it’s been 30 years since I first visited Deer Island and I was surprised at the changes. BAU has taken a very firm hold to the area. Ellsworth, a small town of about 9,000 Souls, now had a Walmart! Home Depot, and many other national chain store outlets. I remember not too long ago, say 15 years, there was only an old hotel and small shopping center there with some vacant shops. Same can be said of Bangor Maine, much chain stone invasion, along with a remarkable health industry explosion.

    Maine depends a great deal on the tourist trade. It will be interesting what becomes of the region when that declines.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      I believe the Nearing’s wintered in warmer climes … they also used shovels made from steel … I bet they even had a car!

      Seems they had a love affair with BAU too.

      • VPK says:

        Fast Eddy, I am afraid you are correct. During the winter months both would venture off on trips for various reasons, usually on speaking tours or visiting other “like minded people”. Toward the end of long life, Helen, shared her place in Florida with a friend Winter. I may mention, I too was a devoted desciple of the Hearings and actually stayed with Helen for a few days a couple of years before her death. No doubt, they were the read deal and even without BAU did make it in their early days in Vermont, when they were younger. That much we can give them credit. Same with Eliot Coleman. Back in the 70’s him and his wife lived life without the comforts of BAU. Both though had a car or truck. Eliot almost died because of the hard living conditions and his medical condition.
        I recommend his daughters memior , Melissa Coleman, book , “This life in your Hands”,
        A lot of the challenges will equally be in the head as well as the body.
        While in Maine, I visited the University of Maine, just north of Bangor.
        I went there because many years ago saw their Hudson museum on Native American culture. Surprised that a oncea three floor institution now only resides on the third floor and is very limited in scope. The rest is for the student body, which had open house day there on that day and all were, of course, from well to do families.
        So, if one would like to really live before BAU, see the exhibit and recreation of the brich bark hut a native Indian from a local tribe made for display. I venture that not too many of us would survive their way of life very long.


        • VPK says:

          Here is a link to view Barry Dana’s Birch Bark Hut
          And a link to his other creations a farm
          The Danas are fully committed to the traditions of the Wabanaki culture. They are attempting to grow, hunt, and gather as much of their own food as possible and tap the natural resources of the area in an environmentally conscious way. They built a hoop house out of birch saplings that has enabled them to grow greens all year long. They tilled a 2000 square foot garden by hand. They plant squash, beans, Jersualem artichokes, potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes. They are involved in subsistent hunting. They do not purchase any meat. Lori discussed how they successfully canned moose for the first time this past year, thanks to the guidance of one of their neighbors.

          All the birchbark baskets which Barry creates are unbelievable works of art that are museum-quality. They are adorned with etchings of various animals of the forest and sky. Some are decorated with beautiful images of traditional Native crops such as pumpkins, squash, corn, and beans or pictured with Penobscot designs. Several baskets which illustrate etchings of a world map or endangered species communicate environmental messages about the critical need for the respect and preservation of the world’s animals. Leaders who have worked for peace have also been depicted on some of the baskets. Barry Dana is a truly gifted artist

          • I would have considered it more appropriate if last year the Danas preserved their moose by salting it, or some other technique that was a least reasonably sustainable. Canning is not high on my “sustainable” list. Otherwise, it is necessary to share the moose with neighbors when it becomes available, and hope something else will come along later.

            • xabier says:

              In Northern and Western Europe, the traditional pattern of rural life meant slaughtering lots of animals in the Autumn, stuffing yourself with as much as possible in feasts to literally fatten up for winter, and to carefully consume the salted, or air- dried meat,and fish, that was left until things got better in spring. The quality of milk and butter was also very poor in the winter. The nobility had the option of eating deer and boar they had hunted in the winter woods, the poor were not so lucky. This is also why the nobility had very large households: the servants ate better than anyone else.

              Hence the very high cost of salt until recently: it meant life. The salt-cellar, richly ornamented, was prominently displayed in the tables of the lord of the manor, and to sit by it was a privilege and honour. The seating plan in the dining halls of Oxford and Cambridge colleges still reproduces this. It’s interesting that academics managed to create a lifestyle which copied that of the landowners: many of them would have had farming ancestors who had saved money to set them on an education and get away from the farm.

              For lesser folk, the early spring was the time of the ‘Hunger Moon’ and, in Norway the charmingly named ‘Intestine-Sucking Month’ (I think March?), which basically meant living off one’s reserves in the terrible climate of late-winter, early-spring. A bad spring meant starvation and illness. Until recently, most deaths used to occur in April, after the rigours of winter on a poor diet.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Well now…. entrail sucking month …. that sounds cool…. do we get a roadkill sucking month too?

              I eagerly anticipate the collapse of BAU and the great adventure that awaits!

            • Thanks for more background on this subject. I know “salary” comes from the word salt, and that salting food has been very common throughout the ages.

              I know that Norway struggled to keep its population up. At one point, it imported population from Germany. The long cold winters were no doubt part of the problem. Epidemics hit Norway harder than others, because of the weakened condition of the population.

            • Michael Jones says:

              Gail, Years ago I visited the area were Dana’s lived and can assure you they will have an excellent chance to deal with BAU. Their folk culture and skills will provide them with the basis to adapt to collapse. Actually, the severe winter climate there is a positive that will cull out those that can not or will not deal with the new reality. I remember reading a sign in Eastport , Maine which told of European settlers who rather STARVED and did so because they refused to listen to the “savages”, who warned them of their dire circumstances facing the upcoming winter.
              Adam Turtle, bamboo expert and permaculturist in TN, pretty much said the same to a group of use at a talk. When he first arrived in TN from California with a group of hippies starting a commune, most destained the local hillbillies , seeing them as ignorant know nothings. Well, he had a different attitude and was one of the few that stayed and thrived there to this day. I remember him saying, True, that person may not know as much as you do, BUT he/she MAY just know the ONE thing that will keep you ALIVE.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Canning is not high on my “sustainable” list.

              It certainly is more sustainable than freezing!

              I think any technology that is more than a hundred years old has a chance for lasting for some while. Making canning jars and natural rubber seals is fairly low-tech, and requires mainly sand and a heat source. Canning itself can be accomplished on a wood stove. It results in room-temperature-stable food storage.

              I do agree that salting the meat requires less technology, though. I just don’t like to see simple technology dismissed, when it might be preserved. There must exist some level of technology that humans can maintain through the bottleneck. Because let’s face it, the basic wheel and control of fire are forms of technology that even the most hair-shirt among us would want to see preserved.

            • We need to be aware of what we are depending on, and what kind of supply chains they require. Perhaps they can last for a while, and perhaps not. I would hate to be depending on them, and then discover that I had no Plan B.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I would hate to be depending on them [home canning], and then discover that I had no Plan B.

              True enough. One should study “food preservation” rather than “canning,” which is just one tool in the kit.

              We use a variety of food preservation techniques, preferring ones that are room-temperature stable. Our brined cheese can sit in a root cellar for a year. We do steam-juicing, which can be done on a wood stove, and which results in pasteurized, room-temperature-stable fruit juice in re-usable containers with re-usable lids. When we do open a canning jar, we do so very carefully, without bending the lid, which is then re-used.

              I envision a time when the breaking of a canning jar or ruining of a canning lid is viewed as a worse calamity than not being able to buy gasoline.

            • You are right! While Denmark just needed a couple of generations to regenerate after the Black Death, Norway needed a couple of hundred years or something to retain its former population. The area around Lake Mjøsa was the most populated, because the soil is old sea bed and can be compared with the the black soil of Ukraine.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          Here’s my take on the Nearings and the many others who follow this path.

          They are faux farmers… yuppie farmers… they are delusional…they have not got a clue…

          They have this romantic vision of what it is like to be a farmer in a place like Maine — real farming – without BAU – would be a back-breaking grind of long brutal days, cold brutal winters (no energy efficient fireplaces, chain saws and splitters…)

          Pick up a book on pioneer farmers in these areas – I have read a couple of them — the people suffered brutally and often died for starvation — and they KNEW how to live and farm without BAU…

          What the Nearings and others have done is gone half way — they make use of the conveniences of BAU when they see fit – in the book about the family who bought property from Nearing the husband quickly turned to machinery to remove the stumps on his land…

          If you threw any of these people into a situation without BAU — without machinery – and tools — without electricity — I guarantee you — they would absolutely hate it — and I doubt they would survive very long.

          This not a game for 60 year old men and women.

          There is a reason nobody lives like that — why we ‘progressed’ to where we are.

          Farming pre-BAU was brutal. It was harsh. Nobody wanted to live like that — when BAU came along they were more than happy to use tractors and petrol and chain saws etc etc etc…

          Any of the organic farmers here who can’t wait to go back to that — you might want to print out my words — when the electricity goes off you will soon after realize that I was right — you will find the romantic ideal you have in mind does up like a puff of smoke.

          And I guarantee you — you will be longing for the days of BAU.

          • Michael Jones says:

            Boy, that is a great laugh,
            Nearings Yuppie farmers! ?
            They have not a clue!?
            Dude, Scott was Born in 1880!
            They did OK without BAU and did use draft horses when needed.
            Think you are being somewhat over critical and “delusional”.
            True, they had some BAU, but are they to be ridiculed?
            Sorry, but that is way out of line, Fast Eddy

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Oh come on — they wintered in the sun — did they walk there? Nah – I suppose they flew on a jetliner…

              They are typical of the Greenie Koombaya movement — when the realize how terribly hard farming without BAU is they cheat.

              I don’t see why they are relevant — they are not really any different than an industrial farmer — they used shovels made from metal that was smelted using coal – they used machinery… I suppose they had lights … and a washing machine… and a car???

              If anything they are a perfect example of why we are where we are. They embraced ‘progress’ full on — other than the fact that they didn’t farm using petrochemicals…

              They absolutely did not live a sustainable lifestyle…


            • Michael Jones says:

              Dear “It’s MYWAY or the Highway Fast Eddy”.
              You need to be educated not to jump to conclusions before doing fact checking. It puts into question your position and approach to issues. Not that really matters any, because we all figured out that you believe yourself to be 100% correct on everything and to doubt is being just another drumming Koombyuer.
              Sorry, the Nearings were not what you state at all. Actually, they rejected BAU and the marketplace economy. In Maine they DID NOT use machinery to remove stumps (as you stated their neighbor did) with machinery, but left them to rot first. They had a machine to mix concert but found it too unpleasant to use with the noise and upkeep, got rid of it. Their farming was based on non petro chemicals and organic methods. They used wood heat and for MOST of their life did not have electricity. To judge them while both were in very advanced age is just plain wrong. Sorry, kiddo, I won’t let you off here on this one.
              They would have MADE IT JUST FINE WITHOUT ANY BAU.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Did they use shovels made of steel?

              Did they use electricity when electricity was available?

              Did they have a car?

              Did they fly to Florida for the winter?

              If so then they were engaged in nothing that is sustainable – they are only playing at being sustainable… so they grew organic vegetables — should I worship them?

              The farmers in Irian Jaya that I visited were sustainable. No metal. No car. No electricity. No vacations.

              You want environmental heroes? Well there you go….

              But I guarantee you — if I offered them shovels and electricity and cars and trips to Florida — like the Nearings — those villagers would have traded that hell hole for BAU in a heartbeat.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Ok…. let’s take the gloves off.

              Pick up trucks… concrete… modern tools…. wood and door and window frames and pulleys made by the factories of BAU…. hospitals … doctors… they even used electricity! (of course that probably came later because most rural places did not have electricity until late in the game for this couple)

              And then they installed mains power when Helen built the new place. Overall, they lived frugally, mostly. That’s a fine thing to emulate. But don’t buy into the hero worship.” http://forum.woodenboat.com/showthread.php?104872-Scott-and-Helen-Nearing


              Do you use any power tools (rototiller, etc.) in your farming or gardening? And did you prepare your soil extensively?

              The only “power tool” we have ever used is a pickup truck.

              Our garden was plowed once the first year we came to :Maine, some 25 years ago, and never since. The area where we put our blueberry bushes was never plowed. Instead the land was heavily mulched, well fertilized, and subsequently kept as weedless as possible.

              In what way do you move very large rocks during your stone construction projects?

              We use iron bars, chains, planks, and stoneboats.

              The heaviest boulders — which usually go into the foundations — are moved on a stoneboat that we pull behind our pickup truck.

              When building with stone, how does one go about carrying the stonework up into the peak of a building?

              Erect a scaffold and pull pails of rock and concrete up with a stout rope and pulley. Lately we’ve been building with stone only to the second floor plates of a building, which largely does away with the problem. It is best to keep the stone portions of a structure low . . . a story and a half at most.

              The ideal would be to not lift any concrete or rocks more than five feet.

              We vary the position of our door and window frames in different buildings. Some frames are flush with the outside, some with the inside, and some are centered. When your wall has reached the sill level the forms are placed in positions on top of the wall making the necessary joist with the wall.

              Set your forms up to the frame and extend them out from there. Thus, they will fit any type frame.

              Don’t make your concrete too moist! Keep it dry, firm, and sticky . . . about the consistency of a brickmason’s mortar, and you’ll have little trouble making it stay where you want it.


              “We rarely if ever used doctors, pills, or hospitals”. http://www.context.org/iclib/ic26/nearing/ (Nearing also had injections of B12)

              So they used BAU medicine (I have been to a doctor maybe 3 times in the last 10 years so does that qualify me for sainthood too?)

              From reading this is sounds like he was a pissed off communist who dumped out on society and went to live in the bush https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Scott_Nearing.

              During his 1919 trial for allegedly obstructing American military recruitment during World War I, at which he testified in his own defense, the prosecution asked Nearing whether he was a “pacifist socialist.” Nearing’s reply was illuminating—he replied that he was a “pacifist” and left it at that. Prosecutor Earl B. Barnes was taken aback and asked for clarification

              Now this is ultimate Koombaya …. he seems to not understand that in a world that is inherently violent — pacifists get the yoke….

              Amusing how in my research I find constant references to the ‘simple – sustainable life’ What a load of hogwash. These people were fully plugged into BAU as the rest of us…. there is no half way here — you are either out of BAU completely — or you are in —- they were as reliant on BAU as every single one of us

              They sold books and products to make a living off of BAU — they used electricity and motorized vehicles — and factory made tools etc etc etc…

              But they grew their own food and worked on the land— wipptee doo… I have neighbours who eat virtually nothing that did not come off their land….

              And here’s the knock-out punch:

              ‘the only power tool we ever used was a pick up truck”

              So you cut a tree with an axe (instead of a chain saw) but you haul the wood around in the back of the Ford and you put yourself forward as the King of Green.


              And the winner by knockout… Fasttttttt…….. Eeeeeeeee — deeeeeeee!

      • Don Stewart says:

        Fast Eddy
        I doubt you have actually read the Nearing’s books. The Nearings did not ‘reject technology’, they just thought that most people were pursuing BAU to the point of diminishing returns. Scott Nearing wrote about how wooden houses in Maine were short lived and wasteful, and houses should be made of stone. He built many buildings of stone on their property. The Nearings were able to make a living by working about 24 hours a week. But they lived very simply. They moved to Vermont and then Maine in search of cheap land. If you buy expensive land, you are going to have to work more hours to pay for it.

        They had a truck, which they used to take their maple sugar to market…plus other necessary trips, I am sure.

        Eliot Coleman is not, I think, emulating the Nearings….or maybe it has become impossible to emulate them. I imagine he paid quite a bit for his land, and he feels the need to work 12 months a year. The Nearings did not farm in the winter…but they did of course make their maple sugar very early in the spring.

        Thoreau, of course, was the original American ‘simple living’ guy. How little money could you spend, while enjoying the benefits of life in Concord? Thoreau was not interested in being a hermit…yet the criticism we usually hear about him is that ‘he walked into town to visit friends’.

        We do occasionally have people who follow the Thoreau or Nearing strategy. Some guy in San Francisco lived for quite a number of years with no money at all. Yet the comment I heard most about him was that he was behaving badly…he should be on the treadmill with all the rest of us rats!

        Don Stewart

        • VPK says:

          Nice post, Donald. In her book, Melissa reveals a lot about what inspired their parents. Actually, they were provided their land by the Nearings themselves at a “no unearned profit” price by Scott and Helen. Actually Eliot had to twist Scotts arm to give him a better price! When Helen and Scott left Vermont, I remember reading that Scott suggested they just pack up and go! This was too much for Helen, and they sold their homestead to writer Pearl Buck. Recently, I saw the core of their Vermont place up for sale at a price of $400,000!
          The Good Life Center has a webpage

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I have not read their book but I did read the book by the couple who bought land from them — don’t recall the title — but I recall they had a daughter that drowned in a pond on the property…

          I have read Walden.

          It all sounds so noble — but I have no desire to live like that — and I see no point in it – because virtually every human on the planet given the option to live in a hut working like a dog vs living large — will take the living large option.

          The Nearings took the living large option too.

      • Several years ago, when I first got involved with some peak oil groups, I investigated a few “transition” groups. My impression was that they were incredibly oil-dependent. They needed to get to town frequently, and expected to drive. People living in the group generally had to support themselves either with retirement income or with some sort of income like writing newsletters (or the group had to sell tours of their facilities to raise money). None that I investigated at that time looked like they would have a chance of working.

        • Michael Jones says:

          A book I vaguely remember reading back in the 1980’s looked at the successful communities in days past. The one common denominator each had was an ‘export’ good or service. For example, the Shakers with their seeds and furniture. I remember another that made animal traps. Communities are not a closed system and trade is a factor in their dynamics it seems

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Likewise successful societies in recent years have been major exporters:

            > The UK
            > The US
            > Japan
            > China

  11. DY says:

    I am sure the EIA and IEA do forecast with low, medium and high oil prices and its consequent implications to the economy.

    Future always remains uncertain. what is your forecasting methodology and how do you incorporate the volatile oil prices in the future GDP growth? Would you mind sharing your energy-economy model which is better than the models used by these international energy agencies?

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Wasn’t it the IEA or EIA or AEI or one of those big energy agencies who said that shale was our saviour?

      And how about this fool https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daniel_Yergin

      Of course agencies and individuals like Yergin are minions of the Ministry of Truth — along with the MSM… politicians… economists etc…

      So I don’t think there is any point in comparing the modelling methods… these big agencies are only going to tell the sheeple what they want to hear…

      As they should — nobody wants the truth — nor should they be given it.

    • I don’t think that their low, medium, high oil price forecasts really are tied to what could reasonably be expected to happen. They don’t require a high enough price to actually get the oil price out, and they don’t consider how bad an impact such high oil prices would have on the economy.

      What I see is that we have a “drill it as we need it” economy, for oil, coal, and natural gas. As prices rise, the production of any of these products will rise–but with a time lag of several years, to get the new production up and running. This time lag tends to lead to overshoot problems with respect to producing the correct amount needed at a given price.

      Unfortunately, the high prices are also hard on the economy. They tend to lower the after tax spendable income of the non-elite workers. Because of these lowered wages, and the lower possibility of borrowing money to buy new homes and cars, demand tends to drop. This lowers the price of oil.

      The lowered price of oil slightly helps the oil importers (businesses try to take all of the benefit for themselves, with benefit passed on to the individual citizen). But it very much hurts the finances of the oil exporters. They have to cut their fuel subsidies. This further lowers the world price of oil, because of the additional drop in demand from the economies of the oil exporters.

      The amount of oil pumped does not drop very quickly because once conventional oil tends to be available without much additional expenditure for a long time. Oil obtained by fracking is different. Its supply drops off quickly, and it cannot get financing.http://fortune.com/2015/01/09/oil-prices-shale-fracking/ This tends to keep oil supply high, while demand drops further.

      Ultimately, the economy stops growing, because of low oil demand, and resulting low oil supply. Debt defaults become widespread. The world economy collapses. International trade disappears. This happens in the not too distant future.

  12. http://crudeoilpeak.info/latest-graphs has updated the graph below:


    That’s part of why I think that world HEAVY crude oil extraction peaked in about 2012 (that’s what they need for diesel, kerosene for jet fuel, etc.– “fracking” tends to yield “lighter” oil).

    • These are Matt Mushalik’s graphs. It could be that heavy oil is in shorter supply than light oil. I have noticed that the price differential between gasoline and diesel has more or less disappeared where I live.

  13. sheilach2 says:

    Gail, your a lot smarter & more educated about energy matters than I.
    I have a person who is a “true believer” about alternative energy systems especially Hydrogen.

    He believes that we can run our civilization on hydrogen, he has links to videos that show a man with a machine that he says can produce hydrogen as needed & he demonstrated that by showing a stove using hydrogen gas the machine was then producing and also a torch that could make a nice neat cut through steel.
    Very impressive but I am not convinced that these devices are not just another way of utilizing fossil fuels & making a profit.
    Here is a link to his site https://www.facebook.com/Teflonjim?fref=nf & here https://www.facebook.com/groups/teslarelease/ a Tesla site.

    The gentleman’s name is James Stewart.
    He has a large following on his site, full of hopium & fantastic dreams of a high technology future powered by “renewable” “green” energy.
    I bet you or some other folks here could pound his delusions back under a rock where they came from.
    Anyone up to the task?
    I’ll continue to work on his delusions of a “green” “renewable” high technology future but I feel I’m tiling at windmills.
    Here is a image of one of the ideas he’s pushing, an idea I found very simple to sink right down to the bottom of the ocean.

    Darn, couldn’t post the image but the link will lead to a video that shows some of those concepts including a HUGE fragile solar island with mirrors that will heat a liquid into steam to power a turbine to make electricity.
    Not shown is how to get that energy back to land & one storm & those big constructions will be just so much scrap sinking to the bottom of the ocean.

    • edpell says:

      Eight month payback for PV is great. It all depends on how honest that number is. Is it the total energy cost or just say the semiconductor film cost? Does it include the glass energy cost, the factory energy cost, the mining energy cost, transmission lines from places with ample sunshine, does it include the energy cost of night time storage, etc.?

      Hydrogen is just a medium of storage and transport of energy. It is not source of energy something has to contribute the energy to make the hydrogen from water. Hydrogen has a low energy density making it hard to use for transportation. Synthetic hydrocarbons have a much higher energy density for transportation uses.

      If PV is cheaper than coal to make electric then someone will get rich doing it. How about you?

      • The “catch” is that you don’t just have to pay back the fossil fuel energy. You also have to pay back the human energy that went into the system. Then there is the rest of the system–the balancing that is needed. In addition, if PV is going to work on a stand alone basis, it must be productive enough that it can support the user in paying taxes for the various services needed to install and service the PV. It certainly cannot expect an ongoing subsidy from fossil fuels.

        What we need is something that is cheap to use, including all costs including taxes. In fact, cheaper than coal (r cola-fired electricity) would be the ideal.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      There is plenty of research available via a google search that hydrogen is not as of yet a feasible source of energy – and probably never will be.

      This sort of nonsense is not really even worth responding to because if it were feasible billions would be poured into rolling it out (kinda like how billions have poured into shale — even though it can at most buy us a decade or so)

      Ask them to ping you when they launch the first plant that generates more energy than it consumes — and at a price that is competitive with coal generated electricity.

      • sheilach2 says:

        About the only thing I could agree with him on was that a few very wealthy people will still have the lights on & a car to drive but only as long as our civilization lasts & OIL is available to manufacture these devices.
        Once the oil becomes too expensive and/or our civilization collapses, those green renewable energy devices will only last as long as their first failure because there will be no way we can replace or rebuild that component, then it’s lights out for our civilization forever, but then their is also climate change which could make our worries about peak oil moot, a dead planet has no one left to worry about anything.
        I asked him to show me just how he can manufacture & maintain those renewable energy devices using ONLY renewables. I’m still waiting for an answer.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          I am working on a secret solar panel breeding programme here in my garage….

          I am splicing sheep DNA with the molecules of an old solar panel I found in the dump… so far I have created a male solar panel — the female version is more complicated by I hope to have a prototype by the end of the month.

          Once done I intend to feed the male panel some Viagra then lock them both in the garage and pipe in some Kenny G music and see if I can get a little magic out of them.

          Renewable energy is imminent!

          • sheilach2 says:

            Hey Fast, they don’t need sex, that just complicates things, you can’t predict what will come out, all they just need to copy themselves like bacteria once you can produce just one functioning living solar panel..
            But how do you feed them? They will need more than just sunlight, If they consume OIL, then you have to go back to the beakers & petri dishes.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I have encountered some problems with the mating process…

              Instead I will attempt to mate a windmill with a solar panel….

              I wonder what the offspring will look like?

        • That is a very good article. “Ten-year old wells often have variable costs of just $20 to $30 a barrel, so their owners keep on producing at prices of $60 or $80, even though it would require $100 oil to generate a good return on their total investment. ”

          “So, the primary determinant of oil prices, especially right now, is demand. Since supply won’t typically drop with a fall in the world’s thirst for oil, a decline in demand generates big, exaggerated downdrafts in prices.”

          “The drop in oil prices from over $100 in May to $48 has not, and will not, cause a major or even minor drop in production. That’s true even in high-cost areas such as the tar sands of Canada. In those forbidding fields, major energy companies have invested billions on plans to produce for 50 years, and even though they’re losing money on their total investment, they’re more than recouping their variable costs. So, as prices wobble, drilling will proceed smoothly.”

          “It’s easy to get financing when your costs are $65 and you’re selling at $100. But when the price is $50, where will the producers find the funds to keep sinking those new wells? It will take a lot of new drilling just to keep [shale] production where it is now.”
          I am not sure I agree with all of it. The low prices will squeeze the tax revenues of oil exporters, and because of this, they may have severe problems. They are likely to cut back on their oil subsidies (charge closer to the market price for oil, not their own drilling cost). The result will be a fall in demand from the oil producing countries, further depressing prices.

    • Miguel says:

      There is no perfect energy source of those we are able to harness at the moment, nuclear fission seemed to be, fusion in the other hand is the most promising despite that we can only dream about controling it.

    • Everyone wants what is the equivalent of a perpetual motion machine. “Renewable energy” by its name sounds like it might represent a perpetual motion machine, giving us unlimited energy forever. Hydrogen sounds like it would be almost a perpetual motion machine, if a person can hide all the details of where you get the energy to free up the hydrogen molecules in the first place. Also how you store them until they need to be used, how you transport them to be used, and how you prevent the tiny molecules from escaping before they need to be used. There is the additional detail of keeping the hydrogen from exploding and burning. https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Hindenburg_disaster

      I have written a number of articles on renewable energy including

  14. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Toby Hemenway will publish the Permaculture City on July 1. There is lots of chatter here to the effect that the cities are a death trap. This book might or might not change your mind. Here is the blurb from Albert Bates, who has lived at The Farm for more than 40 years:

    “I’m someone with a strong bias towards country living and I’ve always thought that the phrase ‘urban permaculture’ is oxymoronic. I’ve often thought master planners should be working to revive small towns, not build more cities. Toby Hemenway has shown me the error of my ways. The function of a well-conceived city, he says, is to inspire. His book inspires.”–Albert Bates, president, Global Village Institute for Appropriate Technology

    See the description and all the blurbs at:

    If you are of the strong opinion that fossil fuels are going away in the next 5 years, I would recommend reading Toby’s book along with Azby Brown’s book on Edo Japan…which really did exist without fossil fuels…or nuclear or electricity or very much firewood.

    Don Stewart

    • sheilach2 says:

      You can’t be serious!
      No large city is sustainable in any way, they require too much imported of ENERGY, food, water & sewage treatment & the material to maintain that city & it’s permaculture gardens..
      Now I’ve seen small towns using swamps to clean their sewage but that’s not scalable for a city, then there is the vast ENERGY problem, how can tens of thousands of people live in such a “permaculture” city?
      How can renewables pump enough water into that city, how can renewables power elevators, lights for those plants, water pumps etc?
      Yes, of course Edo was a Japanese city with many people, many other civilizations had cities too but they also had far fewer humans back then, only about 500 million humans existed back then on the whole planet not the seven BILLION we labor under now.

      Sorry, but I see that has just more empty “hopeium”, makes a good read but is not doable.
      Convince us otherwise, I am listening.

      • Artleads says:

        “No large city is sustainable in any way, they require too much imported of ENERGY, food, water & sewage treatment & the material to maintain that city & it’s permaculture gardens..”

        A lot of people go off on cities, but I offer some contrarian questions and observations:

        – Cities are crucibles of ideas. No cities=No civilization.

        – The term “large cities” means little. Cities are so varied. They could be mostly sprawling shanty towns. They could be concentrated cities like Hong Kong, or nation cities like Singapore. They could be spread out single family houses, or they could be mostly skyscrapers. What kind of “large cities” are we talking about?

        – Are we defining cities according to past and present urban practices, or shall we consider different kinds of cities?

        – If cities required compost toilets and gray-water plumbing, why the need for sewage treatment?

        – What materials do you need for permaculture other than soil and soil nutrients, such as that in food waste and “night soil?”

        – Since sun shines and rain falls on cities too, what prevents food from growing there?

        – What if cities–especially those with linear strip malls–converted to being relatively self-sufficient, interconnected pedestrian hubs that integrate housing, work, and food production?

        Questions, questions…

        • Fast Eddy says:

          “Cities are crucibles of ideas. No cities=No civilization”

          The exact things that got us to the point of extincting ourselves…

          • Artleads says:

            That’s a circular argument. A bit like saying the advent of homo sapiens was the reason for extinction. (There are people who insist on this over at NBL.) I just don’t know that this is true, since a fairly small and concentrated group of humans seem to be doing nearly all the damage today. And I suspect that civilization/cities, which in the great scope of time are very new, had/have other kinds of potential than bringing us to the beach of doom.


            • Fast Eddy says:

              A small group?

              Look in the mirror — you and me and every person in the world is living large… most of us live better than kings of old…

              Even in the third world people are partying to the sweet sounds of BAU — they are sucking down electricity … buying motor scooters… gladly pouring industrial chemicals onto their fields (I offered to pay for my village to get off of the industrial stuff — not a single person took up the offer)


              Because BAU is wonderful… would you trade places with a villager living in the amazon or some other place unplugged from BAU?

              I don’t think so.

              All but a very small fraction of the world’s population is engaged in this petroleum fueled orgy — even Don and Jan and the other permaculturists here… Toby Hemmingway and Joel Salatin are very big players in this orgy.

              And we are all lovin it! Because it makes life easy….

              Sure some of us make a few concessions but they are meaningless… they make us feel better but unless you completely unplug then you have no right to say that a small group of people are the problem

              I know little of you but I do know by the fact that you are using the internet that you are as much a part of the problem as most other people. The massive electrical and internet grids can only happen if massive numbers of people sign on the dotted line

              The hypocrisy of the Green Brigade is monumental.

              Feel free to roll out the inevitable excuses now….

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Now let me expound on the word ‘progress’

              It was around 10 years ago that I had an epiphany — that progress was actually the worst thing that ever happened to a species (I do not see evolution as progress… because progress is an artificial construct that refers mainly to technological changes)

              We could go right back to fire …. but I prefer to reference Norman Ernest Borlaug to prove a point https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Norman_Borlaug

              There are many others who’s innovations have allowed us to kick the can to where we are but he is by far the most important

              We have 7 billion+ people on the planet primarily because of this man. He was the one who’s brilliant ideas allowed us to exponentially increase our food supply.

              Without this ‘progress’ in food production Malthus’ theory would have been realized long before we got to the point where we killed the planet’s soil with the Green Revolution…. and long before we hit 7 billion people.

              But here we are with all these people — on the cusp of the famine to end all famines… what will 7B people do to each other when the grocery stores close?

              (I hear the bongo drums warming up — WE DON’T WANT TO LISTEN TO THIS!!!)

              During past famines we consumed each other. That is fact. This will be Ireland — on a global scale — and it will be endless….and there will be no OXFAM to help (just as there was no help for the starving Irish)

              Second spot — with honourable mention — https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Robert_Oppenheimer

              If, as I expect, the spent nuclear ponds explode and extinct all life on the planet…. he would get the gold medal for the greatest idea of all time that lead to the extinction his species.

              Well done mankind. We celebrate the men who did the most to ensure we would extinct our species! We are fools of the highest order.

              Donkeys must laugh at us…. bacteria must make jokes about us…. dogs love us in spite of ourselves – perhaps because we amuse them by dressing in clothes and smoking tobacco….

              Poster on a dog house wall:


        • edpell says:

          NYC population density 2000 per sqkm. People feed by one sqkm 250. the other 1750 will just have to die. This assumes 100% of all sun light is used for food production. If we use some for lighting during the day and if we use some surface area for walking then fewer than 250 people feed per sqkm.

        • xabier says:

          Up to the mid-19th century and the introduction of proper sanitation to take away waste, and drinking water that didn’t kill you, most towns and cities had phenomenally high death rates which we in the richer parts of the world cannot imagine today.

          It was demonstrated as early as the mid-18th century, when statistics were first available in sufficient quantity and quality to make comparisons, that after the initial hurdle of the earliest years had been cleared (2/3 of babies and infants dying in the 17th c) a humble villager had a far better chance of living to 70, or even 80, than a town-dweller of living to 40.

          What did people die of? Apart from TB, they died, by and large, of dysentery. Rich and poor. Cities required a constant influx of new residents and very high birth rates to remain in existence. Lack of contraception and over-population ensured that flow inwards.

          High-density cities of our kind require antibiotics and a complete sewage and water infrastructure. If the population density were to be very much lower, in a poorer society, it might work without them, but then the buildings would gradually collapse (see Gails’ article on Cuba’s old buildings). If low population density is best, and you can’t keep up the buildings, why have cities at all?

          The global trend is of course to mega-cities. We are going to live in a near-future determined by the main trends, sponsored by the powers that rule us, not by our fantasies about better ways to live.

          The humble rural dweller would not do so well today either: investigating a possible move to a very rural area of Spain, where the countryside is being de-populated, I discovered that nearly 70% of water sources there have been poisoned by industrial agriculture and are not fit for human use. Must be about the same nearly everywhere now.

          An exception might be areas where instead of chemically-poisoned crops, traditional animal husbandry has been the dominant and perhaps exclusive form of farming; sheep, etc.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Good points.

            For those who have suggested city living will continue post collapse… I’d be very interested in what you do with all the human excrement…

            The sewage system runs on massive electric pumps… so forget about removing it from the city or treating it…

            So basically people will be dumping piles on the street (or flinging the buckets out the window onto the street)

            Every been to a place where people do that? I have…

            I was trekking in Ethiopia … and trekkers gathered in specific areas and put up tents… there were no toilets so you did your toilet in the areas surrounding the camp. Hundreds of people stay in these areas in a given week — so the bush around the camp is to put it mildly — disgusting….(night time sessions best avoided…)

            Now imagine far more people in confined space…

            It is important to read the fine print in the Koombaya brochure…. the devil is in the detail…

          • Don Stewart says:

            One of the remarkable things about Edo city was that it had both oxygenated fresh water for drinking, and it also had an effective method for recycling human waste. I previously posted a TED talk by Azby Brown where he points to a composting toilet and says that it is a pretty good substitute, but we really do need to solve the recycling issue as well.

            I have not, of course, read Toby Hemenway’s book as yet. Over the years, I imagine I have heard him talk about some of the things which will be in the book. For example, neighborhood orchards: I have an apple tree and you have a peach tree and another neighbor has a cherry tree and we all share. Another case I know he studied was where the neighbors got rid of fences and made one large garden, which reduced the shade (which is a problem in many urban areas), and increased the yields.

            But when you get to things like high-rise apartment buildings, I am dubious. IF fossil fuels go away and metals are reduced to what can be scavenged, I don’t see how these high-rises are anything but death traps. A low rise flat roofed warehouse may be useful for quite some time with modest maintenance, but in a high rise we can’t get water to the upper floors, and the threat of fire would be constant.

            Edo also illustrates some of the trade-offs. The most fuel efficient way to cook is for a crowd, and the most fuel efficient way to heat water for bathing is for a crowd. So Edo had a lot of people packed into a small space, and the predominant form of cooking was the food stall (food truck to us) and the communal bath was the dominant way to bathe. But if you pack the dwellings to close, a fire becomes catastrophic. So the people in Edo evolved a sort of ‘hollow square’, with houses around the outside of the square and an open space in the middle where people could retreat in case of fire…and which doubled as a social space and garden.

            Another characteristic of Edo was small gardens in passageways in the houses. These helped create cooler temperatures and air circulation in the summer. Very little of our built infrastructure incorporates such features. When we have a heat wave, many old people die who are afraid to leave their windows open at night. So solving the cooling problem may require physical changes to our houses, plus the knowledge of how to create the garden effect, plus doing something about the pervasive violence in our culture.

            I see very few people who are willing or able to even think in these terms.

            Don Stewart

            • Artleads says:

              Half the non domestic animals (in terms of numbers) who existed 40 years ago, have disappeared.During that same 40 years, the population of humans has doubled. Humans and their domesticated animals now dwarf wild animals in terms of numbers and the space/resources they consume. The statistics for soil and forestry loss are similarly stunning. Unless one is intent on speeding up the demise of all things non human (through deserting cities for the wilds), then they’d better stop yawning and try to help make cities work.

              Not just you…I’ve also posted information about how cities can work when a modicum of intelligence is applied to them. If it makes the slightest bit of difference to anybody, I’ve seen no evidence of it.

            • Don Stewart says:

              I doubt that we can keep high-rises in operation for 500 years. Could we extend their life by decades? I think so. Toby Hemenway has related the story of how much more fossil fuel intensive his life was on the subsistence farm in Southern Oregon than his life in Portland. David Holmgren has championed the notion of gardening the suburbs. Eventually, we have to come back to Earth, with considerably fewer humans. But it will take some new awakenings of the kind I refer to in another comment, which should appear shortly.

              Don Stewart

            • Artleads says:

              There’s a scientist named Tom Campbell, who claims to have completed Einstein’s unresolved theory of everything. Campbell talks a lot about evolution being a way to slow down entropy. I’ll try to find and post it soon.

              If what I’m proposing qualifies, it could be looked at as slowing entropy. It isn’t remotely trying for 500 year solutions to anything. It’s more like running my leg of a relay and holding on to the baton in order to pass it to the next generation (should there indeed be one). To think beyond that would be presumptuous.

              As I see it, the first task for slowing entropy is to hold on to every smidgen of embedded energy we have now. That includes preserving and using existing skyscrapers. I can’t help it if insane people want to go building MORE of them! I don’t support them doing that. But we have millions of skyscrapers here already, and I would at least give some thought to how to make them useful in the fossil-fuel-collapse era that I espouse for various reasons (and that OFW thinks is soon forthcoming).

              Many skyscrapers have glass walls. I suppose those walls make for potential service toward greenhouse operations inside the buildings in the proximity of well sunlit windows..

              All flat roofs need to have roof gardens. That’s a lot of flat-roof gardens. Flat roofs are also quite effective for heating water: simply undulate piping or hoses and leave that exposed to sunlight.

              Collecting water below roof level, and pumping it with hand pumps to the roof, supplies gardening water to the roof.

              Water tanks on ledges just outside each floor provides water to those floors.

              I see no reason why well-ventilated wood stoves can’t cook food in skyscrapers.

              IF some visionary billionaires or visionary governments cared, they could help finance bridges that span the interval between towers, perhaps enabling people to walk and meet their needs high up on the air. Otherwise, they could try meeting their needs through vertical travel between five of six floors. Dumbwaiters still exist in some old apartment buildings, and should not be difficult to construct.

              Compost toilets and gray water use/recycle would (and should) be universal.

              I am not proposing Biosphere 2 conditions; just a huge slowing of entropy, using/modifying what already exists around the world in all its remarkable resourcefulness and diversity.

            • Don Stewart says:

              I have no quarrel with what you are saying. A long time ago I posted a video of some squatters living in an abandoned high rise in Venezuela. They even had a cow on one of the upper floors.

              Don Stewart

            • The skyscrapers that have been built in the last 50 years in the US don’t have windows that open. It gets very hot when the sun shines in. I am not sure how you plan to get water to the upper floors, either. It seems like it would be hard to grow plants in sky scrapers.

              It is hard to have well ventilated wood stoves when the windows don’t open.

            • Don Stewart says:

              Fast Eddy
              Somehow, you have conjured up a Kumbaya theory. When I worked at the farm, I worked with perhaps a hundred young people. Some sang while they worked, some didn’t. I can live with either. I prefer those who sing. What I can’t stand is somebody who constantly bitches.

              Don Stewart

            • Jan Steinman says:

              What I can’t stand is somebody who constantly bitches.

              I find that if I ignore the complainers, they go away.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Don – you confuse bitching with poking endless holes in your Koombaya theories …

              That said …

              I reckon you’ll bitch quite a lot when BAU is gone and you are left farming without all the wonderful tools and machines provided by BAU…

              I wonder how you will react when you try to dial in 911 when the first bandits (kinda like modern day Samurai) hit Koombaya Land and yoke the men and have their way with the women.

              You better not bitch then —- because they’ll boil you in oil ….

            • edpell says:

              Fast, lighten up. Don knows management of clan sized (150) groups. He is interested in permaculture, he is not ignorant. He will want some part of the team to deal with defense.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Ya – just find some samurai types… they like when farmers tell them what to do….

            • It depends on the particular geography, climate .. but in essence the problem is in order to effectively repel marauders where 150soul strong clan is often not enough to mount 365/24 order of things, you have to have a production base first (food + crafts) which is able to feed stand alone security apparatus. That’s how and why the centuries after the fall of western roman empire took the shape they did. In short, structured feudal order over much larger population is needed.

              Moreover as the remnants of the old world with access to former gov. caches of weapons/ammo could retain this leverage for say at least several decades post (hard) crash (until it’s all depleted/non functioning anymore) you need even larger security meassures from the day one.

              If you take this in as broad generalization it’s quite illustrative why almost every harder crash of civilizations produced such a dramatic phase shift on all accounts, simply it’s pretty destructive process.

            • Brunswickian says:

              In the 1970s the New Zealand Govt commissioned a report on the likely effects of a nuclear war on NZ. It was to be in two phases: the first on the immediate effects and the second on remedial action.

              The first was completed and assumed there would be no direct strike on NZ itself. It focused on the disruptions caused by an EMP carrying over from Australia and the likely interruption to international trade. After the sums were done (numbers do count, surprise, surprise) re food (no fertiliser) and fuel (six weeks supply probably less now) it all went in the TOO HARD basket and phase two was abandoned because it was hopeless.

              Now these people weren’t doomers, they were commissioned to find the Happy Ending but they couldn’t. The population is 50% bigger now.

              Gail has said point blank that we are looking at the cessation of international trade. And has backed it up with actual FACTS and sound reasoning.

              There is no way to put happy spin on this.

            • edpell says:

              Time for a new study. A four year ramp down of international trade leaves more options for NZ to transition versus a nuclear war.

            • Brunswickian says:

              I would be happy to have another 4 years. Sure don’t like look like it. Besides we borrow from the future not prepare for it.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              And that is why the PTB are taking absolutely no action to prepare for a post-collapse world.

              They would have carried out extensive studies of what is likely to happen when the electricity goes off.

              They would know that food will be almost impossible to produce without fossil fuels. As I have pointed out almost all the agricultural land will be dead soil without oil and gas fertilizer and pesticides – there is no way around that.

              They would know that hungry people will kill everything that moves and eat it – including domestic animals and wildlife.

              They would know that throughout history — before Oxfam and Unicef and the UN— during times of famine — people ate people.

              They would definitely know if it is possible or not to manage spent fuel ponds without BAU — and they would know the implications because they paid Harvard to research this http://belfercenter.hks.harvard.edu/publication/364/radiological_terrorism.html

              If the PTB thought there were ‘life boats’ then surely they’d be making plans for themselves and their families.

              Jan – have you noticed any limos on your island? Any men in suits buying up farmland?

              Don – do you ever encounter distinguished gray-haired men with plenty of gravitas at your Koombaya sessions?

              I live in a remote part of New Zealand that has been a favourite for doomsday prophets since the Cuban Missile Crisis and I’m not seeing an influx of PTB types… there are a few ultra wealthy types like James Cameron around — but there is no mass movement in (rural property prices are not spiking…)

              The PTB will have all the info — and no doubt it is dire — so they are busy guzzling champagne and gorging on buckets of caviar — they are living it up to the very end because they will know there is no hangover after this party wraps up….

              Or if the think tanks have concluded there is a way forward post collapse it is one of bleakness and suffering — and the PTB have no interest in that…

              It’s Friday — anyone care to take up the suggestion of turning off the power for the weekend and not using any motorized vehicles? I tried it for about half a day once due to a brownout — it really does make you think….

            • Stilgar Wilcox says:

              “It’s Friday — anyone care to take up the suggestion of turning off the power for the weekend and not using any motorized vehicles? I tried it for about half a day once due to a brownout — it really does make you think….”

              It sure does make one think. For the first hour or so after power outages from habit of course I’ll try throwing light switches on. It’s an eerie feeling when the electrical goes out and then of course thoughts go to the frig and the perishables. Time to roll out the generator and listen to that loud thing, then start thinking about going down the fuel station (if they have power to the pumps) to get more fuel and two stroke oil for the generator. Then once you’ve got that all set up the power comes on and it’s time to put all that set up away. But the idea of it being off permanently is a nightmare scenario indeed.

              If you think about all the techno devices people play with all the time there will be lots of people going nuts because their phones and other devices do not work.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              If a weekend is too much of an inconvenience maybe people could try turning off the power for half a day — from 6pm to midnight…

              That would be a good Koombaya antidote

            • Michael Jones says:

              Don’t forget about not flushing the toilet!
              California Has Never Experienced A Water Crisis Of This Magnitude – And The Worst Is Yet To Come
              In fact, it is being projected that groundwater will account for almost all water used in the entire state by the end of this year…When the groundwater is gone, it is gone for good. Those aquifers took centuries to fill up, and now they are being drained at a staggering rate.
              It is not just the state of California that is experiencing a major water crisis. All over the world, underground aquifers are being drained rapidly. In fact, according to the Washington Post, 21 out of the 37 largest aquifers in the world “have passed their sustainability tipping points
              As for the state of California, it was once a desert and now it is turning back into a desert.
              There is a reason why experts refer to fresh water as “the new oil”. Without fresh water, none of us can survive

              Too may PEOPLE

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Good point.

              And since Scott Nearing is the flash point of the day — I wonder if they had a flush toilet….

              I bet they did….

              Funny how the Green Brigade ‘reject BAU’ but at the same time they – every last one of them — make exceptions when they see fit (a lot of them have iphones…for instance… most use the internet I would think)

              BAU is wonderful. It is splendid. I love it – a lot.

              So who can blame the Nearings for wanting a taste…

              Who wants to walk out in 20 below weather in January to take a dump through a hole…. who wants to scrape the ground with a stick to turn soil … who wants to eschew the use of a wheelbarrow…

              The Nearings should not be held up as the model of sustainability. Because what they were doing was nothing of the sort.

              Again — they should be held up as the model demonstrating the allure of BAU… even those hell bent on rejecting BAU are always unable to resist what BAU offers…

              Just as bees are attracted to flowers… mosquitoes to sources of blood… viruses to hosts… bacteria to warm, dark, damp places…. so to are we attracted to BAU… BAU has helped us thrive and multiply ….

              But it paradoxically … it will be our undoing… it will probably drive us to extinction.

            • Michael Jones says:

              Nope, no flush toilet, the Nearings made a few outhouses and had a compost toilet inside in their Malone house. Wrong again!
              I would say that they turned a little to BAU when they were in their 70’s/90’s. They were such koombyers. Scott like popcorn as a treat and Helen enjoyed a scope of ice cream, Shame

            • Fast Eddy says:

              But electricity right? That’s the biggie… Did they use doctors? Hospitals? Shops? Of course they did…

              Anyway … that is all irrelevant.

              Let’s say they really did live like a villager in a remote corner Irian Jaya and everyone followed them down this path.

              Guess what — BAU would collapse — and the wonderful steel tools that they actually did use would cease to exist…

              You see that is the problem I have with these ‘back to the earth’ types — they think that if we all followed them we could still have select BAU conveniences

              But that is bullshit.

              BAU is a system — you cannot pick and choose what you think is appropriate and not appropriate.

              You cannot say – shovels are ok — but not tractors.

              Basically these Koombaya types have not thought things through — or don’t have the intelligence to understand that what they wish for is impossible — Koombaya is not possible.

              You either have full on BAU — or you return to living like a primitive person in a primitive village.

              When collapse comes and if anyone does make it through — they will still have some of the tools we have left behind… but in a few decades when those tools break or wear out — they will be living like savages…

            • Michael Jones says:

              Nope, No Doctors, Scott avoided them 100%. Helen NEVER ate meat in her whole life.
              Sorry, Fast Eddy, you are so wrong about the Nearings. Scott used tools handed down to him from his grandfather. So what if they used shovels, so did the Romans.
              As I pointed out, for most of their life they kept BAU to the minimum. To just look at the last decades of their life is not right. After all , Scott died at 100 by refusing food and fasting. All I can say, good luck to you

            • sheilach2 says:

              before we had oil, we had blacksmiths. They made iron from “bog iron” heated it & hammered into steel.
              It wasn’t all that hard, brutal & short back then but it sure wasn’t easy either.
              Ceramics, iron & glass were produced long before the industrial revolution.
              There will of course be metals we will no longer be able to produce like titanium, other metals can be recycled from land fills & abandoned cars & trucks, cables, wiring & pipes.

              But before we can start over, we have to survive the collapse & climate change & who knows how much knowledge will be lost in the chaos of collapse.
              How can anyone prepare for that?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Difficult to start over when the reason for collapsing is because we have picked most of the low hanging fruit….

              “progress’ ends with the coming collapse

            • Brunswickian says:

              I get the impression that many aren’t aware of even the concept of overshoot. Maybe we have been aiming too high?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I think that normalcy bias is the primary culprit for the Koombaya Syndrome that infects most people…

              For most people, including people like the Nearings, hardship was when the pick-up truck wouldn’t start because of an extra cold morning…. or the power went off because of a storm…

              For others, a bad day is not having any new friend requests on Facebook when they wake up and immediately reach for their iphone.

              Nobody has to worry about survival (we all have plenty of food as evidenced by that latest obesity record in America…)

              Few of us are interested in or have the opportunity (or are afraid) to visit places where people are engaged in a constant battle for survival — where people wake up not worry about new FB friends rather how they will get enough calories into their stomachs to survive another day…

              Those people only exist on the Tee Vee for most people…. kinda like they exist in another dimension…

              Fair enough.

              Why would anyone want to places where there is suffering — we don’t like to be confronted by that so we go on wonderful ocean cruises where we can play casino and shop … or we go to the all inclusive beach holidays behind locked gates in places like Cancun…

              Another contributing factor to this Koombaya syndrome (and normalcy bias) are the doomsday stories in the MSM and played out at the cinema — they almost always have a happy ending.

              Man returns to nature/farming and thrives… or man moves to another planet … or man goes green and lives happily ever after sipping lattes at Starbucks, driving a Tesla, chatting on an iphone, wearing the latest Abercrombie sweater (tied round the neck of course) — everything is recycled… and all energy is from renewable sources…

              We already have examples of people living in situations that are almost as bad as what we will see post collapse…. just have a look at the poorest ten countries on earth to get an idea of what things will be like (only they will be MUCH worse — none of these countries are unplugged from BAU…)

              But nobody wants to consider this …. they cannot imagine they might be living like a peasant in Africa…. or someone without a job in a Manila slum… somehow that cannot happen — because that only happens in other places— on the Tee Vee…. it’s not real…

              And the Tee Vee always shows apocalypse movies of western societies as an adventure… (The Road was the one exception — but people dismiss that as an aberration… the bent invention of a twisted author)….

              People’s expectations of post collapse are formed by their perceptions of the world — which are mostly determined by their exposure to the world — which for most people is limited to what they see on the MSM…

              Most have been nowhere — and if they have they have experienced very little — primarily they have used the opportunity to get snapshots onto FB to show their friends how worldly they are….

            • Artleads says:

              Well, I wouldn’t use the term “start over” myself. It implies abandoning what’s here already and finding the energy to do this immense new thing.

              Starting things in industrial society has always required increasing energy supply. So, were I in a position to devise a plan, it would have to do with preserving all the things in which energy is already embedded, while carving away at the need for any added supply of energy (since it won’t be available anyway). Slowing entropy any which way I could.

              I think we have to love BAU first. The great J. B. Jackson, founder of Landscape magazine, had this memorable (though paraphrased) quote: ‘In order to change something you first have to love it. If you don’t love it, you can only destroy and replace it. I’d rather love it and change it myself.

            • Artleads says:

              Well, I wouldn’t use the term “start over” myself. It implies abandoning what’s here already and finding the energy to do this immense new thing.

              Starting things in industrial society has always required increasing energy supply. So, were I in a position to devise a plan, it would have to do with preserving all the things in which energy is already embedded, while carving away at the need for any added supply of energy (since it won’t be available anyway). Slowing entropy any which way I could.

              I think we have to love BAU first. The great J. B. Jackson, founder of Landscape magazine, had this memorable (though paraphrased) quote: ‘In order to change something you first have to love it. If you don’t love it, you can only destroy and replace it. I’d rather love it and change it myself.

              I’d also agree that maintaining knowledge to the degree possible would be very desirable.

            • And the problem won’t be fixed by a few thousand solar panels, unless the solar panels somehow can create the needed water.

            • richard says:

              If you know that the power is going to go off and have a reasonable expectation for its return, you can make preparations. You will NOT be running on a treadmill when it happens, for example.
              Real outages follow Murphy’s Second law, maximising the collateral damage. Even then, everyone believes that if they wait long enough, the power will return. That will change.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I’ve been saying all along …. this is exactly why people should turn off the power for a weekend….

              Rather than making assumptions about how to prepare for the post collapse scenario — is it not better to simulate the situation by turning off the electricity for at least a weekend — ideally at least a week — and making a list of things you should be doing differently to prepare once the power goes back on?

            • xabier says:

              Who cares about PTB? They are but deluded men and women. It’s what the gods think that matters. And as Epicurus established 2,000 years ago, the gods have other fish to fry….. 🙂 (That’s meant to be a positive comment folks.)

            • Fast Eddy says:

              This is not about caring about the PTB — it’s about the PTB having more information that any of us… and observing that they are doing absolutely nothing to prepare for the post collapse world…

              The assumption would that they understand that there will be no post collapse world to prepare for.

            • edpell says:

              The time for the super thugs to organize the “new world order” is after 95% die off. The super thugs will spend the first year in a hole in the ground. Then they and their sub-thugs and gun collection will organize their surfs for their personal benefit. They will not be out planting potatoes.

            • edpell says:

              The locals may want to find their holes and deal with them before they emerge.

            • sheilach2 says:

              We had a power outage here that lasted a day.
              It hit right as I was in the middle of cooking dinner. Bam, no electricity & it was dark out!

              I have a wood stove, not a useless pellet stove in a power outage, a old fashioned wood stove in which I added kindling & split wood, fired it up & was soon finishing cooking my dinner. I also have oil lamps, hand crank lanterns & a shake flashlight all of course produced using fossil fuels.
              But for now, I have light, radios & heat.

            • Artleads says:

              Admirable solutions for emergencies. The combination of a wooden house and very limited budget means we’re unlikely to get a wood stove. But we can either dig up a camping stove in the shed, or buy a small one, along with the propane canister to supply the flame. We have solar panels, but if the grid goes out the panels don’t work. We have a couple of those artificial lanterns with batteries and LED light. Decent flash light as well…

            • Jan Steinman says:

              We have solar panels, but if the grid goes out the panels don’t work.

              You need to invest in a new controller! Panels always work when there’s sun; it’s just the electronics package that doesn’t.

              Or get a bunch of DC-operated appliances that will work when the sun shines.

            • Modern pellet heater, preferably with ceramic tiles outside (top brands made in .de .at .cz .it) consumes only few dozens watts per hour per 8-10kW heat output, the electricity drives only the controller board, pellet dosage and fan, obviously the heat itself is taken from the high efficiency of burning the quality wooden pellets. That’s very managable for power outage even with low cost battery backup like lead acids and small PV panel.

              I’m not that much familiar with the combined stove pellet models, these are more rare still, but it should be relatively the same. Mind you I’m not avocating this new pellet stuff, it’s great for rich people as 2nd/3rd backup and or as local heating placed around the multiroom/floor mansion, low maintanace, luxury performance, but the bottom line remains industrial fuel dependency on high quality wooden pellets, otherwise it’s a nice dead appliance box.

              But you are right that dependency on high tech stuff should be balanced by some low tech equipment on hand as well.

            • I saw the houses arranged in a hollow square arrangement in China as well. I wonder where it really started.

            • Artleads says:

              I know that actually effecting the changes I imagine is way more difficult than I tend to believe. OTOH, people do the darndest things when pushed to the wall. (Like the squatters in Venezuela!!!)

              As to airless skyscrapers: I’ve seen smaller windows that open cut into bigger ones that don’t. And I imagine that wood stoves could be ventilated through holes cut in exterior walls.

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I imagine that wood stoves could be ventilated through holes cut in exterior walls.

              Ugh. Who’s gonna haul wood up fifty flights of stairs! I have enough trouble getting it downhill from the back 40.

            • Artleads says:

              “Collecting water below roof level, and pumping it with hand pumps to the roof, supplies gardening water to the roof.

              Water tanks on ledges just outside each floor provides water to those floors.”

              So rainwater collected from roof and serially transmitted from the fuller tanks above fill tanks on ledges outside each floor (cantilever tank-supports bored through exterior walls).

              When rain fails? I wonder how those Venezuela squatters managed that?

            • Artleads says:

              Tom Campbell

              Theory of Everything:

            • I thought Campbell’s views were interesting. The world has such a huge amount of order too it, there has to be an explanation to what is going on. It seems like we are finding out now that even bacteria work together in ways we don’t understand. Explanations of the universe simply being the result of some accidental big bang don’t seem very reasonable.

            • Artleads says:

              “Jan Steinman says:
              June 18, 2015 at 12:56 pm
              I imagine that wood stoves could be ventilated through holes cut in exterior walls.

              Ugh. Who’s gonna haul wood up fifty flights of stairs! I have enough trouble getting it downhill from the back 40.”

              Good point. I imagine doing it the way I saw in one of the Cuban clips. Using rope pulleys to hoist heavy things up from below. Doing it a few floors at a time, I suspect.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Why would anyone want to live in skyscraper and walk up and down stairs all day long (when there will be nowhere to get food and water in the city to begin with) — when there will be millions of empty homes when billions die?

              Can we just bury this pointless discussion in the rubbish heap along with the Taliban/Edo stuff… EV… renewable energy….. and get back to reality.

            • Artleads says:

              But since wood could be extremely scarce, some work around would need consideration. Starting now, I could see planting wood trees along roads, railway tracks, and so forth, even inside south facing windows in sky scrapers. Is it the meme tree that grows like crazy and can be used to make charcoal or burn as wood? I’ve tried burning paper-pulp “rocks.” I wasn’t very impressed at the time, but if it was the only choice…

            • Jan Steinman says:

              Is it the meme tree that grows like crazy and can be used to make charcoal or burn as wood?

              Don’t know what a “meme tree” is.

              I’ve been planting hundreds of Paulonia tomentosa. Grows as fast as a Normandy Poplar. Rot resistance and splitability of cedar. Coppices like maple. Huge leaves for mulching other plants. Beautiful purple flowers. What’s not to like?

              Well, some folk call it “invasive.” To me, that means, “Won’t have to fuss over it.” 🙂

            • Artleads says:

              If squatters could get cows way up in abandoned skyscrapers, I guess wood could be transported up there too.

            • Artleads says:

              “Jan Steinman says:
              June 18, 2015 at 8:38 pm
              Is it the meme tree that grows like crazy and can be used to make charcoal or burn as wood?

              Don’t know what a “meme tree” is.

              I’ve been planting hundreds of Paulonia tomentosa. Grows as fast as a Normandy Poplar. Rot resistance and splitability of cedar. Coppices like maple. Huge leaves for mulching other plants. Beautiful purple flowers. What’s not to like?

              Well, some folk call it “invasive.” To me, that means, “Won’t have to fuss over it.”

              I LOVE it!

              Despite the futility of it (since I have too many items too wretchedly filed to ever find them again), I’ll file your info on these wonderful hardy and/or fast growing trees.

              There’s Kudzo (sp) too. I hear you can just about *see* it growing. 🙂

            • Don Stewart says:

              Dear Artleads
              You have asked me several questions about turning high rise buildings into useful spaces after a crash (a bankruptcy in the case of the building in Venezuela). I can’t really get into those questions, because I think we would make up solutions on the fly, depending on the circumstances. Since I can’t answer your question, let me try to hint around about a couple more questions which start from where we are today and try to behave intelligently toward the future.

              I assume you are an artist from New Mexico, in one of the modern cities, and on the Water Board.

              Bill deBuys wrote this book back in 1990 about his days homesteading in the Sangre de Christo mountains:

              I think the book is a good read. It doesn’t have lots of technical details (except for the frustration of trying to get irrigation water to flood a field uniformly). However, it gives you a good look and feel for how the old Mexican culture lived. Also some hints about the reasons the three Anglos finally abandoned their homestead. Note the ‘once a year’ trip to the Rio Grande.

              Second, water was usually near and dear to everything I ever knew about New Mexico. Brad Lancaster has done phenomenal work in Tucson on the use of water falling on hard surfaces. I saw a recent Geoff Lawton interview with Brad and learned that the city of Tucson is now entirely behind his methods…or at least won’t put him in jail. From an artistic perspective, the water is the key to photosynthetic productivity and a blossoming desert, and also for cooling and hydrating the environment. If your Water Board isn’t doing urban design using Brad’s methods, then you might want to pursue the ideas.

              Third, civilization in New Mexico followed the river valleys. I understand that over utilization of the Rio Grande water is at crisis levels. For urban people, the changes which are being forced upon urban California right now may be interesting to study. But I want to approach them from a slightly different direction.

              Last night I attended the kick-off for a 3 month long ‘focus on pollinators’ at the Botanical Garden. I learned that pollination is a very complex business. Good pollination requires a wide diversity of plants for the caterpillars to feed on, a wide diversity of plants which make nectar, nesting places for the insects, and other assorted odds and ends. We saw a diagram of the pollination process and it looked something like the spaghetti diagrams you see for metabolism. I learned that all nectars do not contain a full assortment of essential amino acids, so the insects need a variety in their diet…just like vegan humans. One of the experts present said that plant reproduction is way more complicated than animal reproduction.

              One slide showed a corn field, which is terrible for pollinators. Another slide showed a riot of plants surrounding a house in Chapel Hill. It turns out that the house belongs to a former head of the Botanical Garden. The conclusion: you can’t have a yard which is both neat and controlled and also friendly to pollinators.

              The challenge for an artist is to disabuse people of the notion that a half acre of neatly clipped, irrigated green grass under the loving care of Monsanto is beautiful. To show people that, instead, a wonderfully alive yard with an abundance of pollinators is what is beautiful.

              Just random thoughts….Don Stewart

            • Artleads says:

              “The challenge for an artist is to disabuse people of the notion that a half acre of neatly clipped, irrigated green grass under the loving care of Monsanto is beautiful. To show people that, instead, a wonderfully alive yard with an abundance of pollinators is what is beautiful.”

              I think you see the challenge accurately. Daunting. We don’t have lawns in these parts, but there is still the requirement to be neat. I can’t even convince my wife that the leach field should be left a tangled and chaotic mess of vegetation. I try to reach some sort of compromise, and I believe that I’m more messy (in general around the yard) than is absolutely required by the pollinators… 🙂

              The skyscrapers are somewhat moot. We don’t have them in this county. I’m pointing to ways of thinking about what’s there already, everywhere. In my county (and especially, nearby city) , the problem is miles-long strips of mostly single-story commercial, automobile-exclusive, nowhere sprawl. The dumb California stuff you get everywhere. I would recommend creating among this sprawl, strategic hubs that add spaces on top of (or otherwise, to) malls–“mixed use.” Then make it easy to walk or bike between and among the hubs. As with your Times Square example, the idea would be to simultaneously move toward a “better” model of mainstream economics, while leading to less dependence on FFs. My sense of it is that if you start being proactive about design while there still are FFs, you will have a more positive way to deal with the future (whose exact delineation I can’t foresee–they say that the best way to predict the future is to create it).

              Somewhat along the lines of your microbe talk, I think you can actually IMPROVE aesthetics (and a resulting cluster of benefits) if you ADD, selectively, to what is there already. Appropriate clustering, something quite distinct between urban and rural settings. Right now, the urbanization of rural space through sprawl-type suburbia is what prevails. This is entirely wrong. There is a “rural” way to add to rural structures, and an urban way to add to urban structures, both being actually MORE respectful of the surrounding landscape.

            • Artleads says:

              “We need to be aware of what we are depending on, and what kind of supply chains they require. Perhaps they can last for a while, and perhaps not. I would hate to be depending on them, and then discover that I had no Plan B.”

              I think this is a wonderful observation.

          • I think Jared Diamond in “Guns, Germs, and Steel” makes a similar comment about the high death rate in cities requiring constant in-migration from the rural areas, to keep the population from collapsing.

            Don keeps telling us the problems that our guts encounter from too few microbes in the environment, but too many of the wrong kind in the environment was disastrous as well. The drop in the death rate was as much from changes in sanitation as anything. Antibiotics helped somewhat. Most of the rest of modern medicine has not done as much as people think it has.

            • Don Stewart says:

              I believe that the leading cause of adult death in heavily populated countries in the 19th century and earlier was dysentery. Which is directly related to poor treatment of human waste and unsafe drinking water.

              I am not claiming that Edo was some magical place. But one of the reasons they had relatively good health was because they brought water from the mountains into Edo by gravity, and because they inserted into the channels active oxidizing structures. Then the human waste was collected and moved to rural areas before being used to fertilize crops. No human waste from Edo was dumped in rivers. (I am not sure if they composted the waste before using it as fertilizer.) Not all the cities of the world have nearby mountains, although New York’s original plan was a purely gravity fed system coming down from the Catskills, much like Edo. But the recycling of the waste for use as fertilizer was a unique characteristic of Asia, so far as I know. It certainly got prominent treatment in F.H. Kings Farmers of Forty Centuries early in the 20th century. New York City was still dumping human waste into water when I was there in the 1960s. Atlanta was still dumping into the Chatahoochie a few years ago.

              Don Stewart

            • Jan Steinman says:

              I am not claiming that Edo was some magical place.

              Thank you for noting that.

              To certain black-and-white thinkers here, if something is not perfect, it must be horrible.

              I do not disagree that “business as usual” is coming to an end, and that various levels of horribleness will reign. But Edo shows a way forward that is less horrible than most, and we need to pay attention if we want a life that is less horrible than the worst case that some here are fond of pointing out.

              Each of us here has a choice: to work toward a life for ourselves and our loved ones that is as good as it can be, or to wail and moan that the sky is falling and we’re all gonna die.

            • Fast Eddy says:

              The shogunate executed criminals in various ways:

              Crucifixion for killing a parent, husband etc.
              Decapitation by sword
              Waist-cutting (cutting the person in half). The Kanazawa han coupled this with decapitation.

              The death penalty often carried collateral punishments. One was parading the criminal around town prior to execution. A similar one was public display of the criminal prior to execution. A third was public display of the severed head.

        • sheilach2 says:

          I’m talking about a large modern, western city, cities like Lagos in Nigeria are just as doomed as Los Angeles. in the USA.
          Things that make a city unsustainable is there is very little land that’s not occupied by a building, road or parking lot, tall buildings shade the land, the soil is usually contaminated with lead & other heavy metals & asbestos, There are way too many people, this isn’t a place where you would want to grow your food.
          Most cities have to have water brought to them using fossil fuel powered pumps, not doable with just solar panels & wind turbines.
          Converting our current cities that are all designed around the automobile would be a massive undertaking.
          You would virtually have to tear it down & start over.
          We would have to start immediately using the millions of people currently unemployed to help tear down the cities from one end to the other, moving people as they go & population growth would have to have ended.
          The sheer logistics of just trying to do that would be overwhelming.
          This can’t happen of course, there are just too many of us, composting toilets would be overwhelmed by the high density of humans in those cities, just trying to transport enough food into that city would be impossible because of it’s size & most people would have strong objections to being forced to leave their homes to live in a commune to more efficiently use limited resources & to support each other like an extended family.
          I just can’t see 7 billion humans living together & feeding themselves with permaculture & no fossil resources, there are just too many of us.
          Then there are cities that sprawl out forever, a ocean of corrugated steel roofs to the skyline, how on earth can a place like that ever become sustainable?
          It can’t of course, when the grid fails, they won’t have any piped water, no lights, waste treatment plants, if any, would fail, businesses would have to close, the entire economy would fail, they would have to migrate but to where?
          All workable land is already occupied, they would not be welcomed.
          How would your area fare if the grid failed, think of all the stuff that operates on electricity.

          • Artleads says:

            “Converting our current cities that are all designed around the automobile would be a massive undertaking.”

            You do what you can. It beats suicide. Not ALL cities entirely or at all fit your description. A wealthy city like Palo Alto comprises mostly single family houses with backyards and good soils. Some mega cities present other issues, not all of them insurmountable. I’ve posted some possibilities in other responses yesterday.

            “You would virtually have to tear it down & start over.”

            This is precisely what we should NOT do. Unless I’m reading OFW wrong, the energy to , start over will not be there. It also takes energy to tear things down, and creating more landfills to store the debris is one of the worst possible notions. We have polluted enough land and water, appropriated enough habitat, and killed enough soil. There is also embedded energy in existing urban infrastructure. That energy is in no way replaceable. It has to be used as best it may.

            “We would have to start immediately using the millions of people currently unemployed to help tear down the cities from one end to the other…”

            There will be more than enough work for everyone–only no money for pay them with. And the tearing down you mention I see as the repurposing and salvaging of the least feasible structures…not dumping them into landfills.

            “…moving people as they go…”

            I don’t know where people would be moved to. We have wiped out half the wild animals in the past 40 years. Should we eliminate more by moving people into what little of their habitat remains? …Unless you move people into existing industrial and office buildings that will have outlived their purpose. But then, if you tear them down, they won’t be there.

            “& population growth would have to have ended.”

            Yes. Having children like there was no tomorrow (which might actually be true) is absolutely nuts (IMO). There needs instead to be massive global adoption. A one-biological-child “policy” might be acceptable to many in the west (where it already is largely de facto.).

            “The sheer logistics of just trying to do that would be overwhelming.”

            The sheer logistics of trying to wriggle out of this box IS overwhelming. Don’t think I don’t know. It needs a whole lot more people to get involved.

          • Artleads says:

            I responded to this, but don’t see it now. One idea I didn’t include in my response was about those blankets of uniform roofs that cover many square miles. Imagine uniform ribbons of open passages scored through the blanket, allowing for some serious food growing. And fragile though they are, I can envisage gardens on roofs too (such as those frail flat roofs could bear). Such ideas are incremental and cursory in the big scheme of things. But when you put energy into small, partial solutions, bigger remedies have a way of coming along to help.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Thanks for the comprehensive statement of facts explaining that there is no way in hell cities will live on post collapse (it is absurd and laughable to think otherwise) —- which will be ignored.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Edo city had a population of 1.25 million. It was ‘sustainable’ in that it was supported by rural areas which grew food and timber and mined stone for building and those sorts of things. The country as a whole had a population of 30 or 35 million and did not import food or fuel.

        At the time Azby wrote his book, the population density of Japan in the Edo period was similar to the population density of the world. I imagine the world population at that time was probably about 6 billion. Of course, the Edo people were living a very much more efficient life style than the 6 billion. The population density of Edo City was higher than Tokyo is today.

        My point is that if one assumes that fossil fuels and metals are going away, then lots of details have to be taken care of. For example, see my response to Kulm on the issues of fires and water transportation. The cover of Toby’s book has houses packed densely together. But if the houses are wooden, they are are subject to fire. And we can’t count on big pumper trucks and ladder trucks, can we? So, perhaps looking at how Edo city dealt with fires might be worthwhile?

        Don Stewart

        • sheilach2 says:

          Edo had a population of 685,000 people in 1800 & was the worlds 4th largest city & Japan was overpopulated even back then, famine stalked Japan frequently. Many other cities had no population growth due to infanticide, mostly by killing baby girls & famine.
          Japan didn’t import anything because they were a closed society until Commodore Perry brought over warships & forced Japan to accept trade.
          Edo & Tokyo are the same city so it couldn’t have had more people than Tokyo, Edo became Tokyo after 1860.
          During WW2, we firebombed Tokyo because we knew their buildings were wooden, packed close together & would burn readily.
          Millions were burned to death in those terrible fires!

          I know the DENSITY of the worlds population was much lower than Edo Japan which was densely overpopulated in the mid 1800’s.

          The worlds population didn’t reach it’s first billion until the late 1800’s, we didn’t reach six billion until 1930, the third billion was accheived by 1960 & now we are over 7.3 BILLION humans!

          Edo may have been “sustainable” then but at a very high cost of many deaths due to starvation.
          I don’t think that’s how we want to achieve a stable population.

      • xabier says:

        We can perhaps put it like this: historically and in practice, cities and towns have mostly been effective (if stimulating!) death-traps, fed by constant influxes produced by rural over-population; but, theoretically they need not be and we can have fun imagining the perfect sustainable town.

        Experience of life shows what the distance between theory and practice generally is.

        All the forces of our civilization are tending towards the creation of mega-cities which are an affront to our ecosystem, unsustainable, and doomed. And we with them.

  15. Fast Eddy says:

    In the U.S., gross domestic product shrank at a 0.7 percent annualized rate, revised from a previously reported 0.2 percent gain, according to Commerce Department figures issued Friday in Washington.


    Can we have some more stimulus… please suh….

  16. Fast Eddy says:

    Brazil Retail Sales Drop Most On Record, Goldman Warns Will Get Worse

    Just a few months ago, we warned Brazil’s economy was on the verge of collapse as the fiscal situation was deteriorating rapidly. It appears, judging by the most recent data from the oil-rich nation, that we were right. Broad retail sales have now declined for five consecutive months with the seasonally adjusted broad retail sales index now at the same level as early 2012. Core retail sales declined 3.5% YoY during April (weakest print since Aug 2003) and broad retail sales declined by an even larger 8.5% YoY (lowest on record), and as Goldman warns, the outlook for private consumption and retail sales in the near term remains very weak.



    Brazil’s auto industry faces plummeting sales and widespread layoffs

    Plummeting auto sales in Brazil amid the country’s worst economic situation in a decade have battered the industry that makes up one-fourth of the country’s industrial gross domestic product and has led to widespread layoffs and mandatory leaves.

    At least 6,000 workers in auto factories have been laid off since January, officials say, and another 20,000 put on furlough. Those add to thousands of jobs lost last year.

    Additionally, Fenabrave, the association of auto dealers, said 250 of the country’s 8,000 dealerships have gone out of business this year, resulting in 12,000 lost jobs.


    • I presume that mostly this relates to the falling currency relative to the dollar. I don’t remember hearing about big layoffs in Brazil’s oil industry.

  17. Kulm says:

    Azby Brown’s Edo Japan is as real as Thomas Malory’s Camelot.

    Although Japan is an island, the rivers are located in inconvenient locations. In fact, the Tone River, which went right through Edo (which was nothing more than a swamp before the shoguns moved in), had to be diverted to the east to avoid flooding.

    Also navigating the coastal waters itself was not easy. It was not until 1671 that the ‘magnificent’ water transportation routes were completed, and the water routes were shut down quite often because of the frequent typhoons.

    That leads to another discussion worth talking about. The transportation routes were opened by a merchant-engineer named Kawamura Zuiken. Info about him is virtually nonexistent in English, and because he was not a samurai not too many records about him exist except for a few famous anecdotes.

    On January 1657, the great, literate, advanced city of Edo had a huge fire (The Great Fire of Meireki, which merited an article in english wiki as well). Long story short, about 60-70% of the city burnt down, and at least 100,000 people died overnight. It created a bigger destruction than the US bombing of Tokyo on 1945. (Even on 1945 many houses in Tokyo were built like what they had during the Edo era with minor modifications, and wood was the preferred building material).

    That Zuiken fellow judged that with the direction of the winds blowing the fire would become very huge, and quickly ran to a big forest area, about 200 miles away from Edo, and purchased an option to buy the woods when the smokes first shot up, and on the next day sold the option for a huge killing to builders who descended to that area to obtain all the material to replace the structures which were lost. (Yes they had something called options back then)

    After that great fire, reforms were made and building methods were changed to reduce the chance of fire, but still Edo suffered great fires which claimed the lives of thousands , once in every 15 years or so.

    I am sorry to say that Edo govt had more in common with North Korea than Camelot in reality.

    • Don Stewart says:


      Page 124
      Houses are built on the street, and back up to an empty square in the middle of the block which is supposed to be a refuge in case of fire. But it also serves as a social gathering place and for gardens.

      Page 133
      Brown’s line drawings of various fire protection devices and firefighting equipment.

      Page 149
      Description of the fireproofing which has developed in response to the ‘flowers of Edo’ (as the fires are called), which have burned more times than anyone cares to remember. ‘eventually merchants started having their entire shops built like fireproof jura. It’s the most expensive way to build, of course, and not everyone can afford it, but these chunky, massive-looking buildings line block after block of the merchants’ districts, their gleaming black plaster adding to their mystique and dignity.’

      Pages 155 to 163
      Detailed description of life and transportation on the waterfront in Edo. A statement that while Edo has the most complex waterfront, all the major coastal cities have similar infrastructure for transportation and trade. Description of how the bridges are built to allow passage underneath. Specialized water craft for various kinds of freight. Pleasure barges.

      ‘The activity along the riverbanks is both lively and complex. Boats can approach shops, storehouses, yards, restaurants, and inns directly from the innumerable landings, and there are quite a few houses, both ramshackle and handsome, built right on the river. Much of the construction is industrial in scale however, with a shipyard at the foot of the bridge and long rows of large, whitewashed warehouses on both banks. There are a few big lumberyards right on the river, as well as tile yards, stone yards, plaster yards, and businesses supporting every other aspect of the construction industry. At the same time, many people are obviously here just for diversion and relaxation, and for them a number of entertainment options are easily accessible.’

      Don Stewart

      • It seems like the stories of burning wooden homes, located close to each other, has been repeated countless times around the world. I know I heard the story when I visited Norway. Building wooden building next to each other has never been a good idea.

  18. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    This is one sentence from the article on the Magna Charta in today’s version of Resilience.org:

    ‘it took about 40 serfs to produce the food just for one horse of those barons and those knights.’

    We read frequently about the horse manure on the streets of New York around the turn of the 20th Century, the implication being that fossil fuels are ‘less polluting’. So, presumably, if we try to control carbon dioxide to stop global warming, then we will revert back to horse manure in the streets.

    Amy Goodman and her guest remind us that it’s not that simple. In order to have all those horses, we have to have lots of people working to produce the food for the horses.

    Which leads us back around to the consideration of Edo Japan. Azby Brown makes the point that most people walked everywhere they went. There were few horses or draft animals on the streets, so the streets were pretty clean. Edo facilitated the transportation of heavy goods with a very well developed system of water transport, both coastal and in rivers. Water transportation was once the bedrock of transportation in much of Europe and the eastern United States. Plantations in the southern United States were built on navigable rivers. The Erie Canal was briefly famous. Communities in the Blue Ridge Mountains sent one wagon per year down to the head of navigation on the Savannah River.

    IF Gail’s forecast of near-term collapse comes true, then there are many reasons to expect lots of deaths. One is that the United States has neglected or deliberately destroyed water transportation routes. There will be very few horses or other draft animals. So what we are left with is wagons pulled by humans. It may pay you to look carefully at the line drawings in Azby Brown’s book, and also at the drawings in F.H. King’s Farmers of Forty Centuries.

    Don Stewart

    • Artleads says:

      So we close down or neglect the water routes while moving to land transport, requiring more fossil fuel mining and burning for locomotion, removing vegetation to build the roads (that require more oil), thus lessening carbon sequestration. That’s what I’d call a vicious cycle, and it continues on from there…

      • edpell says:

        Politicians of the left and right want to spend on road maintenance. They view it as Keynesian jump starting the engine of the economy. What they fail to understand is that there is no engine, no idle skilled worked force, no idle capital stock in factories, no idle oil wells, etc. You can not jump start a non-existent engine.

        The infrastructure project proposed will not increase future productivity. They are just current consumption projects. This is worse than doing nothing.

    • Water transport is indeed mostly gone. Horses require a lot of feed, and growing a lot of feed takes a lot of land. I talked to one fellow who was trying to use horses for labor in Sweden or Finland–I forget which. His comment was that years ago, horses were much smaller, at least in the northern areas. That way it didn’t require as much feed. He was looking for smaller horses, so that the cost of feeding his horses would be more in proportion to what they could add for output for his farm.

      • Fast Eddy says:

        I would expect that large animals like horses will be the first to be shot and eaten when the grocery stores are emptied (permanently)

      • SimonJamesNZ says:

        Donkeys are a better bet than horses. They are much less fussy about what they eat, particularly given that modern horses tend to be somewhat pampered by comparison with days gone by. They are more efficient at converting a variety of fodder than horses; need much less acreage.
        Donkeys are also more versatile with respect to being able to haul wagons or carry loads than horses.
        Finally, they seem to be hardier generally – although there are lots of variables that go into the survival/thriving of an animal.
        Finally – Simply Simon and Simple Kiwi have now been subsumed under this, my latest and last blog name.

        • Stefeun says:

          I agree, horses are specialized, while donkey is somewhat universal.
          That’s probably why they’ve been accompanying so many humans for millenia, always with humility; see for example:

        • You are probably right. Donkeys are better than horses for most tasks. Horses are more impressive, though. I haven’t checked, but I expect they might be better for some big tasks–pulling chariots, for example.

          • Fast Eddy says:

            They’d run faster so if you tied one to a chariot you would have the upper hand in the war with the tribe using donkeys – technology wins again!

      • xabier says:

        Large draught and military horses seem to appear quite late in civilization. They were extremely expensive.

        Ancient breeds of horses were more like ponies: those of the Mongols, etc.

        The horse-men of British farms abandoned their horses for the early tractors quite rapidly in the 40’s and 50’s: less danger from kicks, and much shorter working hours.

        • richard says:

          “The horse-men of British farms abandoned their horses for the early tractors quite rapidly in the 40’s and 50’s: less danger from kicks, and much shorter working hours.”
          WWII. Mobilisation drained manpower and the government mandated consolidation of smaller farms into larger, by stripping out hedges and ditches to make the system more productive.

      • I’ve heard that 25% of the land in Norway was used as fodder for the horses.

        The horses used for farming before tractors were quite big, like “dølahest”:


        Our national horse fjording is not that large, but quite big too:


        Islandshest, or the Viking horse, is quite small though:


    • michael jones says:

      Well, the financial crisis is over, so why worry, be happy!
      Great ad, Fast Eddy….w are just piling it on HIGH and HIGHER!

    • Miguel says:

      hahaha car indusrty perfectly reflects all the issues related to our current economy and our consumer behaviour… I see the car indusrty as those big dinosaurs that died first after the mass extinction began.

    • xabier says:

      BAU is irrepresible: a loan salesman walked in off the street and offered the three partners in a very small business here £35,000 of unsecured personal loans, there and then.

      ‘Debt is Life!’ Is that their motto?

      • Fast Eddy says:

        Citibank continues to hound a friend of mine with unsolicited higher unsecured loan limits… absurd amounts now approaching USD1M… with interest rates approaching zirp…

        No rocks unturned as we try to keep hammy the hamster running….

  19. Fast Eddy says:

    GAP to close 1/4 of its shops in America: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/11677135/Gap-to-close-175-stores-in-turnaround-plan.html

    Deflationary pressures are building …. stock markets can go higher on printing but reality will eventually strike

  20. Jay M says:

    I think there is an underestimate of the improvisational skills that might keep an urban skyscraper (many of them) functional past liquid fuels shortages caused by financial collapse. Moving water up and down and providing heat seem much less complex than the MIC.

  21. Reblogged this on Energy post.

  22. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    Paul Chefurka has an interesting comment over at George Mobus website, wherein George gives up on education…Don Stewart
    ‘I’ve also made a decision to retire from my role as a “drum-beater of doom”

    I no longer need to find out anything more for myself. Even more than that, I no longer see any point in waking people up to the imminence of the death of everything they love. There seems to be little kindness in that act, just a sort of malignant, self-congratulatory schadenfreude.

    In any event, most personality types aren’t even wired to be able to hear the message – see http://physics.ucsd.edu/do-the-math/2015/04/programmed-to-ignore/

    Propelled by a recent burst of self-awareness, the obsessive Shadow energy that has been driving my numerical ruminations about inevitability has finally drained away. I intend to drop whatever communicator’s role I’ve had on these issues, and concentrate on immediate, personal needs instead.

    My recent realization came from reading deeper into Myers-Briggs psychological typologies. I discovered that the negative energy that has suffused my writing came my deep unconscious. I have actually been operating as a psychological type I am not – I misidentified myself as INTP rather than INFP for most of my life. As a result, I completely missed the fact that much of the energy of my thinking (the thermogenetic absolutism, the rejection of free will, the focus on ite inevitability of doom, etc.) was psychological in origin.

    Speaking of the Shadow and its Jungian archetypes, the image that came when I had the breakthrough was fascinating. I appeared to myself as an Aztec priest on top of a pyramid performing a sacrifice. My victim represented all of humanity, and the still-beating heart that I was holding up in front of their horrified dying eyes was labeled “Hope”…

    Here’s to more peaceful days!

    Posted by: Paul Chefurka’

    • tmsr says:

      It is interesting, a curiosity. Why ignore one of the major events of our time?

    • The higher education system has some serious deficiencies. I don’t think I would have thought about them, except seeing what kinds of papers pass “Peer review” and how long persistent errors flow through the system. Also, the many conferences, where each speaker talks for 20 minutes. My teaching experience was limited to a couple of years in graduate school. I didn’t mode lecturing and making up tests. I didn’t like grading homework or test at all.

      I haven’t been watching what Paul Chefurka has been writing lately. His writings were very doomerish, years ago. A person really has to have “numbers posts” to mix in with doomerish stuff.

    • Stefeun says:

      Also about the education system, here’s the conclusion of François Roddier’s last post:

      “While extinctions (of species) affect the transmission of genes, civilization collapses affect the transmission of culture. In our modern societies, this role is for the school. We should therefore expect a collapse of civilization is first manifested by the collapse of the school system, a topic I propose to address soon.”


      Sounds like a shortcut, but for sure there’s some truth in it. At least, if school is replaced by nothing but lolcats and selfies, besides hyper-specialized engineers, we’re not on a good trend. That undermines the social cohesion and increases the dependance of individuals (no longer groups or communities) to BAU, by reducing their skills and ability to survive in the “real world”.
      We’re already very advanced in this process, which I think will insure the amplitude and severity of the collapse, but not trigger it. Its release mechanism is more likely to be financial.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Stefeun
        After immersing myself in a couple of Systems Theory textbooks (Mobus and Kalton; Capra and Luisi), I have tentatively decided that understanding how systems work and how we might observe them and identify the leverage points is the most important education anyone needs. I don’t consider some subjects such as the spelling of English words to be very important. Mother Nature teaches us to walk and talk and stand up and breathe and so on. Many people, however, need some help in order to think in terms of systems. E.g., if I hit Johnny when I am angry, he may retaliate by hitting me with a brick. And on to questions which require more science to answer: ‘why don’t mature forests require fertilizers? And ‘Why did plowing seem to work wonders to the Europeans who encountered the chestnut forests of North America?’

        The authors of both textbooks display a humbling amount of knowledge and understanding. I imagine that it takes a whole lot of formal education plus much more study on their own to amass all that knowledge. But I don’t think ALL of us need to have all that education and study. We just need an efficient way to transmit what is known. I am not very confident that schools, as they presently operate, are efficient vectors of transmission. I think you can see the same frustration reflected in George Mobus’ recent post where he reveals he is going to quit the university.

        Don Stewart

        • Stefeun says:

          our narrow metrics have led us to consider the pupils’ brains as mere hard-disks, to be filled-up with unconnected data that will vanish right after the exam (but that doesn’t matter, if the student succeeded, everyone is happy).

          Learning how to learn (and enjoy it!) and increase one’s knowledge about how the world works is of no value in our increasingly robotic society.

      • I found this quote in the last post:

        “The evolution of the species homo sapiens has become largely cultural, man can adapt more quickly to changes in its environment. Any adaptation has limits. Civilization collapses have replaced species extinctions. Again, the physicist will say that this is the same process. What is known about any of these phenomena helps us understand each other.”

        I hadn’t thought about civilization collapses as being equivalent to species extinctions.

        Regarding collapse of the school system, I think this is happening already. Parents are home-schooling their children, because they are so unhappy with the way the current system works. I home-schooled my daughter for one year (eighth grade). We also used a private school part of the time (for the two boys), and moved once to change school districts. I think a large number of parents are aware of the problem with schools, and doing what they can to work around the problem.

    • RohGah says:

      “I intend to drop whatever communicator’s role I’ve had on these issues, and concentrate on immediate, personal needs instead.”

      Coke and hookers? 🙂 Sounds like its party time in BAU city for Mr Chefurka.

      “As a result, I completely missed the fact that much of the energy of my thinking (the thermogenetic absolutism, the rejection of free will, the focus on ite inevitability of doom, etc.) was psychological in origin.”

      Sure there is certainly a psychological element to the doomster make up. Personally I dont care to enlighten anyone about our eminent doom. Overpopulation, resource depletion and math are not a psychological element however. I am going to die someday. I can do nothing about it. Is acknowledging that or anything that is a bit unpleasant “rejection of free will”? Free will, if it exists, has very little to do with the piano that has been dropped above you ten floors up.

      I have a friend who is a fellow doomster. She is “concerned about her daughter” because her daughter wants ipods and clothes an all the things of the BAU world. Oh well. I advised her let her daughter go that way. Her choice. After all although I am sure that its coming here is the thing.

      I could be wrong.
      Gail could be wrong.
      Every doomster on the planet could be wrong.

      Ive got the right to be a doomster. Others have the right to not be doomsters. Different strokes for different folks..
      In that aspect I am with you 100% Mr Chefurka
      My guess is he hooked up with a hotty that doesnt like all this doom talk. Maybe his therapist. 🙂

  23. Kulm says:

    The 1965 Akira Kurosawa Movie “Red Beard” is recommended for how a ‘sustainable world’ will look like after, or if, BAU falls.

    The central character, Red Beard (Akahige which means Red Beard), is a traditional Japanese-style doctor who is based upon an actual figure who lived around 1730. The narrator is a western-trained doctor who ends up in the free clinic, which is maintained by the city of Edo but for all practical purposes is a private charity run by Red Beard who has to somehow provide the funds himself to maintain it.

    Kurosawa changed the setting to around 1830, during the era of the Tenpo famine. That was when cracks were beginning to appear to the wonderful Edo system with ‘literate’ and ‘happy’ city dwellers who supposedly enjoyed a better lifestyle than their equivalents in Paris , London or New York.

    Red Beard and the western-trained doctor treat the slum-dwellers of Edo as best as they can with limited funds and resources. Red Beard has to resort to violence sometimes to keep the hoodlums out; not allowed to own weapons, of course, both Red Beard and the hoodlums have to resort for fistfights.

    It is a feel-good movie and the film does end in a positive mood, but with the fall of the shogunate just around the corner the viewers know this is just the end of a beginning.

    I would trust the opinion of those who actually lived thru it (the director and all the staff all lived thru the repressive military rule till 1945) , and the ones who could decipher the often cryptic style of contemporary writings (Edo was a very repressive society so when people wrote about bad things done by the govt, etc they did it in a very subtle and indirect way, not easily decoded for those who do not know what words to look for – even Chusingura, Japan’s most famous story, was deliberately set as something which happened hundreds of years ago when it was dramatized – people who do not have an advance knowledge of the story will never catch the reason why it was done) ,

    over someone who probably cannot read classical Japanese, has very little interaction with Japanese who do not speak English, never lived a day in his life with scarcity and will never understand how it actually feels to live in a low-resource, high-control society.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      Oh come now ….. the fact that living in Edo was like living under a Taliban/North Korean police state doesn’t matter… nor does it not matter that like all other similar civilizations Edo eventually collapsed…

      And that the reason for the police state was because the peasants were frequently revolting…

      I guess they just were not aware of how awesome their paradise was!!!


      • edpell says:

        The number of people was controlled by killing anyone who tried to take resources that were not their property. It is a simple system and it works. We now have the technology to sterilize people after two children so fewer starving third children.

        • Fast Eddy says:

          As we see — when the facts are too disturbing — or they wreck the koombaya narrative — they are ignored.

          Let’s repost this again: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criminal_punishment_in_Edo-period_Japan

          Serious crimes such as murder and arson were punished by death.

          The shogunate maintained execution grounds for Edo at Kozukappara, Suzugamori, and Itabashi. Kozukappara, also known as Kotsukappara or Kozukahara, is currently located near the southwest exit of Tokyo’s Minami-Senju Station. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people were executed here.

          Only part of the site remains, located next to Emmeiji temple, partly buried under the rail tracks and under a more-recent burial ground. Archaeological and morphological research was done by Tokyo University on the skulls found buried here which confirmed the execution methods. Another notable one was located at Suzugamori in Shinagawa. Both sites are still sparsely commemorated in situ with memorial plaques and tombstones.

          The shogunate executed criminals in various ways:

          Crucifixion for killing a parent, husband etc.
          Decapitation by sword
          Waist-cutting (cutting the person in half). The Kanazawa han coupled this with decapitation.

          The death penalty often carried collateral punishments. One was parading the criminal around town prior to execution. A similar one was public display of the criminal prior to execution. A third was public display of the severed head.

          So one would assume that opposing the PTB would be considered a serious crime. So Ed Snowden would be boiled alive… or sawn in half.

          • koombrute says:

            “As we see — when the facts are too disturbing — or they wreck the koombaya narrative — they are ignored.”

            Messing with Edo. Now youve done it. Have you no shame? 🙂

            One thing does occur to me. FE as I understand your viewpoint you regard the natural world as a brutal place. When a society adopts some measure of brutality would not this be a legitimate adoption of the natural world? You point to the brutality of the Edo period. You deride the Kumbyah crowd. Does not the proliferation of both these viewpoints demonstrate inconsistency?
            Yes our species has huge failings. It is possible nay probable that these failings will be our legend.

            I feel our species has a responsibility to try to find balance with the natural world. This obviously will entail a lot of suffering. Where would you place me brutal authoritarian or drum beater? 🙂

            Yes by modern standards Edo was brutal. Dont you see FE? THEY WERE ONE OF THE BEST EXAMPLES OF IN BALANCE WE HAVE. Does this mean nothing to you?

            • Fast Eddy says:

              Yes of course — the leaders of Edo were doing what humans generally do — we are only ‘good’ when resources are plentiful — i.e. when a society has pillaged other societies of their resources in the zero sum game — that is why western nations are more civilized … because we have won the game…

              Edo seems to have had few resources — hence the brutal dictatorship that boiled people alive.

              I take no issue with that — what I do take issue with is that Don and others are pointing to this as some sort of wonder land… a land where the Waltons/Little House on the Prairie meet Japan…

              Whereas I see it as Taliban comes to town…a world of hardship and misery where the moment you speak out your head comes off.

              I also take issue with that fact that if one were to do a bit of research one could come up with dozens of Edo’s throughout history —- and the fact is they are not koombaya lands — they never last…. because they can never last…. they eventually get trampled… or they destroy themselves….

              That is what we do — we must devour our host — we must have more —that is in our DNA.

              Here’s a little more on Fast’s take on the world:

              – The luckiest, fittest, smartest, with the capability for ruthlessness survive – always have – always will

              – Resources are finite and therefore ownership is a zero sum game

              – The strong always take from the weak – if they do not then that is a sign of weakness and a competitor will take from the weak and will usurp the formerly strong dropping them into weakling status

              – Humans tend to group by clan or on a broader basis by nationality (strength in numbers bonded by culture) and they compete with others for resources

              – Competition has always existed (I want it all!) but it becomes fiercer when resources are not sufficient to support competing clans or nations

              – Tribal societies understand these dynamics because they cannot go to the grocery store for their food – so they are intimately aware of the daily battle to feed themselves and the competition for scare land and resources

              – Modern affluent societies do not recognize this dynamic because for them resources are not scarce – they have more than enough.

              – One of the main reasons that resources are not scarce in affluent societies is because they won the battle of the fittest (I would argue that luck is the precursor to all other advantages – affluent societies did not get that way because they started out smarter — rather they were lucky – and they parlayed that luck into advances in technology… including better war machines)

              – As we have observed throughout history the strong always trample the weak. Always. History has always been a battle to take more in the zero sum game. The goal is to take all if possible (if you end up in the gutter eating grass the response has been – better you than me – because I know you’d do the same to me)

              – And history demonstrates that the weak – given the opportunity – would turn the tables on the strong in a heartbeat. If they could they would beat the strong into submission and leave them bleeding in the streets and starving. As we see empire after empire after empire gets overthrown and a new power takes over. Was the US happy to share with Russia and vice versa? What about France and England? Nope. They wanted it all.

              – Many of us (including me) in the cushy western world appear not to understand what a villager in Somalia does – that our cushy lives are only possible because our leaders have recognized that the world is not a fair place — Koombaya Syndrome has no place in this world — Koombaya will get you a bullet in the back — or a one way trip to the slum.

              – Religious movements have attempted to change the course of human nature — telling us to share and get along — they have failed 100% – as expected. By rights we should be living in communes — Jesus was a communist was he not? We all know that this would never work. Because we want more. We want it all.

              – But in spite of our hypocrisy, we still have this mythical belief that mankind is capable of good – that we make mistakes along the way (a few genocides here, a few there… in order to steal the resources of an entire content so we can live the lives we live) — ultimately we believe we are flawed but decent. We are not. Absolutely not.

              – But our leaders — who see through this matrix of bullshit — realize that our cushy lives are based on us getting as much of the zero sum game as possible. That if they gave in to this wishy washy Koombaya BS we would all be living like Somalians.

              – Of course they cannot tell us what I am explaining here — that we must act ruthlessly because if we don’t someone else will — and that will be the end of our cushy lives. Because we are ‘moral’ — we believe we are decent – that if we could all get along and share and sing Koombaya the world would be wonderful. We do not accept their evil premises.

              – So they must lie to us. They must use propaganda to get us onside when they commit their acts of ruthlessness.

              – They cannot say: we are going to invade Iraq to ensure their oil is available so as to keep BAU operating (BAU which is our platform for global domination). The masses would rise against that making things difficult for the PTB who are only trying their best to ensure the hypocrites have their cushy lives and 3 buck gas (and of course so that the PTB continue to be able to afford their caviar and champagne) …. Because they know if the hypocrites had to pay more or took at lifestyle hit – they’d be seriously pissed off (and nobody wants to be a Somalian)

              – Which raises the question — are we fools for attacking the PTB when they attempt to throw out Putin and put in a stooge who will be willing to screw the Russian people so that we can continue to live large? When we know full well that Putin would do the same to us — and if not him someone more ruthless would come along and we’d be Somalians.

              – Should we be protesting and making it more difficult for our leaders to make sure we get to continue to lead our cushy lives? Or should we be following the example of the Spartans https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eZeYVIWz99I

              – In a nutshell are our interests as part of the western culture not completely in line with those of our leaders – i.e. if they fail we fail – if they succeed we succeed.

              – Lee Kuan Yew is famous for saying ‘yes I will eat very well but if I do so will you’ Why bite the hand that whips the weak to make sure you eat well…. If you bite it too hard it cannot whip the weak — making you the weak — meaning you get to feel the whip….

              – Nation… clan … individual…. The zero sum game plays out amongst nations first … but as resources become more scarce the battle comes closer to home with clans battling for what remains…. Eventually it is brother against brother ….

              – As the PTB run out of outsiders to whip and rob…. They turn on their own…. As we are seeing they have no problem with destroying the middle class because it means more for them… and when the weak rise against them they have no problem at all deploying the violent tactics that they have used against the weak across the world who have attempted to resist them

              – Eventually of course they will turn against each other…. Henry Kissinger and Maddy Albright bashing each other over the head with hammers fighting over a can of spam – how precious!

            • koombrute says:

              Well fast I agree with you. I find your take to be mostly accurate. I sometimes take issue with your dichotomies. Strong vs weak. Cush vs Somalia. When I travelled I found some of the poorest people to be the happiest. Insanely poor people barely enough rice to get by living in the poorest conditions- insanely happy. Have you not encountered this? Brutality is not about humans. A doe has three fawns. There is only milk for two. One must die. That does not detract from their beauty. Natural order is “brutal”. People who live in Somalia can be happy Probably happier than you or me

              There is beauty. Does not all your description of zero sum strife pale in the face of a fawn , a summer storm smell, the look of a child? Our time is short. I appreciate you sharing your take with me. If you would indulge me here is koombrute’s take.

              Beauty exists.
              Then it does not
              but then it exists again

              If a samurais sword was to take my life, I would hope I could find beauty in the moment.

              Appreciation of beauty.
              or not
              our choice

            • Fast Eddy says:

              I have been to some of the poorest most violent places on the planet — to name a few…

              – Cairo riots (right in the middle of them…nearly got my head caved in by a stone…)
              – Bahrain riots (close enough to smell the tear gas)
              – slums of Manila, Jakarta, India, Ethiopia etc…
              – Haiti a few months after the quake

              But I think the best example that I can point to is a trek I did in Irian Jaya — I specifically told the guide that we wanted to go where nobody else goes… (be careful what you wish for…) — up 3000m into freezing cold… down into steaming swamps… over and over and over 10 days in… one of the other two guys on the trip did a knee in and had to be carried two days to a place where a light aircraft could get him out….

              In short… I can understand why the furthest village we went to sees no trekkers in most years.

              When we arrived at this small village it was a shocker…. there was piss a shit and mud and rain and misery everywhere – we had to drop our tent in this slop (kinda like Kurtz camp in Apocalypse Now – only no heads on stakes) …. the children did not greet us — they did not smile — the stared at us forlornly …

              We peered into a straw hut where some adults were gathered around a fire trying to keep warm (they didn’t have Northface jackets or energy efficient fire places) — you could barely see them for the smoke.. the people were all under 5ft tall no doubt due to nutritional deficiencies…
              There was no joy in that hut….

              The other places I reference are plugged into BAU still — they have electricity — they get aid — they have petrol – hospitals etc…

              The places you mention where the poor put on smiling faces are plugged into BAU

              The village in Irian Jaya was pretty much on it’s own — I did not see anything from BAU — not even a plastic bottle….

              Basically they were enduring — struggling — barely staying alive – suffering.

              If anyone makes it through the nightmare that is coming I believe this is what they can expect.

              We take so much for granted — we assume we will always have at least some of the comforts we now have.

              But ask yourself: where will you get a toothbrush — what about a pair of shoes — or a shirt — or nail clippers — or a pen — a piece of paper … how will you wash your clothes — cut down a tree for firewood…. a water bottle…. and on and on…

              If it were all so easy then why did the people in Irian not have any of this? That is what being unplugged from BAU means.

              Actually these villagers situation is much better than what is coming post nightmare:

              1. They grow food (their land is not ruined from industrial farming)
              2. They know how to live without BAU (physically and psychologically)
              3. They are remote so less likely to be attacked and pillaged

              “Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of Warre, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them withall. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continuall feare, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poore, nasty, brutish, and short.”

            • Your story is a worrisome one. We forget how different our life is from what can happen. Hopefully, not all situations are as bad as this. A person starts understanding why groups adopted customs such as infanticide, to keep population down to the carrying level.

            • Kulm says:

              And the leaders were the very first to adopt other customs when it was good for them. I already posted the photo of Yoshinobu, the last shogun, who was really quick to don a French uniform when it suited him.

  24. Michael Jones says:

    Another small “Bubble” about to burst

    France’s Hollande Urges Greece Back to Negotiating Table
    Two sides have failed to bridge major differences on a set of reforms Greece has to undertake in exchange for desperately needed financial aid, with the creditors pushing for more pension cuts and labor reforms.
    …elgian Finance Minister Johan Van Overtveldt struck a hard line, saying there is no alternative to austerity.

    “There is no free lunch being part of the eurozone…it requires discipline, otherwise there will be moral hazard,” said Mr. Van Overtveldt at a conference on Greece.’

    He forgot to mention that a chosen few are except to the moral hazard and no free lunch rule

  25. “Fifty-States Plan Charts a Path Away from Fossil Fuels

    “Is there a realistic roadmap to 100% renewables?”

    And these are people from places like Stanford, or MIT.

    • I have run into this issue myself. My daughter has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Gail
        Regarding creative writing. I think that the ability to communicate creative concepts is very important now and will continue to be so in the future.

        However, let me review some specifics, which I think are important. Turner Classic Movies has for many years offered ‘The Essentials’, movies which it is deemed every literate English speaker should be familiar with. They feature a discussion between Robert Osborne, who has been with the channel since its inception, and a second person who stays for a year or two. Right now, that second person is Sally Field. Sally went to high school in Pasadena, CA and watched a lot of movies with her mother. After high school, she got into acting and then studied with Lee Strasburg for a while in New York. This sort of ‘on the job training’ has, I perceive, given her some amazing insights into how effective stories are told.

        This past Saturday, the Essential was Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen back in the late 1960s. Sally spoke very highly of the photographer, whose name is William Fraker. As part of the conversation with Robert Osborne, Sally noted how much of the story involved McQueen acting with his eyes and doing little or nothing physically, which she described as ‘very hard to do’. The channel helpfully supplied us with a rapid series of shots of McQueens eyes. Sally commented, ‘when we see him looking intently at something we can’t see, we have a burning desire to see what he sees and know what he knows.’ So the powerful story telling involves a film school educated photographer who is sharp enough to move the camera close to McQueen so that we get a close-up of the eyes but can’t see the whole picture, and an acting school educated man from reform school who can communicate with a do-nothing body and mysteriously powerful eyes. The sharp interpretive eye comes to us from a Pasadena high school girl who admired Irene Dunne and also studied at acting school. This sort of educational path combines work with theory and fast feedback. I took my granddaughter to the Savannah College of Art for a tour, and saw some similar types of education about a year ago. It’s similar to an apprenticeship. The SCA quotes some pretty impressive statistics in terms of students who have made good very quickly after graduation.

        My conclusion is that much can be learned by careful attention and by apprenticeship type experiences. These don’t have to involve a whole lot of debt.

        Don Stewart

        • xabier says:

          The modern hyper-inflation of education costs and bureaucracy of course suits many people and interest groups, not least government, unions and financiers, but the ‘apprenticeship-type’ method is indeed very cheap – not least because apprentices were once almost slave labour. But there was more to it than that,

          At the heart of craft apprenticeship lay Observation: the craftsman who taught me said that although his apprenticeship lasted 7 years from the age of 14, for no less than 4 of those years he just swept the floors, made the workshop fire (to heat tools), dusted the equipment, ran errands to suppliers, cycled to libraries with finished work,and carried piles of paper and books hither and thither, and never made anything.

          But all that time he was watching, and listening, to accomplished craftsmen at work.

          As he said to me, during the first lessons, smiling and almost mockingly: ‘Have you got your little note-book? Good, as long as you are watching, too.’ Very soon the note-book was discarded to rely on observation and memory.

          Reading about life in a traditional farming village and small town in Northern England before WW1, it is clear that the local youngsters learnt about everything from just growing up there and watching the craftsmen and labourers at work, – the blacksmith, the hedge layer, the ploughman, the saw-men, the mill and wheel-wrights, – even if they didn’t do the task themselves. Even the children of tradesmen (the author) had that chance.

          Of course, nothing for the education loan-sharks or bureaucrats in such a system.

          • Artleads says:

            Great points. Thanks!

          • Actuarial training is closer to an apprenticeship program than it is to a college program. A candidate has to work for an insurance company or other suitable employer. He or she gets a list of articles/books to read, and signs up for exams in May or November (even numbered exams are one month, odd exams the other). Candidates at the same company may choose to study together. In recent years, there are commercial review courses a person can take to “cram” for a week, some time not too far from a course. But there aren’t required courses to take, other than today I think people have to sign up for a “professionalism” course at the end. Certainly, no one is required to write academic papers. When studies are done and presented at a conference, actuaries generally don’t expect that they rely on old studies. Instead, they rely on the data at hand.

            • Daddio7 says:

              We need a new term for directed, non-monetary compensated labor. Slavery means non stop beatings and raping. Being a servant is almost as demeaning just with less beatings and raping. Individuals are not allowed to just feed and house someone in exchange for work. The government will take taxpayers money to feed and house people but no work is required because, slavery. Birth control can not be forced on people because, genocide.
              The outcome of all this will be most interesting to watch until the power goes out.

        • My daughter’s current interest is in doing physical therapy or occupational therapy. Those do require a lot of coursework.

          She started out working for a Fitness Center on a management track, selling memberships. She didn’t like that–60 hours a week, and not very good pay, because it was 2009 and the fitness center wasn’t very successful at selling memberships. She figured out enough to become a personal trainer–took a course or two, and did some apprenticeship type work with other trainers at the fitness center. She has been doing that for a few years. Now she would like a job to do something similar, but with more sensible hours and some more training.

    • I suppose the theory might be that everyone else would die in the one year (or however long) the bunker might last. Then, in the current scenario, the only task would be to rebuild, perhaps in a hunter-gatherer lifestyle, or with whatever more elaborate lifestyle could be put together without any planning.

  26. Fast Eddy says:

    Not sure if my original post on this made live so reposting:


    Death penalty

    Serious crimes such as murder and arson were punished by death. The shogunate maintained execution grounds for Edo at Kozukappara, Suzugamori, and Itabashi. Kozukappara, also known as Kotsukappara or Kozukahara, is currently located near the southwest exit of Tokyo’s Minami-Senju Station. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 people were executed here. Only part of the site remains, located next to Emmeiji temple, partly buried under the rail tracks and under a more-recent burial ground. Archaeological and morphological research was done by Tokyo University on the skulls found buried here which confirmed the execution methods. Another notable one was located at Suzugamori in Shinagawa. Both sites are still sparsely commemorated in situ with memorial plaques and tombstones.

    The shogunate executed criminals in various ways:

    Crucifixion for killing a parent, husband etc.
    Decapitation by sword
    Waist-cutting (cutting the person in half). The Kanazawa han coupled this with decapitation.

    The death penalty often carried collateral punishments. One was parading the criminal around town prior to execution. A similar one was public display of the criminal prior to execution. A third was public display of the severed head.

    Samurai were often sentenced to commit seppuku in lieu of these forms of punishment. Seppuku is a term of suicide for the samurai.

    Corporal punishment

    Handcuffing allowed the government to punish a criminal while he was under house arrest. Depending on the severity of the crime, the sentence might last 30, 50, or 100 days.

    Flagellation was a common penalty for crimes such as theft and fighting. Amputation of the nose or ears replaced flogging as penalty early in the Edo period. The 8th Shogun of Edo, Tokugawa Yoshimune introduced judicial Flogging Penalty, or tataki, in 1720. A convicted criminal could be sentenced to a maximum of 100 lashes. Samurai and priests were exempt from flogging, and the penalty was applied only to commoners. The convict was stripped of all outer clothing and struck about the buttocks and back. The flogging penalty was used until 1867, though it fell out of favor from 1747 to 1795 intermittently. Both men and women could be sentenced to a flogging, though during one segment of the mid-Edo period, women were imprisoned rather than flogged.[2]
    Origin of flogging penalty

    In 757 A.D., the Chinese-influenced Yoro Ritsuryo (養老律令) legal system was enacted and introduced Five Judicial Penalties (五刑). Two of the Five Judicial Penalties involved Flogging. Light Flogging provided for 10 to 50 lashes, while Heavy Flogging stipulated 60 to 100 strokes. However, a slave could be sentenced to up a maximum of 200 lashes. These flogging penalties only applied to male commoners. Convicts of the nobility, along with female commoners, might be sentenced to the imposition of handcuffs or a fine. When a convicted criminal was flogged, half the number of lashes were typically applied to the back, half to the buttocks. At times, if the convict’s request to change the lash target was sanctioned then the lashes would be applied only to the back or to the buttocks. By the Age of Warring States, flogging had been largely replaced by decapitation.[3]

    • Michael Jones says:

      Sounds like modern day Saudi Arabia, or Iraq, or Iran.
      Just like the good old days.
      Hey, Saddam Hussein killed his “own” people, the Kurds…ops.
      Rather he killed a rebellious ethnic group that caused trouble

  27. Fast Eddy says:

    Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch

    Keep in mind he tried this with BAU intact….

  28. Kulm says:

    For all these edo discussions, if Edo were that wonderful,

    why these folks were so quick to adopt BAU lifestyles?

    Yoshinobu was the last shogun, the guy who benefited the most from the wonderful Edo system. He dresses like a Napoleonic officer, complete with the hat.

    It is not known when the photo was taken, but since the shogun was not allowed military attire after the shogunate fell, it was probably when he still had power.


    a bunch of people who lived around 1860 – 70 when the shogunate fell. (Some images are not from these era but they should be easily identifiable)

    And, the very fact that all of these folks were so eager to be photographed (BAU tech) by the foreigners after 200+ years of closure against the west and teaching them as devils shows how appetizing BAU was, and how unattractive the Edo system actually was as well.

    • Michael Jones says:

      Hope you live long and endure in the neo-endo community you envision, Klum.
      Let us all know where you are thinking to set up such a village.

    • Jan Steinman says:

      why these folks were so quick to adopt BAU lifestyles?

      Kulm and Don are talking past each other.

      Don is saying this historic case is an example of a population that pulled back from the brink of starvation and disease to form a sustainable society. He is not saying it was without care or trouble. He is not saying people would find it preferable to living high on the fossil-sunlight hog.

      Kulm is saying that people don’t want that sort of life style. He is not saying that it is not possible.

      Can we agree that, despite some problems, something kept Japan out of famine for a couple hundred years? Can we agree that there are aspects of such that modern day people would find objectionable?

      If not, then I think this particular conversation is over. It’s to the point where everyone keeps repeating the same thing.

      My personal view is that there is much to learn from the Edo example, particularly the social engineering aspect that made sustainable practices the overriding ethic.

      • Kulm says:

        Draconian rule, no place to escape, availability to increase food supply significantly during a crisis thru potatoes (western import), and no religious toleration did the trick. Plus a fairly homogeneous population (the ainus in the north were virtually exterminated and Okinawans were not allowed in the mainland).

        Not doable in most parts of the world nowdays.

  29. Don Stewart says:

    Jan Steinman

    The Leonard Cohen song Everybody Knows seems to me astonishingly close to Tad Patzek’s blog from Saudi Arabia. He wrote two entries. He talks about the very hard circumstances he has seen in the middle east…and calls any complacent people in Europe or the US ‘bubble people’.


    I didn’t know they would let you write this kind of stuff in Saudi. I’m pretty sure you can’t write it in Austin.

    ‘Our bubble is bursting now. And, no, there is no such thing as a slow and gentle tearing of a bubble. There is a firm mathematical theory for the speed of the burst once it starts. The game today is to hide away all recognizable needles that might prick our bubble and pretend that the bubble cannot be popped. But what about the needles we and our government watchers have missed?’

    Don Stewart

    • Fast Eddy says:

      100% on the money. When the bubble pops everything unravels very quickly. Just as it did in 2008…. but this time we are out of ammo…

      One day there will be electricity and food — and within a week or so there won’t be.

    • VPK says:

      Donald very good article link that describe the very nature of the dynamics at work in the context of collapse. I recommend reading it o others here. Thank you

    • Tad Patzek’s blog post http://patzek-lifeitself.blogspot.com/2015_05_03_archive.html has a great analogy in it, regarding how foams collapse, and how this is similar to the way the world economy is collapsing. This is part of his post:

      Almost all foam bubbles collapse because of a universal phenomenon, called “Ostwald ripening,” (a 30s movie) and water being drained by gravity from the bubble walls. In short, the smallest bubbles disappear and transfer their gas to the larger bubbles, while the bubble walls are getting ever thinner. This process goes on until very few very large bubbles remain, or the entire foam catastrophically collapses, which is more likely. You can look for a few seconds at a foam in your beer or champagne glass to see what I mean. Some foams can be made rigid and long-lasting with an appropriate surfactant or polymer that prevents or slows down gas inside each bubble from crossing the bubble walls.

      Let’s translate this understanding of bulk foams at rest into the stationary society foams made of people with different amounts of resources. The small bubbles in this model are the poor people, the intermediate size bubbles are the middle class, the larger bubbles are the rich, and the few largest bubbles are the super-rich. Each class of bubbles has a bubble size distribution. In other words, different people in each bubble category have different amounts of resources. The polymer on the bubble walls that slows down or prevents foam collapse is the pristine environment, plentiful resources, good education for all, a stable happy society, good labor laws, health insurance for everyone, good governance, etc.

      Now let’s globalize these social foams, that is let’s remove most of the polymers and put all foams into a single huge container, so all foams (countries) can contact each other directly. Ostwald ripening will then happen everywhere, and only the super rich will remain with almost all of the global resources, or the world will go down in flames. The U.N. today is one of the few global institutions trying to inject some polymer here and there, but their resources are woefully inadequate, because we, the Bubble People, don’t care. We eat organic food, fly to meetings, go to concerts, and think that nothing can ever happen to us.

  30. Fast Eddy says:

    If savers in Portuguese banks start moving their money to Germany, the ECB will recycle these euros back to Portugal through interbank deposits. Again, there is no limit to how much money the ECB can recycle, provided Portuguese banks remain solvent – which they will, so long as the ECB continues to buy Portuguese government bonds.

    Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/greek-default-political-suicide-by-anatole-kaletsky-2015-06#UpZwziG9JFrL1OZR.99

    No limit… perpetual economic motion machine….

    • You are right. It seems like the goal of zero interest rates is create a perpetual motion debt machine to try to overcome diminishing returns.

  31. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    See Albert Bates blog:

    Mostly about climate change and the perfidy of our ‘leaders’, but also look at the cartoon about halfway down labeled ‘America, 2018’.

    Don Stewart

    • sheilach2 says:

      This is the post I left at “the great change” blogger.

      So folks still believe that we can go on with BAU using high technology “renewable” energy? I don’t think so.

      I would like to challenge someone, anyone, to build just ONE high technology renewable energy device from start to finish.
      They would have to be able to mine, refine, smelt, manufacture, assemble, transport etc all they require to build such a device without using ANY fossil resources.

      My bet is that they cannot do it, so called “renewable” “green” energy generators cannot be built without having to use fossil resources because those devices cannot produce enough energy to replace themselves, they are also totally dependent upon not just fossil resources but a high energy, high technology civilization with reliable electricity 24/7.

      Another problem is that these devices require raw materials made from OIL like plastics, some raw materials like iron ore requirer a massive amount of energy to transform into steel, renewables are low energy devices of low density, you can’t smelt steel or even melt glass with solar cells or wind turbines.
      I forgot to add that a solar array that concentrates sunlight onto a target can melt that target so in theory, it could also smelt steel, when the sun is at it’s max but the sun is likely not up long enough to actually melt steel.

      Yet another problem is we will have to use massive amounts of fossil fuels just to manufacture these devices adding even more C02 into the atmosphere which is exactly what we DON’T want to do!

      So who will be the first to step up to the plate & produce a green, renewable electric generator without using ANY FOSSIL RESOURCES?

    • I really liked the “Development” cartoon above the “America 2018” cartoon, also. You need to open it in a new window to see it very well.

  32. Don Stewart says:

    Regarding a farm and the production of clothing. Suggest you read Azby Brown’s short essay on the principles of Japanese design:

    Few excerpts relating to fiber production and the use of draft animals:

    ‘But the same attitude led to the development of rice paddy irrigation systems, which were almost entirely gravity-fed, acted as cascading filters for the water supply, and could function as solar-heated warm-water tanks for processing hemp and other plant-based textile fibers. The system allowed the paddies themselves to function as wetland habitat for many species in addition to growing food. ‘

    ‘The urban water system was also gravity-fed, and transportation and agriculture were progressively refined to largely eliminate the need for draft animals, accommodating themselves to an economy that prioritized the use of arable land for food production for people as opposed to livestock. The near total absence of meat-eating reinforced this efficiency of land use, while a highly developed water transportation system both in the cities and along the coasts largely eliminated the need to move large loads overland with the aid of animals. Compared with their European or North American contemporaries, Japanese city streets were free of animal manure and therefore healthier and arguably more pleasant for the inhabitants. In these and other ways, shifting to less polluting energy sources helped solve a number of problems at once.’

    Back to me. You will see the same principles used by the best contemporary permaculture and other likeminded designers.

    Don Stewart

    • tagio says:

      thanks, I’ll check it out.

    • Unfortunately, efficiency of design only works for a while, unless the people in charge can really keep population down.

      Another potential problem area is irrigation. Many irrigation systems lead to salt deposits in the soil, and lower long-term long term fertility. If the irrigation system was simply diverted water flow from rivers or water caught and stored in rain barrels, as opposed to pumping water from the water table, it seems like it might have “worked” with respect to avoiding salinity problems.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear Gail

        You say ‘Unfortunately, efficiency of design only works for a while, unless the people in charge can really keep population down.’

        I would prefer that an explanation which involves several elements is offered.

        First, complexity emerges out of stability, frequently at times of crisis. Lenton and Watson, page 211: ‘Complex life appeared in a time of great turbulence for the planet as a whole that included changing oxygen levels and extreme ice ages’.

        Second, more generally, Capra and Luisi, page 159: ‘ Prigogine’s detailed analysis of the dynamic process of emergence shows that, while dissipative structures receive their energy from outside, the instabilities and jumps to new forms of organization are the result of fluctuations amplified by positive feedback loops. Thus, amplifying ‘runaway’ feedback, which had been regarded as destructive in cybernetics, appears as a source of new order and complexity in the theory of dissipative structures. In fact, both types of feedback play important roles in the self-organization of dynamic systems. Self-balancing (negative) feedback loops maintain the system in a stable but continually fluctuating state, whereas self-amplifying (positive) feedback loops may lead to new emergent structures…In the living world, order and disorder are always created simultaneously.’

        My comments. Capra and Luisi talk in terms of added energy, because that has been the history of Earth and human societies for billions of years. However, it seems to me that withdrawing energy may also have similar consequences. If we lose fossil fuels and metals, then the system becomes unstable and many things disappear. But we may not go back to one of the early stages laid out by Lenton and Watson. Some groups of people who survive the inevitable turmoil may formulate societies which continue to operate far from equilibrium. If these groups are in fact successful, then my guess is that they will have applied many of the design principles that Azby Brown lays out in his essay, which he abstracted from the concrete ways that Edo Japan built structures and behaved socially. That doesn’t mean that Edo was somehow ‘perfect’ by any means, but it does imply that anyone who hopes to survive should get a pretty good acquaintance with the design principles Brown articulates. If they are looking for concrete examples of how to build a farmhouse in a solar world with very few metals, I think Brown does a good job explaining a set of methods which worked well in Japan (not necessarily in the tropics or the Arctic).

        How quickly population control may be required in the ‘new society’ is speculative. If 95 percent of the people alive today die in the turmoil, then perhaps not for a long time.

        Don Stewart

        • Artleads says:

          “If 95 percent of the people alive today die in the turmoil, then perhaps not for a long time.”

          The foam analogy seems OTOH to argue for MORE population–e.g., immigration–to work again the degeneration of the foam?

        • It would be good for those attempting to design a new system to have some ideas of what did/didn’t work in the past. We can only speculate on how long a society would have to wait until population pressures started to become a problem. It seems like collapse is often to far below carrying capacity.

  33. kesar0 says:

    For the PV fans: WSJ – High-Tech Solar Projects Fail to Deliver

    What is even more frightening is the recent rejection of Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreements.
    In my opinion the West has two choices: increase complexity and trade by such moves or start preparing for opposite direction, which means further tensions and possibly a war.

    • Of course, there is the other side of the problem of increasing trade, which is putting further downward pressure on the wages of the non-elite workers. I think this is what people are upset about. It is a different version of what brings the system down, besides further tensions and war. Our system is not very sustainable, no matter which choice is made.

      • kesar0 says:

        I think this is what people are upset about. It is a different version of what brings the system down, besides further tensions and war. Our system is not very sustainable, no matter which choice is made.

        Well, most of the people in the West, or first world in general, believe the BAU can be saved. It’s the matter of the policy, which should be introduced. Austerity vs. non-austerity measures. Demand vs. supply. Constant struggle of those silly hegelian dialectics. This is also a matter of psychological stress related to adaptation to the collapse scenario. Quite unachievable for many people.

        Obama’s move to increase complexity (unify) was the lighter version of the road ahead. It might save the system for a few years more on the cost of “american way of life”. The Amerians would certainly loose their standard of living they were used to. The world would decrease the barriers and further lower the “acceptable” standards of work and living. The American society (by their representatives in Congress) voted against that.
        By accepting the free trade treaty we might have a chance to witness the softer landing/slow collapse to the facist states. The other scenario means global confrontation. Not very pleasant option, I guess.

  34. Kulm says:

    Edo Japan only had 300 policemen because

    1) the people could not own swords or arquebuses
    2) anyone of the samurai class could cut off the heads of the lower class behaving loudly without question.

    Every commoner bowed when some lord’s procession passed thru the road. Since if someone got in the way for whatever reasons, the lord’s retainers could cut him or her off with no questions asked.

    It is like the bodyguards of the powerful could kill anyone who got in their way.

    So people knew how to behave back then.

    • Fast Eddy says:

      EDO was basically a brutal dictatorship.

      If you didn’t prostrate yourself accordingly when a samurai passed you risked your head.

      Not sure why this is being pointed to as a model for future civilization

      Surely there are better ones — perhaps Bhutan?

  35. Brunswickian says:

    SITUATION CRITICAL: Debt Bubble Is Cracking, MILLIONS WILL DIE. By Gregory Mannarino

    • Creedon says:

      Thanks for the video. Interest rates and the bond market bear watching. As Gregory says, there is no solution to the Greek problem. We’ll see how far down the road they can kick the can. They have an almost infinite ability to do that. It’s been known forever that government bonds would be the final straw to break. We shall see.

      • As far as I can see, the only way we can get fossil fuels out is through a debt based economy, because debt (1) allows prices to be high enough for those doing the extraction to do the extraction (2) makes goods affordable, and (3) makes the intermediate infrastructure, such as factories and roads, affordable.

        It is a given that once our current debt bubble collapses, the fossil fuel economy needs to end. What has allowed it to go on as long as it has, is the shift toward ever-lower interest rates. It is hard to see that any upturn in interest rates can possibly work.

    • Rising interest rates would be a really huge problem. All assets worth less. Many fewer people would be able to buy goods like cars and houses.

      • Creedon says:

        If the way that the governments and central banks have maintained the status quo is via. low interest rates, it would not be in their interest to have them go up and since everything is so manipulated, what is your explanation of what is causing them to suddenly rise.

        • Creedon says:

          I will answer my own question. The PTB will not willingly allow interest rates to rise, because it is not in their interest. What is happening is that there has been a break in the system. Steve Ludlum says that once the system breaks in one place it breaks everywhere. Do to the Greek crisis there is a break or at least an approaching break, so as a result bonds are becoming less valuable. The central bankers will have to speed up their sticking their fingers in the holes of the dyke. This is conceivably the beginning of the avalanche,

          • Fast Eddy says:

            Absolutely. The owners of the Fed determine interest rates. Not the markets. Not the government.

            They will know that a significant rise in interest rates will have catastrophic consequences…. So I cannot see how they will ever rise.

            How many years now have they been telling us rates are going up …. and they never do.

          • I worry about these issues as well. In a networked system, everything is connected. It is hard to see that a problem in Greece will stay confined to Europe for very long.

        • Maybe the manipulation cannot cover up the natural tendency of interest rates to rise to a level where risk is reasonably rewarded, especially with Greece’s problems going on.

  36. Artleads says:

    “To put it crudely, hungry dogs hunt cooperatively and share the results, but given an abundance of food, they fight each other for the spoils.”

    This might well be true, although some people here reverse that formula. For instance, how does scarcity explain overt Jim Crow and lynching during the heyday of fossil fuels (1945-1955)?

    I agree that what we must decide is whether to cooperate (with a mutual long-term chance to live), or squabble over the crumbs (with a sure result of mutual extinction…immediately or in the near term).

    • Don Stewart says:

      I was putting gas in my car this morning and thinking. Why were the worst race riots in the US during WWII? Were things tense because of rationing? Was there just general unease about the peril, which spilled over into trying to find some local ‘enemy’? Was it because, suddenly, people at home had some money in their pockets for the first time in a long time and the repressions of the depression era just evaporated in a flood of hatred? I don’t think I have ever heard a good explanation.

      Don Stewart

      • doomphd says:

        I have a partial answer to your question from my nearly 100 y.o. mother, who was a young mother and wife raising a small family (her kid and two from her husband’s previous marriage) in the late 30’s and during WWII. When asked about how tough the economic times were then, she told me that life during the war years was much harder than earlier because of rationing, etc. There were a lot of austerity measures imposed because of the war effort. I believe they froze wages, as well.

      • Artleads says:

        I must have posted this one or two times here before. But maybe it was some place else.

        Anyway, FWIW:

        “I would conjecture that the banking system should have figured in it as well. For instance, I wonder how the interstate highway system–that ripped through urban black communities, enabling the extreme segregation of “white fright” to suburbia, raising the cost of Whites-abandoned urban property for new Black arrivals, subsequent “redlining” to prevent investment in Black communities, etc.–was financed?

        Banking also subjugates rural people. When the interstate didn’t go through Black urban hubs, it went through rural land, which I imagine helped to eliminate small farming.

        If we are concerned about changing the catastrophic specter of the New Jim Crow, we perhaps should look more broadly at who and what else US-Capitalism-Today destroys.”

        Maybe we under-estimate the power and complexity (and reasons to exacerbate hatred) that surround the suburban movement, the segregation implied, the explosion of the fossil fuel mythology, hyper-development, militarism, the banking implications…all of which–and more–might have gone unexplored?

        • Artleads says:

          Sorry, I was talking about AFTER WWII. My history is very sketchy. I was not here during the war years (but elsewhere), and had assumed, what with the riveters and the need for civilian workers, that this was not a high point of racial strife. But what happened after the war struck me as fundamental and structural escalation of racism, even if some easily-noticed doors began to open up for soldiers returning from war. As I say, I know very little about the history of the times.

    • Ann says:

      The most jaw-dropping book about what happened in the U.S. South is Joe Bageant, “Deer Hunting With Jesus” and his second book, “Rainbow Pie”. These will tell you all you need to know, but you won’t like hearing it.

  37. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders

    This will be an attempt to tie together the projections for oil laid before us by BW Hill, and the principles of thermodynamic and kinetic control as described by Capra and Luisi (chapter 8 in their book). Plus the video of the bacteria going about their business that I posted very recently.

    It’s a fact that we can’t spend more energy than flows through the system. At the present time, humans and our animals and machines are consuming large amounts of fossil energy, and BW Hill estimates that at least the oil part of that is past its peak right now and, by 2020, it will pay society to REDUCE reliance on oil. I will generalize the oil situation to all fossil fuels in this little essay, for simplicity.

    If you looked at the bacterial behavior movies, you can see that the bacteria configure themselves differently for different levels of energy in the system. In severe circumstances, the bacteria even choose to sporulate and leave their genes to wait for more propitious circumstances.

    Over the history of life on earth, there has usually been more energy available year by year. The efficiency with which plants photosynthesize has increased over geological time. So most of what we see in the world of ‘nature’ is a result of increasing flows of energy over time. However, we can note some exceptions. There have been massive extinction events, during which energy flows were disrupted, as, for example, by the ‘nuclear winter’ type phenomena associated with asteroid impacts or volcanic activity. There was also the oxygen poisoning event, which led to a die off.

    I am not familiar with any books tracing the details of energy descent (I’m sure there are some). But an extinction event (or a selection event, if you prefer) seems to have been a common occurrence.

    What you are looking at in the videos of the bacteria is a colony adjusting to physical barriers or energy shortages. The scientist notes that rigid behavior frequently leads to death, while more flexible behavior may lead to continued life in a different form of organization.

    As the work available from oil continues to decline (in BW Hill’s scenario), and we assume that the work we can do with the total of fossil fuels follows roughly the same trajectory, then the organization MUST adjust. There is no thermodynamic choice. We can, to some extent, rob Peter to pay Paul, but we cannot create energy from nothing. It MAY be possible to thwart the workings of what we naively consider the laws of thermodynamics through better organization and information flow, but that will take the form of more work from less energy, or else less work but smarter work from less energy. (Probably from examining very closely Nate Hagens’ observations about trying to move neurotransmitters and hormones.)

    Let’s look at a particular example. If we look at Edo, a non-fossil fuel society in the early part of the 19th century, and examine the police force in Edo city, we find:

    the entire Edo police force amounted to a mere 50 yoriki and 240 dôshin for a population estimated to have been at least 1 million from the eighteenth century on.

    New York City currently has around 50,000 police (depending on how you count administrative personnel, meter maids, inspectors, and the like). So NYC has around 6000 police per million, while Edo had about 300, a 20X relationship. It is clear that, assuming BW Hill’s scenarios actually take place, we MUST be looking very carefully at just how our society grew to have 20X the number of police that Edo had.

    Now, let’s consider an Edo class that might correspond to a middle management office worker today…the samurai:

    ‘The samurai lifestyle retains hints of their past as gentlemen farmers who have been transplanted to the city. While far more dependent upon the marketplace than the farmers, they are more self-sufficient than the townspeople, more likely to grow their own food, weave their own cloth, and to avoid commercial solutions to problems to which a homespun approach might be applied.’

    Will this be the fate of middle managers, who own a house with a lawn, but don’t have the manual skills to survive in the competitive Edo-like artisan marketplace? Will they take up umbrella repair to make ends meet? Will David Holmgren’s call for kitchen gardens resonate?

    One of the references in the bibliography in Azby Brown’s book explores abortion and infanticide trends in response to famines. Will the reduction in the police to 5 percent of their current level be accompanied by drastically different behavior…despite whatever laws may remain on the books?

    In Chapter 8, Capra and Luisi explain a couple of key concepts which influence how a living system, or a non-living system, organizes itself. The first concept is thermodynamic equilibrium. A system will tend to reorganize so that material stops flowing. We get structures such as folded enzymes and crystals and cells which are efficient processors of the energy which enters them. The second concept is kinetic energy. Despite the fact that some arrangement might be deemed as ‘ideal’, if it costs too much energy to get to it, nature will ‘satisfice’ and make do with a less efficient arrangement.

    These two concepts are probably particularly relevant to us over the next decades. We aren’t very likely to jump from where we are in the NYC police force to where Edo was. The energy cost would probably be horrendous, in terms of the destruction of infrastructure and death. Instead, we will probably ‘bump down’, to use a phrase that Greer sometimes uses. We can’t rule out a total collapse…but then all bets are off. In terms of something we might be able to manage to, kinetic changes aiming at thermodynamic equilibrium with a solar economy is probably the correct mindset.

    How quickly can we as individuals or our society change? That is unclear. As I recently wrote about the ‘illegal’ suppers that Vimala cooked in order to raise cash when she was desperate, our society has erected a vast structure of laws and customs which prevent people from doing what they need to do. We HAVE seen some local jurisdictions begin to bend. Food trucks, which were the dominant source of food in Edo City, have been allowed to proliferate in many cities. Raw milk is still persecuted almost everywhere. The Federal government is perhaps the most resistant of all governments to having people do what they need to do. The Feds will gladly bankrupt every small farmer in the name of preventing one case of food poisoning. And don’t tell them that exposure to some dirt is really good for children.

    Azby Brown on the Samurai:
    ‘Nevertheless, few samurai would have embraced urban farming with the zeal they currently display had they not been forced into it by necessity. The inadequacies of the food production and distribution system, and especially the inadequate stipends these middle and lower samurai are forced to live due to inherent flaws in the economic system, have painted Hasegawa and his colleagues into a corner. They might not starve if they don’t farm, but they can certainly eat better if they do. In time-honored fashion, they are making the best of an intolerable situation.’

    Suppose that the stock market and the government figure out that BA Hill is actually right. Then before 2020 pensions and stocks and many bonds will become worthless. Many companies will go belly up. Social Security payments will be cut or gutted by inflation. Will the plight of middle-class Americans resemble that of the Samurai in Edo? Will one of the responses be urban farming?

    If the response MUST be urban farming, then many will curse the present government for failing to do one of the things the Edo government did: promote practices which increased soil fertility in the poor clay soils of Edo.

    Don Stewart

    • Don Stewart says:

      Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
      My comment addresses some of the issues we might face on the way toward limits to growth and then degrowth. David Holmgren’s website has published this note.


      A book called Global Chorus has just been published in Canada. For each day of the year, a mix of celebrities and ordinary people were asked to respond to this question:

      ‘Do you think that humanity can find a way past the current global environmental and social crises? Will we be able to create the conditions necessary for our own survival as well as that of other species on the planet? What would these conditions look like? In summary, then, and in the plainest of terms, do we have hope, and can we do it?’

      Here is David Holmgren’s contribution (Sep 23).
      Organised international responses (between nation states) to the current global environmental and social crises are unlikely to be effective or in time, and are more likely to worsen the crises because they will all be designed to maintain growth of the corporation dominated global economy and protect the power of nation states.

      Despite the pain and suffering from the ongoing, and likely permanent, contraction of many economies, the explosion of informal household and community economies have the potential to ameliorate the worst impacts of the crises by rebuilding lost local resilience.

      I believe the diversity of integrated design strategies and techniques associated with concepts such as permaculture will be most effective at building household and community economies as the global economy unravels. The diversity of these strategies and techniques promises that at least some will provide pathways for longer term survival of humanity while the adverse impacts of some strategies will tend to be more local and limited allowing natural systems (especially at the global scale) to stabilise.

      Because the future will be more local than global, the critical path is the ongoing development and refinement of effective local designs, while the internet and other aspects of the failing global systems still have huge potential to allow the viral spread of the most effective and widely applicable designs.

      Systems ecology and indigenous wisdom both suggest that in a world of limited resources, the ethics of “care of the earth”, “care of people” and “fair share” will prove more advantageous to local survival than those based on greed and fear, that have been so powerful during a century of unprecedented abundance. To put it crudely, hungry dogs hunt cooperatively and share the results, but given an abundance of food, they fight each other for the spoils.

      I have great hope that the diverse local cultures that emerge from the ruins of industrial modernity will be based on these ethics and informed by design principles found in nature. The uncertainty is how much more pain and despoiling are yet to unfold before fear and greed prove maladapted to a world of limits.

    • tagio says:

      Don, interesting observations and questions. I enjoymany of your comments, particulary about growing food and Edo.

      I have been meaning to ask you, given your extensive reading in the area and obvious passion, if you would list some (maybe 5) of the best or most useful gardening, permaculture and animal books for the homesteader. I am in the Northeast US, if that makes a difference.

      By the way, it amazes me more people don’t focus on the necessity for local production of clothing, or take steps to provide for it. Everyone harps on food production for obvious reasons, but synthetic fibers and mass production aren’t going to last forever, and I suspect there is a lot of lost skill in weaving fabrics that needs to be regained.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Dear tagio
        The Northeast is a big place. And the variance in local conditions is very wide. Therefore, it is hard for me to give you advice. I don’t know if you are urban, suburban with a fair amount of property, or in the country with a few acres. But I will take a flying leap and recommend a just published book that I have not read, since it has just been published:

        The description of the book makes a lot of sense to me. For example, if you are working a day job, then having animals just adds to your complications (Jan Steinman is forever rushing out to take care of his animals, it seems). Plants can make it a few days on their own. Animals really need you around. While some people say that you can’t be sustainable without animals, I doubt the ‘necessity’ of animals, particularly for someone just getting started.

        If you have a large garden or small farm and are not using lots of off-farm inputs, you are really in a good place if TSHTF.

        As for clothing. Are you married to a woman who likes animals and likes to make clothing? If so, rabbits fit very well into a small homestead. You can stack them and harvest the manure, as well as eat them, and they make good fiber for making clothing. if you are a single male, consider finding a female nearby who is into animals and clothing. I know about 20 such females near me. Then you need to do some swapping. For example, you grow the rabbits and let her harvest the hairs which are spun into yarn. You get some of the clothing she makes. Same basic idea will work with other animals. For example, down comforters. As for non-animal based clothing, I know one woman who uses flax. There is also a lot of agitation around hemp. Talk to someone locally who has some experience.

        Bonsall’s book might turn out to be a big mistake, but I really do like the description for somebody who is looking for a very basic idea about how to survive the demise of complicated supply chains.

        Good luck!!! Don Stewart

        • tagio says:

          thanks! I saw bonsall’s book on chelsea green website. It looks promising. I plan on “settling” in western MA or in VT within the next two years. I liked Ben Falk’s book it had some practical info in it and wasn’t just about “design.”

          I’ve kept a couple of rabbits before, they are pretty easy. I am hoping to add ducks. As for clothing, it would be awesome to have angola goats and produce mohair, could be a source of income, but it sounds like a lot of work to keep them healthy and safe and out of the garden and yeah, they tie you down.

          Thanks again.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Another source of good ideas is Marjorie Wildcraft

        She very deliberately set out to create a garden which would feed a family of four without requiring a lot of work. She is not as ‘off grid’ as the guy from Maine. But she very intelligently integrates some animals with her plants, and gives you a calorie count for each component of her garden. You can buy her DVD, and she also has some YouTubes available.

        Don Stewart

      • Jan Steinman says:

        the best or most useful gardening, permaculture and animal books

        The best book is not going to be nearly as good as getting out there and doing it!

        I read all the best books — and even taught Permaculture — before spending a lot of time doing things. I now learn more doing things than I ever did reading about them!

        This is something I constantly battle, the hoarding instinct of knowledge acquisition. Get out there and get experience!

        Ideally, it needs to be a back-and-forth process. Tell us what you’ve been doing, and perhaps then I can recommend a book that will help in your current situation.

  38. MG says:

    Who did not await it? The student loans that can not be repaid… The US is starting to erase those loans:


    • Unfortunately, this is not general forgiveness. It is for loans relating to the Corinthian College and other colleges that students can prove deceived them about job prospects after graduation.

  39. MG says:

    The reality of the “Tatra Tiger” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tatra_Tiger):

    The Slovak households spend in average almost 50 % of their regular income for repaying their loans:


    The article mentions that when continuing in line with this trend, in two years time, the ratio of the debt to income of Slovak households will be the second worst among the Middle and East European conutries, the first place of the riskiest indebted households will be held by Estonia. (Estonia = low state debt, the debt of the citizens is rising…)

  40. Pingback: Why EIA, IEA, and BP Oil Forecasts are Too High | Doomstead Diner

  41. Kulm says:

    I do not agree with lower wages causing economic decline.

    Turchin does not seem to be aware of the fact that throughout history Russian peasants pretty lived miserable lives with very little discretionary income, but except for some sporadic rebellions led by petty nobles, everyone largely had accepted their lot in life and it was kind of peaceful.

    When income began to rise during the reign of Nikolai II, probably the only czar (plus maybe Alexandre II, who was also assassinated) ever who had good intentions towards his people (which would eventually cost the lives of him and his family), of course we know what happened.

    Britain had low income for most of the people. When the Great War broke out, 10% of the recruits were too malnourished to serve (but were later drafted anyways, to enjoy rations better than what they had at home).

    But not too many people rebelled.

    Society can go on for a very long time with little income for most of the people and all the wealth concentrated at the top.

    • Adam says:

      > I do not agree with lower wages causing economic decline.

      Lower wages can be seen as a SYMPTOM of economic decline. And as Gail has repeatedly explained, we now have masses of debt in our financial system. The financial system depends on this debt being paid off. This is less likely if people have less money. If it isn’t paid off, the financial system is liable to collapse. That really isn’t difficult to understand.

      • Don Stewart says:

        Adam and Kulm
        Lower wages and less work from energy are two sides of the same coin. If the work we are able to do declines, then the income stream of businesses declines. Ordinarily, both profits and wages paid and taxes paid would all decline. In addition, if the business goes bankrupt, then payments to bondholders decline. In other words, everything goes down.

        At the present time, various policies and events have depressed wages while allowing profits to remain high. So, in that sense, low wages can be seen as an independent trap for the economy…and idea which goes back to Marx, at least. But if we take the simplest case of ‘reversion to the mean’, then all financial flows decline. And the root cause of the decline is the inability to increase the amount of work, or else an actual reduction in the amount of work. BW Hill thinks we are currently in the position of declining work from the non-energy sector. I’m not sure about the energy sector in his model..the work may still be increasing…but, of course, a barrel of oil isn’t really what anyone wants…we want the goods and services it can be turned into.

        Don Stewart

    • Turchin analyzed eight economies that collapsed in detail. I am trying to outline what he said about those economies. What he found was that once the population of a group outgrows its arable land supply, economies tend to collapse because of falling wages of the non-elite workers. This is what happens when there is no longer enough farm land for everyone to farm. In other words, there increasingly too many people for the resources available. What you are describing is different.

  42. Kulm says:

    There has been crises before, but all of them eventually made BAU even stronger than before.

    The Great Depression and the 2008 Crises made central control even stronger.

    I do feel that BAU will outlive most of us, since as I have said before the 2% do control more than 90% of the wealth and can live comfortably even if they lose 90% of their wealth following a 90% reduction of the world’s population.

  43. Don Stewart says:

    Dear Gail and Finite Worlders
    If you have an hour, I strongly recommend watching this fascinating video:


    It’s a Google talk by an expert on bacteria. You will see amazing movies of leaderless colonies of bacteria cooperating to achieve complex objectives. You will see how bacteria make the decision to sporulate in the face of adversity. You will see diagrams of the behavioral control systems.

    You will learn how bacterial communities change their strategies when times get tough…with no leaders, but using social networks. You will see how they plan ahead, something the speaker claims has eluded humans, thus far.

    Dozens of parallels to our current human condition….Don Stewart

    • Miguel says:

      it happens everyday with traffic. ego vs collective decisions… If i got it right

      • Miguel says:

        As in car traffic, we use tha car in an egoist way, that is why they give us mor problems than solutions for movility…

  44. Adam says:

    From the Telegraph:

    “Fed tantrum sets off biggest exodus from emerging markets since 2008”


    (Unlike Fat Eddy, I just give the link, so that you don’t have to scroll down umpteen screens-worth of text).

    There are so many bearish business articles recently, I wonder when the whole thing will go crash bang tinkle. Annoyingly, the endowment policy I took out on my mortgage is due to mature in January 2016. The amount I get back will be significantly reduced if there is a market crash before then. And here in Europe, the whole Greece thing drags on. Surely the end is near?

  45. Don Stewart says:

    Gail and Finite Worlders
    Since Declining Marginal Returns is one of the key concepts of this blog, and since many people have only a fuzzy idea what a Declining Marginal Return actually looks like, I offer for your edification this article….Don Stewart


    • {sarc} Just think of how many people outside Haiti benefited from the funds the Red Cross raised {/sarc}

      WordPress won’t let me use HTML tags–tries to interpret them.

Comments are closed.